Walking around to see Liam, I settled on the nicest way to describe him – Natural. A pre consumer is what he calls himself though. Everybody else just calls him an unemployed loser. He’s not down about this though; on the contrary, he’s full of optimism, he has a degree in conservation. He’s also odd which most people see as indifference but I see originality. Besides, he’s never boring and that’s all that matters. Last week he told of his shutdown process and prioritisation. When unable to afford electricity or gas he’d stop cooking and make a bottle of no-name sauce and a loaf of yesterday’s bread last a week. In winter his jacket from high school was his heater and in summer his undies were his cooler. To save water he’d walk to the park and use the public toilets, said they were safe during the day, but if desperate he would just go in the back garden. He only washed himself when it rained heavily enough. I don’t know what he’d do if he had to pay the rent. Luckily my mum’s the landlord and Liam’s an old mate despite him kissing my sister once.
Waiting for Liam to open the front door, I noticed a downpipe that used to be firmly fixed vertically to a brick wall of the flat, was diagonally strung up by pieces of wire. And instead of entering the ground, the pipe had been duck taped to the edge of a kid’s plastic swimming pool. Mum would have a fit if she ever came over. Liam opened the door.
‘I see you’ve solved the water problem,’ I said.
‘Do you think it’s for drinking or bathing?’ Liam asked.
I didn’t answer as I was immediately distracted by Liam’s outfit. He stood barefoot, wearing a school uniform dress much like the one my sister used to wear. I must say, I was glad the dress was cut below his knees. It then occurred to me that perhaps Liam had more than kissed my sister once.
‘I’m not even going to ask.’ I smirked, not sure how to laugh and cry at the same time.
‘About what?’ Liam twirled his finger in the edge of his beard that had been tinged blue, the colour of sunny days.
‘Couldn’t find the Tbars?’ I asked
‘What?’ Liam stared at me, nonplussed. ‘Everything else is dirty or won’t be dry till later and what were the odds of you coming around?’
‘At least your hair’s not long enough for a pony tail.’ I smiled.
‘That’s an idea.’
Photo by Quinton Malfait
Get out of the rain, tells the naked man
Turn on your headlights, tells the driver of a black car
Eat your vegies, tell the parents of a concrete garden
Support the environment, tell the directors of oil corp
I’m tired, you tell but you sleep with the light on
Mind your own business,
I’m told as I look through a broken window.
Andrew Mansell, September 2014.
Photo by Nick Normal
After setting up my new 3D printer, the first thing I thought to print was a girlfriend. I imagined her voluptuous figure – persimmon shaped breasts, taut bottom, wavy blond hair and eyes the colour of summer skies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally into outer surfaces. Her personality was to be – caring, helpful and intelligent. Her clothing stumped me though and I hoped the dress I printed stayed on her forever, saving me the cost of going clothes shopping. I was a uni student who spent my last dollar on a 2 year lease plan just to get the printer. I could have printed her naked but decided that was taking things a little too fast.
That’s when I remembered Gregory and the 200 dollars he owed me. I thought if I could get that money back, the dread of shopping with my new girlfriend might be bearable. Hell, we could probably even see a movie and grab some munchies. Gregory was always broke though, despite him being the instigator, the one to say let’s go out! or how about we order a pizza? or your place will do for the party. It was only later on, when payment was needed, that he’d open his wallet to reveal a black hole.
Gregory had been bragging about a new job for weeks but his stinginess remained a constant, sort of like the stains from bird droppings on an abandoned car. I’d lost count of how many times asking him for my money back. If only I were a pickpocket. If only I could print a pickpocket. Yes! I remembered one of my favourite shorts and clicked on The Hitchhiker.
I couldn’t bring the pickpocket, who described himself as a finger smith, from Roald Dahl’s story back to life as that would be plagiarism – frowned deeply upon at uni but rife on the internet. In any case, I needed a pickpocket with less class than a fingersmith, like one of those thieves that prey on tourists in Barcelona, somebody with a permanent three day growth, glazy eyes, who cared not if his jeans were ripped – somebody who appeared to be unassuming like Gregory or me but with a hidden talent to boot. That way, I wouldn’t raise suspicions when introducing the pick pocket to Gregory as a uni friend or even an overseas student.
I made my pickpocket thinner, shorter, smaller and weaker than me, cunning but not too clever, just in case my new character got out of control and I needed to rein him in. Above all though, I concentrated on the fingers, long and thin, flexible with fingernails that melded seamlessly into the fingertips. With my digital blueprint set, the printer grunted and got to work, beginning at the feet. Bones, tendons and flesh grew before my eyes; designer runners way cheaper than those from a factory outlet came to the fore. In a seemingly random pattern the printer moved upwards; ankles, calves, thighs, hips appeared momentarily to be covered by my made to order, ten year old, navy blue jeans. Then came the gut which I made a little flabbier than mine. I’d always wanted an inwards belly button and gave him one. The upper torso soon covered his ribs and raspberry jelly like heart. His arms were long and thin to match his fingers but also strong and strained like steel wire.
So long as mum roughly knew my whereabouts and I was back for dinner, she didn’t seem to care for details. Way to go, mum. Perfect for a sixteen year old boy who begun to be drawn to and appreciate the curvature of the opposite sex. The girl more alluring than any other was Anne. Not just because her breast brushed against my chest once, well that did help, but it was her smile and friendly persona that just made me feel the same, sort of like contagious laughter. Out of the blue, I found myself daydreaming of Anne, or was it fantasying? I can’t clear up that blurry line. Even while engrossed in reading, my favourite pastime, images of Anne overwhelmed the words I read. And then there was dad’s nagging rhetorical question, have you got a girlfriend yet? Girls were beginning to make some sort of sense, their being grow in significance.
On New Year’s Day, Dad’s snoring penetrated all rooms of the house; any louder and his sound waves could of forced open the flyscreen door. I was glad to escape before he woke, wanting to go fishing again – boring. As I said bye to mum, I remembered the night before and how Anne and I managed to dodge our parents and kiss twice behind the boat shed. I’m sure Anne’s mum never trusted me and was glad we only saw each other over the summer holidays. That was going to change big time when I got my driver’s licence. I planned to drive the four hours to Bright and take Anne out. Anne said her mum would have to let me stay the night. Can you believe, Anne even heard her mum, tell my mum, that Anne and I were too young? I’m glad mum just laughed and took nobody’s side.
An eerie calm accompanied my walk down Cove Avenue towards the entrance of Point Nepean. I could still smell fireworks in the sprinkling mist but the noise and spectacle of the night before were long gone. I wanted to run but held back and walked as fast as I could. I had to appear calm, not in a hurry, and definitely not like one of those goofy walkers that call themselves athletes. I knew Anne would be waiting for me near the visitor centre. She always got there first. I saw her behind the bike rack, leaning against the straggly trunk of a tea tree. Of course she’d already seen me – she smiled. All of a sudden an excited nervousness overwhelmed me and I too couldn’t help but smile. I wanted to kiss but we didn’t touch, just in case somebody watched. We already knew our plan
‘Hi,’ I said and fixed my eyes on hers.
‘About time,’ she said and stared back.
Her tease had no effect on me. My eyes were not about to shift their gaze. She could even have called me a dropkick and I wouldn’t have cared. I felt like we were trapped in a timeless spell, gawking at each other.
‘Come on,’ Anne finally said, ‘let’s go.’
We began our walk towards the old fort.
‘I’m going to miss you,’ she said.
‘Chill out.’ I laughed. ‘We’ve still got today – and tonight.’
‘I know but I want these holidays to last forever.’
‘Will your mum let us kiss goodbye?’ I couldn’t help but joke.
‘Shut your face.’ Anne frowned in a nice way and grabbed my hand.