Free short stories about Generation End

Archive for the ‘Ariel’ Category

THAT PLACE BY THE BEACH

do-you-remember

we-sent-a-few-evenings
lets-go-skydiving
what-do-you-want

one-night-you-were-angry

 

I-mumbled-something

i-wonder-where-you-are-now

do-ghosts-dream

empty-space

has-love-ever-been-fair

remember-that-place-by-the-beach

 

LOVE AND MONEY

hostesses - short story“Have you ever thought about God?” The pretty hostess asked me.

I was with Jude and this guy named Alfred or something, and we were in a private room with four or five or so hostesses. They were all pretty, and they made love seem so easy and so accessible for men like me. All you need for them to love you back is to talk to them. And to buy them drinks. And to give them all of your money.

“I think you need more drinks,” the tall one said, glancing at the manager, who was watching over the whole thing.

“Sure,” Jude said. I smiled. My plan was for Jude to pay for everything.

The shorter hostess, the one with the tiny skirt who kept asking me questions, took a shot of this blue coloured drink that Jude ordered for everyone before placing her arms over my shoulders and sitting on me again. She grinded and giggled and I could smell her. She had some glitter on her flustered cheeks, and she leant forward, and she asked me: “Is anything possible? Can we fly if we truly wished it? Can we create planets all on our own?” And I looked at something at the other side of the room and mumbled something I no longer remember.

When the madness was all over the manager handed us a bill for eight thousand dollars. We argued with her until she called in four guys. They were big guys, angry looking guys. Jude looked at them before sighing and passing them his credit card.

We walked outside and the shorter one ran after us.

“Take me with you!” she yelled.

“You’re too expensive!” I yelled back.

She frowned and gave me the finger. I wanted her, though, as terrible as it was. She looked incredible. Do women know that? That they can permanently ruin a man by simply existing?

We got the hell out of there and wondered towards the lights, talking about everything that happened. Eventually Alfred left, and Jude and I caught a cab back together to his place.

“Well, that was shit.”

I nodded, realising that the short hostess left a strong, sour smell on my jeans. “I’ll help pay you back.”

“No you won’t.”

“Well I might.”

We walked inside his apartment and crumpled down on his couch. “That was a huge waste of time and money.” He checked his phone, sighed, texted something, placed his phone back into his pocket. He stretched backwards and yawned. “Imagine if we could escape whenever we wanted to.”

“Escape what?”

Jude looked around his apartment. “This. Life. Our choices.”

“If you wanted to, you probably could. You have the money.”

“Money isn’t the solution to everything.”

“Yes it is.”

“But I guess there’s no fun in running away. All you’ll feel is a rush, but that’s it. Because you’ll make the same stupid mistakes all over again if you don’t learn to face the problems you currently have.”

“Well aren’t you an inspirational bastard.”

Jude lit a cigarette. “The girls tonight reminded me of Ariel.”

“Ariel is dead.”

He scratched his arm. “I know, Dean.”

I stood up and turned on his TV.

 

THE BIG BAD EASTER BUNNY

The big bad Easter Bunny - girl in bar raising drink
This was the first Easter Sunday where I woke up not knowing how I got to where I was. I woke up in a café in the Valley or New Farm or West End or something and Jude was there, and so was his girl, and so was some other girl, and all they did was laugh at me. We were in one of those industrial cafés everyone is so fond of now: you know, those cafés with crooked seats and crooked tables and concrete everywhere and tanned, blue-eyed, blonde wait staff who will never truly know you. I ate whatever they ordered for me – eggs, greens, sausages, avocado, mushrooms, salmon – and walked off, caught a cab to the nearest shopping mall with the hope of buying Easter eggs for people but everything was closed. I sat down, scrolled up and down my Facebook newsfeed, liking status updates that didn’t mean much. I vomited somewhere, drove home, checked my Facebook again, vomited again, drove back out to an Easter mass nearby and just stared at the altar until my mind wondered too often – I frowned, left and drove to an Easter picnic that Vail was having.

There were about thirty people in that picnic, and the only person I’ll be writing about was the man dressed in an Easter Bunny onesie. He was probably only a few years older than I was; he had a dark stubble and dark curly hair and he was loud but not too drunk.

“Why the hell are you wearing that?” I asked him.

“It’s Easter.”

“I think I’ve met you somewhere,” I said to him. “Were you at Jamie’s house party?”

“No,” he said, but then: “Yeah.”

I adjusted my sunglasses. “Jamie and I – we broke up.”

“When?”

“Last weekish?”

“I’m sorry to hear that, man,” he said, reading a text message on his phone.

I shrugged, thinking about her smiling in my arms right before the both of us slowly passed out on a stairway somewhere. I woke up to her drooling over my shoulder. She flinched and opened her eyes and asked, It’s time for a blowie already?

“Wasn’t meant to be?” I found myself asking.

“I got drunk last night,” he said. “Shit myself.”

“Where?”

“Down Under Bar,” he mumbled as he continued texting.

“What did you do?” I asked him.

He kept texting.

“What did you do?” I asked him again. “After you shit yourself?”

“Kept dancing, man.”

“People would’ve stopped dancing near you.”

“You’re absolutely right.” He put his phone down momentarily. “Have you ever had an abortion before?”

“I’m a guy. Guys don’t get abortions.”

“No I mean have you asked a girl to get an abortion for you?”

“What are you on about?”

“I never did. Don’t believe in them, dude.” He showed me his phone: there was a photo of this kid who looked about ten years old. He had dark curly hair and was in a school uniform, grinning into the camera. “The chick sends me pics of him every so often because I ask for them. But I don’t want to meet him man, never. It’ll fuck me up. You should see how fat the chick has gotten. Used to be really sexy though.” He went silent. “Ah fuck, she was always fat. Fuck. I pulled out and everything but I don’t know what happened.”

“I wonder if he hates you,” I said.

“He hasn’t met me.”

“Sometimes people hate those they’ve never met.”

He mumbled something and for a brief moment, I thought about Ariel. How she’d hold her drink up and smile. I suddenly wanted to fly to Italy. Canada. Mars. I probably wouldn’t call her if she was still alive, I probably wouldn’t even text. But she would still be alive, and that would’ve made life a little bit more understandable.

The Easter Bunny and I walked over to the barbeque area as The National’s “I Need My Girl” played depressingly in the background. We put some sausages in bread, spoke to people, shared stories, checked for text messages, checked Facebook, laughed at some things that actually weren’t that funny, frowned at some things that actually weren’t that sad, ate, drank.

 

***

 

NEWS: Paperback editions of Surface Children are now available at Mary Ryan’s store, in New Farm, as well as Avid Reader in West End. Grab one today, and support local businesses and the work of indie authors.

One Hundred Sixty Kilograms, a short story from Surface Children, is now available as a standalone short story on Amazon.

THERE IS NO TIME FOR GRIEF

Old photo of Ariel on bed - there is no time for griefI hadn’t slept in two days. I got to work at ten in the morning, drove home at about three in the afternoon. I drove to Vail’s home, parked on her driveway. I watched her house for a while before giving her a call. No one answered her phone, so I called the receptionist.

“Hello?”

“Hi.”

“Dean?”

“Who else would it be?”

The receptionist went quiet for a second. “I deleted your number.”

“I need to see you.”

“I don’t think it’s appropriate.”

“I’m driving over now.”

The receptionist and her new husband rented a small house in Underwood. She let me in, poured me some Coke. We looked at each other for a while.

She smiled slightly. “If my husband comes home early, he’s going to literally chop your cock off.”

“You know I thought you would’ve gained a lot of weight, but you look okay.”

“Why are you here?”

“Someone died.”

“Who?”

“A friend.”

She tucked some hair behind her ear. We spoke about a few things that weren’t that important until I finally walked over to the baby she held in her arms. I touched his hand, smiled. The baby was a tiny fucker. He had a lot of hair and his eyes – I envied his eyes: they were relaxed, they were happy, they were calm. Still smiling, I picked up the baby so that he was safely positioned above my head. He chuckled.

“You better not piss on my face.”

I lowered the baby, and it grabbed my finger with both of its fat hands. I couldn’t stop smiling at him. How could something like this just get created out of thin air? He’s going to grow up and become a boy, and then a man, and then he’s going to win at a few things and fuck up a few times and one day he’s going to be much more relevant than I am and one day he’s going to drive; one day he’s going to fly and one day he’ll start making other human beings and one day, well, he’s going to die.

How do I deal with grief? I make fun of other people. I take sleeping pills. I watch downloaded TV shows. I hide my grief in a corner somewhere, and once in a while it comes out in my writing. But the truth is there’s no time for grief. There’s time to fuck up, but there’s no time for grief. Time is free, but it’s not everywhere anymore – it’s rapidly running out. I placed my hand on the baby’s face.

I gave the baby back to the receptionist; she cuddled him and tapped his nose. The baby made a little noise. The receptionist looked up at me and told me a funny story about him; I don’t remember what the story was, but I remember laughing.

The receptionist and I just looked at each other for a while, not saying anything. Eventually, she opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out. I headed back to my car and drove home, had some red wine, looked at a few photos on my phone, scrolled up and down my Facebook newsfeed, stared at the ceiling.

EVERYTHING ALWAYS ENDS UP IN YOUR BATHROOM

Girl on couch red

Life has been stupid lately. I was hired by the luxury car dealership to be their copywriter/designer/marketing person/driver, and as I happily accepted their offer and happily accepted their stable pay slips everything else outside my working life began to deteriorate: I wrote less, I saw friends less, I boxed less, I woke up at five in the morning every day and slept at nine in the evening every day. I became the type of person I never wanted to become. But the money was amazing, and for the first time in a long time it was actually present in my life. Who the hell doesn’t like money?

It was also time to end whatever I was doing with Jamie. There were plenty of things I was growing to greatly dislike about Jamie. Her hair. The way she constantly ate. Her healthy drug addiction. Her face. Once, she sent me a video of her drunk and dirty dancing with a female friend, but it just didn’t look right. So I planned to end things once and for all the day after we went to her friend’s house warming.

“You’ll really get along with her crowd,” Jamie said as we drove there. “They’re all artist types. Your kind of people.”

The house warming was up north. The house was a big house, an old house, and every room smelt like their ugly dog: this big grey thing that fucked everything it looked at.

“You know what?” I asked Jamie. “Dogs hump everything but I never see them come. When do they come?”

After a bit of walking around, Jamie introduced me to her friend, Amy. Amy was wearing a bikini made out of garbage bags and staples. The words FUCK RU$$IA were painted again and again all over her legs. I looked at her, and then at Jamie. “I bet you guys are best friends because your names rhyme.”

“You’re absolutely right,” Amy said without smiling.

With the exception of Amy and a guy in a Hawaiian shirt, everyone else in that party wore extremely tight jeans, thick-rimmed glasses and either a piercing on their nose or multiple piercings on their ears, or both. Most of them were freelance graphic designers, freelance web designers, freelance copywriters, baristas, interns, drama students or painters who haven’t painted anything yet.  The guy in the Hawaiian shirt turned out to be a writer.

“So I hear you’re a writer, too,” he said.

“Sometimes I think I am.”

“You should read my book,” he said. “It’s about these two characters trapped on an island. I’m going to submit it for a Vogel award.”

“Really?”

“Yeah I presented it at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival last year. It’s just gripping, you know? Well, more shocking than gripping, because you see the breaking of innocence. These two characters, they’re this innocent older couple, married a few years, just wanting to have a vacation in an exotic island they saw advertised online. But then, the horrors that happen to them… as I was telling my friends in my writer’s meetup… it’s quite a literary experience. Because every assumption you, the reader, will have, will be broken.”

“I’ll be sure to Google you.”

“I have a copy of the book over there,” he said, “you know, if you want to buy it now.”

“I don’t have money,” I said. “But I’ll look you up.”

“Jamie told me you had money.”

“Jamie’s a liar.”

You’re a liar,” he hissed before walking off.

“Hey.”

I turned around. It was Amy. “You scared the shit out of me.”

“Let me show you something,” she said, her eyes wide. She was high. She brought me to her bathroom, which was crammed with about four other people. She opened her mouth and showed me her tongue, which had a pill on it, and kissed me before grabbing a bottle of beer and pouring its contents down my throat. She kissed me again, grabbed another pill, pulled her garbage bag bottoms down, and forced it up her anus. Her eyes fluttered; she smiled.

She placed another pill on my index finger. “Your turn.”

“What is it?” I looked around at the four other people in her bathroom: one was passed out, two were making out, one was just wide-eyed, staring at me, smiling, drooling.

“All that matters is that you swallow one, and push the other one up yourself. It’s like, so much better than meditating.”

I did it, and then I smiled at Amy, and she smiled back at me, and I told her that I’m going to be afraid to sniff my finger or scratch my eye for the entire night. She ignored me and began telling me about Buddhism. About veganism. About capitalism. About how we need to change our ways. About this book called The China Study. She squeezed my balls, and I screamed, and then she laughed. She took my hand and guided me to her bedroom and we drank things, lots and lots of things, and then we took turns with her fancy looking bong, and then we argued about something I no longer remember – all I remember was that the argument quickly became a horrific one. I began to strangle her, and then she began to strangle me, and as our faces turned red and as our eyes began bulging we both let go and laughed. I ran to the bathroom and washed my hands and then got the fuck out of there. I saw Jamie on the way out and I gave her the finger and told her that I hated her before running – sprinting – out of the house. I saw my car and I ran on top of it, and I kept running. I wanted to run home. I knew it would take days to run home, but I wanted to run home. I was so happy. I texted some people. I hadn’t been that happy in months, years, ever. I looked up, at how clear things were and decided, then and there, that I wanted to be a fireman, because firemen got the girls. I sat down, crossed my legs, and began listening to something by Buddy DeFranco, whoever the hell he was. For some reason Jamie was behind me again, and her eyeliner was just so pretty and so perfect, and we were in her bathroom and she was giggling and beautiful warm water was running down both of us. I was also giggling. I asked her if I pissed my pants and she said Yes, you prick! You pissed all over me. I told her that she was my best friend, and that I loved her and that I wanted to impregnate her, twice. She was turning transparent. She pulled out the razor blade she used to shave her legs and began shaving my pubic hairs, and I told her not to, but she did, and I kissed her, and then I suddenly died and I saw blood everywhere and Jamie screamed, but then I came back to life! I came back to life! I woke up to my phone buzzing.

Everything was dark. I fumbled around and eventually managed to pick it up – my head was spinning and everything was throbbing, and I could barely make out what the person was saying so I kept asking them, “What?” until I was finally able to comprehend a tiny piece of it: the person, a sobbing young girl, kept saying again and again and again, “Ariel is dead. She killed herself, we need some money to pay for…” and everything shrank, and the darkness of the room kind of crumbled and gave way to even more darkness, and I yelled and I cried and Jamie asked me what was wrong and I kept yelling and screaming until I fell back to sleep.

HOW TO LOSE SOMEONE YOU CARE ABOUT

Cathedral in Melbourne - how to lose someone you care about storySome people move forward in life, some people get worse. Some people, like me, are trapped in a cycle between both. I’d get a job, get a woman, and then I’d lose that job, and then I’d lose that woman, and then I’d get a new job and a new woman all over again. In between all of this I’d get older, not wealthier, not wiser, just older…

The rest of my Melbourne trip with Ariel went peacefully – we ate and we drank coffee and we met a few people. Before leaving we went into a cathedral and sat at the back and Ariel knelt down and cried and I didn’t ask her why. After about an hour of crying she told me that God punishes those He loves and we stood up and walked into a McDonald’s and quietly talked about how were going to end things, and how we shouldn’t talk to each other for a few weeks to move on as quickly and practically as possible. I begged her to get out of her job as soon as possible and I promised that one day, when I grew some damn balls, I’d find a way to help her and her aunt and her cousins. She said nothing. We flew back to Brisbane, and at her train stop she smiled and embraced me and wiped her eyes and said, “Goodbye.” I watched her leave: her legs, her hair, her earrings, her purse, her suitcase, the way her arse moved. I hated her and I wanted her and I didn’t know what to do.

I hopped off at the city and went to the library and found a computer and found a number for Centrelink. I called the number and spoke to someone for about an hour regarding government assistance – they told me to sign up for something online and organised a time for me to meet them to see how they can help me, to see how much money they felt I deserved. I then applied for a few jobs online, feeling sick each time I did. I printed a few resumes and, forcing a smile, walked to a few cafés and handed them in. I walked to South Bank, stared at the Ferris Wheel, walked back to the city. I looked into a few bars but didn’t walk inside of them.

I sat on a bench, doing nothing for a while. I texted a few people to see if they were free and most of them, the ones I actually kind of wanted to see, said no. I finally decided to call an ex-girlfriend who now lives in the east side or something.

“How are you?” I asked her.

“I’ve gained weight.”

“Who hasn’t?”

“I can name a few people.”

“I’m sure you’ve still got great legs,” I said.

“You wouldn’t say that when you see me.”

“Yeah well you know what? It kind of makes me feel good to know that you’ve gained weight.”

She didn’t laugh. “Fuck you.”

We spoke a little longer. She told me about how insecure she always felt, how she found herself stuttering when she met strangers, especially men, and how she thought people rarely noticed her, and if they did, they’d talk about her and laugh at her and think she was ugly. She cried a little and I asked her what the hell was wrong with girls these days, that they were always crying about something, that I would totally do her if I saw her again. She finally laughed.

I told her about Ariel and about this other girl I met at a shop that I’d hang out with once in a while. She told me about this date she went on with this guy she met online, about how at the end of the night the guy asked if she wanted to see the tip of his dick. She said, “Sure, okay.”

I asked her what she wanted to do in life, who she wanted to become, what she wanted to be proud of. She told me that she wanted a good job, a nice family, a nice home, to get along with her partner’s parents, to have nice pets, to have a nice school for her kids. I told her that I wasn’t sure what I wanted, that all I knew is that it would involve money, lots of money, and lots of hours of sleep, and lots of peace, and lots of certainty.

She invited me over. I said, “Okay,” and I drove to her home and she was right: she’d gained a shitload of weight. We had some tea and argued about something and ended up yelling at each other. She threw her empty teacup directly at me and it hit my arm and it fell to the ground, unbroken. I picked it up and threw it at her and she leapt – literally leapt, like in the movies – out of the way and it shattered against a cupboard. She called me The Worst. I laughed and said that I didn’t aim for her, anyway. I walked over to her and tried to pick her up but she was too heavy. I laughed again. She stood up and just glared at me and told me that I nearly killed her and I told her not to fucking exaggerate. I asked her if she was wet and she said, “No, fuck no. What’s wrong with you?”

We resumed talking about our lives until we ran out of things to say: she yawned, I yawned, she checked the time on her mobile phone and told me that it was time for me to drive home. We hugged and kissed a little, and I told her that I’d made too many mistakes in my life, and she asked me, “Why can’t our hearts remain fragile?” and I walked to my car and I drove for probably three hours into goodness knows where.

 

***

NEWS: My book of short stories, Surface Children, is now available on paperback.

Check it out here.

A POINTLESS THEORY ABOUT LOVE

Ariel with bearThings weren’t going so well for Ariel and I so she flew us both to Melbourne for two days. We caught the SkyBus to our hotel and checked in and when we dropped our bags on the carpet we looked at each other and laughed for no reason; she said she was tired, but the day was never coming back again so we better make the most of it. I told her that days do happen again, that they happen again and again and again, that in fact I had the exact same Wednesday last week. She didn’t reply. I lay on the bed as she walked into the shower and just watched the ceiling for a while before sitting back up to stare at the TV.

We left the hotel, entered Little Collins Street, bought a few expensive pizzas.

“You know what I like about Melbourne?” she asked me.

“What?”

“The people,” she smiled.

“The hell you on about? We haven’t spoken to one person yet.”

We visited a few places I’d been to before: the library, a gallery, a tourist information centre, the QV building, Off Ya Tree, some side streets with graffiti, about a thousand Pie Faces; we met a busker who had a sign in front of him that said, JUST THE TIP, I SWEAR, and he told us that a feminist threatened him for an hour because the sign contained a joke about rape. We returned to the tourist information centre and considered booking a tour to see the penguins, but changed our mind. We went to a café: she ordered a cup of mocha and I ordered wine.

“Are you happy?” she asked me.

“Are you?”

“Right now, I’m happy.”

Like always, we spoke about our dreams. She told me about the properties she was going to have all over the world and I told her about the airplanes I was going to have. She told me that she wanted Gucci bags, Dolce & Gabbana bags, a room full of shoes. I told her that I wanted to like, build a school or something, for you know, for where the poor people live. She told me that she was going to buy a unit for her aunt and a bunch of units for her cousins. I told her about swimming with a ukulele in a large swimming pool, about a large bed, about stress-free sex, blue skies, dark skies, the sun going up and down and left and right, stars falling like thumbtacks and how in the future, when I walk into any store, I’ll no longer look at price tags. Then she told me about how her boss was still threatening her for only taking on a small number of clients because of me, that she used up a large portion of her savings for this trip. Her forehead creased, she slouched, she looked into her drink. I told her that she shouldn’t have flown us here. I also told her that I wasn’t working anymore. I said, “We just have to win the lotto and we can get out of this mess.” And she put her hand on mine and told me to never put my hope in easy money.

It was evening by the time we finished and there were buskers everywhere. They danced, they sang, they played the guitar. After eating at this Vietnamese restaurant that Bill Clinton had apparently once eaten in we went for a walk and found this crowded rooftop bar and ordered wine. “Congratulations, Dean,” Ariel said, raising her glass to me, and I asked, “Why?” and she said, “For publishing your first book. I’m so proud of you.” We drank some more, but by ten we were no longer in the mood. We stumbled back to the hotel room. I threw her on the bed and took her shoes off. I took off mine. I lay next to her and we looked at each other. I was tired and the wine had made me drowsy. She asked me if I still had the bear and the ring she gave me, and I told her that I did. “My bear is in my purse and I’m wearing my ring. Where did you place yours?” When I didn’t reply she asked me if I was seeing other girls now to get back at her for everything she was doing with her clients and I told her that I wasn’t. A tear fell out of her eye. She pushed my hand away, pulled a tissue out of her purse. She wiped her eyes. “We’re going to have to end this,” she mumbled. “What?” was all I could ask her before eventually closing my eyes and falling asleep to dream about something I no longer remember. The bear was in my room. The ring was in my pocket.

 

***

 

NEWS: My book of short stories, Surface Children, is now available on Amazon.

Check it out here.

HOW TO WRITE A BOOK AND NOT GET PUBLISHED

Rejection letter - Generation End

When I remember myself and when I remember my life it will all be portrayed in black and white. It won’t be in HD or 3D and it’ll be lower than low budget; the screen quality will be a little fuzzy and sometimes you’ll have to bang the screen to see it properly. A lot of the scenes, the scenes that weren’t really integral to the plot anyway, will be edited out. But they’ll still leave some repetitive bits and pieces in there to make it look kind of indie, like the scenes of me driving for hours, or the scenes of me just staring at the ceiling, or the scenes of me chucking a shit.

I’ve written about four or five novels, all unpublished and all repeatedly rejected by publishers and literary agents. For money, I’ve taken up a whole range of jobs.  I’ve delivered pizzas. I’ve worked in a butcher shop, a sushi shop, a noodle shop; I’ve worked as a copywriter for a major corporation. I hated them all.

Someone, I forgot who, once told me to keep writing books even if no one’s reading them. There’s a lot about what I do that I don’t often tell you about. In between all of my moments of love and loss and all that other shit are hours and hours of me sitting in front of a laptop, typing, or hours and hours of me writing things on napkins while I’m out, or several evenings when I tell people I can’t join them because I have to stay home to write or edit or work on a cover letter for a literary agent. Although I write about a lot of depressing things, I have to remain optimistic. Heartache may serve as fantastic fertiliser for good work, but all artists need optimism, no matter how unattractive it may be – our lives literally depend on it. Surface Children is the first “book” I’ll be publishing on my own. I know I keep saying this, but it’s almost done.

Anyway I only had one source of income and I fucked it up. I lost my only client – the two women who were paying me good money to write for them every week. Apparently I’d been missing all of my deadlines and had been drunkenly texting one of them, the one with the bigger ears, at four in the morning too often. They fired me via email.

“Ariel?”

“Yeah?”

“Did I wake you up?”

“You did,” she said softly. She was quiet for a while and I pictured her lying there with her eyes still closed. Eventually: “What time is it?”

“How the hell should I know?”

“Are you still coming by the bar tonight?”

I looked downwards, at me knee. “Yeah. Yeah, I’ll see you tonight.”

I picked my car keys up and drove to a shopping centre. I walked to an ATM and checked my account balance: there wasn’t much left. I just stared at the screen, at the numbers and the pixels, until someone behind me cleared their throat. I withdrew three hundred dollars to pay for Ariel for the evening and sat down in the food court somewhere and did nothing.

“Hey, stranger.”

I looked up. It was the girl from the clothing store, Jamie. “Hey.”

She looked at the empty table in front of me. “Having fun not eating lunch?”

“You can join me if you want.”

“My break’s nearly over,” she said, but sat down in front of me anyway. “You look sad.”

“Who doesn’t?”

“You’re not working today?”

I crossed my arms. “I don’t think I’m cut for work. I don’t like people baiting me with money to dictate how I spend the rest of my life.”

“You’re going to have to support a family with that mindset one day.”

I didn’t reply.

“You should start your own business,” she said finally.

“Want to have a drink with me?”

She looked at her watch. “Come get me at five? We can like, drink then.”

I drove to some kind of RSL club, went to the pokies and lost ten dollars. I went to the bar and ordered a house red, followed by a whiskey dry, followed by another house red. I drove home, went online and looked at job listings. I closed the window and went to the Centrelink website and started writing an application for income support but closed the window again. I read a book, threw it against the wall, picked it up, threw it against the wall again. I fell asleep, woke up and drove to the shopping centre and picked Jamie up at five forty. We drove, slowly, to some place near the city that she heard about. We had dinner, we had lots of drinks. In the parking lot she told me that she was going to pass out soon, and I turned my phone off, and, while looking outside my windscreen, she said, “It’s funny. It’s funny how, like, you can only see the stars when it’s dark outside,” and I put a sleeping pill in her mouth before taking one for myself and we both fell asleep in my car.

 

**

SOME NEWS: I’ve almost completed editing my book of short stories, Surface Children. If you haven’t already done so, subscribe now to receive three free stories and be one of the first to find out of its release.

HER FACE WAS DRAWN WITH CHARCOAL

Ariel - generation end

I want a lot of things. I want a big black car. I want a bunch of money. I want to feel postmodern, relevant, sleepy. I want to eat the stuff that makes the clouds. I want to fuck the moonlight.

I want to forget a whole lot of things. But there are also a few bits and pieces of my life that I want to remember forever. Like this time when Ariel and I booked a motel for a night. It was a shitty motel and there were stains on the sheets and we just lay there, staring at the ceiling in silence. Once in a while we’d talk about people in our lives, or once in a while we’d watch videos on YouTube from my mobile phone, or once in a while we’d glance at the window outside, or once in a while she’d turn to me and ask with slight dread, “What’s going to happen to me?” and I’d feel sick inside, so I’d tell her a joke, any joke I could come up with. She walked to her battered pink purse and pulled out two small teddy bears and two rings. “I bought these for you,” she said, and gave me one of the bears and one of the rings. Trying not to appear too affected by it, I looked them over (the ring had LOVE ME, OK? engraved into it) and said thanks and mumbled that it’d been a while since a woman had given me anything, and for some reason she cried and eventually fell asleep with her mouth open, and I kissed her forehead and as she slept I began texting a girl I met in a clothing store.

Ariel frequently reassured me that she was a person, that she was real. She had dreams. She dreams. She could feel it when I pinched her and she could feel it when I insulted her. She looked better without makeup, but only if I didn’t see her in the morning. Once, she took me to a church in the city, this big but quiet cathedral that had five or so people in it. She pointed at the altar and told me to look at it and then slapped my arm and told me to stop looking at it because I was staring at it for too long. She told me to bow my head and pray, to ask for things I’d never asked for before. She always talked about wanting to be wealthy but never bought expensive things. She loved McDonald’s and would always laugh as she threw fries at me. She rarely finished her food. She read books. She listened to James Blake. Her teeth were unusually perfect. Her lipstick was unusually perfect. When she’d drink she’d often lie to me, or get some girl to call me up and pretend that it was her. She told me to keep going to the gym.

One evening she said this: “Listen, if things between you and me, if they don’t pan out… I want you to keep working. But work smart. Work at being happy. Stop reading such depressing books. Help people. Forget about all the short term stuff. We’re in a rut, a really bad rut, but one day, if we just keep working, the success will snowball. I truly believe in it. Invest, okay? Can you promise me you’ll invest?”

Ariel’s business partner’s threats were getting worse – he even began raising the interest on her debts. She told me the only way for neither of us to go broke or get harmed was for her to take on one or two “old friends” again. One of these old friends was a teacher, just like her first boyfriend. He’d been texting her repeatedly and begging her to meet him again. When she finally agreed, he took her to Movie World, which was perfect, because she’d never been there before. This guy, this teacher, he was tall and thin and had a horrible childhood and wore glasses that never looked even on his face. He loved books, he’d been to India, he’d been to Kazakhstan. He had rough yet gentle hands. He liked to wear perfume and he smiled a lot even if he was often lonely, and, while with her in the very bar that I first met her, he drew her face with charcoal and told her that he’d never hurt her, no matter how she treated him or what decisions she wanted to make in life.

 

 

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ARIEL’S AUNTIE

Generation End - Ariel's aunt - TV set

I wonder what it’d be like to be popular. Are popular people happy? How long do they spend on the phone? How much do they spend on birthday presents? How many friends do they have on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and Vine and whatever the hell else is out there?

As I approach my late twenties I’ve come to realise that the number of people I can actually call my friends have decreased significantly: all I really have left are Jude, Ariel and sometimes Vail. Since Jude was somewhere in Africa and Vail was I don’t know where, I found myself spending a lot more time and money on Ariel, who was starting to look more and more tired and unhappy as the weeks went by.

“My business partner’s not happy, Dean,” she said. “Ever since I committed to you I’m not bringing in new business anymore. Don’t you get it? I still have to pay him back. You don’t understand the kind of pressure he’s putting on me.”

“Let’s drive to the Coast,” I said, trying to cheer her the hell up. “I have Jude’s Audi and we can go shoot some rifles at the shooting range.”

“The Coast? My aunt lives there. Hey, why don’t we visit her instead?”

“Hey, why don’t we go to the bloody shooting range?”

Ariel kept quiet.

Ariel’s aunt’s home was small and incredibly clean. It smelt like Windex. Ariel and her parents hadn’t spoken in years (“I hope they lose their legs!”) so to her, her aunt and her aunt’s kids were the only real family she had left. Her aunt had a strange looking face and was married to this guy who flew off to Japan and hadn’t returned or made contact with her in eight years. She had five kids, all daughters, all roughly the same age except for one, who was studying Marketing in university. Ariel gave her aunt the majority of her income.

“What’s your favourite song, Dean? What’s your favourite song?” Her aunt kept asking me again and again, even if I told her I didn’t have one. At some point one of her daughters walked to a large stereo near the TV and put Kanye West’s Black Skinhead on and everyone squealed and even if they screamed at her to shut it up, they all stepped up and danced in front of me like mad women. It was the strangest sight I’d seen in my life – I should’ve filmed it. Ariel’s aunt then brought out plates of bacon and eggs and party pies and an esky filled with beer and we all ate and we all drank and we all sort of laughed around.

It would’ve been a good day if Ariel’s aunt didn’t start asking me for money afterwards. “Look, I fed you and entertained you. You’re going to have to pay up.”

“What? Are you kiddng?”

“Does it look like I’m joking?”

“How much?”

“Four hundred.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

“I have a million kids to feed. You think this is easy for me to ask you this?”

We argued and argued until we started screaming and swearing at each other. “I’M NOT GIVING YOU MY MONEY.”

“FINE, FORGET FOUR HUNDRED. ONE HUNDRED. ONE HUNDRED IS ALL I’M ASKING FOR, YOU GREEDY FUCKING PIG. ONE HUNDRED IS NOTHING TO YOU. FUCK YOU.”

“ONE HUNDRED IS EVERYTHING TO ME. I’M A WRITER, DIDN’T I TELL YOU A THOUSAND TIMES?”

I threw two fifties at her and called her names. Ariel cried and told us both to shut up and pulled me away.

We went outside. Ariel and I looked at each other for a while, saying nothing, until she pushed me. “Don’t you ever speak to my aunt like that.”

“Didn’t you hear what just happened?”

“I know.” Tears kept coming down her eyes. “It was wrong of her, but you’re a man, Dean, you’re supposed to be patient.” She pushed me a few more times, telling me how wrong I was until I eventually pushed her back. She fell backwards onto the ground and looked up at me, shocked.

“You pushed me!”

“Don’t exaggerate. It was a light push. Don’t fucking exaggerate!”

“How dare you, Dean?”

I pointed at her. “If she’s broke or whatever, that’s fine. I would’ve been happy to help but the way she asked was rude.”

“You pushed me!” Ariel wept even louder. “You pushed me to the ground!”

“Don’t do that crying shit. Why do girls always do that crying shit? Stop crying!” She didn’t stop crying, so I repeated myself: “Stop crying!”

She didn’t respond. I glared at her for a while until finally deciding to sit down next to her. She hid her face under her arms and kept shaking. I looked at her, at her arms and her hair and said nothing. Eventually, she looked up at me, her eyes all red and swollen, and laughed. I laughed too.

I stayed outside as she said goodbye to her aunt and cousins. We drove back to Brisbane: on the drive she told me about her dreams, about wanting kids, about how she hopes God still loves her. I told her that I was sorry. I dropped her off at the city, gave her three hundred for the day and drove home, drank some water, drank some wine, stared at a page of a book but didn’t read any of it, browsed through my mobile phone contacts, stared at the ceiling in the dark. All of a sudden, I felt afraid. I felt the need to skip tomorrow. I took two pills and fell asleep.

 

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SOME NEWS: I’ve almost completed editing my book of short stories, Surface Children. If you haven’t already done so, subscribe now to receive three free stories and be one of the first to find out of its release.