The Camellias and Roses along Remedy Street,
are silent welcoming committees for someone else.
Misty rain is a sweet distraction
from all that pierces Mervyn’s soul,
like African Box Thorn through an eyeball.
Since burglars stole the frames from his family photos,
he’s carried his most prized possessions in a back pack.
His Toughbook is a more constant companion
than Booboo the Bear ever was.
He’s prepared to defend it to the death,
with the fusion of Brazillian jujitsu and Muay Thai
he’s been learning
since a fellow kindergartner decapitated Booboo.
The advent of online backup hasn’t changed the equation.
Mervyn without a laptop is as dysfunctional
as Mervyn without kidneys.
His anxiety vanishes with the last vestiges of day.
Tiny suns illuminate people peering streetward.
Do any of them realize inviting him inside
would be smarter than drinking molten lead?
Mervyn considers visiting the house he grew up in,
to retrieve the telescope and albums
his grandmother mistakenly mailed there.
The new owner threatened to unleash his Pit Bulls,
if Mervyn set foot inside the gate again.
Tenants the size of a Polar Bears,
covered in tattoos of dragon slaying vampires,
threatened to “break his legs with a sledge hammer”,
if he rang the doorbell one more time.”
“I sold your precious telescope.
Those photo albums I found, I burnt them,
whaddya gonna do bout it”
a squatter taunted him,
oblivious to how close he was,
to broken elbows.
There’s a strange lady
on the corner of Brumby and Thoroughbred;
her yard is populated with granite freak show legends.
Waxwork likenesses of locals gaze at them in awe.
Mervyn mistakes the sculptor for a statue.
She holds yoga poses for millennia.
Her automatic gates slides open.
“I can’t sketch you from there” she protests.
Mervyn follows her like a lost puppy
and that’s how Victoria depicts him.
She signs, scans and prints the image on to a shirt
before he can sip his way through
a concoction of pineapple, passionfruit and coconut,
As Victoria sketches Mervyn nude,
he discusses the archaeological significance
of her pottery collection,
and identifies the chess match
between a television detective and serial killer,
as an imitation of Vladamir Kramnik versus Gary Kasparov.
Before he can finish the story of how Van Gogh lost his ear,
Victoria kneels in front of him
and feeds his towering monument to her lacy cleavage
into her cavernous mouth.
Mervyn enters his mouldy, cockroach infested flat at dawn.
The plumbing is older than Rupert Murdoch.
His carpet is more worn than a fifth day pitch.
Rain pelts the pavement.
Mervyn dons his blacked out swimming goggles
and succumbs to exhaustion,
with the sound of Himalayan singing bowls
massaging his ears.
“You’re so far away from me”
Mark Knophler’s classic storytelling voice,
drifts from his clock radio,
waking him in time for the midday shift.
It’s been ten years
since he’s had a lover to travel home to.
The supermarket is Mervyn’s home away from home.
Some can tell you which shelf every item is on.
Mervyn can tell you which products contain palm oil,
from plantations that replaced orangutan habitat
and which companies are guilty of child slavery.
Want to know how may milligrams of Vitamin B12
are in your can of smoked oysters, ask Mervyn.
Visiting the sideshow freak sculptor
has become a permanent feature
of Mervyn’s Saturday night wander.
He never knocks,
instead he walks around the block
until she spots him.
Tonight she’s with her synchronized swimming partner,
in her birdbath.
It’s been eight years since Mervyn crossed the highway,
to the street where he was born.
He pauses enroute, to watch Quiz Maestro.
“Unbelievable, The Maestro doesn’t know
opals are a hydrated amorphous form of silica”
Mervyn closes the video in disgust.
Dawe Street is unrecognizable.
There’s a massage parlour,
where the corner shop used to be.
Houses have been demolished
to make way for high rise units.
The park has been transformed
into a putt, putt golf course.
The laneway where Mervyn raced his BMX
no longer exists, neither does his fish pond.
His aviary has been replaced with a pool.
A young woman glides along the bottom
long enough for Mervyn to wonder if she has mermaid genes.
As she surfaces, she spots his elongated shadow.
“I, I, I grew up here.
I, I came back to visit my childhood
but I can’t find it.”
Alicia senses Mervyn is as peaceful as a meditation retreat.
Tears well in his eyes,
as he walks the winding path through the shrubbery
and runs his fingers over the assortment of
Acacias, Hakeas, Bottlebrushes and Indigoferas.
Mervyn removes his shoes and luxuriates in the feeling
of Weeping Meadow Grass beneath his feet.
“Wonderful isn’t it, I’ve kept it weed free.
I moved in the day Donald Trump was assassinated,
by a peace activist without a sense of irony.”
“You moved in on the 4th of July 2020?
Trump was killed at 7:45p.m.
John Smith, a former US Army sniper,
shot him in the eardrum,
through the partially open bullet proof window,
of the armored presidential limousine,
from five hundred and four metres away.
The vehicle was travelling
approximately thirty five kilometres per hour”
“Wow, you’re a history buff and a half”
“At work they call me Dewey,
they say I am a human library”
“Would you like to sit on the veranda with me,
you big strong enyclopaedia?”
Still wearing her fruit salad print bikini,
Alicia perches herself on Mervyn’s lap.
In an effort to ignore the tingling in his plumbing,
he lists the botanical names of every plant in the garden.
Then he identifies the constellations.
Alicia just grins and listens.
“Which industry do you work in” Mervyn asks,
once he’s exhausted the backyards
clusters of conversation starters.
“I’m a burlesque performer.
We’ve met before, in a past life perhaps?”
“No, in aisle four, you wanted to know how reliable,
the sustainable fishing labels are.”
“Come inside, I want to show you something.”
Mervyn’s eyes light up.
The loungeroom is empty,
except for a dazzling array of portraits
and a curtained section in the middle.
“How about you work on that library in your noggin,
while I banish the chlorine demon”
Mervyn waits until he can hear
needles of steaming hot water raining down.
“No peeking” Alicia’s disembodied voice warns,
as he creeps towards the curtains.
One of the picture frames contains a surveillance screen.
Apparently Alicia has pressed the wrong button.
Mervyn’s eyes are riveted to
the love heart of golden thatch,
above her waxed gorge.
Alicia steers an electric wardrobe into the room.
She’s dressed like a corporate executive.
Miles Davis’ most ethereal masterpiece,
drifts from the speakers.
A marathon strip tease ensues.
Eventually Alicia’s figure hugging pin striped suit,
is as abandoned as a burning building
and her black lace brassiere draped around Mervyn’s neck.
Her matching panties stay on,
as do the tassels concealing her towering nipples.
Mervyn had always been too busy watching documentaries,
and summarizing encyclopedias,
to go to a burlesque club.
After careful deliberation, he shuns rose embossed satin,
in favor of a wild cat print matching set
and a zebra pattern mini dress.
Alicia dresses as gracefully as any ballet dancer
ever pirouetted across a stage.
The curtained area is large enough to hide,
a love seat and large screen television,
or a queen sized water bed.
Alicia parts the curtains with tantalizing slowness.
Inside is an easel shrouded in black cloth.
A riot of variations,
of Alicia the Burlesque Goddess on canvas,
glide through Mervyn’s mind.
The way Alicia scissors through the shroud
conjures images of her hairdresser shutting up shop,
playfully pinning her to the ground,
sliding her skirt up her silky thighs
and pleasuring her as skilfully
as she trimmed her cascading golden hair.
The shroud’s tattered remains fall to the floor,
to reveal a portrait of a puppy, wearing an Oxford cap,
posing like Rodin’s thinker.
The inner frame swivels to reveal the wolf version.
“These paintings remind me of you.
I bought them from a strange lady,
who was sculpting conjoined werewolves in her garage.”
Alicia wraps her tiny arms around Mervyn
and kisses him, tamely at first.
His curious hands glide over her.
He circles her breasts,
as though touching them would produce an electric shock
powerful enough to launch him through the window.
Her wandering hands embolden him.
“Not like that Dewey, a kiss is a dance,
you’ve gotta listen to the same song to get it right.”
“I can’t hear any music”
First they do things Mervyn hasn’t done before,
then they do things he didn’t know men did with women.
Once he’s managed to stop moaning in ecstasy,
a stunned Mervyn exclaims
“I didn’t know hominid species do that”
The one thing Alicia doesn’t need to teach is staying power.
In the morning
they watch episodes of Quiz Maestro together.
“My daddy is the producer
and he’s always looking for new talent” Alicia hints.