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I have reached that point in the bourbon bottle when sophistication no longer dogs me, and I am free to wonder.
And I dream about dinosaurs, and dusty museum exhibits, and the Mexican Day of the Dead, and outer space, and the Loch Ness monster, and vast libraries of books filled with tales of sea creatures and werewolves, and the presence of ghosts, and buried treasure, and ancient underground cities.
When I am like this, I understand jazz the way that I understand the rain.
I grasp for adult pleasures because they give me permission to dream like a child.
I'd quit the job that I loved.
I'd said goodbye to the friends that I loved.
I'd said goodbye to my beautiful flat overlooking the city that I loved.
I'd bought the plane ticket.
It was something I just had to do.
So I got on the plane to fly to a new city.
And as the plane taxied onto the runway, the beautiful air hostess beamed a beautiful smile and spread her arms out wide and welcoming, while a soft disembodied voice serenely murmured, 'Your nearest exit may be behind your nearest exit may be behind you'
Tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired, tired.
She didn't steal the jar of cherries from the supermarket.
When the child next to her on the bus started wriggling and kicking, she didn't pinch it's chubby arm.
In the crowded department store, she didn't cry out, 'Fire!'
It was an expensive vase and she didn't knock it over, pretending it was an accident.
She didn't slap her neighbour's red face, nor kiss the stranger reading his newspaper at the cafeteria.
Her life was full of thought crimes that she longed to put into action, but never dared.
Everyone thought she was so nice, but she knew the truth.
For a brief period of his life, Damien allowed himself to be touched by wonder.
This happened between the ages of three and six.
After that, he was too preoccupied with fulltime boydom to pay attention to the small miracles of life.
But between three and six, the greater world has his complete attention.
One day he stood transfixed by the shadows cast on the ground by a passing cloud.
Right then, he sensed a profound force, greater than him, that encompassed the whole world.
By the time he had the language to express himself, he had lost the urge.
The Imperial Ballroom was packed with teenagers.
Scrawny waifs dressed in op shop clothes.
Gus, looking and feeling a hundred years older than any of them, leaned back against the bar and watched the band through a veil of cigarette smoke.
These kids. They thought they'd invented rock music.
Striking poses and blasting feedback like that was old when Gus had done it.
The lead singer had stripped his shirt off and was twisting his skinny body into shapes while the girl on bass shook her hair on him.
Gus smiled. He had to love ‘em.
It had been so hot for so long that when the rain finally came, all it did was move the dust around. Still, everyone came out onto the street to laugh, and to tell their neighbours that the drought had ended, the drought had ended. Children who had only ever head about rain screamed and ran to their mothers, as if some judgement from God was descending upon them and the world was about to be washed away in a new flood. But there was no flood, and, as quickly and mysteriously as it had come, the rain disappeared again.
The nervous man cleared his throat.
‘Well,' he said, ‘my novel is about a fish.'
‘A fish,' the publisher repeated.
‘Yes, Only he works in an office. And his boss is a shark, and his best friend is a flounder. But it's not for kids.'
‘No, it's a fantasy adventure.'
‘Starring a fish.'
‘And does this fish have a name?'
The publisher sighed and sent the man on his way.
Later, when the publisher was an unemployable drunk he was plagued wherever he went by the images of those damned fish. On t-shirts, lunchboxes, posters…
The valet showed me into the main ballroom, where the party was in full swing. Bachelors, dressed to the nines, swayed to romantic music beneath the Manhattan skyline. I was taking in the sight, when suddenly the host swept towards me, chubby right hand extended.
‘Ah, you made it!'
‘You're looking lovely tonight, Mr Hoover.'
His ruddy face flushed with pleasure.
‘You like my gown? It's pink taffeta; Had the fabric flown in specially from Paris. I get a special discount because I have a file on the tailor.'
He leaned in close and hissed, ‘Word is, he's a pervert.'
It was a perfectly good apartment.
It was a little small, but that was OK.
It wasn’t quite in the part of town she wanted, but that was OK, too.
That night, Amy lay in bed staring at the ceiling.
The apartment was like the lover that you didn’t love, but you were grateful to him, because he was kind and gave you what you needed, after the lover you really wanted had left you bleeding on the hospital steps and driven off in a taxi with a Swedish model.
She closed her eyes.
It was a perfectly good apartment.
Think plummeting falls.
Think dripping taps.
Bob had never been able to urinate at a public toilet.
Think raging torrents.
Think pouring jugs of water.
…in came Stephen.
Too loud, too friendly Stephen, standing way too close at the urinal, gushing merrily away and wanting to have a conversation.
‘Are you going to the big game on Saturday Bob! It’s the big one! Who you reckon’s gonna take the championship?!’
Think majestic seascapes.
In this sterile office mens room, under fluorescent lights, standing next to an obnoxious work colleague, Bob’s mind roamed lyrical landscapes.
It was a gritty new television drama for a new generation.
The men were all morons; the women were all screaming shrews.
But even though Lara was the programme’s target audience, she strained to recognise herself in it. David, her boyfriend, wasn’t an inarticulate Neanderthal, and she was so busy with her work that she was grateful for any time they could spend together.
She relaxed into his side as he dozed on the lounge.
On the screen, a pretty woman was angrily accusing some square-jawed hunk of not meeting her needs.
Lara was too sleepy to turn it off.
We called them ‘breeders’ and we kept them in a jar at the lab: small insect-like machines whose only function was to build others like themselves.
When frustrated, we’d smash one, throw it back into the jar, and watch it be reconstructed by the others.
Who knows how they got out, but by dawn they’d turned the electronic office equipment into more breeders.
Then they escaped onto the streets.
Cars became breeders; lawnmowers became breeders.
They tore into people’s chests to reassemble pacemakers.
As we fled the country, we saw a plane, now a giant breeder, lumbering onto the runway.
The worst job he’d ever had was as a lift operator.
His manager at the department store believed that his presence would discourage thieves from descending into the basement to raid the staff lockers. So, for ten hours a week, he would stand in the small cubicle and stare at the buttons.
There were only two floors, for Christ’s sake!
At least there was piped-in music. At first he’d just tapped his foot: this evolved into swaying, and finally into a full blown dance routine.
When the doors unexpectedly opened, he correctly surmised that soon he would be locally famous.
Wielding a knife and a can of pink spray paint, Pauly fought off the shadowy figures until the police finally arrived.
‘Thank God!’ he cried ‘There they are! Arrest them!’
Of course, they’d hidden themselves, only to reappear after the smirking policemen had gone.
Obviously, Pauly would have to save himself. He slammed the windows shut, turned on the gas, and fought until the figures got sleepy and lay down. Then he called emergency, lit a cigarette and waited for the ambulance to come.
It was a point of pride that he managed to smuggle his drugs into the hospital.
My nightmare hides behind the closet door, waiting for Mother to switch off the light.
When she does, I will see his eyes glittering in the dark.
As he emerges, I will see his pink snout and yellow tusks.
As he moves closer, I will see his fat, pink belly sweating in the moonlight.
And as he kneels beside me, his face approaching mine, I will smell the beer on his breath.
Mother kisses me on the forehead, and walks away from me, flicking the light off and closing the door.
Can you see it?
Can you see my nightmare?
All winter, we had been busy making snowmen in one of my Uncle’s disused fields. Instead of knocking them down, we had built an entire community of snowmen, all sociably gathered together.
One morning, we walked out to see what damage the sun had wrought on our handiwork, and there he was: the dead man.
He had been tied to a post to keep him standing upright, encased in snow and hidden in the field with all the other snowmen.
It was as if God, having made Adam out of the dust, had created a new man out of snow.
I was sampling phrases from a popular music magazine when we
just bumped into each other.
She was the
B-Girl with the supermodel looks: someone resolutely following her own vision.
too well-mannered to make any real impression.
She let her shoulder fall
‘I’m worst at what I do best. I don’t sleep much.’
Another turgid rumble, grumble and rant from a Melbourne Malcontent.
We played a few games of pool, gave each other hugs and that was kinda it.
She cast a perverse spell
sometimes you have to leave.
That time was such a whirlwind.
Like all children, he was born with the instincts of a sensualist. And, like all children, he was carefully trained to deny his instincts and lose himself in a dull world of ‘productive’ activity.
So he was surprised when, at the age of forty-seven, he was caught off-guard by a smiling girl, and the world opened up to him. For the first time, he saw the romance of lit windows, the carnal beauty of tree-trunks, and the sad loveliness in the whoosh of a passing car.
His greed for the world was touched with a vague sense of smiling guilt.
‘I’ve written a song,’ she said, picking up her guitar, ‘I want you to be the first one to hear it. ‘It’s about a drag queen, and I’m a child innocently dressing up and dancing with her.’
‘Let me guess,’ I offered, ‘she dies at the end.’
She hesitated, lowered her eyes and said nothing. Feeling a little ashamed of myself, I urged her to sing me the song. After she had finished, I told her not to change a line of it.
But still, whenever I saw her perform it onstage, her eyes would meet mine, then glance away.
On the Planet of Infinite Monkeys they are banging away on their typewriters trying to accidentally replicate the works of William Shakespeare.
But no-one talks about the unappreciated genius monkeys: the one who, in her random typing, accidentally mixed ‘The Tempest’ with an episode of ‘Gilligan’s Island.’
Or the monkey who combined James Joyce’s ‘Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man’ with the Icelandic telephone directory and a frozen deserts cookbook.
Or the lone monkey who produced an entirely new work of heart-rending beauty that nobody read because he himself couldn’t read it, and nobody was looking for it.
A friend of mine said he saw a drunk staggering down a city street, arms outstretched, enraptured and full of life.
‘Beautiful day!’ he was crying, ‘Beautiful day!’
Suddenly, his eye was caught by a flash of sunlight reflecting off something in a jeweller’s shop window. He stared at it, his jaw agape.
‘Diamond ring!’ he finally exclaimed. ‘Beautiful day! Diamond ring!’
At that moment, a woman walked past him, smiling at his antics.
He watched her walking away, then continued on his journey, yelling to the sky, ‘Pretty woman! Diamond ring! Beautiful day! Pretty woman! Diamond ring! Beautiful day!’
Stephen's train ride was too short to read a book, so he amused himself by observing his fellow passengers.
He had a private little game in which he would pick out the best looking man and woman.
It was purely subjective, of course, and his definition of "beauty" changed by the hour, according to his mood.
It could be the pretty young Asian girl, or the striking older Mediterranean woman.
The smooth businessman or the cocky street thug.
The train pulled up at the station and the crowd disembarked, never knowing that they had just been in a beauty pageant.
From his hiding place, the preacher looked down at the boy on the distant stage.
He had heard the boy's sermons many, many times, but still he was overcome with wonder, amazement and envy.
How eloquent he was!
Every word he spoke was filled with passion and fire about the love of God, and the hungry audience leaned forward, breathless, hanging on his every word.
Just a young boy!
It was beautiful. Too, too beautiful.
But now the sermon was coming to an end.
The preacher raised his rifle and moved the sight until the crosshairs kissed the boy's forehead.
Herb had driven the kids to school and, at last, she had some peace.
She bundled the dirty clothes into the washer and sat back with a cup of tea.
When they were done, she lugged them into the backyard to the clothesline.
She only saw the dragon at the last minute.
It swooped down from the clouds, its wide, toothy mouth like a dog’s.
She threw the basket at it and fled back inside.
The dragon landed on the clothesline and began picking off the clean laundry and throwing it into the mud.
She’d always hated that damned dragon.
I’d arrived too late for the guided tour of the old mansion, so I asked the young lady in period costume at reception when the next one would be.
“Come,” she said, “I’ll show you around myself.”
Her knowledge of the house was remarkable and she revealed that the house had been in her family for six generations.
“And this,” she said, walking into a small, sunlit room, “was my bedroom. I spent a year in here, very sick with tuberculosis.”
“You’re lucky you survived,” I said.
With a sad smile, she whispered, “I didn’t,” and disappeared into the wall.
After his break-up with Robert, James complained that he was unattractive and that he’d never find anyone ever again.
To distract him, someone suggested that he join a local gym, which he did with evangelical zeal.
He worked out, popped every pill, and his body ballooned into a solid wad of muscle.
He critiqued every male body he saw, inevitably finding it wanting.
One day, he met Robert again.
Desperately in love, he dragged Robert home.
When Robert removed his shirt, James suppressed a cry of horror.
He couldn’t recognise an ordinary human body anymore.
The thing reached for him.
She discovered that she could freeze time.
Just by wishing it, the world around her would stop, people would become like statues, and birds would hang in space.
But she could walk around freely, examine people up close, and enjoy the quiet.
She’d spend days in solitude while the world waited.
After a while, she realised that although everything was standing still, she continued to age as normal.
In a couple of years she turned into an old woman.
Just before she died, she froze the world.
As far as the world was concerned, she just vanished into thin air.
She had turned me down.
I stood on the cliff face, clutching the expensive and useless engagement ring.
Perhaps I never loved her, because instead of throwing myself into the valley, I threw the ring instead.
At that moment, a crow, attracted by the glitter of the ring, swooped down, snapped it up in her beak and flew off with it.
After my astonishment had worn off, I got into my car and drove home.
The next morning I awoke to find the crow sitting on my windowsill.
She’s been there ever since.
And that’s how I married the crow.
My son was four when my husband died.
As a memorial, he insisted on planting a creeper against the house.
Years went by and both my son and the creeper grew big and strong.
Perhaps I was too possessive, but one day my son stormed out of the house vowing never to return.
Looking for something on which to vent my rage, I ran into the back yard.
I spotted the creeper climbing the wall, grabbed a vine and ripped at it.
The wall fell away leaving a gaping hole.
The creeper was the only thing holding the house together.
Discarded Opening Sentences For The Great Novel I’m Planning To Write.
Riccardo was no ordinary beaver: he was The Evil Beaver.
Wearing my leopard skin wet suit, clutching a breadstick, and with the boa constrictor draped provocatively around my shoulders, I settled back into the lime green beanbag and waited. The window cleaner would be there any minute.
Gerta was a big girl.
Why am I more sensitive than everyone else?
(Note to myself: has possibilities – work on it.)
Pain, pain, pain, pain, pain, pain.
Ivan was a big girl.
(Note to myself: has possibilities – work on it.)
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