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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/

 

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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.

The Scammer Slammer

The overgrown path, into the depths of the forest, was clogged with fallen branches bulky enough to crush a bunyip. Overhanging Corymbias and Angophoras were frozen in looping, twisting dances, waiting for the wind to animate them once more. “The Whistling Puppeteer is the ultimate choreographer” claimed the graffitti obscuring the fire trail map.

As an epicormic limb fell to it’s death, my friend Margot Shugg greeted me via Facebook messenger. Hearing from Margot at 3am was even more surprising than getting reception so far from town. Well there was a photo of Margot attached to the profile anyway. Strangely, none of our previous conversations were visible. I scrolled through my messenger contacts and sure enough there was another Margot Shugg, the real one. I tapped on her profile to reveal our previous conversations.

“Are you there?” Margot’s impersonator asked for the fourth time. I’ve 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 once more.

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

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

“Your grammar is as impressive as a manned mission to Neptune”

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

“Has that X rated romance novel you’ve been working on made 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. 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 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, they’re so generous”

“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 a hot air balloon.  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?”

“Maybe you should 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, he hasn’t been seen for years. Last I heard he was trapped in a parallel universe, on an asteroid where the 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 harp player has wings. The violinists swat carniverous 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 fifty minutes we talk, you talk shit bull whole time, I go now”

High above a supposedly abandoned Manilla warehouse, a wingsuit warrior duo descended from a nearby crane. Both of them were hideously deformed. One was reminiscent of a gargoyle and the other looked remarkably like a bipedal pig. 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 an alien spacecraft that had crashed through his office window.

“Sorry, we got stuck in a tornado. I’m the Glowing Pterodactyl Pig and he’s The Risen Gargoyle. Perhaps you’ve seen us teasing the Grim Reaper on You Tube.

“Margot’s friend said you would come.” the scammer blubbered. He was a quivering mess, lying helpless in the foetal position beneath his desk.

 

 

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 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. Here’s the gist of what is bound to happen at some point.

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 the 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 preferred flowers that die an agonizing death while exposed to the elements. The Missile Thorn Tree had depended on the Piranha Lichen for company, ever since the moss has slithered away and burned itself to oblivion in a volcano, rather than listen to more of the Missile Thorn Tree’s whining. Therefore, obliterating the lichen wasn’t 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 was dancing to make sure you hit me in all the right places”

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 petunia’s. 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 prepared to pay them a visit.

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 years 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 Craven’s 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 be on 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 more.

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.

Senator Bronson Fennema

Fennema’s tribe of unruly children mimicks,
his clueless and cliched cluster of gimmicks.

Blue singlets and stubbies are Bronson’s suits,
with every crude utterance that fool pollutes.
In the most hallowed halls of philosophy,
his rabid rants aren’t worth an apostrophe.

While kind men ponder the meaning of life
and what’s so wonderful about their wife,
all Bron does is mock a sixth of the species,
for their alleged love of drilling into faeces.

He’s a tragic joke of a man that Fennema,
apparently he’s never heard of an enema?
Many of Bronson’s rants about anal probes
are aimed at derriere fearing germaphobes.

The prostate cancer test he’s bound to delay
because he isterrified it will turn him gay.
Those who gave him an undignified label
bled to death on on their restaurant table.

In his isolation cell Bron still denigrates,
those who believe fists can’t win debates.

 

Unstoppable

The dux of Adversity University can’t be cut
by your profane sneer and tough guy strut.

At five foot nothing,
she’s more imposing than the Rock of Gibraltar,
as formidable as a lioness
and more thrilling than any theme park
in this galaxy.

She was a tadpole in the reservoir
you forgot to poison,
much stronger than anyone knew.

Tears are her afterburners.
Encourage, undermine, disparage,
tell her she’s lost without marriage,
it’s all intersellar rocket fuel to her.

 

 

 

 

Faceless Phoenix

Rebel Chameleons are rising,
shedding skins as surprising,
as Da-Vinci was enterprising.

They’re here to melt toxic rage,
and banish spirit eating beige.
As the sages cleanse with sage,
I think deeper before the stage,
when my pen strikes the page.

Slipping by the arrogant slime,
of dolts blasting thought crime,
with a battle axe wind chime.
Hate fuels their Optimus Prime
and bias, pious eponymous dime.

After all Abbott’s done and said,
I cannot buy his brand of bread.
The risen and baked is delicious, 
but flat is for the anti-seditious. 
It’s offered by Sneaky and Vicious,
worst of perverted and malicious.

Rebel Chameleons are rising,
shedding skins as surprising,
as Da-Vinci was enterprising.

Momentum in the fiery landslide,
to neutralize predators not editors.
Slow the killers of dignity and pride,
Strike the punishers not publishers.
How can they glide if they can’t chide?

During the most crucial election week
why vote for secrecy for the powerful
and spying on the innocent and meek?

Miss Communication

Benjamin sent Alanna a friend request.
If he was still as unwanted
as the tick that gave her Lyme disease,
all she had to do was strike delete.
Her no thanks message
was as unexpected as a Trump tweet hurricane
trumping a Pulitzer Prize winning novel.
It was civil, friendly even.

Philosophy seeped into Benjamin’s reply,
like blood soaked beef into a vegan buffet.
After touching on creating life’s meaning,
instead of tracking purpose down
like a misdirected package,
he urged Alanna to pave her mosaic highway
and follow it to the zing of her electric violin.
She responded with her bluntest voodoo pin.
Memories of Mister opinionated,
obsessed with views she overrated,
infiltrated, irritated and grated.
Benjamin’s words were as benevolent
as midsummer watermelon
buried in crushed ice
and as valued as antique seafood
bathed in bin juice.
Victorian era squid
might be excellent fertilizer,
Ben’s guru drivel on the other hand…..
Alanna’s affection for him was a sand mural
claimed by the tide long ago
and her loathing was embossed in titanium.

A message Benjamin sent years ago,
was as tangential as a forest burying vine.
You’re off your medication, aren’t you,
Alanna accused then and now.
Couldn’t she tell the difference
between sewage outfall rants
and paragraphs as tidy as a Japanese garden?
Why hadn’t he waited until he was mentally stable to message her?
Ben was as flabbergasted as a pixie
who is expected to incinerate a dragon,
with the friendly glimmer in his eyes.
He thought Alanna knew
that people on the brink of psychosis
aren’t renowned for sensible decisions.

Alanna imagined she knew something of bipolar disorder,
but she’d overestimated the impact
of occasionally missed doses of mood stabilizers.
What she’d seen
was the branding of Benjamin’s father’s world view,
on his adolescent brain.
That takes time to recognise, despise and neutralise.
There’s no medication
for the flammable, windblown rage
of a young man,
failing to catch a habitual rapist in the act either.

“Do something about it” Ben screamed down the phone.
Attempting to coax Alanna
into making another police report
proved as futile as trying to lift himself into the sky.
She’d already endured the sneering denials
of sergeants who mistook shock for shonkiness.
Benjamin felt smaller than a neutrino,
once he realized broken silence equals a broken neck.
Alanna’s mother didn’t believe her.
Ben didn’t believe, he knew.
The terrified pleading and fistfights in her sleep,
said more than bruises and torn dresses.

The rapist poisoned them with rage.
Then they poisoned each other.
Pointing that out in 2020,
could’ve triggered an eruption of horrors,
as agonizing as stitches ripped from the tongue.

What irked Alanna the most
about Benjamin in the old days
was not his verbal explosions
and launching of plastic bottles.
Neither was it his gawking at every delicious creature
who flirted with his perpheral vision.
After a buxom blonde Goddess caught his eye,
at a nightclub one night,
the cage imprisoning his polyamorous urges,
stained the dancefloor red.
Adulterous friends of Alanna’s
agreed he was the epitome of evil.
There were no points for ending the relationship
without episodes of abominable mischief,
he may as well have had a secret harem,
since their first kiss.

A sentimental yearning for friendship,
explained Benjamin’s Facebook request.
Upon Allana’s urging,
he offered social isolation as further explanation.
He praised her socialising tips
and accepted their estrangement.
Alanna was treating counting to two
like it was advanced calculus.
Suspecting Ben was still in love with her,
she questioned him beyond midnight.
His task was as titanic
as explaining colour to the congenitally blind.

Alanna’s social advice shapeshifted into paranoid rage.
She was convinced she was his emotional well,
that he wanted to suck her spirit dry.
If in love is considered evidence
of siphoning the nectar from the flower of marriage
and not in love is deemed a synonym for leach,
what’s the right answer?
All Benjamin wanted
was to rekindle the gleam of hope in her eyes
and bask in her childlike joy;
once a season or so,
if her schedule was as crowded
as a Beijing commuter train.
Multiple times, he’d accepted it wasn’t to be.
“Will you stop saying that” she raged.
Appeasing Alanna’s anger
was like wading through a swamp
without getting wet.
Silence is the only words allowed,
until you’re chastised for not answering
and ultimately accused of prolonging the conversation.
Without the aid of emotional sonar
the argument labyrinth is as unnavigable
as extra-terrestrial runes.
Why can’t the scorpion pit and the exit
be labelled as such, in English?

In the old days,
Ben’s moods were as erratic as mountain weather.
His button pusher denied her console existed.
How do you have a rational conversation
with someone who is reacting to history
like a viper tortured with a cat of nine tails?
In the context of now,
Alanna’s cynicism was as unfathomable
as the behaviour of an accountant
who writes vampire penguin novels
on his clients tax returns
and mails them to A.S.I.O for decryption.
In the context of history,
her paranoid fury was comprehensible.

Desperate for a serene goodbye,
Benjamin persevered to no avail.
“You’re not a prisoner in this conversation”
he typed,
after his apologies and acknowledgements
were machine gunned again.

They had been two damaged people
trying to heal each other.
Benjamin hadn’t been ambushed with a hammer
or physically felt the blood smeared tracings
of The Beast’s knife,
but he’d been as distraught as a polar bear
on a collapsing ice shelf nonethless.

Their compatibility was a sand island
at the mercy of swirling currents.
Ben wasn’t trying to revive the dead,
just restore what lived.
Alanna assured him their friendship could not emerge
from its nuclear winter.
Which part of “I accept our estrangement” hadn’t she heard?
What did she imagine he sought now?
It was all as bamboozling as monkeys
randomly rearranging a novel.
What had been cut and pasted in her head?

Memories of Alanna pestering him to purge
his creative writing obsession
and transform into a dancefloor worshipping extrovert,
seeped back into Ben’s exhausted brain.
It was time to get ready for work.

The news Allana’s auntie was buried alive,
as the roof of a limestone cave collapsed,
beneath her quadbike,
shed light on her ill temper.

A turn of the century Valentine’s Day rose,
sits in its frame, slowly crumbling to dust.
Ultimately, Ben will scatter its remains
in the river pools they waded across,
before hope was rationed like tank water.

 

 

 

 

 

Lucy Sarah Diamond

As the early morning chill subsided, Lucy Sarah Diamond draped her hoodie across her guitar case. “I see a red door and I want to paint it black, no colours anymore, I want them to turn black”, she sang with a soft dystopian fury. Her hopes and dreams were very much alive, but right now her vocals were redolent of a coffin prison, closer to the mantle than the sun drenched fields above.

“Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire” a metalhead across the road roared. In decibels he was mighty, talent wise he was a mite.

“I see a line of cars and they’re all painted black, with flowers and my love never to come back” Lucy sang in perfect pitch. I got the feeling she was mourning the loss of more than a lover. 

While she sipped from the lid of her flask, I dropped gold coins into her guitar case. She invited me to help her finish her salad breakfast. An assortment of edible funguses, as mysterious as her, were nestled between the leafy greens. Only the mushrooms looked familiar. After her rendition of Under The Bridge, I happily gave her another ten dollars, and watched her slip the note into her floral silk bra.

Lucy looked at me with amused curiousity as I gathered the courage, or the stupidity, to ask if I could slide a larger denomination in there myself. She looked up and down the deserted street before saying “go for it”. I didn’t feel like the generous one as slipped a one hundred dollar note over a towering dark nipple. After furtively glancing up and down the street again, she invited me to delight in her womanly softness. I traced my fingertips over liquid satin, before stretching my hand over the cup and squeezing ever so gently. By the time I’d bought her back catalogue of C.D’s, the footpath was swarming with frantic commuters, shoppers and schoolchildren.

“He’s my boyfriend” Lucy told Darius Fabian, the ruddy old real estate agent, who had witnessed proceedings from his office window. He continued to insist I’d set a precedent that couldn’t be ignored. “If you want to transfer a million dollars to Youth off the Streets, while I watch, then I’ll think about making your dreams come true” Lucy challenged. I wasn’t sure whether she kissed me solely to maintain the charade or because she wanted to.

“I’ll give you three hundred”, the real estate agent sneered.

“Three hundred will get you a song request, a few C.D’s and the happiness that comes from knowing you’ve given me somewhere safe to sleep tonight”

“If you come to my Double Bay penthouse for the weekend, I’ll give you three thousand and whatever make up and pretty new clothes you want. We’ll eat at gourmet restaurants, with the most delicious dessert you’ve ever tasted”

“This sugar babe is fussy. Only the finest Belgian chocolate will do” Lucy quipped.

“If you stick with me you can have all the Beligan chocolate you want darlin, a little padding on those curves wouldn’t hurt a bit” Darius chuckled.

“The coincidence that I grew up in Belgium, with Nigerian parents, was not lost on me. Most people thought I was French, I was surprised Lucy had picked my accent. Strangely, Darius Fabian seemed to believe I was a member of the local indigenous tribe, because at one point he asked if I’d left my didgeridoo at home. Eventually Darius stormed off, muttering something about seeing to it that Lucy’s busking license was revoked. He came back to hurl more abuse and she responded with a parody of The Angels hit, “Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again.” Australian audiences are renowned for replying to those lyrics with “no way, get fucked, fuck off” naturally, under the circumstances, she performed that part too.

Lucy’s goodbye kiss was more intimate than the one intended to dupe Darius Fabian into believing we were a couple. She tasted like passionfruit. Presumably she was living the precarious life of a couch surfer, opposed to roughing it on the street because she smelled as nice as her freshly laundered clothes.

“I’m an art lover, do you have any reccomendations for where I should go first” were my parting words. Lucy directed me towards an old hotel in Alexandria, now known as Quirk Gallery. Just before I turned to walk away she handed me a poem she’d written, while we ate breakfast together. Lucy grinned mischievously as I leaned in for another goodbye kiss.

Quirk Gallery was an eight storey art deco masterpiece, filled with some of the most enchanting impressionist and surrealist paintings I’d ever seen. On that Monday morning it was empty enough for the zany marble statues to outnumber the patrons. My first stop, after the cocktail lounge, was “The Prince of Darkness”, if the horns, fangs and tattoo on its forehead were any indication. The tailor made suit clad devil was busy pouring petrol on Middle Eastern, Tamil and Somali refugees. This abomination bore an uncanny resemblance to the Minister for Immigration at the time.

One room was full of what appeared to be taxidermied extraterrestrials, ranging from what I can only describe as a blue skinned manatee man, shepherding reptilian tigers, to slug like quadripeds using their tongues to play strip poker. I could envisage them performing surgery with those deathly pale protuberances.

On the eighth floor, I gazed at a uniformly black canvas in bewilderment. If there had been any suggestion a mystery painting was hidden underneath or the artist had created sophisticated patterns invisible to the naked eye, I would’ve been instantly enchanted. What was the point? Apparently I was supposed to glean something from the one word title, EPIPHANY. A house painter would’ve been sacked on the spot for replicating such an uneven job. That dastardly darkness was as clumsily applied as shit from a toppled fertiliser truck.

Maybe the art lies in the way the paint was spilt. “It’s all in the wrist” the critics might’ve quipped, if there had been a video of the methods employed. Sadly there was nothing to analyse but a canvas draped in black, it’s runny topography as dull and annoying as an eternally dripping tap. The last thing I noticed, before slipping into a psychedelic state, was the curtains beneath the painting. I briefly wondered if they were hiding some sort of puppet show. What the hell was in the salad Lucy gave me?

For reasons unknown, I found myself repeating the word topography over and over again, like it was some sort of shamanic mantra. This chant transported me to the tropical darkness within the painting. It was barely possible to discern the forest from the sky. The jungle was a more enchanting mystery than anything in the gallery.

I reached Imagination River and quenched my artistic thirst there. Strangely, the deeper I dived, the less I feared drowning amidst its schools of haiku tattoo sporting Demon Fish. Eventually I realized they were hallucinatory, by about the fourth bite.  A hallucination within a hallucination, interesting, I mused as visions spawned by the Demon Fish’s flesh shapeshifted from starfish shaped submarines to cyborg mermaids, who cried tears that froze into the sweetest silk. Intersecting rainbows, from alien spectrums, escaped from their cavernous wombs and rapidly cloned themselves. Eating two more of those hallucinatory Demon Fish wasn’t enough to spur the rest into evasive action. What kind of drugs were they taking?

Imagination River transformed itself into a winding fruity cocktail, as confounding as time travel. It seemed I had travelled in time. Eight hours had elapsed since I’d almost collapsed from boredom, in front of that sloppy ten by eight foot patch of darkness. I was standing at the bar, in the cocktaill lounge, with no memory of how I’d gotten there, any idea how long I’d been there, how many drinks I’d had, or what was in them.

I did some exploring to prove to myself I’d ever left the cocktail lounge and saw the same taxidermied extraterrestrials as before. The blue skinned manatee man, shepherding reptilian tigers and the slug like quadripeds using their tongues to play strip poker, did they have sly grins on their faces the first time I saw them? Had I left the cocktail lounge bodily or astrally? It certainly seemed like I’d been walking around on both occasions. Soon I was delighting in the creations of the most innovative drink mixers in the country once more.

My favourite waitress’s name was Tiffany.  Her pixie like features, the brightest, most entrancing green eyes I’d ever seen and the feline grace with which she did everything from wiping the table to swiping my credit card rendered everything else in the universe invisible for a time. Eventually my nagging her for a final drink brought out her dark side though.

“For the last time, no I can’t sell you any more of those vodka, cucumber, strawberry, watermelon, raspberry and blackberry cocktails, infused with hints of  lemon grass, elderflower, aloevera and crushed ice, #### off we’re closed, Tiffany yelled.  Why was somone who was waiting so impatiently for me to leave, listing the ingredients in their most complex cocktail? 

“I see a red door and I want to paint it black, no colours anymore I want them to turn black” drifted from the Jukebox like an acrid cloud of melancholy, infected with crippling nostalgia. Suddenly it dawned on me what I needed to do.

“Sir, the gallery is closed, the security personnel barked. It seemed my psychedelic state was yet to leave me. The guards had apparently turned into snarling black dog/sequoia hybrids, a surprising alchemy of sorcery and natural selection. The guards panted heavily as I accelerated, ascending the stairs in fours. They sped up like flames bursting from an accelerant. I went to a gear that left them gasping like fish on a jetty “I see a red door and I want it painted black, no colours anymore, I want them to turn black” echoed softly off the Victorian ceiling.

At last, the solely black painting came into view. It was supposed to have transformed. Disappointment struck, like a slow monotonous sledge hammer. Tap, tap, tap, tap, went that metaphorical sledge hammer in my tired, tortured ears. The sound of that painting was still as dull and depressing as an eternally dripping tap. Aren’t paintings supposed to be gushing with inspiration? I walked up to the one word explanation beside that swathe of darkness, hoping to find something between the lines which alluded to more than the blandest midnight.

I desperately needed to see the music again, to dive into the cool rippling, spiralling swirls of stereophonic heaven. For the first time I noticed the copper coin printed beneath the towering BLOCK LETTERS, that spelled EPIPHANY. I looked closer and spotted the drawing of a tiny lever nestled between parted curtains.

“Hurry up”, the woman from the cafeteria yelled in exasperation. The apparent departure of the security personnel was as welcome as an oasis among aeons of sand dunes. Had they gone, or never been there in the first place, I wondered as several sculptures in the distance appeared to blink in and out of existence.

I parted the curtains beneath the painting and nudged the lever. The canvas rotated one hundred and eighty degrees to reveal a red door, on a television screen. An explorer who bore an uncanny resemblance to me approached the door, picked the lock and wandered inside. Climb in to us, whispered the optical illusions on the walls.

“What Dreams May Come”, mumbled the star breathing wizard in one.

“First, let this dream within a dream gleam” uttered the platinum armoured unicorns.

“Solve me” whispered the towering, draped canvas in the centre of the room.

“Forget him” the platinum armoured unicorns chanted in unison. Their choreography painted symphonies with the southern lights. Their accapello, which ranged from an Elysian dog whistle to an angelic baritone, was as soothing as lying spreadeagled on a tropical shoreline, as the nearest crises dissolve light millennia beyond the sunset. Those soaring, spiralling vocals unleashed a sensory storm more diverse than the ordinary modes of perception of every creature that’s ever slithered, flown, swam, hopped or galloped. To say their musical gymnastics was more intense than serenity’s equivalent of a comet and an asteroid colliding in a playground, is an insult to understatements.

“Solve me” whispered the towering, draped canvas in the centre of the room.

“Hurry up, hurry up, hurry the up for fucksake, I’ve got a wedding to go to” my favourite cocktail waitress screeched, shattering my reverie. She was even sexier when she was in a rage.  

With baited breath, my doppelganger removed the veil from the towering canvas. On one side was a red door that appeared darker or lighter, depending on the viewing angle. On the other was a seas of darkness. From his coat pocket, the explorer took a copper coin the size of a frisbee and scratched at the red door, revealing the painting beneath it.

The vast canvas was dominated by a grey skinned, almond eyed, interdimensional traveller. Glowing purple blood, seeped from its self inflicted wounds. It painted the dripping phrases. “It’s an epiphany Tiffany. From the sheerest darkness emerge the brightest lights. Creativity goes to die in a flood lit room.”

The canvas swung one hundred and eighty degrees again. While I waited for the grey skinned, almond eyed, interdimensional traveller to apply the frisbee sized coin to the darkness, it strode into that opaque night, the gleam of adventure in its eyes was the last thing I saw before it vanished in the distance. Had it gone to bite chunks from the hallucinatory Demon Fish and delight in the company of the cyborg mermaids. Perhaps all I’d seen just a metaphor for a reality that would have fried my neurons to a crisp if I’d witnessed it directly.

The moment I left the building I tried calling Lucy. I was in such an emotionally charged state that it wasn’t until the fourth attempt that I realized I wasn’t making any typos, the phone number was a digit short. Over the next few days I searched for her in every popular busking spot in Sydney, to no avail. I tried every variation of her name on every social media site. By the end of the week I was asking random pedestrians if they’d seen a busker who called herself Lucy Sarah Diamond.

Eventually I returned to The Quirk Gallery. I couldn’t tell you what was in my first cocktail because the list of ingredients was longer than this story. It’s quicker to say that it reminded me of a tropical island paradise, as strange as enchanting, the kind of place where interstellar space can be seen on a painstakingly polished turtles shell, if you focus your eyes just right. My next cocktail was weirder still, yet equally refreshing.

On my fifteenth visit to the Quirk Gallery that month, I followed the eerie, acrobatic sound of an electric guitar. It’s feverish tendrils stretched from the roof to the ground floor. Hooded figures circled the masked six string virtuoso, feigning attacks and retreating. The cloak was tight fitting enough to reveal her voluptuous figure. There was a healthy plumpness that was absent the first time we met. After her astonishing instrumental performance Lucy removed her mask. There was something different about her that didn’t make any sense. Eventually I realized it was her hair, it was already a foot longer than last time we met.

We sat down in a dimly lit corner of the cafeteria “I’m not Lucy. She told me that I might see you here. She was so sure you were going to ring her that she wondered if you were dead, like her. I am the demon that grew within her until she was no more. I laughed hysterically while she begged desperately for continuing use of her brain. I can’t sing quite like Lucy but she could never play the guitar quite like me. Whenever I need a more intense vocal performance I revive her for a little while, torture her some more and kill her again. I get wet just thinking about it”

I almost lost control of my bowels, from listening to the thing that had consumed Lucy gloat. My goosebumps were about to escape my skin and strike the walls like tiny arrows by the time I remembered it was April Fools Day. Lucy was still Lucy. She was just reciting a few lines from a bizarre horror movie I’d seen too.

“I don’t know how my hair grew so fast but I think it’s something to do with the eighth floor of the gallery, a lot of weird things happen there. Then again I could be wearing hair extensions.”