Story by Gregor Stronach
So, there was trouble last night. I got into strife for putting a hole in the television with a pistol I’d bought from a guy with some money I’d made stealing a car.
I’d taken the car from a woman with a disability who had hurt herself trying to end her life after discovering her husband had a secret family stashed away on Christmas Island.
That guy had put his second family there in the mistaken belief that no one would find them – and that even if they did, they could claim refugee status and plead for asylum.
Problematically, they were shipped off to a detention centre, where their primary caseworker was a woman whose boyfriend was disappointed that she was still a bit plump.
She had spent thousands of dollars at the gym, he said, to look like she was about to get fat at any moment – like it could happen in an instant, while his back was turned.
She could walk into the kitchen to fetch him a beer, and he’d hear a muffled ‘thoompf’. She would emerge from the kitchen with an extra 20 kilos in her saddle bags – and probably just pretend like nothing had happened.
But he would know.
Her weight problems were due largely to a secret addiction to consuming bags and bags of coloured popcorn. What made it strange was her fascination for eating the pieces one by one, but only after they had been sorted by colour and segregated.
First blue, then yellow, followed by red which preceded green which, in turn, lead to purple. The orange ones she stored in Tupperware containers, with the date of confinement etched in permanent marker on the patented burp-seal lid.
The containers were hidden in a storage unit that she paid for with a portion of the funds her boyfriend gave her to visit the gym.
For the low, low price of a personal trainer, in the course of four years she had managed to fill a three-metre cube with Tupperware, which in turn was filled with orange popcorn, which in turn was chock-full of food colouring and calories.
Third Sunday of every month, she would become contemplative and moody. He blamed it on her menstrual cycle. She let him, knowing that the truth of the matter would surely shatter his feeble mind.
She would let him slump awkwardly on the couch to watch sports on pay TV, slipping quietly to her sensibly small car.
In the boot of the vehicle, which she’d bought from a man with a beard on a hot Sunday marred only by an inexplicable swarm of bees, were that month’s containers. Tiny, air-tight plastic coffins for hundreds and hundreds of pieces of garish, orange popcorn.
They were at the lowest rung of popcorn society, she believed. Her conceit had her equate them with workers in high-visibility vests. Sweaty, dirty men who called her names and commented loudly to each other about her mildly wobbly bottom as she walked to the gym.
She would drive, then, to the storage space – a converted warehouse that had once been the manufacturing base for a company that specialized in the production of luminous watch faces.
The earth beneath her storage unit contained a terrifying quantity of radium. It had leeched through the concrete slab, and had made its way into several of the lower-lying plastic containers.
The popcorn within was already glowing with an admittedly mild intensity – but I have little doubt that someone, somewhere would find this detail interesting:
On the coldest of nights, when the inside of the storage unit was as black as the inside of a cow, cockroaches would gather, forming circles and swaying rhythmically, side to side, for hours and hours.
They were like ancient druids of centuries long gone – with more legs, less robes and absolutely no desire to raid the local village and burn a virgin on the heath to ensure a bumper crop of turnips.
Which was lucky, really – because she didn’t like turnips. She was more of a Swede girl. Kumera, maybe. And Parsnips, never – on the basis that parsnips a the cruelest joke of the vegetable world. Shaped tantalizingly like carrots, they take nine years to cook and taste like Pinocchio’s nose.
But I digress.
She rented the storage space from a chap with a limp and a strange skin condition that covered his entire body, including his face, with wart-like lumps. He liked to smile at the almost-fat girl with what he thought was a debonair attitude.
To her, it was like being leered at by a blanched chokito bar – but he was at the very least polite, in that way that most horribly disfigured people are.
I say most, because I once met a girl who had been thrashed by a neighbor with a broomstick for stealing passionfruit from a vine in her backyard. The beating was as comprehensive as it was lengthy, leaving the young girl with a shattered patella and permanent, rose-red subdermal scarring on her thighs, calves and left shoulder.
She was bitter – much like the juvenile passionfruit she had stolen – and would complain at length to anyone in earshot about how the pummeling she’d received had irreversibly ruined her life.
She called herself a victim – a shameless endonym countered by the near-universal exonym of her rapidly dwindling social circle. To them, she was simply The Bitch
That group of friends had met at a party hosted by a guy who once came second on a reality TV show. He had survived nearly four months cooped up in a house on the Gold Coast with a bunch of idiotic, self-obsessed meatheaded men and an equally charmless cohort of women of loose virtue and even looser undergarments.
As the only cast member to not have his pickle plucked on national TV, he became an unlikely national hero. The Man Who Couldn’t Get Laid, they called him – and, indeed, it was true.
Were he to be lying prone, face up and sporting an erection in the midst of a cunt storm, his lions would remain unmolested. He caused the precise opposite reaction to women’s knees than the one Moses had on the Red Sea.
That event, I feel compelled to share, is only accurately described as a miracle in the sense that Moses would have to be one of the luckiest people to ever draw breath.
After 40 days and 40 nights (which is Bible for “a really long time – no one’s quite sure, because the guy who was supposed to be counting went on annual leave) of being pursued by chariot-driving Egyptians, he had the extreme good fortune to arrive at the shoreline at the precise moment a tsunami would strike.
Sucking the sea back, as all good tsunamis do, it laid bare the muddy bottom of the bay. The Israelites fled across the mud – and, in the manner of third-world country drivers everywhere, the Egyptians followed. They did so enthusiastically, at first. But that enthusiasm waned somewhat when their horses, chariots, slaves and the massive marble obelisk the Pharoah had demanded accompany them on the pursuit became stuck in the slurping, goopy mess of mud beneath their feet.
When the tsunami finally disgorged its load of salty liquid death upon the shoreline, the Israelites were on the far side of the bay – most likely wondering what the fuck had just happened.
“What the fuck just happened?” they asked Moses.
“Dunno,” Moses replied. “But thank Christ it did, or we’d be completely fucked by now.”
“Thank who?” the Israelites chorused, mightily confused by the sudden anachronistic appearance of a key figure in a religious movement that would be started inadvertently by a young woman who deftly avoided being in huge trouble with her family (and most likely stoned to death by them) for falling pregnant so she blamed it on God and the whole family bought the lie and some kings turned up when the baby arrived and there might have been a comet and a little kid playing a drum of some sort.
But I digress.
The young lady with the slightly flabby derriere and her secret, warty admirer would exchange pleasantries. The last occasion upon which this happened, they spoke briefly about a reality TV show, and the sudden disappearance of the young man who had come second in the previous season.
Unlucky, was how her lumpen Casanova described the mildy-famous man whose inability to appear at work or scheduled family gatherings was being erroneously blamed on foul play.
She nodded. It was, quite literally, the very least she could do.
Carting her precious orange cargo into storage, her contemplative mood returned. What would become of her Tupperware containers and their countless orange prisoners if something untoward were to happen to her?
The answer to that became apparent when the young woman was ambushed by a Socialist while walking into the detention compound where she worked on an otherwise unremarkable Tuesday morning.
In an unfortunate series of events, the socialist in question had become even more embittered with the world, when his proposed lecture series – “Socialism and You – How to remain politically irrelevant but still feel like you’re doing something about seizing the means of production and returning it to the people” had been turned down for a government grant on the basis that it had nothing to do with refugees, art or public transport.
On his quest to find a genuine refugee that he could paint murals of on the sides of trains (preferably stationary, but he was prepared to be flexible), he presented himself at the gates of the detention facility.
Denied entry by an enthusiastic member of the Security Business – a large Tongan man with ties to several outlaw motorcycle clubs whose hobbies include long walks on the beach at sunset and the rebirthing and sale of stolen motor vehicles – the socialist became quite animated.
His sock-clad feet trembled within the spacious confines of his Berkenstock sandals. Finally, he thought to himself, I have a chance to be outraged.
His voice rose in pitch and volume, somewhat tremulous. He launched into a tirade, gesticulating wildly at the guard. Between the times of 8.15am and 8:55am on the morning in question, he delivered an impassioned speech, laden with equal quantities of invective and spittle.
He railed against the inequalities inherent in the system. He screamed about the ad hoc police state, governed by unqualified members of society whose only claim to authority were sky-blue uniforms and the weaponry they possessed to quell dissent. He wailed about the need for those in uniform to rise up against their masters, to re-join the ranks of the common man and turn the weapons of the elite back upon those who had purchased them with money stolen from the working class.
But mostly he whined about not being let into the facility to find someone whose likeness he could paint upon the side of some trains (or one train, really. Just one. It wouldn’t be much, but it would be a start).
At 8:56am, the Tongan “lost his shit”, as they have described it in classical literature since the invention of the written word – an achievement scholars suggest really came to fruition with the emergence of the scratchings of Mycaenean Greek we know as Linear B.
It has been 60 years since Michael Ventris deciphered Linear B – a feat he achieved with the help of his dentist.
It turns out that Linear B is actually the written form of Oral B – the universal language spoken by dental patients when they have four sets of fingers, a vacuum pump and a fistful of cotton bollards in their mouth.
That discovery gave rise to two things – the brand of toothbrush that bears the name of the spoken language, and the common parlance “It’s all Greek to me.”
Neither of those statements is true.
Truth, as a concept, is a difficult one to encapsulate neatly. But what I can attest to with all honesty is that, on that Tuesday morning, a large Tongan man’s desire to punch a hysterical socialist in the face overcame him.
He wound up his beefy, Islander arm and lashed out – at the precise moment the left-leaning antagonist did precisely that: he leaned to the left, ostensibly to check on the condition of his sandals, moving deftly – if inadvertently – from the path of a high-velocity fist that resembled a miniature nut-brown Rhino, hell-bent on charging a Land Rover full of screaming Japanese tourists on safari in South Africa.
The punch, having missed its target, rocketed on with the tedious inevitability of a comet hurtling through the unimaginably vast distances of space. It’s travel was halted by the right temple of a young woman whose buttocks weren’t really all that large and who harboured a terrible secret about a stash of orange popcorn in a storage unit overseen by a man with lumpy skin – which, in time, would turn out to be one of the first-recorded Zebu-to-Human transferals of a strain of Neethling Virus.
It would be a red-letter day for medicos – a brand new disease that could be used to justify a rise in consult prices. It would be a slightly awkward day for the custodian of the storage units, who was required to explain to his doctor, then the lovely people at the zoo, then an increasing number of incredulous police officers, then a judge and finally to a group of extremely puzzled fellow prisoners how he came to find himself in the Zeebu enclosure at the Western Plains Zoo on the night of January 5 – the date that doctors had determined he caught the virus.
However, the day currently under discussion, would turn out to be a very bad day indeed for both the fist-happy Tongan security officer and the young woman whose moderately ample buttocks did little to cushion her impact as she fell to the floor.
There was some argument amongst the doctors who performed the autopsy as to whether she was actually deceased before she hit the floor. It was an argument that raged into the night, continuing on as those involved finished work and retired to the local drinking establishment to get to the bottom of the issue.
By 3am, in an unusually reflective mood, a junior morgue worker suggested that the young lady in question, philosophically speaking, was in fact dead the moment she left the house that morning.
He was shouted down by several colleagues and eventually ejected from the hotel because he had a funny haircut, given to him by a well-meaning but extremely intoxicated stranger at a party thrown by a man who had since been in the news for disappearing after rising to national infamy by being unable to score a root in a house full of horny 20-something women whose lust for men was matched only by their lust for fame and who weren’t afraid to swap what was between their legs for the chance to have everyone know who they were.
Lying dead on the slab in the morgue, the young lady plays only a minor role in this tale from here.
The socialist – a witness to the attack – refused to co-operate with the police on the basis that he was, and I quote, “unable to understand the porcine ramblings of the uniformed cretins who are trying to verbal me into admitting that I’ve killed that lady with the nice bum.”
Charged with obstruction of justice, he was remanded to Silverwater Prison, where he met a kindly man of the Muslim faith and was persuaded that the religion of peace was a far better road than the politics of yesteryear. He swapped Marx for Mohammed, and never looked back – until his sandals were stolen from outside the Lakemba Mosque by an elderly man with dementia who had wandered from a local nursing home on a quest for a ‘decent pair of shoes and maybe a cup of tea and a biscuit if I’m lucky.”
The Tongan, however, was not so lucky. Charged with manslaughter – confusing for him, since he’d actually slaughtered a woman – he managed to make bail a week after the incident.
Requiring funds to mount an effective legal defense, he rang around to find a buyer for a rebirthed Mercedes he had stashed in a storage facility that was operated by a strange lumpy guy who never stopped talking about a girl with a great arse who came in once a month with boxes of Tupperware.
He had no luck moving the Mercedes – but did receive a request for a BMW M3 from a guy in Bankstown who spoke with a lisp, walked with a limp and only ever drank champagne on an evening of a blue moon.
Two of those characteristics were utterly useless affectations, designed to elicit a sense of curiosity and an air of mystery. The limp was caused by a defective hip-flexor tendon, injured while clambering hurriedly over a fence to escape an angry neighbor who had caught him and his friends’ friends’ cousin stealing passionfruit on a hot Sunday morning.
And so it was that the Tongan man called me, and I – perennially short of cash – knew precisely where I might find a BMW M3 that would fit the bill perfectly. It was owned by a guy who won an enormous sum of money on a reality TV show by successfully bedding every single woman in the house (and two of the men) in a six-week rampage of testosterone, latex and water-based lubricant.
It wasn’t at all difficult to take the car – the young man in question had lent it to his mother, a kindly middle-aged matronly type who had difficulty getting around after a nasty run-in with a train, prompted by the terrifying betrayal dealt to her by her two-timing husband and that horrible refugee he called his ‘second wife’.
I delivered the car to a storage facility – waved through the gate in the dead of night by an obsequious wart monster, who simpered and smirked at me as I parked the M3 in an otherwise empty garage.
For one hours’ work, I was paid $2000 – 60 percent of which I promptly spent on a nickel-plated 9mm hand gun that, it’s previous owner assured me, “hasn’t been used for anything serious yet so the cops don’t know nothing about it.”
I purchased the weapon as protection. The Tongan soon discovered that I’d stolen the car from a woman with mobility issues – apparently a no-no in the eyes of some criminals. I, of course, argued that – technically – the car belonged that blonde guy from that TV show where prostitutes and surfies lived in a house on TV for four months while degrading themselves in the hope that they might get famous or win some money.
No harm, no foul, I thought.
Word reached me that the Tongan was both happy and angry – a state of being usually reserved for hyperactive children on a sugar rush and Catholic priests. And – on balance – it turned out that he would be quite happy to hurt me for delivering a car that was ‘too hot’.
I didn’t understand until later that night, when I flicked over to the evening news in time to see three very important things.
Firstly, a report on the very vehicle I had purloined – complete with weeping invalid and chisel-jawed reality TV star son, pleading for the return of his car because “it’s got all my CDs in the stacker in the boot. Oh – and mum needs a car to get around. Yeah.”
Second, I learned that the young man who had appeared with our recently de-BMW’d TV star had been located, semi-conscious in a brothel in Croydon with a serious rash on his genitals, a savagely depleted bank account and a hurriedly-scribbled note that read simply “Fuck you, I got laid.”
The news cut to an ad break – where I learned that the next series of some god-awful reality show about hookers and footballers trapped in a caravan in Toukley would be starting “after the tennis.”
It was too much to bear. So I calmly (and very carefully) removed my newly-purchased pistol from the waistband of my jeans, and put two well-considered rounds of 9mm ammunition through the screen.
While the television ceased to operate according the manufacturer’s specifications, I felt completely justified in my outburst of weaponised violence because the living room in which that television once operated remained as solid as a rock, part of a home hand-built of bricks on a quiet suburban street in a well-to-do neighbourhood of a large metropolitan city on the eastern shore of a country that can’t decide whether it’s an island or a continent, which floats morbidly at the bottom of a watery planet that orbits a sun which has only, realistically, got about 12 billion years to live before it implodes upon itself and issues forth an astonishing cocktail of light, heat and base elements that will drift through the endless vacuum of space for aeons, settling eventually on a distant interstellar object, amassing quietly before forming a small planet orbiting a newly-formed star, providing the basic building blocks of life that will develop along evolutionary branches over countless millions of years, giving rise to plant and animal life that will come together in a collision of coincidence as a young woman with a perfectly normal backside and a single piece of sweetened, orange popcorn which she shall devour without a second’s thought, or remorse.
Also: the television had it coming.