Free short stories about Generation End

Archive for the ‘Crappy News’ Category

HOPES AND FEARS FOR 2016

spaceship ufo - short story

Carol took a sip of her drink. “My only wish is that I find good music this year. I mean the music in two thousand fifteen was great, and like, I really got into Spotify and Pandora and that, but like, I mean, The Weeknd’s album was pretty good, but really, I wanted more, you know? Do you ever get that? Like, you listen to a new album by like, Adele, for example, and you absolutely love it, and you tell all your friends about it, and for a straight month you can’t stop listening to it: at first, there are certain songs you can’t stop listening to, like Adele’s Hello, for example, and then after you’ve listened to it enough times you start getting hooked on other songs in the album, songs you didn’t like initially, like that one on track ten, I think it’s called Love in the Dark, and then you really love it, right? So you listen to that a hundred times in a row like you listened to Hello a hundred times in a row, but then once you’ve ploughed through all of the songs over and over again, one day, you’re listening to Love in the Dark, and all of a sudden you think, ‘Why am I listening to this bullshit?’ and you change to track eleven, then track four, then track eight or whatever and it’s all the same – you can’t stand her voice anymore, you can’t stand anything to do with her and you start to panic a little, because you loved her album and told of your friends to listen to it, right? And now you don’t anymore. So you rush on over to the shops or go online or whatever and look for other albums to satisfy your need for music and none are as good, so what do you do? Why do we even need this much music? Why can’t we just cling to one song and be done with it? And don’t even try and sell me Coldplay’s latest album.”

Carol told me this as we were having whatever at some overly priced café that no one will ever remember in the long run.

“How about you, Dean? How was your two thousand and fifteen? Was it any good?”

“I loved it.”

“I read some of your stuff, it’s really depressing. Have you tried positivity journals before? That’s something I want to do this year. I want to exercise more and be more positive, like have more smiling selfies, you know?” She giggled a little at that, but I wasn’t sure if she was joking. She’s the kind of person who’s dumb and smart at the same time. She leant forward. “Look, I know I’m talking a lot and I know you’re dying to tell me some stories, but I want to tell you a quick story, can I tell you a story?”

“No.”

“Once upon a time there was a space fighter. He had orange hair. He was seventy years old. He wasn’t the best space fighter in the world; in fact he was pretty forgettable. But he was handsome when he was young, and he did enjoy a lot of his life and spent a lot of it eating or whatever with the ones he loved. One day he woke up with a sickening feeling: he couldn’t prove it, but something in the pit of his stomach was telling him that the moon was going to explode. He had to get to the moon, like, ASAP. So he packed up his things, sat in his spaceship and turned on the engine. Just as he was about to leave, however, his best friend the Green Man stopped him for a second. ‘Where are you going?’ the Green Man asked him, and the space fighter said, ‘Ya wouldn’t believe it but, uh, I think the moon is going to explode.’

‘Is that so?’ the Green Man asked curiously. The Green Man had known the space fighter for like, decades or something, and he knew one thing for sure: the space fighter had, like, unbelievable instincts. But then the Green Man was also now incredibly senile. ‘Okay but before you go I want to tell you a story.’

‘What, like right now?’ the space fighter said irritably.

‘My daughter, you know my daughter?’

‘Yeah I know your daughter!’ the space fighter grunted.

‘Even though she’s never met an actual dinosaur, she like, loves them. She loves everything about them. Their shapes, their bones, their history. One day, when you were out on one of your space missions, I didn’t tell you this, but she and her husband conducted a dinosaur symphony, attended by thousands of their fans. The first track was called… Dinosaur One. The second track was called… Dinosaur Two. The third track was called… Dinosaur Three. The fourth track was called… Dinosaur four. As you can see, it kept going like this. One day I asked her and her husband, “Why didn’t you name your pieces? Dinosaur Four sounds like a T-Rex, why didn’t you just call Dinosaur Four T-Rex?” And you know what they did? They shrugged! That’s all they did! They just shrugged at me!’

The space fighter ignored everything about that story and waved his best friend goodbye. He flew to the moon, and he like, stopped it from exploding and stuff, and then he flew back home to hang out with his best friend again.”

Carol and I spent the next hour talking about her friend with herpes before she paid the bill and drove off to a New Year party. She texted me the next morning, HAHAHAing about how her sister lost her wallet and virginity on the same day.

PART 6: GOING HOME

try not to be so blue

There are some days when I have great dreams and there are some days when I have no dreams at all. Once, when I was a kid, I lay in bed, fantasising about becoming a magician. I thought about how I was going to become the greatest magician in the world and how much sex I was going to get as a result of it. The next day, I bought a ‘magic card trick’ book and a deck of cards. The instructions were confusing and performing the trick was difficult. I was bored. I gave up.

According to Jason, things had been going great between him and Hayley. I didn’t tell him about the times Hayley would send me photos of herself, and the times I’d look at those photos in his shower. They were great photos. One was of her in a gym outfit, exposing her flat stomach and cleavage while she bit her bottom lip. The others were of her in a dressing room, trying on different skirts while wearing a purple, lacey bra.

“You know I’m objectifying you, right?” I asked her.

“Objectify me all you want.”

Things went terrible when Hayley, Jason and I had drinks. I was drunk, and when Jason went to the toilet I leant in to kiss Hayley. She resisted and giggled, but when I tried again she kissed me back.

“Finger me,” she panted.

“No.” I forced her hand down my pants, and when I looked up Jason was staring at the both of us.

“Threesome?” I asked him.

He slapped me. I’d never been slapped by a man before. Actually, have I? I don’t remember. He picked me up and strangled me for a while, and Hayley, thinking it was a joke, pulled out her mobile phone and recorded us.

Jason threw me across the room. “Get the fuck out of here!” he screamed, tears running down his eyes. “You’ve ruined my fucking life!”

“I’m sorry but don’t exaggerate!” I said, limping as far away as I could from him.

“Get the fuck out!” Jason stormed to his laundry room, stuffed my clothes in my bag and threw it directly at my face. “Get the fuck out!” He glanced at something at the floor. “And don’t forget your fucking phone charger!”

I looked at Hayley, who was now crying but still recording everything. “You better give me a copy of that shit,” I said before drunkenly storming off.

I walked to my car and put my bag inside it. I sat down in the back seat, passed out for a while, then woke up with a sudden urge to call Jason’s girlfriend or ex-girlfriend or whatever she was now. I called her, telling her that Jason had been cheating on her with Hayley.

“Why are you telling me this?” she cried.

“Because I can,” I cried back.

“I thought you were his best friend.”

“I have many best friends.” I passed out again, then woke up. I opened my door and vomited. I closed it again, then I looked at Jason’s place and felt sick.

I picked up my phone and played this song Hayley and I liked called “So Blue” by this random band we found on Spotify once called Magical Cloudz. I scrolled up and down my Facebook Newsfeed, liking every single photo. I quit Facebook and looked at my photo album, at all the photos I’d taken while up north. I looked at photos of trees and of the beach and of weird things and of Jason’s son. I looked at photos of Hayley and Jason and I: some would be group photos, some wouldn’t. I looked at some of the childhood photos they sent me over the past few months, and then I looked at the photos Hayley sent me of her in the changing room, and then I stopped at a photo of Jason and Hayley together. They were in Jason’s kitchen; it was a photo I took of them a few hours ago. They were smiling. Jason was holding a beer and Hayley was holding her phone, and they were facing my phone and they were smiling. I zoomed into Hayley’s face.

I put down my phone, turned on my engine and began driving south, towards Brisbane.

 

PART 5: THE TRUTH ABOUT CHEATERS

the truth about cheaters

This year has been all about cheating. I cheated, I helped people cheat, my friends cheated, I was even cheated on for a while. Funnily enough, there was a brief period of time when the loads of cheating seemed abnormal – immoral, even – but the more it absorbed me this year the more it seemed like a natural, expected thing to do. It was something you bragged (but kind of pretended to feel guilty) about when you’d meet your friends for coffee.

The number of paths we have the freedom to take in life are virtually infinite. Why do we even consider choosing the paths that hurt those who care about us? Do cheaters ever get punished? Someone has to suffer for our actions, but who, and when?

Hayley had been cheating on her boyfriend for months. It started off innocently: she danced with a guy when she went clubbing with some friends. Then she started kissing guys in clubs, then she started talking dirty with guys over the phone, then she started sending them photos, then she started flirting with colleagues, and then the fucking started and bla bla bla. I even met her boyfriend once. He was a great guy who wore a ring with her name on it. Anyway one day the guilt consumed Hayley and she broke up with her boyfriend for good.

A few weeks after the breakup, Jason told me that he bought flowers and drove to Hayley’s work and told her everything: that he’d loved her all along, that she was his heart. Apparently she cried, and apparently they went to her apartment and kissed.

“That’s great news, man,” I told him, thinking about his girlfriend and a few other things.

He patted me on the back. “And her pussy’s perfect, mate. I thought she’d be loose and shit, but nah, I love it, aye.”

“What about your girlfriend?”

“I’ll have to deal with it.”

“You won’t.”

“Want to know the truth about cheaters, mate?” Jason asked me.

“What?”

“They cheat.”

Jason left to see her again. I lay on his couch, playing with my phone, scrolling up and down my Facebook newsfeed. I clicked on this article an ex-girlfriend of mine shared about this Japanese artist who cooked his penis and served pieces of it to his guests. I wondered who the fuck would want to try his penis before standing up and walking into Jason’s room. I turned on his light and rummaged through his drawers, looking for nothing in particular. I looked at his pillow and considered rubbing my balls all over it, but didn’t. I looked under his bed. I looked at his vision board. I browsed through some of the documents on his desk. I walked to the kitchen and made a sandwich and ate it, thinking about nothing. I still haven’t returned to Brisbane. I’ve stayed here, north, spending my savings and sleeping on Jason’s couch. I’ve been away from Brisbane for so long that I’m afraid to return to it. It’s a tiny, dense fucking ball. I’m not trapped, but I don’t feel free. I’m simply here, and that’s about it.

 

ANAL

slut neck thing - short stories

Things I liked out about Anna: she loved The Weeknd, she loved mixing music and had a following online, she brought Surface Children with her wherever she went, she regularly bought her parents dinner. Things that annoyed me: she secretly loved chaos, she loved destruction, she enjoyed the drama in walking away from the flames.

I walked out of work to find Anna’s fiancé and a friend axing my car. I had only heard stories about people axing other people’s cars before, and it’s pretty much exactly how you’d picture it to be: it involves people with axes, severely damaging your car with those axes. They spotted me and I ran for my life, and after a lot of running and hiding I managed to get into my poor car (all the windows were shattered, there were holes everywhere and there was piss on my seat) and drive off.

I parked at Jude’s place and used the spare key he gave me to walk inside. Jude was out with a girlfriend. I showered, put his clothes on, looked at the mirror. I tried calling Anna but after a few rings it would always hang up. I messaged her a few times – her phone said she read my messages but she didn’t reply. I looked at her social media accounts: her fiancés photos were back, her loving status updates about him were back. There were plenty more logical things I could have done that evening, but in the end I decided to drink Jude’s wine while messaging some girls and asking them if they wanted to visit me. After about an hour or so of drinking, Anna finally picked up her phone:

“Hey.”

“Hey,” I said.

“What’s up?”

“You back with him?”

“Yeah, sorry.”

There was silence.

“You know, you know what he did to my car?”

“I know I’m sorry, baby,” she said, “I just sent him the photos of us together to make him jealous and he took it the wrong way.”

“Why did you do that?”

She giggled a bit. “Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as the other guys he went after.”

“What other guys?”

“Are you drunk?”

“What other guys?”

“I miss you. Please don’t –”

I hung up the phone and wondered if I should catch a bus to work the next day. I hadn’t caught a bus in years. My phone vibrated: one of my friends, who was funnily enough named Annabelle, replied to my message.

Are you drunk? she texted me.

Why is everyone asking that?

Well, are you?

Of course.

I’ll be there soon.

Cool.

Okay if I don’t wear makeup?

I pictured her without makeup. Sure.

Have you eaten?

No. Have you?

Yeah.

That’s fine, I’ll eat something from the fridge.

She came over, and we sat by the balcony and she told me about everything that was happening in her life and I told her about everything that was happening in my life. I walked over to her and kissed her.

“You know I have my period, right?” she asked.

“That’s okay… Anal?”

We drank and we kissed some more and I took her to Jude’s couch. I drunkenly took her shorts off.

“I’ve never done this before,” she said.

“I have, and I don’t know how to feel about it each time.”

She laughed. Afterwards, I tried to put it in her mouth and she screamed at me.

“Fine, I’ll shower first.” I stumbled away, took a shower, and stumbled back out. I looked at her all drunk and sprawled on Jude’s couch: she was watching 12 Years a Slave on Blu-ray, and to her right, next to the remote, was a patch of blood mixed with small pebbles of shit.

 

PAIN

Pain

The pain began a couple of weeks after Mandy and I broke up. It was a pain that was completely middle class and it was a pain that I was familiar with and it was a pain that pissed me off. She gave me back everything that I’d given her, and I deleted her number and completely cut her off.

I’m a grown up now, so I didn’t do anything tremendously embarrassing with the pain. I kept going to work, I kept going to boxing. I kept the pain tiny, miniscule, a small, dense marble inside me somewhere.

A bit later I met this girl in the gym. I called her Mouse, and one day she texted me: “Do you ever want to die?”

“Not really.”

“What would be a cool way to kill myself?”

I thought about it. “Make it clean. But don’t make people have to worry about you being missing. Cut yourself in the bathtub perhaps.”

“I don’t like blood. How about if I hang myself in my room?”

“That could work. But do you have anything in your house to hang yourself with?”

She didn’t reply for a bit. “I just checked. No :(”

“Too bad.”

“LOL.” I didn’t reply, so she added: “How would you kill yourself?”

“Yeah, bathtub, maybe jump off a building, but hopefully I won’t just end up being a living paraplegic.”

“I’m touching myself. Tell me more.”

I glanced around my room, as if someone could be watching what I was typing. “Or I’d like turn my car on in my garage, and I’d attach a hose to my exhaust and put the other end in my car. I’d write a letter to the Government as I’d slowly die, all alone in my self pity.”

“Snapchat me a picture of your dick.”

I downloaded Snapchat, signed up for an account, quickly figured out how it worked. I sent her a photo of my dick.

She replied with a photo of her vagina. She wasn’t doing anything with it. It was just a picture of her closed, hairy vagina. I’m not a big fan of vagina photos, but I thought I’d be polite and replied with: “nice.”

“I don’t want to wake up tomorrow. LOL.”

We continued texting like that for the next couple of weeks: we’d talk about different ways we’d kill ourselves, we’d talk dirty, we’d Snapchat each other photos of our genitals, she’d end the night with a sweet, “Good night, Dean, I love chatting to you:)” message or something horribly depressing, like “One day I’m actually going to off myself, just need the courage and not feel so ungrateful LOL.” I’d see her in the gym, and she’d look completely happy and never mention any of our texts. I constantly asked her to come out to see me, but she seemed content with what we were doing. She had a boyfriend, and they seemed pretty happy with each other.

Besides that I had no real interest in meeting anyone else but forced myself to do it anyway. One evening, I looked at Mandy’s Facebook account on my way to a party: she’d posted all these photos of her with someone new. He was an older looking guy; he looked better than I did and they looked happy. I’d never seen her smile like that. She looked beautiful. I flicked through her entire new album of photos before blocking her and turning my phone off. I headed to the party. I drank with the people there and smiled with them as they took photos. I drove home and fell in and out of sleep as I watched a movie a friend leant me some time ago.

 

If you’re depressed, visit beyondblue.

ENDING IT WITH MANDY

Ending it with Mandy - short story

Mandy and I had a fight right after coming home from one of my book signings. She yelled and I yelled but to be honest, none of the things that came out of our mouths were actually new. We fought about what we always fought about: money.

We (she) decided then and there to end it, and I walked over and gave her some tissues to wipe her eyes with.

She whimpered. “Thanks.” I stared at her for a while, and she stared back, and I stood up and asked her, “Like, are you sure?” And she said, “Yes I’m sure,” and I said, “Like, seriously? There’s no turning back from this, I mean it. Once we end things, it’s over,” and she said, “Yes, Dean,” with a bit of finality.

I leant towards her. “Look, I’m sorry.”

There was a bit of silence. “It’s done, Dean. Don’t make this harder than it is.”

“You took that line from the movies.”

“So what if I did?”

I felt like telling her to go fuck herself, but I didn’t. I took my car keys and drove straight home. I walked around in circles for a while, muttering to myself. I went to the fridge and drank some milk and called Jude.

“Fuck women,” he said.

“I don’t want to anymore.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I gave her my heart but she wanted my soul,” I said.

“You took that line from a song.”

“So what if I did?”

“This is pointless. Go out. Meet people.”

I scratched my arm. “What are you doing tomorrow?”

Jude sighed. “Chicks are just so stupid. But you know what? You just have to accept that they’re stupid. Never take anything they say seriously because there will never be any consistency in what they say. You see we’re wired on logic but they’re wired on emotion.”

“Men are the stupid ones. You’re the stupid one. I’m the stupid one.”

“The world is stupid.”

“You’re bitter.”

“So are you.”

I hung up. I threw my phone against a wall and quickly ran to it to see if the screen was damaged. It wasn’t. I walked to my room and lay on my bed and did nothing until the next morning. I hoped by some miracle that someone, preferably a woman, would call or text me. No one did.

I wasn’t tired, but I wasn’t awake. If I was in a movie, I probably wouldn’t have wasted my evening. I probably would’ve gone to a bar. I would’ve had a drink, something manly, maybe a whiskey or something, and a woman – dark hair, nice smile, large breasts, natural looking fake tan, quirky but only the attractive kind of quirky – would’ve sat next to me and said something witty, and I would’ve said something witty back, and it would all be so damn easy, and the next evening, I’d be able to do the same. Actually, fuck that. If I was in a movie, I’d be Peter Pan. I’d wear green tights and I’d murder Hook and get the hell out of Never Never Land with a bag of dust and I’d fly around the city and piss on people from above.

 

KNIFE FIGHT WITH A GIRLFRIEND

Knife fight with a girlfriendMandy was kicked out of home when she was twenty-two years old by both of her parents because they hated the fact that she was dating someone from China. Although her relationship with her then boyfriend never panned out, her relationship with her parents was never the same again, and I knew this because we’d spend hours of our evenings, nude, staring at the ceiling or the stars or whatever just talking about it, and the more I got to know her, the more I could see the subtle hints of pain in her face when she’d smile in photographs. For someone who isn’t too fond of making friends, her parents were the only people in her life she thought she could rely on.

Mandy and I had been fighting again, and after a few minutes of yelling I called her a bunch of names that didn’t make her very happy. She chased me around her apartment with a kitchen knife. At first I found it funny until she began lunging straight at me. She was pissed.

We’d been fighting about money. About the money she had and the money she felt I didn’t have enough of. “How are you going to support someone like me? I know you work hard but I make at least three times you do. And your book. Do you really think you can get a reasonable income being a writer?”

I couldn’t believe what she said. “Why do relationships always have to be about money? You’re the thousandth person to tell me that. Why can’t they be about other things?” And then it escalated from there.

We strafed around each other in a mad circle, and I kept yelling at her to calm the hell down but she wouldn’t budge. A whole shitload of things were knocked all over the floor. She lunged her knife towards me again.

“If you were a guy I’d punch the shit out of you right now!” I yelled.

“Like shit you would, you pussy!” she screamed back.

She was probably right. I was getting tired. I sprinted for the door and ran out, screaming “TRUCE! TRUCE! STOP IT!” but she kept going after me. I was in my underwear and so was she. If it wasn’t for the little dignity I had left I would’ve been pissing my pants. I truly feared for my life. We ran for about half an hour and it ended when I could hear her crying. I walked over to her, yelled at her for a bit, and then stopped. I picked her up and we walked to her apartment and I knew there was much more behind her anger and her worry than my financial failings. We lay on her couch for a while until she muttered “well, time to work out” and she put on a porno and played it on her flat screen TV – a gangbang video about two college girls surrounded by a bunch of angry looking janitors – as she ran on the treadmill, muttering affirmations and her goals for the month.

 

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.