The Man In The Floating House
David Francis Jeffery
Copyright David Francis Jeffery 2017
Shakespir Edition License Notes
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This book is dedicated to my amazing wife Lara; you challenge me every day and I always come up wanting; yet you’re still here.
It is also for my lovely daughter Sydney, who gave me the title for this book and, inadvertently, set this whole thing in motion.
I would also like to give a special shout out to Clementine Ford and her wonderful book Fight like a Girl, that inspired chapter 57 and pretty much the back end of this book.
This is a work of fiction and should be read as such.
Ah. Right then, batten down the hatches.
The storm was coming in from the North-East. It was going to be a big one – I could see that. About as big as anything I had seen. I was prepared though. I was pretty sure that I was prepared.
The way I see it, being born is all a matter of right time, right place. I mean, one turn left, or a minute too early or too late – who knows? You could end up being born American.
Possibilities are not endless. People like to tell you they’re endless but really, they’re not, are they? How many possibilities exist for a person born into extreme poverty? Or for a woman born into our patriarchal society? Or for children shuffled from one abuse to another? No, possibilities aren’t endless. But they are, at least in some form, existent.
The grey sky was turning purple, like spreading blood. The wind was spitting jagged glass and the sea; the sea was growing muscles.
Bring it on, you fuck.
The Catcher in the Rye has not held up over the years. I remember reading it in school and quite enjoying the book, but I don’t ever remember it actually speaking to me.
Even back when I was 13 or 14, it didn’t feel, to me, like it was written in a language that any teenager actually used.
I picked it up again, a few years ago. I was, probably, 45 or 46; had written a few books of my own and was going through a kind of ‘back to the classics’ phase. Of course, not the proper classics – Wuthering Heights or The Brothers Karamazov. But, classics nonetheless. (I’d recently finished The Sun also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls). I got about two pages in when I had to put it back on the shelf. What a piece of garbage!
Well no, I probably shouldn’t say that, because it’s not true. It’s still being read today and is still in print; which is more than I can say for myself.
Catcher in the Rye. Yes, well, it’s not a piece of garbage but it hasn’t aged well. The writing, the dialogue – hell, even the whole plot seems to be from another, long gone time. Which is a pretty stupid thing to say; I hardly think the world of Dickens, or the Bronte’s is still around either.
The point is though, that you can take these books and put them in a modern setting and nothing, really, is lost. You can’t do that with Catcher in the Rye because it doesn’t sound authentic. It sounds like it’s been written by an old man who is trying to capture what ‘the kids’ sound like. It sounds like it’s been written by an advertising executive.
Sure, when it came out, it would have sounded modern as hell. I mean, it made Salinger’s career, didn’t it? So, obviously, it spoke to a lot of people.
But now? Well, how many people now do you hear of declaring it a great novel? I can still read people praising Hemingway; Kerouac; Bukowski; Plath; the Bronte’s; fucking Shakespeare but I don’t read much in the way of Salinger anymore. Tell me I’m wrong.
Catcher in the Rye, in this day and age, reads like it was written by a man who liked children, but neither loved – nor really understood – children at all.
Electricity is sometimes a problem. Solar panels are great but, they only work when it’s sunny. I have a generator, of course, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to keep it powered.
That’s when I came up with the windmill. It only needs a slight breeze to turn and it powers the generator more than adequately. Even that has drawbacks though.
When it’s really windy (and it gets extremely windy out here, let me tell you) I can’t use it, as it overloads the whole system.
So far though, it’s been ten years and I’ve only been out of power five or six times and, even then, never for more than a day.
My wife and kids still don’t understand. I haven’t heard or seen them in a long time. Oh well, no great loss.
Have you ever read the bible? Or the Koran? Or the Dharma? Or any of the holy books of this world? I have. Some amazing writing in all of these books. More than any human can do, in this day and age. And I think, in all of them, that message is being distorted somewhat.
It seems to me, the constant message being interpreted from all these books, is that Love will always conquer Hate. Yet, that’s not true, is it?
Hate is, by far, the stronger emotion. Hate is, by all I’ve seen from the world over these fifty years, the way we live our lives. The way we choose to live our lives. We don’t live our lives as loving human beings. We live our lives hateful, spiteful, afraid, antagonistic and evil. We are all inherently, evil.
Look at the Bible (being a White, middle aged, Western raised man, it’s the only book I really know). It starts from Genesis, when Adam and Eve were kicked out of Paradise. For what? For disobeying an order. Basically, for making a mistake. After being forewarned that the mistake was going to happen. Now, I ask you, what kind of loving God cannot forgive a simple mistake?
A hateful God. A God, who through His own plan, knew what was going to happen, yet decided not to change the script and let it happen anyway. And why? So He could punish mankind. Are you really trying to tell me that God – the God who supposedly created the Universe – couldn’t have seen this coming? Of course not. So, the only reason He could possibly have for letting this happen, is that He hates us. Or, that He wanted to infect us with His hatred. Not the devil – THERE IS NO DEVIL. There is only God – who has infected us with the strongest emotion He ever created – HATE. Not Love – HATE.
Look at the world and prove me wrong. The only thing that has grown stronger over time is our hatred for each other. Our suspicion of each other. Our arrogance toward each other. None of us is immune. None of us is innocent.
Look at love. Look at positive feeling. Anyone who has the slightest good thing to say about anyone or anything else, is immediately squashed. Is irretrievably damned for thinking along the wrong lines.
Don’t be such a Pollyanna.
I’m no Pollyanna.
I mean, I’m all for good but I’m no Pollyanna.
Has anyone actually read Pollyanna? I have. Much like these holy books I’ve mentioned, it’s great writing. And not what you would expect from how it’s been painted.
Pollyanna is used as an insult. To describe someone who is not a realist. Who refuses to see anything bad in the world. In short, someone who’s a bit mentally defective.
But that isn’t what Pollyanna is about at all. It’s about a girl who, while refusing to acknowledge there are NO bad things in the world, goes on trying to bring something good out of the bad. She does not say, even once, that there are no bad things that happen to people; rather, she tries to look at that bad in a different light; to see something positive in it. This annoys everyone she meets though, after a time, they begin to see the worth in what she is doing.
It is only when Pollyanna herself is seriously injured in a car accident and it looks like she will never walk again, that she loses her own faith. That she begins to see that, maybe, she was wrong all along. That maybe, there is no good to come from not thinking bad.
The townsfolk, the people she helped, rally around her and, eventually, convince her that she’s wrong. She comes back to her way of thinking and ends the book by walking two steps; promising herself to walk a little further each day.
The book is firmly rooted in reality. There is nothing in the book to suggest that Pollyanna is walking with her head in the clouds, oblivious to all around her. She is just trying to look at things in a different light. A brighter light. A more positive light. A loving light.
But, oh no, don’t be a Pollyanna. Maybe we could all do with being a bit more of a Pollyanna. Maybe the solutions to problems we so desperately need, could be provided by thinking a different way about them. A more loving way about them.
That’s not real though. That’s not the right way to be. That’s just not us.
The only place I hear, or read, of love triumphing over Hate, is in fairy stories.
Now THAT should be an insult to Pollyanna.
I was born in Baxter House and have lived most of my life in this place but my earliest memories are of N.S.W.
My dad was in the Airforce and the first place he was posted to was N.S.W. We lived in North Richmond, which was only a short drive from the base, across the bridge that went over the Hawkesbury river. When the river would flood, Dad had no way of getting to work; there was only one way in and out of North Richmond in those days – across the bridge.
I started school at North Richmond Primary – that I don’t think exists anymore – and went through until Grade 2; when we moved back to Victoria. I have some good memories of North Richmond but I can’t stand N.S.W. now. Especially Sydney. I know there’s the whole rivalry thing going on but I really hate Sydney. And now one of my daughters is called Sydney. Ha, ha, ha, ha.
How did I get here? Well, there’s a perfectly logical, rational and believable answer to that.
Did you know I’m actually classified as a small island? Of course you did, what am I saying? You can’t possibly have missed ALL the news stories.
Gone dark quickly. I’ve seen this before but still, not quite. I have indeed, battened down the hatches. There’s no higher ground here, so the house has to do. It’s worked before, it will work again.
It will work again.
Rain first; rain’s good. Rain will even out the waves.
Windy though. And on shore.
That’s not so good.
I met my wife at the Carlton Hotel, of all places. She was playing pool with friends and I saw we had the same boots on. I went over and asked her to dance, for precisely that reason but, she said no. She did, however, smile when she said it. I think she was there with someone else, but none of the guys there looked like they would be much competition.
When she put on NIN’s Closer and kept looking at me while it played, I knew there was none.
We’ve been together ever since. Well, except, you know.
I have a picture of myself on my first day of school. I’m wearing dark pants; sensible shoes; a not-quite-as-dark, button up, Polo style shirt and a white cardigan. The photo is black and white, so I have no idea what colours my clothes actually are – I can’t remember. I’m photographed out the back of our Enfield Avenue house, looking into the sun; so I have one eye closed. I don’t remember the photo being taken, but I remember my first day of school. I left at lunch time and never went back. I remember hiding behind my nan’s caravan. I can’t remember what happened after that, or what happened the rest of the year. I obviously went to school.
Funny what comes to your mind.
My two girls are called Sydney and Caroline. They are what….17 and 15 now. As I said, I haven’t seen them in a long time. Ten years this year. They’re good girls. Well, I’m assuming they’re still good girls.
Sydney will be finishing school this year, I guess. If she hasn’t finished already. Carol will be, what, YR10? Something like that.
Geez, you’d think I’d be on Facebook so I could at least stalk them. The bloody WI-FI is great out here.
You see some strange things out here at night.
About two years ago, I was outside drinking – oh, I have a still – did you not know? Yeah, makes the most marvelous gin. Well, as good as you’ll get out this way.
So yeah, I was outside, sitting, drinking, listening to the radio – some Russian station I think – when I saw some coloured lights floating past. I know, I didn’t think much about it either; I see a lot of planes go over my way. It wasn’t until I saw the lights flash first purple, then orange, that I thought, well, that was weird.
But, you know, I’d been drinking. I wasn’t drunk but, yeah, I’d been knocking a few back. So, I raised my glass to the lights, told them – nice show – and drank down.
That’s when it got really weird. And I swear that this is what happened; the lights came back and flashed: red, blue, green, purple, orange, green, blue, red and flew off.
Never seen anything like it before, never have since. And I have seen a lot of weird shit out here.
Don’t get me started on the mermaids.
I’ve had the occasional visitor. I’m not in any established shipping lanes but, it doesn’t mean that I don’t see some ships go past. Some big ships even anchor off, not all that far from me.
That’s usually when I get callers. Chinese mostly; I’m starting to get a pretty good handle on Mandarin these days. Did an online course after the first couple came along. I get plenty of Chinese stations out here as well. I’m not fluent, by any means, but I now know enough to not get myself killed. It wasn’t always that way.
I remember the first time a couple of Chinese sailors came out. They were suspicious – naturally enough. As was I. After all, how many times do you see a house anchored in international waters? Even one classified as a small island.
I invited them in – they came with guns so, I couldn’t really refuse. They had a look around; took note of my computers, windmill, solar panels, garden and boat. Oh yeah, forgot to mention that I have a boat – a pretty good size one. Can’t stay home all the time.
They seemed to be getting more suspicious and I tried to be as calm as I could; I didn’t have any weapons myself, so I would’ve been no match had things got real serious, when one of the sailors looked at me a bit funny. He looks again, squints a bit, then breaks into the biggest smile. He talks to the others and they all start smiling, clapping me on the back and yelling my name.
Turned out I was a bit more famous than I thought. Never thought my story would’ve made it to China though.
After that, word must have spread around to the merchant seamen. Any visitors that have come have been nothing but friendly.
Even the Army, and that’s saying something.
I did have a run-in with a couple of Russian Army captains once.
I stopped writing to my wife, because she told me to.
As I said, the WI-FI is great out here, so I used to email her every day. Mostly just saying how much I loved her and the girls and that everything is ok.
She mostly emailed back, telling me to come home. But I couldn’t come home – I didn’t want to. And it wasn’t like I left them to fend for themselves – $50 million is nothing to be sneezed at.
Then one day, after a particularly dull email about pretty much nothing, she wrote back two words;
And that was it. I tried to keep writing and asked her why but she didn’t reply.
I stopped. Never wrote the girls.
You might think I’m a bad parent because of that. Well, fuck you.
I’m a good parent because of that. I left when my girls were still relatively young – 7 and 5. Sydney – the 7-year-old – will possibly remember me the most but Caroline – the 5-year-old – won’t have any real clear picture in her mind of who I was, or what I looked like. I will have never existed for her. Even for Syd, I’ll only be something of a vague memory.
I’m assuming their mother will have re-married by now anyway. That’s why she said no more. Well, that’s my best guess. It’s a pretty good one.
Look, it’s all very well and good to say that I’ve damaged them for life by being an absent father, but if I had stayed, I’d still be an absent father. I’d be there but not there. Might as well be the ghost that I’ve become.
I never wanted children. Oh sure, I said I did but that was mostly out of fear. Fear of being alone. Fear of not conforming. Fear of losing my wife. All the things I have now done.
It didn’t take me long to realise that I really preferred my own company. That I was so blindly selfish and self-obsessed to only want my own company. And now, here I am and I don’t regret a thing. I love waking up and knowing that today is going to be the same as yesterday; is going to be the same as last week; is going to be the same as last year. Because it never is.
I suppose my only regret is having the girls but, not really, because their mother was so desperate for them; at least it was one part of myself that wasn’t too selfish. And yet, not really, because I also did it to make myself a good man. To pretend I was doing it for someone else when really, I was doing it for as many selfish reasons as the reason I left.
I’m not really a very good person. But, at least I left before I turned into a very bad person. That means something?
The girls don’t miss me. As much as I’ve never written them, they’ve never written me either. And I haven’t discouraged it – how could I? No, they don’t miss me.
Neither of them cried when I left.
July 9, 2006:- It’s not a floating house, per se; it just looks like that. Actually, it’s firmly anchored to the bottom of the sea, via a cement pole. That part alone cost $1.21 million.
Wind is stronger; a great deal stronger. Even my roller shutters are quaking and they’ve never quaked in a storm before. This may actually fuck me over.
I just want to be alone.
What do you mean, you want to be alone?
Alone. By myself. No one else around. That kind of alone.
I don’t really understand.
No, I don’t suppose you do.
Can you make me understand?
No unless you can make me understand your obsession with seeing people.
My obsession with…you mean, my friends?
Yeah. Your friends.
You don’t like me seeing my friends?
No, no, not at all. I just don’t see the reason that you have to see them so much.
It’s only every couple of days.
That’s exactly what I mean – it’s every couple of days.
You’re a fuckwit.
That may be. I still want to be alone.
But, what about the girls?
I love the girls.
But you still want to leave; to be alone? Great way of showing it.
Ah, the girls will be fine. They’re still young, they won’t even remember me.
What, you’re going now?
Well no, not now. Haven’t built the house yet.
Yeah. My floating house.
Yep. In the middle of the sea.
Well fuck, it sounds as though you’ve been thinking of this for a while.
So ah, how are you going to pay for this, so-called house?
Don’t know yet.
Well; good luck with that you moron. Don’t think you’re staying here.
Yeah. Don’t think I’m going yet either.
What, you still reckon I’m going to let you live here?
Well, I’m paying the mortgage so, it’s technically my house. I’ll let you and the girls still live here though.
You are a cunt.
Yes I am. I still love you though.
I’m a lot more insufferable and unsympathetic than I need to be, I know that. It’s just that, I don’t care. I don’t like people.
I’ve never had much in the way of friends, even from the beginning of school. Yeah, I know, boo-fucking-hoo. Doesn’t mean it isn’t true though.
I had one good friend in school – Martin – but his family ended up moving away. Then, not long after that, so did we. I’m not sure I can pin-point my lack of friends on that but I don’t think it helped.
I remember a summer afternoon, Grade 2, when we were still in N.S.W. It was a lunch time and my class was about to do a play based on the Water Babies. I can’t remember much about doing it, but I remember that Martin was one of the chimney sweep boys. Anyway, all the chimney sweep boys were in costume, with ragged clothes and dirty faces and we decide to have a soccer game – dirty vs clean. I was on the clean side.
So, we set the field and I end up down back somewhere and I said to another guy, who was also in my class and on the clean side, we’ll beat ‘em, won’t we? I said it as a bit of encouragement, or a bit of a joke, because there was no way we were going to win. Still, can’t hurt to pump us up, surely? He turns to me and says, not with you on our side we won’t. Now, this was a pretty accurate statement, as I’d just started playing soccer with Martin that year and I discovered I had no sporting prowess whatever. Still, that little sentence kind of broke my heart, so I walked off the pitch straight away; not wanting to be anywhere I wasn’t wanted. I walked off, sat on some steps and forced myself not to cry.
The thing I’m now having trouble remembering, is whether I saw Martin watching me walk off and saying nothing, or whether I walked off and he called out to me but I ignored him. Time confuses such things.
I also don’t know if I can pin-point my lack of friends from then either. I don’t think either put great thoughts of friendship in my mind. Though I think it forged a distrust of people. So there, my own question answered.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more and more suspicious of anyone who says they like me. Even my wife.
It’s no one’s fault but my own, of course. It’s just that I can’t see anything in myself that’s worth liking. As my wife once said, I am a cunt. And I am. It’s much easier for me to accept hatred, than love. This is extremely cynical but I’ll tell you why.
You can always be hated. You can’t always be loved.
If someone doesn’t like you, that will rarely change. Not never, but it’s pretty rare.
But if someone likes you, or even loves you; that can change in an instant. You might not even realise what you’ve done to deserve the change but that won’t mean that the change isn’t there. It’s very easy to be unlikeable. It’s much, much harder to be loveable. Truly loveable. Not just hugging teddy bears loveable; actual full on, I’m-with-you-forever loveable.
Hatred? Well, that’s easy to sustain. Ridicule? Same deal. Suspicion, mistrust; you name the negative feeling and they are like wine to an alcoholic. It is so much easier; less time-consuming and less fear-inducing to be disliked. Or even hated.
You know where you are when someone hates you. You’re on firm footing. Familiar ground. You can deal with it. You know it doesn’t matter, because it isn’t going to change.
You have no idea where you are when you’re loved. It can change at any time. It can be lost in a moment. You can ruin it with something as simple as a look, or a yes instead of a no. When you’re loved, you are always ill-at-ease. You can never be truly comfortable. For it can all come crashing down and you’re left with nothing.
Better to be hated than be the hater.
I can’t follow trends. Never could; much to the chagrin of my mother.
Why can’t you wear some nice clothes? Like these ones – pointing to whatever was current at the time.
Because I don’t like those clothes. What’s wrong with jeans and T-shirts?
I’ve pretty much been wearing the same style of thing since primary school – jeans and T-shirts. These days though, it’s mostly band T-shirts, rather than the le coq sportif T-shirts of my youth.
This is why I’m not on Facebook. That and the fact that, as previously harped upon, I don’t have any friends.
It’s hardly giving myself away to say that I’m 50 and a Luddite but I truly don’t understand Facebook. I mean, I’m not completely out of the loop; I know there are memes and things out there of Celebrities who don’t understand Facebook but, I hardly fit into that category. For one thing, I haven’t been a celebrity for twenty years and, even when I was, I wasn’t.
And, for another, they were baffled by the technology of Facebook, whereas I’m baffled by the whole point of Facebook. What is it actually for? It can’t really be to keep in touch with your friends. Surely, if you had friends, you’d already be in touch with them anyway. And, from what I’ve seen surfing around – because I’m not a total luddite, I’ve experimented with Facebook – the whole site seems very unfriendly and most posts seem to be pretty dull anyway. Maybe I should join the meme set because obviously, Facebook can’t be that difficult to use – it wouldn’t be that popular if it was. Maybe it’s just me; I just don’t understand it.
Also, what am I supposed to post out here? More sky, random birds and water?
So no, I don’t follow trends. Just as well really. Don’t get me started on Twitter and Instagram.
I’ve been a failure all my life. I was going to write pretty much a failure at first but…. I don’t think I’ll find anyone to disagree with my first statement. I’ve been a failure all my life. I’ve failed as a father, I’ve failed as a husband, I’ve failed as a human being. The only thing I haven’t failed at; the one thing I’m really good at, is being alone. I LOVE being alone. So here I am.
I’ve never known what I wanted to do with my life – it’s changed every few years. At one time, I wanted to be a musician. Trouble was, I couldn’t play an instrument, write songs, or sing.
After that, I wanted to be a writer. But, as is pretty obvious, I can’t write worth a damn. All my books have had to be self-published and no one is reading them but me. And even then, I don’t read them.
I’ve had some jobs. Sort of graced through them. Cook, dishwasher, barman, secretary, receptionist, postal clerk. All shit jobs because it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. You see, the only thing I’ve wanted to do, the only CAREER I’ve wanted to pursue, was to do nothing.
Yep, that’s right – nothing. Just wanted to sit on my arse, have enough money to not worry about anything and just let life go by. Pretty low on the annals of ambition, I think you’ll agree.
So now I’ve done it but, obviously, still a failure.
Fat rain drops are starting. That’s a pretty good sign. Fat rain hits hard but doesn’t last. Big wind still but I feel like it’s more Westerly now. I hope.
Been away for a while, but I’m back now. I know it’s only early on, but I wasn’t sure whether it was worth continuing on with this.
One of my great weaknesses, is the inability to follow through with anything. It’s why I’ve only managed to write one, proper novel.
It’s not as though I haven’t tried. Come around to my house; you’ll find a whole drawer full of abandoned novels – almost all of them at the same time – around 2-5,000 words in. And one of my main problems for doing this, is that I’m trying to write something as great as my heroes.
Curse of every writer. If you can’t be as good as (insert famous genius here) then why bother? Well, we bother because it’s not possible to be a genius, if you aren’t one already.
Every writer thinks they’re a genius. Curse II. Some are lucky enough to realise that, pretty early one, they’re no genius. Some find out later. And some, like me, think it’s just because they haven’t been recognized as such yet. After all, it took Kerouac six years from writing On the Road to finally be recognized as such. Though, to be fair, he isn’t universally recognized as such. Many still think he’s shit. But, I think my point still stands. It took a while for Kerouac; it took a while for Bukowski; hell, even Hemingway was trashed initially for The Sun also Rises. Sylvia Plath and Franz Kafka both had to die before they were truly recognized.
So why not me? Why NOT me?
For a start – no talent. I can half put a sentence together and string a few paragraphs the right way but, I don’t have the thing. The thing that sets apart the genius from the merely competent.
I don’t have the conviction. I’m reading a biography of Kerouac at the moment and the core thing he was convinced of; the one thing he truly held onto – was himself. His ideas. His style. He he was creating something new, something different. Something truly I’m just writing.
I don’t have the courage; which may just be the same as conviction.
I keep writing because I have to. It’s something that’s in me that won’t let go. It matters naught that I have no readership. It matters naught that I don’t get published by a big company. It only matters to me. It is who I am. Storm or no storm.
You know what’s really great? Wanking.
I haven’t had sex in the past ten years but jeez, I’ve wanked a lot. And it’s great. It’s fucking awesome actually. You know why? Coz it doesn’t take very long.
I don’t like all that much about being a man bit I love the fact that I can come really quickly. And I’m talking really quickly. Again, it’s fucking awesome.
I’ve always marveled at how I’m supposed to feel bad about coming quick. It really takes women longer than a couple of minutes to come? That’s fucking depressing.
On the whole, let’s face it, sex is pretty dispiriting. I mean, yeah yeah, it’s nice to have it and it feels good to be close and you’re expressing your love but, come on, after a while, it’s a bit of a waste of time.
I’m a misogynist – obviously – but who’s got time for all the bullshit? The touching, the kissing, the slowing down, the speeding up – all so you can try to come together? Fucking hell, I don’t know about you, but I’ve got other things I want to do. I haven’t got 45 minutes to an hour to waste trying to pleasure someone.
So no, I don’t feel bad about being able to come in less than two minutes. It’s fucking fantastic. And, being a misogynist and completely self-centered, I also am not interested in putting another human in the position of having sex with me; sex that will be undeniably unfulfilling. So I’m sticking to wanking.
Hang on. Be back in a minute.
Tasteful as it may be, my house is never going to feature in Home Beautiful or House and Garden. Frankly, it might even struggle to make the cover of National Geographic, even as just curiosity value. Not because there isn’t curiosity value in it, it’s just that, there’s really nothing to show.
My house is one room. One room. A bed; a table; a toilet; a shower; a computer; a stereo and a TV. That’s it. Throw in a couple of windows and a polished concrete floor and there’s my house. I don’t cook anymore. I go out to eat. I don’t watch the TV itself, I plug the computer through it and watch that. I don’t have a car but of course I don’t. Spartan, is perhaps putting it mildly. But hey, we all have our quirks and this is mine.
I live in a floating house. Well, you know, not floating.
I cried a lot when mum died. Not often; only twice but the first time; a lot.
I’d never been particularly close to my mum. Yeah, I loved her, she was my mum after all but, I could never say that I actually liked her.
I was born in 1966, so I grew up in the 1970’s. a very different time. Things that were common place for most of us in the ‘70’s would terrify most people today. Child-abuse, for example.
I grew up in a time when corporal punishment was a given and not a legally punishable crime. So, over the years, from say – five to thirteen – if I happened to do anything wrong, then I would get a beating. From both mum and dad but, mostly mum.
She loved this aspect of child rearing. Fucking LOVED it. I was beaten with a strap; a wooden spoon; a ruler; a piece of bamboo; a garden hose; a hand and a fist.
I would receive these beatings (and they were indeed, BEATINGS) for any minor slight that might have occurred; whether real or imagined. Certainly for things that I would let the girls off for, in this day and age.
As an example, I once received a beating for going outside in the rain, when I was told not to. Now sure, I was told not to but, it wasn’t raining too much, just easing off really and I barely even got wet. If my girls had done that? Well, I’d tell them off for disobeying and probably have them stay in their wet clothes for a little but, march them to their rooms and beat them for ten minutes? No way.
I once remember being out shopping with mum and, I can’t remember what I did but I disobeyed something; not something terribly big, as I’m sure I’d remember but, something. And I remember mum saying, right, when we get home, you’re in for a strapping. And we hadn’t finished shopping yet. Imagine having that hanging over your head for half an hour, when you’re ten. If you imagine that my mum might have forgotten, or let this go over that half hour – you’re dreaming; as a wise man once said.
And it wasn’t even the beatings that were the main problem. Sure, they hurt like hell – it was the of it. The powerlessness. The boiling anger of wanting to retaliate but being unable to.
There’ll be people nodding their heads about now and thinking, yeah, I feel ya. And there’ll be others who’ll be thinking, oh, boo hoo. Poor you. I grew up the same way and I would’ve loved to have just had a beating. I went through some I real hell. And yet others who’ll be thinking, I went through the same thing as you and it didn’t affect me – get over it. All legitimate thoughts. And I agree with them all. Trouble is, it affect me and I’m over it. It didn’t teach me how to behave; the only thing those beatings taught me was fear. Fear I’ve carried with me my whole life. Fear I’ve never been able to shake.
I cried a lot when mum died. She was my mother. The first parent who dies; if you’re old enough, it will affect you that way, regardless of how you feel. I cried a whole lot. It was a release.
I didn’t cry at all when my dad died. I was never really close to him, despite his meagre efforts.
Would I want either of them back again, if I had a choice? No fucking way. NO FUCKING WAY.
First wave hit last night. Only just woke me up. Ok. So far, ok.
Just finished that Kerouac biography that I told you about a bit earlier. Subterranean Kerouac, by Ellis Amburn, who was Kerouac’s editor on his last two books. He was positing that a lot of Kerouac’s problems with his drinking, misogyny and anti-Semitism, were partly a result of his not embracing his homosexuality. He’s deduced this from interviews with surviving friends; time with Kerouac himself and, I think, a fairly narrow reading of his work.
Now look, I’m not here to say that there’s absolutely nothing in it. It was the 40’s and 50’s; of course you’re not going to come out and declare yourself a homosexual, or even bisexual. But to say that it’s a root cause of Kerouac’s alcoholism is to ignore the more obvious answer; his whole family were alcoholics. I think I might be seeing more of a pattern here than just repressed homosexuality.
And I’m certainly not denying that he may have been, but even from a casual reading of the biography, it seems more likely that he was bisexual. The problem Amburn is positing, is that K could never admit to his homosexual feelings; he could only embrace the ‘normal’ side of his sexuality.
Again, no surprise – wrong time. It was the 50’s, you can bet your life that thousands of young men were repressing their sexual desires. And while I’m not denying that many of them took to alcohol to numb the pain, not all of them became alcoholics. Ginsberg may be the most prominent example of this but even he denied his nature for years. It was, after all, a time when – to be in any creative field – was to be considered ‘sissy’ and ‘wimpy’ and none of the Beat crowd at the time, wanted anyone to see them as anything less than masculine. The Hemingway school of toughness, I suppose.
The problem with this explanation, as I see it, is that you are almost discounting the kind of life he led as being part – certainly the major part – of the problem. I don’t think – and from all my reading of his works this is borne out – Kerouac really cared for love from anyone but his mother. I think he, and indeed, all the Beats, were misogynistic but I think Kerouac was because of his mother. He only truly loved his mother and he compared all with her and, of course, who could measure up?
Who could measure up? This is why Kerouac didn’t need a wife or a child and why his best friends always seemed to let him down in his eyes – they weren’t his mother. All he wanted from his friends was unconditional love and praise, just the same as he received from his mum. He could do no wrong in her eyes, why couldn’t they treat him the same?
Who can surpass; who can even equal, a mother’s love? Who would even want to try? The drugs, the booze, the girls, the boys, the road; all just a part of his life, a part of the writing. His true love? The woman always at home. The woman always bailing him out. The place he can always return to, maintained by his one, his only, his true love.
I used to live in London, before Syd and Carol of course. It was my wife’s idea; I was never really interested in travelling but I’m glad she forced my hand. It was pretty awesome.
We had to work, of course. We lived there for twelve months, did some travelling, saw some sights, came home. In between, we had to work.
I started off as a barman. Oh, I know, couldn’t be more cliché. But, as all clichés begin as truths, so this one was also. I worked as a barman for three months.
Travel, travel, travel. Then work again. My second job, was as a Food Services Assistant at a private hospital. It was ok, not a great job. About even par with the barman job.
One day, as I was coming into the hospital, I noticed this big Jamaican guy. You couldn’t miss him really, he was huge. I think he was either a store man, or possibly security, not sure.
For reasons that I’ll never be able to fathom, he took a bit of a shine to me. He didn’t know my name and I can’t remember his but, every time he saw me, he gave me the biggest smile; would say, ah, there’s my boy, and grab me in a hug. And remember, he was massive. Not fat; Dwayne Johnson massive but even more intimidating. I was never scared of him though, but I could never figure out why he liked me so much. I’m glad he did; I’d hate to think what might have happened if he hated me.
Now, I told you that story, to tell you this one.
I’m pretty much a racist. And what I mean to say is, that I think my race – Caucasian – is the weakest on the planet. And you can maybe put that down to White Guilt if you like but, I don’t know. The more I see of what we do to other races, other countries and the entire planet; I wonder if we’re not some sort of infestation. I wonder if, indeed, aliens walk the planet and they’re us – white people.
I mean, who fucks things more – white people, or every fucking other race on the planet?
Answer: White people.
How do we do it?
Answer: we’re weak.
White people are the only race who literally shudder at seeing difference. Look at my last story; I can’t believe how a black Jamaican could like me. And why did he like me? Because he was a good guy and didn’t care that I was shite. Me? I liked the fact that he was black and that I got on with him –
How racist is that?
White people are the only true racists. White people are the only ones who get called true racists. And every white person reading this will be shaking their fists and screaming, NOT ME MOTHERFUCKER! I’M NO RACIST!!
No? Me neither.
I just hate white people.
Letter to my younger self, from the self that I am now:
You’re a loser man. You’re a fucking loser. Always have been. Always will be. Just fucking kill yourself now and save the earth some oxygen.
Me – aged 50
There’s a school of thought that says I believe in a higher power. And yes, that is true. I don’t believe in a physical representation of a God and I don’t believe He’s constantly looking over us and controlling our lives day by day. I believe, after all, in free will.
There’s also a school of thought that says I don’t believe in luck. This is also true. I believe in Fate. I believe in Destiny. I don’t think you can ever make a mistake, because I believe that every decision we make has already been accounted for. By a higher power. God, if you will.
How then, are these two thoughts reconciled? How can I believe in a God that does not control our lives and also believe in a God that has made all decision for us?
It’s quite simple and quite complex. Our decisions have already been made for us, but we don’t know what those decisions are. still have to make them on our own. We still have to use our free will.
However, what that decision is; whether it be turning off the six o’clock alarm and having an extra half hour sleep; or quitting your job to become a dancer – all these decisions are already made. Carefully planned, carefully edited. Even for those whose life is hell, or just sucks.
Imagine, if you like, that your life is a novel. When you pick up a novel, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Sure, you can make a fair guess and you might even be right but, what about the characters? They don’t know what’s going on. Yet, their every move has already been decided by the author. Carefully worked out, carefully edited. As a character in a book, you would imagine that you are using your free will to determine the outcome of your life; never knowing that, all the while, an author – a higher power – has decided your every outcome. As a character in a book though, you would remain unaware, you would not question, would not protest, because you believe you are in control. But you are not.
This is how I believe our lives are governed. People get famous because they are destined to be famous. People get abused, or raped, or killed because they are destined to be killed, or raped, or abused. People are born in Pakistan, because they are destined to be born in Pakistan. Nothing we can do about it.
But why? What’s the point? Why should some poor kid die at four years old and some other go on to be Prince?
Well, why do writers write? What motivates them to tell a beautiful story, or a horrible one? What motivates them to tell a boring story, or the greatest story on earth?
Because they have to. They don’t know why, they just have to. It’s their destiny.
And who says that God Himself, doesn’t have a destiny?
Second wave. Second wave a little bigger but still safe. Third wave the charm?
Remember in chapter 16 I said that you see some weird shit out here? Well, you see some weird fucking shit out here.
There’s a boat that goes past, every now and again. Not a big boat, not a small boat – a boat. You know, a motor boat. It goes past pretty quick and it’s always a little way off but it’s not so far off that I don’t notice one thing -
No one’s driving it.
And I’ve seen people on it. I’ve seen girls at the back sunning themselves. I’ve seen men at the back drinking. Hell, I even saw a couple having sex on it, one time. Always at the back. At the front, where you’d expect that I’d see a driver – no one.
Fucking weird man.
It’s probably about time that I had another wank. Back in a tic.
Alright, I’m back. There’s some Michael Rother on the stereo, I have another glass of port and night is coming down. The world aint too bad right now. Don’t worry, it won’t last.
Alcohol’s good, isn’t it? I mean, you have to be careful with it but, it’s good. It sort of helps to move things.
Look, I’m not a great believer in mind altering substances being advantageous to creative thought. Most of the stuff I’ve written while drunk or stoned has been rubbish.
But just a little? I think it does some good. You just have to learn where to draw the line.
I’m ok, I could never really be an alcoholic. Firstly, I don’t really see it with any glamour; most of the alkies I’ve known have been complete losers. Second, I really don’t like the hangover. I don’t like the hangover.
Most people, when they get drunk, hate the hangover. But for some, the hatred of the hangover is no discouragement from getting up and drinking again.
For me, after a really smashing hangover, I won’t touch a drink for weeks. I don’t want to feel that way again. But, after a time, I’ll take a drink and think, hey, this aint too bad. But I won’t get drunk. Not anymore. I won’t after that last time I got all the way shitfaced.
I was at a bar with a friend and we were smashing out pint after pint. I was barely able to string words together after about three hours but I happened to notice a girl that I thought I vaguely knew. I started talking to her; God knows what about, but I distinctly remember telling her how much I wanted to have sex with her.
Wow, that’s awkward, she said. And I was so drunk, that I just remember smiling but also, some tiny, sober part of me told me she was right. It was awkward. It was downright embarrassing, not to mention sexual harassment. I shouldn’t have said that. And I was just enough in my right mind to grab my friend and we left.
But here’s the thing – I was here in the house all the time. There is no bar out here for k’s. I drunk visioned the whole thing.
From that day on, I swore I would never get that drunk again.
And I believe me.
It’s funny how some careers keep you hanging on, whereas others are easy to drop, once it’s been proved that you’re no good.
Sport, for instance.
I wanted to be a cricket player, as a kid. Not that I was ever overly obsessed with cricket. My younger brother was though, and I wanted to be like him. We were a strange family.
At primary school, pretty much every boy from grade 4-6, went onto the oval every recess and lunchtime in summer, to play cricket. Everyone, except me. I wasn’t at all interested. My brother was though and he used to come home every day and recount stories of the cricketing day. Especially the people he bowled out.
You could never bowl me out, says oldest brother.
Want to bet? Says youngest.
So we go outside, set up a makeshift pitch and have at it. First time I ever held a cricket bat. First time I’d ever been bowled to.
My brother was a fast bowler. A real, true to life, proper fast bowler. I had no idea what that meant when I first faced up to him. I was the oldest, of course he wasn’t going to bowl me out!
I lasted three deliveries, mostly because the first two were outside the stumps. We played for about half an hour and I’m not sure I hit the ball at any stage. I bowled to him and I don’t really remember getting him out. After that day though, I was interested.
Next day, I was down on the field with everyone else. We played tippity run and used about seven balls, so there was always someone different to face. Each bowler had one delivery and if you managed to get someone out, you became the batsman.
Now, one of the most interesting parts of all this, is the fact that we used proper cricket balls and wore padding. We didn’t even any padding; except for whoever was keeping; we at least had gloves. And we all faced a variety of bowlers; some super-fast like my brother and some whose deliveries you never knew where they might end up.
Now, you might be wondering, you say your brother was a proper fast bowler, but how fast was he really? Well, we used to use the old metal stumps; with a round bottom to stand them up and all three stumps welded in a curve at the top. My brother was so fast, he used to be able to break them.
Like most kids who start out playing cricket, I also wanted to be a fast bowler. After all, my younger brother was one, surely I – being the oldest – had to be fast as well? Stands to reason.
I wasn’t a fast bowler. I wasn’t a fast bowler’s arsehole. I was a laughing stock. But, I persisted with it, hoping to get better. I did not.
Then, one day, a class mate of mine – Roland Eck – gave me a piece of advice that, in any other book, would be the one thing that separates the truly gifted, from everybody else. It certainly made a difference to me in school but, that’s about as far as it went.
His advice? You hold the ball with your fingers really wide apart – maybe you’re a spinner.
I looked down at the ball I was holding; he was right, my fingers were really wide apart. But a spinner? Oh man, I didn’t know much about cricket but I knew that spinner’s bowled slow and got slogged all over the place. They were kind of wimpy. I didn’t want to be a spinner.
I did, however, take his advice. And everything changed. Not right away of course, but still, slowly, everything changed.
As I said, I had no idea really about cricket; didn’t really watch much of it; didn’t overly pay attention to the other boys who were playing and certainly didn’t read anything about it. As a result, I had no idea of the spin I was attempting. It wasn’t until I began high school and joined the cricket club that I realised I was a leg spinner. At primary school, I just rolled it out of my hand and hoped something might happen. I never even knew that leg spinning is the traditional ‘difficult’ spin. I was, as they say, a natural leggy. It was just the way my hand and wrist went naturally when I delivered the ball.
I never took a wicket as a fast bowler. It was ages before I took a wicket as a spinner but I still remember that first one.
I threw it up a little, the batsman went for a pull shot, he missed as the ball spun back and rattled the stumps. I could not contain myself. I jumped, I screamed, I turned around and yelled – did you see that? I was so happy – so amazed – that I’d done it that I still wasn’t quite sure that I had. I made a real fuss.
The other thing I remember of that day is the look of disgust on everyone’s faces as I was jumping for joy. You have to remember that it wasn’t like it is today. This was the mid to late 70’s and anything more than a thin smile in celebration of a wicket was, not only frowned upon, it was practically beaten out of you. Especially just a friendly game on the oval. Trouble was, I wasn’t used to getting wickets and most everyone else was; so when they got one, it was just a casual saunter up the pitch to become the batsman. No high-fives, no yelling and certainly no jumping. It took me a while but, I got there too.
As a bit of an aside, on that first wicket, when I became the batsman, I lasted all of one ball. I was never, ever, ever a good batsman.
So, I proved to myself that I could be a spinner. After that first wicket, I never looked back. I started, slowly, to accumulate more (and also became more casual about that) when the greatest compliment I ever heard came one day, just as I was coming in to bowl.
You need to watch this guy, he’s a great spinner.
And lo, my work here is done.
But, of course, that’s not the end of the story. As I said, in high school, I joined the local cricket club, with my brother: East Belmont CC. I was put into the B’s – as was he – and for the rest of the season, I went to training, bowled in the nets, batted in the nets and, invariably on game day, spent the whole day as 12th man. For the whole season, I played only one game. Didn’t bowl and only faced one ball and was bowled. My brother played a couple of games but even he wasn’t playing much. On the last game of the season, the coach told me that he was saving me for next season; I was to be his secret weapon. At that stage, I was pretty disgusted with the game of cricket, and so, the next year, I didn’t go back. Trouble was, I missed it.
Now, in that season off, did I forget about cricket? Did I stop training? No siree Bob, I did not. I actually found a very well written book – How to play cricket – by Peter Philpott. Marvelous book, taught me a lot of great things but, in that year, I let it influence me far too much.
As I was a leg spinner, I began reading about all the different deliveries a leg spinner could bowl. I was intrigued and I should have closed the book then and there. Instead, I read on.
I began reading about off-spin, or finger spin. I thought, as I was reading, that it doesn’t sound as awesome as my leg spinning, until I came upon this sentence. In the main, it was saying that Australia hasn’t had a real, decent finger spinner in many years. From that point on, I decided to become an off spinner. I decided that I would become Australia’s next, great off-spinner.
To my eternal shame, I began teaching myself to bowl off spin. To my utter regret and dismay. Because now, for the life of me, I can’t bowl leggies for shit. I did turn myself into a pretty good off-spinner but I sacrificed my natural talent for a pipe dream.
Of course, I’m not saying that if I had’ve kept up my leg spinning that I would’ve become the next Shane Warne (before Shane Warne). I may though, have become the next Jim Higgs. Even, perhaps, the next Richie Benaud. Probably not but, who knows? In the end, I realised I was never going to be a cricketer and it isn’t something I hold as a wish that I had. I wasn’t good enough and I totally accept that.
As for my brother, he remains the greatest case of what might have been. He was easily the best all-rounder that I’ve ever had the privilege of watching. There was literally nothing on the cricket field that he couldn’t do. He should have played for Australia. At least Victoria; he was good enough, even at 14. Unfortunately, being a proper fast bowler, who wanted to bowl at top speed from the first ball, he ended up breaking his back. You see it in a lot of fast bowlers these days and it can be managed properly, so it doesn’t completely debilitate you. In 1980 though? For a kid? The only thing that was recommended for him was to not bowl fast anymore. But, as he said, a fast bowler just wants to bowl fast; he wasn’t going to become a medium pacer. He would have still been great at that though. He could even have turned himself into a specialist batsman but bowling was what he loved. I always wonder that, if we had have been born later, in the era of Glenn McGrath, would he have taken his lead? Instead of trying to be Brett Lee, not accepting that your pace isn’t what it once was. But, we weren’t born then and he didn’t take the lead of a man who no one knew about. My brother quit cricket and took up baseball. I followed him for one year but never really liked baseball.
Back to my original point though; careers you still cling to, even though it’s been proved you’re shit at? Ah hmmm…….
It’s a question most of us will ask ourselves at some point – if I really had the chance of a do over, would I do it all differently?
I think it’s pretty obvious what I would do – I would NOT get married and NOT have children. Of course, right?
Of course. But we don’t get do overs. No one does. It’s a movie trope that some of us cling to because we refuse to just grow the fuck up. So, without a do over, I did the only thing that made any sense to me. I left. I left, so that I wouldn’t be that guy. I left, so that I could become this guy.
Did I really hurt people? Well, yeah, I probably did. But I know I would have hurt people a whole lot more I if I had stayed.
Do I regret my decision? Not a bit of it. I like being alone. I LOVE being alone. To not have to talk to anyone. To not have to be places and do things I don’t want to do. To not have to constantly apologise for myself. All these things are real and I embrace them. Indeed, they may even be my religion.
Having said that, do I wish my girls were never born? No, I do not. I just wish I wasn’t their father. But, I guess in all respects but one, I’m NOT their father. I am, for all intents and purposes, just a sperm donor. Lord knows what my wife tells them about me but I hope it’s particularly hateful. She deserves that. She didn’t deserve a cunt like me.
My whole problem (whole?) is that I hate people. This you already know. But more than that, I hate myself. I absolutely myself. If I met myself at a pub, I’d punch myself into a coma. And then go back at night and switch the fucking machine off.
About a year before I was able to leave; Sydney – who was three at the time – asked me, Daddy, do you love yourself? I’ve no idea what prompted this question from a three-year-old but I smiled back at her and said, no honey, I don’t. Do you love yourself? Of course, she said and I smiled and said, good. At least that hasn’t rubbed off on her.
I love hating myself. It’s the fire that keeps me going. Let’s face it, it would be pretty easy to kill myself out here; there are myriad ways to do it. But, no way, I’m not letting myself get away that easily. No, you fucking live, you cunt. You live in the acid you worship, you fucking cocksucking cunt bag. Fuck, you make me sick you dirty, fucking little boy piece of shit. You are NOT taking the easy way out fuckarse. You fucking live.
And I do. I’m living the fucking dream. I’ve always wanted to be one of those loser sob stories in the paper – man dies and is not discovered for seven years – and everyone goes, oh, isn’t that sad? No, it’s NOT fucking sad, it’s what he deserved. It may even be what he wanted. And if he didn’t, then maybe he didn’t look at himself and figure out why he had no friends or family. Probably, he was a CUNT. Just like me.
I take comfort in the fact that, when I die, living out here, it’s quite conceivable that I’ll NEVER be discovered. I take great comfort in that.
In fact, I’m a fucking HERO.
More waves. Is today the day?
Before I met my wife and fucked her life up; there was someone else I met that I was sure I was in love with.
His name was Dirk.
I met him when I was once working as a postal clerk and he was a sales assistant. He was beautiful, was Dirk. In the same way that the word is meant to evoke.
He was tall, lithe and feminine, whilst still exuding a masculinity that couldn’t be denied and I was completely smitten. I never told him how I felt but I have a feeling that I carried my emotions pretty open.
Dirk wasn’t gay and it wasn’t because he ran around being all macho. You could just tell. Sometimes it’s obvious who is and isn’t gay and Dirk wasn’t. I’m not gay either but Dirk really made me question. I wanted him bad.
I never took the chance with Dirk; through fear, through knowing he wasn’t gay, through him being so far out of my league anyway. I never took the chance and it’s one of my small regrets.
I nearly took the chance one afternoon. I was leaving my job to move away and Dirk wasn’t going to be there at my going away party, so he suggested we go out for a drink after work. I couldn’t say yes quick enough.
There was a pub right across the road from where we worked, so once tools were down, we wandered across. We drank, we talked, we laughed, we ate, I acted like a giddy teenager and we drank some more. Me more than Dirk.
I was on the verge of saying something, right on the verge, when Dirk said, it’s your shout. He was right, so I picked up the empty pint glasses to go back to the bar and, as I turned around quickly – I caught myself staring at Dirk a little too hard – I ran smack bang into a concrete pylon that was holding up the roof that ran over the outside tables. We both laughed but, after that, I was too embarrassed to say anything to him and he had to go. We drank our last pints in silence and, that was it.
I never saw Dirk again and I have no idea what’s happened to him.
Ah shit, is that the alarm? It can’t be fucking Monday already? Where are my fucking glasses?
Going back to a thought I had earlier last week, why did I get married and have children?
It’s a good question. Very good. I never wanted to get married. I’m not even really sure I was supposed to get married but, of course I was. It was my destiny. But despite all that, I never wanted to get married. I always thought I would though. For no other reason than; well, that’s what happens, right? You grow older, you get married, you have kids. The way of the world, my son.
I never really wanted to be married though. It was never something that appealed to me. Yet I did get married. And had kids. What the fuck?
My wife is only the second woman I’ve been with. The first one was a real fucking harridan, who put me off women, almost for life. I credit her with turning me into a proper misogynist; not the half-way, treacle-flavoured one I was. My hatred for women really coalesced with her.
I was without anyone for five years after we broke up. The only good thing she ever did for me was to insist we break up. I was alone for five years. I didn’t realise how good I actually had it. There you go. For those five years, I didn’t realise that I was in the perfect situation. I could come and go, do what I wanted; do nothing if I wanted. No one to answer to, no one to have to talk to, no one to complain. But it just didn’t feel right.
Why? Fear. Fear that I was different from everyone else. Fear that I didn’t have a good answer for why I was alone. Fear that there was something wrong with me.
There was. I was a bad listener. I didn’t listen when I told myself that you’re better off alone. That women couldn’t be trusted. That women were bad for you. And mostly, I didn’t listen when I kept telling myself that I wanted to keep hating women.
My wife pulled me back. Or my wife chopped me out, I’m not sure which. My wife saved me, anyway. She alone convinced me that, maybe the problem wasn’t women; maybe the problem was me. And she was right, the problem IS me. Because of her, I no longer hate women. I still don’t trust women, but I no longer hate them. All you girls must be thanking my wife for that, right now. Ha, ha, ha.
She made me see that I was the only one with the problem. I’m the one who has the problem. But, it’s a little less now than it was. I thank her for that. I thank her every day.
We got married because we wanted to. And because I forgot how much I love being alone. We had kids for the same reason. I left for the same reason. At least now, I only really hate one woman.
It’s not my wife.
I’ve heard it said that there isn’t much you can do anymore that will really shock the public. We’re so jaded; we’ve seen it all – from torture porn to terrorist attacks to the raping of the planet – we’re pretty immune. Even if you went on TV and shot yourself, it would end in a big yawn.
I think though, that I might have found something that would really hit a nerve. Something perfectly legal; something millions of people do every day; something that involves no violence, or screaming, or death threats.
Look, just to set the scene, I was in Denmark in 2000 and was watching an ad for their version of Big Brother. The winner was being asked a question that, I’m assuming, was along the lines of, did you ever think you would win? (I speak a little Danish but am hardly fluent) To which he answered, no. What struck me though, as he was asked this and was replying, he lit up a cigarette.
In the studio.
Live on TV.
It really took me a few minutes to process this as it isn’t something you see anymore. I mean, I knew places like Denmark, Germany and France were bastions for smokers but this, this was on another level.
If that was somewhat shocking (to me at least) in 2000, imagine someone going onto the 7:30 Report, or the Project or any sort of live interview situation, chat away with the host, answer questions then, right in the middle of an answer, casually reach into a pocket, take out a smoke and light up. On live TV.
The outcry! The horror! The front-page headlines!
So I imagine. Or not. Perhaps nothing would happen. Perhaps the host would be so taken aback themselves, that it never gets mentioned. Or perhaps you never even get as far as lighting up. Perhaps security come to take you out.
Or perhaps nothing happens at all. Maybe I’m placing too much stock in my own reactions 16 years ago and people might really still be too jaded to care. Or maybe the smoker themselves might be too intimidated to light up in studio.
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
I’d love to see it though. Just to see what happens.
You know when you see something out of the corner of your eye and you’re sure it’s nothing, but then you turn around and it turns out to be something?
Yeah, me too.
So, at work today, Mike comes up and tells me all about his weekend. How he drank jugs and ended up spending $160 just on beer, then came home, laughed for half an hour at his shoe, fell onto the couch and couldn’t get up, but made sure to tell me that he didn’t throw up; not even once.
Good on ya Mike, you’re definitely not a loser.
I don’t know what I am anymore. I’m not 100% sure I ever really knew what I was. I certainly know what I’ve become but I’m just not sure it’s what I am or has made me what I am.
I know that what I’ve done, not many would agree with and I can argue black and blue that I’ve done what I’ve done for the right reasons but, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m a bag of dicks. I know it, I accept it but – and here’s the real dickish part – I’m not going to change. Not because I like who I am. I loathe who I am. I hate myself utterly. If I met myself in a bar, I’d punch me into a coma.
I’m not going to change, simply because I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care about me, I don’t care about you; I don’t care about anyone or anything. I don’t like people and people don’t like me. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s what I like.
I’m not saying I shouldn’t have done things differently with my wife and kids; indeed, there is probably myriad ways I could’ve handled the situation. The point is, I just didn’t care. About how they felt, or about how I should feel about how they felt. All I cared about was myself. And you could quite cogently argue that that attitude shows a profound self-love and it would be hard to dispute the fact. Selfishness is always the greatest love. But I’m still prepared to argue that I left them alone for their greater good. I was, after all, out of their lives well before I left. I just made it official. And I certainly didn’t leave them destitute. Though, of course, money is beside the whole point.
Or is it? Did not having to struggle financially really ease the burden? My wife still had to bring up two young kids on her own. Did the fact that she didn’t have to work make that easier? Some parts, I would say yes. But, then again, I would say that, wouldn’t I?
The awful truth is, I don’t care if it made it any easier or not – leaving made things easier for And I can argue till I’m blue in the face that what I chose to do was the right thing.
I’m still a bag of dicks.
While I’m in this key, let’s go back a little – to the part where I believe in destiny.
If that’s true – and it is – then I can’t possibly have done anything else but leave. Not only was that my destiny, but also my wife’s and the girls’. So, while I still feel like a bag of dicks, and still should be considered as such, I was always going to be. It could not have come about in a different way. All my decisions, yes, but all decisions that were inevitable I would make.
A long time ago (oh God it was a long time ago) I wanted to be a musician – you might recall me mentioning. But I couldn’t play an instrument or write songs. Well, that’s not strictly true. I could play guitar, rudimentally, and I did write a few songs. One or two that I even thought were pretty good. So I practiced them a bit, then place an ad for other musicians who might be interested. I had a very rough demo and a phone number and I waited. And waited. And waited. I had that ad out for six months and got NOT ONE CALL. Not even a polite enquiry. Why? Because it wasn’t my destiny to be a musician and there wasn’t a thing I could do to influence it either way. It was never meant to be.
Same for my books. Yes, they’re all out there to read but, I’ve sold six of them in two years. Not exactly a reason to quit my job. Not my destiny.
It was my destiny to be a complete bag of dicks and I have done it so well, I should be given some sort of award. Sure, the life I live now exactly the one I wanted and I don’t find it too shabby but still….
Who are you? Who the fuck are you, really? If you don’t know who you are by now, with all this alone time to try to figure it all out; will you ever really know? Will you ever be able to look in the mirror and declare, that’s me! That’s really fucking me! Is it important to know?
In the inherent reality of all things, does it really matter who we are? Is it crucial to our everyday living?
Well, yeah. Look at our lives; we eat, we sleep, we work, we fuck, we play, we partner up, we partner down, we procreate, we have no partner at all, but do we really know what this means? To us?
Less than 3% - imagine that - 3%, do. It’s why we’re all so fucking crazy. It’s why we put ourselves into religion, or politics or even sports. It’s why we hate to get up in the morning, it’s why we eye the clock at work, it’s why we look at our wives, husbands, friends, kids and think - what the fuck? How did I fuck my life so completely? IT WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE THIS WAY.
The lucky 3% don’t suffer this. They wake in the morning and think, fuck yeah, I’m alive. When things go wrong, it isn’t a stress, because there is always the plan. When things go right, it isn’t because of luck, or chance, it’s because of the plan.
But, how do you get onto the plan? How do you get to move from the 97% to the 3%, thereby increasing that low percentage and helping others to see that it can be done?
By knowing who you are. When you know who you are, that’s all you have to work for. When you know who you are, you can never do the wrong thing. When you know who you are – even when you’re not happy – you know it won’t last. When you know who you are, YOU KNOW WHO YOU FUCKING ARE AND YOU NEVER NEED TAKE A BACKWARD STEP AGAIN.
But how do you know you know who you are? Well, that’s as easy and as complex as being in love. You know when you’re in love. In real love; not an infatuation, not in lust; in real love. You don’t question it, you just know. The same goes for us – we ALL KNOW who we are. Some of us can’t accept it, some of us won’t accept it and the rest completely ignore what they’re being told but, WE ALL KNOW. We all know EXACTLY who we are. Once you acknowledge that you know who you are, the rest is easy. Only the decision is hard – what are you NOT willing to do, to fulfill your own self? If the answer is that there is nothing that I’m not willing to do – congratulations – you’ve just become 4%. If your answer is anything less than this – bummer dude. You lose.
So I say again, if this is not right – and it increasingly seems like you’re falling into this hole – then who the fuck are you?
I’m a little concerned; the storm feels like it’s passed over. I can’t remember the last time a wave crashed into the door and, if it’s still raining, I can’t hear anything.
I’m a little afraid to look outside. What if I don’t like the view?
School tomorrow. Must make sure that Syd’s uniform is washed and ready.
I find the differing writing methods of writers fascinating. Stephen King likes to write with loud music on; some AC/DC or something like that. Bukowski liked to write with the radio tuned to some classical. Kerouac liked to write to jazz, when he wasn’t writing ‘on the run’ as it were. Sylvia Plath was a bit like me – she liked silence.
I like silence or abstract. I can’t write with vocal music on, especially anything that might be a favourite. I get too engrossed with the music. I listen. And if I’m listening, I’m not writing.
I have to write either in complete silence, or with something more abstract. For instance, at the moment, I’m listening to one of the CD’s from the Amplify Festival box set, 2002. More specifically, I’m listening to Keith Rowe/Marcus Schmickler/Thomas Lehn. I do like this music to listen to but I really like it to write to. It’s not so distracting that I get carried away but it’s not so involving that I can’t listen and write at the same time. It’s nice to have something there, so I’m aware of doing the job.
It’s also good timing wise as, once the CD is over, I know I’ve written for 70 minutes and I can now go do something else.
Oh yeah, I LOVE writing.
I’ve said before that you see some weird shit out here, all alone. Have I mentioned mermaids?
I have a verandah that runs the entire outside of the house and a chair and table set up, so I can drink gin from my still and watch the clouds go by. It seems like, after you’ve had a couple of drinks, that weird shit starts to happen.
There I was, minding my own business (coz what else the fuck can I do?) when, a little way off in the distance, I see a swimmer. Not hugely in the distance; close enough to know it’s not something else.
Naturally enough, I think – what the fuck? Because; what the fuck? How did a swimmer get out there? Why is a swimmer out here? There are no boats even close that aren’t mine; the nearest island is almost a day away – wouldn’t you be thinking what the fuck?
I’m assuming, because of course, that this person has maybe fallen overboard off a cruise ship or something and is hoping, beyond all hope, to find some sort of land.
You’re in luck, I think to myself, so I yell out – hey! Hey!! Are you alright? Do you need help? Well yeah, of course he needs help, he’s in the middle of the fucking ocean, nimrod.
I’m yelling and jumping up and down and waving my arms like a madman and, sure enough, he sees me. Now, he wasn’t close enough for me to know that he was a he but I found out pretty quickly, as soon will you.
He sees me waving and comes stroking over and the first thing I notice, is how powerful his stroke is and how fast he moved toward me. Like he’d only just jumped into the water. (As a matter of declaration, I have to say that I’d had another glassful by then. But I wasn’t drunk, you understand)
The second thing I notice, when he reaches me and just sort of, floats there, is that he’s completely naked. And it was pretty easy to tell that, even through the water. This guy was built; I mean, he wouldn’t have been embarrassed to shower in the change rooms, if you get my drift and I’m sure you do.
So he’s swum up to the house now and he’s about a metre from my front door and I have a real good look at him. He looked kind of like Alain Delon but, you know, in the water.
I bend down and offer my hand to bring him aboard; I mean, that’s what he’s swum over for, right? But he doesn’t take it.
Are you ok? I ask. Do you want to come in; I can call for help?
But he doesn’t answer. He just floats there looking at me.
Nothing happens for a minute or two; we just look at each other.
I try again – can I help you? He keeps looking at me, then looks at the glass in my hand, then looks at me again. He mimes the ‘drinky-drinky; sign.
What the fuck?
He mimes it again.
I look at my hand. The fucker wants a drink? I shrug and go get him a glass.
He takes the glass; holds it up to the light, takes a sniff and knocks it all back in one go! And, remember, he’s doing all this
I’m a bit gobsmacked by this time. He places the glass on my verandah and looks up at me again. And he’s fucking smiling! He’s fucking smiling at me, like I’ve done him a God damn favour!
I offer my hand once more; he reaches up, shakes my hand, and dives under. About thirty seconds later – and I swear this is no lie – he comes up a good 1 to 1 and a half kilometers away from my house. I could not believe it. He waves to me; I wave back. Then he dives under again and I have not seen him since.
That was five years ago.
Carry your grief Howard; carry it into the unknown territory that is described as determination. Carry it Howard, for no man may pass this on in recklessness to another. No man may feed this to another, nor shunt it out to clean as woman’s work.
My name is not Howard, by the way.
What makes a good man? In theory, this should be as difficult to answer as what makes a good woman. Or a good song. Or a good movie. All opinions differ. Except the opinion of what makes a good man.
What makes a good man seems to be annoyingly universal. One who treats his partner right. One who treats his kids right. One who can help pay the bills; help with the housework; help with the child raising. One who doesn’t fuck around on his partner, or beat them, or abuse them. One who isn’t at the pub constantly, or off with his mates all the time, or is in other ways, not present with family.
But is any of this actually what makes a good man? Isn’t all of the above merely what makes a man?
I’m not a good man; this isn’t even my original idea. I’m merely referencing Clementine Ford and her wonderful book – Fight like a Girl – but I’m doing that because I think the point is worth repeating and repeating again – a good man is not just someone who doesn’t beat their partner, looks after their kids and hold a job – all that (and more) should be a given. This should be how a man just is – the bar should not have to be set so low.
So what is it that makes a good man – a really good man? That should be harder to answer; and it is, because no one really knows.
I liked to think of myself as a good man; as I removed myself from a situation that was turning me into a bad man; or, in this day and age, a man. I didn’t want to be angry anymore; I didn’t want to be resentful anymore. Most of all, I didn’t want to be that guy. I didn’t want to be the guy who might as well be dead to his family while living with them.
Of course, I’m not a good guy, not at all. I have, unwittingly, become that guy. The guy who has to hurt others to get the thing he wants. The guy who barely gives a rat’s about other’s feelings, so long as he’s ok.
I’m no better than the drunkest wife-beater.
I’m no better than a paedophile.
When women say they want equality with men, I’m not sure what they’re talking about. There isn’t a man alive who is the equal of a woman.
Of course, I know there’s equality and there’s equality. And of course, I want there to be equal pay for equal work; that rape culture is crushed under the heel where it belongs; that women are able to get into positions of power and influence as easily as men; that my daughters can walk down the street without feeling they’re being leered at; that the whole notion of patriarchy and misogyny is torn down, burnt and the ashes shot into space, never to return.
But men being the equal of women? Never happen my friend, never happen.
Men will never have women’s strength; they’ve never been tempered in the fire like women have. And not some women; all women.
I remember living with a bloke whose name I forget and we were talking some of this one night. He was telling me that, in this course he was doing at school, the question came up – who has more power – men or women? He immediately shot his hand up and said – men. When asked why, he said, well because men can always – and with this, he smacked his fist into his palm. And he said that everyone agreed, yes it must be so. Even the women.
I knew he was wrong but I didn’t say anything; one, because I was so angry and two, because I couldn’t think of a good comeback.
What I should have said was, yes, but that’s just strength, not power. Besides, I know plenty of women I wouldn’t tangle with down a dark alley. I also know plenty of women who just wouldn’t take that kind of shit. Cricket bats really fucking hurt.
Whether this would have made any difference or just created a bigger argument is impossible to say, as I didn’t say it, because I was too weak.
Men might have strength but women have true power. It seems to me – and I could be totally wrong about this – but it seems to me that women are too afraid to use their power.
Men know this and it’s why we make it so hard for you. Because we know that, when you do wise up and take control of your power (and it will happen in my lifetime) we men are fucked.
So no, I’m not a good man. And I don’t know what makes a truly good man.
But fuck I hope we learn soon, coz we’re going to need one.
One knock. Two. Three. Harder now; a pounding really.
Hey mister, have you got a dead cat in there?
What the fuck?
I’ve had no contact with anyone for twelve years. Since I moved out here. And you know what? It’s fucking fantastic.
I hate people. I know I mentioned earlier that I hate white people but, in truth, I hate everyone.
I know I said I’m a racist and misogynist but really, I just hate everyone. I hate people. All people.
We’re a disease. We’re a fucking cancer on the earth.
I recently watched Kingsman and you know, I had to back Samuel L Jackson’s bad guy. The world needs a good culling. Of us. I wasn’t into his whole, saving the best for last scenario but I was fully behind the, spread something that will kill us. We need another black plague; a world-wide one. Not just confined to England or America but a truly global pandemic.
Oh my God this world needs to be culled. I really do hope that North Korea completely loses its shit and launches some weapons for real; I’ll be first in line to take hit.
Ok; this isn’t particularly amazing but it was at the time. The story of my only real psychic prediction.
In around 1980 or ’81, Bert Newton hosted a show call, I think, The Money or the Box. Its premise revolved around contestants being asked questions and, if they got them right, they got to choose from cash or a box. What was in the box ranged from pretty cheap to quite expensive – holidays and cars and the like.
I can’t remember whether it was on every night or once a week but we watched it pretty religiously. Though not knowing how often it was on negates that assertion. Still, if it was on, we watched it.
The main fun of the show, was trying to guess the prizes in the box. And this is where my one, successful ESP comes into play.
Bert was being his usual Bertie self; self-deprecating, charming and professional all at once. A female contestant had just picked a box, Bert looked inside and had offered her some money. I can’t remember how much but I don’t think it was a great deal. Not yet at least.
It’s something big, said my mum and I immediately followed up with, it’s the grand piano; one of the bigger prizes.
I don’t know why but I knew it was the grand piano. I didn’t ‘see’ anything as such, I just knew, it’s the grand piano.
Mum didn’t believe me. It’s not that but it is something big, she kept saying.
It’s the grand piano, I said.
Bert kept offering money. The contestant kept the box.
It’s the grand piano, I’m telling you.
Bert offered more money.
Don’t take it, it’s the grand piano.
Cut to commercial.
It’s definitely something big, said mum.
I sighed and said, I’m telling you, it’s the grand piano.
Now, even though I knew it was the grand piano, obviously, I didn’t know. I knew there was a better than even chance that I was wrong and yet, I knew it was the grand piano. I never, out loud, wavered in that belief.
Back to the show. Bert offered one last chance for the money – a not inconsiderable sum but much less than a piano – and the woman declined yet again.
Bert took out the card, smiling. He read: a grand piano.
I’d never seen such a look of abject horror on my mother’s face as she turned to me then. Like I was really a freak.
Told you it was the grand piano.
Naturally enough, I’ve never been able to repeat this feat of precognition. I won’t be after James Randi’s one million anytime soon.
Got an email from Syd last night.
Why did you have to be such a fuck wit?
How do you answer that? With the truth, of course but, how do you answer that?
I haven’t heard from either of the girls for nine years and now?
How do you answer that?
Sorry, I should stop writing in the second person; you don’t have to know how to answer that. How to I answer that?
Why did I have to be such a fuck wit? I’ve never really explained to the girls why I left. I never thought I mattered to them. I certainly never thought my decision mattered. Not in the long run.
So how wrong was I? About a million shades of fucked up, it appears.
Why did I have to be such a fuck wit?
The only real answer; the only truthful one, is selfishness. I want to be alone. I need to be alone.
But is that enough for a 15-year-old? Is that enough for a 40-year-old?
Selfishness is a pretty crap excuse. Not reason, excuse. But I’ll still argue the point that it’s better than me emailing back to say that it’s because I wish you were never born and I’d never got married. Which isn’t entirely true either but, and forgive me if I mentioned this elsewhere, I can’t be bothered checking; if I were given the choice to re-live my life, knowing what I know now, and never get married or have kids, I’m not entirely sure I wouldn’t take it. I’m also not entirely sure that, if I did take it, my life wouldn’t have turned out exactly the same anyway.
I don’t wish for the death of my wife and daughters; that would be, in no way, a fair deal. Nor do I wish they’d never been born. What I wish is, that they’d never got involved with . The girls had never been born to
But I couldn’t write that to Syd; she’s confused enough as is. I needed to write something honest, something heartfelt and something that, at least, went some way to explaining my decision.
So what did I write?
That’s right, I didn’t even reply. Deleted her email and didn’t save her address.
I figured it’s better she thinks I’m a fuck wit and a loser, rather than confirming it.
Some great father.
Some great fucking human being.
The storm – what’s happened to the storm? Has it passed over at last? Is the worst yet to come?
I can’t remember the last time I heard a chop, or a crash, or even a scream of wind. Still, I’m a little nervous to open the shutters – I might not like what I see. I might not like it at all.
Did you know that I’ve self-published 18 books? This will make 19. All of them e-books and all of them free. You can also buy them as hard copy, real-in-your-hand books but, that’s mainly just for me. Just so I can have them on the shelf.
I have some readers but I don’t think I have what one would seriously call ‘fans.’ I have some people interested in reading bits of my books but I’m not sure anyone has read all the way through any of them. Maybe a couple of the poetry books.
Why am I telling you this? I don’t know; maybe to show that my waste of a life hasn’t always been a complete waste.
Look, I’m under no delusions that my books are only glanced at because they’re free. I know that if I put a price on them, no one would give a fuck.
How do I know?
Well, my books are also available for purchase as books. In the three years I’ve been doing this, I’ve sold six. At least, six that I haven’t personally purchased. NOT freaking the literary establishment out.
Seriously, if I didn’t already have 50 million dollars, I might actually question my continuation with this activity.
I remember when I was only a few pages into this and I kept thinking – do I stop here? Is this another one of my feeble attempts at the novel?
I’m a terrible novel writer and I don’t just mean my poor sentence construction and lack of an identifiable plot. Let alone my dearth of talent in constructing believable characters. I mean I’m terrible at writing novels.
I have a drawer full of started projects, of varying lengths, subject and genre. But all of them have one thing in common; they run for 10,000 words or so, then peter out. I just haven’t been able to sustain the momentum.
My one novel that I cling to is still barely over 30,000 words and took me two years to write. But I had to keep going.
Because it drew me in. It propelled me forward. I couldn’t let it go – even though I tried.
And I finished it. Not a very long novel – a novella really – but I finished it.
My other wasted exercises in novels? They didn’t draw me in. I got bored with them. They didn’t sustain my interest enough, in wanting to see how it all ends. And if I can’t keep myself interested, then how can I possibly keep a reader on the hook?
I have no scales on my eyes, I know how hard it is to write a novel. You don’t go to sleep and wake up with a perfect 30,000 words at the foot of your bed. Writing a novel is hard graft; you have to sit there and watch the hours go by until you have a few sentences on paper (or computer/laptop, if you aren’t a Luddite) that don’t make you cringe completely. And maybe I should have sat with these other novel attempts to really see if they might go anywhere.
But the real difference between this and my other completed novel and all the attempts? I’m interested in this, so I go on.
I don’t really think there’s any point in going on with something, just for the sake of it.
It’s like reading a book. I used to have to finish every book I started, regardless of how much I was or wasn’t enjoying it; simply because I thought I was cheating the author out of their effort. They were good enough to get something published; I should be good enough a reader to find out why.
Now though? If you don’t have me in six pages, you’re done for. Honestly, if you’re a writer and you can’t sustain someone’s interest – even enough just to satisfy their curiosity of will it get better? – for six pages, then what’s the point of you sitting down to write?
I know it’s pretty subjective; how do you know you’re interesting someone for six pages? Well – you know. The writer. If it interests you for six pages, it’ll interest someone else. Not everyone, for sure, but someone. If it doesn’t interest you for six pages? Give it up.
I have this rule of six for every creative thing now. I call it The Seinfeld Principle, as it took me six episodes before I really got that show. It then became one of my favourites. I’ve used the rule of six for everything ever since.
Six episodes of a TV show.
Six pages of a book.
Six songs on a record/CD.
Six minutes of a movie.
Six songs from a live band or six minutes of a comedian.
Six works of an artist.
Of course, it doesn’t always follow that I’ll need six of anything to like something, but I always give six to something that hasn’t grabbed me immediately.
Try it. It will NOT steer you wrong.
Do you think we should…. you know?
I know what?
You know, call the police?
Well, it stinks in there for a start; it’s affecting the whole block.
Yeah, that’s true. The police though?
Well, if he’s keeping dead animals in there, who the fuck knows what else he’s doing?
Oh what, you think he’s a serial killer? Grow up.
How do we know he’s fucking not?
Have you seen the news lately? Any reports of missing kids around here? Any reports of missing anyone?
Well, no but….
The smell has to be from something.
That we agree on. Look, how about this? We catch him as he comes home from work and talk to him about it. Maybe he has no sense of smell or something. Maybe he doesn’t even notice the stink.
Yeah, maybe. Seems pretty doubtful but…I suppose.
Ok then. If we can’t reason with him, we’ll get the police involved then.
Ok yeah, all right. What time does he get home from work?
I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. I’m not listening. 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I’M NOT LISTENING!
When I first moved out of home I lived in a block of flats. I never liked it and never got used to it. I think that’s why I like living out here so much. No one around.
At the flat, I felt like I was living on top of people and – I suppose in truth – I actually was. There wasn’t a day that went by that I couldn’t hear TVs, radios, arguing, fucking, talking, drinking and cooking.
I could especially smell the cooking.
One guy, every night at 5pm, would cook something that – I swear – smelled like a dead animal of some sort. It would permeate the whole block and you would have trouble just trying to breathe.
I saw him cooking this shit once, as I looked through his window. His kitchen window looked out onto the stairs up to my flat and he always had it open.
He caught my eye and, I sort of, half waved. He looked right through me and went on cooking his brown looking, dead cat smelling, casserole. I’m assuming it was a casserole. God knows how he could eat it. And no, this isn’t a racist thing, for a change. This guy was as white and Anglo Saxon as me. He must not have had any sense of taste, or smell.
Some of us tried to talk to him about it but, he never answered his door. We thought about calling the cops but, in the end, decided against it.
What if he was a serial killer? He sure didn’t look right when I waved at him that one time.
Heh, heh, heh.
It’s quite peaceful out here at night. For one thing, you don’t have a million crickets going off outside. Not too many birds fly out this way either, so no gulls screeching at the last light of day. No bats either.
Most nights, it’s just the gentle lap of the waves and maybe some splashing from a passing whale or whatever. I don’t really go outside much at night. Never really been a night person.
My dad was the same. He could never stay up too late; he always preferred to get up early. We used to laugh at night because, whenever there was a movie on, ten minutes in – like clockwork – dad was snoring. It used to be the running joke that, this must be a good movie; dad’s asleep.
I’ve become much the same; especially now I’m older. I can no longer stay up too late and I always prefer to get up early, than to sleep in. I know it’s supposed to be more bohemian, or cool, or whatever shit to stay up all night and sleep the day away but I could never really get behind it.
Sure, I’ve done my share of all-nighters; even had a night-shift job at one stage but, as a life-style, I could never make it work. After an all-nighter, I’d be wrecked for the next week.
Besides, most of what you need to do occurs during the daylight hours. Work, as a for instance.
There’s not too many jobs you can do these days, that require you to stay up all night. Sure, you can be a musician, or writer, or an artist of some kind but, what if you’re not cut out for any of those things? But still like to stay up all night? What if you don’t want to be any of those things?
You could find work in a factory but, with manufacturing now going the way of the Tasmanian tiger, there’s precious little factory work left – let alone night factory work.
Security guard maybe?
Certainly a nurse or something in the health sector.
Policeman or Army perhaps?
I don’t know, I’m kind of struggling to think now. Be that as it may, if you really are a night person, then perhaps you’ll attune yourself to a career that involves night-shift.
Makes it hard for other things though. Shopping. Sports. Going out. Having a family?
But again, this is all my prejudice shining through. Because I can’t do it. So I’ve never really looked into the night side of life. There must be plenty of people that make it work. Not me; I’m a day person.
I think it’s because I’m actually quite afraid of the night. I like light. I like lots of light. I like to be able to see things. I like to know where I’m going.
I don’t ever remember a time when I was truly comfortable with the night. Not 100% sure why but night time has always made me feel uneasy. Everything bad happens at night. Not that anything bad has happened to me at night. I just get a bad feeling.
I’m always more comfortable in the day. It seems more – I don’t know, natural. Not that night isn’t but day just seems – to me – how things ought to be.
I’ve always wanted to go to St Petersburg for their White Nights. Not necessarily for the festival, just because there is so much daylight for a period of their summer. Though I suppose I could go to parts of Norway or Finland and experience the same thing.
I love the light
I love the light
I hate the night
I hate the night
But if you’ll excuse me, it’s now 3.55am and I really need to get some sleep.
It was just a dream. Of course it was just a dream.
As you may remember from a few chapters ago, I never really liked my mother. Yeah, I cried a lot and blah, blah. You know this already. So then, this happened.
Two to three days after her funeral, I was at home, by myself. It was a nice, sunny day and I was watching the cricket.
As an aside to this, I’m trying to think now of why the cricket was on. Mum died about a week after her birthday and her birthday was in July; the middle of winter. I should have been watching the football. But I distinctly remember watching the cricket. In the afternoon. Why were they playing cricket in the middle of winter? Was it an overseas match that happened to be shown? Or was this much longer after her funeral than I can remember? I’m still of the opinion that it wasn’t long after her funeral and, as I said, I distinctly remember the cricket being on. I guess the time line makes no great difference to the story.
Back to the point. It was a sunny day and I was watching the cricket. It was the middle of the afternoon and I was lying on the couch. Before I knew what was happening, I fell asleep.
This is where it gets a bit weird. I’m dreaming that I’m at home, by myself, on the couch, watching the cricket. I’m dreaming that I’m in the very house I’m living in. And who comes around the corner?
Mum. She’s dressed in a white robe, with green and red flecked (Lining? Flashing? Ticking? The dressmakers will know what I’m trying to describe) on the sleeves and the V-neck of her robe. I can still see it, plain as day.
She’s coming toward me, smiling. It’s not creepy and I’m not afraid. She’s holding her arms in front, as though wanting a hug. I don’t get up to hug her. I do get up from the couch and sit on the end though. I only say one thing to her, have you seen your dad? Mum’s dad died just before I was born, at almost the same age as she was when she died. She says nothing.
So far, so dreamy. The thing I find a little difficult to explain is the cricket.
You see, I was watching the cricket before I fell asleep; this you know. In my dream, I am still watching the cricket. I remember feeling really tired, like I was struggling to wake up. I watch a wicket fall. When I wake up, still lying on the couch, they were celebrating the fall of the wicket I’d just watched in my dream.
I can’t really explain it, but I’m going to try. Maybe I was in some sort of trance and the memory of my mother was subliminally triggered somehow. Maybe I was actually still semi-awake but dreaming as well. Maybe, and this seems the most unlikely answer, maybe it was an out-of-body experience. Probably, I was just asleep enough to dream, but just awake enough to still hear the cricket and incorporated that into the dream. That seems pretty logical, on the face of it.
I don’t know why I was dreaming of my mother. I wasn’t missing her; I hadn’t even been thinking of her.
The mind works how the mind works.
Looks like the storm has, kind of, petered out. I finally took the plunge and opened one shutter.
Clear blue sky; calm blue ocean; bright yellow sun. Not a breath of wind to be felt; no waves, no churning, no foaming. I’ve not heard, or felt, such peace out here for a while. I mean; yeah, normally it’s pretty peaceful but, this is something different. Something real. Something, dare I say it, unusual.
I feel content. I feel, as I said, at peace. Like everything has come to this point in time and I no longer have to question, or doubt, or argue.
The storm has come. I first saw it and shuddered. I saw it and thought, oh shit. I saw it and wondered if the house could indeed survive. I was hopeful. I was 90%. But I wasn’t sure.
Now look at me. Storm has gone. The worst is over. The nightmare has been woken from. No more fretting, no more hoping, no more praying. The storm has been and I have survived.
What’s left to deny?
The first night I was out here was one I’ll never forget. I thought I had everything pretty well planned. I thought I’d prepared for every conceivable emergency. Turned out, I was wrong.
Even though the house is anchored to the floor of the sea by concrete, chains and all sorts of other shit; there’s a rocking that I wasn’t expecting.
Now, whether this was a true rocking, or just my eyes following the waves, or something else entirely, I really don’t know. The engineer who designed the house and the anchoring assured me that no such rocking could take place. Anything I felt would all be in my mind and I should just concentrate on that and any rocking feeling would simply disappear.
He was wrong.
I get terrible motion sickness. So much so that, I threw up in the theater watching Titanic. I lost it when the ship started to go down. It wasn’t even a rocking motion on the screen, I just kept imagining how awful the rocking would be on a sinking ship.
So my first night, you better believe I felt rocking. Only gentle at first; nothing really. Then, a bit of a wind picked up and I felt like the whole house was moving up and down, like a broken elevator. I was standing when I felt it and I thought, no, it’s ok, I can do this. Then I stepped forward.
It was like I was running on two treadmills at the same time – one a bit higher than the other. I couldn’t figure out the right time to put my foot down and ended up falling over a lot. I should have stayed down.
Unfortunately, I needed to keep moving – to the toilet. I knelt down awkwardly and smashed my chin against the porcelain. Nothing broken but fuck it hurt. Not enough for my stomach though.
I can’t remember exactly what time I passed out, but pass out I did. I certainly didn’t fall asleep.
I woke with my head on my arms and a toilet full of some of the worst smell since my days in the flat. Naturally enough, it set me off for another bout but, after that, I pulled myself into some sort of control.
I flushed the mess away, cleaned up as best I could and went out onto the verandah.
What a storm! The waves were pounding, the wind screaming and I got absolutely soaked within thirty seconds. I was mesmerized.
It was only later – upon reflection – that I realised I hadn’t felt what should have been serious movement before I went outside. There really was no rocking.
Watched Titanic on the TV a couple of weeks ago.
Still threw up in the same damn spot.
The smell had been there for a week; we had no choice really but to call the police.
It wasn’t as though we didn’t try talking to the guy, he just wouldn’t answer his door. And none of us remember seeing him go to or from the block. Bit of a recluse, it seems.
Well, the cops came. Knocked on the door.
Started pounding. No answer. Finally, broke down the door.
Shit, how long’s he been dead?
©David Francis Jeffery 2017
Other books by David Francis Jeffery on Shakespir include:
No truth to the rumour
Reporting from the Bombsite
Another 50 Haiku
The Cardboard Writings
Falling Houses on a Tightrope Journey
The light beside the reading chair is weeping
Letters to the Sunday Age
Like a red rose named defeat
You’re going to laugh at this
All these ebooks are available on the Shakespir website.
Thoughts, remarks, insults and death threats to: [email protected]
Number three in the Particlism Novel series. Mostly short chapters but a couple of old-fashioned, long form chapters in there as well. A man leaves his wife and family to live alone on the ocean and contemplates his life as a massive storm approaches. Or it could be about something else; you're free to make up your own mind on it.