Monday, 26 November 2012

Oh the places you’ll go

Congratulations, today is your day, you're off to great places, you're off and away - Dr Suess

Parenthood takes you to ridiculous places. Kids parties where you talk real estate with other dads. Dr’s surgeries where you hope your kid doesn’t vomit. Road trips where your car dies in the middle of snake country. Other road trips where one of your kids does vomit and you have to scoop it out bare handed from the backseat while you make yawping sounds. Hospitals with no nappies. Other hospitals with nurses who try and crack jokes as your daughter is taken for heart surgery. Ballet concerts where kids walk and wave and forget to do any ballet. Christmas concerts with your son dressed as a brown dancing snail. Worst of all, social events where your kids befriend other kids and expect you to like their parents.

Oh the places you’ll go, all because you got drunk on cask wine and woke up with a pregnant wife. Twice.

So to a place I went.

I had a $45 ticket. Everyone around me seemed excited to be there while I felt hot and uncomfortable and slightly over weight. The bar was doing a swift trade in plastic champagne and water bottles and the theatre announcer was bing bing bonging updates on the show start time.

I showed my ticket to an usher and found my seat next to a very happy pair of grandparents whom I managed to avoid talking to. Somewhere behind the curtain was my 5 year old daughter. She’d already been there for 4 hours “rehearsing” and I was worried. I wanted to see her, to know she was ok, to check she’d been fed and watered, knew where to go for the toilet and had her tap shoes on. Instead I had to sit in the audience and wait for her to come on stage and dance.

The curtain came up and the show began. Other people’s kids came out in costumes kicking and dancing to badly broadcast music. The show swung from wee little kids stumbling ballet to late teenage girls in tight costumes reminding the audience they had vaginas by pointing to them. It jarred somewhat to go from a group of 6 year olds bumbling as butterflies to pseudo poll dancing without the pole but whoever planned the show didn’t seem to think so.

The opening bars of a tune I recognised came on and I sat up. I’d seen Toes rehearse to this music the week before; well I’d tried to before the teacher asked us to leave and told us we could watch through a tiny window. I saw older kids come out tappy-tapping with flashing teeth. Then younger kids tappy-stumbling with fierce concentration. And then there she was, without tap shoes. She hit her mark, paused, and then went for a little wander around stage. Then she remembered where she was, skipped back to her mark and hit the final pose and then left the stage with the other little kids.

She’d been on for 30 seconds. $45 for my ticket, $30 for her costume, weeks of tap class and rehearsals (the previous week she’d been there for 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon and 2 hours earlier in the day).

30 seconds.

And still the show went on.

Gold lame jazz pants on uncoordinated females. They did some interpretive piece centring on caring for a young girl that involved running in circles and doing windmill arms for about 7 minutes before the girl seemed to pass out and they all gathered around her and fanned her by kicking their legs. Through all of this an ominous Booooooong sound was played with random bell noises. Then a boy band came and shouted their name at us and told us that they knew where they were. I was relieved for them but would have preferred they were somewhere else. I found myself worrying about how low slung their trousers were. More girls, more pelvises, more pointing to vaginas.

Finally the lights went dark and I knew I could grab my daughter and get out of here.

The intermission will be 20 minutes.

I’d been here for an hour and a half and the show was only half way done. They were forcing me to stay by holding my daughter hostage. I pictured her held in a room, surrounded by militant teens in leggings and headbands.

Keep the kids safe see - don’t let their parents take them see - until the shows over see.

I went and renewed my parking, bought a chocolate bar and returned to the audience. From my pocket I texted my wife the word HELL repeatedly. I wanted to storm the stage, rip open the curtains and howl my daughters’ name. I wanted to jump dramatically whilst shouting Just stay alive and I will find you.

African music was soullessly danced to by white kids with blazing teeth. Another boy band shouted at me, this time about their granddads having style with girls behind them pointing at their nipples and smiling as they did so. There was a dance tribute to the Olympics that ended with someone shouting SYDNEY and a large chunk of the dinky di audience cheering - best Olympics ever - Steve Irwin died that we might live.

Girls were thrown through the air and caught by boys. Microphones crackled and died as late teens tried to sing about being there for each other while pointing at their vaginas. 12 kids ran amuck on the stage completely out of synch with the music and threw clothing everywhere to rapturous applause…and the show seemed to end.

People started bowing and the entire cast of confusion flooded the stage line by line still dancing and I thought about They Shoot Horses Don’t They….I wondered if these kids had to dance, if there was some dire consequence if they stopped toe tapping and glad clapping and pointing at their genitals every 6 beats.

And there was my daughter lined up, smiling, and taking a bow.

And I teared up.

And she looked beautiful.

And I applauded and cheered and hoped she could see me.

After I’d found her and kissed her and told her how much I’d really enjoyed the show I asked - Do you want to do tap again?

NO, I hate tap

I was delighted

But I like shows. I want to do shows. So I’ll do tap.

I was crushed.

And still going to the places I go - Bear see’s an Occupational Therapist once a week to work on speech and reading issues. I took him on Saturday and Toes came too. I read her The Little Mermaid and played games with her while Bear was in his session with her. Toes went to the bathroom and shouted about how funny it was that she’d done a green poo. Unfortunately I could remember the last time I’d done a green poo myself, which is something I never did before I had kids.

At the end of Bears session the therapist was explaining Silent E’s in spelling and speech that we needed to work on with him. How we need to emphasises the silent letters so we catch them when we spell them.

Words like Tongue, and Come. Come, Tongue – can you see? Come, Tongue, Tongue, Tongue, Come, Come.

I left the building deeply suspicious. My wife called me an idiot when I relayed this too her.

I drank the pain away. your name Bauxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day
Your mountain is waiting
So - get on your way - or drink the pain away.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Opposite

The Opposite


Interior of a busy bus, Dad is sat at the back trying to read. His greying beard sparkles in the sunlight. He looks slightly angst ridden, almost as though he is HYPOGLYCAEMIC and his blood sugar is plummeting which would be leading to his thoughts becoming scatter logical and paranoid. He looks out the window and sees a leaf spiralling across the road. It’s torn on one side.

What tore the leaf? Was it a kid? A ladybird? Man that must have been one hungry ladybird. Maybe a bird? Maybe a bird chasing a ladybird, the bird swoops as the ladybirds snacking and pecks at the leaf, misses the ladybird. Maybe he didn’t miss; maybe the leaf is a death site. Bits of broken dead ladybird smeared onto it, the rest of the ladybird digesting through bird guts and soon to be shat onto a windscreen.

My foot hurts. Why does my foot hurt? It really hurts now I am thinking about it. It's these shoes, they have a hole in. I’ve needed new shoes for months now. Damn trophy wife drinking too much coffee and stopping me buying shoes. It’s like walking on peeled linoleum.

Maybe something crawled in through the hole and laid and egg in my foot. Or eggs. Foot eggs.

Dad goes slightly red in the face. He stares out of the window for a moment and bends his fingers back several times. A mother and new born baby get on the bus. The baby looks 3 or 4 days old only. The baby starts whipping its head around to find something to suckle from, its mouth open and eyes unfocussed.

IM - I remember Bear doing the same thing the minute he woke, the minute he was picked up, the minute he was put down. He piled on weight so quickly. He was like a sack of sweet potatoes in no time.

Potatoes, wait was I hungry? Am I hungry?

I remember how Toes used to squawk like a pterodactyl when she was born. It was brutal sound. She never cried, just squawked. The other night she said in her sleep that The Goat was coming, she said she could see The Goat. What the fuck is The Goat?

The mother is unconsciously and repeatedly kissing the babies forehead. A large man in a too tight t-shirt is staring at the baby. He's stood just behind the driver, he seems to scowl, his lips pursed and his eyes too close together, eyebrows meeting in the middle.

IM - He reminds me of a line from A Company of Wolves - women should beware a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle. He looks angry. His forehead is folding like a tea towel; his teeth keep nipping at his bottom lip. Is he flexing his fists?

I wonder if he eats boiled sweets. One of my first teachers ate loads of boiled sweets; she stank of cough candy and cigarettes. She was either cracking a cough candy between her teeth or lighting up in class, blowing smoke on us as we read our Reading Scheme books.

White vans and grey cars flicker past outside.

IM - I’m sure that this chap is one of the thousands of random psychopaths that my wife mocks me for believing roam the streets. I think he might be related to Mrs McAndrews. He has the same scowl though he is a lot fatter. She was just straight lines, snapping arms and legs, head hung low on her neck like a spiders egg on a web thread.

Shit why do I keep thinking of eggs. Are there eggs in my feet?

I hated Mrs McAndrews. She was only happy if a kid cried in class. I hate this man. He hates the baby.

Why does he hate the baby?

He’s going to do something. I know it. He’s going to dash the child from the woman’s arms and run from the bus cackling and spitting

A crisp packet blows past on the path

IM - I am about to see something horrendous from the back of the bus. I know it. I should do something, I should -

The man steps forward and - suddenly and hands the woman a blanket that had slipped from the child’s back. He smiles a broad smile and says something we don’t hear. The mother laughs

IM - Where did the psycho go? Did he see me watching him? Did he swap personas?

The bus slews to the path and he steps off.

IM - Did he just scowl at me as he walked past? Will I bump into him in Woolworths? Is he the guy who stole underpants of the washing line years back? He was a similar build. I’ve always thought I’d bump into him in Woolworths. Maybe I’ll bump into both of them, the panty thief and the baby dasher. Though the baby dasher did not dash the baby. .

Kick da Baby. Huh. I am Cornholio, I preferred Cornholio to South Park. Tee pee.

What. Where was that leaf?

Am I hungry? Man my foot hurts

A mobile phone chirps Under my Umberella – ella – ella

IM - I like thinking found my kids. I wonder if all the random psychos I’ve seen in my where actually benefactors rather than beasts. Maybe I am the psycho.

The sunlight shone on that chap as he left – shone is a funny word. It’s like past past tense. It makes me think of Kim Cattrall in Porkys. She was shiny, she shone. And in Police Academy too, she had legs like cooking sausages, I like sausages.

Am I hungry?

Shit, I haven’t pressed the button to stop at Bears school

The bell dings on the bus

IM - Who pressed that? No one else is moving. No one else is standing up to get off the bus. I can see Bear in the playground. We’re stopping. Who pressed it? I didn’t.

Did God press it?

Wow where did that thought come from?

Was it God? Is this a lesson? Is this my road to Damascus? First the psycho who turns out to be a nice man, then God stops the bus for me?

Wow. Shit. What if I’ve been wrong about all of this? Man that would be nuts. Wow.

Well if no one else gets off the bus then I guess there is a God. Fuck that would be just –

The bus pulls up. Fade to black


School Playground. Bear runs over and shouts.

BEAR - If I beat you to the school bags can I have an ice cream?

DAD - Ice cream? What? Wait, yes I am hungry, I need to eat something


Dad runs after him, slightly unsteady on his feet. He goes to hook left to the school bags and Bear cackles, turning right

BEAR - The bags have been moved today

Bear dives for his bag and lifts it up


They walked home making fart noises and eating ice cream and Dad’s blood sugar swings back again. They chatter.

Bear clambers onto a wall and leaps at Dad.


DAD catches him and winces.

DAD - Jesus you’re heavy

BEAR - Dad?

DAD - What mate?

BEAR - You said there wasn’t a Jesus.

DAD - I did mate

BEAR - Well why did you just say Jesus was heavy?

DAD - Because – because – well because faith is a heavy thing Bear, it’s a crazy heavy thing.

BEAR - Dad?

DAD - Yes mate?


Bear runs, Dad, hefting Bears school bag onto his shoulder, sprints after him


The bus pulls up and the doors open. Blinking, Dad steps out onto the path and looks to the bus. No one else is getting off.

Dad looks to the sky, confused.

The bus doors close and the bus pulls to the road - and then stops suddenly.

The doors re-open. A woman with a cask of wine in one hand and an unlit cigarette in the other staggers from the bus.

WOMAN - YAAH FUCKER FUCKING WAIT FOR A PERSON WOULD YOUS. Fuck sake I mean Jesus fucking Christ I pressed the fucking button least yous could do is let me get the fucking fuck off the fucking bus.

Discarded lottery tickets blow past the kerb stone and a car coughs oily smoke as it passes. Dad looks to Bear who’s waving from the school fence. He smiles.

WOMAN - What the fuck you grinning at? Found fucking God have you?

DAD - The opposite.

WOMAN - What the fucks that mean?

DAD - I think it means I am hungry

Pull back.

Camera panes to the right and shows the ocean in the distance. Two men can be seen swimming on a make shift raft of yellow barrels. They reach the shore as seagulls wheel overhead.

Music rises and there is a sense that all is well.