Strenuous Sleep

I fought exhaustion like a gladiator,
before drifting into dreams with no colosseums in sight.
“Why dry July?” asked the bus stop graffiti.
“Are your droughts broken with floods?”
was scribbled on the weeping fig fractured footpath.
“Happy to collect locusts with the Baptists,
or trekking to the land of vodka rain”
was scrawled across the toothpaste ad
on the side of the bus.

“Fluoride is an industrial waste product”
said the chemistry encyclopedia beneath my seat.
The stench of tobacco and last night’s bourbon
hung in the air, like fumes from a volatile factory.
Owen’s breath was the keys to freedom,
for the contents of my stomach.
I painted the bullet proof glass
with something resembling the latest
Museum of Contemporary Art masterpiece.

A blue collar philosopher snapped a photo
of that chunky ticket to the visual art community.
The dazzling array of berries
in my vegan ice cream
had done a pretty face justice.
My one in a billion chunder,
looked like a gymnast riding a unicorn,
in what the ladies from Pride and Prejudice
might call a most improper manner.

As I departed,
the driver shook his mop in rage.
The getaway car
raced to Burrogorang Road.
In a forest gully,

Tawny Frog Mouths flocked
to the bottle orchestra man’s treehouse.
A cloud of red browed finches
obscured his dreadlocks.
He nodded with approval
at the poisoning of African Olive regrowth.
The oil on canvas version
of my vomit on window,
hung on his wall.

“Did you know there’s a lack of independent research
into the safe level of fluoride?” he whispered.
“Colgate’s spies walk among us” he continued.
“Is four parts per million too much?”
a sulfur crested cockatoo probed.

The bus featuring my one in a billion art work
flew from an unfinished bridge,
scattering my skull in eighty two directions.
It’s lucky his ghost loves jigsaw puzzles,
the funeral director whispered.

I thought I was dead, as I woke up in bed.
until I felt the intact portions of my head.

I felt like a ghost as I wandered to the bus stop.
My fellow pedestrians
appeared to peer right through me.

“Why dry July” asked the bus stop graffiti.
“Are your droughts broken with floods”
was scribbled on the weeping fig fractured footpath.
“Happy to collect locusts with the Baptists,
or trekking to the land of vodka rain”
was scrawled across the toothpaste ad
on the side of the bus.
The driver assured me I wasn’t hallucinating.
Owen’s bourbon and tobacco breathe made me gag,
I felt ill as I reached beneath the seat
and grabbed a book.
Cold sweat threatened to drown me
as I hauled the industrial chemistry enyclopaedia,
on to my lap.
A tsunami of relief washed over me,
as I remembered there’s no bridge on the farm.

The driver turned to me and said.
“I had this crazy dream last night.
You chundered a masterpiece on to the window,
depicting a mermaid riding a unicorn,
in an x rated fashion.”

“A mermaid?
Are you sure it wasn’t a gymnast?”

“Maybe it was a gymnast mermaid”

Lucy Sarah Diamond

I’ve been having recurring dreams for as long as I can remember. They begin with me being stalked by a crocodile. When I’m on the verge of being caught, dragged into deeper water, drowned and devoured, I escape up a giant mangrove. There’s usually a harpoon like drone in the branches. Upon command, it skewers my stalker. Nervously, I drag the hefty meal to shore. My newly acquired spear drone hovers beside me, poised to impale any other crocs that dare to venture too close.

By the time I reach the river beach, my eyelids are drooping from exhaustion. I nod off the moment my back touches the soft, cool, sand. Eventually I’m shaken awake by hulking, orange skinned, giants. They’re built like powerlifters. Not surprisingly they struggle to deal with Earth’s gravity. Occasional levitation soothes their burdened joints.

The gigantic, orange skinned, beings fashion basketball hoops from seaweed. They cement them into shape with the saliva of yodelling walruses. The coconuts and pineapples they use for balls bounce off a low lying forcefield thousands of times before finally hitting the ground and cracking open.

As a reward for keeping score of their lumbering basketball matches, they share roast crocodile with me and fashion the beast’s skin into dust jackets for my travel diaries. Although I’m always acting in self-defence, I feel bad. My guilt makes less sense than the dream. I guess the orange skinned giants hail from another planet in the land of nod, but who knows. Whenever I ask them about their past, they say “who do you think you are, our psychotherapist?”

My mind awoke abruptly from the latest instalment of the crocodile hunt and orange giant dream but my body was slow to follow. It wasn’t until I’d showered and dressed that hibernating for a month or two no longer felt necessary. I wandered the streets with no destination in mind and stumbled across some captivating street art. My favourite was the piranha men, ballroom dancing on the back of a confused whale. A busker set up next to it. Her name was emblazoned on the interior of her guitar case.

“I see a red door and I want to paint it black, no colours anymore, I want them to turn black”, Lucy Sarah Diamond 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. Lucy’s vocals stunned him into silence. He stood watching her with the same silent awe as I.

“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.

“What’s your name handsome? How about you come over here and help me finish my breakfast.” she crooned.

“I’m Asamu” I replied, barely able to believe that such a talented and gorgeous creature was flirting with me so brazenly.

“Do you have a last name Asamu?”

I found some confidence “You are inquisitive aren’t you. I suppose it can’t hurt to tell you, as long as you’re not looking for my birthdate and my pin number too. I’m Asamu Ali”

“Asamu, help me out here, I can’t eat all of this. Isn’t it the most fascinating mix of funguses you’ve ever seen? I promise you, they’re all edible. With leafy greens like this we’ll live long and prosper baby. Don’t be afraid, come closer. Wow, what powerful legs you have.” Lucy exclaimed as she squeezed my sprint honed thighs. Running fast was how I got my adrenaline fix.

“What would you like me to sing next Asamu?”

“How about Under the Bridge, by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers”
Lucy’s rendition of the first Chilli Peppers song to catch my attention, during my teenage years, was a heady blend of melancholy and hope that did the lyrics justice. By the time she reached the chorus, tears were seeping from my eyes.

“I don’t ever want to feel
like I did that day,
take me to the place I love,
take me all the way.
I don’t ever want to feel
like I did that day,
take me to the place I love
take me all the way….”

I happily gave her another ten dollars, and watched her slip the note into her floral silk brassiere. It was an exquisite sight, that was enhanced by six months of roaming bushland and beaches, on the far south coast of New South Wales. During that trip it wasn’t unusual for me to go a week without seeing another human being, let alone a delicious, charismatic musician like Lucy.

Lucy looked at me with amused curiosity as I gathered the courage, or the stupidity, to ask if I could slide a larger denomination down her top myself. She glanced up and down the deserted street before saying “go for it”. I didn’t feel like the generous one, as I slipped a fifty 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 finished, 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 insisted I’d set a precedent that couldn’t be ignored.

“If you want to transfer one hundred thousand dollars to Youth off the Streets, while I watch, then I’ll think about making your dreams come true” Lucy challenged him. She kissed me passionately, possibly just to maintain the illusion that I was her boyfriend.

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

“Three hundred will get you a few song requests, 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. Absurdly, 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, Lucy 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 a former 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, with her phone number on the back.

You’ve transformed my universe,
from cruel bleakness to euphoric abundance.
Darkness is complemented by heavenly colour,
as gentle as a lovers touch.
Trees move as sensuously as belly dancers.
The gallery’s sandstone curves
pulsate in the star light.
Even the stray bottles seem sentient.
They absorb mourning and celebration,
as fervently as teens guzzle drink.
You’ve transformed my universe
from cruel bleakness to euphoric abundance.

Whether Lucy’s poem was the product of instant infatuation, a more down to Earth appreciation of wonderful moments with a stranger, or not about me at all, I wasn’t game to ask. It was a good approximation of the way I’d begun to see the world around me. I wondered if the edible fungus I’d shared with Lucy was responsible for my heightened senses. Colours were more vivid and numerous. The cacophony of urban noise was a bountiful ore. My ears were extracting the gold.

Quirk Gallery was an eight storey art deco masterpiece, filled with some of the most enchanting impressionist and surrealist paintings outside of Europe. 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 a sculpture labelled The Prince of Darkness. 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. Sunglasses would’ve been a more effective disguise than the horns and fangs. The illusion of frozen motion was too convincing to be explained by brilliant stone work alone. Whatever was in that salad Lucy gave me, the effects were longer lasting than magic mushrooms.

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 amphibious tigers, to slug like quadrupeds, using their tongues to play strip poker. I could envisage them performing surgery with those deathly pale protuberances. According to the other patrons, we were seeing the same thing but they didn’t have the feeling the statues were living creatures pretending to be art.

“Whatever you’re taking, I want some” a girl with a tattoo of Marilyn Monroe and Lady Gaga making love, half joked.

“No, I can’t say I’ve noticed the floor moving. Maybe there is something wrong with your middle ear” an elderly lady responded to one of my questions.

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 further 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 that 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 submarines to cyborg mermaids. Their silver tears froze into the sweetest silk. Intersecting rainbows escaped from their cavernous wombs and multiplied. No colour I’d ever seen bore any resemblance to them. 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 and space. Suddenly I was back in the cocktail 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. Eight hours had elapsed since I’d almost collapsed from boredom, in front of that sloppy eight by ten foot patch of darkness.

I went exploring, to prove to myself I’d ventured beyond the cocktail lounge before. The refugee burning devil and the taxidermied extra-terrestrials were all there. The blue skinned manatee man, shepherding amphibious tigers and the slug like quadripeds using their tongues to play strip poker, did they have sly grins on their faces earlier? 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 entrancing green eyes and feline grace rendered everything else in the universe invisible for a time. She was so fluid in her movements, that she made swiping my credit card and wiping the bar look like world class choreography. 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 cucumber, strawberry, watermelon, raspberry and blackberry cocktails, infused with subtle 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. My psychedelic state was yet to leave me. The guards had apparently turned into wheezing rottweiler/sequoia hybrids, a surprising alchemy of sorcery and natural selection. They panted heavily, as I ascending the stairs in fours. To my surprise, they sped up like flames bursting from an accelerant. I went to a gear that had them wishing they’d quit smoking.

“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 hammer. Tap, tap, tap, tap, went the 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 desperately needed to hear inspiring paintings and see divine music again, to dive into the cool, rippling, spiralling swirls of stereophonic heaven. I walked up to the one word explanation, beside that swathe of darkness, hoping to find something between the lines. 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 shapeshifting security personnel was as welcome as an oasis among aeons of 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 eight by ten foot swathe of darkness 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 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 was a form of musical notation, that first manifested as gentle explosions of light, before the orchestra humbling instrumentals arrived. The equivalent in this realm would be a storm dance. The platinum armoured unicorns a capellas, ranged from Elysian dog whistles to angelic baritones. They were as soothing as lying spreadeagled on a tropical shoreline, as the nearest crises dissolve light millennia beyond the sunset.

“I see a red door and I want it painted black, no colours anymore I want them to turn black.” those intense, morbid vocals were as powerful as a supernova dispersing cyclone. I wasn’t sure if they emanated from a speaker nearby or if they were a manifestation of my memory.

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

“Hurry up, hurry up, hurry 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 behind the red door. He pulled a copper coin the size of a frisbee from his coat pocket and scratched at the darkness, revealing the red door underneath. On the other side of the canvas the red door was ajar.

Inside was a grey skinned, interdimensional traveller, with almond shaped eyes. Glowing purple blood, seeped from its self inflicted wounds. It painted the dripping phrases. “It’s an epiphany Tiffany. Distractions are the most evil infractions. Creativity goes to die in a flood lit room. From the sheerest darkness emerge the brightest lights.”

Night fell on the red door my doppelganger had wandered through. Briefly I saw his silhouette emerge from inside. Then the night was as opaque as mountain of coal. Had my double gone to bite chunks from the hallucinatory Demon Fish I’d sampled? Would he see the starfish submarines and the cyborg mermaids, in Imagination River, too?

As soon as I left the building I tried texting Lucy. I was in such an emotionally charged state that it wasn’t until the sixth attempt 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 bizarre 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 second cocktail was more thought provoking than that.

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. Her cloak was tight fitting enough to reveal her womanly 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 had grown two feet since our first encounter.

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 trapped in a cramped isolation cell, in the depths of her soul. I laughed hysterically while she begged desperately for continuing access to 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 a little 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 an indie horror film she’d co-written.

She continued “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.”

“What was in that salad you shared with me?”

“Portobello, Button, Gypsy and Shitaki and Morel Mushrooms, with some lettuce, baby spinach leaves and one or two other ingredients I can’t remember right now. I’ve got it written down in my apartment. Why do you ask, have you developed a passion for edible fungus too?”

“I think one of them was a powerful hallucinogen”

“Nope, definitely nothing mystical about the mushrooms we shared. Everyone has the ability to experience alternative states of consciousness, some just don’t know it. It’s not unusual for people to have their first glimpses of other dimensions intruding upon this one, when they meet me. Why do I keep seeing visions of orange skinned giants, holding crocodile skin bound books above your head?”

“It sounds like you’re seeing images connected to a recurring dream that I’ve been having for years. They usually begin with a crocodile stalking me in the shallows of a coastal estuary. I climb a mangrove to escape and find a harpoon drone in the branches. It responds to my voice like a loyal guard dog and spears the crocodile. I drag it to the beach. The orange giants skin it, cook it and make book covers from it. I don’t know why, but I always feel guilty about the whole thing”

“You know what I think Asamu?”

“No, I can’t say I do.”

“I think that in a previous lifetime you speared someone who was hunting you and a tribe of sportsmen convinced you to try cannibalism and sold you the dust jackets they made from the victim’s skin. When you dream about it, it’s a crocodile you speared and ate and the tribe of basketballers are space aliens or something, because you find that way more acceptable than what actually happened”

“That’s an interesting theory Doctor Diamond”

“If you go and see a hypnotherapist who does past life regressions, I think you’ll discover that it’s more than mere speculation”

“Is that so”

“Yep, lets bet on it.”

Cricket Man aka Nostradamus Bradman

If you aren’t familiar with the sport of cricket that will be a barrier to understanding many of the details of this story. I recommend watching some highlights on YouTube and researching the jargon I’ve used.

“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 Nostradamus, 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.”

“Grey, 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. 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. He paid no attention to the laptop perched on his briefcase. 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 a 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 suspected 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” the chairman, 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.

“Corey, why can’t we just cut the screen into segments and reassemble it?” Ava Ferrari, the horrified engineer protested.

“Miss Ferrari, I suppose you would turn the original Mona Lisa into a puzzle too wouldn’t you, if you thought it would get you out of a few hours of work”

 

Strange Days

Jerome’s memory of the office Christmas party
was as vague as a tabloid horoscope,
yet he was sure his position
remained as unsinkable as an iceberg.
If he’d done anything as disastrous
as texting his penis modelling portfolio to the board
or slapping the gardener,
for neglecting the plastic plants,
he’d remember wouldn’t he?
He staggered to the letterbox,
to rummage through fast food vouchers
and get rich quick schemes
but failed to find anything more useful
than a bunker busting bomb
in an archaeologist’s arsenal.

Jerome made climbing the garden stairs
look as death defying as swimming across
an alligator infested lagoon,
before passing out in the lift.
He woke to discover he was made up like a geisha girl.
A temporary tattoo of Donald Trump
covered his left butt cheek.
Giggling could be heard in the distance.
He’d worn trousers into the lift hadn’t he?
His party hat, that he remembered;
the sparkly silver thong he didn’t.

Jerome made climbing into his bunk
look as challenging as visiting a Sequoia tree house.
The sun would’ve had better luck
turning a necropolis into a thriving metropolis,
than rousing him before evening.
The belief he’d slept for twenty six hours,
stunned him like a taser.
The Sorenson’s Surreal Art Gallery voucher,
beneath the door, inspired curiosity
like a helicopter hovering over a stone age tribe.

The remnants of Jerome’s hangover faded,
enroute to the station.
Judging by his shirt, strawberries grow on watermelons,
peaches on pineapples and grapes on coconuts,
and it’s all the fruit of singing avocado trees.

The solitary figure on platform four
was stranger than Jerome’s clothes.
His Dickensian suit
and cobra tipped, floral walking stick,
weren’t as odd
as his robotic dance between vending machines.
He chose a can of ice cold coconut milk,
poured it into his packet of pumpkin chips
and gazed at the over flow
as though it were as entrancing as Victoria Falls.
Saluting an Ibis,
as it salvaged half eaten chicken burgers,
from a broken bottle littered bench,
was an attempt to blend in.

“All stations to the city circle on platform two,
departing in one minute”
Jerome spun and boarded.
An old guy, in a Cannibal Carcass t-shirt,
listened to The Demonic Pixie’s Greatest Hits,
without headphones.
Desperate to escape this brain bleed inducing noise,
Jerome race walked four carriages.
Once every set of doors
were as shut as a jar of funnel webs,
he barely heard that demonic audio cancer.
His ears were ambushed by distant doof, doof,
as monotonous as life in solitary.

With the urgency of a man caught between
a flood of boiling mud and a river of lava,
he fled to the top deck.
Two phone Talia was half infomercial echo,
half gossip mag journo wannabe.
Pounding exclamation points
infested her ten words per second.

In a bid to block out her inane chit chat,
Jerome salvaged a tattoo magazine
from an abandoned brief case.
An almond-eyed beauty,
with a cherry blossom branch
protruding from her black satin briefs,
distracted him from the reappearance
of the nineteenth century relic,
with the cobra tipped floral walking stick.
His high-performance phone
had eighteen years battery life remaining.

“With a shirt like that
you must be on your way to Horace Hill Graffiti Labyrinth”
“I’m headed for Sorenson’s Surreal Art Gallery” Jerome insisted.
The dapper stranger found his denials more absurd
than a P.G.A legend staring blankly at a golf club.
“Horace Hill awaits you” he proclaimed,
before zoning out like an interstellar astral traveller.
Glare tentacles prodded his abnormally large eyes.
He turned away and stared at two phone Talia,
as though she were part of her seat.
Jerome and Talia both stepped off at the wrong station
to escape the strangest man on the planet.

At the bus stop,
a voluptuous Goddess’s, flowery summer dress
lapped against her shapely sandalled feet.
The breeze threatened to send her hem into orbit.
The floral satin Jerome may’ve glimpsed,
vanished like a Thylacine in the undergrowth.
Beyond thinking, he followed her on to the 458.
Her hips were so broad,
squashing against her was the only way
to avoid tripping old ladies in the aisle.
As she turned to read a street sign,
one of her snugly suspended breasts,
pressed against his arm.

The bus went from cheetah to snail pace in a nanosecond.
Burning rubber invaded their air-conditioned sanctuary.
“This is Horace Hill Graffiti Labyrinth darling,
with a shirt like that, it must be your stop.
Have you lost your irises” she teased.
The kiss she planted on Jerome’s begging lips
was affectionate, yet chaste.
“Come with me”
It was the closest she came to asking a question.

The radically eccentric fellow,
with the cobra headed floral walking stick,
manned the ticket booth.
How had he arrived so swiftly?
Could a man like that have doppelgangers?

Once inside Jerome lost all sense of scale and direction.
In the colloseum,
netballers moved as gracefully as ballet dancers.
Drums erupted from sub court speakers.
They were their own cheerleaders.
Their little skirts flared like parachutes
as they leapt, flipped and spun in unison.
From giantess shooters to petite centres,
Jerome savoured every glimpse of jungle camouflage silk,
“This direction” Jasmine prompted.

“Which way now,
through the hippy praying mantis’s eyeball,
or the beatnik koala’s pouch?”
“I don’t know”
Jasmine’s authoritarian stare said
“that’s not good enough”
“Um, um, the beatnik koala’s pouch.”

“Introducing Graham H Goalposts Smith,
the high priest of The Obscure Poets Club,
The Original, Mr Ultra Cool, Ice Cold,
The Terrestrial Scuba Diver,
a man who can put the floor of the Mariana Trench
under the microscope,
while break dancing on Chomolungma’s nose.
See how he strides to the stage like Hughes jaguar,
to enact a rap battle between Apollo and Seshat.”
To Jerome and Jasmine’s uneducated ears,
the ancient Greek and Egyptian Gods he channelled
spoke fast forward gobbledegook.
They left to explore spray art mazes.

Some works were as provocative
as children, orphaned by I.D.F bulldozers,
painting Swastikas on Zionist extremist memorials;
others were LSD on concrete,
hybrid storms plummeting to Atlantis.
Giraffe man was Jerome’s favourite.
His forked tongue was a rhythmic gymnasts ribbon,
a lasso and an anchored magic carpet,
depending on who was looking.
Jasmine preferred the gliding squirrel fish.
Its scales were cinemas for artistic plankton.
Tap dancers xylophones,
cut the remaining strands,
trapping Jerome and Jasmine in this universe.

During an aquarium submarine cruise,
to a mural maze,
Jasmine undressed with a graceful fluidity,
burlesque Goddesses merely dream of.
Why was a 20th century alarm clock
invading that temple of creativity?

Jerome sauntered to the letterbox on steady feet.
A Sorenson’s Surreal Art Gallery leaflet
Plummeted to the footpath.
“Must’ve seen it before I dreamed it,” he reasoned.

The fabulous weirdo,
with the cobra tipped, floral walking stick,
screeched around the corner
in a gold-plated Rolls Royce ute.
The most alluring netball squad/dance troupe in history,
lounged in the Jacuzzi tray.
In their jungle camouflage sports briefs and bras,
Falcons had stolen their fluttery little skirts
and paint tight shirts.

Jasmine walked a pack of huskies in the park.
‘You’re going the wrong way’ she screeched,
as he approached the most ostentatious motor vehicle ever built.
She didn’t protest as he strode to the hospital.
Diamonds toppled from low lying clouds, solidifying mid flight.
Jasmine caught them in her purple lace adorned cleavage.

It was a daunting wait.
A triage nurse finally arrived.
“Highly unusual question nurse, am I awake?
Did Socrates just ask me the definition of a dream?
Can you see a woman carrying ethereal diamonds
in her cleavage,
standing at the door with a pack of huskies?
Did someone spike my drinks with DMT?
Do DMT trips ever begin as slowly as windows flow
and last for aeons?”

“Regarding the bejeweled lady with the huskies,
not that I’m aware of sir.
Haven’t seen or heard Socrates either.
I need to get some details from you.
Medicare card please.
A doctor will be with you ASAP.”

“Youuu, you’re behind this”
Jerome accused a clown,
who kept four ping pong balls in the air
with his cobra headed, floral walking stick.
“Where did you park your gold plated Rolls Royce ute?”

“We’ve met have we”
the clown replied,
while continuing his performance
for children with leukaemia,
on their way to The Enchanted Garden.
“What’s real, what does real mean”
Jerome bellowed at bubbler water,
as though he might receive an answer.

Varnished and Vanished

Jade painstakingly sculpted Myrtle,
the bipedal, amphibious, octopoid,
from mottled marble.
The black garnet pupils
of her green fluorite eyes
looked ready to grow and shrink
in light and shadow.
Mining magnate Martin Martyn
paid more for this lifelike marvel
than his driverless Rolls.

Myrtle was Jade’s lover Opal’s preferred murder weapon,
in Art Museum Mayhem,
her latest theatrical gem.
Jade wheeled the loan on to the studio apartment set.

The place was as chaotic as manic poetry.
Opal’s sister Helena was assembling kitchen cabinets
without instructions, that alone
was as ominous as a tsunami warning in the Maldives.
Their cousin Hugo, had smoked enough weed
to believe a claw footed bathtub,
in the lounge room,
surrounded by a fern jungle,
was a home decorating triumph.
His husband Darius bored holes for picture hooks,
with a drill that hadn’t been tested and tagged
since Reagan continued his acting career
in the White House.

Between beers and bowls of ice cream,
Darius and Helena raced each other up the fire escape,
giggling like toddlers.
They’re in a competition to see who vomits first,
Hugo explained to the bath’s scuba diving gargoyle.

Jade meditated amidst the madness
with the aid of a blind fold,
hermetically sealed ear muffs,
and a cork igloo as thick as the Ross ice shelf.

Upon opening her eyes,
she noticed the sculpture trolley was as empty
as a politician’s promise.
Months of honing her search skills,
for the Federal Police,
proved as useless as a granite dartboard.

Her one thousand litre pot plants had been toppled.
Nobody remembered a mini tornado invading the balcony.
The wine glasses perched on the window sill
looked as stable as Olympic divers.

Opal once told her tower climbing, ex-girlfriend Jacqueline,
she buried cash in pot plants.
Had Jacqui taken her more seriously
than rumours of lunar cactus swamps?
Ecologists cameras ridiculed her crime time location claim.
Only an albino goanna and a graffitied turtle were recorded.
Opal’s radio was found in Jacqui’s back pack.
Detectives wondered if she’d
dropped Mrytle, the amphibious, bipedal, octopoid
into a foam rubber lined dumpster.
Shifty Shannon Shamrock, a homeless man,
camped in bus stop shrubbery,
was her suspected accomplice.
He was filmed climbing into the industrial bin.
His explanation sounded as unconvincing
as stories of Mars being terraformed
by Saturnian cyborgs,
but the damning evidence was circumstantial.
Rumours that Shifty was a pub salesman,
of everything from mobile phones
to comic book tribute toilet paper,
lead nowhere.

Multimillionaire buyer Martin Martyn
had seen Jade’s masterpiece evolve
from a slab to the finished form.
He waited for its twin to emerge,
from beneath her chisels and lathes.
Myrtle the amphibious, bipedal, octopoid, mach two,
was more lifelike than the original.

When Jade returned
from a book exchange adventure,
Myrtle the Second wasn’t herself.
Martin Martyn was as oblivious as an oyster.

After observing Helena glancing nervously
towards the kitchen cupboards,
Jade found the false wall,
behind the pots and pans.

Art Museum Statue

If I wasn’t stone
my back hair would be fleece to lease
but foul, feral fleas are hard to please
with granite follicles.
I’m older than the oceans.
For eons I was rock, lava and magma.
I recently became a statue,
of a morbidly obese man,
suspended above a barbecue throne,
in imitation of levitation.

Touring the world’s premier art galleries
is better than being banished to a storeroom prison,
without a lawyer or a trial.
People watching is my main interest.
If I weren’t frozen in stone it would be easy to smile.
Opposite me is an Arctic oil,
as life like as a voyage on an ice breaker.
To my left is the glow from the window of a 3 a.m poet.

I’m not as content as I was
before
 a descendant of Michel Angelo
released me from the mountainside.
I was happy as an amalgam of crystals
on that blizzard swept slope,
but curious about the dying world
of the parasitic, bald apes.

My sculptor, Quincy Macquarie, has no faith in quarrymen,
It took seventeen Sherpa’s to wheel my finished form
down ten miles of precipice bordered goat trails.
I was loaded by the mother of all forklifts
on to a decommissioned Black Hawk helicopter.

This is my ninety ninth gallery.
I’ve had stints in the Louvre, Hollywood sets,
the National Museum of Korea
and Kim Jong-Un’s palatial bedroom;
aren’t I glad that’s over.
I currently reside on the penthouse level
of birthday world,
an art amusement park.
The graffiti roller coaster
looks set to grow beyond the walls
of this towering monument to the ridiculous.

There are peepholes in my skull.
A schoolkid is gawking at my pseudo cerebellum.
My brain is a solution of honey and water,
in wrinkly, grey plastic.
I need it like relaxation therapy needs Death Metal.
My thinking apparatus is purely subatomic.

Wow, someone dedicated a hectare of wall space
to a photograph of a jumper
knitted by an Alzheimers victim.
It’s as shoddy as the web of an acid tripping orb weaver
and as boring as an entire continent
reduced to a salt pan.
Thankfully, time is relative to the speed of perception.
Mistakes are fast forwarded
and slow motion reserved
for the likes of Marilyn Monroe.
During my Hollywood era I was her telepathic shrink.
Assuming I’m as innocent as a teddy bear
she practised the subway grate scene
in front of me countless times.
I can assure you she wasn’t wearing lace edged virginal white.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art awaits.
Eventually I’d like to combine my interests
in hang gliding, volcanoes and euthanasia.
When I was a little pebble,
I wondered what was all the hullabaloo about youth in Asia.
I look forward to Armageddon.
Live volcanoes will be plentiful then.