there was movementcruelty at the station
the word had passed around

Last will and Testament of

Caradoc BarnardJUST CALL ME CROC
  1. I declare that this is my last will and testament and hereby revoke, cancel, X TEAR UP INTO CONFETTI WITH MY CHUBBY CHEERIO FINGERS, and annul all wills, testamentary acts, dispositions, and codicils previously made by me either jointly or alone. I declare that I am of sound X APOPHYLLITE-CLEAR mind and that this will X TO END ALL WILLS and testament X TO END ALL TESTAMENTS articulates X WITHOUT A PROSPECTOR’S DOUBT my sincerest desires without any undue influence or coercion. X


  2. I appoint as Executor and Trustee of this my Will (hereinafter referred to as ‘My Trustee’KENNY), Kenneth Goossens of 110 Wolseley Crescent, Point Peregrine, Sydney NSW 1124, Australia. If the nominated person within clause 2 is unable to act as Executor and Trustee of this my Will, then I appoint The Public Trustee in Queensland to be Executor and Trustee of this my Will. X AND HE BETTER DO HIS JOB. I’ve told him exactly what I want to happen. He’s tried to talk me out of it. I’ve listened to and understood everything that he’s had to say. And he knows I’ve disagreed with everything he’s had to say. X


    My death is set. Soon I will be dust. As gone and gutted as Mary Kathleen Mine. Cremated like a patriotic snag on January 31st. Scattered to outback winds. My flakes will fly amongst dust clouds and blowfly swarms. Notable floaters will invade the hanging jaws of cattle farmers to settle at the backs of throats, eventually worming their way down oesophagi and intestines to plop in the bottom of dunny drains. X


    Propped here on this hospital bed, bent at an obtuse angle, I already feel dead. Putrefactive. My teeth are gone. I have given up on dentures; they do not sit in my semi-paralysed face. The moments now plod without meaning, like the staggering of a drunken wombat. I miss the days when paradise could be conjured, when reality and imagination were one, when all whims could be and were premeditated. Every morning I would wake and clench a chilled, peeled pineapple by its spiky crown and plonk it into a basin of provided liquid chocolate before dunking it into another basin of crushed, recently-roasted macadamias. I would bite into its spiral-indented surface, chomping the entire choc-coated thing, core and all, allowing – encouraging – the insides of my mouth to become fuzzily-numb and juice and chocolate to spill down my chin and naked front, onto the white carpet floors. X



    Now I eat only with my tongue, like a baleen filter-feeder. Before me sits my krill: a tray of mushed prawn-meat and fresh oysters ready to be gulped. They arrive on the hour. They always have. Since the origins of my abundant wealth I have commissioned a perpetual conveyor belt of tuna, scallops, octopi, squid, bugs, and lobster to rotate from ocean to kitchen to mouth. Shift-chefs have forever sizzled seafood and cured ceviche that has been available any time of day, ready to dunk into my maw. I prefer fish barely cooked, ideally raw, wriggling as it goes down. Hundreds of tentacles have twisted in my guts; tiny mollusc muscles have pulsed, like an extra heart. X


    For some time, I have suspected my success is not simply intuition, not simply savvy, not at all luck. Only now, as deathbed deletes all modesty, do I truly know. My life thus far has been but a pupal phase to this realisation. I am what all the churches in Adelaide were built for. I am who Fremantle drunks swear to when they stub their toes. I am the shimmering reflection in waterholes: the great rainbow, vomiting snake. I am divine. My consequences will – like the prehistoric footprint of a Mazda-sized marsupial that over time erodes to reroute creeks, flood villages, and force Queensland’s homes to stand on stilts – shatter civilisations and minds.

  3. I direct My TrusteeKENNY to give the following legacies to my beneficiaries:
    1. The X COMPLETE AND UTTER balance of my financial holdings X INCLUDING THOSE PENNIES TUCKED AWAY IN ALIEN ACCOUNTS to Account number *****721ΦThis will form a trust, overseen by My TrusteeKENNY, who will divide the amount up equally to each Australian baby born on the day of my death. Individual trusts will be set up, with the permission of their guardians. Access will be restricted until they are of voting age. This gift is unconditional. X

      Presuming Kenny does his job, wires will send signals, stocks will be sold, and hundreds of phones will simultaneously spasm, howling like Biloela black-cockatoos, forcing business boards to meet and shriek. Junior executives will call managers; janitors will call human resource offices; secretaries will be too busy to answer any of their calls for they too will be calling their bosses to confirm that they too still have jobs. X


      Good. Hopefully this is the kick in the pants Australian ambition needs. It has always been too modest, too cautious. Few follow their wildest predilections. As a tot I was taught to romanticise exploration of inland unknown. So that’s what I did. Got it over and done with. Like a giant invader rabbit, the whole continent became my warren. With an inherited fledging mining company, I burrowed wherever prospectors suggested, digging up resources, setting up mines, buying up the very prospecting companies that advised me, turning the whole landscape inside-out. X


      As ordained, more oysters have arrived. I tip the nurse a one hundred dollar note. He, a Lebanese boy, refuses. I demand that he take it. I puff my cheeks and bubble saliva, heave and toss my beached-whale body, growl that I will have him replaced. This last remark makes him reluctantly clutch the green, polymer note with its lyrebird window. He will be uncomfortable around me from now on. He will also be uncomfortable relieving himself of the note. Few want one. The majority go their entire life without ever possessing, momentarily, a $100 note. There is never a good reason to have one. Most hard currency is change, broken pieces, scraps. The $100 is the only currency never given as such.

      I, on the other hand, love having Monash and Melba close. The General and the Warbler. Now, I am both. X


    2. The 10ft Tall N.T. Boxing Croc to my eldest daughter, Siobhan Caoimhe Aoife Barnard. This gift is unconditional.

    3. The Giant Prawn to my wife, Jarmila Barbora Crowther Barnard. This gift is unconditional.

    4. The Enormous Merino Ram to Dorothy Beckham. This gift is unconditional.

    X My monuments (the 10ft tall N.T. boxing croc, the giant prawn, the enormous merino) have been collected from periphery towns (excepting the Boxing Croc, which was reconstructed due to the vendor’s refusal to sell despite a generous offer of $150,000). These were the defining features in otherwise identical outposts. Currently, they reside at my Whitsunday Island golf course. My death will cause these creatures to rise from their concrete foundations and traverse the continent. X


  4. Words that signify one gender shall include the others and words that signify the singular shall include the plural and vice versa where appropriate. Should any portion of this will be deemed by a court of law as unsound it shall not impact upon the remaining provisions. X


Signed on this 27 day of AUGUST 2016

at this location ST. ANDREW’S PRIVATE HOSPITAL in the presence of the undersigned witnesses.

SIGNED: Caradoc BarnardCROC

The National Wagyl

Executive Summary

A 5ft tall fortified, winding, serpentine sculpture and national monument willWAS TO be constructed from Cairns, QLD to Albany, WA. Production of the head is to beginBEGAN at Machans Beach, Cairns in 2014. The structure is to continue throughout the continent and is to be decorated in local Indigenous artistic style. Dad once told me I was madder than a cut snake. Brighter than outback sun, but mad. He meant it as a compliment. He also used to say Australia runs not on electricity but eccentricity. “Look at the faces on the money, Chivas – they’re all uniquely mad.” Once, during a barbecue at our Sydney penthouse, I stole our guests’ wallets, clutched a fistful of fifties, and tossed them from the balcony. With binoculars, I giggled as I saw the yellow notes flutter, like little Unaipon helicopters, to interrupt crowds watching a fun-run. The people scooped, snatched and scratched each other to pieces. Dad didn’t punish me. He giggled too.


The ‘rainbow serpent’ has an extensive and varied history in Australian Indigenous culture. It is known by multiple names (e.g. borlung, kunmanggur, ngalyod, taipan, tulloun, wagyl, witij) and interpretations (e.g. association with monsoons, waterholes, mineral erosion, quartz, maternity, androgyny, the infinite, nothingness), MY INITIAL FAILURE.) The head and a single segment are all that remain. It now erodes, shamefully, at Machans Beach. How is it that something can mean both ‘the infinite’ and ‘nothing’? Are they the same? If all is nothing, how can one speak of nothingness? Surely there is no point in doing so?

Mission Statement

The National Wagyl combines various State and National initiatives that promote the Indigenous voice within the cultural sector. X I HAVE BEEN ACCUSED OF HIJACKING THIS VOICE. The first of many accusations. This initial marinade of public-outrage made admissible subsequent jokes regarding my smashed face, resultant from my fall on a tour of possible uranium mining sites in the Amadeus Basin, accompanied by my father. Headlines like SHE FELL FROM GRACE & FLATTENED HER FACE, or entry #11 on a list of THINGS MONEY CAN’T BUY. Chuckling is just shame reshuffling itself in the universe, like electrons moving from one molecule to another. I’ve been a real knee-slapper. So laugh. Guffaw as you stare at your bent nose and goldfish eyes and mangled mouth in the mirror every morning.

Financial Plan

Funding sourced from Indigenous Art Regulations (IAR), Royalty Rights for Visual Arts (RRVA), Torres Strait Islander Cultural Sector Policy (TSCSP). Will require additional funding/support from State/local initiatives.


The project will be ongoing for several years and anticipated to take approx. two (2) decades. NOTHING BUT A HEAD WITHOUT BODY. Shape without form. Nuts from the get-go. When a madman raised you, insanity is requisite. Stay that way. Have you seen how the world holds itself together? With duct-tape. So, rip it off.

袋狼 Sequence™

Executive Summary

袋狼 Sequence™ isWAS a Taipei-based genesequencing company, affiliated with animal cloning company Ren Fuben (人副本), the Chengdu Research Panda Base of Giant Panda Breeding (成都大熊猫繁育研究基地), and the Taipei Zoo (臺北市立動物園). Following in the footsteps of PPL Therapeutics and the Roslin Institute of the University of Edinburgh, 袋狼Sequence® will be the first organisation to successfully clone an IS extinct AND WILL STAY THAT WAYanimal. In conjunction with Edith Cowan University’s palaeobiology department, 袋狼 Sequence® will use gene technology to resurrect the thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), commonly known as the Tasmanian Tiger. What is dead should – must – stay dead. Do not mistake me – I believe one day an extinct creature will again walk the earth. The science suggests it is possible. Hell, I even believe in reincarnation. I just do not believe that it is a good idea.


Since Dolly the sheep and the announcement of the first draft sequence of the giant panda genome by Beijing Genomics Institute at Shenzhen (BGI Shenzhen, 华大基因), the possibility for cloning has ceased to be fiction. 袋狼Sequence™ was initially formed as a division of Ren Fuben (人副本), with a focus on palaeobiology. THERE WAS ONCE HOPE that sequencing the genome would solve the human mystery once and for all. Some psychologists now posit the same hope for a working model of the creative mind. But they all make the same mistake: no one needs answers. Or questions. Or even mantras. We pine only for silence: the removal of noise.

Mission Statement

袋狼 Sequence™ intends to clone the thylacine, not only to resurrect this extinct species, but to propel a new age of genetic understanding, the medical, biological, and cultural possibilities of which are enormous. I UNDERSTAND LESS NOW THAN I DID THEN. There was a time I was sure I stumbled. There was a time I was sure my fall was secretly tragic not publicly clumsy. Was it even a fall? Or a stumble? Or a leap? Or push? Papa Croc never once acknowledged it might have been decisive. On my part or his. There was a time I was sure his slap on my sunburned back, his wide palm strike between my shoulder blades that left a white handprint on pink skin like Aboriginal rock art, accompanied by a chuckle and ‘Forgot to put on sunscreen, didya,’ was performed with purpose. There was a time that I wished it had been.

Financial Plan

Funding provided for three years. Expansion and additional funding provisionally given by international affiliates (Ren Fuben (人副本), Chengdu Research Panda Base (成都大熊猫繁育研究基地), and Taipei Zoo (臺北市立動物園).


袋狼 Sequence™ hopes to clone a thylacine within ten years. THE DEAD REMAIN DEAD. Join them. They made the right call. The lorikeet, louse, and blue-tongued lizard made the error of genetic survival. The thylacine, dusky flying fox, and Lord Howe boobook owl have displayed the wisdom we now must all follow.

The (In)Finite Archive®

Executive Summary

The (In)Finite Archive® is a conceptual art installation by Mungo Nguyễn. As a contribution to the Tasmanian Museum of Old and New Art, co-supported with the Australian Arts Council, this artwork repurposes 100 discarded dot-matrix printers and produces, unceasingly, on discarded continuous form paper, powered by solar panels and wind turbines, random Internet postings made from within Australia. X IT IS STILL GOING. Those printers are still printing. This seemed the perfect expression of the job I, Siobhan Caoimhe Aoife Barnard, was assigned. Dad’s cash drew crowds: charities, would-be pioneers, lunatics. The latter were sent to me: daddy’s little princess, his baby Chivas Regal, his hoop for madmen to jump through, his needle-explorer in a world of straw. I was pitched thousands of ideas but approved only three. The (In)Finite Archive® is all that survives. Yet, fittingly, this strange endeavour contains everything.


Mungo Nguyễn has worked predominantly with sculpture and painting in the past. X INCONSISTENCY is the artist’s ideal. Even a perfect replica is a different work from a different time and place. ALL IS REINVENTION. Nguyễn’s move into the abstract has been a natural progression, one that challenges the causality of lineage and fills historic gaps with imagined worlds. X ALL OF WHICH HAVE BEEN IMAGINED. Though not by any individual. Watching those printers churn and churn, and spending hours reading the nonsensical output, what scares me most is the ratio of anguish to compassion. There is far too little of the latter.

Mission Statement

The (In)Finite Archive® builds upon multiple theories of ∞, ranging from pre-Socratic philosopher Ἀναξίμανδρος to American multiverse astrophysicist Michio Kaku. In our age of too much information, this art installation offers a glimpse into the cacophonous societal mind, allowing individuals to meditate on their place in it. X WHAT IS ‘IT’? The unknowable? Taboo? A potential filicide? A potential suicide? God? At least, the closest definition of ‘god’ that I can stomach these days. And what exactly is my ‘place’? I do not know how to articulate it, only how to feel about it. Either I loathe it or love it. If the latter, it must be unconditionally, as 18th century French romantics: ecstasy and devastation. Surrender to other’s limited yet incomprehensible subjectivity. To the unknowable. To God.

Financial Plan

Funding and initiatives will enable the exhibition to run for three years. Some additional support will need to be sought from the Arts Council to continue the exhibition and fulfil intentions to tour and/or expand the exhibit.


It is hoped funding will continue, confirming the ∞ theories The (In)Finite Archive® expresses. is to be put into storage. Yet I hope someday someone will read the work in its entirety, noting the skerricks of sanity that permeate the madness of our times. What will be left is love and wisdom, which is for now inaccessible.

She’ll be galled I’m late. Especially since I picked the time, the place. She won’t like the place.
Doesn’t like me. Resents, regrets me.
Don’t be melodramatic.
She’ll find the place too hippy-dippy, too armpit-hair.
Shouldn’t be this stressed meeting my mother. Shouldn’t be scratching my neck.
No itch. Not anymore.
Mind is made up. Cannot be talked out…
Stop rubbing your neck.
…of going.
I’ll be caught.
She knows. Or will find out. She makes it her business to find out everything.
Does she know everything, though?
No one can know everything. There are too many facts, too many working parts.
I botched nothing…
…and yet still I, Dr Allanach, am being made to wait: to be paid, to eat lunch.
One shouldn’t be late to lunch with a killer.
Euthaniser. I just helped someone pass on. Aid. Medical assistance. Don’t overexaggerate, romanticise.
I enjoyed it. The thrill of it. The illegality.
Not illegal in most places, e.g. The Netherlands.
The conclusion to the country’s richest.
Would have been financially inadvisable…
…to reject such an offer.
Yet it has not come.
Here she is.
Here I am, the killer of Croc Barnard. The puppeteer of Australian history.
Only if someone finds out.
So, don’t mention it. Not to anyone. Certainly not my daughter.
Hi. Thanks for…
And how are you, Margot?
Is she nervous? Do I have the capacity to make her nervous? Make her gulp? Make her eyes dart? Intimidate?
No suspicion of foul play.
Margot looks suspicious. Looks like she’s wearing a pyjama top.
I don't actually...
Don't what?
She is attempting to frown, but botulinum toxin won’t let her.
Don’t say anything snarky.
Her neck looks fifty. I could fix that.
Cannot fix her. I can end the life of the richest man in the country but cannot fix my daughter. Yet…
Never mind.
Don’t think anything snarky.
Do you need something?
Don’t rub your neck. Don’t think, don’t want oxy. Don’t want for anything.
Cannot be helped.
…she obviously needs something.
Everyone needs something, is imperfect…
No. No. Nothing.
Nothing feels better than needing nothing.
Shoulders unclench for the first time in a decade.
...even if she/they think/s she/they doesn’t/don’t.
I am imperfect.
I’m not going to give you money.
I don’t want money.
Untrue. I want, need…
Analgesia. Blocked opioid receptors.
Do you have money?
I know the answer already.
Why she’s here.
Neural pathways have been carved.
Does she suspect anything?
Are you...?
No one else will ask.
No one else cares, will ever care.
I'm fine. I'm really good.
Are you...?
Wish she seemed pleased by that, wish she believed that.
Do I believe that?
She’s either on oxycodone again or wants to be. Cannot tell which, cannot tell which is worse.
I’m fine.
Not fine.
I’m a liar.
I don’t believe you, but OK…
Luckily, I left my prescription book at home.
Ah, the menu. Haloumi, bruschetta…
I’m leaving.
She doesn’t even look up from the menu, look me in the eyes.
Rapidly-moving eyes. Nervous eyes.
Here we go…
Might be salty.
I head off tomorrow.
You’re going?
Would love her to smile back at me just once.
Don’t smile at her. Respond in kind.
Try to be kind.
What did I do to deserve this?
Should’ve done nothing. Left her to her own devices.
I just said. I’m leaving.
Leaving what?
What did I ever do to make her look at me like that?
What is she on about?
What is she on?
The café?
I forged her signature on prescriptions. That’s why she doesn’t smile at me.
She blames my ex-boyfriend.
Still my secret.
Keep it secret. Forget it. Forget him.
Bring it back to the menu. Heaven knows she needs to eat something.
Lunch with a skeleton.
Deader than Caradoc.
Don’t even joke about that.
No. The… just everything.
She doesn’t believe in forgiveness.
Sounds like you’re running away from home.
Wise approach?
You’d think she was fifteen, not thirty.
Looks seventy.
I look younger than her.
Feel decades older than I am.
Look, don’t make a big thing of it.
Am I saying goodbye? Being honest?
Truly intend to vanish. Like a magician’s bunny.
Stop being so dramatic. Can’t we just have a nice brunch?
Truly want C18H21NO4.
Vanish like the forgotten ex-boyfriend.
Clearly the answer is no.
It will never again be possible.
I thought we were.
Just smile. Be nice. Then leave.
Does it bother you that I’m drinking?
Shouldn’t have ordered a cab sav.
No. Does it bother you that I’m not?
She will never not be bothered by me.
I will never not be bothered.
Will need to order another cab sav.
I’m delighted you’re not.
I am only proud of her nose.
That which is not mine.
Then why are you drinking?
Because I don’t have a problem with control.
Don’t show anger. Don’t get, be angry.
Don’t desire C18H21NO4.
What can, should I desire?
Shouldn’t have slipped that in.
Couldn’t resist saying that, could you.
I don’t want to fight with you.
As much to blame.
Self-awareness changes nothing.
Always do though.
Then stop fighting with me.
Try to be nice. In all moments, try to be, remain nice.
Raise a hand, twirl a finger, get a waitress, a distraction.
Hi, what can I get you two ladies?
Mum is more pleasant with strangers.
This adorable Asian waitress is the daughter she wishes she had.
With a nose she wishes I had.
This waitress hasn’t noticed our bickering.
Thank god.
Hi, is the haloumi very salty?
Could I get a flat white, please?
A little bit.
Never seen mum smile so warmly
Unwinnable warmth. No amount of operations will change that.
The waitress has an infectious grin.
Be infected.
Let a bit of sunshine in.
In that case I’ll have the prosciutto.
And could I get an extra shot, please?
Zero acknowledgement.
There’s a sharpness to the skin around her eyes. This waitress has had blepharoplasty done.
Dr Allanach? Is that you? It’s me, Tracy! You did my eyes.
So, my mother sliced her eyelids. How lovely to know.
Mum’s giving Tracy the weak smile now. I know that one.
Great, now everyone knows.
Including Margot.
Very nice.
Awkward, uncomfortable, demoralising silence.
Tracy has my sympathy.
Still hasn’t got my full order.
Wonder if she got hooked on painkillers post-eyelid surgery.
Why can’t she let her face speak for itself?
There was a time when patients concealed their surgeries. Nowadays everyone advertises everything. There is no mystery. There is no shame. There are no secrets.
So that’s the prosciutto and a flat white.
Ignored once more.
And an extra shot. Make it to go.
Bet no one called Tracy ‘fat-nose,’ or ‘pug-face,’ or ‘the bastard sister of Chivas Barnard.’
Wish I could be so breezy.
I have secrets, shame, mystery…
Maybe we all do, beneath it all.
Do shameless public admissions conceal more humiliating, less persuasive realities?
What is this waitress really hiding?
I’ll get that for you now.
Tracy’s friendly act is just to attract $10 tips. She’s probably secretly unhappy.
Are all secretly miserable? Certainly, no one conceals gratification.
Never once accused someone of modesty.
Everyone does not feel as I do.
Genetically predisposed to feel…
Indifferent to appearances.
I do not care for my skin.
I know what Margot hides.
Deep resentment. For yours truly.
I recommended, paid for paediatric rhinoplasty by the best surgeon in the state.
Teenage girls were being teenage girls.
Every single patient of mine gains confidence, e.g. this waitress. Margot is the only one who gained resentment.
So, Margot, tell me all about your trip.
It’s not a trip, it’s…
Do I even know what it is? Do I even want to know?
Ignorance is preferable.
What a surprise, I’m wrong again.
Better to be wrong when talking to Margot.
What is it then?
Cue the lecture.
First time I’m admitting it out loud.
Inner avowals are empty. There’s no such thing as soul.
What is that then?
Nuts is what it is.
I’m leaving. For good. India. Dharamshala. Ruralish. Maybe into Tibet. I’m not sure yet.
No need to be coy.
Be confident. Don’t let on that you have taken…
Less insane, less impractical than what she has done.
The ex-boyfriend prescription pad thief, oxy addict, bad influence, convicted.
Where she’s headed.
You have your visa sorted?
Be clear and to the point. Hold nothing back.
Give everything away.
Parenting that never ends.
Perpetual immaturity.
And what happens when it runs out?
I’ll renew it. Or stay there. I don’t know.
Zero apprehension.
As if the opioid receptors are blocked. As if I’ve just taken…
I am at equilibrium.
She’ll come back to mum with her palm outstretched.
Or shack up with another pharmaceutical enthusiast.
Wise to press charges. Arrest her ‘friend.’
You’ll outstay your visa? That’s not wise.
I guess I’m not wise then.
Toss it all.
Give everything away.
What remains is a pure slate.
My body feels contaminated with impurities.
It is contaminated with impurities, with carved neural pathways.
She treats money as though it has a mind of its own, like a cat that wanders in and out of neighbouring homes.
You’re being silly. Especially given you’re so bright.
I’ll be fine.
I’ll be something else.
Insane. Criminal.
Sobriety is insanity.
That’s not true.
Stay mad.
Be nice.
Be all of the above.
Never once questioned her intelligence, her ability to put two and two together.
Report cards always read: …conscientious student, who struggles to get on with others…
Yet she’s satisfied teaching street kids in Indonesia, Centrelink rejects…
At least she’s stopped ingesting, ruining what’s left of her mind…
That’s clearly not true.
Nothing you’ve ever done has led me to believe you’ll be fine.
Nothing I ever do will lead you to believe I’ll be fine. I’m a hopeless case in your eyes.
We’ve had this conversation before.
Won’t have it ever again.
Only in my head. Where I live. Where the opioid receptors are.
She’s smart enough to be a real teacher, teaching Australian kids for Australian currency.
Would you trust her with kids?
Who am I to judge? I killed a man. For free.
That’s simply not true.
What would you have me do then?
Cut up my face.
Rearrange my personality.
The richest man is now dead because of me. That much is true.
Not throw away your life.
Could say the same to you.
Should not have relished saying that.
I want to want differently.
Don’t give the satisfaction of reaction.
Ignore the bait, allow it to wriggle.
You think I’ve thrown away my life?
I think you’ve wasted it, yes.
Can’t stop now.
That’s what I said about hillbilly H. Then the marshmallow blob and jelly ruined everything.
Too ludicrous to get upset.
And yet I am.
Only because I helped Caradoc throw his life away.
And how would you have me spend my time?
You have a medical degree. Yet you just arbitrarily cut people’s faces.
Thwarted by invisible adversarial inventors: the uncrushable, uninjectable.
Still able to swallow handfuls.
Not the same. Compromise. Sober to avoid compromise. Sober to avoid diluted existence.
This will not end well.
Nothing does. Just ask my ex-boyfriend.
High. She would have me spend my life high. Signing my life away on a prescription pad for her deadbeat friends.
Escaping reality.
Contrary to popular myth, the cosmetic physician lives not in fantasy, but in the reality of human flesh.
Take money and run.
Don’t ask what the call to her phone requesting an account/BSB number for transfer was.
Let all secrets meld, lose articulation, weigh heavy on shoulders.
She thinks I’m a slasher from an American teen horror movie, wants me to play that role.
I did kill. For fun. Because Caradoc asked me, via his mistress, my biggest customer.
What do you want from me?
Too many secrets, too much to know.
It doesn’t occur to her that I simply want to talk.
Don’t want to talk. Don’t want to think.
Don’t want her to know anything.
Second biggest. Assuming Croc’s cash arrives.
I am well connected.
Everything is.
Too much to keep track of, too much happening in my life, in our lives, in all lives.
Then why am I here?
I just want to say goodbye.
I just want to erase all surroundings.
Should have left by now.
Wanted to check she doesn’t know.
She doesn’t.
Then go.
Familial obligation is a terrific burden. Both of us think so.
To her I say good riddance.
And you thought the best way to do that would be to insult me?
OK, I’m sorry.
I mean it.
Sincerity impossible to convey.
When did I lose the ability to be sincere?
History doesn’t matter.
How many unsolvable mysteries do the past decades conceal? How many went mad keeping those secrets? Fleeing from them?
When was all this respect scattered? Can it be reclaimed?
Too much unsaid. Too much silence.
She regrets having no father.
Not my fault. No guilt will take up space in this skull. Let his ways be forgotten. Let his traits, personality, definition achromatise.
He deserves no memory.
I doubt that very much. Just as I doubt this will be the last time I see you.
Well, I leave in two days.
Bag packed.
Bank accounts emptied, closed. Ready to be redistributed. Money soon to be scattered, in envelopes to my students.
Are they students if they learn nothing?
Things repeat.
Except death. Murder.
We’ll have this conversation again.
I’ll have it again in my head.
Got your vaccines?
Her face a veneer of concern.
A microdermabrased, paralysed veneer.
Been taking/injecting any other meds?
She’ll take secrets to her approaching grave.
Hep A? Hep B?
She wants me to have missed something.
Needs me to have missed something.
Give her what she wants. Let her play at being parental, in charge, the boss.
Snorting meth? Injecting gloopy oxycodone into your eyeballs? Shacking up with prescription pad thieves?
Malaria? Rabies?
Not rabies.
She wants the truth. Always has.
That I stole her prescription pads, made my ex-boyfriend claim forged scripts…
Sniffing petrol at the local BP service station?
What an unwavering, dry, ashen mask she wears.
You should get a rabies shot.
What’s that supposed to mean?
Keep calm. Conceal anxiety.
I have gotten away with everything.
Including her money.
Then and now.
Watch her fattened lips flutter.
Until the marshmallow blob, the jelly paste.
Embrace discomfort. The awkwardness. Compromise.
I will never be comfortable.
She should get a full makeover. Inside and out.
Where to start?
Nefertiti neck lift, her spiteful despondency.
It’s meant as sound medical advice, given by a trained medical professional who knows what she’s talking about. If you’re going to rural parts of India, you need to get a rabies shot.
Only awkward if I want it to be.
Want it to be. Need it to be.
Rabies is the least of her problems.
Why is the food not here yet?
Why do you want to go to India?
This just… isn’t working for me.
Don’t even know how to begin to articulate…
Don’t even try.
She assumes everyone else is thinking what she’s thinking.
She doesn’t know what she’s thinking.
This… this… this. Look at this $10 note.
Noticing is a sickness.
Stop noticing then.
She’s lost.
I’m lost. My family remnants a Bermuda Triangle.
What about it?
You know who this is?
Take something for it.
Why I can’t keep my mother’s money.
Surprised she even has money.
Maybe she has a real job?
Now who’s high?
Banjo Paterson.
He’s a terrible poet.
Will fall on deaf ears.
That’s the whole point.
Then why babble?
I don’t know where this is going.
India, apparently.
And they have better poets in Tibet?
It’s not that… it’s The Man from Snowy River.
The Man from Snowy River is babble.
An incomprehensible, uninjectable marshmallow blob.
India can have her.
So, is this the end of parenthood?
I should be so lucky.
What about it?
It’s a man on his horse…
Am I being sincere?
Desire for analgesia. The only truth.
Am I being sarcastic?
Hope so.
Lost my appetite.
That’s it? The horse?
I’m the horse.
Meaningless to her.
When did she relinquish parental love? When did that happen?
When did I relinquish mine?
Is she being sarcastic?
I hope so.
You know, I get a lot of women come in and say their faces look too ‘horsey,’ but I’m never really sure what it is they mean…
Do you know what The Man from Snowy River is about?
Did it ever exist? Are children automatically born with parental love?
If you have to ask, then the answer is clearly no.
Yes, I’m being sarcastic.
Sarcasm is the logical response. To her. To this. To being asked to talk about poetry on money.
I think I saw the film with… what’s his name… Was it Bill Hunter?
You don’t know what the poem is about?
I’m imposing.
One big, fat imposition.
Me or life?
This has gone on for too long.
Chatter. Unrelenting parental duty. Being made to feel like this.
I didn’t realise it was compulsory to know.
It’s a symbol for the country, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect an intelligent citizen to have some idea of what it’s supposed to mean.
She’s right, I’m being melodramatic.
Abnormal not to be.
Was there ever respect between us? These days it’s impossible to conjure. Can’t get it injected in your face. Can’t take a pill to end its absence.
What do I respect? What’s worthy?
Well, I guess I’m a bad citizen then.
I’d agree.
Abnormal to be calm.
We’re just never in sync. We just don’t hate the same things at the same time.
Never enough with her.
I was being sarcastic.
That’s part of the problem.
Friendship is common hatred.
Was I? Murderers are bad citizens.
She doesn’t know that.
Won’t ever know that.
Who says I have a problem?
I have a problem.
Common hatred stronger than common love.
Love for analgesia stronger than dislike of side effects.
My problem is I’m stuck with a secret.
My problem is you don’t have a problem.
This much I know.
How the world’s clockwork ticks.
Stop being melodramatic.
Don’t know how to live with it.
Not the first doctor to mercy kill. Won’t be the last.
Conscience will survive.
You want everyone to be as upset as you.
I want people to know what they stand for. Is that so much to ask?
It is.
I ask too much.
Perhaps others don’t ask enough.
Don’t be melodramatic, like Margot.
Don’t trust blood, don’t trust anyone.
Friendship a depleted resource.
You want to tell people what they stand for. And you’re annoyed because they don’t agree.
Look at the man on the horse.
Perhaps it is just a horse. Perhaps there is nothing there.
That would be an even bigger problem.
I killed a man.
Beside the point.
Not sarcastic. Me at my most sincere.
Is this a vegetarian thing?
Every person in this country has, at some point, carried this poem in their pockets.
Words don’t matter. Only numbers.
This lunch will cost over forty dollars.
I hope mum pays.
I could kill a horse. Everyone should be required to serve in an abattoir at some point. Like Singaporeans and the army.
More carry pictures of the Queen. Is she also to blame for this lunch? Or Mary Gilmore?
What does a horse think?
It desires a different state of mind.
Hay. Salt. Water. Running.
Something else.
Can one eat horse in Australia? Is it illegal or merely frowned upon?
I want to eat it anyway.
I like the Queen. Not sure I’d want her son on my money, though.
What does a horse think?
I want what horses want.
I am the horse.
A horse thinks of any other subject…
I don’t know. I imagine they like carrots and lumps of sugar and dancing in the fields…
When it runs down a steep hill full of wombat holes … what does it think?
Empathy for the non-existent.
Non-existent in everyone’s pockets.
I know what I think.
This is nuts. Even for her.
The sort of conversation an addict has.
Probably doesn’t think.
It’s scared. It feels fear. Terror.
That’s what I feel. The horse is fiction.
So is this terror, desire for analgesia.
Doesn’t engage in this nonsense. Also has a decent relationship with its foals.
But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot,
Stop encouraging her.
Shouldn’t have begun.
He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;

Dancing around what I’ve known for years.
Why she’s upset.
But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot,

Why must chatter over food be where real thinking occurs?
Feel better taking life than giving it.
For never yet was mountain horse a cur.

Every mother a reverse grim reaper.
A more terrible secret. Confessed by myself, to myself.
Pluck and courage? The horse is afraid and exhausted. That’s all. It isn’t heroic. It has no courage. It’s terrified and bleeding. That’s all.
Humility. Low view of one’s importance.
Just a dark thought. It will pass.
Like Caradoc Barnard.
It’s just a story.
If it’s ‘just a story,’ why put it on the money? Why idolise it?
Something I could use.
Without conclusion.
Like this mother-daughter fiction.
I didn’t say we should.
But you accept that we do.
Time to drop it. Knock it off.
Too much to get offended by these days.
Or not enough time to process emotion.
Getting offended is just noticing.
So, stop noticing.
So, leave. Put money where mouth is.
Her money.
Camel through the eye of the needle.
Horse hoof through wombat hole.
We should eat. That’s what has her irked. Low blood sugar.
We share that with horses.
You’re upset that I don’t share your particular, peculiar agitation. I get annoyed about things too. I get annoyed at people badmouthing my practice or new cosmetic surgery laws. Yet you don’t see me annoyed that you’re not.
You want to know my thoughts on your practice?
I’m not happy.
Such an Australian thing to worry about.
Utopia: where everyone shuts up about minor differences.
Then do it. Switch off everything.
Like you did Croc.
Oh, god no. Please stop.
OK, I’ll stop. I should go. I’m meeting my students to help them vote.
Cue lecture on why I should get a real job.
Thank god.
Flogging a dead horse.
Are you being paid overtime?
Time to leave. For real this time.
Are you being paid at all?
Voluntary work. Voluntary life.
You should be.
Have you voted?
Politics won’t help.
Politicians cannot save us.
Postal vote.
Best not to mention I voted LNP.
OK, I’ll see you.
Bye sweetheart.
Like hugging a skeleton.
She’s not really gone.
Don’t bet on that horse.
My ex-husband’s girl. His faulty genes.
New age bohemian nonsense.
Like this German pop music. Und der Haifisch, der hat… something?
Could once speak a little German.
Thanks to my parasite drunkard husband.
Keep him nameless, undefined. He’s not even worthy of concrete memories. Kill all legacies.
Mack the Knife. That’s what this is.
Shark and teeth. A sweet song about a killer. Catchy.
Food arrives. Far too late.
Doch das Messer sieht man nicht.
Suitable. More so than The Man From Snowy River.
Harmonic. German, adopted by Americans, played in Australia.
Enjoy cab sav. Freedom. Financial success. Prosciutto.
I’m spilling wine. Burping.
Do all killers feel this discomfort?
…Mackie welches war dein Preis?
I feel like a horse running down a hill, full of wombat holes.
Leave a tip. A ten-dollar tip. It will make you feel better, make you feel American.
Doch man sieht nur die im Lichte
Die im Dunklen sieht man nicht.
Stand, hug, turn, leave. Walk out. Pick up coffee to-go. Go…
…to a future. Of some sort. Of total chaos. Reduced by history and culture to a numerical…
I’m being melodramatic.
Reject numbers, reject melodrama.
Or embrace. Pick one.
Just keep walking. Off we go. Over inedible berries underfoot, soured by sunlight, smashed into pavement…
Melodramatic times need melodramatic souls.
…like the names and handprints embedded by young vandals.
A cat paws at a nest of native birds.
Cakes for sale. Been sitting in sun all morning.
Accusations of whining. If heard at all.
Someone hasn’t picked up after their dog. Faeces attract flies.
“If you don’t like it, leave!”
Wise words.
Tyres throw up dust. Australian drivers are impatient.
Chatter from relentless lorikeets.
“No one’s making you stay.”
Leaving isn’t effortless.
Neither is arriving. Look at my students waiting outside the primary school: Khadija who fled Afghanistan, Hyuk who cannot afford to return to Korea, Duong…
I belong with them.
…from Vietnam who is without licence or aspiration, Filipina Mary Joy who’ll join my ex-boyfriend in jail if she isn’t careful. Douglas, Jo, and…
Humidity so thick I’m swimming. Sweat faucet.
Don’t blame me. I don’t determine the weather. I didn’t create the parliamentary system. I didn’t make voting at all levels compulsory.
…where is Grace?
Of course, someone wouldn’t show. They’ll get fined.
I’ll get blamed.
Teacher learns the greatest wisdom.
Which is?
I am incapable of taking responsibility for these students’ futures, my future.
Barely a teacher.
“Something to build on.”
Voluntary community service. Centrelink teaching.
“Assistant” teaching.
Not in charge. Paid less than everyone else, including the students.
Significantly less than Lloyd Gadd, who never ceases to boast of his Masters in TESOL, or how he deserves the weekend off given how hard he works, who never shuts up about Cook Australia, Cook!
Probably watching it right now.
“Margot, it’s important we create learning tools they can relate to.”
Plagiarised handouts kill 45-minute blocks.
Everyone’s written fifty but sent out none.
Me included.
Nepotism did the job, got the job. Mum’s doing.
Probably cut open Lloyd Gadd’s eyes.
How the world’s clockwork ticks: “I know a person who knows a person.”
Barely qualified. CV inadequate.
“Something to preoccupy you till something comes along.”
Never did.
Never does.
Don’t explain how to vote.
English irritates.
Will muck it up anyway.
Them and the public.
Give the gift of tranquillity, indifference.
Democracy in action.
All booted out of office eventually.
Just here for handouts.
So, bequeath an envelope of mother’s stolen money. Pass them out as they exit. A gift for their hard work this semester.
Not all here.
So, keep one.
Like oxycodone.
None in India.
Opium, heroin, methamphetamine probably prevalent.
No temptation to steal mum’s prescription pad.
Yet you stole.
Will not end well.
Pause. Breathe. Take out the yellowed, crumpled paper. Unfold it. Read it for the millionth time:
“I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.” -EAP
19th century wisdom has no application here. Edgar Allen Poe quotes cannot save me.
Couldn’t save him.
Doesn’t scare me.
Doesn’t not scare me.
Worked in the past. Effective meditation.
Doesn’t help.
Barely distraction.
Need medication.
Lost its lustre. Like everything.
Like overworked opioid receptors.
Doesn’t not help.
To what, to who?
Tu-whit tu-whoo.
Will make things worse.
As opposed to?
Inner avowals empty. No such thing as soul.
Self-aware, in control.
Throwing away money like a madwoman?
Keep one.
Be decisive.
Why you did it in the first place.
Still unsure.
Economic suicide?
Choose. One.
A loony monk self-immolating.
I will, must hand them out. “One for you, one for you.”
One for me?
None is best.
Speak to someone. Confess to, at least make chitchat with…
Incapable. Them and me.
Will not dissolve current woes. Will make things…
For me and them.
Not for me to say.
Speak now, or forever hold your peace.
Hold onto the envelopes.
Either choice disastrous.
Choices now cannot undo choices previously made.
Choose the less painful.
Like Edgar Allen Poe?
My most melodramatic.
Self-aware melodrama?
Pick one. Be decisive.
No good options.
Were there ever?
Keep one. The one left over.
A donation box for the school’s netball team. Smudged by fingerprints of kids clawing at the hole, attempting to retrieve coins.
Feel the same way.
Throw it in. As good a donation as any. Best-looking netballers around.
Be charitable.
Be a charity.
Either way. Choose.
Don’t vote. All terrible options.
Skip the polling booth, electoral obligation.
Donkey vote.
Donkey life.
Don’t scratch. Decline urges.
Let them fend for themselves. Either way they’re on their own.
Off we go…
Spotted. Seen.
Don’t look back. Keep walking. Ignore hellos, shouts, passers-by, relentless lorikeets, irreparable neural pathways…
Go off…
…over vandalised concrete stained by mashed inedible berries rotting in cancerous sunlight.
Off, off, off.
I do not even like to cook, hate to grocery shop, do not care for the company of strangers or dinner parties, and yet when I am alone I can think of nothing else, of nothing but Cook Australia, Cook!, of being a contestant on the show, of swiftly preparing food within set time limits, of coming up with witty and insightful comments, of receiving thoughtful criticism for my dishes (hóng shāo ròu with wilted bok choy and soft-boiled quail eggs, Żubrówka and cloudy apple gelatine cubes with cheddar cheese ice-cream and crumbled butter cookies, agar-agar chocolate spaghetti with truffle meatballs and watermelon coulis), dishes I have never attempted to make as my enthusiasm only exists in the moments when cognition floats between awareness and dream, as it does now, as I doze on a lazy Sunday, lying on my side, facing away from my wife, of whom I never fantasise for our reality is all too plain, our marriage having lasted for over ten years now, a decade+, enough time to have exhausted all our anecdotes, observations, inclinations, and dreams, which is why she is never by my side when I imagine myself as a partnered contestant on Cook Australia, Cook!, C.A.C. as the advertisements call it, always encouraging the addition of a hashtag so as to ensure its propagation on social media, with which I have never engaged, having never once liked or linked anything relating to C.A.C. on my Facebook page or Twitter account or LinkedIn profile, in fact if asked about the show I turn up my nose, routinely voicing to colleagues during water cooler chitchat my disapproval of the cooking pageant enterprise, its existence wholly dependent on promoting the national grocery chain, which I proudly do not frequent, indeed I haughtily rally against, declaring my support for the independent senators who condemn these conglomerates’ strong-arming of local farmers and investments in poker-machine locations, and yet I still dream of playing the central role in this national competition, exchanging witticisms with the beloved judges, the Bulgarian-Australian who owns a franchise of continental-style cafés with locations in Bondi, the Gold Coast, and Fremantle, a fact I know because I always watch C.A.C., sometimes twice, re-watching the repeat on Sunday afternoons or streaming on-line at c-a-c.network.com.au on my early morning commute, wearing headphones and concealing my smartphone screen with my palm so other passengers do not see that I am so crass as to engage in such a show, someone as respectable-looking as myself, wearing a suit without a tie because I bring so much prestige to my workplace, Career Training Australia Ltd, where I, Lloyd Gadd, oversee the LLNP syllabus for the Write Now! initiative for the entire nation and have done so for three years, and that is as far as I need to go in justifying myself and my CV and what I stand for because as a contestant of C.A.C. that is all the time you get, a swift 30-second spot to define yourself, to characterise (or rather caricaturise) exactly who it is you purport to be, for the medium is not real, not a reflection of any sort of liveable experience, not even effective as romantic fantasy, pitiful as pornography, and yet I continue to watch this trivial show on my phone, using up my allotted monthly data, tolerating the on-line commercials I am required to watch to gain access, some of which promote the very phone network I am using, the show itself unapologetically an extended series of cross-promotional adverts, re-emphasised as I watch the bronzed-surfer judge shill his vegan and juice-diet cookbooks while giving friendly but clichéd comments to a lesbian Thai couple I am certain were only selected due to the diversity they bring to the franchise, not explicitly declaring themselves to be in a homosexual relationship but hinting at it with excessive innuendo, themselves no doubt hoping to reveal their not-so-covert passions in a Right Now! Weekly ‘exposé’ for which they will receive a handsome payment, perhaps even hoping to someday adopt a child, a troublesome ordeal that they could well leverage for another sizeable payday from RN!W for an additional in-depth article, their whole livelihoods gradually becoming an escalating series of generically dramatic magazine-glossed events, far more engaging than the currently-transpiring federal election, every voting citizen in the country eventually becoming a C.A.C. contestant, building their own brands, cooking more food on TV than in their kitchens, promoting and articulating their icastic selves, making their stock worthy to the televisual, social media, social capital networks, which no one is able to refuse, refusing itself a choice that carries with it its own advantages, my own public rejection of the show a perfect example of promoting my cultural worthiness, exhibiting to anyone who listens that I belong to an upper echelon, that I am above such bourgeois activities as hosting dinner parties or deriving vulgar pleasure from food, for me it is just fuel, though I try to eat healthy because if I am to be a contestant on C.A.C. I will need to look good, without a doubt one must be in great shape to compete, to be aesthetically palatable to the public, otherwise I may be interpreted as a buffoon, as a cartoon to be laughed at, distilled to cruel catchphrases scripted by writing teams, because no one ever truly speaks their mind, all dialogue is orchestrated, a reality show production technique I am familiar with because I watched a self-declared ‘controversial’ behind-the-scenes interview, filmed by RN!W’s primary competitor What¿Now (the video recommended to me by my $1000+ smartphone using algorithms I do not understand), in which the video editor of the second season of the reality series ‘told all,’ revealing that all arguments between competitors were fabricated, that she despised the gig because it was ‘corporate’ and ‘derivative’ and not at all what she went to film school for, but at least it paid the bills, allowed her to fund her pet projects, which she has never actually had time to pursue because she has a husband and wants a child and an apartment in Sydney, and say what you want about C.A.C. (and I do say and the video editor did say, claiming not to like the show, that it was ‘just a job,’ putting up a façade of total cultural sophistication, ignoring the interviewer’s questions about the upcoming C.A.C. season, wanting only to discuss the rereleased print of Ingmar Bergman’s Viskningar och rop screening at the 26th Annual Swedish film festival, or the newly translated poems of Kōtarō Takamura, or the ethical repercussions of staging Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza), we all have to eat, a fact C.A.C. repeats ad nauseam before adding the tagline ‘but not all of us eat well,’ as though every mouthful must be cherished, must be worthy of acclaim, and one must never be satiated, must never tolerate anything imperfect, must indulge at every opportunity, must live one’s wildest fantasy at all times, and I certainly do fantasise as I push my trolley down aisle five, just never with my wife by my side, despite the fact that she’s a competent cook, a brilliant cardiologist, a delightful conversationalist, and such a considerate lover that she surely must be far from content with my paltry performance, but I tell no one this, certainly not the cameras of C.A.C. or the pages of RN!W, I always act like my love life is spectacular, wild but not abnormal, satisfying but not central to my existence, varied but not as encyclopaedic as the pornographic tap us children of the 90s were exposed to, overseen by high-speed Internet and Bill Clinton and a perpetual state of lacking, requiring an unyielding motivation to increase one’s brand, to further invest in one’s self, whether one is Kōtarō Takamura’s ghost or a Thai lesbian ex-competitor on C.A.C. or a candidate in the current federal election or overseer of the LLNP syllabus for Career Training Australia Ltd, we’re all of us undergoing the same ailment, the same cycle, the need for more, for a different experience, a different wife is what I imagine, a Nordic woman who helps me serve up Bergensk fiskesuppe with salmon and monk fish, and we tell the judges ‘That’s how it’s served in the harsh Bergen winter,’ and we flirt with one another in Norwegian and our competitors are intrigued and perhaps a little jealous and paranoid, and we are admired for our very great and humble contribution to Australian cuisine that can now be replicated by home cooks across the nation provided the ingredients are available at the major grocery chain, which they will be as our recipe will be made available as part of the show’s cross-promotional cookbook that can be bought just in time for Christmas and makes a great stocking stuffer, or perhaps instead wannabe chefs will imitate my bandeja paisa that I prepare with my imagined Colombian partner, a curly-haired, voluptuous woman who sasses the competing teams but uses adorable, sensually-rolled consonants so as not to be labelled a monster, to which I play a mediating force, and we form a smart-alecky but adept team, and we are congratulated for our authentic selves being flawlessly presented by the video editor who pretends to hate her job but in fact enjoys the luxuries it affords and she is also secretly and shamefully intrigued by our dishes and uses her payment from said job to buy ingredients from the grocery chain she is promoting to make dishes for her kids who are grateful that their mother can provide a home in the competitive Sydney housing market as well as a meal that is both nutritious and tasty, although the kids will not realise this till well after they have grown-up because offspring are ungrateful, not worth the trouble, the worst investment, although being older without sons or daughters sends a very bad signal to the home viewer (the C.A.C. demographic consisting predominantly of family audiences, the teenage and young adult markets instead gravitating towards edgier on-line programming and activities, attracting much cooler and more predatory marketing teams that I dare not even fantasise about trying to appeal to), a sense of indulging too much, of being greedy with love, so reproduction will ultimately be necessary, despite the enormous time and financial drain, plus there is always the chance that Australian networks may follow the American version (Cook America, Cook!) on which the series is based and create a kid’s edition of C.A.C., Cook Australian Kids, Cook!, and my hypothetical child will no doubt have inherited the requisite wit and skill to not only compete but win, thus enriching his or her CV, allowing them to better compete in the job market, the housing market, the romance market, for it is the markets that determine us, and as I turn to my wife, who lies on her side, splayed ungracefully, the asymmetry of her coffee-stained teeth peeking through chapped lips, eyelids lightly closed, I realise that I have never seen her cry, cannot imagine her welling up as she wins the C.A.C. grand finale, or being upset if pork crackling were to burn, or if I were to threaten divorce, she would likely just shrug her shoulders, display minimal disappointment, claim not to be that bothered, likely poke fun, utilise dry sense of humour, make deadpan jabs at my romantic inadequacies, nothing too crass, insults acceptable for PG ratings, the sort of quips that fit into fluffy reality TV show asides, friendly teases, a loving cruelty, the sort of attitude that would make people at home think I’m probably a pretty nice guy for putting up with her, a guy who is coy but charming, and we would be liked (regarded as cute), then loved (regarded as endearing), then championed (regarded as Australia’s sweethearts), and our insights into cooking would be noted because I love my wife and am glad that I married her, and we will not win but come close, and do an interview on an early morning newsmagazine during which we will publicly kiss and get an ‘aww’ from the middle-aged reporter who has recently divorced and sold her story to RN!W, and as they cut away she discloses to her co-host that she wishes she could have as strong a relationship as we have, as nice meals as we make, as happy a family as we do, adoration unfurling forever, without breaks, not even for commercials, the whole audience that is the Australian population indefinitely spewing praise for me and all I stand for because I do love my wife – yes, I surely must, it is unavoidable – the unofficial champion of Cook Australia, Cook!
He, Hyuk, 혁, of the genus Menura, was better than this. 너무 똑똑한 for this country, this group of people, this absurd compulsory learning, this 생활, this queue, this 방법 he did not care for or wish to be part of. All politicians were the same to him. Noted for their capacity to ape sounds from the environment. One must cite correctly, show evidence. Give credit to the original thinker. The lyrebird was thought to be in the partridge/pheasant family, and for a time were called ‘peacock-wrens.’ He had no say in the matter. If he did, this was it: lining up with a group of unknowns to select unknowns. Original Korean inventions, embraced by the world: soybean cultivation, the greenhouse, the water gauge, refrigeration, the newspaper, the mp3 player, the milk carton. Would it matter? Its syrinx gives the bird its ability to mimic. They can even imitate the cackle of kookaburras (OOKABURRA, K. ‘CACKLE’, ANIMAL NOISES, VOL.11, PP.22–12.), growls of dingoes (INGO, D. ‘GROWL’, ANIMAL NOISES, VOL.9, PP.55–67.), rattle of chainsaws (HAINSAW, C. ‘RATTLE’, MECHANICAL SOUNDS, VOL.3, PP.110–144.), blares of car alarms (LARMS, A. ‘BLARES’, JOURNAL OF WARNINGS, VOL.21, PP.88–101.), wails of babies (ABY, B. ‘WAILS’, EARLY DEVELOPMENT SOUNDS, VOL.4, PP. 55–67.), murmurs of humans (UMAN, H. ‘MURMURS’, THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF HUMANITY, VOL.1849823, pp. 232412314–234839234.) The teacher had explained how, but he did not recall the correct 방법, confirming their opinion that he belonged 이리. Gorgeous plumage. He belonged anywhere but 이리. The University of XXXXXX takes plagiarism very seriously. Lyrebird song is a mixture of its own unique song and mimicked noise. Korean creations are used every day: TVs, cars, air-conditioning systems. 이리 he, Hyuk, 혁, copied their words, speech patterns, conversational modes, application letter templates: plagiarism. LATIN WORD FOR KIDNAPPER. 표절. The Korean word did not carry the same whiff of sin. It has been determined that your submission in LMB 391 violates the academic code of conduct. As a result, it is the decision of the faculty that you be… Put with the weakest. The result of Australian defiance. …until such time that… He ticked the box with the weakest-looking name, the smallest number of letters. Less space = less prominence. ACCORDING TO SECTION 268 OF COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL ACT (1918), A VOTE IS REGARDED AS INFORMAL IF… He, Hyuk, 혁, signed his name.
Patching up her make-up using her compact mirror, Mary Joy caught her reflection and felt, as when Captain John Hunter sent an animal specimen (pelt and accompanying sketch) to the naturalist George Shaw in 1799, believing it to be a deception by Asian taxidermists made up of a combination of CHOCOLATE AND RICE MAY SEEM A PECULIAR MIX, BUT CHAMPORADO IS A POPULAR DISH IN PHILIPPINE CUISINE, MADE BY BOILING STICKY RICE WITH COCOA, MILK, AND SUGAR. She belched, tasted cocoa, and reapplied eyelid tape to give the impression similar to the Pacific hagfish or lamprey. Platypus eyes contain double cones. The corneal surface is curved, similar to the sea lion or otter. Following today’s obligation, Mary Joy would attend to the post office to pay her fine. She was a novice driver: one who has not held a licence for a period of at least two years. Last Saturday evening, she had drunk a bottle of San Miguel at the casino bar – AT OVER 80%, AUSTRALIA HAS THE WORLD’S HIGHEST GAMBLING RATE, WITH 4% OF ADULTS ENGAGING WITH ‘POKIES’ WEEKLY – after using Centrelink payments to gamble, an indulgence she afforded herself every weekend. She had won $1,320 –GAMING MACHINES RETURN, ON AVERAGE, 90% OF TURNOVER TO THE GAMBLER – and consumed a drink to celebrate. BAC must be zero. Men spoke to her, attracted, she suspected, by her $460 shoes – widow of Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos, accused kleptocrat, first lady from 1965–86, one of the richest politicians through her amassing of clothing, artwork, jewellery, and offshore accounts. After leaving Malacañang Palace, she left behind five hundred gowns, one thousand hand bags, and an absurd amount of shoes –, the low hem-line of her skirt, and confident posture, though when she responded, dissolving her coy veneer – born with ankle spurs, which contain DLPs and cause lysis in pathogenic bacteria and viruses, powerful enough to kill small dogs/cats – refusing their offers to purchase drinks, revealing she wanted to get home as she wished to attend church the following morning – 87% OF THE FILIPINO POPULATION IS ROMAN CATHOLIC; IN 1970 A FAILED ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT WAS MADE ON POPE PAUL VI AT MANILA AIRPORT – interest waned. Driving home, she was pulled over. Police can require vehicles be stopped for ‘prescribed purpose,’ which includes breathalyser tests. Failure to stop can result in fines of up to $6,000. She sensed this would happen – Electroreceptors and mechanoreceptors are located in the bill; cortical cells receive input from these receptors, and she was acquitted of 32 counts of illegal transfers to Swiss accounts in 2008 – that her luck for the evening would run out (RETURN ACHIEVED OVER APRPOX. 3–4 YEARS). The policewoman was curt, but not rude. Mary Joy admired this quality, received the fine in the same manner, with minimal English. She had learned enough to exist, to live the life she wished, SERVED IN BOWLS WITH CONDENSED MILK AND DRIED ANCHOVIES. She ticked her name off at the desk, received her ballot, and placed it immediately into the ballot box, ACCORDING TO SECTION 268 OF COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL ACT (1918), A VOTE IS REGARDED AS INFORMAL IF… unmarked, content she was above such things
→ → → He had been here before, would be here again, cyclical was the word he was looking for, the exact articulation of his feeling. vòng tròn. ○ ○ ○ SAME ROUTE. The term that had caused so much trouble, the term he understood but could not pronounce. Before you are able to legally operate and chauffeur fare-paying passengers, you must have the correct licence. WE’VE RECEIVED SEVERAL COMPLAINTS FROM PASSENGERS. phàn nàn. Back to Việt Nam. SAME ROUTE. A charter driver’s licence allows a driver to carry fee-paying passengers. Go back there, come back here. SAME ROUTE. vòng tròn. Kangaroo on the side of the bus. Macropodidae, macropods, meaning large foot. On the tail of the plane. QANTAS flight. NOW DEPARTING. SYD → SIN → SGN. Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh. NOW ARRIVING. There again, back again. Tag on/off. NOW DEPARTING. SGN → SIN → SYD. Where’s it stop? → ‘Ring number. Ring Transport.’ Tôi muốn về nhà. WE’VE RECEIVED MULTIPLE COMPLAINTS. YOU MUST HELP THE PASSENGERS. ‘I drive bus. Ring number.’ Studies have proven a correlation between hopping and breathing. WE’VE RECEIVED AN ENORMOUS NUMBER OF COMPLAINTS. NO ONE UNDERSTANDS YOU. ‘Ring number.’ You really put your foot in it, mate! Macropod. Powerful hind legs for leaping. You’re going to have to fly home to reapply. ‘Ring number.’ → SGN? Yes. thở To apply for an extension to an existing licence, the Road Traffic Regulations state the applicant must meet the following: as feet leave the ground, air is expelled./ ‘Are you Duong?’ Yes. Yes. vâng. UNTIL SUCH TIME AS YOU ARE ABLE TO IMPROVE CONVERSATIONAL ENGLISH, WE ARE UNABLE TO EMPLOY … Tôi không hiểu. …has, for at least three (3) years, held a full driver’s licence (i.e. NOT a provisional licence), shy and retiring in nature, ‘please fill out your form here,’ must be renewed within three (3) years, → TRANSPORT OFFICE, ○ ○ ○ egg descends from ovaryuterus ‘Please take your form there and fill it out.’ Fertilised into neonate. ‘Yes, over there!’ SAME ROUTE. ‘Next please!’ Must be of good character. NOW DEPARTING. ‘Yes, just fill it out there!’ ACCORDING TO SECTION 268 OF THE COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL ACT (1918), A VOTE IS REGARDED AS INFORMAL IF… He still did not have a pencil. He had been here before, would be here again, cyclical was the word he was looking for, the exact articulation of his feeling. vòng tròn. WE HAVE RECEIVED AN EXCESSIVE, UNACCEPTABLE NUMBER OF COMPLAINTS. Form must be filled out correctly or it will not be processed. ‘What do you need?’ Mid-bound, they can reach speeds of up to 50km/h, causing impact with a vehicle to be severe, often resulting in injury. ‘No, they’re there. Why are you coming back?’ Desk → Electoral Booth → Entryway → Desk → Submission box → Electoral Booth → Exit → Home → SYD → SIN → SGN ○ → ○ → ○ → SAME ROUTE → ○ → ○ → SIN → SYD → Transport Dept. → Embassy → Immigration Dept. → Centrelink → Class → → → NOW DEPARTING.
Thigh movement caused crackle in Douglas’s headphones. *static* DEAD PRESIDENTS *static* He was not allowed to listen to music during class, but today was not class. Do you identify as (A) Aboriginal ☑ (B) Torres Strait Islander ☐ (C) Both ☐. ‘Are you listening?’ Douglas was listening to *static* DEAD PRESIDENTS, to Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones. Born Sep. 14, 1973, ‘BROOKLYN’ splayed across his shirt. Its location unknown, regarded as fantasy, a place he might *static* CITY BANDIT, *static* SINGLE-HANDED *static* …include regional groups that identify under various names from Indigenous languages. No plans to *static* SPIT PLEGM *static* Data on belief demographics among Indigenous Australians is unreliable. Census methodologies have been ill-suited. Nas’s father, Olu Dara, was a Mississippian blues musician. His DNA indicates roots with the Yoruba people, as well as traces to Scandinavia. The ignorance of others on the subject assured him of untapped wells within *static* THOUGHTS ALONE *static* REMANDED *static* The teacher always insisted on discussing Indigenous … ness. The coin displays an Elder and is not intended to depict any person in particular. Didn’t care for it, no desire to *static* AIMING GUNS *static* ALL MY BABY PICTURES *static* Over 250 Indigenous languages were spoken at the time of European settlement. The teacher didn’t know that ‘dead presidents’ referred to money, disapproved of the ‘inherent nihilism’ in the phrase, treated Douglas like a baby, an animal. Australian coins all display a head of the monarch, and native Australian fauna. *static* RELEASE SCRIPTURES *static* MAYBE HITLER’S *static* Douglas adored this pessimism, wished such lines could serve all purposes, a lyrically percussive snippet for every situation, a synthesised catalogue of *static* What he craved, what would take him where he needed to be. Harvard University established the Nasir Jones Fellowship, which served to fund scholars who show potential and creativity in the arts in connection with hip-hop. *static* IT’S MINE, IT’S MINE *static* He just needed new headphones. If there were politicians that could provide… ACCORDING TO SECTION 268 OF COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL ACT (1918), A VOTE IS REGARDED AS INFORMAL IF… Douglas scratched ‘I’M OUT 4 dead presidents 2 REP’ across the ballot papers.
‘Car-dee-jay!’ Khadija. خدیجه. Mother of Believers, first wife of Prophet Muhammed, PBUH, of the order Monotremata, one of the few surviving members. Her aural instincts never perked to recognise ‘Car-dee-jay’ as her name, the Australian accent forever seeming like bad radio reception, the buzz of a mosquito swarm, زیر ابزی. Dari Persian/Afghan Persian is recognised by the Afghan government as the official language. In fact, she never perked. THE TALIBAN EXPERIENCED A NUMBER OF DEFEATS. The echidna is a shy, placid animal. Its diet consists of basmati in broth with lamb. All surrounds deemed irritants. THE TALIBAN FAILED TO CAPTURE KABUL, REPELLED BY MASSOUD FORCES. Echidnas do not thrive in extreme conditions, preferring to dwell in caves to shelter from harsh weather. ‘Car-dee-jay, can you point where we are on the map?’ She gestured at the red blob at the top, with ‘R-U-S-S-I-A’ scrawled across. A guess. Bake in oven. Knew it was a guess. Schools in Afghanistan = >16,000; rate of literacy for Afghan females = approx. 24%. WITH PAKISTANI MILITARY AND SAUDI FINANCIAL SUPPORT, THE TALIBAN CAPTURED KABUL, ESTABLISHING د افغانستان اسلامي امارات, IMPOSING شريعة. Knew the teacher knew it was a guess. Wanted the teacher to know it was a guess, because the echidna can also burrow into soil, or cram its whole body under rocks. On this soil she never perked, only plodded forward as in this queue. Left foot, right foot. If disturbed it curls into a ball, hiding beneath sharp spines. She had learned ‘left’ was left, ‘right’ was right, though this information was not stored, not deemed of use. In one (left?) ear, out the other (right?) ear …with raisin(s?) Wandered through the store until it was found, through aisles, passing rice(s?), fruit(s?), cereal(s?)… peel of orange… the right nut(s?) with shell(s?) that can be pulled away with fingernail(s?), chopped pistachio(s?) The female lays one soft-shell, leather-like egg, which is deposited directly into her pouch. Prepare. ‘Name and address?’ MASS DISPLACEMENT WITH MANY ESCAPING TALIBAN RULE. Puggles will live in the den for up to a year. Bad radio reception, buzz of mosquito swarm, زیر ابزی. ‘Her name’s Car-dee-jay!’ Muhammed (PBUH) was monogamously married to Khadija for twenty-five years. Handed paper covered in scrawl, bad radio reception, buzz of mosquitos. Eat. Echidnas have no teeth. They break down food by grinding with their tongue. She draws a circle. Round, round… ACCORDING TO SECTION 268 OF COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL ACT (1918), A VOTE IS REGARDED AS INFORMAL IF… spiralling through names of would-be senators, indenting paper with graphite before ambling away, left (left?) foot, right (right?) foot, back home to cook, to sleep, to… after her death, Muhammad PBUH married in polygyny.
Waste of time. What she thought. Always plodding forward. Like this queue. Emu and Kanga. Can’t walk backwards. That’s the motto. Coat of arms. Golden wattle framing. Heraldic visual design. Commonwealth authority/ownership. Just keep moving. Just get work. Why she’s here. She was told. By Centrelink’s phone. At nine a.m. Kept on hold. For four hours. Ordered to attend. Just keep attending. Improve language skills. The supposed goal. Impossible, unmeetable benchmarks. She’ll never achieve. Set by boards. In government offices. Who’re paid decent. Unimaginably high wages. To rate her. Her literacy levels. Abilities to comprehend. For broader purposes. Engagement with society. Decoding and cognizance. Increased passage fluency. Better computer literacy. As of 2013. Words, numbers, tech. Fourth in world. Working age adults. Ages 15–74. Which includes her. She is 46. She is data. Valuable as data. Above international average. Numeracy levels below. Bad with numbers. Cost of groceries. Completing tax returns. Paying for petrol. Calculating financial interest. Being a citizen. Of this country. A nice ideal. Incomprehensible to her. At this time. In her lifetime. With her resources. With limited capabilities. Despite political assertions. Despite best efforts. By all involved. Despite infinite education. Nothing is learned. Classes merely repeated. To satisfy whom? Best possible outcome? A redundant profession. In mechanised culture. A would-be robot. What’s the point? Today’s real motto. To what end? A potential nest-egg? She’s government funded. Will always be. So why bother? Partake in charades? Veneer of endeavour? Nothing is free. Mustn’t seem so. Intolerable to taxpayers. This she comprehended. She was nuisance. A societal ineffectual. A non-criminal plight. Handed a form. Boxes to fill. Semblance of involvement. Just draws faces. With downturned smiles. ACCORDING SECTION 268. COMMONWEALTH ELECTORAL ACT. VOTE REGARDED INFORMAL… Her authentic opinion.☹☹☹
Shouldn’t be’ere. None’f us should. It’s the weekend, for cryin’… Life only means anythin’ on the weekend. From Monday to Thursday it sure a’shit doesn’t. Mine sure a’shit don’t. This boofhead with tea towels wrapped round’er head in the middle’f summer, she definitely shouldn’t be’ere. The teacher reckons she demanded a ‘women’s only’ class. Thinks she’s Queen’f England. These Muslims… they com’ere and demand, whine, bitch. Bet she gets whatever she wants whenever she wants. Bet when she sticks her hand out bus drivers screech to a halt. Not me. Those bastards don’t even touch the brakes. I’m less picky these days. Easy-peasy. Pick me up whenever you want. Put me in whatever class you want. Expectations are on the floor. Just need a place to live, some pink on my skin, and the occasional box’f Grace Estate. Nothin’ fancy. If I wanted more I’d try harder. All’s luck anyways. If I’d been born at the right time to the right peoples I’d be Queen’f England. But the Queen’ll be dead soon. I’ll outlive her, I reckon. Surprised she’s still kickin’. When she keels, there’ll be a bunch’f fake weepin’ by people who never knew’er. Then they’ll put her idiot children on the money. Queen and I’ve both got that in common: idiot children. Whether you’re rich or poor, educated or dumb-as-bricks, kiddos disappoint. Ev’ry idiot here standin’ in line is someone’s mistake. All’f us’re only here so we don’t get a fine. That’s all this country is. Forms’n fines. Fillin’ out forms to prevent fines. So much bloody paper. Country’s a mess. Big mess’f paper. This heat. This mob. This guy who stinks’f chilli-cabbage. Ev’ry day he brings out a tin’f it, slurpin’ and stinkin’ and suckin’. Or this galah with her drink drivin’. Who thought it’d be a good idea to give her a licence? Only in this country. Nothin’ but stupidity’n humidity, forms’n fines. They should stick that on the coins, around the Queen’s head. Better bloody motto. May as well stick these dumb idiots’ heads on there too: Mr lost-his-bus-licence-cause-he-can’t-speak-proper-even-though-he’s-been-comin’-to-this-class-for-two-years. Or little high-school-dropout-with-the-baggy-pants. Or the only other real Australian who can barely speak. Yes, I said it. Real. White. Can’t say’t these days though. Can barely think it. Gotta keep your gob shut. If I said what I really thought I’d get booted out’f class. Only way to survive is to pretend. So that’s what I’ve been doin’. Pretendin’ I’m dumber than I am to stay in class. Beats workin’. No point gettin’ good. Not at anything. Not anymore. Too late for that. Sure, I can sew, and add up a few numbers, and show up on time. But no one needs clothes sewn anymore. Not by these hands. No one’s puttin’ pennies in these paws. No one ‘cept the gov’ment. In a few years, everything’ll be robots anyway. So, for now my job’s to be stupid enough (or pretend to be stupid enough) to be in this English class, but not so stupid I get kicked out. I’m an actress. Like Nicole Kidman. Cate bloody Blanchett. Geoffrey fuckin’ Rush. Real Shakespeare stuff. Multiple-performance seasons. As long as I get better slowly I can keep this up for a five-year stint. Unless they repeal the whole learn-for-money program. Which, by the look’f the dopes in this line, they prob’ly will. But as dopey as they are (and they’re thicker than cold Vegemite), none’re as dopey as my Gul. I told’er to vote, but she didn’t come. So, she’ll get a fine. Then she’ll complain. Say she didn’t know. Then beg me to pay it. Or beg me to fill out a form so she doesn’t have to pay it. These days I’m havin’ to pay for ev’rything. More nappies. More formula. More wipes. Says she can’t just use cloth. She’s got no idea’f the cost’f things. How a number equals time. My time. Can’t even afford a drink these days. Need a mortgage just to get a sip. Prob’ly ‘cause half’f it goes to taxes to pay for the lives’f Mr Stinky-cabbage and Mrs Can’t-say-more-than-three-words and Ms Lost-my-licence-drink-drivin’. Pollies always say they’ll stop these guys comin’, but nothin’ changes. They just keep comin’ and comin’. They’re all’f’em liars. Actors. Pretenders. Just like me. Can’t do a thing. Or if they can they don’t. Used to say they’d get rid’f the Asians, but never did. Now the Africans and the Middle-Easters and all the other non-whites (yes, non-whites) keep trundlin’ in. No one ever leaves. Prices keep goin’ up. Things stay bad. Or get worse. There’s just too many people. Should stop havin’ kids. All’f us. Children’s lives don’t improve. Opportunity shrinks. Possibilities narrow. You just shove more ballots and forms into more boxes and hand out more fines to collect more money and ev’rything stays the same. Or gets worse. There. Done. Name’s signed off. Gov’ment’s not takin’ any cash from me this year. Vibratin’ in my pants. ‘nother phone call from idiot offspring. Wastin’ credit. Unawar’f how much she wastes. ‘Mum? Can you buy me some take-away?’ Wants fat’n pastry. As’f she weren’t chubby enough. The other day I saw her pluggin’ her baby’s gob with chips. Kid’s gonna be a fatty. Hasn’t a hope. That’s if’t isn’t stupid already. Think it might ‘ave issues. Prob’ly downs. Doesn’t respond. Uncurious. Eyes don’t follow. I told’er she should take ‘im to the doctor. She doesn’t wanna know ‘bout it though. Doesn’t want my advice. But if she’d listen’d to my tips in the first place she wouldn’t have to go see a doctor at all. The arrogance. To go through with it. To have the kid, keep the kid, parasite’f a parasite’f a parasite. Whole nation’f parasites. Was hopin’ I’d be able to save a bit for… can’t call it retirement. Fallin’ ungracefully into the state’s hammock. These girls servin’ chips’n burgers act like I haven’t been in here three times this week. ‘Sausage roll, burger’n chips.’ Reckons she deserves a ‘please.’ If she only knew, her expression wouldn’t be so scrunched. She prob’ly reckons her not-quite-Macca’s is fancy. Prob’ly reckons the Queen’f England’d eat here. I’m not gonna wait. Had enough queues and would-be queens for a lifetime. The bottle-o next-door. More my speed. Move past swank from foreign countries to the local boxes. Carryin’ ‘em round gets you funny looks, but people can stare all they want. $9.95 for thirty standards is as good as it gets in this country. Plus, it’s my namesake: Grace Estate. ‘Can you not drink that in here, thanks.’ The bottle-o kid acts like it’s a suggestion, not demand. Thinks he’s fancy, too, recommendin’ expensive shit from places he’s never been to housewives with fancy prams and designer dog breeds that take magical shits. No, Grace Estates is the honest teat we should all be sippin’ from. ‘You can’t bring that in here,’ says burger girl. Whatever happened to respect for elders? I grunt and growl, like a non-fancy dog with non-fancy shits. Snatch my paid-for food and leave. Huff, huff, huff. Stomp off, scare any audience. Let me drink my box wine in the street in peace. It’s a free country. Votes aren’t in yet. My neighbours are makin’ faces. ‘Your kid is…’ Growl, scowl, howl. Gnash teeth. Display your shiny Grace Estates bladder. Let’m know you’re unafraid. ‘I’ll call the…’ ‘Call whoever you want, mate! Call all your police, your security, your bloody body corporate!’ Laugh to seem crazy, seem crazy to scare. I’m such a great actress. Cate bloody Blanchett. Now they’re mutterin’. Like I care what they think. Go vote if you want to make a change. I’m not your local rep. I’m not in charge of anything. Deffo not your happiness, mate. Deffo not my idiot daughter. ‘Pong, that reeks!’ Can’t face ‘er. Not today. ‘I’m not dealin’ with this, hey.’ She’s rollin’ naked on the floor. Throw take-away at her, like a barnyard animal. ‘Here’s ya chippies, Sea-Gulla.’ She’s offended but not offended enough to turn down food. Never says no. Not to idiot boys who fly off to Bali. Not to havin’ babies. ‘Toldya not to have it.’ Need to go on record. Need to repeat this, teach her to say no. To fatty food, to more kids, more mistakes. She’s prob’ly at the trough now, scoffin’. Can’t face ‘er. Not today. So just keep walkin’. Follow hot air to beach. The doctor source. Past the train station. Across the tracks. Slurping my lexia. Did you know? Your pour could be more than you think. Gov’ment’s tryin’ to warn me to stop sippin’. Some light reading on the Grace Estates box. One wineglass represents a typical serving (150mL) which averages 1.4 standard drinks. There’s no standard. Just a bunch of idiots makin’ bad decisions. To reduce risk of alcohol-related disease and injury, it is recommended not to imbibe more than 2 standard drinks in one day. What if I want to increase my risk? How many am I s’posed to slurp then? The bladder is light. Mine is full. Should’ve bought more. Wind scatters sand. Can feel grains scratching eyeballs. Find an area marked off for dune preservation. Wish they preserved me like they preserve sand and flowers. Responsible drinking is about… There’s no about. … balancing enjoyment with potential risks… No enjoyment. All risk. …and harm that may arise especially if you go beyond low risk drinking levels. I’m there. Where I wanna be. Sleepin’ as the sun goes down on a private beach. Beauty of a day. Bit chilly though. So dig. Grab fistfuls of protected sand with grubby, freckled hands. Nails are yellow, stained, infected. This sand dune more protected than my fingers. Make a mess of the beach. Be a non-fancy dog with non-fancy shits. Dig, dig, dig. Bury from cold. Easy-peasy grave. While cold snaps pass. While Gulla stuffs ‘er face. While the country votes. Lie here. Dig, dig, dig. Don’t worry ‘bout skin flaking off fingers, or grains lodged under nails, or the hardness of the ground. Don’t worry ‘bout this big, yellowed bone. Don’t question if it’s from fish, or dog, or man, or cow. Chuck it with the other fistfuls. The dead aren’t your responsibility. Dig, dig, dig. Job to do. Clean drunk fun. Balance enjoyment with potential risk. Fine achievement. Feels good. More’n I’ve done all year. Lie in the cold sand. Bury yourself. Shovel legs with swipes. Excavate chunks onto chest. Form peaks. Giant sand bosoms. Seal limbs and neck. Be a root vegetable. Protected by local gov’ment. Nothin’ but a head stickin’ out. The emptied bladder of lexia takes full effect, makes its way to mine. Connected to country. Golden soil. No wealth for no toil. Listen to waves as I nod off, as new gov’ment congeals, as bladders are emptied, as I’m emptied of ev’rything.

The late afternoon is stickiest. There is a heaviness to the air that curls hairs and expands corrugated iron, a stagnant troposphere that seems to deposit oil onto skin, sealing eyelids with a thin layer of grime. Gulla’s lashes peel with oozing suction. Weight precedes sensation as she reacquaints with the predicament of maternity. On her stomach rests her child and his emitted stomach contents, which carries with it an acrid, lactic tang that flares Gulla’s nostrils to the widest diameter. She inhales sour air, causing her flabby chest to hollow and her child to slide and squelch into the indent. He squalls from disorientation and liquid sensation.

Exhaustion had claimed both. The child had fallen asleep in her chest, while she had dozed off on the chilled tile floor coated with blue, unnatural dust. The floor’s pattern has impressed a criss-cross brand on Gulla’s pliable back, dividing up moles and freckles.

The baby caterwauls. Gulla, too, cries. Her forehead scrunches, as if attempting to wring out fear, jolt fortitude. Tears dribble down two pairs of pink, oily, inflamed cheeks. There is more emesis, fetidness of faeces, the inevitability of rash. There is drying, hardening, cracking: inescapable mire. Air, thighs, heads are too thick.

Wood scrapes tile as the front door jams open. ‘Pong, that reeks!’ announces Gulla’s mother.

Gulla’s moans crescendo.

Her mother scrutinises her naked daughter and grandson, sweaty and tear-sodden, a clammy, flushed, fleshy blob. Their very presence raises the humidity. A perverse smirk usurps Gulla’s mother. She shakes her head, as though privy to a joke no one else could find humorous, decisively removed from decency. ‘I’m not dealin’ with this, hey.’ There is a slur and squeak to her speech, her characteristic ‘hey’ at the end of her statement rising slightly to indicate uncertainty, simultaneously a question and declaration aimed at a private confidante, a version of herself that holds no account but the deliquescence of present impulses. Gulla’s mother tosses a greasy paper bag on the floor, stating, ‘Here’s ya chippies, Sea-Gulla,’ and walks out without shutting the door, growling, ‘Toldya not to have it.’ A spurting snigger follows, intending to be overheard, to harm, to draw audiences from surrounding apartments, ensuring multiple witnesses, emitting and spreading, like a voluntary sneeze, her displeasure.

The neighbours are familiar with shouting spats from unit 22, treating them as one does thunder, as something to be noted but ultimately ignored. In the past, police have been called, but this has done nothing to improve relations. The baby’s squeals, however, are a different matter. The previous night’s cries were accompanied by heavy thuds from the adjacent walls, and stomps from the room above. One man yelled, ‘Shut ya fucking kid up!’ from his balcony. That same man now enters the apartment. ‘You’ve gotta shut ya baby up. We can’t do this every night.’ If the man is offended by Gulla’s nudity, he does not show it. He leaves his sweat-stained baseball cap on. ‘This place reeks.’ He scratches his scrappy beard, releasing a small flake of dead skin that floats to the floor.

Gulla buries her face in a blackened cushion, revealing a naked side flecked with acne. If she were not so exhausted, Gulla would be ashamed.

The man yells to be heard through the cries and cushion. ‘I’ve got kids too, mate!’

Gulla stands, places her grumbling child onto the floor, and heads to the bathroom without acknowledging the man.

‘If you don’t do something, I’m going to call child services,’ the man calls. He slams the apartment gate and huffs, ‘Disgusting!’ There are shuffles and mumbles from neighbouring apartments, hints that the man’s complaints are commonly held beliefs, that a consensus regarding judgment of Gulla has been reached, that she is indeed regarded as ‘disgusting.’ Gulla knows this already. Neighbours’ conversations seep through walls, expressing disapproval, distaste, disregard, hatred. She has acclimatised to these attitudes that are displayed in skewed faces and squints in her direction.

Gulla turns on the water and leaps in the stream. The congealed tip of the soap bottle dispenses nothing, so she uses cold water to blast off the pale vomit, the hot water having been shut off for some months. Gulla hopes her shower will result in a refreshed mood. For a brief moment, as the water rushes over her ears drowning out cries and complaints, she forgets she has a baby or neighbours and takes pleasure in the sensation of cooled skin. Without drying herself, she sops through the apartment, picks up her child, and returns to the bathroom. Holding her crying baby in one arm, she reduces the stream’s power, letting the water run down her son’s back. The child continues to wail, his face wrinkled with misery.

Gulla turns off the water and wraps him in a cloth crusted with brown marks. Her child’s sobs quieten. As soon as Gulla puts him on her bed, he again cries. This time, it is a nagging cry. Gulla almost believes she understands. She picks him up and pats his back, resulting in a burp. Gulla puts him back down. He soon dozes. Through the doors, she can hear a booming television, its volume loud so as to compete with her baby’s cries. Gulla hears the word ‘Lotto babies.’ She slumps on a bedraggled sofa and switches on her mother’s television. It is a cheap model that displays fluorescent Korean symbols. Gulla ignores these symbols, content with her level of ignorance, flicking past a story on the election count, unaware she is legally required to vote today.

A news program displays a portrait of Caradoc Barnard, with the title ‘Lotto Babies.’ Despite apathy towards the news, Gulla is aware of this circumfluent story that has captured the nation’s attention over the past few weeks. The richest man in the country, having passed, donated his entire wealth to all Australian babies born on the day of his death. Gulla’s baby was born at 00:00, the stroke of midnight, the start of the following day. At the time she thought it lucky. She later learned it was not. Despite losing enormous wealth by literally a second, Gulla tried to reassure herself that things could be worse. This wishful thinking so upset her mother, it added venom to her scold: ‘You can’t even give birth right.’ Gulla did not understand this blame. She still does not understand precisely why her mother is annoyed she: (a) did not terminate, (b) did not give birth at the ‘right time,’ (c) resisted her mother’s insistence she put her baby up for adoption, (d) retracted her adoption. Gulla understands only that she is the recipient of disapproval, distaste, disregard, hatred. She believes certain people are liked, and others are not, and that there is nothing the latter can do about it. She hopes her baby is not like her.

Gulla switches through the channels, arriving at children’s programming. A fluorescent, two-dimensional bear with a strange dialect chirps of a desire to stomp in mud. Gulla follows the educational narrative with curiosity, smiling as the small bear delights at the rain, identifying with his pleasure and fascination. The bear’s parents come out of their cottage and insist the bear wear a raincoat, first scolding their child, then praising him for enjoying the rain with appropriate clothing. Gulla laughs as the bear laughs, before catching herself. A feeling comes over her like looking into a mirror and discovering a stranger. Gulla realises the televisual forces are no longer targeting her, that this children’s show is not designed for her, that she is not a child but a parent, that time has passed. As though sensing crisis, Gulla’s baby grizzles. Gulla switches the channel to an empty blue screen, before picking up her baby. She coos ‘shh,’ but the baby’s grizzles escalate. Gulla offers her breast, but the baby declines, his upset growing. Gulla does not know what he wants. She suspects sleep, or perhaps better conditions for sleep, a more stable environment without interruption.

Sooner than anticipated, there is pounding on the walls and a ‘Shut up!’ Gulla puts her baby down, slips on day-old underwear, never-washed jeans, and a faded top. She clutches her grumbling baby without dressing him, worms her toes into dusty sandals, and leaves her apartment, shutting but not locking the door and gate. She does not know where she is going, only that she is not welcome here. Gulla does not want to be around when her baby again screams, when her mother returns, when the neighbours come to further berate her.

Though it is dusk, the streetlamps have come on. Warm wind is thick with salt. It reminds Gulla of the end of the school year. She never enjoyed school, but now notes she should have better appreciated former freedom. Gulla notes also she should have brought and stocked the pram. That was the first advice dispensed. Less advice, more a warning provided by the adoption agency worker following Gulla’s renege. ‘I hope you’re prepared.’ There was enormous upset in the agency worker’s tone. Gulla put this down to general disapproval, distaste, disregard, hatred. Her decision to retract her child from adoption had been met with reluctance. Forms were filled out, signed. ‘You’re making people very disappointed. But it is your choice. I hope you’re prepared.’

Gulla’s footwear is inadequate. Already heels are abrading. Her whole body feels raw, rubbed into a tender state. She knows she has chosen this, and yet feels totally at the mercy of other forces. Connected to everyone, subject to their benevolence and cruelty. This moment, walking briskly along cement footpaths and bitumen, is an attempt to disconnect. It is a refusal.

She arrives in a park with trees that cast deep shadows. A monument towers, a statue of someone previously important. An engraved plaque reads ‘donated by Caradoc Barnard.’ Gulla does not read this. She does not know or care for history, the country’s or her own. Only the current moment, in which her baby still squalls, matters. Gulla rests her feet on the sandstone steps. She likes the coarse texture. She relishes the slight breeze, the scent of eucalypt, the park’s emptiness. She is grateful her baby can make noise without reprimand. She strokes and smells his head, believing it smells like toffee. Gulla again offers her breast. This time her baby latches onto her nipple. The sensation is painful, but tolerable. Blisters pulse on her relieved heels. That pain, too, is tolerable. The irritation caused by sweat that falls down unwashed hair and cheeks, too, is tolerable. Gulla is aware of a new conditioning shaping her, a slow erosion she must endure. She notes she will have to walk back, with pain in her heels. She will have to face her mother, neighbours, her baby’s future cries at some point. The baby detaches. Gulla strokes him, lets him drift off to sleep. She, too, drifts off, in the shade of the statue, warm wind blowing against exposed skin.

Anyone who stays home’s an idiot. Raisin’ kids and money just to get groceries you have to cart on a bus driven by an old guy demandin’ chunks of change? No thanks. I’m never goin’ back. Everything’s so cheap here. Buckets of Corona. Cheap weed from Poppies Lane. Massive bowls of Nasi Campur. Forever summer. Non-stop surf. Endless party. Only Aussies. Indos surrendered the country years ago. To my tourist dollars. They might’ve stamped my passport, but this’s my country. This’s my beach. Claimed in my name. Maybe one day I’ll bring my kid. Teach him to surf. Teach him to nick Coronas from drunk tourists. Now’s not the time though. Let Gulla have him a while. Women take care of kids while men work. And that’s what I’m doin’. Workin’ on myself. Yesterday I saw tropical fish with more colours than a thousand rainbows. Most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Few appreciate stuff like that. Gulla’d never appreciate stuff like that. I reckon I could do this full time. Spoke to a hostel owner. Reckons he’ll have a job for me showin’ tourists ‘round. Paid in beer. It’s all a big cycle. Like the movement of waves. I don’t want it to end so it never will ‘cause this is my beach and state I’ve claimed. Nostalgic for nothin’. Nothin’ ‘cept free Coronas and cheap weed and surf and local girls that think I’m goin’ to marry ‘em and visa their way back home but I’m never goin’ home ‘cause this is all there is now.