Key Words

The Harper Vale Hornets,
strolled behind the Archery Center.
Steele kept a wary eye on the competitors.
“We shouldn’t have watched The Crossbow Killer last night”,
Ron, the wiliest halfback in Hornets history laughed.
Steele seethed with rage as he gazed at
a statue of Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt,
who appeared to be aiming her arrow at his throat.
“You know it’s a statue don’t you?”
Ron remarked, only half-jokingly.

“Coming, ready or not”,
Woodville Warriors fullback, Shannon Parker, bellowed
as he leapt from the team bus
like a horror movie clown.

The Hornets kicked off into a gale.
“Coming, ready or not”, Parker yelled,
as he zig zagged by the Hornets five eighth,
goosestepped past their full back
and accelerated to the line.
Coming ready or not, Parker mocked
as he swerved past the outside backs
and set his sights on the corner.
Ready or not, he taunted,
as he stepped inside the cover defenders
and somersaulted to four pointer territory.

“Parker caught the kick off deep in goal
and raced to the ten.
Steele Knox drove him backwards,
dislodged the ball and fell on it.
He converted the try as unceremoniously
as a power lifter raises a dumbbell.  

“I’m not ready” Knox roared
after back slamming Parker over the dead ball line.
“I’ll never be ready” Knox raged
as he flung his obnoxious foe over the sideline.
Parker made the mistake of mentioning the score.
Knox caught the kick off,
crashed through the front row
like a dune buggy through a sand castle,
swatted away the cover defenders
as though they were anaemic mosquitos
and dragged Parker to the try line.

24-22, coming ready or not,
Parker skited at full time.
“You don’t know what you’re saying” Knox replied.
“Coming ready or not” Parker repeated ad nauseum.
“Ready or not” he taunted after punching Steele in the jaw.
Knox’s teammates watched the sardine
versus a tiger shark scenario unfold.
Being trapped in an armbar swiftly erased Parker’s smirk.
“Come on man, let me go”
he panicked like a lamb in a slaughterhouse.

“First, a story” Steele insisted.
“When I was eleven I was abducted,
from the semi demolished shopping center
I called home that winter
and taken to an isolated property.
Vivid memories of the flora and fauna
and a marble statue of Agnes of Rome,
hidden beneath the Red Boxes,
is how I’ll find that forest.
I was one of dozens of children there.
Among the visitors were priests, nuns,
politicians, police officers, teachers
psychiatrists and wealthy business people.

Coming, ready or not, they said.
We thought it was a game of hide and seek
until we saw the compound bows
beneath cold, menacing stares.
I had no idea why that priest told me to strip,
but I soon found out.
Twelve children were shot in front of me that day
and left screaming and writhing on the ground.

Parker had gone as white as chalk.
“I’ll listen to your story voluntarily” he interrupted.

“The dogs between the barbed wire perimeters
were busy tearing smaller children apart.
I sprinted along the fence,
searching for loose or broken wire.
The nuns on the edge of the killing zone
could’ve shot me,
but that wasn’t how they wanted to see me die.

Eventually I reached an open paddock.
The riflemen in the distance
weren’t stalking foxes or rabbits.
I reached the reeds, by the creek,
before they could take aim.
Frightened of disappearing in the mud,
I searched frantically for deep water,
thrashed my way across,
clambered up the hill
and hid in a wombat hole.
Exhaustion overcame me.
I awoke before sunrise.
A track was visible from the summit.
The Red Bellied Black Snake infested shrubbery was safer.

“Coming, ready or not”
yelled the mother of the children in the nearest farmhouse.
I fled. Dizzy from thirst I didn’t get far.

It was months before I spoke again.
My social worker didn’t know what to make of
my drawing of Satan dancing on a crucifix,
or the picture of parliament house
with demons floating over it.
She assumed the story in my diary was fiction.
The copy was disguised as a cook book,
with entries hidden beneath the illustrations.

I spent year six in a children’s psychiatric unit.
The doctor who called my memories psychotic delusions
looked disturbingly familiar.
He would’ve planned my “suicide”, if my story
had sounded more historical than Hansel and Gretel.
Lucy, my psychologist, gave me a
‘Just because I’m paranoid,
doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me,’
T-shirt for Christmas.
I framed it and put it on my bedroom wall.

Parker dry retched for an eternity.
Finally he was composed enough to speak.
“My father was a sculptor,
he specialized in ancient Roman history.
He often told me bedtime stories
about trolls kidnapping homeless Goblins,
taking them to a forest
and hunting them with crossbows.
I’ve got photos of his sculptures
of Agnes of Rome being dragged to a brothel.
Show me which statue you saw.
That killing field might be as easy to find
as the Sydney Harbor Bridge.”


It seemed the curtains closed themselves
and the door was deadlocked by no-one.
Mr Knox was puzzled by the wiry teenagers defiant swagger.
“You mistook me for a victim but I am your destroyer.
You better hope you’ve got a good lawyer in the foyer.
There’s no point expecting support from your employer.”

“Jones, your homework was to compose a romantic sonnet.”
“Around you, I can’t vote to venture closer to The Love Boat
than every time you gloat, traces of vomit find my throat!”

“Detention can be upgraded to expulsion” Knox snarled.

“Mister Knox, last night all I did was rehearse
your unauthorized biography in rhyming verse.
He was a scorpion living in a baby’s throat.
His colleagues denial left him free to gloat.
For wishing a demon wore a ball and chain
I’m a tumor peeled from their feverish brain,
the devil incarnate, a stain upon their soul,
the barnacle Himalayas on their ship’s hull.
If convicted he would have feigned insanity.
Even Adolf had more respect for humanity.
Allow me to be a little less circumspect.
I’m struggling to accept bacteria so adept
was wasted on him once the worms crept.
Unlike his culled captives he felt no pain.
The vigilante was clinical with chloroform
and a point blank range bullet to the brain.”

Knox’s bowels loosened
as the cold metal barrel of a pistol
was pressed against his temple.

“Sir, it’s time to confess in three hundred words or less.
Forget hints of duress and handwriting disguise chess.
The crimes and victims names, no obfuscating games.”

“That’s an A + sir”
Jones laughed hysterically as he cleaned the windows
with the most lethal looking water pistol in existence.
The pseudo weapon went missing
like a passenger overboard in shark infested waters.

The inspiration for Knox,
spotted his twentieth century victims in the audience.
Their professions ranged from stand over men,
to detectives, to prosecution lawyers.
Even the florist looked as intense as a paratrooper
about to leap into enemy territory.
Empty seats represented the suicide victims.



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Shock Treatment

The embers of nose bloodying wars,
between fanatical player referees,
dimmed to ash.
Report cards were signed, celebrated and mourned.
Steele vividly remembered the dress
the loveliest girl in his childhood universe
wore the last time he saw her.
Her farewell message began with
‘I’m writing on this page because it’s pink.
I am a little color blind don’t you think’
As a siren signaled the end,
Steele was stoic as others burst into nostalgic tears.
He stood alone amidst fervent hugging.

Three years later, in a vast hall of slow dancers,
darkness hid the pain of a solitary teen.
Steele’s mind played pinball
between the dance
and the dying seconds of primary school.
Nauseated by the smug smirks of narcissistic brats,
he crept into the misty evening rain.
Apparently those Casanova wannabes
believed squeezing parts of a girl
was as commendable as circumnavigating the globe in a kiak.

The whisper quiet vehicle closed in.
Steele had heard rumours of a storm cloud grey van,
scouring urban wastelands, in search of slaves.
The vehicle halted between abandoned houses.
Steele wasn’t the dilly dallying kind.
The cinder block he shot putted through the windscreen
stunned the predators long enough
for him to hurdle a brick wall,
vault a paling fence,
and long jump a storm water ditch.

A free roaming Rottweiler dubbed King Kong
and a Pitbull known as Cyclone,
heard the commotion
from their overgrown graveyard playground.
The driver accelerated in a blind panic.
A terrified would be kidnapper’s hand
was jammed in a panel door
and her fingers mauled to the bone.

Steele had covered too much territory to hear her screams.
He felt invincible
as he wrong footed a wallet snatcher
and accelerated down a blacked out street.
The misery of isolation had been obliterated
as emphatically as the torture chamber windscreen.