Wow! For this update, got an idea it’s me ‘n u ‘n maybe even ‘im ‘n ‘er now….not actually sure about ‘im ‘n ‘er. Oh well, me ‘n u’s fine, getting a bit crowded, but exciting because it means ‘dear me’ is out, hi hozitgoin’ is in! So…
Today, blog # three, it’s mostly about my writing. Oh yeah, and my mullet, of course. Hmm, maybe get number two over first. Won’t take long! Poor undernourished thing will be spending quite some time yet sheltering amongst the mangrove roots. I’m almost sure John West cans ‘n cooks bigger fry. Still, with summer just around the corner, and supposedly yet another La Nin͂a, perfect growing conditions under a grimy skid-lid.
Haven’t mentioned this yet. I have a completed novella manuscript gathering dust these past two years. Titled ‘Gypsy Wheat’, it’s outback faction – a collaborative, metaphorical journey signposted with occasional fable-like chapter prefaces – lotsa fun and irreverence. And a happy ending! But… ain’t life a bitch! Pivotal backstory reminds us that even on the sunniest of days, you can catch the ragged edge of a cloud.
Just reread all that now. Did I say writing? Sounds like the 6.30 weather report and conditions on the bay for fisho’s! Oh well. The good news, ‘GW’ is now in the hot little hands of an editor. Won’t say who just in case this person feels less inclined to say it’s crap.(Pssst… Hope he/she enjoys jigsaw-puzzles – y habla un poco Español!)
Last, but not least….got a minute? Ok, maybe ten, if like me you’ve put your damned times 2.5’s down somewhere safe and … Doesn’t matter, got all day in here. Then you won’t have to squint for a taste of ‘Dreamin’ Longa Baaka’ – two of the ten pages or so that preface Chapter One. Enjoy.
Til next time, Steve.
A path grown ever darker,
‘til I’m dreamin’ longa Baaka
Morisset Asylum, 16/2/1993
It’s been a long day. But the worst is yet to come. There’s a certain something reminiscent of public amenities, wafting along the dimly lit corridor as we follow behind our two guides. Pine-o-clean? Ajax? Piss-trough deodorisers; those icy hockey-pucks we men try to melt with our piss streams? Whatever. There’s a hush too, heavy with breaths withheld; broken only by the squelch of rubber on gleaming linoleum. With an effort, I push off a feeling of dread. Hospitals, I tell myself. But it remains, deep in my groin. This ain’t no ordinary hospital!
My brother seems docile enough, limping along beside his mother. It’s the medication, residual medication; Melleril, Valium, Modecate, whatever they could ethically prescribe, I’m sure, as the night drew on; the chemical straitjacket that enabled us to hold him post-sentencing sans prison bars. It’s the back of his head I see. Nevertheless, despite the resultant confusion and lethargy, his darting eyes are a given. A cat’s at night, pupils dilated, whiskers sensitised for the slightest wind-shift, they’ll see a trap at every doorway, every twist and turn of events.
Dad clears his throat like he does when he’s nervous, and directs a passable fish-face my way. It’s what he does, what he’s always done. Fart noises with his mouth and the palm of his hand, flatulent symphonies reminiscent of saliva-soaked trombones and wetly defecating balloons for as far back as I can remember. Or fish-lips. Cross-eyed, he’s bobbed his head like a chook with poppy chihuahua peepers; ignominious and yet so at home in such a place. It’s an overgrown nuthouse after all. Dad knows I can do nothing else but smile back, shaking my head. It’s just what we both needed, and on we go. His steps match mine: military; rear guard.
At the end of the corridor, I see the door the resident psych alluded to at the half-way house; the inch-thick mahogany One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest kind complete with a tippy-toes peephole, a tiny window to humanity’s waste-paper basket. The larger the door looms, the louder the screams of my imaginings; a chaotic bedlam of straitjackets, electro-convulsive therapy and white coats.
Replaying in my head is the psychiatrist’s quiet, paternal patience. ‘It’s the point at which we take charge’, he says, unable to hide the myriad possibilities, unable to look Mum in the eye. It’s a short interview, but already he knows. There’s Mum, Dad and son, the two men towering over their precious rock, and yet he correctly sees in her the monarch of the forest. But he also sees the mistletoe with its delicate red bells that, like a cancer, has dulled the splendour of her canopy. And the weeping sap-hardened scars on her trunk; past tragedies that never quite healed. He shudders at the scene that will play out at the mahogany door. Oh, how trifling, he thinks, the itch of a tiny, bloated tick against an ocean of motherly love, oh how cavernous the wound upon extraction. Nevertheless, with his signature already dried upon her youngest son’s ‘Inebriates Order’, the scene is set.
The unlocking of the door alarms Chris. Perhaps it’s not been lost on him that our two guides are burley chaps, broad shoulders and bulging hammies not quite hidden beneath loose-fitting hospital greys. Mum soothes, catching hold of his elbow like she does. ‘It’s to make you better, Crick,’ and ’We’ll come and visit.’ It’s the plan. The moment he crosses the threshold, she’ll do what she’s been told to do. She’ll take a step backward and we’ll huddle, anxious and hopeful. But we’ve come too far.
At first, it seems OK. But there’s always the worry that there’s been other hopefuls, fingers crossed before stripping off for their dose of Zyklon B. Then all at once, it’s mayhem. With an apologetic glance, the shorter man quickly whoomps the door in our faces; the swoosh of the hydro-damper suggestive of horror; the metallic clunk of the deadbolt, sset, such that the combined woosh-ka screams horror-sset, god-like in my head, For a micro-sec I teeter, wondering if they got the right bloke. On the other side, there’s protest and muted anger; thumps and thuds and muffled shouts as they begin to manhandle him, dragging him bodily.
Within seconds, he’s broken free to jam his tortured face against the porthole. There’s a purpling bruise above his left eye. Mum and Dad don’t know the half yet; the midnight toilet scene, men’s ward, second floor Manning Valley District Hospital where he toppled like a rag doll, smacking his head against the metal cistern.
‘It was you, Steve, wasn’t it?’ he bellows, barely audible; nico-stained fingers clawing at the glass, ‘Fuckin’ affidavits, fuckin’ lyin’ cunt! Mum, Mum, I’ll fuckin’ die in here. You don’t know what you …’
I have Mum’s arm. Dad has the other, hugging her close with all six-foot-two of his bulk, shielding her so that she doesn’t see. But it’s too late. It’s a rictus of sheer terror and agony that she will never shake loose from. For myself, I’m happy to be my brother’s whipping board if only to lessen her pain. In my head is the magistrate’s benevolence: ‘Three months, Christopher, ninety days. You would be well advised to see this judgement as a watershed, and use the time wisely. Then and only then will loved ones and indeed society welcome you back unconditionally.’
Three months, I’m thinking – hoping – as we all stagger, emotionally drained, into dazzling sunshine: the old “Newk” back, the smiling, happy-to-play-the-fool one of our memories, the one that’s swapped five dollar-a-pop Sunnyvale casks for metered doses of lithium and worship at the local AA, and left his anger behind the dreaded, mahogany door. How wrong I was.