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The Mirrored Men

The shrouded dawn 
is as multi hued as a rainbow,
as sensuous as a divine kimono.
Crepe Myrtle blooms dance in the breeze
like care free children.
The olfactory bliss of Lemon Myrtle
is marred by diesel fumes.

The forest beckons.
Serenity shatters like a glass cathedral,
in the path of a choir boys vengeance.
Punk parrots die of fright mid flight.
Their shadows scream
like throat cancer afflicted banshees.

In a hilltop clearing, 
hooded figures move as one.
Gravity is their slave,
their synchronicity as unnerving
as the taxidermied hybrids,
hanging from the Olive grove.

They traverse treacherous terrain
more fluently than a waterfall. 

As slowly as a fish suffocating on a jetty,
they pivot in my direction;
their faces turn faster than their heads.

My limb hair is as upright
as the star picket I’ve torn from the Earth.
Their frog like mouths curl into leering grins
as I meet their black hole like gaze.
They close the distance
as gradually as grains shifting in an hourglass.

Midnight has come from nowhere.  
The star picket has been twisted
into the infinity symbol
and embedded in the trunk of an Angophora.

 

 

This poem was inspired by the Monsters Among Us Podcast. http://www.monstersamonguspodcast.com/

 

Featured

The Cockroach Guru

Mr Bellinger was busy marking essays
reminiscent of the work of typing monkeys,
when his siblings died
in a head on collision with a road train.
Their brakes had been declared perfect,
by a mechanic as suspect
as a property developer’s ecological survey.

Without elaborating, Bellinger described his holiday
as “less fun than a choice between
having his brain vacuumed through his nose
and his liver extracted with a spoon”
Mister Piccolo, the music co-ordinator,
found his colleague more depressing
than a legless Taekwondo addict.

Bellinger’s first morning back

was as dull as dusting a warehouse one speck at a time,
and more tricky than untangling plaited vas deferens.
Being weeks from retirement,
was all that kept him from slashing his wrists.

Bellinger expected the final bell to be as exhilarating
as beating a forest fire to a barren hilltop.
During lunch, he dreamt of a bamboo massage parlour,
in a patch of urban rainforest;
it’s cosy atmosphere awash with Cedar oil.
He’d started marking at four a.m
so there was time to treat himself
to the closest thing to fulfilling his fantasy.

First, Bellinger had to judge a speech contest.
Was the current leader worthy of an award,
he wondered,
as the final speaker 
strode to the podium.
Guessing Huon Stratton’s  topic

was like wondering if the Melbourne Cup
is going to be a horse race this year.

Bogans, nerds and distinguished scholar,
I wanted to explore the evolutionary history of Blatta orientalis,
but Bellsy said that would be less entertaining
than watching gangrene spread,
that I need a topic more lighthearted than infanticide.
If I can’t convince you learning about cockroaches is fun,
I’ll wear a hot pink mankini to the swimming carnival.

The cockroach brain is decentralized
so don’t be surprised if the one you decapitated,
with a razor blade, last week, is still alive.
Do not despair, ultimately it will succumb to thirst .
Due to it’s rectal water re-absorption you might die first.

Roaches can spit but can’t blow bubbles.
Alas they will never know the joys of bubble gum.
Incapable of burping,
or playing the gas bugle
they’d be insectoid gelignite,
before the end of the night,
if it weren’t for teeth below their oesophagus.

Cockroach kidneys writhe like snakes
as they frantically pump toxins from their blood.
Dracula deduced they’re are as good as juiced;
they have no blood vessels.

Roaches probably aren’t religious
but Ramadan would be a stroll through the dinner scraps
for these nuclear holocaust survival candidates.
They’d think nothing of enforced fasting for a month.

If cockroaches were Catholics the Pope would love them;
male roaches present their mates with sperm packages
wrapped in protein coats,
leaving them perpetually pregnant.

Cockroaches Achilles heel is poor eyesight in red light,
so they’re easy to kill in strip clubs.
Elsewhere they’re hard targets
for the swiftest of clown shoes.

Motion detecting hairs on their posterior
make the average stalker feel so inferior;
ordinary hunters are bound to despise
the two thousand lenses in their eyes.
It’s hard to envelope these insect Houdini’s
when they can slip through cracks as thin as an envelope.
Some species are harder to detect than stealth bombers;
small enough to hide in ant nests.

These ninjas of the insect world
are engineering marvels
but forensic experts would gladly break
all eighteen of their knees,
because roaches like to
track the arterial flow of murder victims across ceilings.
Many are globetrotting fugitives,
thumbing their nose at extradition treaties.
They’re stowed on ships and planes
before disgruntled crime scene technicians
and outraged cooks know they’ve fled.

In the seventeenth century the Danish Navy
dealt cockroaches self-esteem a stinging blow
by offering a bounty of a single bottle of brandy
per thousand carcasses.
William Bligh, captain of the Bounty,
once de-roached his entire ship with boiling water,

For the sports nuts among you,
cockroaches scale speed is on par with top fuel dragsters,
those finely tapered vehicles with parachutes for brakes.
Fortunately their reflexes would embarrass
formula one driver Michael Schumacher,
at the pinnacle of his prowess,
otherwise they’d be crashing into the fridge a lot.
The machinery driving these fiendish super athletes
has animatronic wizards salivating.
Insect dance troupes beckon.
These athletic marvels can spin fast enough
to make a ballerina’s brain explode
from the centrifugal force.
Roaches can hold their breathe
from kick off to half time in the football
so white water rafting murder plots
are dead in the water before they’re concocted.

Is mixed martial arts your favourite sport?
Male Madagascan hissing roaches
possess horns for ramming rivals
from their alpha male mantles.
Sadly their trash talking is indecipherable.

During the Middle Ages
it was customary to release cockroaches
into new dwellings.
Today, outside of sporting circles,
roaches aren’t so widely revered.
In a Plano, Texas, Cockroach Hall of Fame,
Liberoachi was the star attraction.
He sat at a miniature grand piano,
his white mink cape
as flamboyant as his dazzling claw strokes.

Mr Bellinger cleared his throat.
“If the winner is like a blue ribbon bonsai,
older than the Sphinx.
The also rans are
 toxic weeds
that germinated yesterday.

Sir, the art of pun sai, the forerunner of bonsai,
originated in the eighth century China.
The Sphinx dates back to 2494 BC.

Poets licence Huon, poets licence.

They must be easier to get than drivers licenses.
Sir, did you know the Egyptian desert roach,
Polyphaga aegyptiaca, can absorb water vapour?

Mister Stratton, did you know first prizes
can be arbitrarily revoked?
Bellinger was smiling, like a kid in a toy store.
For the first time since the Carter administration,
he considered working until nursing home heavies,
dragged him from his desk.

Horace Henley

On the downside,
Horace was an arrogant, ignorant, argumentative,
callous, remorseless, dishonest, manipulative,
tantrum prone, domineering, violent, adulterous,
greedy, middle class snob.
Ridicule, threats and lies were his teaching tools.
When he was cheerful he could be lenient,
until your suffering become inconvenient.
His calculated generosity, was a lever for manoeuvring
excruciating boulders of condescension and pomposity.
“How dare you defy me”
he roared, like an emperor to a slave.
“you’re useless” he repeated
until he was as hoarse as a desperate punter.

The underemployed, unemployed and unemployable
traded rations of cigarettes, lighters and coupons,
as they filed into Centrelink,
opposite Henley’s Camping Supplies.
Work was Horace’s drug of choice.
He imagined everyone had it on tap,
but some were too lazy to twist the faucet.
In front of customers he was a lovable larrikin.
The great white shark t-shirt, from his staff,
went over his head like a pole vaulter.

“Without me, you lot would be the dregs of society,
lining up for a handout across the road”
he reminded his wife Sharona and sister in law Lonnie.
Horace hired the best psychiatrist in the region,
to treat his family’s “mysterious” anxiety and mood disorders.
Like him, these conditions weren’t prey seeking missiles,
that killed as swiftly as falcons.

Horace wasn’t infected with a personality disorder.
He was merely the carrier of misery and fear.
Growing up, the barrel of a shotgun
was as familiar to him as cornflakes.
He dealt in throws, kicks, slaps and backhanders.
“I’m a model of restraint” he boasted.
There was no walking away from his marathon tirades.
He was Fuhrer, educator and soother,
his role as unpredictable as mountain weather.

Horace taught young Jarrod and Jerry how to kick drop goals
and threw baseballs so high
they turned black in the twilight.
Catching fly balls became as natural as walking.
His lessons on romance involved
hiring eighteen year old back packers,
who looked like they’d stepped straight from the pages
of lingerie catalogues.
The interviews were camping trips.

Horace didn’t care who came first in maths tests.
100% effort was a pass in his eyes.
A lack of enthusiasm was akin to burning down the mint.
Jarrod always felt like 99.9% effort
was a crime worthy of being hung, drawn and quartered.

When he became as reclusive as a Himalayan mystic
and ate like he was preparing for a sumo tournament,
not an eleven kilometre fun run,
he finished miles behind his best.
Horace chipped away at his self esteem like an auger.
“If I sliced open that ice cream gut
I could feed an army on dripping sandwiches.
You call yourself a jogger,
you make a penguin look like a springbok.”

Horace sold his camping store,
so he could spend all day woodworking, fishing
and listening to conservative shock jocks.
“Abolishing excess franking credits,
it’s a Labor Party commie plot.”
he roared at his local member of parliament.
With only 1.5 million dollars to his name,
since the divorce,
how would he cope without profiting
from the Australian Tax Office?
All that Greens nonsense about tortured refugees
and the climate emergency,
had him reaching for a bucket.
What about the suffering of middle class retirees?

Wolfgang

If I had a time machine,
I’d invite Wolfgang to the 20th century.
Now that’s a rock and roll name if I ever heard one.
What would the paparazzi do
with Mozart’s combination of creative genius
and political incorrectness?
What would Mozart do with the paparazzi?
His improvisational storms
would make Jerry Lee Lewis’ piano infernos
look as tame as crochet tutorials
and render Ozzy Osbourne’s decapitation of a bat
as dull as nibbling on lettuce.
With infinite instruments at their disposal,
would Pink Floyd be able to keep up?

The Lost Novella

Hershel’s literary agent said he’d bet a Las Vegas casino
on Richard Dawkins becoming a televangelist,
before he’d sink a cent into Hershel’s fantasy fiction career.

Thirty thousand words,
with more versions than Windows.
The early drafts are as disjointed as grenade victims.
Their mangled mixed metaphors
make the burnt out shell
of the haunted roller skating rink
look as inviting as a tropical lagoon.
Every paragraph gives a sense of purpose, to shredders.
The traumatised readers were paid a gold nugget per review.
One brave masochist made it to chapter four.

The survivors watched their copies disintegrate,
in an abandoned plastic mine.
Some retreated, before the fire breathing octopoids
finished charring their cellulose entrée.
Please, death is our only antidote,
the stragglers bellowed,
as medicine ball crushing tentacles
emerged from semi molten milk containers.
No vagrant genie would resort to squatting in those bottles.
Once the plastic guzzling octopoids realized what they’d ingested,
they squeezed themselves to death.

The final draft is on hundreds of websites,
yet it’s as obscure as a typewriter museum,
a month’s drive from the nearest filling station.

An eight line poem, carved in sand,
was swept away
as the final exclamation point was added.

The video has been seen
in one hundred and seventeen countries,
admittedly by only ninety seven people.
Compared to Hershel’s novella,

it’s as famous as the forty fifth president.
Trump is to fame
what mad cow disease is to the beef industry.
Hershel’s novella is to obscurity
what Shakespeare is to theatre.
“It’s more lucrative than Harry Potter,”
Hershel screeched at JK Rowling’s editor,
until the authorities found an ankle bracelet
that rendered his bolt cutters as useless as nail clippers.



The Dregs of Drongo Vale

To quote Garth Izzard’s kindergarten teacher “That kid wouldn’t help an old lady pick up her walking stick, not unless she guaranteed him at least two thirds of her pension cheque first.”

Garth hadn’t grown kinder with age. As a boy Adolf Hitler had been his hero. After a while he noticed the correlation between praising Hitler and finding a steaming pile of dog turds in his lunch box. This prompted him to worship Richard Nixon’s secretary of state and Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger instead. Garth’s favourite Kissinger quote is “the illegal we do immediately, the unconstitutional takes a little longer”. Izzardcorp’s Shareholders have always trusted him to apply this philosophy humanely.

Garth’s interest in the carbon trading scheme, reluctantly implemented by Prime Minister Jock Waffle, is as altruistic as God, all of Rudolph Mordor’s newspapers say so. Izzard was apoplectic with rage when he learnt that his weed imperilled wilderness on the outskirts of Drongo Vale had to be regenerated manually. He reluctantly provided his army of Sunday hippies with free tools from the reject depot of his hardware chain and permitted them to dumpster dive for biscuits, at the back of his supermarkets, providing they waived their right to insurance cover for needle stick injuries.

Garth was astonished to discover his flood of generosity wasn’t enough to inspire sixteen hour shifts of hacking into seething masses of Lantana and Morning Glory, with the ferocity of a Spartan warrior in a fit of roid rage. Impatient to discard his ageing eco-maniacs, he fed their morning tea stockpile of stale biscuits and use by nineteen eighty six lime cordial to his pit bulls. They chased the hordes of doddering pensioners off his land once and for all. Garth’s departure speech was brief and brutal.

“If you greenies are doing what you love why do you need to be rewarded for your Olympic swimming pool of shirt saturating, eye stinging sweat? Fuck off you fucking hordes of tree hugging lemmings”

Garth’s chief accountant Niles Cash attempted to console his heartbroken employer
“Sir, unfortunately slavery is frowned upon in twenty first century Australia.
It must be hard to accept the mighty injustice that your problems can no longer be solved
with your favourite stock whip or cattle prod. Don’t fret, I’ve the utmost confidence
in Prime Minister Jock Waffle’s top secret plan to abolish the minimum wage.”

“Nile’s, why do the criminal classes expect to have their living handed to them on a platter?”

“Left wing lunatic propaganda makes them soft sir. Should I rebook your pedicure
and four hands Hawaiian massage, so your therapist can calm your Greenie mangled nerves?”

Garth eventually swallowed his pride and called Matt Rush, his estranged half brother and CEO of the self proclaimed “conservation kings”, Mother Nature’s Bodyguards. Whenever Matt wandered on to a work site productivity plummeted and suicide climbed. He did the least damage when innovating from afar. His morning musings had recently led to the purchase of spy drones disguised as eagles. Unfortunately Matt’s budget only allowed for a brand manufactured in Albania. He often daydreamed about arming his surveillance fleet with low calibre weapons, to shoot down Indian Mynas. It was one of his more practical ideas.

Rush returned South Western Crew Supervisor Davo Davidson’s call, more aggressively than Andrei Agassi ever returned serve “Davo we aint changing the company name to The Weed Massacre Gurus. It’s the perfect label for a heavy metal band that advocates the use of hashish laced with crystal meth but not for a conservation company. Yes Davo, I know your Green Thumb Green Berets start screaming threats of violence at blackberry thickets before dawn, between mumbling obscenities at tool thieving, hairy extra-terrestrial goblins, but it’s not something we want emblazoned on of our fleet of utes.
True, yesterday I said it’s your best idea ever but that wasn’t a compliment Davo, it was a comparison, like comparing influenza with radiation poisoning.

What! You’re planning to leave the company and you’re begging me to be your referee? If you leave this organisation in anything besides a body bag, all I’ll reveal to prospective employers is the true nature of your fixation with the rare Cumberland Plain Land Snail!”

Davo Davidson’s elite line up of chain sawing lunatics were yet to massacre a hectare of African Olives. Assistant supervisor Laura Bogan’s treatment of the jumping ant bite on Davo Davidson’s tackle was unorthodox to say the least. She was too focussed on her work to notice Davo’s video link to his backyard Cumberland Plain Land Snail farm.
These creatures are rare in the wild but at Davo’s place they’re in plague proportions.
“For Chrissakes not now” Davo hissed, as his phone vibrated in his pocket. He struggled to speak normally. Matt Rush’s voice tormented his ears like a demonically possessed angle grinder.

“Davo, if your hordes haven’t smashed five hectares of African Olives by midnight, you can forget about recouping the cost of fuel. Nathaniel Smoke and Mirrors Daniels, our new accountant, is more creative than Leonardo Da-Vinci. And don’t even think about sabotaging the spotlights.”

“Will you be paying us overtime rates Matt?”

“You want penalty rates, what’s the fucken point of penalising you if I have to pay for it?”

“I’ll go to the union.”

“Davo, if you approach the union, you and the snails gonna be all over YouTube. Oh, I nearly forgot, HR manager Gail Wilde will be on site tomorrow to discuss Mother Nature’s Body Guards anti-bullying policy. Make sure ya ready for that loser, or I’ll kick you up the arse so hard you’ll be farting through your nostrils and punch you in the nose so hard you’ll be sneezing out your arse. I’ve got to go Davo, the CEO of Stratosphere Apartments just arrived.”

“Yes Medusa, we’ve got that former wasteland, near the National Park, looking like forest wilderness and pretty signs advertising Stratosphere Apartments sponsorship. Nobody will suspect a thing until the bulldozers arrive. That penthouse discount is huge. Words can’t express my gratitude. Sorry, I must take this call.”

“Jonathon, of course I’m happy to edit the threatened species report for that solar farm construction site we’ve been working on. Yes, a few commas are out of place, of course that’s all you mean. I’ve got to go, Medusa Crabtree, the CEO of Stratosphere Apartments, is here for an urgent meeting.”

Matt Rush was still sampling the six hundred dollar bottle of champagne, that had mysteriously found its way to his desk, during Ms Crabtree’s visit, when Garth Izzard strolled into Mother Nature’s Bodyguards HQ, flanked by his most obsequious lawyers.
The dollar signs in Rush’s eyes flew like fireflies in a cyclone. The tender manager Billy Giant, appeared from nowhere, holding his pen like a flick knife, in anticipation of ruthless negotiations. The participants stared at each other across the boardroom table
like rival gangsters in a game of high stakes poker.

By three A.M the one hundred million dollar contract was a done deal. The tedium of re tendering charades was years away. “Get up ya mug” Matt roared, as Billy Giant collapsed from exhaustion on a crocodile hide door mat. “It’s alright he’s out cold, he can’t feel a thing” Matt explained to Rowena the cleaner, as he used Billy for a door mat on his way back inside, to get his keys.

Matt Rush, Billy Giant and HR manager Gaile Wilde embarked on a mission to assemble
the greatest conservation and land management crew ever to wear Mother Nature’s Body Guards high vis orange and forest green. Most in demand was former Western Sydney Warlords prop forward Richard Johnson. It was said that Lantana shrivelled and died in terrified anticipation of the first cloud of Round Up from his lethal weapon.
Johnson was most famous for mistaking escaped serial killer Ivan Milat for a bunyip,
after Milat made the mistake of robbing a cosplay store, in search of a disguise. Johnson was half way through barbecuing the notorious murderer for breakfast, when he realized his error. The revelation did nothing to diminish his appetite.

Once Johnson had been poached from Weed Busters, Liverpool’s landscaping, amateur stunt car driving and mixed martial arts legend Dangerous Dylan Donovan was in Mat Rush’s sights. The man could plant trees as fast as he could get a hand bag snatcher in a headlock. In the combat sports world, he liked to blur the boundaries between grappling and striking with his back flip double knee to the collar bone, followed by an aerial choke hold as his opponent crumpled to the canvas. Dangerous is also famous for pioneering the front flip double axe kick. The laws of physics and common sense flee from his path like finches from a cat.

The unofficial reason for Dangerous Dylan Donovan’s employment was putting Richard Johnson back in his cage, if he insisted on using plutonium to kill Alligator weed, like he’d allegedly done during his stint at If it’s Noxious we Nuke It. According to David Attenborough, “Richard is disturbingly prone to taking things literally.”

It was rumoured Johnson was under investigation by ASIO and the Federal Police, concerning alleged links to the Russian mafia. Many assume that was how he acquired his long since confiscated stock pile of radioactive herbicides. Johnson was still in denial concerning the illegality of lacing Fluroxypyr with uranium.

Dangerous Dylan Donovan’s sidekick, Jumping Giles Corkhill, was renowned for splatter gunning Lantana in places where a goat wouldn’t dare tread. In his never ending quest for a more cost effective means of delivering herbicides to rugged mountainous areas, Giles had pioneered the adaptation of RPG’s to weed control.

Then there was Dexter Finklestein, a former botanist and master story teller. The man was like a psychedelic hybrid of Grandpa Simpson, Robin Williams and Aussie garden show presenter Don Burke. You could never tell when his forty minute talk on alternative methods of ironing would give way to how he once robbed a Melbourne tram with a cap gun, while dressed as a fifteenth century Japanese bandit. Dexter’s hobbies included pressing weeds and telepathic communication with ducks. With Dexter on board Plant File was obsolete.

Oliver Oxford, the man who spoke of his heroics with the S.E.S, as though they were unsurpassed by the most daring exploits of the S.A.S, joined the crew as some sort of consultant. Precisely what his job description was nobody knew but he seemed to enjoy polishing tools, making sure the site boundaries had been marked correctly, listing his qualifications, discussing the botanical dictionary he’d been working on since he was four and ranting and raving about what he’d do if he were Prime Minister. What Oxford loved most was giving orders.

Ricardo Hohns, the last recruit, was renowned for cutting down African Olives and privets in his sleep. Some mornings he’d wake to find himself poisoning a stump halfway down a cliff. Matt Rush bought him a tent and made him the site security guard. After all, at 3am, how many things are scarier than a guy with a zombie like stare charging at you with two bow saws and a tube of weed killer? Drongo Vale local, and former member of the south western crew Laura Bogan, was appointed supervisor, on the basis of Matt Rush’s belief evil people get the job done.

Aware that Matt would be onsite, on the first day, Laura marked the site boundaries at dawn. A tennis ball skipped across the shallows of a heavily polluted creek, like it had been struck by Roger Federer and splashed an evil looking puddle into her face. The mouthful of water from Izzard Creek was infinitely worse than raw sewage. Laura looked about wildly for the culprit. She imagined Ricardo Hohns was responsible and wrote this down. After a few dabs of liquid paper the tennis ball became a rock. Laura rolled her eyes at Dexter Finklestein, who was too busy reading the aura of the koala he’d just finished shaving and tattooing with his self portrait to acknowledge her.

Shock waves from Dangerous Dylan Donovan’s speakers had more than Laura’s coffee cup vibrating, to the tune of Uptown Funk.
“Too hot, hot damn, too hot for the Police and the Fireman,
too hot, hot damn, make a dragon want to retire man,
to hot, hot damn, say my name, know who I am……”

At first glance Dangerous Dylan Donovan looked like the best equipped bush regenerator she’d ever seen, then she realized his trailer was merely the casing for gigantic speakers.
Laura motioned for him to turn the music off.

“Mister Donovan, how are you? Wow, so these are the famous hands I’ve heard so much about. How about we put them to the test in my favourite cave. It’s a moist wonderland with countless satisfied visitors. There’s always plenty of work to be done there”

“I’ve heard about it. A couple of my mates reckon it needs to be fumigated regularly”

“What do you mean fumigated?”

“You know, pump it full of poisonous gasses to kill off the tiny monsters lurking inside. That place is more dangerous than Afghanistan, you’ve got to be real careful what you put in there”

“Laura’s beaming smile transformed into a snarl”
Jumping Giles Corkhill, somersaulted to Earth from the lounge chair bolted to the floor of Dangerous Dylan Donovan’s ute tray.

“The boy knows how to make an entrance” Dangerous stated with pride; before turning his attention to Oliver Oxford. ‘Give me the run down on Golden Whistlers Oxford.
That’s one there isn’t it?

“The scientific name is Pachycephala pectoralis, Mr Dangerous. They’re distributed throughout eastern and southern Australia as far north as Cairns and as far south as Tasmania. They inhabit rainforest, scrub and open forest. Usually solitary and deliberate in their movements, they possess a sweet and ringing song.”

“Sorry, I wasn’t listening, can you repeat that Oxford?”

“Don’t annoy me by raving on about birds, I’m busy” was Dangerous response to take four.

“It’s okay Oliver, it’s all good practice” Rowena, the crew’s morale and safety officer consoled. She would’ve reprimanded Dangerous Dylan Donovan but his boulder pulverizing biceps, meteor shattering manly jaw and larrikin grin left her too dizzy to speak.

The news that Matt Rush, the owner of Mother Nature’s Bodyguards, was on site prompted the crew to scurry to the makeshift parking lot for a discussion on weed targeting priorities, the dangers of cutting down trees in which crew members had taken up residence and questions concerning how Richard Johnson had acquired a dozen mining helmets since signing on.

Richard had a gripe of his own. “I wanna know whose bin spreadin bullshit bout me being cannected to the Wussian Mafia. Whoever it is I’m gonna knock im inta the middle of next year.” Oliver Oxford, who had been front and centre poised to impart his knowledge on everything from Work Health and Safety legislation to the likely date of the apocalypse had mysteriously disappeared.

“What do you mean rumours? It’s true isn’t it” Ricardo Hohns piped up.
Johnson lurched forth like Frankenstein. He swung and missed, almost uprooting an African Olive. Hohns looked as relieved as a man who has successfully crossed Conrod Straight, during the Bathurst One Thousand, by a hairs breadth.
After regaining his composure, Ricardo sang “Do ya, do ya, do ya wanna dance”

“I hate that song” Johnson bellowed. As he covered his ears Riccardo lunged and planted a leaping overhand left on the point of his chin. It had less effect than a marble clanging against the turret of a tank.

Dangerous Dylan Donovan barked instructions ‘Riccardo, use your speed, circle clockwise, unload with a left on his recently re-attached right ear’

“What speed?” Ricardo asked.

“Betta find some real quick or I’m gonna havta step in for ya”
Dangerous removed his jacket faster than a Spanish bull fighter shifts his capote and flung it the length of a bowling alley, into the waiting arms of Jumping Giles Corkhill.
If he’d been any more accurate Giles would’ve been wearing that jacket.
Hohn’s taunted his Godzilla dwarfing opponent “Johnson, you look like a teletubby hybridised with a troll. You’re so stupid you’d crack open a coconut to make a cup of cocoa.”

Ricardo ducked beneath a haymaker that might’ve decapitated him if it had landed.
“Grow up” Rowena screeched, startling the combatants into statue stillness and shocking the cheering mob into silence. Any more of that and both of you can stand in neutral naughty corners all day without pay.”

Matt Rush, who had bet Dangerous two thousand dollars on Ricardo being knocked senseless by the first punch Richard Johnson threw, gave Rowena a nod of approval. Matt completely forgot about the coal miners helmets Richard Johnson had mysteriously acquired. It never occurred to management that Hohn’s vs Johnson might’ve been staged as a diversionary tactic, with the added bonus of $2000 being split three ways.
Large Leaf Privet massacring chainsaws and Lantana annihilating brush cutters destroyed the serene atmosphere as shockingly as Dangerous Dylan Donovan’s sound system. A team of knap sack herbicide sprayers blanketed the vastest Moth Vine, Cape Ivy and Morning Glory patches, which had spread so rapidly time lapse photography was barely needed to watch their advance.

A chain saw wielding Richard Johnson, drilled and poisoned the world’s largest African Olive with a jackhammer and a drum of diesel, before charging at the next Olive infestation like he was going over the top at Gallipoli. Four former NFL players,
secondered from the landscape construction crew, hauled the fallen weed trees from his path. Rowena Grey ran around with the grace of a flamingo dancing, in her bid to poison the stumps in time. Ricardo Hohns stacked the butchered invaders remains,
between towering Eucalypts and Corymbias.

After morning tea, Ricardo and Rowena extricated Erharta From a patch of Weeping Meadow Grass. Riccardo was spellbound by Rowena’s tales of everything from mushroom farming to entertaining hospitalised children with her ukulele. He delighted in pointing out every passing Rufus Fantail and Yellow Robin. He named every rare native herb he spotted. What magnificent specimens of Solenogyne bellioides and Cymbonotus lawsonianus he proclaimed. One could be forgiven for thinking they were thought to be extinct since the ancestors of whales first fished in coastal shallows.

“Out of the sun Ricardo” Laura Bogan barked with the fury of a rabid Doberman.

“I’m perfectly comfortable” Ricardo answered.

“Get the fuck out of the sun now” Laura screamed, as she aimed the nozzle of a Staraine laden sprayer at his eyes. With his hands raised in the air Ricardo did as he was told.

“I’m just thinking of your safety Ricardo.” Rowena looked ready to flip Laura into an African Box Thorn thicket. Laura made a note in her diary “Ricardo always seeks the shadiest spots to work, at the expense of the crews health”
Richard Johnson yearned to spray an Asparagus Fern patch with Agent Orange

“Who is Agent Orange” he demanded to know, after Laura Bogan invited Rowena,
the site safety and morale officer, into the conversation on the whereabouts of his illegal herbicide supply.

After terminating the interview, Laura gazed at a pair of red belly black snakes slithering into a hollow Grey Box stump. Ms Bogan was nothing like red bellies, the timid puppy dogs of the venomous serpent world. She longed for a cup of their venom, to add to the crew’s coffee, in her quest for subservient replacements. Her crew damning diary contained more fantasy material than the complete works of JRR Tolkien. Ricardo Hohn was the main character. She’d hated him ever since he’d informed her the weeds she chastised him for ignoring were native plants. This diabolical humiliation occurred
at the now defunct At War With Weeds, on the day the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded. Laura had been plotting her revenge ever since. Mother Nature’s Bodyguards CEO Matt Rush, looked forward to reading her damning reports.

The moment Laura disappeared from view “Richard Johnson rummaged through her bag. He was desperately hungry. The two litre bottle of Coke, packet of Oreo’s and the feral goat, he’d had for morning tea weren’t enough. He felt around for false compartments, sniffing for anything that vaguely resembled food. Eventually he pulled out an exercise book. After reading the chapter entitled Richard Johnson, he considered sending Laura Bogan’s van falling end over end into the broad, fast flowing creek, that wound its way through the property. The handbrake would be no use against the one man scrum that is Richard Johnson.

All he found in the other vehicles was a jar of instant coffee and the manuscript for Oliver Oxford’s memoir’s. According to chapter seven, Oxford taught Johnson the art of simultaneous brush cutting and knap sack spraying.

“That Mista Puniverse bludga musta shown me howta do it with the Lego version of a brush cutta and spraya. Otherwise howda fuck coulde’ve lifted em?” Richard Johnson raged. He went to lunch early, leaving a cloud of dust in his wake. He was feeling a bit sleep deprived, so he poured the jar of instant coffee down his throat.

Johnson paid little attention to the late model silver Lamborghini he nearly ran off the road. The driver got a good look at the Mother Nature’s Bodyguards logo on the side of his vehicle. If Office Works had of been closed, it might’ve been the victim of a ram raid, for the sake of borrowing a shredder. Johnson fed the life and times of Oliver Oxford into the biggest, baddest document destroyer available.

“Are you going to buy that sir? You’ve been testing it ever since I started working here”
sales assistant, Melanie Tulip challenged him. He glared down at her, as though she were trying to talk him into paying five dollars a minute for the air he breathed. Then he used his unbelievably good eyesight to examine her sheer, lacy underwear. Shoddy brain surgery, after Johnson’s fight with a tractor, had given him the ability to see through
any clothing less opaque than a leather jacket.

“Your panties are blue” he stated, as proudly as if he’d just solved one of quantum physics most baffling mysteries. From that day forth, Melanie wore six pairs of stockings
and yoga pants beneath her trousers. Richard reread Laura Bogan’s diary as he drove back to site, only twenty k’s over the speed limit.

Johnson had one hand pressed firmly on the horn, to drown out everyone who had a problem with his latest multitasking feat. He almost side swiped Dangerous Dylan Donovan at an intersection. Dangerous’ own lunch time escapade would prove to be more action packed than Richard’s, but he didn’t know it yet.
That afternoon, Richard worked as hard as a lone tank versus the United States air force.

“I am King Kong’s conqueror, Godzilla fears me. God, I dare you to unleash your fury upon me” he roared as he sprinted towards a patch of Inkweed, wearing a spray pack the size of a swimming pool. Dexter Finkelstein wandered off to share his supply of LSD with a wombat. Laura Bogan took her usual three hour break, to visit her dope dealer and attend an orgy hosted by an extra terrestrial from somewhere in Alpha Centauri. It’s claim to fame was four breasts and more penises than fingers. Oliver Oxford spoke to everyone in earshot about the superior ergonomics of his loppers and his reclining camping chair. He shifted every hour, to saw another tree. He was one of those people who manages to do far less work than the long term unemployed, without ever being out of a job.

Dangerous Dylan Donovan raised his middle finger as a scowling, silver Lamborghini driving, gang leader cut him off at the service station entrance. Dangerous was searching his wallet for cash, when something slammed into his cheek bone. Had a wedge tailed eagle just committed suicide on his face? Dangerous whirled around to see a shirtless body builder type shadow boxing and kissing his own biceps in triumph. Needless to say, he was not amused.

In his endeavour to give the narcissistic gym junkie some insight into his personality Dangerous grabbed his detachable driver’s side door and used it for a shield as he advanced. Luckily he was wearing Kevlar body armour beneath his work clothes and the door was reinforced with titanium because a variety of stolen weapons ranging from a crossbow to an AK-47 were trained on him. All of them were fired simultaneously. There was an eerie silence, once mirror boy’s henchman realised they’d exhausted their ammunition.

Jumping Giles Corkhill returned from the pizza store across the street. Dangerous Frisbee’d the ute door to him and motioned for him to reinstall it. He headed for the self kissing show pony, with his right arm cocked. A startled looking Mirror Boy took evasive action. In his haste he crashed into the outhouse wall. Now he was cornered, his ailing bravado was re-inflated. Donovan’s right arm was reminiscent of a cobra poised to strike. His left dangled by his side as though it were partially paralysed. As Mirror Boy prepared to counter a devastating right cross he was knocked senseless by a left hook.
“Idiot” Dangerous remarked as he strolled back to his vehicle and refueled.
“That’s Dangerous Dylan Donovan. Some call him the twenty first century Arthur Fonzarelli” A bystander proclaimed.

“I call him dead meat” the gangsters roared in unison. Jumping Giles Corkhill casually sipped his frozen Coke. Dangerous had gotten them into and out of situations more dire than this. He looked bored by the ease with which he flung his attackers into their vehicles. Jumping Giles slashed their tyres before they could disentangle themselves.
Two carloads of police officers took time out from replenishing their donut stockpile to arrest the thugs. Nobody had reported the fight. The service station attendants were reoccupied with putting out a fire in the dumpster and getting their lunch time exercise chasing away graffiti vandals.

“Not again” Lawry, the owner, moaned as he discovered the confectionery freezer had been stolen.

If they’d watched the news Dangerous and Jumping Giles would’ve seen CCTV footage of Dangerous versus the Drongo Vale Boys and Jumping Giles standing idly by sipping a Frozen Coke. Mirror Boy and his cohorts had robbed two service stations in twenty minutes before their stoush with the most feared weed sprayer since Genghis Khan took a dislike to his palace garden. Overshadowing Dangerous Dylan Donovan’s defeat of the Drongo Vale Boys was his Australian Rules football style catch of a baby who toppled over a shopping centre railing. It was quite an impressive feat considering that he was chasing a handbag snatcher at the time. At last count there are four babies who would’ve gone splat, if Dangerous wasn’t shopping for dumb bells and protein shakes at the right time.

Laura Bogan missed the news as well. She was busy trying to contact Dangerous Dylan Donovan, to interrogate him about misuse of company vehicles.

“You’re telling me that speeding on two wheels is against company policy? Since when? I’m busy darlin, the Warlords are playin. I’ve got five hundred riding on the first scorer. We’ll talk about work at work. Then again, I’ll probably be too busy then too.” Dangerous turned the volume down, knowing Laura would screech for an eternity before pausing to discover he was gone. He recorded every call from Laura Bogan and sent the audio files to Ricardo to summarize the death threats.

Not content with disturbing Dangerous Dylan Donovan, during a Western Sydney Warlords match, Laura Bogan made the mistake of offending Richard Johnson again. “What do ya mean we can’t arm drones with herbocide cannins. I could fly em by remote control from my car during an extended lunch break. I’d neva be more than two feet from an ice cold six pack.” he raged.

“Garth Izzard just isn’t prepared to pay for that kind of technology” she insisted, as one of Matt Rush’s surveillance drones emerged from its hiding place in the clouds overhead.
Within moments of Laura being out of sight Richard had stolen her diary again and sped off on another Office Works escapade. This time there was a strong police presence in the shredder section. Melanie Tulip’s new trousers were as opaque as a fortress. An enraged Johnson wreathed photo copier laden shelving high into the air. Each rep was more reckless than the last. Exasperated with the local police’s refusal to risk pepper spraying or tasering Richard Johnson the manager tried a different tack.

“If I give you this state of the art shredder for free will you promise to never come back?”

“I will consider your offa” Johnson replied as he headed for the car park, shredder in hand. It made short work of Laura Bogan’s forty thousand words of meticulous fabrication. Richard made a phone call to Oliver Oxford, who he hoped had taken time out from bird watching to fill up his herbicide spray pack.

Matt Rush initiated a video conference call, to discuss Laura Bogan’s diary. Richard Johnson listened from afar. Eight kookaburras and five goannas suffered from strokes during his fits of maniacal laughter. The electronic copy of Laura’s diary had been mysteriously deleted from her laptop and online back up. Using her name for the password had proved to be a bad idea. Every member of the crew knew Lady Justice’s guillotine was about to descend upon her, except her. It was a guillotine they’d all had a hand in building, sharpening and polishing.

“Closed circuit television footage will show that since the beginning of the job Laura has repeatedly left site during lunch without returning until mid afternoon” Ricardo informed everyone.

Garth Izzard nodded his approval, as he joined the meeting from his Honolulu office. He forgot to switch off his camera as his four hands Hawaiian massage ventured into disturbing territory.

“It’s true Matt, it was quite cunning how Miss Bogan avoided the regular trails and built her own personal gates but not as cunning as Dangerous Dylan Donovan’s repositioning of the perimeter cameras.” Izzard confirmed. Richard Johnson was halfway to the airport by the time Izzard realized he was broadcasting some questionable muscle spasm healing techniques to the entire Drongo Vale crew.

Realizing she was destined for a long walk to the bus stop Laura Bogan attempted to ring her cousins for a lift and to organise a hit on Ricardo Hohns and Dangerous Dylan Donovan. In their current predicament it was surprising they’d managed to keep their phones. What was less surprising was that they were in prison for the armed robbery of two Drongo Vale service stations and conspiring to rob a third.

A Social Media Memory

Apparently I was struggling to find ends worth photographing that day, I murmured as I gazed at an old lawn bowls photo, dredged up by Facebook memories. When looking to advertise their magnificence, some opt for enough selfies to fill a thousand biographies. I on the other hand, know it’s not looks that matter, it’s how close your bowls are to the jack. “There’s got to be more to life than that” you say. What’s wrong with you?

I’m joking, about bowls feet away from the jack being unworthy of a photo that is. The truth is I was playing against Harry Potter, or someone wearing an invisibility cloak who claimed to be Harry Potter. He nudged the jack away from my perfect deliveries with his invisible bowls. I asked Yoda, the lone spectator, whether it was technology or magic at work. He said he didn’t know, but maybe his student Luke Skywalker could enlighten me. Now that’s a hippie name if I ever heard one. I wondered if there was something wrong with Yoda’s liver, he looked more green than the bowling green but blended in well with the shrivelled old men at the bar.

My lone bowl, towards the back of the green, is what is known as insurance in lawn bowls parlance, in other words it’s strategically placed, to give you a chance of winning the end if your opponent hits the jack. In hindsight, I think I bought the wrong policy. To be honest it was several millimetres deeper than intended too.

At least I remembered to switch on my alarm clock that day. There is barely such thing as slightly late when you are catching public transport and the meeting point is miles from the actual work zone in the forest. In lawn bowls vernacular, I am down by four shots but I have one to come. Whatever happened previously one needs to have the mindset that their next delivery will be a resting toucher in the sand, the only invincible shot in the game.

Failure is a lame, herbivorous dog,
who whoops like a sasquatch,
unless you’ve truly given up.
Then failure is a steel cage
constructed from cowardice
and guarded by hyena locksmiths.
Their vultures circle.

Stand up, snap the bars,
beat the demonic scavengers back
to their dilapidated graves.
So what if they create a crater with the chunk
torn from your hands, moments from the dunk?
Refuse to be their slaves.

Loping, leaping, creeping Lazarus hordes,
swim all the abomination infested fjords.
Aimless peasants, gloating parasitic lords,
savour the drops lingering in your gourds.
It’s time to admit there’s no lake in the dry,
to purify the ointment seeping from the fly.
You can flap your arms on a landfill mound,
until your box cheats worms underground,
or write the music to which your wings march,
swap crumpled excuses for plans full of starch.

Let negative chatter babble like a chimp troupe,
who cares what it does, you’ll crush it into soup.
Then you will drink the broth like a bilge pump,
convert it into dessert, obliterating your slump.

Marching with wings?
You claim there can’t be a procession in the sky?
The ideas in your possession are a cardboard pie.
I’ll go yomping through the upper atmosphere.
Your boring, baffling doubts will soon disappear.
Those who claim nobody can march with wings,
have dreams too small to be struck by sonar pings.

Cricket Man aka Nostradamus Bradman

Will Power wanted a name that didn’t merely highlight his competitive spirit but also advertised his powers of anticipation, so he renamed himself Nostradamus Bradman.

“You should be worried” Nostradamus warned opposition coach, painter, agriculture teacher, hairdresser and poultry show extraordinaire Randall Grey, as he strolled to the pitch.

“About what Will, if one of my boys flukes getting you out I’ll be happy and if I witness another of your brilliant displays I’ll be happy.”

“You need to move your mind, the way I move my feet, to do the dance they call lateral thinking. The possibilities are endless. Me destroying your bowling attack and my freak dismissal are just two blades of grass in an outfield where every blade is unique”

“They all look the same to me”

“Look closer”

“Five sixes, one single” Nostradamus Bradman declared to all within throwing distance, as calmly and resolutely as a man ordering drinks. Every six struck the sight screen. His batting partner Dexter Matrix was so confident all five would clear the boundary rope that he was engrossed in an online game of chess, until Nostradamus signalled that the final ball was about to be bowled.

Dexter wasn’t a cricketer, he was a sprinter, there for the sole purpose of running quick singles, with the knowledge that Bradman would retain the strike at the beginning of the new over. On the rare occasions Matrix had to face a ball, Bradman instructed him to step as far forward as possible, always play a shot and always with his pads in line with the stumps. Matrix was yet to meet a wicket keeper with reflexes quick enough to stump him. After one of his mighty air swings the kid could spin faster than a cockroach and lunge at the crease quicker than a man in concrete boots snatches at a life raft.
In just two overs Bradman had painted a smiley face on the sight screen with the cherry red stains of the six stitcher.

“Kindergarten art, so what” Randall Grey mocked, from what he assumed was a safe distance beyond the boundary rope. He was working on his Archibald Prize entry. In his twenty years of attempting to make the final, apparently nobody had told him one of the conditions of entry was that the portrait had to be of a human. Grey shook his head as his prize turkey Julius did his best to imitate a body builder. Julius was quickly running out of poses.

Grey had decided long ago there was no point in trying to help his team tactically out manoeuvre Nostradamus Bradman. They were as outclassed as the clumsiest drunk against Muhammad Ali in his prime.

To the umpire’s chagrin some younger students began moving the sight screen without consulting the batsman. Bradman couldn’t have cared less. If the ball had of been camouflaged with the pitch and the size of a dehydrated pea, he’d still have spotted it as easily as a beach ball. The kids wanted to see what shots he had besides sixteen kinds of straight drives and they weren’t disappointed. By the tenth over he’d hit the sight screen with a reverse cut and a reverse sweep. He’d turned a yorker into a waist high full toss and smashed it over the wicket keepers head, striking his target with millimetre precision. That particular cherry red blotch formed the pupil of the left eye, of the emerging portrait.

After hearing about the impossible feats occurring on oval one, the players in matches on surrounding grounds dropped their bats and balls, to join the procession to the grandstand. As soon as Randall Grey recognised himself, in the cherry red portrait, he dug a pen and pad from his briefcase and offered his autograph to everyone in sight.

A mysterious suit clad figure looked on from the hill, on the opposite side of the ground. There was a notebook computer on his lap but he paid little attention to it. The way his eyes flitted from one part of the sight screen to another was reminiscent of a child playing Where’s Wally but there was clearly no striped t-shirt figure to be seen.

Nostradamus Bradman wasn’t merely controlling the trajectory of his cherry bullets, he was imparting the ideal amount of spin for the red blotches to blend into one another as though they’d been applied with a brush. Randal’s pallor was suddenly as grey as his name. His grotesque smirk turned to a snarl, as he realized Bradman had depicted the translation of the tattoo on his right forearm.

The mysterious figure on the hill was suddenly paying more attention to his laptop than the game. Nostradamus had found the translation of Grey’s tattoo in a diary, hidden inside a hollowed out manual for an obsolete computer program. It looked like a password. That was all that Bradman knew.

Grey, his suispected victims and his sabouteurs had been under surveillance for months. Recently he’d communicated with several suspected members of an organized crime network, on the dark web. They were believed to be heroin dealers who had branched out into human trafficking for the purposes of organ harvesting, forced labour, arranged marriages, sexual slavery and hair extensions. In his conversations with these tyrants, Grey alluded to the secret meaning of his tattoo, which consisted of writing in an archaic language the police had been unable to identify let alone decipher.

Using a telephoto lens Detective Sherlock Columbo photographed the jumble of numbers and letters, which he believed was the password to a collection of illegal videos. By the time Columbo and his fellow investigators had finished watching the movies their throats were sore from puking and their abdominal muscles strained from laughing. To say all of them were in desperate need of a holiday is like pointing out that the sun is warmer than frozen hydrogen.

What the investigators discovered was appalling, but not as horrific as what they’d expected to find. If the expressions Randall Grey’s flock of turkeys wore were any indication they begged to differ. The ones in the audience looked just as shocked at his co-stars. Apparently Grey was a celebrity in avian porn circles. The golden mask and the harpy suit he wore to the bird masquerade ball weren’t enough to conceal his identity from those who knew him best, his turkeys. The investigators were forced to rely on the credits.

Among Grey’s bad habits was leaving his phone in his car. This prevented him from logging into the site and deleting his channel before Nostrodamus Bradman clobbered the battered six stitcher down the ground, striking the remote control for a big screen television, from so far away he’d had to allow for the curvature of the Earth. Bradman’s next attempt missed the intended target by a coat of varnish, sparing Grey’s ancient parents the horror of discovering the true nature of their son’s passion for turkeys.

Bradman indulged in more switch hitting. This time he played a reverse hook, which flew like a Tiger Woods tee shot, soaring over the grandstand, to the top of the hill, in the centre of Grey’s farm, through his kitchen window and into his loungeroom. The ball finally struck the trophy that depicted Grey in a compromising position with a bewildered Ostrich, smashing that monument to his avian amorousness into multiple pieces.

Without the GPS chip embedded into the ball, Bradman would’ve needed to catch a taxi to check the result. He was the only cricketer in history that required expertise in cartography to master his craft.

Grey’s trial took place on the day the finalists for the Archibald Prize were chosen. His entry was among them. On a whim he’d decided to paint his reflection in Julius’s sunglasses. He considered it his worst entry in years, thanks to Julius sub standard modelling. Why he’d made the finals now, after all this time, he had no idea.

There was a delay in proceedings. Grey was out on bail, on the condition that he didn’t go within a mile of a poultry farm. He planned to use the opportunity to stand near his painting, in the Archibald Prize exhibition and listen to everyone’s praise for what he called one of his Rembrandt humbling masterpieces. Despite Julius’ poor performance, Grey fully expected to be the winner.

Meanwhile the philanthropic heavyweights of the Australian art world were in a meeting with the curator of the Art Gallery of New South Wales “It doesn’t matter how long the opening of the exhibition has to be delayed. As long as you don’t jeopardise the structural integrity of the building we don’t care how many walls you have to rebuild twice to get that sight screen in and out” Corey Harvard bellowed.

Corey had made a name for himself tattooing unicorn riding Cossacks on to yeti pelts. The man had one hundred and twenty million followers on WordPress. The curator wasn’t game to argue with someone as formidable as that.

Scammer Slammer

Towering Angophoras and Corymbia’s were frozen in a looping, twisting dance, waiting for the wind to animate them once more. “The Whistling Puppeteer is the ultimate choreographer” the Surreal Art Psychonaut mused as he strayed from the main track. The overgrown path was clogged with fallen branches, bulky enough to crush a bunyip. An epicormic limb fell to it’s death, missing the Psychonaut’s misshapen cranium by the width of a geranium.

Fifteen minutes into that mystical explorer’s marathon, Margot Shugg, the local grammarian, greeted him via Facebook messenger. Hearing from Margot at 3am was more surprising than getting reception in the forest. Well there was a photo of Margot attached to the profile anyway. Strangely, none of their previous conversations were visible. The Psychonaut scrolled through his messenger contacts and sure enough there was another Margot Shugg, the real one.

“Are you there?” Margot’s impersonator asked for the fourth time. The Psychonaut had seen more patient Golden Retrievers during dinner. Anyone who has ever seen a Golden Retriever eat, has surely wondered how they don’t give themselves whiplash, as they attack their meal like it’s three days late and about to fly away.

“Are you there” the faceless criminal purporting to be Margot asked the Psychonaut once more. He decided to have some fun.

“Margot, you’re still the queen of the night owls I see and dynamite on the dancefloor I bet. All the youngsters must be in awe of you. How’s life been treating you?”

“I really can’t complain too much, bills are getting paid, eating every day, got friend, living comfortable”

“Margot, your grammar is as impressive as a manned mission to Neptune. Shakespeare would be in awe”

“Yes. I’m so happy and full of joy today. Guess why.”

“Has that X rated romance novel you’ve been working on rocketed up the New York Times best seller list?”

“Have you heard about the united nation award IFC?”

“No, I can’t say I have. What’s Tom up to these days, have you seen him lately?”

“Not really”

“That’s probably a good thing. I heard he joined the airforce and was lucky not to get court martialled, after almost crashing into the control tower. He calls himself Maverick now, what a wanker!”

“I am bet you love too hear about IFC. It is International Finance Cooperation. The IFC are helping people with some grant money to help deaf, retired, disabled, widowed, military, employees, unemployees to maintain the standard of living”

“Interesting. Do go on.” the psychonaut typed as he Skyped Storm Fox, one of his associates, for a coded chat. It’s unlikely that anyone listening in could’ve discerned that they were discussing anything besides which restaurant to go to the following evening.

The scammer continued “The money is being given to people from them to pay rents, bills, homes, pay school fee for children and lots more. I got $50,000 cash from them.”

“Wow.”

“You too can get money. Because I saw your name on the winner list. Federal government IFC Program. They are helping all people for self service provider and you don’t have to pay it back. Do you know how to apply for it?”

“Sounds legit. Please tell me how I can my hands on all that cold, hard cash”

“I will give you their Facebook page where I apply so you can apply there as well. Are you there?”

“The arrival of the glowing pterodactyl pig is imminent. It makes the swiftest Peregrin falcon look as pedestrian as an inebriated slug.  The glowing pterodactyl pig, look how it plays with such zeal, with the risen gargoyles, oh how they shattered their graves. After thee, they will fly, buoyed by a tiny tornado”

“Should I send you the agent link now?”

“Send it to the glowing pterodactyl pig, to appease his sadistic spirit”

“You dey mad”

“Yes, I’m very angry. Spell Czech, that meddling editor, he keeps changing pterodactyl into redirect. Spell Czech, he’s the one they should sacrifice to the glowing pterodactyl pig. That Jurassic abomination should leave you alone, at least until I get my cash”

“Should I send you the agent links now?”

“Agent Lnyx, haven’t seen him for years. Last I heard he was trapped in a parallel universe, on an asteroid where clouds sky write lyrics, for a contortionist hippo’s symphonies. It’s the only place where I’ve seen a hippo conduct an orchestra with its ankles behind its ears twice. The drummer is swifter than the beating of a dragon fly’s wings. The saxophonist has wings. The violinists stab carnivorous butterflies, with their bows, between strokes.  If you return Agent Lynx to this world, I’ll be eternally grateful”

“Just click on link, www.internationalfinancecooperation.org and you too can get lots of cash. This Agent Lynx, you buy him back”

“I’m confused, Margot, you’re knocking on my door. I can see you out the window. Now you’re doing handstand pushups, while waiting for me to let you in. How do you type while doing handstands pushups?”

“Voice recognition softwarw”

“Surely, only the Shimmering Egg Man has the power to make typos with voice recognition software. Are you the Shimmering Egg Man?”

“Yes, I the Shimmering Egg Man, he send you to where there lots of cash. Just click on link.

Are you sure you’re the shimmering egg man?

“Joking, ha ha, I Margot silly”

“You’re Margot Sealy? You said before that you’re Margot Shugg. I just Googled Margot Sealy and she’s a mattress”

“Grrrr, you dey mad, for half an hour we talk, you talk shit bull whole time, I go now”

High above a Manilla warehouse, wingsuit warriors descended from a nearby crane. They glided between office blocks as casually as eagles. One looked remarkably like a bipedal pig and the others were so hideously deformed by injuries and body modifications that they were reminiscent of Gargoyles. Not even the tiny tornado, that caught them by suprise, dented their confidence. The Margot impersonator couldn’t have looked more suprised if it had been a tiny alien spacecraft that crashed through his office window.

“We didn’t mean to land here, we got stuck in a tornado. I’m the Glowing Pterodactyl Pig and they are the risen gargoyles.”

“Margot’s friend said you would come.” the scammer blubbered. He was a quivering mess, lying helpless in the foetal position beneath his desk. The Glowing Pterodactyl Pig and the Risen Gargoyles grotesque smirks grew as they helped themselves to the contents of the scammer’s bar fridge and considered their options.

“5.8 km/hr, for almost 40 minutes, considering all the typing I did along the way, that’s quick,” the Surreal Art Psychonaut congratulated himself. He bounded up the steps of the Temple of the Risen Gargoyles. A statue of the Pterodactyl Pig, towered over the waxworks cyclops kneeling at the altar. Five hundred more of those three dimensional metaphors filled the pews. The Psychonaut rehearsed the introduction to his first sermon, with the intensity most people reserve for warfare.

Internet scamming was that tricksters favourite fundraising method. There were several degrees of separation between him and his scammers, so surely it was a freakish coincidence that one of them had rung him. He wasn’t taking any chances though. The bit about the Glowing Pterodactyl Pig and the risen gargoyles being buoyed by a tiny tornado was wild speculation for a lark. He’d fully expected his hideously deformed henchmen to use the door.

I hope you enjoyed this quirky tale about my alter ego’s evil double.

 

 

Alcohol, the Only Drug we Have to Explain not Using

From an early age my stubborn streak has rendered me immune to peer pressure. In primary school, if we were painting during art and I wanted to use textas, that’s what I did. During highschool, if the other kids were using Bunsen burners and I wanted to use a flame thrower, that’s what I did. At tech, if the other students went hangliding on the weekend and I wanted to hitch a ride on an eagle, that’s what I did. Possibly, I’m exaggerating a little. The point is, go your own way.

My way is not for the faint hearted. If I’m at the pub and someone repeatedly asks me why I’m not drinking, first I soften them up with copious detail about NYE 2000. In the early hours of the new millennium, my projectile vomiting spree melted a hole in the mirror and flash flooded the bathroom. Funnily enough, as I tell that story the puzzlement over my sobriety ceases; like the appetite of a sumo wrestler after the seventeenth watermelon. Everyone has their limit.

If they reflexively ask me one more time if I’d like a gin and tonic, before they lapse into a catatonic state, I just hold up my glass of water and ask them “what in hell do you think this is? You’ve just witnessed me pour half of it down my throat and seen the resulting gasp of relief. Then watched me massage my tongue with the upteenth ice cube and you would have me believe you don’t know I’ve already got a drink. Oh of course, it’s not a real drink, only drinks that damage the brain, punish the liver and k.o the kidneys are real. Water must be such an inferior beverage that to call it a drink is laughable because it’s not as toxic as the anxiety you seek to spread like the Black Death, whenever someone reveals the contrast between your alcoholism and their good health.”

I don’t say it too loudly though, otherwise the words “that bloke could do with a drink” are likely to ripple from one side of the bar to the other, with the echoes intermingling until one is not entirely sure if they’re merely in a room with too many conversations or suffering from auditory hallucinations.

If I’d of been sober in the early hours of January 1 2000, I would’ve realized it was still the 20th century because there was no year zero. As it was, if I had been aware of that, I wouldn’t have been able to tell anyone. My vocal ability had regressed by decades. Any thoughts that did escape made the barking and grunting of baboons sound as eloquent as Oscar Wilde.

During my mid teens, back in the early 1990’s, I had the same healthy paranoia about alcohol as I did about every other drug. I could be in the kind of mood where leaping from a bridge seems like the most splendid idea since Leonardo Da-Vinci designed the hellicopter but if someone had of put a glass of beer in front of me and told me this will make you feel better, I’d have been too consumed by visions of brain cells shrivelling and dying enmasse to take a cautious sip.

My propensity for thinking the worst is why I never jumped off a bridge. I’d use my suicide fantasy to make school days bearable. By the time I reached the bridge though, I’d be thinking what if I don’t die, what if I go from being a severely depressed able bodied boy, constantly on the verge of a panic attack, to a severely depressed quadriplegic, constantly on the verge of a panic attack? That fear was diminished in late 1993, after I was prescribed Lithium carbonate.

Lithium carbonate, the mood stabilizer that dulled my depression, anxiety, paranoia and mania worked too well. Lithium eliminates extremes but it’s not selective in which extremes it eliminates. My intense fear of alcohol was among the traits it banished. After I’d been on Lithium for a while, I got drunk about once a month, to make the real world disappear. Some people made fun of me for drinking a glass of water between beers. Obviously I should’ve toughened up and let dehydration cause the concentration of Lithium in my blood to rise to fatal levels.

Despiting consuming a potentially fatal dose of alcohol, I remember a surprising amount about NYE 2000. Advertising obviously works, I thought as I poured myself the first glass of Jim Beam and Coke. I hadn’t drunk a drop and I was feeling more witty already. By the time I was struggling to speak a word of English, I didn’t feel so sophisticated anymore. Instead of hiding the bottle my friends poured more bourbon into my cola. At about 3AM, the murky geysers of vomit that briefly gained on Halley’s Comet hit my reflection for a home run. 

The two day hangover that followed was enough to convince me it’s better to sample alcoholic beverages than suck them up like an irrigation hose. I haven’t had a hangover since. It was a close call after the 20 year reunion for the class of 95, at St Gregory’s College. We gave the Responsible Service of Alcohol Officers something to do that night. Without us they would’ve had more time to play cards than the Antarctic Forest Fire Brigade. The former National Rugby League players were wise enough to leave before any unwanted publicity arrived. Not being famous for anything, it was easier for me to keep a low profile.

I discovered that standing as still as a statue is good for more than making videos look like photos. Once the R.S.A officers attention was diverted by a decoy stumbler, I hit the gap at about three km per hour. By the time they looked around I was at the bar and as still as a statue once more. The bips of the cash register substituted for the referee signalling a try. If you’re American, that roughly translates as the proverbial touch down. “Air swing averted”, I mumbled as I raised my glass without missing my mouth. I drained it without spilling a drop, so you could say I converted my own try in a bounce on top of the cross bar and shave the inside of the uprights kind of way.

After stopping at Adam Cass’s room, with Mark Wyrzykowski, for mining industry anecdotes and more beers, I finally left the venue. In my inebriated state I felt like I was strolling along the sea floor. I picked a Bird of Paradise flower, from near the old Town Hall and looked around for a mermaid to give it to. Unfortunately there aren’t any mermaids in the shallow, murkiness of the Alcohol Sea. Alcohol, it has the dubious distinction of rotting the living and preserving the dead. Alcohol, what a blessing it seems until it causes lives to come apart at the seams.

This mostly biographical article was triggered by a Celeste Yvonne Facebook post of virtually the same name. The title and the topic is where the similarity ends.

The Man Who Blew Up Hate

Now every time when I walk down the street and see someone who looks vaguely like Dave, for a moment I wonder if it’s him. Then I remember why it can’t be.

How many people emerge from palliative care to stun doctors by living for another thirty or forty years, I wondered as Dave lay dying, too weak to accept a visit from the hundreds who would’ve loved to speak to him one more time. I shed a few tears as I heard the bad news, knowing that the pain I felt was nothing compared to what his family and closest friends were going through. Coincidentally Dave died on the day of my brother Neil’s wedding. Neil was a valued amateur photographer at the wedding of Dave and Michelle, his wife of eighteen years.

Their children Lachie, Chloe and Blake wouldn’t know me from a Martian, I was just one of many people they stood patiently waiting for their dad to finish chatting to in the supermarket, at a school fete or wherever I happened to cross paths with him in recent years. If they’ve read the Man Who Blew Up Hate, they could well be wondering if I am a Martian. I suspect they’ve been too busy coming to grips with the void their father’s death has left, to be aware of the crazy little story that seemingly came from nowhere as I wrote the first version of this tribute.

Dave’s funeral and wake were surreal experiences, as full of humour as sadness. The readings were done with extraordinary composure. I was wondering if we would hear a song or two during the service that has never been played in a church before, perhaps the kind Dave might hear in the distance as he dons his night vision goggles and abseils down the pearly gates, on his way to the Coolest Place in Hell. I’m told Dave chose the music for his funeral but wishing to avert a diplomatic crisis the Vatican denied some of his requests.

God can be a bit of a prude, so Dave has to sneak out of heaven every Friday and Saturday night to hear the sort of music that’s banned in church. Any secret mission back over the pearly gates featuring Dave is bound to make the Lord of the Rings trilogy look like a boring pamphlet. 

No doubt, many of Dave’s excursions to the Coolest Place in Hell are under the pretext of his Heaven Intelligence Agency missions. He’s probably their 007 already. I bet his face is plastered all over The Satanic Empire, with an angry red line through it drawn by the devil himself.

According to rumour, Dave has been planning to blow up Hate, ever since he first ventured into the volcano infested swamps of hell. Hate is the nickname for Fortress 666, a largely subterranean complex that extends about a mile above the Everest dwarfing mountain into which it was rapidly carved by Red Bull gulping Beaver Goblins. One thousand squadrons of Amphibious Scorpion Dragons and their Platypus Pixie overlords are looking forward to the brutal chess match they’ve been told to expect. Dave gave those battle hardened hybrids little thought as he took the scenic route to the Coolest Place in Hell. The argument between the Banshee Flowers and the searing breeze was far more entertaining. 

For those who don’t know, the Coolest Place in Hell has pole dancing on ice skating rinks. Topless mermaids serve drinks from its network of icy canals and burlesque plays like The Empire Strips Back and Dames of Thrones are performed every night. According to Satan “The Coolest Place in Hell is like Sydney’s Inner West, except evil.”

The Coolest Place in Hell was visible on the Horizon when Dave encountered the Missile Thorn Tree. That gnarled abomination was repulsed by the cheeky grin on his face. Any reminder that not everyone is as miserable as her is an offence punishable by death. Death may be an incomplete experience in hell but it’s not necessarily a painless one. Dave’s “Turning negatives into positives since 1976” t-shirt was as infuriating to the Missile Thorn Tree as the piranha lichen, which refused to stop singing I Can See Clearly Now that the Rain has Gone, by Hothouse Flowers.

The Missile Thorn Tree prefers flowers that die an agonizing death, while exposed to the elements. It had depended on the Piranha Lichen for company, ever since the moss abandoned it rather than listen to more of its whining. The moss was last seen slithering away, to burn itself to a crisp in a volcano. Obliterating the lichen may not have been an option, Dave however was considered expendable.

“Nobody turns my negatives into positives, you nobody” the Missile Thorn Tree screeched as Dave boldly stood within its shadow.

“Do your worst Missile Thorn Tree, it makes no difference to me. I heard that you can’t even shoot down a vulture moth anymore.”

“Can’t shoot down a vulture moth? I can take down a sonic peterodacyl with a single thorn”

“I don’t think so”

“You despicable human, what the hell are you doing? For the hatred of Satan, put your clothes back on. I’ll teach you not to dance naked in my domain. Why are you smiling?. I’ve hit your with two hundred and seventeen thorns and you’re fucking smiling at me”

“You call yourself a Missile Thorn Tree? Being the glass half full kind of guy I am, I’ve decided that you’re an acupuncture tree. I’ve got all the right moves, so you hit me in all the right places. Let’s call it Tandem Acupuncture. We can go into business together and give the money to charity”

“Charities are as disgusting as you are, I hate helping people. Spearing them is much more fun”

“I always thought you hated fun. Anyway, I’ve got things to do, people to see, have a lovely day Missile Thorn Tree. They should call me the Mary Poppins of the Satanic Empire”

In the penthouse, above the Coolest Place in Hell, an overconfident Satan snorted cocaine off Madelaine Albright’s butt. The synchronised bursts of semi automatic spud gun fire, corralling his most fearsome demons outside, was merely a diversionary tactic. By the time The Prince of Darkness realized Dave had defeated the hounds of hell, with nothing more than a packet of Schmackos and an unending supply of tummy rubs, it was too late. Dave had already shouted the bar, in the Coolest Place in Hell. Being the drama queen he is, the Evil One packed up his pitch forks and flame throwers and went home.

Dave sent a text to negotiate a truce. “I’M NOT YOUR FRIEND 🤬” Satan replied, before settling down to watch reruns of Jerry Springer with Ghengis Khan, Hitler, Mussolini, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Dick Cheney and Margaret Thatcher. Then Michael Jackson rang. Satan turned off his phone in a hurry. Seconds later Dave sent another message.

“WTF was that” Satan screamed, as his palace vibrated from the shockwaves of a nearby explosion. As he raced across the satanic lawn, Satan had a feeling something was missing. Eventually he realized it was his letterbox. “Nooooo, my hate mail” he screeched. Steel girders landed in the swimming pool, unleashing a chlorinated tsunami that decimated Satan’s prize petunias. Debri was found as far away as the Sea of Despair and Lake Hopeless. From that day forth, Dave was known as the Man Who Blew Up Hate.

A disgusted Ghengis Khan said what was on his mind “Satan, I’ve been tellin ya to get an email account since 1997 ya dumb ####. This letterbox bombing has got Dave’s signature all over it. Where is that man, I wanna shake his hand.” Ever since Genghis Khan’s defection to heaven the Satanic Empire has been in worse shape than Trump’s America.

The Amphibious Scorpion Dragons had grown so impatient while waiting for Dave to show up at Fortress 666, colloquially known as Hate, that they’d raided Satan’s wine cellar. Dave knew those alcoholics would crack eventually. He became an Alcoholics Anonymous counsellor and marched to their aid.

Dave, if you can read that crazy little story from wherever you are, I hope you enjoy it. Until he was well into his twenties, Dave combined his interest in war history with an interest in creative writing. Perhaps it was the tall stories he told off the cuff that were his best. He was a funny guy, with an imagination as vivid as a supernova. Maybe I’ve channeled him a little, in the writing of The Man Who Blew Up Hate.

Returning to 2019 now, it was great to have a chat with some of the former St Gregs boys and Antiochers (youth group) who were paying their respects to Dave. The intensity of emotions meant that all the memories we shared felt like they had happened yesterday. It was one of those time where people in their forties felt like they were nineteen just a moment ago, a time when you remember just how much people you haven’t seen for aeons mean to you.

Especially during his youth, Dave truly was an adventurer. I wasn’t there when the spud and frozen orange guns might have been put through their paces in Smiths Creek Reserve, by Dave’s gang of funsters. It’s been said that the odd chlorine bomb was detonated, possibly resulting in the destruction of a letterbox or two. Then again, maybe that’s as fictititious as The Man Who Blew Up Hate, as riddled with rumours as a tabloid newspaper. What’s that, you’re wondering which crimes have a statute of limitations in NSW? I’m saving my curiousity for other things, like the origin of the leprechauns on giraffe back, that keep batting their eyelashes at me. The odds of me remembering who was allegedly involved in the blowing of letterboxes to smithereens, last century, are as slender as a string of saliva, stretched between Mercury and Pluto. What’s my name again?

Clever Man

“Tell us the story of Clever Man granddad” ex Prime Minister Melvin Frasier’s grandchildren begged.

I suppose you’re old enough to learn about the phenomenon known as Clever Man. He’s a left wing radical who supports the Labor Party when it matters most. According to legend, he took his first tentative steps into the world of politics before he took his first steps. He was a seasoned campaigner by the time he locked horns with the notorious Julius Craven.

“Will there be a guest appearance from Julian Assange in this story Granddad?”

“Maybe, you’ll have to wait and see”

Dark clouds rolled in to accompany the dishonourable Julius Craven, the Minister for Immigration in the Neo-Liberal Party Government.  He was busy being the centre of attention in an imaginatively titled documentary called “The Campaign Trail”. Julius wondered which superhero the little boy dressed entirely in yellow was meant to be. He’d seen a lot of Marvel and D.C movies with his tantrum tornado grandchildren but he’d never seen this caped crusader before. 

“Yellow is the colour of intelligence,” the boy who couldn’t have been more than seven stated as though it was as apparent as the blueness of the distant ocean.

“Intelligence is a big word for a little boy, do you know what it means?” Senator Craven asked.

The little fellow rolled his eyes and looked at his mother Avira Ali, Professor of linguistics at Sydney University and his stepfather Byron Stradbroke, Professor of Anthropology, at the University of New South Wales, as if to say “who is this fuckwit” He pointed at Senator Craven as though he was about to shoot a concentrated beam of unpalatable facts into his frontal lobe.

“I am Clever Man. You can be my sidekick Idiot Boy if you like.” Senator Craven looked as incensed as a Staffie that’s just lost a wrestling bout with a Maltese Terrier.

“I guess you think you look pretty heroic in that outfit. I’ll have you know that yellow is the colour of cowardice little boy”

“You’ve got the wrong shade Mister C grade. I’m no Yellow Bellied Sapsucker, sucker.”

“I want you to edit those bits out Corey”, Minister Craven barked.

“You’re the politician, we’re the film makers” the producer reminded him. “I want you to edit that out” was one of the most common phrases Julius Craven uttered in his professional life. He’d been known to say it on Q&A and a host of other live current affairs programs more than once.

Ten years later, the now Senator Julius Craven remembered being bested by Clever Man as clearly as he remembered being flung around a strip joint, the previous night, by the pole dancer he’d attempted to molest. “I used to play football” the senator said with a chuckle, in response to her repeatedly warning him that she had been practising Brazilian ju-jitsu eight days a week, since the age of two. The security staff’s laughter still echoed in his mind.

Senator Craven was scheduled to give a thirty minute talk, at Heron Selective Highschool, on his memoirs. He was doing his best to convince everyone that his editor was a glorified proof reader. In reality his book was as ghost written as Casper’s diary. Craven was unaware that the little boy known as Clever Man, who was now seventeen, was a student at the school. Dorian Grey, the last bully to fuck with Clever Man, had been expelled five years ago after being framed for graffitiing the principal’s office. Clever Man didn’t take kindly to having his lunch money stolen. On the day Grey was expelled, someone hacked into his bank accounts and sent the funds ricocheting around the world until Sherlock Holmes reincarnated as an accountant wouldn’t have a hope in hell of tracing them.  

Coincidentally, or not, within a few days dozens of cashed up persons unknown were campaigning on behalf of Murray Greenberg, the most prominent left leaning independent candidate in Julius Craven’s electorate. Rumours abounded. According to the Daily Telegraph, Banksy was flown in to mastermind Greenberg’s graffiti division and Greenpeace mercenaries were training squadrons of base jumping sky writers. It was said that Banksy mixed his pallet from the stains of corruption, as he got high on the sky writers wind dispersed slogans. Needless to say, Julius Craven lost his seat. Craven strenuously denied that his affair with a chimpanzee was a contributing factor.

“C.G.I, C.G.I, C.G.I” Craven repeated ad naueseum, with his hands firmly placed over his ears and his gaze fixed on the floor, whenever journalists questioned him on the matter. The F.B.I suspected that Clever Man had set up an inter species singles site solely for the purpose of setting a honey trap for Julius Craven, but nothing was ever proven. The ressurection of his political career wasn’t exactly the best advertisement for democracy since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Craven’s muckrakers best efforts centred around the claim one of Greenberg’s visits to a massage parlour last century wasn’t solely for the purpose of rehabilitating from a skiing accident.  When it emerged that the massage therapist was eighty six at the time, Craven’s smear squad had to change tack and accuse Greenberg of promoting pseudoscience, due to the athritic therapists increasing reliance on reiki. This approach proved to be less effective than bringing a machete to a whittling contest.

The world wide release of Craven’s inter species porno wasn’t enough to satisfy his enemies thirst for retribution. Surely a more cost effective, diplomatic approach could have been used to counter the smear campaign against Greenberg, an article in Green Left Weekly lamented, after it was discovered Anonymous hacktivists had hijacked U.S Air Force reconnaissance drones, for the purpose of leaflet dropping in Greenberg’s electorate. It’s long been rumoured that Clever Man is the mastermind behind their seemingly leaderless collective. Clever Man started the rumour, to make his battle with the world’s intelligence agencies challenging enough to hold his interest. His avatar’s avatars spread it so convincingly that the majority of Anonymous’ membership believes it.

On the day of Senator Craven’s memoirs sales pitch, at Heron Selective Highschool, Clever Man, AKA Imran Ali, was busy doing the public speaking component of his society and culture assignment on refugees. He’d been busier with what he liked to call his side projects, so busy he hadn’t begun writing his speech until the early hours of that morning. He’d practiced during lunch, between bites of his vegan burger.

Clever Man strode to the front of the room and placed his notes on the lectern. Clever Man doesn’t need notes. He’d said it often enough himself. They were there in case some extraordinary distraction, like a flock of pigeons flying into the room, took place. If some of the hypothetical birds happened to catch fire it might well be enough to give Clever Man a mental blank. He cleared his throat and begun.

“This afternoon I’d like to talk generally about self-harm and specifically about the horrific way in which my father died before I was born. First there was the psychological torture Imran Ali Senior endured before his santiy discintegrated and he set himself on fire. Then there was the thirty hours before he was taken to a hospital with the equipment and expertise to treat his burns. He probably wouldn’t have died if he had been evacuated from the offshore detention centre ASAP. It may as well have been murder because treating people like that kills them.

If there is nothing someone can do to change their unbearable situation, their rage, frustration and misery will inevitably be channelled into extreme action. Some people react to trauma by curling up into the foetal position and sobbing until their tear ducts are as empty as the promises of unfettered capitalism, some stop moving and speaking for days on end, some attack others with blind fury, more gentle souls prefer to cut themselves, some try to escape with drugs, some perform death defying stunts without calculating the risk, some run until they cannot walk, some pull their hair out and some turn themselves into a human bonfire and some politicians couldn’t care less.

Self-harm is not just attention seeking, it’s a dysfunctional coping mechanism for hell on Earth. A lot of people who self-harm keep it a secret. They know being forced to take medication won’t rid them of the cause. A stint in a mental health unit could mean losing their job and custody of their children.

Whether Imran Ali Senior intended to make a political statement with his act of self-harm, or he was simply driven insane, I’m not certain. What I do know is he would’ve loved the opportunity to start a business in this country, to have a sense of purpose again, to live life to the full in a free society. Has our nation realized the importance of giving refugees their lives back yet? It seems not!

The majority of politicians have been busy cultivating the community’s xenophobic fears, so they can scapegoat refugees for the bulk of the nation’s problems. For a generation now, they’ve gotten more votes for indefinitely imprisoning refugees without charge than they have for assisting them. You would think that banning reputable charities from assisting in the care of asylum seekers and banning journalists from going anywhere near the offshore detention centres would make the majority of voters highly suspicious but apparently not.

Former Prime Minister Monte Coward and Dieter Mutton, the former Minister for Home Affairs, wouldn’t even let our more altruistic neighbours help the refugees we won’t accept. Successive governments would rather let refugees die in third world conditions than evacuate them to the mainland for urgent medical care. As for the immigration minister during Monte Coward’s reign, the newly elected senator for the Neo-Liberal Party Julius Craven, you’ll have your opportunity to ask him questions soon, if he dares set foot in the auditorium once he realizes that Clever Man is on the scene.

“What, Clever Man’s here, why didn’t you tell me, I’ve been hunting his autograph for years” Imran’s English teacher, Miss Blanks said with a wink.

Senator Craven was crossing the quadrangle when Clever Man seemed to appear from nowhere.

“I know your parents, you can’t hide your identity from me” Craven smirked.

“Do you see a mask dipshit? That secret identity stuff is just a lame joke but not as lame or as secret as the shit show that’s about to be unleashed in Canberra”

“Whatever you’re talking about kid, if it resides anywhere, other than in your imagination, it’s got nothing to do with me”

The Senator’s swift departure from the school suggested he believed otherwise. “As Craven’s private jet accelerated away from Thor’s mighty hammer, enroute to Canberra, Anonymous hacktivists hijacked a fleet of U.S Airforce drones again, this time they were destined to be modified to parachute books on to beaches, into music festivals and sporting events. The “Books not Bombs” campaign was wildly successful.

Craven popped the cork on a two thousand dollar bottle of champagne, at tax payers expense, to celebrate the skyrocketing sales of his memoirs. Why did Craven think he was entitled to such luxury for free? “Why” is a common refrain for anyone who frequently associates with Craven. His willingness to sign anything, without reading it, largely explains why he’s come as far in politics as he has.

The recently released political prisoner Julian Assange loved cryptograms. Assange managed to solve the one in front of him manually long before anyone thought to analyse it with decryption software. Every tenth letter in the clumsy prose told a very different story to Craven’s subtly edited narcissistic twaddle.  Clever Man’s favourite apparent confession of Craven’s involved the use of a ten thousand dollar bribe, from a property developer, to tip a troupe of shemale strippers. It was an interesting one, considering Craven’s opposition to anything less straight laced than an abstinence education kit. He was on Good Morning Australia, skiting about writing his autobiography with virtually no assistance, when the story broke.