A RAGGED SYDNEY MELODY

A RAGGED SYDNEY MELODY

EXTRACT

 

A RAGGED SYDNEY MELODY

CHAPTER ONE

Of course Rabbit wasn’t strong enough. You couldn’t expect a skinny glass worker with a lungful of glass particles and lips blue lined from careless handling of the lead channel to be strong enough. But Brendan was desperate.
‘Give her another go,’ said Brendan. Brendan’s hair was wet as he sat on the floor in front of the twenty litre bucket. ‘Please mate.’
‘Gee Brendan, I don’t know . . . My arms sort of give out. You’ve got a strong neck there. I’ve never been strong in the arms. That’s why I became an artist. Weak arms.’
‘Look,’ said Brendan amenably, ‘you have another drink. Me too. We’ll have another drink, then we’ll try again. Okay?’
Brendan poured two hefty tumblers of cheap sweet port. Both men drank deeply. They were sitting on a nice carpet in the office of the magazine that sometimes published Brendan’s poems. It was an upstairs office on the corner of Sydney Road and Pittwater Road in Manly. It was three thirty in the morning. Brendan had stolen the key to the office and somehow he and Rabbit had left a perfectly good drunk at Rabbit’s studio to come here. There on the walls were all the paste boards of the next issue. Words and pictures and pictures and words. And not one of them Brendan’s. That’s why he decided.
‘Okay, Rabbit me fine bucko mate . . . I am to believing I am ready. Soon as I have finished this . . . ‘ Brendan’s Irish accent became more profound in direct relationship to the quantity of drink he consumed. He finished his glass in a long hard pull. Then he started crying. As he blubbered, the tears coursed down his thick jowly cheeks. He was very happy.
‘Thanks, Rabbit. I mean it. Thanks a lot. For being here at the end of all these things.’
‘S’all right. You’re me mate, aren’t ya? S’all right. Are you ready?’
‘No man is ever really ready, but I am ready as I’ll ever be. Shake hands. Ta. I’ll miss you. I will. I know that now. Goodbye.’
Neither man could bear the emotion of the moment. They cried leaning on each other’s shoulders. Brendan recovered first. Wiping the tears from his face with his hand Brendan said, ‘ Me poem! Me poem! I need to read me poem!’
Rabbit searched his own pockets. It took a while but he finally came up with a crumpled piece of paper which he gave to Brendan.
Brendan read it. You could see by the gleam in his eye that he liked it. He drew breath and in his best reading voice recited it:
Looked at Life around the Sun,
Loved here and there, loved on the run.
It wasn’t worth it, so I said ‘Up it!’
And put me head in the bucket.

Rabbit’s eyes shone in the dim light of the street lamp through the office window. He thought the poem was beautiful. Very Japanese. Brendan handed the poem back to Rabbit then thought better of the idea and instead climbed unsteadily to his feet and pinned it onto the centre of the cake book of the next issue of the magazine in the editor’s office. Then he went back shook hands quickly with Rabbit and stuck his head into the twenty litre bucket. The bucket was filled with water.
Rabbit grabbed Brendan by the loose clothing at his shoulders. Everything was fine for the first twenty seconds and Rabbit felt that here, finally, at last and eternally, Brendan’s meagre material but rich artistic life was over. He was glad that he could help.
As the seconds passed Brendan began to squirm. Rabbit decided that rather than risk to his arms he might try a bit of weight. Still holding Brendan’s shoulders Rabbit swung one leg up and over Brendan’s neck. The tendons of the sternocleidomastoid muscle stood out on Brendan’s neck like taut cables. Brendan’s legs flayed the floor.
‘There there,’ said a paternal and empathic Rabbit. ‘There there, all over soon.’ But he felt his grip slipping. He climbed up onto Brendan’s shoulders and held Brendan’s head with both hands clutching dark brown wet hair. ‘There there, it’s alright.’ It was a pleasure for Rabbit to help a friend. He was that sort of guy.
But in the end it didn’t matter what sort of guy Rabbit was. He just wasn’t strong enough. Brendan arose a mighty geyser from the bucket scattering Rabbit, the bucket and the water everywhere. He sat there on the floor panting, desperately unhappy that he was still alive.
‘Sorry Brendan,’ said Rabbit from the corner. The cake board had fallen with his arrival against the wall. Paper and photos littered the floor and Rabbit. ‘I’m so sorry. I mean that. I really do.’
‘It’s alright, mate. It is.’ Brendan reached for the bottle of port. ‘Another drink?’
‘Ta. What about the photocopier?’
‘Well?’
‘It’s radia . . . radia . . . radiation . . . I think it’s radiation, like at Mururoa. Up the French!’
It took a while to figure out how to use the machine. It was a new Toshiba. It certainly looked powerful. Brendan stuck his head in under the floppy cover and shook hands with Rabbit again.
‘I’ll set it for a 99 copies. That sound okay?’
‘Right you are. Give’er the works.’
Rabbit hit the copy button. Two minutes later there stood the two of them knee deep in copies of Brendan’s profile. Brendan was alive, somehow, though he wasn’t seeing too well. Had white flashes in front of his eyes. Boosh. Boosh. The spots made him focus on the port.
Then they tried an ancient IBM typewriter, an office relic. Brendan got his nose badly battered by the golf ball and bled all over the secretary’s desk but other than that . . .
Brendan laid himself out under the great blade of the paper guillotine, his neck offered to cutting edge. He and Rabbit had yet again made their fond farewells.
‘Okay. Do it. Now!’
‘Right,’ said Rabbit. He grasped the handle of the paper cutter in both his hands. The blade hissed as it was drawn further upwards. Brendan shut his eyes. His heart leapt in delighted anticipation. He stopped breathing. And waited. And waited. And waited.
‘Rabbit? ‘
‘Yes mate.’
‘Anything wrong mate?’
‘Yeah. I am afraid there is.’
‘Do you feel like telling me about it?’
‘Well . . . ‘
‘Go on. It’s alright.’
‘It’s the blood. I don’t like the blood Brendan. You saw how I chundered into that waste paper basket when your nose bled . . . I just don’t dig the blood. I don’t think I can do it..’
‘Not to worry. Here,’ said Brendan getting up from the table onto which the paper cutter was secured, ‘ we’ll have another wee drink, and a think on it. It’s a problem.’
‘You wouldn’t be wrong there. I don’t think I ever seen a man harder to kill than you. Do you think, we might, well, you know, give up on it for now?’
‘A man never gets far in this word with an attitude like that Rabbit. You didn’t get where you are today, a leading light in the world of flat glass, with that sort of attitude, did you? And I didn’t get to write miles of poems with that sort attitude. For God’s sake man, this is Australia! Not England! We don’t do that sort of routine here. Do we?’
‘No! No we don’t! We’re dinki-di, true blue and giving up we don’t do!’ said Rabbit in a flush of patriotic fervour. Rabbit was filled with patriotism. He put flags and sheep in his work somewhere on each piece. He knew what Brendan meant and he felt the same.
‘Right. Okay. Fine. Sure. Yep. Uh hungh . . . What’ll we do?’
‘Don’t know.’
They drank on it for a while. The night was giving in softly to the new day as they stumbled down the steep flight of stairs to the street below.
With that great care that drunks have in their movements Rabbit tenderly helped Brendan lie on the road in the middle of a four way intersection. They shook hands again and wrapped their arms about each other briefly before Rabbit stood up and walked over to the curb and sat down.
‘You don’t have to stay,’ Brendan said.
‘It’s all right,’ said Rabbit. ‘I’d like to. Really I would.’
‘It’s good of you. I won’t forget that. I won’t. The whole time I’m dead.’
‘Shouldn’t take long.’
‘No, I don’t suppose it will.’
But no cars came down any of the streets now empty and peaceful. Brendan felt great.
Then some more cars didn’t come.
After a long while Brendan spoke up. ‘You know, Rabbit, this city is changing. A few years ago you couldn’t lie here this way for say, ten minutes say, with out at least three drunks running right the way over ya.’
‘Yeah, say ten minutes, yeah, say . . . It’s the breath testing I think’
‘That would be right. The bloody breath testing. City’s not the same. Nothing’s the bloody same. Christ It’s cold down here.’
‘Be patient. Someone will be along any minute to clean you up.’
‘Think so?’
‘Sure of it.’
‘Good.’
But it wasn’t any good and nobody drunk or sober came by. It was as quiet as a graveyard. Disgusted the boys went back inside for another drink. At least the port never failed them in a pinch. They sat down in the office and put away the rest of the flagon in a timely way. They cried a lot and talked about how much they liked each other and each other’s work. It was a mutual admiration society. They looked carefully at each other through bloodshot eyes and saw the truth. It made them cry some more.
They tried the bucket one last time, but Rabbit had not the strength, though he had the heart. Brendan threw him clear across the room as he rose wet and spluttering from the bucket. Rabbit knocked over the new Apple computer when he landed. He passed out then. Brendan bravely crawled to his friend’s side and passed out as well.
And that’s how the girls found them when they came into work. Dead artists everywhere. Amid the ruin of civilization.
They called the cops.

Don't be shellfish...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Digg thisShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone
© grant p. cunningham, author, sculptor and natural physician 2006 - 2017 All Rights Reserved :: Website by Giant Media :: ADMIN