Saturday, October 25

Snippet

We stepped to the door but were shoved backwards as every Hydie patron fled. Trying to regain my balance, I felt my eyes burn and fill with tears. I reached out into the flowing crowd for Kat, first grabbing onto the wrong girl before my eyes cleared sufficiently for me to recognize her bright red jacket among the dark mass of Hydie escapees.

“What the hell is going on?” she asked me.

A flannel-clad bystander answered for me, “Some girls were fighting and one of them pulled out some pepper spray. It choked up the whole bar.”

“Some bar you chose,” Kat said, almost impressed by the sheer awfulness of my recommendation.

The flannel wearing stranger—who was still holding his pool cue out there on the street—came to my defence, “It should clear up soon.”

“Well there you go,” I said, “within a few minutes the bar will be free of chemical weaponry once again.”

Kat looked at me like I was insane but, at the same time, she was curious, so we milled around with the assorted Hydie dwellers – the indie kids in stripy shirts, the punks in black with chains hanging off their back pockets, the flannel-wearing pool sharks and the older local bar flies with thick, wiry beards – until they began returning to the bar. Following the crowd through the doors, were soon tearing up and blinking from the residual pepper spray. A kid setting up a drum kit in the corner was taking quick breaks to spray fresh water into his eyes. Kat and I headed to a booth—torn red vinyl seating and a table covered by ancient graffiti carvings—and slid into place with a jug of Carlton Draft. Her face scrunched and blinking madly, Kat stared across the table.

“I’m not sure I can stay here.”

“You’ll be fine,” I said, “I’ll get some water for your eyes.”

I fetched a bottle, of ‘Sport Water’ with a spray nozzle. “This will wash the tear gas right out,” I said, handing it to her.

“My hero,” she said, without conviction.

I poured beers while she daintily splashed water into her eyes. By the time she had rinsed, I’d already knocked one Carlton Draft back and was pouring my second.

“Holy crap!” I yelled, recognizing the drummer in the corner, “that’s boy-Robin.” This meant the other three members of The Max Deutsch Trio had to be around somewhere. Craning my neck, I saw them huddled conspiratorially around a pool table writing out a set list. “The Trio is playing!”

“Oh great, my favourite foot fetishist,” Kat said, but she waved him over anyway.

Max bounded across the room—the rock star in his element—as every girl in the bar watched him pass.

“My God you kids move fast! I introduce you on Friday and by Saturday you’re going steady.” He pinched us each on the cheek like we were his adorable cousins.

I batted his hand away. “I didn’t know you guys were playing tonight.”

“Last minute replacement,” he explained. “Some guy from Bluetile Lounge got a blister on his pinky or something. Maybe it was syphilis. I can’t remember.”

As he wandered back to his bandmates he yelled, “We are going to ROCK THE HOUSE!” and punched the air with exaggerated hair-metal enthusiasm; clearly drunk before his set even began.

“He’s wasted!” Kat said, laughing. By then, the pepper spray had dissipated and she had stopped blinking.

A stage would be far too bourgeois for the Hydie, so bands just play on the floor in the corner. As the four members of the trio assumed their places, the sweaty crowd gathered in close. Max took an unsteady swig from a bottle of Coopers then fired an invisible pistol at the punters as the band launched into a ragged version of their traditional opener: We Are Here (Uninvited). In the confined space, the blast from the amps and drums seemed to scare the air itself. Kat and I sheltered in our booth and worked our way through two jugs, our conversation chopped into tiny fragments in the pauses between songs. I was doing the lion’s share of our drinking and enjoyed the extra pulse the alcohol gave to the Trio’s familiar songs.

When Kat headed to the bathroom a couple slipped into our booth before I could stop them. I recognized the skinny boy with thick horn-rimmed glasses from the political scene. Michael was a member of Queer Radical. He sat next to me, almost squeezing me against the wall. His friend, a pretty blonde girl in a tight tank top, sat across the table and smiled at me flirtatiously. I was being ambushed by a queer and his fag hag.

Reeking of vodka, Michael put his arm around my shoulders and said, “You’re very cute you know—cute in an exotic, foreign kind of way—and we were thinking it would be a good idea if you made out with my friend Amy here.”

Amy blushed but said nothing to suggest they were kidding. They were wasted. I was pretty drunk myself and felt a momentary thrill before remembering Kat would return any moment.

“Come on, what do you say?” Michael asked.

“I’m flattered—definitely—but I’m here on a date.” I said.

“A date?” Michael said, sceptical, his head swivelling around wildly on his skinny neck. “Who’s the lucky lady?”

Just then, Kat returned. She looked startled by our new company and was soon shocked further by Michael’s effusive greeting.

“This must be her! Oh, she’s pretty. Sit down gorgeous.”

“Um . . .” Kat looked at me for guidance. I shrugged. Michael was drunk and annoying, but he was harmless. Kat slid in next to Amy, so the two girls sat across the table from the boys. Beginning to behave, Michael introduced himself and Amy. He said, “Don’t be afraid of me honey, I’m just an old Queen. And your boyfriend here is very loyal. He just turned down a free pash with Amy. Who, as you can see, is really quite delectable.”

We all fought to talk over the music as the Trio continued to pound out their songs. During a break, Michael returned to the topic of what a big queen he was. With his skinny arms waving around for emphasis, he looked like Elastic Man. “It’s is queer you know, being attracted to your own sex. I accept that. I mean, just the other day I was looking in the mirror. And I realized I turn myself on! How transgressive!” Kat laughed and gave me a “where did you find this guy” look.

I stood to go to the bathroom. This required sliding out of the booth past Michael. I gestured politely for him to move. But, instead of getting up, he angled his spidery legs to one side and invited me to squeeze past. Drunk and unsteady, I slid past him, face toward the table. At the moment I was ready to break free, Michael playfully bit in the arse. I yelped, almost fell on the table, and turned around saying, “What the fuck?” Although he hadn’t meant to hurt me, thanks to drunkenness or just plain enthusiasm, Michael had bit me hard. If it wasn’t for my denim jeans, he would have broken the skin for sure.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to.” Michael said sheepishly; hand over his mouth to suppress a giggle.

“You didn’t mean to chomp me in the arse?”

“It was just there,” he said, laughing openly now, “how could I resist?”

I was prepared to let it go but I wasn’t going to sit back down.

“Let’s go watch the band.” I told Kat.

“Can’t take him anywhere,” Amy offered weakly as we disappeared into the crowd.

Kat held my arm with both hands as we watched the rest of the Trio’s set. Standing close to the band, we could smell the sweat of the punters as they swayed and nodded vigorously (but not too vigorously, grunge is dead, remember) to the beat. The air still had a slight sting from the pepper spray. His guitar as loud as the drums, Max thrashed back and forth wildly. Seeing us near the front, he parted the crowd with the leading edge of his guitar, and Mosesed his way through. Still playing, he did a suggestive little dance and pecked Kat on the cheek before returning to his mike for the next verse.

“All your friends are crazy!” Kat yelled in my ear.

When the set ended, we left the band packing up in the corner and headed out onto the cold pavement.

“Crap!” I said.

“What?”

“It’s 12.40, the last bus has gone.”

“I guess we’ll have to take a cab.”

But this was supposed to be an Austudy date, I thought. A cab fare home would be half a week’s rent. That wasn’t part of the deal. Yet I knew I had no choice; I’d dragged Kat out here and I had to get her home to bed. And looking at the expression on her face, it was apparent that I would not be joining her there. Scanning up and down the street, I patted my sore arse and realised that it would be half way to forever before we saw a cab on these dark streets. We were stranded.

Beginning to despair, I heard a voice behind me, “Need a lift?”

Turning, I saw Amy the blonde holding up car keys with one hand while Michael the wobbly spider steadied himself against her other arm.

“Are you ok to drive?” I asked, unable to keep disbelief out of my voice.

“I’m fine,” Amy answered, teetering under Michael’s weight before the two of them fell against a parked car.

Kat glared as they steadied themselves, “I really don’t think you should be driving.”

“There are booze busses everywhere,” I added. It was true. Lately the cops had so many checkpoints across the city that Perth felt like a war zone. We were at war with the contents of our own veins. And we were losing.

Kat offered to drive. “I haven’t had much to drink,” she announced. Turning to me, she said, “You finished off most of those two jugs yourself.” What did she mean by that? That I’d scoffed the beer? That I was a drunk? Had I screwed up our Austudy date? Kat strode resolutely to the car park with the three of us drunks following her like wilting balloons on string. As we arrived beside Amy’s shiny new VW Golf (daddy must have money) Kat assigned our seats: lanky Michael in the front, Amy and I in the back. Obedient, we got in and she rolled us out of the lot, through Northbridge then onto Thomas Street, shooting us past the hospitals and the dark urban forest of King’s Park.

Even the effusive Michael was silent as we drove. Perhaps he was chastened by the memory of having bitten me in the arse only minutes before. A mind full of worry, I sat quietly figuring that this was not what Kat had in mind when she asked me to take her out on a date. Amy stared out the window. Then, in a deliberate slow motion, she picked up her glittering purple handbag from the floor, unzipped it and stared inside. The bag shone like a mirror ball in the confined space. She looked intent and extremely serious. I wondered what she needed so badly in there. But that wasn’t it. She wasn’t looking for lipstick or gum. She needed the bag itself; the vessel. It started as a girlish growl, then her body shook slightly, then she held the bag open wide, raised it to her mouth and demurely filled it with puke before slowly re-zipping it closed.

“Oh … My … God!” Michael said twisting around like a liquorish stick, “Did you just puke in your bag?” He began laughing hysterically. Kat glanced back from the wheel with an amazed look that was one-tenth amused and nine-tenths annoyed. Thankfully, the smell wasn’t too bad as Amy had promptly closed her bag post-chunder. What did she carry in there? I wondered as I hurriedly wound down the window. Whatever it was, it was covered in puke now. That wasn’t going to be any fun to clean out tomorrow morning. Partly disgusted, I was glad that, in comparison to some of the car’s other occupants, I was looking more sober and responsible by the minute. Perhaps I could emerge from the evening with my respectability intact.

“Sorry,” Amy said, “Guess I’m drunker than I thought.”

“Well, if you feel sick again you can always borrow my wallet,” Michael said, holding his wallet open and miming a retch.

“You’re not helping,” Kat said.

“I’m ok,” Amy assured us. But we encouraged her to wind down her window anyway.

5 Comments:

Blogger Joseph Gratz said...

GREAT!

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very enjoyable.

"We were at war with the contents of our own veins. And we were losing."

Ah, Perth.


-Tim

4:42 PM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

I like "“My hero,” she said, without conviction" and Moses as a verb. Hope this forebodes a new period of work on your book.

6:22 AM  
Anonymous Ray said...

Nice, Dan. Does this mean you're working on new parts? This inspires me to get my blog fired up again as an excerpt site.

8:24 AM  
Blogger dan said...

Thanks all

Alas this posting is not a sign of new creativity - quite the opposite. I'm about to go to trial so have been busier than ever at work (and now have to go to Delaware for almost all of November, urgh).

I'm hoping to get back to it after the trial. I even have the fanciful idea of finishing a draft before May 31, 2009 (figure out why) but this is unlikely.

11:17 AM  

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