April 1st, 2009
I have a short story due tomorrow night, and for days I've been trying to nail down this story about family tension, global apocalypse and space travel metaphors. And it's not working. The first 4-500 words are great, and set up a really interesting voice and style, and then everything I try to get down after that clashes with that tone and it's all going pear-shaped. I can get it, but not by 5.30pm tomorrow.
So I decided to set it aside, and grabbed another 100-odd-word fragment from my notes, and wrote the following start to finish in about 45 minutes.
I wish I knew how this whole writing business worked. I'm sure I'd be better at it if I had any real idea what I was doing.
Anyway, the following is for your delight and edification. I apologize if it doesn't make much sense, but I'm not sure it's really supposed to anyway.
‘Danny? Danny, when’s the bus coming?’
I think about it a sec. ‘Ten minutes.’
‘Danny? Danny, when’s Jesus coming?’
I think about it a sec. ‘Fifteen minutes.’
She gets the worries then. ‘But that’s no good! He can’t come then, we’ll be gone! We’ll be down the road then, Danny! We’ll miss out on the Jesus!’
She’s right, too. ‘Well, that’s a bugger. I guess we’re not gonna see him.’
She starts to make those little sobbing and grunting sounds she makes when she gets confused and upset. ‘But it’s Jesus! We can’t miss Jesus! He’s gonna fix everything and take us up to Heaven and bring the Reptile!’
She means the Rapture, but she can never remember the word.
‘All right, then. We’ll have to miss out on the bingo instead.’
That goes down even worse, and there’s more sobs and grunts. ‘But we can’t miss the bingo, Danny! We always go to the bingo on Wednesday! They’ve got dollar pots and lambs fry!’
‘Well come on, darl, we can’t do both.’
‘Why not? Why not? Jesus and bingo, Danny! Jesus and bingo!’
Tell ya the truth, I’m not a hundred percent sure the bus was coming anyway. The Second Coming is a pretty big thing, bigger than the Grand Prix, and I’d heard a lot of blokes on the talkback radio this week saying that they should make it a public holiday. And that usually means a Sunday timetable, which throws everything into a cocked hat and no mistake ‘round here.
But then again, the pension money went into the bank this morning, which doesn’t happen on a holiday. So I guess it’ll be alright. People still got to get down to the shop, Risen Christ or not.
Not that I can tell the missus any of that. Too many details make her head spin. And I should calm her down before she has one of her accidents.
‘Give it a rest, darl. We still got ten minutes. I’ll work something out.’
This calms her down her a bit, and she starts singing that little wordless song she sings when everything’s fallen out of her head. I take a look around the shopping centre, but it’s all a bit quiet. Suppose everyone’s gone down to the city or the footy oval or someplace to wait for Jesus. There’ll be a Channel Seven chopper there and everything, no doubt.
All a bit flash for me, tell ya the truth. My mum told me Jesus was everywhere, not just on some big festival stage with TV cameras around him. But that was before the war, and things were simpler then. You could buy dripping from the butcher’s, and that’s not all.
The big clock in the shopping centre says it’s five minutes before the bus comes. Bugger. Better come up with a plan before she throws a tizz and pension day goes fully up the spout.
They’ve got that big TV next to the clock for showing footy matches. Right now it’s showing all the crowds, and a few people are watching it, waiting for the Lamb of God. I know one of them, Ian’s youngest, don’t know why he’s not at work on a Thursday, but anyway it gives me an idea.
‘Wait for me a sec, darl,’ I tell her, and nip over there as fast as I can with the bodgy knee and all. She’s still singing her high little noises when I get back. ‘Come on, love, time to get up.’
‘What’s going on, Danny? Where’s the Jesus? Where’s the bus, Danny?’
I take her over to the TV. “You remember Ian’s youngest, love.’ Of course she doesn’t, but she always pretends to remember everyone so it’s just the same. ‘He’s gonna look after you for a bit while you wait for Jesus to drop by. I’ll get the bus over to the RSL and buy the bingo cards.’
She gets the frighteners up her then. ‘No, Danny! Don’t go to the bingo without me!’
‘It’s just for a few minutes, darl. See, when Jesus gets her, you just need to give him this,’ and I give her the second part of my great idea, last week’s Tattslotto form – not to worry, we didn’t win anything or they would have called us – with a note scribbled on the back in biro. ‘See, it says DEAR JESUS, PLEASE TAKE ME TO THE RSL BEFORE 1 O’CLOCK FOR BINGO. Jesus’ll bring you down in plenty of time.’
Sobs and grunts, but she wants to believe me, wants to have the Baby Jesus and the pokies on the same day, like Christmas but better because the RSL closes early on Christmas Day. 'Do you promise?’
‘It’s Jesus, love. He’s not going to rubbish things up, is he?’
The bus coughs in, and the music starts to play on the big TV. I give her a peck on the cheek. ‘I’ll see you and Jesus in a bit, darl. Want me to order your lunch for you when I get there?’
‘Lamb’s fry, Danny! Lamb’s fry and fried tomatoes!’ That makes her happy again, and she starts singing as I climb on the bus and show the bloke my pension card.
I get to the RSL just in time, and everyone’s listening to the radio while I buy our cards, with the big bands and the prayers, and I try to listen but the battery in my hearing aid’s getting a bit old and Jesus mostly sounds like one of those Vegemite ads. Probably not his fault, I suppose.
So anyway, I order us some lunch – double lamb’s fry, fried tomatoes, bit of mashed spud for me even though the doctor told me to watch it – and order three dollar pots. One each for us, and one for the Christ. I reckon they should still be cold when Jesus and the missus show up.
But they never do.
I have to admit I don't often read your writing pieces. It's nothing personal, simply that I've been in a creative writing class and had enough of listening politely to other people's writing for a few decades. But Google Reader ignores lj-cuts and the first few lines of this tickled me enough to read on. I like the imbecilic innocence on one side and cynicism with a dash of hopefulness on the other. Very likeable characters.
And you should read more of my writing pieces. They're usually pretty good, and I don't mind if/when people stop being polite and tell me they suck.
That's a really great little story. What's lamb's fry?
asked me that last night too.
You know how there are lots of lovely, edible cuts of lamb (or would know if you ate meat)?
Well, lamb's fry is when you take all the organs, intestines, arseholes and so left after cutting off the good parts, fry the crap out of them and serve them to pensioners and tripe enthusiasts.
My dad used to love lamb's fry. And pig's trotters.
The last four words change this story completely. I';m not sure if I prefer it with or without them.