Sunday, March 28, 2010


The phone rang, and Michael, half asleep, stuck his hand out from underneath the quilt and felt around for the vibrating handset which he knew was somewhere on the floor.

‘m’hello?’ he said, his eyes still closed.

‘Are… are you sleeping?’ said the voice on the other end.

‘I was.’ He groaned and sat up. ‘What’s up?’

‘You know that Boat trailer I was telling you about?’

Michael rubbed his eyes and peered at the clock on his desk. ‘Oh for fuck’s sake, Phil, it’s 11am and it’s Saturday. Why are you even awake?’

‘I was up at 6am – already had five cups of coffee. Gotta keep moving, got things to do,’ said Phil. He made a clicking sound with his tongue. ‘Anyway, can you?’

Michael swung his legs over the side of the bed and rubbed his eyes with his right hand as he carelessly held the phone with his left. ‘Can I what? I just got up, man.’

‘Can you help me with this trailer thing?’

‘Trailer thing?’

‘Yeah, the Boat trailer. I need to go have a look at it before deciding whether to spend money on it or not.’

Michael walked over to his computer and turned it on – it wasn’t as if he was going to be able to sleep. ‘Can’t you just do that online?’

‘Nah, gotta see it in real life, full size. See if there are any problems with it.’

‘So why do you need me?’

‘Because you know about this sort of stuff. You’re good at spotting details and shit.’

Michael stared at the ceiling and scratched his stomach, turning the idea over in his head before making a decision. ‘Yeah, alright, I’ll give you a hand,’ he said as he tried pulling on a pair of jeans one-handed. ‘But you owe me lunch. Where are we going?’

‘Port Wakefield, see you in ten minutes!’
‘Port Wakefield? That’s two hundred kilometres away!’

There was a click as Phil ended the call.

‘That dirty bastard.’

Phil’s car was a clapped out shit-box with a custom exhaust. It sounded like a cement mixer full of nails and looked like it was held together with hopes and dreams, if dreams were made of duct tape and car bog. When Michael opened the passenger-side door it fell off. He was left holding the handle.

‘I see you bought a new handle,’ he said.

‘Yeah, it’s good, hey? Just slip the door back on its hinge could you?’ said Phil.

As Michael re-hanged the door Phil turned up the volume on his stereo.

‘GOT A NEW STEREO,’ he said.

‘I KNOW!’ said Michael, ‘IT DOESN’T HOLD THE DOOR ON!’




They both nodded at each other, content that the messages had got across. Michael slammed the now-fixed door and turned the music down as it had already rattled the rear-vision mirror free from its mount.

‘So why are we going to Port fucking Wakefield, man? Can’t you just be like a normal person and suss it out online or something? What new information are you going to gain by driving all the way out there?’ asked Michael.

‘Told you on the phone, man. I have to see it full-size, otherwise I won’t be able to make a wise purchase,’ replied Phil.

‘Remember, you’re buying me lunch.’


A short while later they were rattling along the highway, just shy of the speed limit. Michael stared out the window at the salt bush that dotted the landscape and tapped his foot to the music coming out of the stereo. Despite hating long car trips, he did like this part of the country – it was colourful, textured and interesting. The occasional dead tree dotted the landscape, every available branch weighed down with optimistic bird nests.

‘What do you suppose the birds think when they build those nests?’ Phil said, interrupting Michael’s day-dreaming.


‘The birds. What do you reckon they’re thinking when they build a nest out in the open like that?’

Michael looked out the window again and paused. ‘I reckon they’d be thinking “You’d have to be mad to drive to Port Wakefield to check out a trailer which you can look at from the comfort of your own home.’

Phil laughed. ‘Alright, fair call. But, really, what about the nests?’

‘The birds probably think “this is a nice spot to build a nest; lots of sticks for the frame, lots of saltbush for the mattress, lots of leaves to hide its position. Yes. This is a killer spot for a nest.” And then summer rolls around, all the leaves fall off the tree because it barely rains out here, and they say “awwww fuck. This is a stupid spot for a nest.” Then their wives leave them because of their poor decision-making skills. They then start hanging around dodgy pubs, drinking from the pools of spilled beer, quietly warbling their sorrows to anyone who might listen.’

Phil just stared at the road ahead. ‘That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.’

Michael stopped tapping his foot and turned the stereo down. ‘So what’s so important about this trailer? I still can’t believe I’m coming all this way out here to see it.’

‘It’s important. It’s a trailer for the Boat. You know how much I love the Boat, even though it isn’t ready to launch yet. I’ve spent heaps of time researching it, put heaps of energy into analysing every moment of its creation, and I just need this last piece of the puzzle to fall into place. I wanna start enjoying the Boat as soon as possible, so I need all the information I can get.’

Michael nodded and started tapping his hand on the window sill to the beat of the now-subdued music. A few seconds later the door fell off.

‘Please buy a new car, Phil,’ said Michael as they struggled to re-hang the door.

‘Why? There’s nothing wrong with this one,’ said Phil with a genuine look of shock on his face.

Michael stared at him, and then stared at the patchwork of repairs which covered the car. ‘Mad Max could’ve built a car better than this, man.’

‘Um, yeah. No shit?’ said Phil. ‘Mad Max is a genius.’

‘Mad Max is a character in a movie, mate,’ said Michael.

‘Yeah, I know. And he’s a genius.’ Phil bent down and examined the door. ‘I think the hinge is bent.’

‘Do you have any tools?’

‘Nah. Tools are for pussies.’

‘So we’re going to be here for another two hours?’

Phil scratched his chin with one hand and shielded his eyes from the sun with another. After a few seconds he pointed to some rocks a short way away.

‘Give me a hand moving those, could you?’

A few minutes later Phil had set up a makeshift anvil and was beating the daylights out of the damaged door with a large rock. He’d stop every couple of hits, assess the hinge, then beat on the door some more. Michael spent the time skipping pebbles across the road.

‘You’ll need to buy me two lunches. Good ones.’

‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ Bang. Bang. Bang. ‘I think it’s fixed. Give me a hand.’ They carried the door to the car and had it fitted in a couple of seconds. ‘See? Who needs tools when you’ve got a rock?’

‘People with better cars than yours, mate.’

An hour later they were nearing their destination - the change in landscape indicating they were close to the sea. Salt bush had given way to small shrubs and trees, and seagulls flew overhead. Michael marvelled at the effortlessness of their flight. ‘I think I’d like to be a seagull,’ he said.

‘Why?’ said Phil.

‘Because seagulls don’t ride around in shit-boxes like yours.’

‘That’s because seagulls can’t afford cars. They’re birds.’

They passed the ‘Welcome to Port Wakefield’ sign and slowed down. The car shuddered as the brakes engaged and the smell of burning brake pads filled the car.

‘I really hate this thing, Phil,’ said Michael.

‘Yeah, I gathered that.’

Phil eased into a petrol station a few kilometres down the road and switched the car off. ‘I’ll be back in two seconds with lunch.’

Sure enough, he was back a couple of minutes later with a couple of pies and a bucket of hot chips. He handed them to Michael and started the car. ‘We can eat them when we get there. We have plenty of time before it gets dark.’

‘This doesn’t count as one of the two lunches you owe me. This counts as dinner.’

‘No way!’

Michael just stared at Phil and pointed at the passenger-side door.

‘Oh, fine.’

They barely spoke as they waited in the car park of the only establishment left of its kind in the state. ‘Why do you suppose they closed places like this down, Mike?’

‘Because places like this are shit, Phil.’

‘How can you say that? Look at the size of this place!’

‘And look how empty it is. Seriously, why did you need to come out here to see this? You said you wanted to see it in ‘real life’, but this isn’t exactly ‘real life’, is it? I mean, come on, seeing it out here is exactly like seeing it at home.’

Phil scratched at a bit of rust on the car’s bonnet. ‘Nah, it’s not the same. If you look at the image online like you’re suggesting you’ll notice that it’s all shit. The image quality is terrible; you can’t make out any detail at all. You have to see it up-close on a big screen to get the full effect.’

Michael stretched out along the bonnet and up the windscreen. ‘I can’t believe I came out here to see this. This is mental. I swear, mate, if this movie trailer isn’t everything you’ve made it out to be, I’m going to be seriously pissed.’

Phil made himself comfortable on the car’s roof. ‘I sure hope they play it tonight.’

The lights dimmed, and the only sound that could be heard was Michael grinding his teeth.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Checkout Chick

Gary’s only purpose in life was to guard the east gate at Sydney International Airport. He had no wife, no kids, and no social life. He lived alone in a dingy one-bedroom unit at the end of the main runway and he’d lost all pigmentation in his skin because of nearly three years of nightshift work; he nearly glowed in the dark, his skin was that pale. The few friends he had never saw him due to his irregular nightshift schedule and he was staring down a tunnel without a metaphorical light shining at the end of it. He stared at his watch in the dim glow of the flickering lamp post.

‘And… there it is,’ he said as he watched the minute hand tick over to midnight. ‘Another Saturday night lost.’ He kicked at the empty Red Bull can he’d dropped on the ground moments earlier, emptied of its sleep-depriving glory. It was a tradition he’d maintained for a full year: drinking five cans of Red Bull before midnight every Saturday night, then kicking the empty cans down the stormwater drain by one o’clock the next morning. It wasn’t brain surgery, but it kept him occupied during his twelve-hour-long ‘how not to fall asleep while no one breaks in’ exercise.

By one o’clock the Red Bull cans had all skittered down the drain, making way for the next activity – throwing rocks at circling moths – which ran until 2 o’clock. Gary used this time to pretend he was a fighter pilot. He swooped around the lamp post and guard booth, arms spread wide, mouth making engine noises, before lining up for a strafing run. The area around his tiny booth was covered in fine white gravel, the sort one might put in a kitty litter tray, so he had ample ammunition to conduct his dogfight with. Despite all probability, the strafing game lasted until just before the sun came up which meant that Gary had to pretend to be alert as the first of the dayshift workers turned up to start their working day. He lifted the boom gate as they drove in, gave them a wan smile and a wave… and cursed their names under his breath as his fatigue-fogged brain started to shut down. When eight o’clock rolled around he swapped out with the dayshift guard, Steven, and made his way home via the supermarket.

Gary parked his car in the near-empty supermarket car park and winced as he got out of the car. His diet of crap food and energy drinks was catching up with him, especially in the stomach department, and the extra weight was taking its toll on his knees and back. By the time he reached the store’s automatic doors he’d walked off his limp and was moving more comfortably – perhaps spurred on by loosened joints, perhaps by the thought of his delicious impending purchases. He picked up a basket and strolled down the aisles, stocking up on the essentials: Red Bull, instant noodles, biscuits and finger buns. He tried starting a conversation with a pretty woman in a business suit, but she just scowled at him and walked away. Heart firmly in his stomach, he walked glumly towards the checkout, thinking of how he was going to fall into his small cold bed, alone.

When he got to the checkout he started unloading his basket onto the counter. He glanced over at the customer ahead of him and his heart skipped a beat – it was the most beautiful person he’d ever seen. She was just shy of five feet tall, had luxuriant brown hair and a big smile – everything Gary could possibly hope for in a woman. He looked at her basket of groceries. ‘That’s a lot of fruit you have there. Making a fruit salad?’

The woman just stared at him.

‘Shit shit shit,’ Gary thought. ‘That was such a stupid line. I screwed it up.’

The object of Gary’s affection looked at his basket of groceries and sneered.

‘Yeah, my diet ain’t too healthy, but what can you do?’ said Gary, shrugging his shoulders.

As if in answer, the woman started thumping the counter with her hand. The cashier didn’t even look surprised – she just treated the situation as if was a daily occurrence.

Gary was surprised at his new-found friend’s behaviour, but wasn’t as taken aback as many people would be – he’d worked nightshift for three years, and had been awake for a good twenty four hours, maybe this is how people interacted with one another now? He turned away momentarily to empty the rest of his basket, and when he turned around again the women was standing with a palm-full of money held out in front of her. The cashier very delicately took the exact amount of money from the proffered hand and put it in the cash register, almost as if she was handling a bomb. Gary’s mouth was agape. ‘Where on earth did you keep that money? You’re not wearing any pants!’

The brunette grinned widely, revealing a mouth full of pearly white teeth. Gary felt light-headed and a bit wobbly – he’d always been a ‘teeth man’; it was as if this woman was reacting to his every lustful thought. As Gary paid for his groceries he summoned up every shred of courage he possessed and said, ‘My name’s Gary. What’s your name?’

The woman said nothing, but Gary noticed a bracelet on her left wrist which read ‘Jesse’.

‘Ah. Jesse. Nice name. Do you want to go out for coffee or something? If you’re not busy, that is.’

Jesse wildly flailed her arms and walked around in circles. She didn’t say anything, but, as Gary had read in a magazine, in these situations body language was everything. Gary took his shopping in one hand, and his new friend’s hand in the other. She did the same, and they walked out the door and down the street to a coffee shop.

Jesse got comfortable on a stool as Gary ordered a triple espresso for himself and a mango smoothie for her.

Gary sat down and tried his hand at small talk as they waited for their drinks.

‘So, Jesse, what do you do when you’re not eating healthily?’

Jesse just stared around the café and not-so-subtly scratched herself.

‘Relaxing, hey? Yeah, I’m the same. I work the night shift at the airport, so I’m used to spending time on my own. I’m not lonely per se; although I can usually find something to amuse myself with when I’m on my own.’

Jesse looked away, as if in disgust.

‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ Gary laughed, ‘that came out all wrong. What I meant was I like reading or taking long walks. I’m happy with my own thoughts.’

Jesse upend the sugar bowl all over the table and chuckled.

‘Not a fan of sugar? I have to admit, it’s my one vice, except for the shelves and shelves of pornography I have at home. Do you collect Hustler? I collect Hustler, it’s a great magazine.’

Jesse got down off of her seat and started dragging the chair to another table.

Gary flinched. ‘Did I say something wrong? Oh I’m so sorry; I’ve forgotten what it’s like to talk to non-security guards. We’re always joking about stuff like that. I didn’t mean to offend you.’

Jesse took a bowl of sugar from another table, dragged the chair back to the table she shared with Gary and proceeded to pour the contents of the sugar bowl all over the seat. She started cackling wildly.

Gary relaxed. ‘Here I am stumbling over my own words and worrying while you’re just being all carefree and aloof. I envy you in some ways, Jesse.’ Jesse smiled and clapped her hands as the waitress arrived at the table. She gave Gary and Jesse a funny look and walked away quickly when Jesse started rubbing her leg.

‘If I did something like that I’d get in trouble,’ said Gary, ‘but I guess that’s one of the perks of being a vibrant young woman – you can get away with stuff like that.’

He sipped his espresso as Jesse gulped down her smoothie.

‘You don’t talk much, do you?’

Jesse continued to guzzle the pulped mango.

‘I don’t mind, it’s nice to just talk freely with someone. I don’t get much of a chance to do it at work.’ Jesse finished her smoothie and looked impatient. ‘Do you want to go? That’s fine, just let me finish my coffee,’ said Gary. He downed the remainder like an alcoholic doing shots at a bar, and rose from his seat. He picked up Jesse’s shopping along with his own and they set off down the footpath through the park. The sun was shiny and the birds were singing as the new couple ambled happily between the trees. Gary couldn’t help but notice Jesse’s unusual gait. ‘Do you ride horses by chance? I noticed that you walk a little bow-legged.’ Jesse let go of his hand and half-ran to the top of a small rise a few metres away. Gary walked quickly to catch her up. ‘I’m sorry, have I said the wrong thing again?’ He really didn’t want to blow his chances – it was the first sort-of date he’d had in years and he was going to do everything he could to hold onto Jesse for that bit longer. Out of the corner of his eye Gary noticed three men in khaki uniforms walking quickly towards him, and he glanced at Jesse. Her pupils were dilated and she was looking agitated. ‘What’s wrong? Do you know those men?’

Jesse tugged at Gary’s trouser leg and pointed at the approaching trio.

‘I don’t understand. What’s going on, Jesse? Are you in some sort of trouble with the law?’

Jesse let go of the trouser leg and reached her right hand around behind her back.

There was a damp sound and a brief pause before Jesse hurled the contents of her cupped hand at the uniformed men. ‘Don’t let him do that again!’ yelled out of the men as Jesse scarpered up a tree.

‘He?’ said Gary as he looked up at Jesse. ‘Oh… I see it now. You’re not a lady-monkey at all!’

He paused. ‘I mean “Ape”. Not a lady-ape at all.’

As he watched the men negotiate with Jesse from beneath a large umbrella, Gary some math in his head. ‘Yeah,’ he thought. ‘Definitely the best girl I’ve ever been with. Even if she WAS male.’

Friday, March 12, 2010

In a Single Bound

Andy danced the ball across the court, bouncing through player after player. He faked his way around the last player and had nearly connected with the ball when he felt a stabbing pain across the back of both knees. He went down heavily, clutching his legs, not caring where he fell. The referee’s whistle blew and the offending player was sent off as Andy’s team mates gathered around.

‘You alright, mate?’

Andy twisted his face in pain. ‘How much blood is there?’

‘Blood? What? There is none.’

Andy winced as he moved his legs slightly. ‘It feels like it’s gushing out – are you sure there’s none?’

‘You’re a bloody wuss, mate. Open your eyes and look for yourself.’

Andy cracked one eye open and looked at the back of his legs. They’d turned a strange pinkish colour and a purple bruise had already started welling up behind his knees. After being abused by his team mates for another minute he slowly got to his feet and hobbled off to the bench. A couple of minutes later he felt better than ever, which was strange considering the colour of his legs, but he tested them, gave them a bit of a stretch, then subbed back onto the court for the rest of the game. Sure, it strengthened his friends’ belief that he had been overreacting but he’d never felt so alive! Andy scored three more goals before the game’s end and didn’t feel a shred of pain; somewhat of a concern for his girlfriend on the sideline since the area behind his knees had turned a greenish shade of black.

‘You should probably get those looked at, Andy,’ his girlfriend, Sophie, said.

‘Screw that, I’m fine. It’s just a bruise. I feel great.’
‘You’re probably in shock.’

Andy’s friends mocked Sophie behind her back, screwing up their faces and making talking motions with their hands. He ignored both them and Sophie, picked up his bag and walked to the car. He felt light, and walking seemed effortless. He felt... better, somehow.

Andy bounded out of bed the next morning as soon as the alarm sounded, energy coursing through his body. He’d never felt so good in his life. As he pulled on his jeans he noticed himself in the mirror and examined the previous night’s injury. The area behind his knees had regressed to a deep purple colour, but the black-green tinge had almost completely disappeared except for a few tendrils which extended up and down both legs. ‘Shock, my arse,’ he muttered as he pulled on his socks. ‘Something’s different’. He jogged downstairs, effortlessly jumping the last five steps, landing with the grace of a cat. Sophie called out from the kitchen, ‘Are you alright?’ but it fell on deaf ears as Andy was already out the door and running down the street, enjoying every second of what he considered to be his ‘new legs’. He was racing a taxi when he heard a cry for help from somewhere to his left. He changed course and spotted a baby in a shopping trolley careening down a hill towards a river, its desperate mother frantically chasing after it. Andy accelerated his enhanced legs and dashed past the distraught mother, making it to the trolley just before it plunged into the frigid water. The baby started crying as the tearful mother arrived. ‘Thank you so much for saving my baby!’

‘It was no problem at all, I’m happy I could help,’ said Andy with a grin.

‘You... you ran so fast. I’ve never seen anyone do that before. Call me crazy, but it’s as if you’re some kind of superhero.’ The woman laughed off the comment, but something in it resonated in Andy’s head.

Yeah, he thought, I AM like a superhero. I can run faster than a car, I can rescue the helpless! Getting kicked at soccer was just like Spiderman getting bitten by that radioactive spider! I’m a real-life Peter Parker!

As the woman consoled the crying toddler Andy straightened his posture and adjusted his shirt, his future clearly laid out before him.

‘I will use my powers for good, not evil,’ he pledged to himself under his breath. ‘I will save people in distress and aid the less fortunate. I won’t fight crime though, because that sounds quite dangerous.’ When the woman turned around to thank Andy again, he was already a speck in the distance – a running, jumping, slightly cowardly speck.

A duck quacking excitedly gave Andy sufficient reason to cease long-jumping alongside the river. Quacking could hardly be considered unusual behaviour for a duck, but it was the pitch of the quack that piqued the newly-branded hero’s interest. Oh wow, he thought. I can understand ducks! He crouched down next to the duck, which had started flapping its wings, violently fanning dust and blades of grass into Andy’s face. ‘What’s up, fella?’ he asked.

‘Quack,’ said the duck.

‘Oh, I’m sorry. “What’s up, ma’am?”’

‘Quack quack quack.’

Andy stared across the river as the duck explored the ground for worms. On the far side of the river was a solitary duck with a group of ducklings, all madly quacking at one another. ‘Oh! You’ve been separated from your family! Let me help!’ The duck struggled furiously and quacked rapidly as Andy picked it up. ‘It’s ok, it’s ok, I’m trying to help,’ said Andy.

He took a few steps back before running forward and leaping over the river, the duck quacking madly as it soared through the air. Upon landing, the duck pecked at Andy’s hands until he dropped it. Content in the knowledge that he’d saved another living creature, Andy leapt back across the river and went on his way, alert for the distress of his fellow citizens and their pets.

Sophie was watching television when Andy got home.

‘I have had the most amazing day, Sophe!’

‘How are your legs?’ she asked as she muted the television.

Andy hopped from foot to foot. ‘They’re amazing, they’re incredible, they’re better than ever! You would never believe what I am capable of now! I can run faster than a Maserati, I can leap over rivers, I can save ducks. Ducks, Sophe. Ducks!’

Sophie frowned and looked Andy up and down. ‘Are you feeling alright?’

Andy kept bouncing. ‘I feel better than alright, I feel amazing!’

‘And your legs aren’t sore from last night? You took a pretty big hit.’

‘I can’t feel a thing! Isn’t that weird? You’d think I would be in agony, but I’m not.’

Sophie got out of her chair and walked slowly over to her excited boyfriend. ‘Can I have a look at your legs? I want to see if the bruising has gone down.’

Andy stopped bouncing and undid his belt. ‘Sure. I want to see it for myself!’

Sophie pulled his pants down, took one look at his legs and threw up all over the carpet.

‘Jesus, Sophie! What the hell? What could possibly…’ Andy looked down. ‘Oh that’s just…’ he managed before throwing up on the coffee table. Both of his legs had swollen to twice their normal size and were a strange black colour – the veins radiating out from the dark masses were just thin dark green lines. Sophie wiped her mouth on her sleeve. ‘How could you not know your legs were like that? I’m surprised you can even walk!’ She poked his enlarged calf muscle. ‘Can you feel that?’

Andy shook his head. ‘How about that?’ she asked, poking his knee.

‘I can’t feel a damn thing.’ Andy’s face was pale now, his mouth flecked with bits of his lunch.

‘And you weren’t worried that you couldn’t feel your legs?’

Andy stayed silent.

‘I’m calling an ambulance.’

‘But I could talk to ducks…’

The ambulance took Sophie and Andy to the hospital where he was rushed into a surgeon’s office. The surgeon had been grumpy and wanted to go home, but the second Andy stepped into his office his mind was immediately clear and ready to tackle the challenge.

‘Hello…’ the doctor checked his chart, ‘…Andy. My name is Dr Sturgeon. Yes, I am aware that that makes me ‘Sturgeon the Surgeon’, but we have more important issues to deal with than my name.’

‘My legs don’t hurt, doctor,’ said Andy meekly.

Sturgeon frowned. ‘I don’t understand.’

Sophie led Andy over to the examination table. ‘You’d better take a look for yourself.’

Andy pulled down his pants, and it was all the doctor could do to not throw up like Andy and Sophie.

‘What the hell happened to you?’ said Sturgeon, completely forgetting all pretense of professionalism. ‘Your legs look like eggplant! Disgusting, disgusting eggplant.’

Andy just closed his eyes, trying to shut it all out.

‘He took a hit across the back of his legs at soccer last night, but woke up feeling fine this morning. In fact he says he spent the whole day running around,’ said Sophie.

‘I’m amazed he can walk!’ said Sturgeon. ‘Just like a massive, hideous eggplant. Incredible.’

‘I was so fast today,’ said Andy. ‘I was running and jumping faster and higher than I’d ever done before. I could talk to ducks.’

Sturgeon glanced at Sophie who just shrugged her shoulders. ‘He seems to think that the kick he took to the legs at soccer gave him superpowers.’

The nauseated doctor laughed and prodded Andy’s legs. ‘Superpowers? Like Spiderman? Ridiculous!’

‘I… yeah,’ said Andy.

‘You think you’re some real-life Peter Parker just because you got kicked in the legs and lost all feeling? If the world worked like that Christopher Reeve would have actually been Superman. His injuries just riddled him with “superpowers”.’

Sophie, already tired of the doctor’s manner crossed her arms and said, ‘Look, we’re scared ok? He can’t feel his legs and they’ve turned black. These little rivers of black are running up and down his legs, and that can’t be healthy!’

Sturgeon lifted Andy’s shirt and saw that the black tendrils had worked their way up towards his chest. ‘I’ll do some tests.’

Sturgeon the Surgeon returned an hour later with a sour look on his face and a serious clipboard in his hands. He took a deep breath. ‘Andy, I have the results here, and they’re not good for you. For me they’re excellent; a patient like you only comes along every so often. I’m going to write a paper about this and become famous.’

Andy cringed and Sophie started grinding her teeth, but the irreverent doctor continued.

‘It seems that kick you took to your knees catalysed a reaction in the stem cells which reside here,’ he said as he effortlessly and accidentally poked a pen through the back of Andy’s festering knee. ‘Oops. Anyway, the reaction meant that the stem cells metabolised at a vastly accelerated rate, building and repairing muscles like nobody’s business, which would explain your new turn of speed and ability to, what was it? Ah right, to “leap rivers in a single bound”.’

Andy propped himself up on his elbows. ‘What about being able to talk ducks?’

‘No one can talk to ducks. Going from these results I’m guessing that the infection which is now crippling your system caused a hallucination. Trust me, I’m a doctor.’

Andy sank back on the bed and Sophie’s eyes welled with tears. ‘What do you mean “crippling”?’

‘Exactly what it sounds like. It seems that septicaemia set in rather rapidly and that the stem cell reaction also increased the rate at which gangrene developed.’

‘So I’m going to lose my legs?’

‘Oh heavens no!’ exclaimed Sturgeon. ‘What ever gave you that idea?’

Andy breathed a sigh of relief.

‘You’re going to lose your life, probably within the next two weeks. This is a terminal case and a rather aggressive one at that.’

Sophie burst into tears and Andy went pale. ‘This is the worst superpower in the history of anything,’ he whispered.

‘Would you PLEASE stop using that term?’ said Sturgeon. ‘Every time someone suffers intense nerve damage they think they’re Superman. Which is sort of funny considering that Superman actually DID end up suffering intense nerve damage.’

He paused.

‘ Huh. Fancy that.’

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Story Suggestions

Suggestions for this week's story are open.

Whack the suggestions in the comments section

More input would be fantastic :)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Singing Dixie

Jeremy Starfish was jonesing for Dixie Drumstick biscuits harder than ever before. A bad case of the shakes made it difficult to open his cupboards, and his cold sweats demanded that he hug himself for warmth every few seconds. It was the most sick he’d ever felt in his life – it was way worse than the time he’d eaten rancid salsa. Just thinking about the salsa incident made his stomach convulse for the fifth time that evening and what was left of his stomach’s contents went splashing across the floor in a flurry of orange and red speckles.

‘Th-this is it, J-j-jeremy,’ he stammered as he hugged himself in the corner, ‘You’re gonna be a statistic, just like the r-r-rest of them.’

He stomach heaved again and more orange chunks spilled onto the floor. His vision wavered as he stared at the sticky mess, trying to make sense of it all, trying to piece together the broken puzzle his life had become. He giggled as he mentally joined the dots of vomit together. ‘Looks just like my aunty,’ he muttered as he sucked in another breath. ‘I’ll just lie down f-f-for a minute, get m-m-my strength b-b-back.’ He pressed his face against the cool lino floor and felt marginally better, if only briefly. As he started losing consciousness he spotted a tantalising shape under the fridge; for the first time in his life being face-down on a kitchen floor might serve a purpose. He hauled his twitching, sweating body through the mess of saliva, vomit and stomach lining which bathed the kitchen floor, and hoped that under the refrigerator lay his salvation. He stretched out a trembling hand and snatched the rusty orange shape from the dusty clutches of the fridge’s condensation tray. He let out a whoop of triumph – the Dixie Drumstick biscuit was his! Jeremy didn’t bother dusting off the lint or layer of scum that coated the biscuit – he just threw it into his mouth and munched frantically, savouring every last greasy crumb. His appetite satiated, he lay on the floor and felt the warmth return to his limbs. It had been too close this time, much too close for comfort, and as far as he could guess it was only going to get worse.

The moment Kraft discontinued the Dixie Drumstick biscuit was the day part of Jeremy died. He went to every supermarket in town and bought every box of the precious biscuits he could find, partly because they were delicious, but mostly because he was properly addicted to them and got the shakes when he went too long without them. It was like a heroin addiction but about a thousand times more pathetic, and a thousand times more fattening. Heroin addicts look like skeletons after long-term use and struggle to put weight on, whereas Dixie Drumstick addicts like Jeremy (who am I kidding, he’s the only one) gained weight at an almost impossible rate. What’s more, the constant consumption of a high fat, high salt, and artificially-coloured diet left his skin yellow, pimply and waxy. He looked like the very thing he consumed, but much fatter, and nowhere near as tasty. Jeremy took to writing letters to Kraft begging them to put his favourite meal back on supermarket shelves. His pleas fell on deaf ears and his stockpile slowly shrank.

Jeremy was in a filthy state a mere two weeks into the discontinuation. He didn’t go outside, he didn’t shower, he barely drank enough water, and his bowels had slowly ground to a halt. Things were bad enough in that department before the tragic (his words, not mine) turn of events, but at least his daily walk to the supermarket had ‘mixed things around a bit’. The only physical activity Jeremy participated in daily could hardly be considered ‘strenuous’, unless ‘taking biscuits out of a box and arranging them in neat little rows’ classifies as ‘exercise’. The biscuits were not going to audit themselves, and his carefully-formulated rationing system depended on an accurate headcount if it was to work at all. Jeremy had worked out that if he consumed one biscuit a day, then he’d be able to hold out for nearly two years, as long as he maintained a balanced diet and only ate a biscuit to stave off withdrawal symptoms. That plan had gone out the window by day two as he’d neglected to buy any groceries other than biscuits, and he was too afraid to leave the house lest someone break into his house and burgle his towering collection of Dixie Drumstick boxes. Left with nothing to eat but his precious treasure trove, Jeremy gorged himself on his high salt, high fat, low, low, low, low, LOW fibre diet. The crazy thing about this biscuit addiction, as if an addiction to biscuits wasn’t crazy enough, is that the more Jeremy consumed, the faster the withdrawal symptoms would set in, so within a couple of hours of finishing a box he would require another just to stay lucid. He would set an alarm to wake himself every two hours, just in case.

With nothing left in the kitchen cupboard but empty boxes, Jeremy started to worry. He knew that he couldn’t get to the supermarket on his own – a lack of water had taken care of that – and he knew that even if he called someone they wouldn’t be able to help on account of Jeremy buying every last remaining box of Dixie Drumsticks in town. At the two hour mark he started to sweat. At the three hour mark he started to shake. By the fourth hour he’d passed out on the floor but was woken by the chattering of his own teeth a few minutes later, shortly before his sojourn through the pond of orange-flecked chunder.

Jeremy assessed his situation once his withdrawal symptoms were somewhat taken care of. He was a grotesquely fat man sitting on a kitchen floor, completely surrounded by (and covered in) vomit, and was fifteen minutes away from another attack of withdrawals which would surely prove fatal. He contemplated the series of events which had got him to this point and, as he wiped some of the saliva from his wobbling, yellow chins he admitted to himself that he was an addict. A strange, obese, yellow, pimply pathetic addict, but an addict nonetheless.

‘Jeremy,’ he said to himself, ‘You need help or you’re going to die.’ He struggled to his feet and, rather shakily, stumbled to the phone which sat on the bench top. Just as he was dialling the number for the ambulance he caught a familiar twinkle out of the corner of his eye. It was coming from his bedroom across the hall and, as he turned to get a better look at it, he yelped with joy.

‘Oh my word! I can’t believe I had forgotten about you!’ He clapped his pudgy hands together and bounced from foot to foot, all his worries forgotten. The first rule of overcoming addiction is admitting that you have a problem. The second rule of overcoming addiction is closing the door of a wardrobe packed full of unopened Dixie Drumstick boxes.