Archives for: 2009
THE ANCIENT SHARK OF DESPAIR
by Sebastian Borckenhagen and Tom McNally
Book 1 - The Blog Of An Artist Who Lives Alone
20 October 2006 - 3 January 2007
In an apartment block in Mowbray, Cape Town, South Africa, a lonely shark starts a blog and meets some special people. Will his sudden embrace of youth and community alienate his family, his landlord and his jerk grocery kid?
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Book 2 - Kids From The Internet
4 January 2006 - 18 February 2007
The shark becomes fully socialised by having Moe's cousin sleep at his house for a few days and by throwing a party for all his new friends. Can love be far behind?
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Book 3 - The Adventure!
19 February 2007 - 11 June 2007
David, the kid next door, has been trained up for his final test - a full-on adventure across the country. But is David ready for such a wild, spiritual experience? Would he freak out if they killed a cop? Or is the pizza delivery boy a better choice all round for hitting the road and hanging out with Leonard Cohen?
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Book 4 - What Does The Inside Of A Tear Look Like?
12 June 2007 - 7 June 2008
How quickly can love cause a shark destroy everything he's built? He's not immune to love. No one is. Neither is Sarah, the girl who lives down the street. The shark has a cool car and he's always available for lifts. You can win her Sharky, if you try!
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Book 5 - Return To Carolyn's House
2 November 2008 - 24 June 2009
Maybe this time the shark has gone too far. It's a battle of wills between him and the landlord, with his home hanging in the balance. There's also a matric dance to attend, a funeral to avoid, a trip to Plettenburg Bay with a car full of girls to arrange and then face a fiery climax wherein he must account for his past sins.
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------------- SONGS, GUYS, SOME SONGS ----------------
Also, perhaps you'd like to hear some of the songs that various attractive people have made about The Ancient Shark Of Despair?
'The Ancient Shark Of Despair's Theme Tune' was composed and performed by Nicolai Roos, with vocals by Paul Maree, electric guitar by Adam Hill and wailing by Jolene Cartmill. The lyrics were written by Tom McNally and Sebastian Borckenhagen.
'Ancient, Ancient, Ancient' was written and performed by Gavin Haynes.
'Landlord' was written by the entity known as Pravda23, arranged by Nicolai Roos, with Nic on the acoustic and lead guitars, also on violin plucking, and Pravda23 on the rhythm guitar, violin and the singing. Tim Lester provided back-up vocals and the lyrics were written by Tom McNally and Sebastian Borckenhagen, at a party.
It was recorded at Black River Studios by Nic.
There's also a charming demo version here for you, with Paul Maree on the violin and Chris Truter on bass. It was recorded in Chris' lounge.
If you're wondering what all these fine musicians do when they are not crafting projects tangentially linked to The Ancient Shark Of Despair, please consult:
Nicolai and Adam's band is called THE SLEEPERS, while Paul's band is called THE BEAMS
Gavin Haynes is some sort of MEALY MOUTHED INKSLINGER, while a large chunk of the PRAVDA23 programming can be safely viewed at the link above.
Return to Carolyn's house.
Sunday, July 11th 2009
Today I woke up and I knew that something big was going to happen. I didn't let it show on my face as made breakfast or showered because I didn't want it to turn out not to be true and my face to have been lying the whole time, but that didn't stop me from trying to guess what would be.
Mostly I thought it might have been the new TV that Sarah's dad ordered from the internet with his credit card. That's due to get here really soon. Or it could have been the guys coming round to set up the internet. I'm getting this new kind of internet where I don't have to dial up with the modem every time I want to check something. This would improve things, I think, but I'm going to miss the sound. But I was told that the internet guys probably won't be coming for another few weeks, so is wasn't 100% likely to be them. It could also have been the day that they start construction on the new houses. I've got a pretty good view of the site from the attic and they've been making good progress on getting it all cleaned up, but it still kind of smells. Anyway, I don't think I'd really get a special feeling about some building or a TV or even a new internet. People had to be involved.
It's been pretty weird not having TV or the internet. I've got my computer but it can't do anything beyond itself. I'm writing this blog by hand in a notebook, like in the old old days, which is a lot harder than I remember it being, especially because I've got to write so neatly so that Sarah's mother can type it out for me later. This is actually the second time I've written this all out, but it's okay because I've got a lot more free time now, or at least it feels like I do. I'm doing some more drawing and getting back into the meditation and I'm really good at making roll-ups now, almost as good as Nikki. I've got my TV show all planned out now, all the way to the end of the second season. Sarah's mother and father come to visit me almost every evening since my place is on the route they normally take when they walk their dogs. Their dogs aren't too small or too excited, they don't smell so much and they don't try to control me or get on top of me, so I guess they're okay. Sarah's parents did a good job with them. They tell me about what's happening out there and who they met in the shop and what's going on with politics, or something funny that one of Sarah's mother's students said or did. They bring me some food in a buckie almost every time – usually it's leftovers but it's still good because I don't mind that someone else had a chance to have it before me. It's good that I get that food because I can't order pizza any more. I call them up but they don't want to talk to me all of a sudden. Also, Sarah's father has been fetching my groceries for me in his car and he says he doesn't mind, but it's only until my own car is fixed. That might take a while though because the landlord towed it back to Greyton so he could work on it. He didn't want Sarah's father to take it in to a shop.
Yeah, the landlord still visits. Not as often as he used to, of course, because Greyton is far, but he bought himself a little car and comes down once every two weeks or so. He still calls and leaves a message for me every day. Mostly he talks about the Snipe and the progress on that. The other day he said he was getting original axels shipped in from Dubai and he's always changing his mind about the new paint job and so on and so on. He's not really my landlord anymore, I guess, but I don't want to come up with a whole new name for him because it would be confusing. The grocery kid is still the grocery kid to me – the landlord says that he'd forgotten how difficult it is sometimes to live with him and that he keeps letting the dogs in the house although they're not allowed, but he mostly just stays on his home and writes – and Celene has always been Celene. The landlord isn't angry with her for changing sides back then and I don't think he ever was. He keeps saying that he's just glad that no one was hurt in the fire and that she's having a pretty good time there in Greyton. She liked how she could arrange a whole new house just the way she wanted it and she likes that she can walk around outside without getting afraid. I don't know how you'd tell the difference between Celene being happy and not being happy, but I suppose he has known her for a relatively long time.
Sarah's father keeps telling me that I should blog about the fire. He says it was very traumatic and it would help me to write about it. He's a psychologist, like Burzum. People come to see him in his home. But I don't think the fire was like that at all. It was more beautiful and complicated than trauma.
I'd stayed the night at Sarah's house. It was early Sunday morning and Sarah's mother woke me up with some tea and bacon with eggs. I said I didn't eat meat, like Sarah and she went away and quickly got me some fruit yoghurt instead.
“Sarah used to hate it when I brought her breakfast in the morning,” she smiled.
“I don't hate it,” I said quietly. “And I don't think Sarah hates it either. You can't hate this.”
“She just likes to be different,” she agreed. I started eating. “Well, I'll leave you in peace for now. When do you think you'll be going back home?”
“Home?” I asked. I thought I was already home. I wasn't.
“Well, you're welcome here any time, Sharky, of course...” she said and paused for a while. “But aren't they missing you back at home? Sarah said you lived with your landlord...”
“He's not my landlord from today,” I said and I had to explain a bit about that.
“Well then if they're all moving out today, they must be wondering where you are!” she was worried that they were worried. Their worry collided with hers and the room was filled with worry. It made me nervous and I had to go have a shower. When I came out the bathroom, Sarah's father was waiting for me in the foyer.
“Your car's in a bad way,” his eyes were full of confusion. “What happened to it?”
We went outside and he showed me what he had seen about my car. The tyres were all down and it wasn't sitting well.
“The tyres've been slashed,” he explained. “You've driven on the bare axels and they're all broken.”
“Can I drive it home?” I asked. He shook his head.
“This is a beautiful car,” he said sadly.
“Thanks,” I said. “The landlord and me worked on it quite a lot back in the day and it was his for a little while but I bought it off him when he ran out of money.”
It was decided that I'd be driven home. It wasn't very far but we also agreed that I wasn't really up to walking it. The first thing that came to us was the smell of the smoke, then we could see the smoke itself. The next thing we saw was David. He was running down the road. He looked wild.
“It's David!” I said.
“David? The David who Sarah went out with?” said Sarah's father. He hadn't seen him yet.
“Oh my god,” said Sarah's mother. She'd seen him.
“Sarah didn't go out with him for long,” I said.
“He's a strange boy,” hummed Sarah's father. David was alongside the car now. He'd recognised it. Sarah's father rolled down the window.
“Fire! There's a fire!” he yelled. He looked at me and said, “Your building!”
“David, calm down sweetie. Are you all right? Are you burned?” said Sarah's mother.
“No, but there's a fire!” he cried.
“What kind of fire?” said Sarah's father.
“A really big fire!” David yelled and ran back to the smoke. The window went up again and we followed him slowly in the car.
The fire had been going on for quite a while. The roof and attic was all up and a lot of the front wall and a few of the apartments had fallen down into the courtyard. It was all ash and broken house there. People were crowded around the apartment, watching, and I recognised the people. There was the landlord, who was running around, there was the grocery kid and Celene and a lot of other people and even though I hadn't really ever seen them before, I knew that they were the people who used to live there. They were watching it all finally come down. But none of them were standing on or near that ash. It was a no-go area. It was hostile. It was the Moon. Only one person was standing out there, all screaming and suited up in light brown. He was shouting at the people but no one could hear him over the crackle of flames. His eyes were huge and his face was black and flecked with ash like a reflection of the stars. He turned to David, who was running towards him, waving his arms around, then he saw the car and his eyes homed in on me. His face collapsed into a black hole of fury and he ran in slow motion towards the car. Sarah's parents tried yelling and questioning but that didn't stop him coming. He hit the door beside me and the force of his body made the car rock. He looked at me and he screamed and he screamed.
“Get out the car! Get out!” I just shook my head and backed away and he started pounding on the roof, the door, the window. He turned back to scream at the crowd. The landlord was already running this way. Others broke off from the fire-watching and followed him, one by one at first and then in a big mess, but they didn't run as fast as the landlord. Sarah's father opened his door and tried to talk to him, father to father, but he punched him and shoved him and got into the car with me and Sarah's mother. David cried and tried to pull him out of the car by his shirt, by his belt, but he was too strong. Sarah's mother screamed and got out of the car and ran to her husband, who was wiping his face and frowning. The man in the front seat tried to grab me – I tried to unlock the back door but my hands were slow and numb and I couldn't close my mouth and I was shaking all over.
“Dad! Dad, don't!” shrieked David and he sounded just like a little girl. David's father grabbed my wrist and pulled me towards him and I hit my head on the window and I could hear him shouting something and then all I could think of was Moe being a secret agent and me with him and we were rescuing the grocery kid's daughter again only she kept on running away back to where she'd been captured and we couldn't get back to the spaceship and Leonard Cohen was so disappointed with us because we'd miss the flight and there's this whistling as David's father says, “This isn't going to hurt! It's not going to hurt!”
The landlord yanked David's father out the car by his leg with one huge pull that made him walk backwards for a few steps after he'd dropped David's father onto the road. Before he could get up, the grocery kid was there, and his dogs were jumping. Celene joined them when she arrived, which took a while because of her bad knees. Mr. Roberts was there. I think I saw Monopoly. David took their side and so did Sarah's parents. They got in between David's father and the car and they closed the doors and stopped him from coming near. They formed a community and it was impenetrable. He shouted but he couldn't shout louder than them. He tried to rush them, but the landlord got his arms and pushed him back. He tried that a few times but he got weaker every time. After a minute or two of shouting, he grabbed his own face in his hand, squeezed it tightly, then walked away. Every so often, he'd punch his fist downwards at nothing. David followed him. He got in his own car and drove away.
I didn't feel like talking much after that. I stayed in the car until the fire engines showed up and the landlord told Sarah's parents to take me back to their house. I spent the day in bed, not really thinking anything. At nighttime, they took me back to the building where the landlord helped me across the surface of the Moon and showed me into the granny flat. It hadn't been hurt by the fire. It hadn't been hurt by anything. It was the only part of the original house still standing. I thought it would have collapsed when Carolyn died, but the structure left by her emotions was enough to keep it up. When I opened the door I saw all my things piled up carefully around the place in boxes. They were arranged all around the old bed and the old wardrobe and dresser and the books on the shelf and the old bathroom that brought back too many memories to be looked at directly. I'd have to replace Carolyn's old emotions and memories and self that had seeped inside the walls and the ceiling and the bed and the wardrobe with my own. They'd have to be powerful enough to keep the house standing but not so powerful to suffocate me like they did to her. I wondered if I could do that or if I had enough time. I said goodnight to the landlord and I said goodnight to Carolyn and I fell onto the bed and did my best to get to sleep before the memories in the room could get me.
The special thing that happened today, which I knew about before it even happened, was that someone came to visit. He came to knock on my door but I knew who it was even before I opened it because you can see people walk through the gate and up the little path through the window. Even though I saw him right from the moment he parked his scooter outside on the curb, I didn't quite recognise him until he'd actually reached the door. He had shorter hair and he was wearing a different kind of clothes. He had something in his hand. I got up from the desk and moved as quickly as I could to the door. I hadn't seen him since the Matric Dance. I didn't want to keep him waiting outside. It might have rained.
“Moe!” I said.
“Hey,” he said. He raised a hand and let it drop again.
“Come inside, I live in a new place now,” I said, which was a dumb thing to say because he'd obviously figured that already.
“Yeah, I saw the old place all burned down. That's messed up,” he said.
“It's not so much,” I said and shrugged. “Lots of places burn down. It's cool.”
“I drove past the other week and I was like, 'This doesn't look like the right road, the Shark's building is supposed to be here,'”
“But it burnt down!” I said and we laughed. He looked down at his hand and he stopped laughing.
“Here, I made a new CD,” he said and he gave it to me. “You can listen to it if you like. It's a bunch of stuff I made at college before I dropped out. There are some demos and stuff.” I took the disk. It was blank on the outside but inside it were a lot of new sensations.
“Thanks, yeah, I'll give that a listen sometime. Thanks,” I said. I was smiling. It was really him. “Would you like to come in? I could set up the TV games,” I said. He shook his head and looked away.
“Nah thanks man, I'm on the job right now, I'm doing some stuff for my dad. I'm supposed to be out in Belleville by one.”
“Oh, that's okay, some other time.”
“Yeah, I just came to drop that off. You said you liked the last one I made, so...”
“No, yeah, that's cool. Any time.” I said. He hung there for a few seconds. Long enough to give me an idea.
“Hey, what does your dad do?” I asked.
“He's a pathologist,” he grinned shily. “It's pretty weird, but yeah.”
“Does he make you work on the weekends? Sunday?”
“No, weekends are free.”
“Because I need someone to fetch my groceries for me every week,” I said.
“Uh huh,” he nodded.
“I can't do it myself, you see,” I looked down at myself. I looked fat. “I can pay you. And you can use my car when it's fixed.”
“That's a nice car,” he said. “Yeah cool man, I think about it, speak to me closer to the time.” I got him to write his number down on a bit of paper while he nodded. He left after that. He put his hand up and let it drop, went to his scooter, put his helmet on and left without looking at me again. I thought of all the adventures we could have now. I wondered for just one second if he still remembers how to have adventures but then I remembered, he's Moe.
The last time the landlord called and left a message he said that he was thinking of building an extention to the new house in Greyton. He keeps on saying that he doesn't have enough to do now. He says that I could stay in the new room he builds if I want. I don't know about this. I'm a shark. I'm used to being alone. I'm just working out a whole new system for living in Carolyn's house. It will be a system plus Moe. Last time Moe was around, I accomplished so much. I got a blog and I made friends and everything went pretty well. I'm not sure I want to give that up by going somewhere else all of a sudden. The landlord also said that he was reconsidering the idea of giving me my money as a monthly allowance, he was coming round to the idea of giving it to me all at once, like I wanted. I've called Monopoly and told him that the TV company is going to happen soon. He's still on board. We can make it happen. He's been writing some songs but I might want to use Moe's music instead. I haven't listened to it yet because I'm waiting for the right mood, but come on.
It's Moe we're talking about.
THE ANCIENT SHARK OF DESPAIR
By Sebastian Borckenhagen and Tom McNally
Thank you kindly for reading.
The kind people who take care of me.
Sunday, May 31st 2009
Okay. Things have happened. I'm writing this from Sarah's room. I'm not used to her keyboard and it's hard to type. It's got all these new keys on it that open windows and make lights go on and off. But I need to get this all down while it's fresh in my mind, so I'll just go slow. I've got all night.
The things started happening on Saturday morning when Celene came over – just like how we planned – and we called up all the tenants to tell them to come back. This part was really exciting because I was moving bits of the world around just by talking into my phone. There were snags though. I ran out of credit a few times but Celene would run out to the shop to get me some more even though it was raining.
The conversations I had with the tenants started off awkward but when I got into the flow of them, they got pretty fun. It was nice to find out they were all real people with voices. The biggest problem was that most of them didn't know who I was, so they wouldn't just take my word for it when I said that they could come back. But then by the third conversation or so I had the idea to say I was the landlord's friend or a developer or even David, which I think made things a lot easier because I didn't have to explain the whole shark thing. But there was one person who did know who I was and that conversation went a little like this:
“Hello?” This is the other person speaking.
“Oh, hello. Is that Mr. Roberts?” This is me speaking.
“Yes, who's speaking please?”
“Oh, hi Mr. Roberts. Yes, this is just The Ancient Shark Of Despair calling. I'd just like to tell you -”
“I'm sorry, what? Who's speaking?”
“The Ancient Shark Of Despair. I'm the Shark. You used to live in my building. You lived downstairs. I lived upstairs.”
“The – the shark?”
“Yeah, that's my deal. But don't worry, it takes all kinds of people to make a community, you know?”
“I met you on the stairs one time. Do you remember?”
“Oh god oh god,” he sounded really tired here, like he was just about to fall asleep and could see the dreams coming at him.
“But hey, I found out you're in Greyton now. That's cool, Greyton is very wide-open, it's not like Mowbray. It's not quite my kind of place.”
“How did you know that? How did you get this number?” he said. I tried to think of a good response to that. I didn't want to lie but I didn't want to turn him away from my team by admitting that the landlord had secret files on everyone. People get nervous when they are around someone who has too much knowledge. So anyway, I just stayed quiet for a while then said,
“You can come back to Mowbray to live now. The developers aren't coming any more. I sorted it all out for you.” There was a pause while he absorbed this huge thing I'd just told him.
“My landlord said that - ” he said, but I was on him.
“He doesn't know yet. It's going to be this big surprise. He still thinks that the developers are going to come here and destroy everything that matters. He doesn't know that I beat them. He thinks that he tidied up the garden for nothing, but he didn't. He tidied up the garden because there will always be a garden so long as I'm around. I'm going to be around forever.”
“I don't – what is, I mean,” I heard him swallow and get a grip. Get a grip, Mr. Roberts! “What did you do?”
“Come back to the house on Sunday morning and you'll see. We're all going to be together again. We're going to be a community.” I liked the sound of that. I hung up before he could say anything to spoil the flow and then I smiled at Colleen to tell her I'd been successful and she raised her eyebrows to say that she approved, then I went on to the next call. The next call was difficult. The name I saw on the list had been crossed out but the phone numbers were still there. The name was actually three names – the members of a family we all knew once. David's name was one of the names. I could see it under the crossing-out. I signalled to Celene to tell her to keep cool and not expect this one to work out so well. I can't work very well if she's expecting too much of me. I held my breath and typed in the cell number.
“Good morning, Craig speaking,” was the voice.
“Hi,” I said, and my voice was already all over the place. I pulled it back under my control and I think I took a bit too long to do this. “I'm looking for David – is David there?”
“Who is this?” he said sharply.
“Tell him it's me, it's the Shark. He knows me, it's cool.”
“Yeah, that's me. I mean, that's what they call me because, you know.”
“And what do you want with David?” the voice was cold and metal. I could almost taste it.
“Just uh, could you give him a message for me please? Ask him why he doesn't respond to my e-mails anymore. I'm not angry or anything, and he doesn't have to reply back if he doesn't want to, but I just want to know why.”
There was a long, stony silence on the other end of the phone. I cleared my throat twice and breathed as quietly as possible. Eventually, David's father said,
“You used to live in the same building as us, didn't you? Upstairs?”
“Yeah, well no. Not any more,” I said. I didn't like something about his voice and had to throw him off my trail.
“I'm going to have a little talk with David when he comes home,” he said.
“Okay, goodbye. Peace.” I said, but he'd hung up already. I guess he liked the sound of that last line and didn't want me to spoil the flow. That's just how it is sometimes.
I smiled at Celene and she raised her eyebrows, but the way she did it told me that she had questions. I waved them down. I had another call to make. I called the number but it was busy. I called it and called it a million times before I realised that the number was my number, only the landlord had put it under a false name. Celene wanted to know was up, but try explaining something like that without using any real words.
The mission had been difficult but we were successful. We'd called everyone on the list and told them all to come back. Normally I try and explain what's happening and who's who to Celene when we watch TV, but this time she was cool to just it all wash over her and heal her. We'd done well. Then our son arrived at the door. We heard him coming a bit before he knocked, actually. Celene's hearing is almost as good as a shark's. When that happened, we looked at each other like 'Oh no!' but then our look changed at the same time to 'It will be nice to see him!' and then back to 'Oh no!' because we'd have to explain everything.
Knock knock knock went the door.
“Oh, who is it?” I called from across the room.
“It's me,” said the kid.
“Can you come back later?” I said. He thought about this.
“No, we need to come in and start the moving now,” he said.
“No, I don't think I'm ready yet. I've just woken up.” There was the sound of moving papers and then a voice, a voice that wasn't supposed to be heard, said,
“I think your mother's in there too,” it was Henrietta's voice. Then there was the soft hum of the landlord's voice. I didn't hear what he said but it was enough to tell me he was there. They'd come in numbers. I thought quickly and pushed the bed in front of the door. They heard me do this.
“Shark, I'm going to open the door with my key,” said the landlord. He wasn't threatening or aggressive about i, he was just giving me a heads-up. That was fair of him because it was taking a while to get my bed into place. There was too much stuff on the floor. I managed to get it in front of the door before the landlord could get it fully opened. Things were looking good for my side – the landlord couldn't fit through the crack in the door, all he could fit through were his words.
“Shark, come now. We've got the movers downstairs and we're renting the truck by the hour. It's very expensive and we've got a helluva lot to do and we've got no time for this nonsense now.” I didn't speak. Celene looked like she was going to move. He must have sensed that because then he started talking to her in Japanese. She was about to respond but I helf up my fin – no. He was trying to fight us with emotions, so that's the weapon we would use too. Doing nothing can be the most powerful emotion of all. It worked. He resorted to pleading in a soft voice. “Please Sharky. Please. We need to do this. It has to be today.” He didn't even need to say it, really. I could tell what he was feeling through the door, through the bed, across the room.
Then the kid came forward. It was ROUND 2. The kid is harder than the landlord because I don't know his tricks and techniques as well. When I stayed up in the landlord's mother's attic for a while, the kid was the one who got me to come down in the end. I think he's a lot cleverer than the landlord, actually. He could be as clever as Moe.
“We know you have the deeds,” said the kid. “We know you wanted to surprise us so we thought we would surprise you instead. The movers aren't here to move you out, they're here to move everything back in. So let us in, Mom can make us all some tea and we can put things back to normal.” I thought about this. It was pretty funny that they were going to turn my own joke around on me. That kind of thing is always how it goes on TV shows. One character is trying to pull a joke on some other characters but they find out about it and pull the same joke, only bigger, right back on him. I felt pretty bad actually for spoiling the joke by making the kid have to explain it. He said something then to Celene. Celene said something back. I looked at her and she showed that it was all okay. I stood up and pulled the bed away from the door. The kid came in so quickly, followed by Henrietta with a big stack of paper in her hands, then the landlord came in last. His lips were tight.
“They're in the cupboard,” said Henrietta, nodding down at her papers, and the kid had got the deeds out of the cupboard before I even thought of going round the bed and stopping him. He showed the deeds to the landlord.
“No, these are just photocopies,” he said, “Thank goodness.” He put them down on the bed and shook his head. “You could have caused so much trouble, Shark.”
I looked from face to face. The landlord was sad, like usual, but was doing disappointment and relief all at the same time. The kid was stern and I think he was actually angry at me. Celene looked kind of spooked and nervous. Henrietta came towards me and her face was big and sorry. She held the stack of papers out for me to see.
“I read it on your blog that you had the deeds and I had to tell them. It could have been so bad, Shark. I'm sorry,” she said. The papers were my blog. I didn't know you could print it all out like that. I couldn't see my own face but I knew what it was doing. It was staring at the landlord and saying the words that I couldn't say. The words were, “From the moment I met you I knew that this would happen. I didn't want it to. I tried to stop it. But the world pushed us to where we are.” The landlord saw my face doing that and folded his arms to defend against it.
“I read it too. All that nonsense about throwing me out the window. Is that what you want to do to me?” He said it like a joke for the others but the way he looked told me how hurt he was feeling. I had him in my jaws before I could feel his hurt. There was no time for feelings to reach me, no time to fetch his boxing gloves and wait for the grocery kid to get here. I jumped right over the bed and caught him as I landed. People forget sometimes that I'm a shark and that a bed or a door can't really stop me from killing you. I had him in my jaws and I turned towards the window. The burgular bards were still bolted to the wall outside but I'd been testing them and I was pretty sure that if I threw the landlord at them hard enough, he'd tear them right off. He wasn't struggling in my mouth at all. I used to pick him up in my mouth all the time when he was just a kid and he knew that if he moved about in there he might cut himself accidentally on my teeth. The kid and Henrietta were all around me, shouting and telling me to stop and to put him down. Celene was being quiet. I thought they were being pretty silly about everything. I'm a shark and I'm holding this guy in my mouth. His feet aren't touching the ground. I've won. You can't talk me down from this, guys. I know what I'm doing. I remember hoping really hard that the developers were down in the courtyard like I'd planned it and then I took my first step towards the window and then there was so much pain in my back that I actually blacked out for a second and the next thing I knew I was on the bed, the landlord was on the floor and Celene was hitting me over and over with her fists.
“It's over! It's over!” she was saying.
“Get away from him! He might, he might - ” Henrietta was saying.
“What the hell do you think you're doing?” the kid was saying. I wanted to talk to them all, to tell them that I was just joking and they'd all fallen for it, but Celene kept hitting me and I couldn't think or talk or get off my back, which was causing me more pain than I really thought possible. At last Celene stopped and everyone quietened down. She stood over me and jutted her jaw out and snarled, “I want to move to Greyton,” and then Henrietta took the landlord downstairs and the kid went to fetch the movers.
“They'll be coming up in five minutes,” he said before he shut the door. He meant that I had to get out of there if I didn't want them to see me, but there was no where to go. Celene was staring at me. Her smile was gone and wouldn't be coming back. I had to get away from the absence of that smile. I needed to hide. As she watched, I crawled inside my cupboard, shifted the landlord's mother's box to make room for myself and shut the door. She wouldn't be smiling and I wouldn't be coming out. It was all over.
There was a lot of noise. I stood there in the cupboard while a lot of strangers who smelled bad took all of my things out of my room. They took a long time and I think they were a bit confused by all the bottles in the back room. I think someone had told them not to move the cupboard because they didn't touch it once. The grocery kid's play was in there with me, sitting just on top of the landlord's mother's box. I thought about reading it but I couldn't, obviously, because it was too dark.
After what seemed like a long long time with my back aching and hurting like nothing else, the movers were gone and it was all quiet in my room again. In fact, it was too quiet. When I left the cupboard, all I could hear was empty room and echoes and all I could see was the wrongness of my room not being there in the place it belonged. They'd left my posters up on the walls and the dirty dishes were still in the sink but everything else was gone. There was nothing to say that it even had been there in the first place. I kept on having to go back into the cupboard just to remember what it all had used to look like. I could feel my memories of my real room being replaced with this fake, empty room I was standing in. After a while it got dark.
I was back in the cupboard when the landlord came in. He knocked on the cupboard door and I slowly opened it. He didn't look right at me. He was carrying a big sheet of rubber.
“Hi Shark. Look, you don't have to stay in here tonight. You can come sleep in my room. The furniture's all on its way to Greyton but I've got these inflatable matresses. You can sleep on one. You don't have to stay here.”
I said that I didn't want to stay in his room. It didn't feel right. I wanted to stay in my own room, even though they'd taken everything out of it. I felt like I had to start over and put a whole new layer of emotions and experiences into the room even though there was no point and I'd be leaving soon. I explained this again and again but I don't think he ever really understood what I was saying. He just gave up after a while.
“Okay, okay. I'll come check up on you in the morning. I'm fine, by the way, you don't need to worry. I didn't fall on anything.”
I said that was cool and then he left me. I went into the kitchen to sleep on the floor. I tried to remember the times I'd done that when people had stayed over. It was uncomfortable down there, but I think it was good for my back for a while. I slept for a few minutes here and there but at about ten 'o clock I woke up with a new plan. I got my phone out of the cupboard and I dialled the number I'd memorised years ago. It rang for a long time but I wasn't going to give up.
“This is Shark Of Wisdom and I'm here for you,” said the phone.
“I don't want to do this anymore,” I said. “I'm in trouble. I want to go back.”
“What?” he said. There was a lot of noise in the background. It was music and shouting.
“I want to go back to Sharkania,” I said. I tried not to say it too loud because the house was so empty. I got inside the cupboard and said it until he could hear me.
“Sharkania?” he asked.
“I've never been! I thought I could just stay here but I can't now. How do I get there?” I had to almost shout it to get heard over the music.
“Oh! The planet! The planet, the planet the planet. All right, I always meant to tell you this but, aw jeez, I made it up.”
“There's no such place. I'm sorry, kid. But hey, check this out - I'm at a party. Do you want to come over?”
“No,” I said. “I wouldn't know anyone there.”
“Okay, but I have to go. Take care of yourself. Take care of everyone.” He went then. I stood with the phone at my ear until the light went out.
I thought about taking the landlord's mother's box with me to Sarah's house but I figured it would slow me down so I left it in the cupboard. I think it was a good decision because it's hard enough to get down the stairs without having a heavy box to carry. I noticed the garage window was broken but I didn't stop to investigate. I gunned the car out into the street, knowing that everyone would hear me leave and would know that they couldn't do anything about it. It wasn't long before I noticed that the car was making a 'thunk thunk thunk' noise and not going very fast. The tyres were flat. I didn't let that stop me though. I thunk-thunked all the way to Sarah's house and practically jumped up to her door. I had everything laid out in front of me. Our whole life together. First we'd go and we'd find David. Then we'd drive out to the wild and build a little house out of my car and my teeth. I can start pulling them and saving them from tomorrow. They keep on growing. They're very strong and tough, if you built a whole house out of them it would be practically invincible and wouldn't just float off into space one day. We could start over in a place where what we did mattered, which could stay there for thousands of years. So long as I was there, I could keep it going. We'd paint our emotions on the walls of the place, but we wouldn't let it become filthy and overgrown with bad emotions like Carolyn's house got to be. We'd keep an eye on each other and help each other out when one of us starts acting in a bad way or using the wrong emotions against someone. We'd start off small, just me and David and Sarah, but we'd collect the right kinds of people from the internet. One day they're writing about how a corkscrew made of love had been softly screwed into their heart over the period of many years and then yanked out in a single afternoon, then the Snipe pulls up outside their house. David is driving it. He knocks on their door and tells them that there's a place for them. A house made of shark's teeth. The owner of the house needs their emotions to keep the house strong but they have to promise first to leave all their bad emotions behind. David makes them promise right there on the doorstep and then they're away. They'll stay at the house for as long as they want and there'll always be fresh groceries coming in and cool TV to watch and juice to drink. They won't see me, though. Not at first. I'll be up on the top floor, just watching and paying attention to everything. When they're ready, they'll meet me. I'll tell them how I knew them from the internet, how I saw the potential in their words and their profile and the kind of links they had. When I've got enough of the best people together, we'll go looking for Moe. We can get him back. He'll be working at an old dusty petrol station, composing new tunes as he fills the gas tanks, taking apart the world with his mind as he rings up the till. He'll see us drive up in the Snipe and he'll instantly see that every one of us is the best possible person we can be. He'll smile and he'll run over to the car and jump right into the back.
“Everyone, this is Moe,” I'll say, but it won't be necessary because everyone will already know about Moe. “It's time to go home, Moe,” I'll say and then everyone will put one hand on him and I'll drive us back to the tooth-house.
Every part of this plan flashed in and around my head as I waited for Sarah to come and answer the door. I don't think I was even waiting for long, it's just that my mind was working that fast to help me make the future happen. Everything stopped though when the door opened. It wasn't Sarah on the other side. It was a father.
“Oh hi, good evening, is Sarah home?” I said. I tried to stand up straight and look smart but I suddenly realised that I didn't have my towels or anything and I was standing outside, totally exposed to anyone and everyone. The warm buzz of my future plans was gone. Sarah's father looked down at me. For some reason I felt much smaller than I am. Maybe everyone I knew up to then was just a really short person and Sarah's father is the only normal-sized one.
“Who are you?” he said. He didn't put any anger in it, he was just laying down the rules: He had to know me before he gave me access to his house and daughter. I remembered that Sarah had told me how angry and alcoholic he was all the time, so I figured he was just saving his anger for when I gave him the wrong answer.
“The Ancient Shark Of Despair, sir,” I said. “I live just round the corner.” He turned away, but kept the door exactly as open as it had been the whole time. He called out to his wife, he called her name. Then he came back to me.
“Sarah did her work experience with you, didn't she?”
“That's right. That's what she did.” I said. He smiled just a little smile then and his wife appeared. She did a much bigger smile.
“Well hello Shark, pleased to finally meet you. We know all about you, of course, Sarah's told us so much.” She pushed gently past her husband and flapped her hands at me, “Well don't stand out there in the cold, come in. We're still up, we're just watching something boring on television,” Sarah's father did an exaggerated 'Oh no!' look at this.
“You said you were enjoying it!”
“No, that was you,” she said and they laughed as they backed away to let me in.
Their house was so nice. There were pictures up on the walls – pictures with frames. There were photographs of the whole family being young and happy up everywhere. In the hallway was a phone that looked big and heavy and forever and there was a pot with fresh flowers next to it. I smelled them. They weren't fake. There were so many rooms and the carpet was so soft. Even the curtains were clean. They invited me into the big main lounge and they turned the TV off and took some newspapers (also fresh) off the couch so I could sit down. Sarah's mother asked me what I wanted to drink. I said guava juice and they had that. While she was out getting that, Sarah's father talked to me about the economy.
“We've tipped over into recession now, but we're weathering the worst of it down here,” he mused. “Now that our man Manuel's on the Planning Commission, I think we might have seen the worst of it.” I agreed to this. It sounded exciting, like something from a movie or another culture. Sarah's mother came back in with the juice. It even had ice in it. The ice cubes were shaped like hearts, not like cubes at all.
“So, sorry to tell you this,” said Sarah's mother once everyone was settled and some music had been put on. It was old timey, classical music. It disappeared into the background and made all the words that followed more colourful and meaningful. “But Sarah's gone to England.”
“She landed on Thursday morning,” added Sarah's father.
“She didn't tell anyone, shame, you must have been wondering where she went.”
“She's like that. She loves to do something big and leave everyone to find out for themselves,” said Sarah's father, shrugging for effect.
“Like when she got that tattoo! Oh my god!” said Sarah's mother, laughing again.
“Oh, that was a shocker,” chuckled Sarah's father. “We only found out after a year, when we went to Nature's Valley and we saw her swimming.”
“Shame, she had a big fight with her boyfriend,” said Sarah's mother to me.
“Huh, good riddance,” muttered Sarah's father, then laughed again.
“I think that's what made her jump the date ahead on her ticket,” said Sarah's mother. “We tried to talk her out of it but it's probably for the best, hey. She's signed up with an agency now,”
“They'll put her in the homes of rich old people and she'll wipe their bottoms,” smiled Sarah's father. “She'll earn a fortune with the exchange rate.”
“We hope she'll come back and study after a year,” nodded Sarah's mother. “But she's not ready yet.”
“That's if she can get through a whole year,” added Sarah's father.
“Yes, I hear it's very stressful,” said Sarah's mother. “I hope she didn't give you a hard time when she was doing the work experience.”
“No, not at all,” I said. It was the first thing I'd said in a while but I felt like I'd been part of the conversation the whole time. “It was nice to have the company.”
“Ag shame,” said Sarah's mother. “I know how you feel, hey. Sarah's just been gone three days and already it feels so empty in the house. I keep on making dinner for three people and a third of it doesn't get eaten!”
“The fridge is very full!” laughed Sarah's father. He almost giggled it, actually.
“Would you like some? Have you eaten? We've got so much!” I said that I hadn't eaten. I said that I'd spent all day hiding in my cupboard while people I didn't know took all my things away. Sarah's mother's mouth was one big 'O'. Before I knew it I was at the dining table with a huge pile of hot food in front of me and she was putting so many different sauces and cups and sidedishes all around me.
“Would you like the TV on while you eat?” she asked. “We could bring the little one in here for you to watch.”
“It won't have DSTV on it, but we can bring in the old decoder if you like,” said Sarah's father. I said that I didn't want to watch TV. I actually wanted to hear them talk some more. I didn't say this part though in case it made them not want to talk so much because of the pressure. Thankfully, they did talk some more. They talked about the news and the new president, which I didn't know about, and about books I should read. I told them about the grocery kid's books and they loved that. They thought it was so great that I had creative people in my family. I told them that I was the creative one, really, and then they wanted to see my drawings and paintings and things. They really meant it too.
“You can sleep here tonight,” said Sarah's mother. “We can't have you driving back in the dark. You can sleep in Sarah's room, since she's not using it. All her stuff's packed away in the corner, but we can put some sheets on the bed now-now.” The sheets were so clean and they smelled so good. They were crisp and cool and white and they seemed to fit me better than most other sheets and blankets I've used. They both made sure I had everything and even rigged up a clean toothbrush that I could use. They showed me where the shower was and asked me what time I wanted breakfast.
“Good night, Shark,” said Sarah's father. They both stood in the doorway. He turned out the light and she shut the door.
“Good night,” said Sarah's mother.
“Good night, thank you!” I said. I smiled as the door shut. It was so quiet. I waited for them to walk back to the lounge and then I got up quickly to write this. It's all still fresh.
I think it's all going to be okay from now on. I don't think Sarah is coming back. There's everything for her out there. I can stay in her room and eat the meals that her mother accidentally cooks for her. Maybe some day she'll call and we'll talk about the old days and how we used to hang out, but when I ask if she wants to do those old days again, she'll just laugh and say, “No, I belong to the world now. Goodbye Shark.”
Goodbye Sarah. Goodbye.
Thoughts for the second season.
Wednesday, May 27th 2009
Today I was on my own. That's fine. It hasn't been like this for the whole week though. That's fine too. On Sunday, the grocery kid did his 'last' visit. As soon as I moved the bed out of the way and let him in, he went and made a really big deal out of everything, like he normally does, only this time he made the biggest, most extreme deal of all. He brought his dogs upstairs with him. This was the prize all along. He'd won the big, invisible war and now he was claiming his victory.
“I didn't know the dogs were allowed in now,” I said while he put the groceries down and his dogs sniffed around my front door.
“Ag, don't be like that. They deserve to have one look inside before we go.”
“They've had a look before when they lived here,” I pointed out.
“Those were different dogs,” he said softly, then looked over to these new dogs. “They seem to be very interested in your door.” They were. The dogs were crawling over each other to get a chance to be close to the door. It was a competition to get the most of the smell in their noses in as quick a time as possible. Queenie was winning. He was the boss.
“You know, I think I'm going to miss this place,” he said. It sounded fake and rehearsed. I think he must have heard that on TV and decided to repeat it to me instead of thinking of his own thing to say. I thought I'd seen the same show and was pretty sure the whole exchange ended in a joke.
“Why?” I asked. He sighed.
“I don't know, it's just been such a long time, you know.”
“It's not such a long time,” I shrugged. “When you're going to live forever.” He looked at me and sighed like three times and made an expression that looked a lot like one of the landlord's main expressions – the one where he looks as if he's just about to cry but can't because he's afraid of running out of tears. The landlord hasn't done that expression in a while. Maybe the grocery kid stole it. Maybe the landlord has one of the grocery kid's expressions now. One of the dogs stood on some part of another one of the dogs and a noise came out. The grocery kid changed his face into 'oh, I'm doing something now, this thing I'm doing is important,' mode and went over to the dogs to investigate the causes.
“What are you boys up to, he? What are you smelling over there?” He tried sniffing about near the door too. He didn't do it like the dogs did, by getting down low and climbing over everyone to get close, he just sniffed the air a few times and frowned. “Urgh, that stinks! It stinks like old piss!” He said and then he covered up his nose with his forearm and tried to get the dogs to come away. “Sis, boys! Don't put your faces in that!” He turned and looked at me. I was already looking at him. The piss had made him a bit angry. “Who pissed here?” he said to me. He would have said it to the dogs if I wasn't there.
“It was me,” I smiled. “I wanted to shake up the past. Why go in the bathroom all the time? That's boring.” My mind was moving fast and I could hear the audience somewhere laughing at my joke. I turned my words around to face the wind. They shot off in the right direction. “No, I'm joking,” I went and I laughed very quickly to back it up. “David was round here a few days ago and he brought his dog. It must have pissed there.” The grocery kid brought his face and his arm around to face me. Even with his arm there I could see that his face was vulnerable.
“You let David's dog up here but you carry on and complain about mine?” said his words through his arm.
“No,” I said, “It got in by accident. We chased it through all the rooms. It got away from us though and it must have come up here and pissed on my door. It was teasing us.”
“It stinks!” he said again.
“I don't think so,” I said, inhaling deeply through my nostrils. It did smell pretty bad. “It's like a natural smell. Sharks smell everything different to people,” I added. He gathered up his dogs and crossed over the door.
“Leave you here in your own filth,” he muttered. “Rotting,” he said as he went down the hallway.
On Monday morning I was woken up very early by the landlord.
“Heard you had a little accident,” he said. He had a bucket of water and some cleaning things with him. “Thought you might want help cleaning it up.” He started cleaning up after we'd poured some juice. “Sorry for coming so early but it's another busy day for me,” he said while down on his knees, scrubbing the carpet. “I actually smelled it on Saturday but I thought you'd been cooking again.” This would have been a joke on TV but it wasn't a joke here. When he was finished cleaning he got more sad / serious that usual. “Listen,” he said and he touched my back while he said it. “Soon we'll get someone to come by and check on you from time to time to see how you're doing while we're away, okay? In case David's dog comes back or you fall or -”
“I want Sarah,” I said. “Or Francois.”
“Which one is Francois?” he asked. I'd surprised him.
“Francois is Sarah's boyfriend. They could both come round at once,” I said.
“Ah, so Sarah's got a boyfriend,” he said and he nodded his head.
“Is that okay?” I asked.
“Yes. I mean, it's good. You talk to her and we'll sort something out,” he said. He stood, then he sort of caught his body on his knees as though he had fallen. “Oh, I nearly forgot. Die kind has booked his flight. He gets in Friday morning. We'll come in and help you move all your things out then,” he finished. I smiled and nodded and said I understood. Then he left and all I had to do was wait for Tuesday morning – early, early in the morning – for Celene's visit. Then we made plans.
She'd brought a list of all the people who'd lived here until just the other day. They were gone but you could bring them back by calling them. I'd asked her specially for this list, which is normally taped up above the landlord's phone, and she'd specially brought it.
“We'll bring them all here this weekend, then we'll tell the guys that the move isn't happening, right in front of everyone,” I planned. “Maybe the developers will even be there,” Celene aimed her smile at me while I spoke and when I'd finished, she raised her eyebrows and opened her mouth into a '?' shape. I tried saying the whole plan again in Japanese and a bit of Afrikanns and after a while she got the gist. I also told her to come over on Saturday before our son got here so we could surprise him early with the news that we weren't going anywhere.
“I don't want to move to Greyton,” Celene said after we'd made sure she understood. Then she cleaned up the patch around the door that the landlord had already cleaned. She said that he hadn't cleaned it very well.
But today nobody came to visit. It was just me. I wasn't feeling the internet today either, so I just lay on my bed with Sarah's music playing. I got thinking pretty hard about my sitcom. I had a lot of ideas for the second season and what happens after the last episode with the wedding. I figure that, by then, people might be bored of seeing Ric in his house all the time, doing the same jokes with the same characters. I'd like to shake things up and get into a new groove. I think the second season should be all set in space. In the opening credits of each episode we would get the story update: One of Ric's kids, maybe the mean one, would accidentally press the secret button while cleaning under the sink in the kitchen or someplace and that button makes the front part of the house detach from the main part, then all the doors and windows in the main part lock down and the house launches off into space. Ric was out buying groceries at the time, so he gets left behind. Maybe there was a party or a big sports game going on, so the Great Uncle and David might be in the main section of the house when it takes off, too. The house flies far into space, past the sun, and the whole time they are trying to get back to Ric and home, and Ric's left all alone in the front part of the house, which stayed behind and turned into a granny flat. The jokes can come from Ric's family visiting all the different planets and getting to grips with the weird cultres and technology that there is out in space. We'll also check on Ric from time to time while his family's away to see how he's doing. There'll be lots of new characters out there and some old ones (like maybe the Great Uncle's wife) won't be around as much.
Having adventures out in space might seem fun at first, but pretty soon they'll start to miss Ric and once they realise that he once through the exact same thing, only all on his own, they'll come to understand him a lot better and do their best to get back home.
Pizza punks lose it.
Friday, May 22nd 2009
I ordered my usual load of pizza today. I asked for Francois to keep it usual. I see him as my usual guy. He's no Moe, but I guess I thought he could become close to one. He took a step back from Moe-ness tonight though. He didn't trust me when I asked him to.
Basically, he came round to give me my pizza and everything was fine at first. We got talking. He actually started the conversation. I would have been fine if it had just been a 'hi-then-bye' kind of relationship tonight. To be honest, I wasn't really in the mood for a chat right then. He started it by telling me about my building.
“It's really dark in here, bru. All the lights are off. Where is everyone, hey?”
“Oh, they're just out right now. It's okay,” I said. I didn't want to get into all the details. If I told him about everyone moving out, I'd have to tell him a whole other story when they move back in a few weeks or so. It's really too much to explain.
“I almost broke my neck coming up the stairs, hey. You should put some lights on, you know,” he said.
“I will, I will. You're right. How're things with you?”
“Ja, they're alright, bru,” he said. I saw an opening.
“How's Sarah doing?”
“What's that, my bru?” he said, but he said it in a way that was more like a dare.
“How's your girl? How's Sarah?”
“No, she's not my girl. You must be mistaken.”
“Oh, I thought she was,” I said. He was getting confusing, but then came the next part.
“We had a hectic fight, she was crying and shouting and all sorts, bru.”
“Oh,” I said again. He didn't stop. He just went on hitting me with information.
“She wanted to go to England, but I said she shouldn't. England's kak, bru. It's full of moffies. You'd like it there, hey?” he said.
“Is she not going to go now?” I said. I tried not to sound too interested. I didn't want him to get territorial right outside my door.
“Who knows, hey? She said she bought the ticket already but you know how she lies. She needs to grow up, bru. Jassis.” I nodded at this hard enough so he could feel it through the door. I tried to think of a way to comfort him. I know how Sarah can get at your emotions sometimes.
“Hey, do you remember the bird?” I asked.
“The bird that walked down the corridor last time.”
“I don't remember a bird walking down the corridor, bru. You're thinking of someone else,” he said, strangely and slowly.
“No, I'm sure it was you. Francois.” I reminded him that I knew his name. It was on the bill.
“Listen bru, there was no bird, all right? You're thinking of someone else.”
“The bird meant that everything is okay.”
“What? What are you on, bru? You're not thinking straight.”
“No, it's okay.” I said. I laughed. I was just being silly again. There was a silence.
“Okay, well you owe me for the pizza,” he said after a while.
“Oh yeah,” I said. That's all I said. He moved around out there.
“I've put the bill under the door already, did you see? Or are you too confused in your head to do that even?”
“No, about that...” I said and I sucked in a lot of air through my teeth to show that I was in a lot of pain, morally.
“I don't have the money today.” I said.
“No, you see, the landlord's been really busy,” I explained. This was true.
“I'm sorry, I didn't hear that, here's another chance – can you give me the money now?”
“You guys know me, I'll bring the money next time.” I tried to make him be cool about it. There was lots of cool in my voice.
“No, that's not how it works, bru. I know you've got your money in there.”
“He took it all!” I said. He didn't say anything for at least a minute after that. He was thinking.
“You can get the money though. You can call your landlord and he can give you money.”
“Yes, I can call him. I'll give you the money just now. It won't even take that long. I just can't give it to you now.” I said quickly.
“I'm coming back, bru. I'll be back in an hour. You'd better have the money then. I know where you live, bru. Remember that. I know where you live.”
“Thank you. Just leave the pizzas there. When you come back I'll have the money.” I said. I said it a few times actually. He swore a lot and ran away with a lot of noise but he did leave the pizza there.
I ate the pizza and I made myself promise that I would call the landlord right away. I did entirely plan to do it, but it just never seemed like the thing to do at that moment. I did a few things on the internet and I brushed my teeth and, before I knew it, Francois was back. He knocked on the door and the door was scared of him. I froze and I didn't make a sound. I slowly got up and turned off the lights. If I waited long enough, he'd think I'd gone out. I've done this before. I waited but the knocking only became louder. It stopped being a knocking and became a pounding. There was shouting then but I won't even bother to write what he said because it was just crazy words. It was pure anger. The worst part was when he stopped. That's when I got in the cupboard. There was silence out there for quite a long time so I opened the cupboard door just a crack so I could see the door to my room. My plan was that if he broke down the door and came looking for me, he wouldn't check the cupboard right away. He'd check the other rooms, like the bathroom or the kitchen. When he did that, I could run out the door and hide in the landlord's place. It's cool there. He has a lot more lights than I do.
While I watched the door, I noticed a noise. It wasn't a big noise, it was just one of those long, continuous noises that means that something is about to happen. While I watched, I saw a puddle of water come in from under the door. It crept in like it was welcome. It went right over the threshold and ran over the carpet. It hit a pizza box and went around to check out the bed. I had no idea that urine would act like that if it came into my room. Now I know. I stayed there into the cupboard until the noise stopped and the urine lost its nerve. I waited for longer than that, just in case. In time, I heard the noise of broken glass, and then there wasn't really any noise at all. When I came out of the cupboard, the carpet in front of my door was wet. I put my bed in front of the door. I did this for two reasons – one was to provide reinforcements to the door in case of emergency, the second was to cover up the urine until it dried.
I don't blame Francois for what happened. It's tough when a girl breaks up with you, especially if there's a fight. It's also tough if you think that you're going to lose something that you thought was always going to be there. I'm talking about me. Francois thought I was dumping him too, which is why he tried to claim me and my room. That may seem pretty weird, but people are really doing that sort of thing all the time, but instead of piss, they are using words and thoughts and their faces to do it. Francois' way is pure. I'll tell him this next time I do pizza. Maybe the bird will come again. I don't see why it won't.
The last grocery kid?
Monday, May 18th 2009
The grocery kid looked like he had something to tell me yesterday. Well I had something to tell him too.
“From now on I want three cans of tuna, not just one.” I said. He looked at me. He finished putting the groceries on the floor and just looked at me. “I think I like tuna more now. I don't want to have it just once a week any more.” I didn't really feel that I had to explain myself like that. It should be obvious. But if I don't give him big, clear reasons for things then he'll just ignore me and next week he'll buy exactly what he wants rather than what I said. It's not that he forgets, it's because he thinks that I make decisions without having a good reason for them. So I have to make sure my reasons are big and sure so that they'll override his reasons for doubting me. It is exhausting.
“You know this is the last time I'm doing this before I go up to Greyton,” he said.
“Greyton, hey?” I said. I wanted to smile because I knew that none of that was going to happen now. I had the deeds and it was all going back to normal. I thought about telling him but knew it wasn't safe to say yet.
“Yes,” he said. “I'll be very busy next weekend and then, after that - ” he moved his elbows to show that the future is uncertain. “He said about getting things organised for you,” he was talking about the landlord. I remained silent. “Maybe you could get one of your little friends to do it, like that little blonde meisiekind. She could do it again, couldn't she?” I said 'yes,' and agreed, which was a trap because it meant I was telling him that I'd got Sarah to fill in for him that one time. He nodded because he'd won and then he turned to leave forever. He wouldn't bring my shopping round any more. He was wrong, of course, and he'd find out that he hadn't won at all and actually I was winning because Greyton and the developers isn't going to happen any more and he'll be back here fetching my shopping for me in two weeks' time. That did mean that I'd have to get someone to be the grocery kid for this week while it still wasn't safe to tell him how things really are. I was on the phone to Sarah as soon as he shut the door.
“Oh hey Sharky, what's up?” said Sarah. First I checked to see how she was doing to be polite. I asked about her visa and how hard it was to get one. “Yeah, it's fine,” she said. “Listen Sharky, I'm at the shop. I can't really chat now.” I asked her to wait, because I wanted to talk about something important. She thought I was talking about David for some reason. “Sharky, David is really freaked out by your last mail. He showed it to me. He says he might show his dad, hey.” I said I didn't know what she was talking about. “The e-mails, the ones you sent. Listen, I've got to go. I'm about to get in the car.”
She was gone. There was no one in the room with me. No one would get my groceries for me. I could hear the grocery kid still getting down the stairs. Him with his back – he's so slow. I ran out my door and moved as quickly as I could down the stairs. I have to be careful on the stairs because of my tail, but I can go fast if I'm not carrying something, which I wasn't, because I can grab onto the railing and pull myself along. When I got outside he was untying his dogs and telling them all their names. He looked up at me and then looked back at the dogs, pretending not to be surprised.
“You're outside,” he said.
“Yeah. I come out here sometimes,” I said and it was true. “These are your dogs.” This was true too. They came around me and sniffed and wondered what was going on. They'd probably never smelled a shark before. I stayed very still.
“Come here!” yelled the grocery kid at them. “Leave him alone now, come to me.” They went over to him like he said and sniffed at him instead and licked his hands, which is gross. “This is Sam,” he said, pointing to the big Weimaraner with human eyes. “He's not feeling so well right now, we're going to give him his medicine just now.”
“Hello Sam,” I said.
“Hello! He says 'hello,' ” repeated the grocery kid to Sam. I guess Sam can only hear it when the grocery kid speaks. “And this is Bertie, Sam's friend,” he touched Bertie's head and he jumped up half way up the grocery kid's leg.
“Hello Bertie,” I said.
“And here's Queenie, because he's the boss of everyone,” he said, and now he touched the head of a black sort of terrier. Queenie looked around at him and grinned.
“Hi Queenie,” I said. Queenie looked at me. He had the same grin.
“This old guy here is Stompie. He's the one we've always got to wait for when we're walking, shame. You've met Stompie before, when he was a young man.” I was pretty certain that I'd never been Stompie before in my life.
“Hello Stompie,” I said. “Again.”
“They're all very pleased to meet you,” said the grocery kid. “They've been coming here all this time with the shopping and didn't know who we'd come here to see.”
“Please can you do the groceries again next week?” I said. He smiled.
“Okay. I can make a plan. See you then.”
“Thanks,” I said, but he didn't leave then. He looked around. Up, left, right, behind. He was looking at the world.
“Isn't it nice out here? We must make the most of it, it'll be cold soon.” I looked at the places he'd looked.
“Yeah, it's fine,” I said. I looked at my building. It was hard to think of it as mine in the past, but now it had a real look of solidity to it. I felt like I could pick the whole thing up if I wanted. I tried to remember why I hadn't wanted any dogs to come inside. I must have made that rule a long time ago. I haven't made any rules for years. Maybe I should make some more.
First rule: three cans of tuna a week, not one. Things are going to go my way from now on.
My plan is love.
Friday, May 15th 2009
Celene came to me last night. It was very late but I was staying up listening to Sarah's music. She knocked on the door o-so-softly and very quickly. I didn't even hear it at first, I thought it was part of the music. But you can't mistake a knock like that for anything but Celene. It's impossible.
And there she was in the hallway. She looked beautiful in the dark. Not the same sort of beautiful she was when I met her – her body and face is a completely different shape now – but beautiful in the way that hope is beautiful. It's always there, but sometimes you're not in the mood to think about it too much. She had something with her but she wouldn't give it to me until she got inside. When she came in she immediately sat down on the same spot of the bed she always sits on. I've had that bed for a long time now. Sarah always sits right on the middle. Celene sits right on the edge with her hands folded. She doesn't want to look like she's intruding.
She gave me the papers she had. I didn't know what they were at first. I tried to ask her what she was showing me but I couldn't quite understand her.
“The heya! The heya!” she was saying as she pointed at the papers. The papers were in my hands now. They looked legal and bankish. She said a lot of things very fast and louder than usual.
“My Japanese isn't so good any more,” I said. I tried to say it in Japanese but I took so long that she started going again. She pointed to the walls, then the roof, and moved her arms around in a circle around her body. I looked at the papers. They were the deeds to the property. Celene looked at me. The look said, “This is your house again.” It also said, “I never stopped loving you.”
She stayed for a while. I thought about kissing her but the moment wasn't there. The atmosphere was too charged and she sat down the whole time. She made some tea, of course, and we talked as best as we could. I showed her a lot of the websites I had bookmarked – some of them are pretty old but she hadn't seen them before. She liked them, but she didn't get the jokes in a lot of videos. They didn't have subtitles and everyone talked very fast in them.
She crept back downstairs after two cups of tea. She even washed up her cup and put the dry dishes away in the kitchen. She said that she didn't want me to be on my own. That's nice of her, but she never quite got the whole SHARK = BEING ALONE thing I kept telling her about. I hid the deeds in my cupboard, along with the landlord's mother's box and the grocery kid's play and the box that used to contain all my money. I think I knew that this is how it would go the whole time. I never really believed that I was moving out or that the house would get knocked down. Things like that don't just happen all of a sudden.
I didn't get to sleep for a long time because I was pretty excited. I could let my brain think about the future again. I think I might totally rearrange my room. I've been thinking about putting the bed nearer to the door. It would be away from the window then but it would mean I could move my desk and my computer. It struck me that I've got all these empty rooms in my house now. I could have one room for my bed, one room for my computer and so on. I could have a whole room that I just used for a kitchen. That could get pretty annoying, going from room to room all the time, especially if I had to go up and down the stairs.
Maybe I'll just keep things the same.
Knock it all down.
Wednesday, May 13th 2009
So the landlord breezes in this morning, no big deal, nothing special. That's how he acts. But that's not how it is.
“Where did you go?” I said. I actually interrupted him to say this because he hadn't explained himself yet. He'd been talking about the weather. He's always giving me updates on that.
“I've been busy organising things, Shark,” he said. He was pouring juice for us. He was pouring it slow. All I did was open my mouth and make an “Uuhhh” noise because I didn't believe him. I worked really well. There's just no defence against it. He passed me the juice and looked right at me, which is something he doesn't normally do, but he missed it because I wasn't looking at him. I was looking at my juice. “I was up in Greyton. I was looking at the new house. I signed all the papers and had a look around.”
“Is it nice?” I asked quietly. I sipped my juice. It takes me a long time to sip from a cup so he had a long time to think about an answer.
“Yes, it's nice. It's a good house. There's a garage. It's quite old. It's got DSTV. I went to meet all the new neighbours. You know who's just moved in two roads down from the house?”
“Who?” I asked. I thought Moe, maybe, but then I thought that David was more realistic.
“Mr. Roberts,” he said with a smile. “Our Mr. Roberts. You know, from downstairs.” I nodded. It made sense. When a show on TV starts on a new season, sometimes it's all now set in a different place. Sometimes the characters are different or there are new ones you didn't know about, but there are usually a few characters who get carried over and maybe given more to do. Mr. Roberts must be one of those. I guess that means that I'm one of the characters who got cut.
I didn't say any of this to the landlord. He's been watching less and less TV with me lately and he might have forgotten how it all works. You can't trust him to understand TV if I'm not there. I have to explain almost everything to him.
“I don't like that guy,” I said instead.
“I know you don't,” he sighed. He'd finished his juice already. He doesn't normally drink juice that quickly. Here's why he did that: He had news.
“Die kind is coming down here,” he said. “With Henrietta. I spoke to him this morning.”
“Oh, why's that?” I said. I knew I'd get excited about this later but it hadn't kicked in yet. The landlord put his glass down and touched his face. He raised his voice which, for him, means you don't have to strain to hear it.
“To help with the move, of course! We've got to be out of here in two weeks!”
“Two weeks?” I checked. It's funny how I thought I couldn't hear him even though he was talking more loudly than usual.
“Yes, Shark. In two weeks they're coming to knock all this down!” I frowned. I felt this was a bit extreme.
“They won't knock it down if we're still here though. We don't have to worry so much do we?” I said. He let his body sort of fold up like a relaxed hand.
“We signed contracts,” he said. “There are schedules, Shark. They're going to build four townhouses here and work starts on the first. It's all organised.” I didn't have anything to sat to that. You can't fight something that's organised. That's basically what a community is – a lot of people organising things and making promises and sticking to the schedule. I don't think a real community would need contracts though. They'd have trust instead.
“Who's going to live in the townhouses?” I asked.
“I don't know, Shark,” he said and then he poured some more juice.
He left shortly after that but he came back in the evening. He looked wild.
“Who put all that rubbish in the rooms?” he said. I shook my head and kept on shaking it. I was trying not to smile because I still felt a bit silly about filling up the rooms like that. I didn't try hard enough though and he caught my smile right in the open.
“Shark, you shouldn't do that, it stinks to high heaven now!” I tried to look away but now he was smiling too. He was trying to be angry and I was trying to be nothing at all and we both couldn't do it. “I'll have to air them all out now!” he said and he made his arms wide to show 'air.' He was almost laughing. He put his arms back down, shook his head and we looked at each other. “Come and help me take them downstairs. Come on - you and me.” I looked at him in the usual way. “There's no one here. No one to upset you, Sharky.”
I knew that.
“So come on,” he said and he opened the front door and kept it open. A breeze came out. He must have opened some windows somewhere but I didn't hear the alarm going off. I thought about getting my towels but I didn't even need them. We went together into the hallway, down the stairs and all over the rooms.
I felt in control but not in a mean way. I could walk where I liked and speak at whatever volume I chose. I didn't have to duck past windows and close the doors. Just me and my landlord, walking around our house. It was like a sitcom. It was like we were roommates. I told some jokes from that movie we watched on my birthday and we both laughed. I told him how I wished there were plaques in every room that told us who had lived in them. He said that a lot of people had lived in the rooms over the years – they'd come and gone and they hadn't stayed here the whole time like us. Some of the rooms on the ground floor would have plaques all over the walls! He said it was still a good idea though.
We even went back up to his room and hung out with Celene for a while. She made us lunch and I told her my idea about the plaques too, but I don't think she understood me very well. I told her what my plaque would say but she just went back into kitchen. I got pretty tired after that with all the moving around and talking and everything so I went back to my pad. It was much too early to go to bed so I played around on the internet a bit. I thought about looking for @groombridge out there but I realised I wasn't in the mood.
Back into space
Monday, May 11th 2009
I went out early this morniung to take the garbage out, which is something I normally do on a Monday. I go out early because I don't want anyone to see me and stop me and maybe ask me to explain myself. But that isn't really necessary any more because there's no one here now.
It wasn't really a surprise to me because I'd seen them all move out and leave in the trucks. Some of them had to tie the trunks of their cars shut with clothesline or tie beds onto their backies and I sometimes felt like shouting, “Be careful! It might not work!” from my window but I never did. Even though I'd seen all those things and heard the emptiness when my computer was off, it was still surprising to go downstairs and actually feel it.
It was a slow feeling and I didn't even notice it was in me at first. I thought I was just taking out the garbage like usual. But as I went downstairs I noticed that the place sounded bigger and emptier. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I saw that the doors to the rooms were open all the way down the corridor. Every door. I think it was the strangest thing I've ever seen. There weren't any secrets or personal space or hurt feelings to keep separate from everyone any more. All the room were just flowing into each other as if they were the same place. It made the walls look so silly – they weren't doing anything any more, they were just getting in the way. I dropped my black bags, closed my eyes and walked down the corridor while I counted softly. When I got to the right number I stopped walking, opened my eyes and went into the room closest to me. I was pretty relieved to see that the room wasn't empty. I don't think I could have handled it if the very first room had been a vacuum like that. The people who'd lived there had left a few special things to show the future that they'd been alive. I found an old arm cast covered in signatures and messages from a long time ago. There was a bag of screws too, but that didn't have any real messages on it.
Other people left other things. Sometimes it was just a ball of scrunched-up Scooby-Doo wire or half a light switch cover but sometimes there was a big thing like a whole picture frame with a picture in it left leaning against the wall. Sometimes there was nothing at all and when that happened, there was no way to figure out the kind of person or people who'd lived in that particular room. You didn't know what kind of pictures they liked to have up or what someone would have written on their arm if it was broken or even what kind of screws they used. You had nothing but a paint colour and some old smells to match up to the voices you'd heard come in through the window over the years.
I felt bad about those rooms so I went back upstairs and fetched the extra bags of garbage I had stashed in my back room. I felt a bit silly, but I put them in some of the empty rooms, in the corner or the bathroom or just behind the door – I tried to make it different each time. I guess I did it so that anyone who came through here in the future would have something they could use to make an image in their minds of the the people who lived here in my building. The picture would be wrong though, because they'd be using my things to make it. All the empty-room people would be me.
I want to get a plaque in my room so that people who come through here later on can get a good picture of me in their minds that isn't wrong or of someone else. I'd put it up above the bed next to the window or behind a poster to make it mysterious.
It would say:
THE ANCIENT SHARK OF DESPAIR
HE UNDERSTOOD US AND WHAT IT WAS LIKE
THEN HE WENT BACK INTO SPACE
On the other side of the plaque would be a key. You'd only find it if you unscrewed everything. The plaque wouldn't tell you what the key was for. You just had to hang onto it and not lost it and eventually you'll find the right door. By the time you find it, you'll know what's behind it. You won't be able to help but smile as you open it.
Episode 113 – Ric and the wedding
Thursday, May 7th 2009
SCENE 1 – DAY EXT.
DAVID sits in the garden, meditating, while his GREAT UNCLE works on his latest STATUE.
DAVID (v/o): Not everything you do turns out the way you want. That's something I've learned from watching the people around me. It's amazing what you can learn about people just by checking them out.
Pan over to the GREAT UNCLE working on his statue. He is carving out a band of soldiers, charging towards an unseen enemy, their bayonets fixed.
DAVID (v/o): Take my GREAT UNCLE's statue, for instance. That's never working out the way he wants it to be.
GREAT UNCLE: Aw, I forgot to leave space for the eagles!
GREAT UNCLE dons a welding mask and takes a blowtorch to the statue, melting it.
DAVID (v/o): Sometimes your whole life can turn out to be something you didn't want.
Cut to GREAT UNCLE'S WIFE, working away slowly and sadly at her NASA console. She looks at a photo framed on top of the console. The photo is of her YOUNGER SELF playing tennis. She touches the photo.
DAVID (v/o): Sometimes even a marriage can start out as one thing and turn into something else without you wanting it to.
Cut to RIC looking out of his bedroom window. He sees the MOON. He tries to touch it like the GREAT UNCLE'S WIFE touched the picture of her YOUNGER SELF, but the MOON is too far away. RIC loses his balance and almost falls out the window!
DAVID (v/o): Sometimes you can even get married in a way that you didn't want. That's what happened to my neighbour RIC once. It was like this...
SCENE 2 – DAY INT.
RIC is in the front room. He is making a ROLL-UP CIGARETTE on the table. There is a big cup of guava juice on the table in front of him and a pillow for putting his feet up on. He looks like he is concentrating pretty hard. CAROLYN calls from upstairs.
CAROLYN (o/s): RIC!
RIC doesn't answer, but he moves his head to show us that he's heard her. He is just too busy right now with his ROLL-UP. CAROLYN appears at the top of the stairs.
CAROLYN: RIC! Can you hear me down there?
RIC: I can hear you honey, I just need to finish this cigarette!
CAROLYN walks down the stairs.
CAROLYN: Oh, you and your ROLL-UPS. You know how bad for you they are.
CAROLYN takes the ROLL-UP from RIC's lips just as he is about to light it! RIC pulls the saddest face in the world.
------LAUGHTER------ (at RIC's sad face)
RIC: But honey -
CAROLYN: Yes, yes I know dear – the outer space radiation made it so you can never die, but you'll still make it smell bad in here!
RIC's face is still the saddest face in the world. He never gets his ROLL-UP.
CAROLYN: You can shut up with that face, dear. You can have your ROLL-UP when you've come back from the wedding.
RIC (surprised): The wedding?!
CAROYLN: Yes, don't you remember? My old theatre friend, Taro, his daughter is getting married out on his farm and I've been invited. But I can't go so you'll have to go in my place.
RIC: Why can't you go?
PROF. BURZUM enters through the front door.
BURZUM: She's on the verge of a psychological break-through, that's why!
RIC: Hi, PROFESSOR BURZUM.
BURZUM: Hi, RIC. A pleasure, as always.
CAROLYN: BURZUM says we're just one weekend of hard psychology away from unravelling the trauma spirals in my mind!
BURZUM: The very same trauma spirals that were put there when you went into space, RIC.
Close up on RIC. He smiles, half-embarrassed.
SCENE 2 – RIC'S CAR. DAY
RIC is driving in the car with GREAT UNCLE, who is working on his STATUE in the car. It is just a weird lump of metal right now.
UNCLE: Thanks for inviting me to this wedding, RIC. I love weddings. Maybe this one will inspire me.
RIC: Good to have you along.
UNCLE: Hey RIC,
UNCLE: If you're standing in for CAROLYN does that make me -you?-
UNCLE: Because I'd make a pretty good RIC, don't you think? Here's me being RIC:
GREAT UNCLE does the same sad face that RIC did earlier.
UNCLE (RIC voice): Oh, oh, help me, it's so lonely in space, oh no.
UNCLE: It's easy being you!
RIC: Okay, I think this is the place.
GREAT UNCLE looks out the window.
UNCLE: This is a farm? It looks like a blimming theatre camp!
RIC stops the car.
RIC: What's a theatre camp?
UNCLE: Let's go find out!
They leave the CAR.
SCENE 3 – DAY EXT.
RIC and GREAT UNCLE look up at a big raised stage. They are down amongst the AUDIENCE'S seats. On the stage is a mock-up of the inside of a CHURCH.
UNCLE: I don't get it. Do we sit down here or up there in the fake church?
TARO (o/s): In the audience, of course!
RIC and GREAT UNCLE turn around to see TARO standing behind them.
TARO: Only trained actors are permitted on the stage during the perfomance.
UNCLE: Yeah, we're actors – want to see my RIC impression?
GREAT UNCLE pulls his RIC FACE.
TARO (impressed): Ah, I did not realise. CAROLYN never told me you and your friend here were practicioners of the craft. Of course, you can sit up on stage with the others during the play.
UNCLE: Front row seats. Great!
TARO: But first you must join us for the pre-perfomance lunch. One can never act on an empty stomach!
UNCLE: No, you sure can't.
RIC: Where's the happy couple, Mr. TARO?
TARO: My daughter is being made ready, but she is under special surveillance because of her doubts.
TARO: The groom you will meet at lunch.
UNCLE: But won't that mean that the bride – the star of the show – will be acting on an empty stomach?
TARO: Ah, but my friend – she will not be acting! For her it will be the real thing!
RIC and GREAT UNCLE look at each other, confused.
SCENE 4 – DAY INT.
We are in TARO's DINING ROOM. RIC, GREAT UNCLE, TARO, MONOPOLY and SOME EXTRAS are sitting around the dining table, eating wedding food.
TARO (checks watch): Eat quickly. I have to be back at my desk in fifteen minutes.
RIC: So, MONOPOLY, it's your big wedding day, how did you meet -
TARO: SELINA. My daughter's name is SELINA.
MONOPOLY: I met her on the internet, yeah? My man TAR here put out an ad for actors and I've got real stage experience, man. Acting is the most up-front honesty there is, and there's nothing more real than me up there at the mic, you understand?
RIC: I understand.
MONOPOLY: That's good. You're smart.
TARO: I have spent many years writing this play. Soon, everyone will see MONOPOLY marry my SELINA to my words. The words will mean everything they say, because after they are said, they really will be married.
MONOPOLY: It's all this legal stuff, it's a real marriage even though it's a play. You understand that?
RIC: I understand.
UNCLE: SELINA must be a lucky girl to have all this attention! My wife's father didn't care at all about our wedding, so long as it stopped me from hanging round the house, he was happy with anything.
TARO: Well, she's not happy with anything, you know.
MONOPOLY: She's locked in her room, just crying like a little brat right now.
TARO: Okay, lunch break over, everyone. I've got to get to the office. See you at curtain-up!
TARO leaves. Everyone gets up and starts to stack their dishes. GREAT UNCLE turns to RIC.
UNCLE: That doesn't sound right, we should talk to that girl.
RIC: No, it's okay. Life is rough. There are worse things than a wedding.
UNCLE: Ah, come on RIC, this is a real person we're talking about.
RIC: Everyone is real, but it doesn't matter.
UNCLE: Well, I'm going to talk to her. You can come along if you want to.
GREAT UNCLE gets up and leaves.
MONOPOLY: Trying to do what I do will hurt yo chest
Get my pecs, ya shirt gonna stretch
Fat aint the name of my flesh
When I wave my piece you don't wanna test
If I'm shooting lil' kids you'l be da first one decked!
MONOPOLY brings out a gun. RIC gets up too and runs after GREAT UNCLE.
RIC: I want to come along!
SCENE 5 – SELINA'S ROOM INT. NIGHT
SELINA sits in her wedding dress in the middle of her room. There is nothing inside. Her BRIDESMAIDS are putting on her make-up.
BRIDESMAID: Stop crying, SELINA, I can't put on the mascara!
SELINA: Mascara is the least of my problems!
BRIDESMAID: Well, someone isn't just going to come along and fix your problems now, are they?
The door opens, GREAT UNCLE and RIC burst through it.
UNCLE: Ma'am, got any problems we can fix?
BRIDESMAID: How did you get in?
RIC: The first thing they teach you at NASA is how to pick locks.
SELINA: Have you come to stop me from getting married? Daddy only wants to impress his drama friends, he doesn't care about how I feel!
UNCLE: Now miss, calm down. This is RIC, he's an astronaut and I'm RIC too.
GREAT UNCLE does his RIC FACE again.
RIC: SELINA, I don't think you want to get married to MONOPOLY.
SELINA: He is really into his music.
UNCLE: Yeah, but did you see how fat he was?
SELINA: It's true, I am having doubts about this wedding. I want to please my father, but my heart cried all night last night.
RIC: Can't you just tell your father that you don't want to do it?
SELINA: I tried! But he won't listen. He acts as if I didn't say anything.
UNCLE: Sounds like you're ready for married life already, hun.
RIC: We're going to be on stage, we can help out.
SELINA: What are you going to do?
UNCLE: Don't worry, I'll come up with something. I usually do.
RIC: If we mess things up, then your father won't get angry at you.
UNCLE: And if it's one thing RIC'S good at, it's messing things up!
SCENE 6 – STAGE EXT. NIGHT
RIC and GREAT UNCLE file on stage with the other ACTORS and take their place in the pews. GREAT UNCLE is carrying a LARGE BUNDLE concealed in a cloth. RIC is reading from the SCRIPT. It is old and yellow and spiral-bound. TARO is standing up at the rostrum. He is reading from his own yellow SCRIPT. He is dressed as a PRIEST. Next the rostrum are many small HOUSES and BUILDINGS.
RIC: Okay, so we're clear on what we're doing. This SCRIPT is pretty complicated.
UNCLE: Don't worry, it's going to be a piece of cake. People ruin their weddings all the time.
TARO: Dearly beloved, we are here, in 1942, a time when every day you feared that love would be taken away from you. It makes you appreciate love all the more. We are here to see the union of a simple farm girl and a rough man of the streets.
ACTOR1: Their love can never work!
ACTOR2: They are too different.
TARO: Quiet, here she comes now.
MUSIC plays. SELINA comes walking down the aisle.
TARO: Are you ready, my daughter?
SELINA: Father -
ACTOR: Here comes the groom!
UNCOMPROMISING HIPHOP plays. MONOPOLY appears in the audience. He is wearing GIANT PLASTIC FISTS. He makes his way through the audience, dancing and shaking his FISTS.
MONOPOLY arrives on the stage. He takes the MIC.
MONOPOLY: I'm getting married, people!
MONOPOLY: But before I do, I want to tell all of yous that I'm going out fighting tomorrow. I'm going off to the war!
The CROWD cheers.
MONOPOLY: And here's what I'm gonna do when I go!
MONOPOLY runs over to the little HOUSES and BUILDINGS and smashes them with his GIANT PLASTIC FISTS. While he does this, he RAPS.
MONOPOLY: When we was younger, we would pick up the hustle,
Now we're older, daydreaming of military muscle
I'm all angered in by the blackness of my heart
It's ripping me apart, now death do your part
SOLDIERS storm the stage, but MONOPOLY smashes them all with his FISTS.
MONOPOLY: If the war makes you sore, don't give me a call
Because that's what I'm made for, I'm twenty feet tall
And my wife she completes me, the cherry on the cake
You can't stop me, I'm beautiful, nothing is fake.
A LANDLORD ducks out of one of the houses just before MONOPOLY smashes it.
MONOPOLY: I'll defeat the desire to quit
In the midst of this idiot lost in the abyss
LANDLORD: You can't do this, this is my home. You can't smash it down, please!
TARO: It's okay, we'll develop it afterwards.
MONOPOLY: You'll get the rich pickings
From all these fittings
I'm kicking down
LANDLORD: You don't understand, this is where I've put my life. Every emotion I've had is inside the walls now. I've turned my thoughts into things and time and I've spent years making them fit into the structure of the house. If you smash it, you'll expose all my lies. You'll have proven what a waste it all was.
MONOPOLY smashes the house.
LANDLORD: I told you! I told you!
The LANDLORD takes out a gun and shoots MONOPOLY in the stomach. MONOPOLY goes down, the LANDLORD escapes off stage.
MONOPOLY: Don't wanna fade, don't wanna go to sleep
Wanna keep living, wanna keep thinking deep.
The first TWO FRONT ROWS of ACTORS in the pews run forward and crowd around MONOPOLY.
ACTOR1: We've got a man down!
ACTOR2: Give him room!
ACTOR2: Get the medics!
SELINA: Let me help him!
The CROWD parts at SELINA'S call. TARO hands her a field medikit.
SELINA: Father, is he really hurt?
TARO: He is, now go and help him. Only your love can save him.
SELINA goes over to MONOPOLY, she crouches down and tears the clothes around his waist. He puts her hands down on his stomach to stem the bleeding. She signals to one of the ACTORS and hands him the medikit.
TARO: We gather here to unite these two people in marriage. Today they publicly
declare their private devotion to each other. The essence of this
commitment is the acceptance of each other in entirety, as lover,
companion, and friend.
SELINA: Keep his legs down. Can you get me the bandage and the tape out of this?
A load of DOVES are released from the smashed HOUSES.
TARO: Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now you will feel no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you.
SELINA applies the bandage to MONOPOLY'S gut and tears off a strip of tape with her teeth. She checks his breathing.
SELINA: He's not breathing. Give me room!
SELINA crawls over and starts performing CPR on MONOPOLY. She pounds his chest.
TARO: Go now in peace and live in love, sharing the most precious gifts you have-- the gifts of your lives. And may your days be long on this earth.
SELINA goes over to breathe into his mouth and give the KISS OF LIFE.
TARO: I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss.
Just before SELINA gets to MONOPOLY'S lips, MONOPOLY'S body slides away. We cut and see that RIC has pulled MONOPOLY by the feet away from SELINA.
RIC: If you kiss him then you'll be married!
RIC: That's how it works!
MONOPOLY sits up.
MONOPOLY: Hey man, you're messing up my big day, here in my heyday, gonna kiss me a lady!
MONOPOLY pulls a gun and shoots RIC in the stomach. RIC falls to the ground.
SAD MUSIC starts to play. Nobody moves.
SELINA runs over to RIC and starts the healing procedure on him. GREAT UNCLE stands up and pulls the cloth away from his LARGE BUNDLE. What was bundled up was his latest statue – a TOMMY GUN.
UNCLE: Nobody move or I'll ice the lot of you, see! The first thing they teach you at NASA is how to wipe out civilians. SELINA, help our boy out. The rest of you punks, get on the ground.
The CROWD and TARO does as he says. SELINA CPRs RIC. She kisses life into him. As she does that, TARO rises, his hands in the air.
TARO: I now pronounce you man and wife!
UNCLE: Gee RIC, looks like you just got married!
SCENE 7 – RIC'S car INT. NIGHT
RIC and GREAT UNCLE are driving in the car. SELINA is in the back seat, in her wedding dress. Everyone looks tired.
UNCLE: You sure you're all right to drive?
RIC: Yeah, I think so.
UNCLE: Good enough for me!
GREAT UNCLE brings his TOMMY GUN out from underneath the dashboard and looks at it. He is proud of it.
UNCLE: Well, looks like my statue did some use for once. Not a bad one either. I'll have to remake it when I get home. Don't think the WIFE would like anything so violent around.
RIC: SELINA, can I get you anything?
RIC: Do you want some water?
RIC: Should I play some music?
RIC: Thanks for saving me.
SELINA: It's okay.
RIC: Do you want something to read?
SELINA: No, it's okay.
RIC: Well what do you want?
SELINA: I want to go home.
SCENE 8 – RIC'S house. INT DAY
RIC and GREAT UNCLE and SELINA get in through the front door. The whole house looks different now. It is dusty and untidy. There are pictures of BURZUM up everywhere and there is a load of KID'S STUFF to be seen.
UNCLE: What happened here?
RIC: Okay, SELINA, we're going to have to explain to my wife why you have to ` stay here for a little while. She'll be fine, she'll understand.
CAROLYN(o/s, angry): RIIICC!
RIC: Ah! Hide!
RIC and GREAT UNCLE open up the CUPBOARD in the front room and hide SELINA inside of it. CAROLYN comes running down the stairs. She looks old and mean.
CAROLYN: You're back!
RIC: Hi honey, I'm back.
CAROLYN: I can't believe they didn't tell me!
RIC: Who didn't?
CAROLYN starts to cry. She really wails.
CAROLYN: The kids!
RIC & UNCLE: Kids?!
Two KIDS come down the stairs too.
CAROLYN: Yes! BURZUM'S kids!
KID1: When's BURZUM coming back, ma?
KID2: I want him to come back.
CAROLYN: BURZUM'S never coming back!
CAROLYN hugs the kids and cries.
UNCLE: Uh hey listen, it's time for me to leave.
RIC: Yeah, sure.
UNCLE: Yeah, see you later.
GREAT UNCLE makes these really big tiptoe steps to the front door and leaves very quickly.
RIC is left ALONE with CAROLYN and the KIDS. She arranges them on the COUCH and they all sit on it together.
CAROLYN: We're going to be a family now. We don't need BURZUM and I don't need to work for anyone.
KID1: We don't need BURZUM either, Ma.
CAROLYN: We don't need to work for anyone. We can work for ourselves.
KID2: That's right, Ma.
CAROLYN: Go upstairs and put on your best clothes, KIDS. We've got so much to do.
The KIDS run upstairs. RIC is left on the COUCH. He sits on one side, CAROLYN sits on the other. They sit there in silence for a while.
RIC kind of moves his head a bit.
CAROLYN: What are you doing?
RIC: Oh, nothing. Nothing.
Another silence. RIC sort of sighs.
CAROLYN: What was that sigh?
RIC: Nothing, I was just breathing.
CAROLYN: You breath differently now.
RIC: They shot me!
CAROLYN: You think I don't know you? I know you. I know you better than you know yourself.
CAROLYN: I know that you're better than the GREAT UNCLE. You went up there and he didn't. Do you know how much of a difference that makes?
CAROLYN: Now that he's gone we can take his house and turn it into a restaurant.
RIC: A restaurant?
CAROLYN: Like we always talked about.
RIC: I don't think I'd be comfortable with people being in here all the time.
CAROLYN: Don't be such an old fusser!
RIC: I'm just not so sure about it.
CAROLYN: It's not a trap. You won't change.
RIC stands up.
RIC: I'm going to go outside for a smoke.
CAROLYN: You can't. I've got your cigarette.
RIC does a 'darn!' signal with his hands. He walks out anyway. The camera looks at the CUPBOARD, where SELINA is still hiding.
She leads him out the door.
SCENE 9 – EXT. DAY
RIC leaves his house and the first thing he sees is that the GREAT UNCLE'S house is gone. It's all been knocked down. It looks like it was done a long time ago, all that's left is the ruins. RIC is alarmed, he jogs out into the garden, opens the fence that divides their properties and looks through the ruins.
Standing there in the ruins, unharmed and looking bright and shiny as new is GREAT UNCLE'S STATUE. He's changed it again. This time it's a shark. RIC walks around the STATUE and touches it. When he does this, a voice happens behind him.
VOICE (o/s): EVERYTHING
RIC turns and sees GREAT UNCLE'S WIFE'S old NASA CONSOLE that she used to solve problems. It stands out amongst the rubble. A little strip of paper is coming out of its printer.
RIC runs up to the CONSOLE.
RIC reaches the CONSOLE he moves his arm to grab the bit of paper coming out of it.
RIC reads the paper. We cut to his POV. The paper says: YOU WILL CHANGE. IT IS A TRAP.
RIC looks down. He doesn't know what the CONSOLE meant. He sees the picture of the GREAT UNCLE'S WIFE'S YOUNGER SELF playing tennis. He touches the photo like he tried to touch the MOON earlier.
As soon as his fingers touch the frame, CAROLYN'S voice cries out.
CAROLYN (o/s): RIIIIIIIICCCC! Who is this woman?!
RIC turns to look at CAROLYN. From his POV we see her running ever so slowly out of the HOUSE. She is furious and crying and screaming. Her EMOTIONS are coming off her like smoke from a housefire.
CAROLYN: Why did you marry her, RIC? She's a child, some little slut!
RIC looks back around to the CONSOLE. He sees DAVID sitting down in the garden – we didn't see him before.
We zoom in on DAVID. He is smoking his cigarette and drinking his coffee. He looks relaxed. He starts to narrate the ending, but instead of him just being a voice, we see him doing it right there in the chair.
DAVID: I guess life doesn't always work out the way we planned, but sometimes that's okay.
RIC'S eyes are wide. He runs for DAVID. CAROLYN is running so very slowly towards RIC in the background. DAVID carries on. He doesn't react to them.
DAVID: Life can lead you to all sorts of strange places, and some of them aren't all that bad.
RIC picks DAVID up in his chair and shakes him about. DAVID doesn't react. He keeps on talking.
DAVID: You might find that the person you married might be different, but the new person they've become is worth knowing too.
RIC smashes DAVID against the fence and against a bit of half-broken WALL. He smashes him against the CONSOLE. It has no effect.
RIC: It's not over!
Cut to CAROLYN, approaching.
CAROLYN: I want her out of this house. Typical male! Nasty little worm with your slut!
RIC throws DAVID away off screen and drops to his knees by the CONSOLE.
DAVID: If we love someone enough to let them in the first time, maybe we owe it to them to change with them. Like my UNCLE'S statue. Maybe -
RIC screams and clutches at the CONSOLE. He pleads with it.
RIC: Send me back! Send me back up there!
Cut to CAROLYN, nearly on him, screaming incoherently. Just noise.
RIC: Please! Please! Please! Please!
Cut to an overhead shot of RIC. Something falls down upon him, something square and hollow...
RIC throws his HANDS up to protect his face.
There is a CRASH.
RIC looks up. He takes his hands away. It is quiet now. Incredibly quiet. He looks around and sees that what fell on him is a SPACE SET. A hollow cube with sheets attached. The sheets have star sequins stuck onto them. Beneath him is the MOON, made out of blankets and bed pillows. The CONSOLE sits in the corner. It is so peaceful. RIC cries quietly with JOY.
RIC falls to the MOON-floor and cries a silent cry of pleasure. The EARTH is a papier-mache ball up in the sky. Ping-pong balls on wires pretend to be comets. He laughs, but no sound is made.
CAROLYN (o/s): RIC! Can you hear me down there?
RIC opens his eyes and sits up. His tears are back. He looks around in PANIC for somewhere to hide. He still makes no sound, but we hear CAROLYN'S footsteps and ------LAUGHTER------.
CAROLYN (o/s): RIC!
The footsteps and ------LAUGHTER------ gets closer and louder. RIC grabs a papier-mache meteor and tries to hide behind it but he is too big. He scrambles and PANICS and the sounds get so loud and then...
SELINA pulls aside one of the space curtains and enters RIC'S cube.
RIC is astonished. SELINA walks right up to him. She has something on a plate.
SELINA: Mr. RIC, sir. I brought you your ROLL-UP.
RIC takes the ROLL-UP from SELINA. Cut to SELINA smiling.
SELINA sits down in the corner, near the CONSOLE. RIC lights up his ROLL-UP.
RIC takes a big breath.
She'll never say 'thank you,' but we'll know that she meant it inside.
Saturday, May 2nd 2009
Today I got Sarah to come round. It was hard to do and she only stayed for twenty minutes or so but we got to making plans.
“Sharky, I can't come round today, I'm meeting Nikki and we're going to see a movie.”
“I'll drive you.” I said. I meant it.
“No, it's okay, Nikki's driving us,” she said. I waited for a lot of seconds after that. It was uncomfortable.
“Everybody's moved out. They're all gone and nothing that I did in my house matters any more.”
“Can't you come round before your movie?”
She came up with Nikki. They were in their 'going out' clothes and I could smell them from all the way down the stairs. They looked so beautiful. They looked like they were simultaneously younger and older. Nikki actually looked better than Sarah this time – it's like she only makes the effort when she really means it. They came in and sat down. They refused tea.
“The movie starts in twenty minutes,” said Sarah.
“How're you doing?” said Nikki.
“I've got a lot on my mind,” I said.
“I know hey,” said Sarah, warming up. “I've been having all these problems getting my visa. I think I'm going to have to just start bribing people,”
“That's how it works, unfortunately,” said Nikki.
“And my parents are being weird about letting me go, they're changing their minds all the time,” she said. I nodded. “I'm going to go no matter what though. I can't be around them forever, it's damaging.”
“There's a girl I know who's stuck on a farm. Her father won't let her leave,” I said.
“A girl? What girl do you know?” smiled Sarah.
“She's not so much a girl,” I admitted, “She's about forty. But she dreams like a girl. She dreams of getting off the farm. She dreams of not marrying the guy her father wants her to marry.”
“Oh, the one who's father forces her to get married as part of a play he wrote. That's a weird one hey, I loved that one,” said Sarah.
“Yes, but I know the girl,” I said.
“You do? Is she based on a real person?” asked Sarah. She leaned in close so that she could hear the truth sooner.
“She's the grocery kid's daughter,” I said. “She's a lot like you. He even said so.”
“Are you serious,” said Nikki, “Did he really write a play about his daughter getting married to someone?”
“He wrote it as a prediction,” I said. “It's going to happen soon. After I move out of this place.”
“When's that, Sharky?” said Sarah mildly.
“Next month. That's when I'm hitting the road. That's when I'm going to find her. She's got all the answers.”
“Where is she?” she asked. I couldn't answer that yet.
“You're going to have to come with me. You two are linked. You're the only one who can find her.” I said.
“Can I come too?” asked Nikki. We were all smiling.
“You can ride in the front,” I said. “I'll drive.” I said it in a cool-dude way and we all laughed at the way I said it. Then Sarah sat up straight and didn't look at me.
“Now Sharky, I know how you get carried away with these jokes you make and your stories, so I just want to make it clear, all right - ” she started, then she licked her lips and looked at me. “We're not actually going to come out on a trip with you in your car to find the grocery kid's daughter. We're just joking.”
“I know that.” I said it straight.
“That's good, because sometimes you get carried away, I'm just saying.”
“I was just joking,” I said. “Come on.”
“No, it's okay. Just checking.” She looked at Nikki then she looked at her cell phone. “We've got to go, our movie's about to start. I looked at the time. She didn't have to leave right then but she did anyway. She said 'goodbye' quite nicely though so I guess she didn't mean it all in a bad way. They probably left early because they aren't very good at driving and keep getting stuck in places and so need a few extra minutes to get everywhere. That would add up to a lot of extra minutes over a whole lifetime.
When we rescued the grocery kid's daughter, she just got in the car and told us to drive. It's not like we were doing her any real big favours by breaking up the play and stopping the marriage. That could have been her only chance to get married. Everybody's running out of chances. We drove for fifteen minutes, heading nowhere in particular, waiting for the chase to start when she reached over to the radio and turned on the music. Sarah's mix-tape played. She liked it instantly and the two of them got talking.
“They've got so much in common!” said Nikki in the front seat, amazed. Sarah and the grocery kid's daughter were too engaged in their conversation even to hear her say that. But I heard. I looked over to Nikki then looked away.
“They're not the only ones,” I said.
Friday, May 1st 2009
I've tried going back to all the things I used to do on the internet before I met @groombridge but they're just not worth it anymore.
I tried reading the personal blog of a girl who is sick of trying to lose weight and thinks it's time that the world accepted her for who she is. I didn't like the way that blog made me feel. I couldn't get behind the girl and urge her on with my mind. It was like that with all the blogs I went on and all the discussions about music I saw on IRC. I just couldn't get that feeling of community to appear in my mind. I don't know if the problem was with me or my mind or the kind of people who are on the internet now. I tried to regress further, to use the internet the way I did before I'd met Mow, but that's a funny idea because there was no internet before I met Moe.
It was a really frustrating time so I deceded that I needed to take a break and meditate. I went in to the kitchen, broke out the new cloths and sponges and cleaned the whole room, all by myself. I got really into it and I cleaned the taps and the windowsill and all the things you don't think need cleaning but they do. I even cleaned the top edges of the tiles, because you think that they're flat but they've got sides and top and dust can collect there. I thought about all kinds of stuff while I was cleaning, but I kept coming back to what the landlord had said about the garden being paved over and that made me think of all the time and energy that the landlord had put into that little patch of garden now being redundant. I thought about the whole building being made redundant when the developers come – all those times it got cleaned and painted, every time the alarm got set and the windows closed, whenever he took care of the plants and swept the floor and fixed the bannister or took out the garbage – none of that is going to count for anything any more. He might as well have not done any of it. They're going to pave over everything and it won't mean a thing if the taps are clean or the grass kept nice.
I decided that I wouldn't clean out the back room today. Instead I called the landlord and asked him to come over for lunch. I had to ring him a few times before I heard running and doors from downstairs and he picked up his phone.
“Shark! What's wrong?”
“No, nothing's wrong.” I said.
“Oh, okay. Jesus, I thought something was wrong.”
“No, I was just asking you up for lunch.”
“Oh. Oh, Shark – ag, I'm sorry. I can't come for lunch today. I'm helping everybody move out. Today's the day everyone goes. I don't know if you've seen all the trucks outside, but today's the day.”
“Well do you think you could come up for lunch anyway? You don't do it much any more.” I said. But it was no use. He was busy and it was important. He was sorry, but I just had to stay in the place where nothing mattered.
I sat back down at my computer and I wrote a new e-mail to David. I didn't plan it or anything, I just felt like I had something to say. Here's the mail:
---- Hey man,
Just thought I'd drop a line to say hi. I cleaned my pad today but there's no one to around to see it. Where's the justice, hey?
Things are coming along pretty well with the TV company. I've hired a manager who can get things sorted. I think you'd be pleased with the person I chose. He's a musician but no more hints!
David, I just wanted to warn you that the world is a pretty brutal place. You can spend your whole life trying to accomplish something only for it to be wiped out and paved over before you can even finish it. The best thing you can hope for is that you won't be around to see it when everything you tried to get right gets wiped out. I'm not saying this to scare you, but the person or people who will be responsible for ruining you – they might not just be a group of guys who own more land than you. It could be anyone. You might have met them already. You might be friends with them right now;. It could be Sarah or anyone. It might be me. Some day, someone is going to hurt you so much that your life won't even matter any more.
I saw naked pictures of Sarah on Monopoly's phone. Monopoly says they rank a seven or eight. I can send them to you if you like. I have them right here. Just reply back and say you want them and they're yours.
The Ancient Shark Of Despair
For the rest of the day I watched the people who used to live here load up their things into their cars and then leave, one by one. There were a lot more of them than I had thought.
Locked up in prison.
Tuesday, April 28th 2009
So Mr. Hardly-There-Any-More came over today. The landlord. It's been over a week.
“Oh, I guess you've just been really busy with all the exact same stuff you do every day,” I said. I was being sarcastic.
“Sorry Shark, but I've been run off my bloody feet all week. All the tenants have left the move right till the last minute and now I have to run around and help them,” he said. I had my doubts about this.
“Don't they have another six months still?” I asked. The landlord looked at me harshly.
“They had six months to move out six months ago. All the leases end at the start of May. You and me have to be out of her on the first of June.”
“Yeah, I know,” I said. “You told me.”
“Yes, many times,” he said. “You haven't really gotten yourself very ready yet,” he let that hang in the air and after a while he began on a different part of the topic. “I helped that friend of yours, Bradley, and his mother move out all the way to Wynberg. Shame, his mother's quite ill. I've known her for a long time now, she's a good woman but she's not done a very nice job with that child.: He looked at me to check if it was okay to talk about Monopoly this way. I nodded to make him continue. “I heard on the radio the other day that in America you can go to prison for wearing your trousers too low. Did you know that?” I didn't know that. I don't listen to the same shows as he does. I don't have to because he tells me all about them anyway. “They'd send that Bradley to prison straight away. One look at him and – vuuu!” he pointed at the window.
“Monopoly would go to jail?” I checked. I had to check because it didn't seem very realistic. I was actually a little bit thrilled because the landlord is always so realistic and I would have liked to have caught him in an unrealistic mood where you could joke with him.
“Yes. In America, it's the law now,” he wasn't being unrealistic. Though I don't think that jail would stop Monopoly from wearing his jeans like that. He'd keep them low every day no matter how much it annoyed the wardens. He's uncompromising.
Man, just thinking about it, I know Monopoly would kill at jail. He'd know all the right things to say and would team up with the right teams and become the right people. He'd get into a hiphop jail group with his cellmate and some other guys and they'd form a tiny community where everyone wore their pants like that and they all help each other out with their problems. Really late in the night and the dark, when all the other prisoners are asleep, Monopoly's cellmate will tell him exactly how to get along with his ex-wife and what to do if she finds out he's dating again. In the laundromat, the whole gang will sit down when they should be working and will figure out a better way for the education system and the schools to work. They'll talk about which blender is the best kind for your kid. They'll help each other write better dating profiles and they'd all go out with girls from the internet who know what's going on because they don't get all of the information from talk radio.
“So, about the money you're going to let me have – can I have it all at once please?” I said while he was making lunch. This made him stop making lunch and come into my room and say:
“We talked about this. I don't think it's a good idea. You know how you are with money, it's – you're just not very careful.”
“I know but do you think I could have the money all at once, please?”
“I don't think it's a very good idea, Shark. I don't.”
“Yeah, but can I have it all at once please?” I smiled. He shook his head and didn't say anything till lunch came out. Then he talked about how Cape Town and the Western Cape should become its own country. After he was done talking about that he had to go do some garden stuff.
“I don't know why I bother now,” he sighed. “It's all going to get paved over in a few weeks. There's not even much of a garden to bother with.”
I think he's pretty close to giving me the money. When Monopoly gets out of jail we are going to make the best TV company in the world.
The grocery kid's kid.
Monday, April 27th 2009
When the grocery kid came round yesterday I asked him how his daughter was doing. He seemed surprised by this.
“Why the sudden interest?” he said, kind of sarcastically.
“I was reading one of your books,” I said, “I think it's my favourite one of your books – Die Boeremeisie Teater”
“I don't remember that one,” he said. He shook his head. He was uncomfortable. I went to go find the book so he'd know which one it was. I found it under my bedcovers. I handed it to him and he got a look at the cover. On it, a young bride was standing on the altar, getting married to this guy. She is looking over her shoulder and is looking over her shoulder at us. She is not happy. She wants us to help her. The bride and groom and the whole wedding is taking place on a stage. The audience is applauding. I showed him the cover but he just shook his head again.
“I've written so many of these things, honestly, and I never even look at them after they send them.” he said.
“It's about a father who wants his daughter to get married as part of a play for all his drama friends to see,” I explained. That didn't work either.
“Oh,” was all he said. He really wanted to go.
“They live on a farm and they have all these problems,”
“That happens all the time,” he said, looking anywhere but at me or the book.
“Your daughter's old now, isn't she?” I asked. He looked back at me.
“She's not that blumming old. She's nearly forty. She's a spring chicken next to you or me.” He was almost laughing.
“In the book, the wedding didn't work out because another guy found her message. Her marriage didn't work out either in real life, right? Did a better guy find her? A guy you didn't like?” I said. He turned to me and slowly took the book out of my hands.
“This book's not about her. I never wrote any of these about anything worth mentioning. I don't write 'about' anything any more. I'd prefer it if you didn't read them at all.” He handed the book back and I looked down at it. The picture seemed different. It wasn't 'about' anything now. It was just a bad drawing. It didn't contain any secrets.
He brought cloths and sponges and a new brush, just like I asked. I tried to thank him for it but he took it all the wrong way.
“You'll have a lot of cleaning to do yourself from now on,” he said. I quite like cleaning up, really. It's like meditation for your brain and shows progress.
“You could have fooled me,” he said.
A lot less to do.
Tuesday, April 21st 2009
The internet doesn't seem as fun without @groombridge around. I've stopped looking for things that he'd like so I can show them to him. I took away a lot of bookmarks for the sites he liked today. I don't think I'll go to them if he's not around to tell me when there's something good to see.
I mailed Sarah and told her most of what we covered in the meeting on Sunday. I didn't tell her anything about Monopoly's phone. While I waited for her to reply, I decided to tidy up my kitchen a bit, but all the sponges and cloths had a bad smell on them and I had to throw them away. I'll have to get the grocery kid to buy me some new ones so I can do the cleaning next week. Instead of that, I had a look through the back room to see if maybe I could pack or sort through something and when I went back there I realised that all the garbage from Sarah's week as the grocery kid was still there. I couldn't do anything about it today because Monday is the day for taking the garbage out and if I did it on a Tuesday I'd have to answer a lot of questions.
I got my statue of the landlord, which is a work-in-progress, out from behind the dishes and I tried to find a place to work on it. It's kind of brown now, but I can work with that. Thing is, the best place to work on it is the kitchen table and the kitchen table is full of mess. So that's another thing I can't do right now.
Then it was about time for the landlord to call me and leave a message. The message came and on it he said he wouldn't be visiting me today since he's helping a very old tenant move out. I wondered who it was and where they were moving to. If there was one place in the world that I'd like to move to, it would be the Abrahm's old house down the road, which is where Celene lived-in and worked, back in the day. I only saw it the one time, just after the Abrahms got kicked out and Celene came back to live with us. It was so big with these pillars outside on the stoep that held the balcony up and it was painted in all these colours you wouldn't expect to see on a house, like blue and pink and purple. I asked the landlord's mother if we could paint her house up like that but she said it was gross and we would never do anything like that. Then I joked, well what about my house next door? She didn't like that. She hated it when I pointed out that the house next door was mine, even though technically they were both mine but we didn't talk about that either. The whole thing became a non-issue quite soon after that, though, when she teamed up with the grocery kid and turned both houses into the apartments. I didn't want to paint the apartments. They all looked ugly and small.
I thought that maybe this very old tenant who moved out today was moving into the Abrahm's old house. Maybe I could live there too and Sarah could look after the tenant. Maybe he wouldn't let me in and I've have to sneak inside and live secretly in the attic. I'd only be able to watch TV at certain hours or he'd hear me and send someone to catch me. I can't really wear headphones.
So Sarah mailed me back. She'd been at the Department Of Home Affairs all day trying to get visa forms. She said that it hurt her. She was tired and stressed and she was sorry she didn't come on Sunday but she wasn't feeling very well. She said it is getting difficult to leave the country now and there it a lot more for her to do.
When I did that sort of thing, going from one country to the next was really simple. You just had to tip everyone and you got where you wanted to go.
Sunday, April 19th 2009
We had a TV company meeting today in my kitchen. Monopoly was there. Sarah said she'd come with her friend who is into photography, but she didn't. I guess she must have forgot.
The meeting went pretty well. We got a lot of stuff sorted out. Monopoly said he'd been talking to some guys he knew who were also street and he said he could make it all happen. He knew a guy who made hiphop music review videos that he put up on the internet. He can be the director. Apparently, this guy is pretty popular as a music reviewer. He gets a lot of people talking. It will be good to get someone with a built-in audience. Monopoly said he knew a lot of sound guys who could do mixing and he would do all the music himself. It would be hiphop and it would be uncompromising. But there was one thing:
“When's the money coming?” he said.
“Don't worry,” I said. “It's coming.”
“I'm not doing anything until I've got the cash in my hand. My time is precious, do you understand?”
“Yes, I will get the money.” I said. I understood him. He didn't have to ask if I did.
I got down to telling him what the sitcom we'll make is all about. I told him it is about families and how sad parents get.
“The main character is an astronaut called Ric,” I explained.
“An astronaut?” he snorted. “That shit's all fake. You don't believe in that stuff, do you?”
“I do,” I said, off-guard.
“You've got no idea what's going on in the world,” he said. He didn't seem upset and I wasn't too sure what he wanted me to say to that, so I told him some more about the characters in the sitcom.
“His wife's name is Carolyn and she's kind of magical. He had to leave her to go to space and she got into a relationship while he was gone with her psychiatrist, Burzum.”
“Burzum?” he said and he snarled up his face when he did it. “The singer?”
“In this he's a psychiatrist,” I said.
“He's a skinny-ass pussy, that's all he is. I could take him in a fight, one time. If he was here right now I'd stomp his ass. Understand?”
“I understand,” I said.
“So when are we going to make this happen, when's the money coming?” he said.
“I just need to talk to the landlord about that,” I said.
“I just need the money,” he said back very quickly. I stayed quiet for a while and he claimed a victory.
“How come that Sarah chick's not here anyway? You said she'd be here.” he said.
“I thought she would be.”
“Did you call her?”
“I've already called her,” I said.
“When? Call her again.” I didn't want to be rude and call Sarah a lot of times in case she was doing something important but Monopoly made it seem like it wouldn't be rude and it wouldn't matter if I disturbed her.
“That chick's so fine man,” he said while the phone was ringing. “And she's such a skank, too. She'd go with anyone. And listen, when she was going out with my cousin I took a video of them doing it on my phone. He was giving it her doggy, it was like - ” he grabbed his chest in both hands, closed his eyes and shook up and down. Then he opened his eyes, picked up his phone and said, “Do you want to see it?”
The call to Sarah went to voicemail. I hung up the phone but made no sudden moves. Monopoly grinned. “Yeah you want to see it. Let me show you...” he pressed some buttons on his phone but then he suddenly got very angry and crammed it back into his pocket. “Ah shit, it's on my other phone!” I slowly put my own phone down. Sarah wasn't coming. My mouth was dry. “It's cool though,” said Monopoly, “I know you wanted to see it. I'll bring it next time. Just make sure you bring the money.”
After he'd gone, I e-mailed David again. I said how great it was when he lived next door and we hung out, before he moved out. I told him that everyone was moving out now. I said that I hardly play TV games any more. Not even Monopoly wanted to play TV games today. He said that my games were all old and lame-looking. I told David that if he ever wanted to come to my chatroom and talk to me for a bit, I'd give him ops. He can kick and ban anyone he wants. I think everything will change when that happens. It would start like this:
@david: Hey Shark, sorry it's been so long. I've just had some crazy family stuff going on, you know?
Burzumfan9999: It's okay David.
Burzumfan9999: I know how it is with families.
Friday, April 17th 2009
I don't think that I'm friends with @groombridge anymore.
We drifted apart. Yeah, it happens. It's been coming for a while now actually. I saw all the signs. It's cool, he can do what he wants. He changed his profile on the dating site back to the way it was before I wrote all that stuff about astronauts for him. It's boring now, but whatever.
He also made it so I can't see Sarah's profile on the site. He must have given me a virus.
It's a pity, really. He needed me way more than I need him. I was giving him advice and help. Last week he said he was afraid of what his ex-wife would do if she found out he was on a dating site and what she'd say when he met someone through it. He didn't tell me what he thought she'd say, exactly, but I bet it would have been really sarcastic. I told him not to worry. When the time came, I would fix it all for him. If there's one thing I know, it's ex-wives. I know a lot about kids and being a parent too. I know how it is. I think I had a pretty good handle on solving the problems he had with the school too. I've some some really good ideas for how schools should be run.
So it's pretty weird not having @groombridge around on the internet. Whenever I see something weird or interesting go down on IRC, I usually mail him a transcript and then we talk about it, especially if it involved someone who's on our 'watch' list. Yesterday, in a chatroom, I saw a guy have a fight with another guy, only this fight crossed borders of reality. First, the cooler guy we watch called the bad guy we watch a paedo. This part actually happened a few days before. He called him that because he was always defending his choices of bad music he liked and was really friendly with all the admins on this one forum. Anyway, what happened yesterday was that the bad guy found out that the cool guy had called him a kid and had found out the cool guy's home phone number from a link in his profile and had called the cool guy's wife. The wife wouldn't let the bad guy talk to the cool guy and the bad guy got really aggressive and called the cops. The chat I saw yesterday was the bad guy taunting the cool guy because the cops didn't do anything and actually made the cool guy apologise for making a big deal out of everything. They were both explaining their sides of the story to everyone else in the chat while trying to correct each other's story and call each other names. At one point the cool guy pointed out that the bad guy could only use sentence fragments, which is incorrect and the bad guy said that he only needed fragments to prove that he was a douche. People took sides. It was life.
I don't think @groombridge saw any of it because he would have been asleep when it happened. I guess that's another thing he's missed out on now.
The odds against love.
Sunday, April 12th 2009
So a few days ago a strange thing happened. @groombridge got a message on his dating site. That's not the strange part. The strange part is that the message was from Sarah. He told me about it and I acted cool. He said that she looked so young and pretty in her photos. She was making tea in her photos. I warned him that she wasn't into older guys. Then I told him that he could get around that. He said he'd send the e-mails to me but I had to do was one thing. I had to trust him.
Burzumfan9999: I trust you.
So Sarah got talking to @groombridge and he told her all about how the school that his kids go / went to was a bad school, and that all the schools in his country were bad schools unless you had a lot of money to send your kids to the good ones. Even the good ones are bad because then what matters most is who your parents are and what kind of car you come to school in. Anyway, the schools that he can afford don't work. They don't respect his kids' individual strengths and weaknesses and all they care about is targets and budgets.
That's great, says, Sarah back to him, but she's got problems too. Her dad won't let her leave the farm. He doesn't want her to love by her own rules, he wants her to marry the pizza punk who delivered to them this one time. He's already written their wedding as a play and he wants them to perform it to a whole room of his old drama buddies who he hasn't seen for years and years. This is his big chance to show them all that he was worth it the whole time and he wants it all to be perfect. Her dad is kind of a jerk. As soon as she gets the chance, she's going to leave home and never really talk to him again. She'll only see him at funerals or sometimes at christmas. That's what you get for being a jerk.
Sarah tells him about her brother and sister. They're suffering under the grocery kid's bad parenting skills too, but in different ways. Her brother is an alcoholic, straight up. He never sleeps in his own bed. At night he's either passed out on the couch or, if he's upset Sarah's sister, sitting on the front doorstep with an empty bottle of wine. Sarah usually goes outside and takes him a blanket. In the past she would try to get him to come inside but he didn't want to. He was too proud. He'd been told to go out, he'd say. He was just doing what he'd been told.
Sarah's sister is the brawn of the family. She's the one who supports everyone and works and keeps things running. If it wasn't for her, the crops wouldn't get watered and the trucks wouldn't arrive at the right time and the farm-boys wouldn't get paid. She is always tired and always being bossy but she knows what's best and what everyone should eat for dinner. She used to cook dinner herself but now she doesn't have the time. It's all oven meals in plastic trays. It's okay though because she buys the fancy ones with the vegetable chunks in. She says that Sarah should cook once in a while, you know? But it's not like those things are hard to cook and Sarah says she's busy with guys a lot of the time. She's not afraid to say this to @groombridge. Guys are a part of life.
Sarah's father is too old to do anything useful on the farm any more. His back hurts too much. All he does is fetch the groceries from the shop once a week. He treats this like it's a really big deal and he uses it to show how much the family needs him, but they all know that Sarah could do the whole job just as easily or that they could order food off the internet if they wanted. He's aware of all the problems in his family, though. In fact, he doesn't think of much else. He's always calculating how much inheritance each of them will get when he dies. He's always changing the ratios around in his mind. A lot of the time, Sarah's sister will get most, if not all of it, because she's always cooking dinner and looking like she's in charge, but from time to time he'll look favourably on Sarah. If she goes through with this wedding to Francois and makes him look good in front of all of his old drama buddies, he's going to give half of everything to her. That's the farm, the house, all of it. It's a big farm. They grow important things there and it makes a lot of money thanks to Sarah's sister. The brother won't get anything, of course. He's not very good with money. If he got it he wouldn't know what to do with it. He'd probably try to give it back. That would be funny, seeing him do that.
The grocery kid has even told Sarah about his plan to give her the inheritance but Sarah doesn't care. She's not going to marry Francois. They're not even going out. They just went on this camping trip and things went from there. Love is the most important thing to Sarah but nobody has told Francois the right way to love her. Until that happens, he'll just be another guy, another pizza punk, all adrift in the world, eating popcorn off the stove and living a life of shallow necessity. She knows enough about @groombridge from his dating site profile to know that he's not like that. He's into deep stuff, like cars and Leonard Cohen. His life is the exact opposite of someone who takes a blanket out to the porch to cover up their drunk brother. He's been a parent and he's been rejected by everything that ever made him attractive. He feels sometimes like his job his done, he got some new people made and he got them to a certain age – maybe that's all there is to life. She can show him how wrong that thought is.
She said all this to @groombridge and he asked me what he should do. He was kind of suspicious of everything. This wasn't how things had gone down with his ex-wife when they had met. So I told him all of the thing I would have said to Francois the other night if he had showed up. I told him to tell her that she was special, so much more than a simple farm girl. I told him to warn her that the city is strange and very noisy and there isn't much space, but if she was with him, she would never have to work so hard to please her jerk father. Every day would be her day that she controlled and she'd be able to wear fancy clothes and everything. I felt a little weird about losing Sarah to him, but I knew that we could all still be friends and hang out. I thought of what Nikki would say when she found out about Sarah and @groombridge.
“How could they possibly have met and hooked up and fallen in love?” she'd ask me. “The chances against it were so astronomically high!”
“How do any two people end up in love? Aren't the chances always as small as nothing?” I'd say back. “You just have to believe that love can beat the odds.” I'd know that it was really me who made it all happen and I'd wink then she'd know and she'd smile and then... who knows?
@groombridge asked me why I was always online at the exact same time as Sarah was on the dating site.
Burzumfan9999: It must be a coincidence.
The right way to love.
Saturday, April 11th 2009
I wanted Francois to be the one to come and bring the pizza on Friday night. Normally, if you want this to happen, you tell the pizza girls who you want when you're on the phone and ordering your pizza. I was just about to do this when I realised that Francois would find out that I was expecting him and he might do something tricky. To talk to him properly, I'd have to catch him by surprise. The bad thing was that I only realised this while I was already talking to the pizza girls. It was like this:
“Will there be anything else, sir? Would you like anything to drink with that?” said the pizza girl.
“I'd like to request that a certain boy bring the pizzas to me,” This is me talking.
“Certainly, we can arrange that if he's on tonight. The pizza might come a bit later though,”
“That's fine, I'm fine with that. I always burn my mouth if the pizza is too hot anyway.”
“Who would you like, sir?” This is when I got stuck. I had wanted to surprise him but if I told the ladies that I wanted him in particular then he'd know that something was up. When you make a request for a certain boy, it gets printed on the slip. I've seen it. I suddenly didn't want to ask for him any more. I tried to think of another name, of some other pizza punk who'd visited me. They all had names but only one came to mind.
“I want Moe. Send Moe please,” I said. There was some talking that I couldn't quite hear on the other side of the line.
“Moe doesn't work here any more, sir. Is there anyone else you'd like.”
“No thank you, Moe's the best one you had.”
“Yes, we all miss him.” I could hear that she was smiling. I think she meant it.
If Francois had come and I'd caught him by surprise like I wanted, I imagine at first he'd been shy and maybe dangerous, but then I'd invite him in and ask him to play TV games. I have a pretty good idea of how good he'd be at them. He wouldn't be as good as Moe, because I don't think Francois is nearly as clever as Moe, but maybe he's better than Monopoly, who didn't have a good style for games. I'd play with him or, if he didn't want me in the way, I'd just watch. He's probably not used to people who can just watch another person play TV games like that. After a while I made him some tea and I brought out the biscuits I had. We started talking about music and Leonard Cohen and he liked that. I told him the meanings to some of the best Leonard Cohen songs. He didn't know that they meant that, he had his own interpretation of them that wasn't anywhere close. It's cool, you can keep that interpretation. It's your truth.
We sat and talked for ages about all kinds of things. I told him about Carolyn and about Sarah, how she's so aware of what's going on in the world. I don't think I was ever so aware, not even when I was her age. I don't even know half of the things she talks about, I've got to look them up or ask her or connect them up to something I've seen on TV. Sometimes it seems that she can go anywhere, that there are no secrets from her. If there's something she wants to know about, she'll just go right out there and find it. It's the way she talks to people – they want to automatically tell her their secrets. I told him about Sarah's parents. You have to be careful around her because her parents are really sad. Her father is this alcoholic who doesn't do anything all day. He's done, he's all out of dreams. Her mother works so much that she isn't even a person anymore. You have to know that Sarah still loves them even though they are holding her back and keeping her stuck in their bad ways. But then she's got these really great friends like Nikki, who smile and back her up and are always on her side but not at the expense of people who aren't her. They don't want to fight you. They want you to join them.
At any point during my telling of Sarah to him, I could look over into Francois' eyes and see that he was learning to love Sarah the way I did. I don't think his way of loving Sarah was right. I think it lead to problems. I think Francois knew this too.
“Listen bru,” he sad, “I've got to put it all right. I've got to love Sarah the right way,”
“You're young,” I said. “You can do it.” I think that was the point where Francois and me became friends. We drank some more tea and we played TV games – neither one of us was better than the other, we were exactly equal – we ate the pizza we ordered and then we ate the pizza he had in his car (it was free) and then we just jumped about and shouted until it was time for him to go. I asked him if he wanted to help me make a television company and he said he did. I don't know exactly what he'll do in the company. Maybe he can be the pizza guy, like he's always been. We'll need a lot of pizza when the company is up and running.
Just as he was leaving, a bird walked down the corridor towards him. He told me to come out and look. I did. The bird walked right past him, around the corner. He was amazed but I knew what was happening.
“Some birds,” I said to him as he looked around at me to share in the crazy thing that had just happened, “Have been living in buildings for so long that they don't fly anywhere, they just walk around like they own the place.” He didn't believe me but I smiled it away. “Scientists have observed that they only appear when you're doing everything right.”
He looked down the hallway. It was empty now. Before him lay the whole world.
“You're on the right path, chugger. Keep going.” And then he ran out to the world, to Sarah, to everything.
That's how it would have gone. Instead they just sent some random guy. He didn't want to talk about Sarah or anything else, he took the money from the plant and went.
Tuesday, April 7th 2009
Sarah had e-mailed him and knocked on his door and now he was here. Sarah had told him to come here. He sat on my bed and looked at me in this way that told me he was aggressive about being here, but he was here anyway and it was my problem. My heart was going crazy but I knew I wasn't sweating. He can't see my heart, so it's okay. He looked like he'd gotten fatter.
He was always a man of the street. He dressed like he lived outside – a vest and a bandanna for summer, who-knows-what for winter. It's his face that is the real giveaway. Monopoly is people. He's everyone he's ever met and he's not ashamed of that. Most people, when they meet someone new, they try really hard to not listen to the newcomer, to not absorb too much of them. They are afraid of losing themselves. Out there, on the street, you can't play that game. You've got to flow from person to person, being everyone. I could still see bits of myself in Monopoly's eyes, from back when we were friends. I could see Moe.
He was here because of his skills. Everyone has powers and Monopoly has been everyone.
“So what do you want? Sarah said you wanted to employ me or something,” he said. I checked his face but he didn't look like he was going to twist or jump or spit or do anything weird like that. You have to watch Monopoly.
“Yeah, basically,” I started. “Listen, Monopoly, tell me about all the things you've seen.”
“What things?” he said.
“All of them. Tell me about your experience.”
“What is this, are you hitting on me, you old moffie? I will waste you, you understand?” he rose and suddenly everything was different and dangerous. I felt the sweat prickle in a little bit and I put my fins up and shook my head. I didn't mean that!
“No no, sit down, I wasn't talking about that, okay?” he'd actually already sat down before I'd got a chance to tell him to. “What I meant was, you've seen some things, right?”
“Yeah,” he said, nodding. I went on.
“You've had thoughts,”
“And you meet people all the time,”
“I'm good with people, man.”
“I thought so,” I said. I looked around. I had chosen wisely. “Do you watch TV?”
“Do you want to make TV shows?”
“What do you mean?”
“Like, as a living?”
“Yeah,” he was smiling now. People can change so fast. “I could do that.”
“What if I said I was getting a million Rand soon and I need a producer for the TV company I'm going to set up?”
“Yeah man, where do I sign? I can do that. I know people. I can get stuff together.”
“That's what I thought,” I smiled. “I'll call you. Don't leave the country!” I joked. He wasn't really going to leave the country.
“Okay, cool man. Cool. Cool. What's the company called? I want to start telling people right away.” I stopped to think. I didn't have a name yet. I cycled my mind through a million possibilities and I settled on just one.
“COMMUNITY TV,” I said. “All in caps.”
“Okay, cool, I get it.”
“Because TV is like a community,” I said.
“Yeah, cool,” he agreed.
I showed him to the door (which was just behind him, but businessmen have to be polite) and he thanked me and we shook on it and then just before he went out the door he went all 'whoa' and lent back like he'd been punched in the chest and frowned and said,
“So aren't you going to give me my money?”
“I don't have it yet, I told you - ” I said.
“Not the mill, man – my money for this meeting. I didn't come here just to chat. I'm a busy guy, you know, I've got a lot going on.” I looked around. I didn't know this is how it was done. It makes sense though, because businessmen are busy guys too and they need rewards for turning up and going to meetings. There could be all sorts of meetings they aren't going to so they can go to yours.
“I don't have any money here,” I tried.
“Yes you do, man. You've got that big box of it. I want my finder's fee.” My head span and I couldn't see anything for a second. I put my mind around the room. All I had was R10 left over from a few pizza nights that I was saving and half a box of cigarettes.
I offered them to him.
“Thanks man. See you around,” and then he was no longer here.
Sarah is everything.
Thursday, April 2nd 2009
“All of the endings are so happy,” she said. She had three of the grocery kid's book spread out in front of her.
“I know.” I said.
“Even if the guy and the girl don't end with each other, they're still left off as better people from the experience.”
“I know!” I said. I did know.
“It's all so uncomplicated. It's not messy at all.”
“It's how love should be,” I said. “It's how love actually is, in the right situation.”
“Ja,” she said, but her eyes darted around the room. I could see that she needed to read more of the books.
I didn't offer her any just then, though. I wanted first to talk about love some more. I shuffled over to my computer and I made some special movements. A screen appeared and I moved out of the way so she could see it.
“Could you love this man?” I asked. She moved in close, her smell became huge and she inspected @groombridge's dating site profile.
“Did you write this?” she said.
“I helped.” I said.
“Who is he, Sharky?”
“He likes Leonard Cohen.”
“And cars, I see.”
“Would you want to go out with him?” I repeated. I didn't want to get hung up on the details with her. Sarah looked back at the screen. She looked at his photo. I'd told him to change it but he didn't. She saw his earring.
“Nno,” she said slowly.
“What if you lived in America or he lived here?” I asked.
“I don't like older guys, Sharky.”
“How old?” I wondered.
“I don't know, hey – twenty? Twenty five would definitely be my limit.”
“After that, people get so sad,” I said.
“I don't know - ”
“I've seen it happen. Their brains change into a shape it can't change out of. Everything they need to know is locked in and now they're stuck with it.” We weren't looking at the screen any more. I was looking at Sarah and Sarah was looking at me.
“Sharky, you're old and you're not like that,” she said.
“I know,” I said, breaking the look we shared forever. “It's different for sharks.” She crossed her legs and leaned forward. She was so close.
“Why don't you get out there? You could meet other sharks, hey. You could place an ad or go on a dating site yourself – you could join an art group, Sharky. They'd love you! I'm sure there are other sharks out there, you're bound to meet one if you look.”
“No, they're all gone,” I said.
“Come on, there must be one more.”
“Actually, one came to my door,” I said, doing a secret smile.
“His name was Francois. He played a trick on me.”
“Oh Sharky -”
“He said that you were going out.”
“Sharky! I didn't know he did that, you should have said right away.”
“We're not really going out. We went camping and thing just went on from there, you know?” I thought of Sarah touching Francois' hand so gently. They are camping. Carolyn's house is there in the distance. There's a thunderstorm in the sky and the rain is coming down upon their little tent. They might not survive this. Maybe god really means it this time. She know he can't hear her so she doesn't even bother to say the words, she just mouths them. Francois smiles. He smells of pizza grease and petrol. He touches her hair, it curls around his fingers with a life of its own. The air is suddenly silent and he says,
“Don't schnaai me, bru – okay?”
“It's fine,” I said to Sarah and I felt like the landlord. I wonder what the landlord would do if he met Francois. He'd probably freak all the way out. “It was a funny joke. We're cool now.” It was pretty funny, actually. A big part of what makes something funny is the surprise.
“I'm sorry he tricked you, honestly, we're not really even seeing each other any more,” she said, but I had moved on. I was rising above everything.
“Sarah, I need you to do something for me,” I said it quiet and I said it serious. Sarah's face hung there and I had to smile to show it was okay. “I need you to find Monopoly for me.”
“What, who – Bradley? What do you want to talk to him for?”
“I think he lives here in the building,” I said.
“I know where he lives – what do you want with him?” she said. She wasn't being aggressive, she just wanted to know the secret. I can't tell you the secrets yet, Sarah. You're still in training.
“There's something else I'd like you to do,” I said. I picked up the something else and handed it to her. It was one of the grocery kid's books. “Would you like to read another one?” She gave it back to me.
“No thanks, not right now.”
“Okay.” I trusted her. It was Sarah.
Empty rooms below me.
Tuesday, March 31st 2009
The power went off again today. This wasn't so great for a number of reasons. Firstly, I was right in the middle of talking to @groombridge about dating and what his interests are. We decided that he was interested in cars, the news, music, making jokes, watching musicians perform and - boof, the power goes out. He's going to have to make do with just those interests I said there until my timeline synches up with his timeline and we get talking again. It's okay though - I think we covered some good interests in the time we had.
The other thing that happened when that happened was that I noticed all of a sudden how different the room sounded. There are a lot more empty rooms in the building now and they all make different echoes than rooms that are full of stuff and old people. I sat there listening to all the sound bouncing around those empty rooms, bouncing in the dark where the sound carries better, and pretty soon I had a headache. I fell onto my bed, got under the covers and put the pillows over my ears and the headache faded, but it meant that I had to stay in bed and kick my tail around a lot to fill out the empty noise that was coming in from all around. This got really tiring so I tried going to sleep but I couldn't even do that! I'd slept late in the morning.
So I lay there with the threat of a headache all around me, under the covers, just thinking. It wasn't long before I started thinking about David. Yeah, there's a lot to think about when it comes to David.
He was so close to breaking through. He was practically a shark himself before Carolyn got to him. We should have been watching him, looking out for him, but while me and Moe were mixing it up at the fair, and Leonard Cohen was playing to the crowd, she had David trapped in the attic of that little house of hers, the house that was full of her and her emotions. I'd heard the machines whirring up there, going round and round, and I knew they were for malice but if I'd known for a second that they'd be used on David... that she'd turn his thoughts into weapons to fight me and Sarah, well I don't think I'd been able to control myself. I'd have exploded and leapt on her and ripped her lies up for everyone to see. All of our lives would have worked out differently. Maybe not even for the better?
There's a part of me that understands why Carolyn did it though - why she'd keep David away from us, all to herself and her selfish tears. There's so much potential in David. He's still young. You could tell him to be anything you want and he'd be able to work at it and do it because he's got so much time. It's dangerous to try and think like Carolyn - you'll make a mini version of her inside your brain and it will do to you what she did to her house. But I think we're equals, in a way. I work out people's sadness and she uses that sadness to get people on her side. That's what happened to David - he saw her tears and then he was gone.
All I'm saying is that I'm glad I got Sarah. When it comes down to me and Carolyn, Sarah will beat David at anything he can throw at her. Her training will be complete. She was always better than him.
A metaphor for who you are.
Monday, March 30th 2009
I carried the garbage out this morning and although I wanted to clear out the bin bags in the back room too, I didn't because I was getting tired from all the carrying. My body is used to only carrying the garbage I normally make in normal week so, now I've got a backlog, I've got to reconfigure my whole body so it doesn't get tired on me. I'm going to do this next week.
Things got exciting this weekend. @groombridge got a message on his dating site. He told a girl that he liked her and she thought that was okay. She wanted to know if he really was an astronaut. He wanted me to tell him what to say back.
Burzumfan9999: Just go with it
groombridge: wont she find out
Burzumfan9999: It's a metaphor. It's not something you can or can't find out. It's part of you
groombridge: ill tell her its a joke
Burzumfan9999: Its not a joke
Yesterday I decided to get the future started so I asked the landlord whether Monopoly was available.
"You know, Monopoly."
"Oh - Bradley."
"I'd like to talk to him, please."
"That's just not a very good idea."
"You don't know him. It's okay that he punched me. I've forgiven him for that."
"Come now, Shark. Don't be silly." But I wasn't being silly. That's just his word for things he doesn't understand, like the internet.
Here is a list I made of all things the landlord thinks are silly:
NASA (and space in general)
Funny mash-up videos
What is taught in schools today
I saw some more moving trucks and people talking to the landlord this weekend. I don't know what the big hurry is - they've still got six months before the developers move in. People always want to be the first.
I'm not worried
Friday, March 27nd 2009
@groombridge said a funny thing to me. He said that he hoped that me and my family were all right and that the fire didn't get our houses. He'd seen something about a fire in the newspaper, he said. I checked on the internet and I saw that, yes, there had been a fire. The whole mountain had burned. It had looked like it was coming to get us (the city.)
When the landlord came over I asked him about the fire. I asked him if he'd heard about it. He immediately took the defensive. You could tell that he'd had this conversation already with me in his mind, which put him at an advantage.
“Listen Shark, we didn't want to worry about it. We were safe the whole time. It's safe here in Mowbray. If I'd told you about the fire you'd only have worried.”
“I wouldn't have worried,” I said.
“Shark, you always worry about this sort of thing.”
“You're the one who worries, not me,” I said and it was true.
When he'd gone I started planning all the things I'd do if there was a fire that broke through to us here in Mowbray. I'd have to get to the stairs quickly, they are the only way out. People would see me but it wouldn't matter by then. It would be the end. Afterwards, they'll just say that it was smoke-blindness that made them see the shark on the stairs. People imagine all sorts of things when they're in trouble.
I'm going to make a box of things I can carry away in a big hurry. I'd take the landlord's mother's box and my PC (not the monitor – too heavy!) and a blanket in case I have to sleep rough. I'd get to my car, put the box in the backseat and I would keep on driving. I wouldn't go back. I'd go to Sarah's house and she'd get in the front seat.
“Where are we going?”
“We're going to find David.” I'll say.
“But he doesn't talk to you any more,” She'll say.
“I think something's wrong with him. I think we need to save him. I think the David we brought back with us from Carolyn's -”
“You mean?” she'll say and I'll look at her, totally serious.
“I don't think that was our David, Sarah.”
The city will burn behind us, but it's okay. I've got everything I need. Let's go, Sarah.
Enjoyment +++ tnemyojnE
Sunday, March 22nd 2009
Sarah didn't come over today. I called her up and she said that since I'd patched things up with the grocery kid, she probably shouldn't fetch my shopping for me. Also, she was on the beach. Maybe @groombridge was right about girls and beaches and imagination. I wanted to tell her that I wasn't sure that things had been patched up with the grocery kid, but I didn't. I wanted to ask her about Francois but I didn't. People don't like to talk on the phone when they're on the beach. It messes up their enjoyment.
I saw @groombridge's profile picture this morning. It is of his face. He took it himself by looking in the mirror with the camera. He is in his bathroom and he doesn't look happy. He's trying to look happy but he isn't. He doesn't look anything like I expected from his chats. I thought he'd be older, kind of dressed better. I thought he'd wear a black silk shirt with a big collar. I thought he'd have this look of sadness in his eye – not the bad kind of sadness, the kind where you're afraid of what might happen and who might fight you next, but the kind where you're aware of what's already happened and all those fights you've lost over the years, and you're kind of okay with it. He's got an earring. I think that maybe the photo has messed up my enjoyment of @groombridge as a concept.
I was starving by the time the grocery kid came round. I spent just about all of yesterday tearing through my food so that he wouldn't get suspicious if he saw the kitchen. I was afraid that if he saw there was a lot of food left he'd tell the landlord that I don't need as much food anymore as I usually do and then he'll buy less food next week to compensate and I can see a cycle happening where I'm hungry forever. Yeah, the stakes were high.
I did the job really well. The kitchen looked just like it did every Sunday – empty. The food was all gone (into me) and the garbage made by the food was also gone (into the back room). The grocery kid didn't really look around the kitchen very much when he came, but I felt so much better knowing there was no chance he could find me out and punish me for not eating enough.
“I'm sorry for the other day, I shouldn't have got so angry with you,” he said as he put the bags on the ground like it was no big deal. “But sometimes I just want to grab you and shake you, you know? The whole blumming world is full of people and they've all got their stories, enough to fill a million lifetimes if they just told the best ones, all these people and some of them right here and you don't take any notice. You don't see who they are or what they have to say or the effect you're having on them. You don't see! Can you see why that could make me angry with you?”
My mouth was dry. It needed food. There was so much of it there on the kitchen floor and I couldn't have any before he'd stopped. I opened and closed my mouth a few times but I couldn't think of anything to make it all go faster. Anything I could possibly say would probably make him go on and on. I wanted to stop him, take him aside and tell him that he was wrong, that there were all these real people out there on the internet, the people who are pregnant or sad or getting teased a lot or really into their truck. There are people who clean the hair out of subway tunnels and people who are one quarter Cherokee and people who work the fryer at a chain restaurant to save up for an engagement ring. They've all got stories too and they tell them every day. I'm one of those people. I'm real. I tell my story. But I couldn't tell him about us. He wouldn't understand. I don't think it would be the same world at all if the grocery kid went on the internet and looked through all the pages I've got bookmarked.
“I like the people in your books,” I said and I surprised myself when I said that. “I like their stories.” His shoulders kind of moved down when I said that and I realised that I hadn't seen the grocery kid relax in a very long time.
“I know,” he said. “I know.” My mouth filled with moisture. We were patching things up.
“Do you think you could put the groceries on the counter instead of on the floor when you come in?”
“My back's gotten worse,” he said.
“But what about me?” I asked, but I didn't say anything more. I know how it feels to have your enjoyment of something or a moment or a TV show messed up for you. I didn't want to do that to the grocery kid right then. He left and he didn't say anything to his dogs.
The return of the pizza punk.
Friday, March 20th 2009
I saw Francois' name on the pay slip when the pizza arrived and I guess I sort of panicked. I didn't go along with the plan I made. I plan was to just be quiet and not pick up the phone until morning. I couldn't eat any more. My stomach was so swollen and it hurt to move and I kept thinking that dry spaghetti was coming out of my bullet-hole. I was already a bit full when I ordered the pizza but I ate some beans while it was on its way. It was a bit late, actually. So I was going to just lie low and wait for the pizza punk to go away but when the pay slip came through the letterbox and I saw Francois' name on it, I panicked. I said his name.
“You there, Ancient, hey? There's no money here in the plant, bru. Where's the money why won't you answer?” I tried to think through all the food.
“I was in the shower,” I said.
“That's funny bru, a shark in the shower. That's classic. So where's the money, it's not in the plant, bru – I see you trying to schnaai me, hey?” I swallowed. I felt like I was three seconds away from throwing up.
“Listen, please, I don't feel like it.”
“You don't feel like what? Giving me any money? Is that how you feel, hey?”
“No, that's not - ” I struggled. “I don't feel like any pizza.”
“You ordered pizza bru – two Groovy Greeks, it says here – no Butleritos. You must be feeling like pizza because you called for pizza and they sent me all the way over here and here's your pizza, bru.”
“No, but - ”
“The pizza is here, bru, but the money's not here. Where's the money?”
“I'm sick,” I tried.
“Okay, Ancient, listen okay – I'm out of time, I've got to go. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to take the pizza back with me, go back to the shop and then I'll put your name on the list, the 'Do not deliver' list. Then you'll never have any pizza again, all the pizza places share the list, bru, no one will want to come here.” I turned and I rolled and I felt my stomach contract with my movements. I wanted to call the landlord but then a bigger voice than the one that told me to call him told me that this is exactly what the landlord would want – to find a situation that would give him an excuse to pretend to get angry so that he could stop me from getting pizza any more. I was stuck here with Francois and I started to think then that he would shoot me. He'd shoot me straight through the door and then I'd have another scar on my belly and the two scars would look like nipples, only they'd be way too low down on my body. People would tease me about my low-down nipples. I'd get all shy about them and I've have to wear an apron all the time to hide them.
“No,” I started, but he was quick.
“Kay, bru - ” there was force in his voice. He was about to do something. I really didn't want to get shot again. I didn't want to be in danger and I really didn't want any pizza that might make me sick. There was only one thing I could do to stop him, to stop him from putting me on the list, to stop him being forceful with his voice and to stop him from shooting me. I stood up, which wasn't easy, I opened my mouth and screwed it up into its most terrifying shape, unlocked the door, opened it, spread my arms wide, jumped with all my strength over the door frame and “RARRRR!!”
He laughed at me while I stood there. I was breathing very heavily. He put his hand on my back while he laughed, like I was in on the joke.
“Jaysis bru! Just chill! Chill out, hey, don't have a cadenza, all right? Don't stress yourself out.” He laughed for a while longer and I put down my arms and waited. “Ja bru,” he said before he'd quite stopped laughing. “I know all about your shark thing, hey, Sarah told me all about it.” I fiddled with my hands. I was still out of breath. I wanted to sit down.
“How do you know Sarah?” I asked, quietly. He slowly turned his laughter down and then off.
“She's my girl, hey. She's told me all about this place. Now come, bru, go fetch me that money, I know you've got lots of it, your pizza's getting cold.” I nodded then I went back into my room, walked over to the cupboard, got the money out of the box and walked back to the door. I wanted Moe to be there when I got there. I wanted Francois to be Moe's little brother and I wanted Moe to be there suddenly standing behind him and punishing him for being so mean to his friends. Maybe Moe would have Francois in a headlock or a wrestling move. And Moe would smile and we'd go and play TV games. Francois wouldn't be allowed to play. He'd just have to watch.
But Moe wasn't there, just Francois with his face all grinning as he handed me a load of pizza I didn't want. Even the smell of the pizza made my stomach move around. I handed over the money.
“You haven't been tipping so nicely lately, bru,” said Francois, smiling weirdly. “That's very naughty, hey.”
“The landlord won't let me have so much money at a time now,” I said in a small voice. I wanted him to go and he did after he'd touched my back and grinned a few more times. I walked straight to the bathroom and I threw up. I haven't thrown up in a long, long time and I hate it now just as much as I did before. My heart was going crazy in my chest. I didn't even notice that I'd left the door open.
Afterwards, when my heart and stomach had learned the calm way again, I checked on @groombridge. He says he likes the profile I sent because it's funny, but nobody has sent him any mail or winks yet. He wonders if he should put on a different picture. He's got a picture right now, but he stole it off someone else's profile, it's of two tiny people walking across a huge beach. The people could be anyone. He says that's the whole point – it gets girls imagining. That's what you want them to be doing.
I didn't feel very helpful after all the excitement I'd had so I ate some of the pizza (it was still a bit warm), spent a long time brushing my teeth and then thought about going to bed early, but then decided against it because I didn't want to mess up my patterns.
You can date this man, Americans
Thursday, March 19th 2009
Here's @groombridge's dating profile I made for him. It's supposed to attract women in America / Canada, so if you don't like it, it's probably a cultural thing.
A man who understands
About me: I always wanted to be an astronaut. I could have done it – I went to all the training. They looked at my personality and said it was okay. They spun me around every day but I did not throw up. They taught me how to use a gun in case stuff went down on the space station. The President shook my hand and everyone clapped.
But I knew deep in my mind that I couldn't do it up there. You can't see the whole Earth at once and still care about tiny things like family or love that only involve a few people at a time. I didn't want to change, I wanted to still care about things. So I stayed here. I poured all of my energy into love and my kids and they've turned out pretty cool. One of them has a metal blender which was very expensive. I don't think they would have been good people if I'd put my energy into staying alive in a vacuum and trying not to cry into the void.
I'd like to meet: Someone who has been hardened into rock-like stability by the loneliness, someone who walked though the desert of life alone and came out stronger on the other side, who has practiced and practiced and is now ready for the third act. Smell is important, as is being an Ashkenazi or similar. A female Leonard Cohen.
He says he likes it and he'll put it up after he's changed a few things. I'm not entirely happy with that, with the changing. Now I have to wait until it's time for Americans to go to work and start looking at dating sites before anyone replies to him. That is hours away. I'd go and work on my statue in the meantime but there is too much stuff in my kitchen right now. I'm going to try and eat my way through it all tonight.
You can't have three grocery kids.
Wednesday, March 18th 2009
I'm making progress on the food. It's hard, eating more than you're used to. This morning I had to force myself to eat a whole box of spaghetti. I ate it right from the box. It's actually quite nice, eating spaghetti like that. It's like eating chips but healthier.
The landlord had a lot to say about the whole situation with me having two grocery kids. He had said that getting Sarah involved was a bad idea and now, apparently, the whole world had proven him right.
“Be cool,” I said, “I've got the whole thing covered.”
“What was that?” he asked.
“It's my gangster voice,” I explained. The landlord doesn't watch a lot of TV unless he's with me so he probably doesn't see a lot of gangsters. I guess they don't have gangsters on the radio, not real gangsters anyway. I went back to my normal voice for him: “I can do this, I can eat all of the food. I'll finish it by Sunday. No one will even find out,” I said. I'd even been putting the rubbish from the extra food into separate rubbish bags that I'm keeping in the back room, in case anyone checks through my garbage on Monday.
“That's not the issue, Shark! It's the money. We need to tighten things up with you. Once we move to Greyton there's not going to be any more rent coming in. All we'll have is the money from the sale and my pension. We can't have you spending all this money again.”
“But the grocery kid fired himself!” I protested. None of this was my fault. I didn't want to have to defend myself like this.
“Come now, he didn't mean it. He was just upset with you. And anyway, I'm not talking about this weekend, I'm talking about the bigger picture.” I looked at him. I wasn't too clear on what he was talking about. I'm only allowed R100 a time now – sometimes R200 if I ask for it a lot – what more can he take from me? “Hentietta -” he began, then sighed. “She told me that you said on your computer that ... when we move out, you don't want an allowance as a regular thing, you want all the money we plan to set aside for you given to you all at once.” I froze. It felt so weird that people were talking about me and making plans about me without me knowing. I don't think it's fair to do that to someone. Neither the landlord or Henrietta has the full picture of me. If they talk about me then they don't know what they're talking about and shouldn't talk about it.
“Shark, it's not going to work that way. You can't have all the money at once.”
“Why not?” I asked, reasonably.
“Because you'd spend it, that's why! You've have three people doing your groceries, three grocery kids in here, you'd eat pizza every day – you'd give half of it away to anyone who knocked on the door!” He said these things like they were obvious but I wouldn't eat pizza every day because that would make me sick and I don't even want to get started on the 'three grocery kids' thing. I fidgeted. I wanted then to stop talking to the landlord. I had more important things to do than deal with a man who is never fair. @groombride needed me. He'd said so earlier. I did all the signals that told the landlord I was done and I went back to my computer.
@groombridge was glad to have me back. He'd always fair. He needed help writing up his profile on a dating site. He's had the profile for a while but he doesn't think it's working very well because he still hasn't got a date. @groombridge isn't very creative, like me. He doesn't know what words can do.
I started writing and the landlord left after a little while. I'm going to save @groombridge from loneliness. Everyone deserves a second chance.
The system breaks down.
Sunday, March 15th 2009
Sarah came over at four, a little earlier than the grocery kid normally comes round. She doesn't have dogs to slow her down. She came in and put the bags on the counter, which is the proper way, it evens says so on the list I gave her, and then she put the kettle on and sat down on my bed.
“I'm exhausted!” she said.
“Poor Sarah!” I said from the kitchen. I was putting everything away. Sarah can't do that part, only I can because only I know where everything goes. I don't put the food away in the normal way that people would expect. I've got a system.
Sarah was exhausted because she'd been to the normal supermarket and not the rich-people one she was used to.
“Sharky, the floors are yellow and all the tiles are missing and everyone looks sad, Sharky. They carry so many bags when they leave and the queues are so long, oh my god, and most of the whole shop is cleaning products.” I nodded even though she couldn't see me. I've never been to a supermarket because there are too many people inside. I've seen them on TV though, so I know what the deal is. “I like it though,” she said after a while, “The people there are more real. It's like this whole other culture.” I stepped out from the kitchen. “You're real, Sharky. You're not like all the other people. You've got your own vision, you know? You've got your own path that's yours, it's not something that you'd see on TV, you're not just part of the crowd. You're the most unique person I know.”
I was so proud of her. I wanted to pick her up and tell her that I was going to train her up just like David, but she was going to be even better than him. She already is, in a lot of ways. But I didn't do that. I decided to move in slow. I didn't want to undo any progress.
“I've been talking to David,” I said. “Everything's cool with us now.”
“Really?” she said, jumping up to make tea. “Last I spoke to him he said he was kinda put off by all the e-mails you were sending him. David needs his space, Sharky. I didn't want to say, but - ”
“Well I spoke to him yesterday and it's fine now,” I said. I hadn't actually spoken to him but I did send him all those mash-ups I did of the grocery kid's books so I'm pretty sure he'll start talking to me again soon. I sat down next to Sarah. “David was the only person who understood me before you came along,” I said. “But then he turned his back on his training.” Sarah wriggled.
“What did you train him to do?” she said, uncertainly.
“I taught him meditation, spiritual stuff. I was his own personal Shark Of Wisdom.”
“Shark Of Wisdom?” she didn't know.
“I took him on an adventure,”
“Oh, I know all about that,” she said and smiled. She knew what we were talking about now. She knew adventures. We had been to Plett. “Are you going to teach -me- how to meditate, Sharky?” she said it like a joke. That was good. So many ideas burned in the air around us.
“No, you're beyond that,” I picked up one of the grocery kid's books and threw it lightly into her lap. “You need to read these.” She picked up the book and looked at it. She couldn't believe the book.
“ 'Die Plaas van Verlangend?' ”
“It's in Afrikaans,” I said.
“Sharky, where did you get this?”
“I've got a load of them,” I said.
“This is awesome!” she said. She kept turning it over in her hands. “Trashy Afrikaans romance novels – and it's on a -farm-, oh my god Sharky this is so cool!” I watched her laugh and turn the book over and over and I knew what would happen. She will read the books one by one and she will absorb all of the situations – every instance that lead to love or pain – and she'll put the data into a giant mathematical model that her brain will automatically generate as she reads. As the model grows and refines itself, she'll begin to understand the full geography of the human heart. She'll understand why people do the things they do and say the things they say. She'll be able to tell when they are serious or when they are joking, when they are truthfully angry or whether they are just pretending to make you feel bad. She'll get people. She'll know too much about them and she'll want to live alone but that is only natural.
Just as I was thinking this and Sarah was reading random parts aloud in a high voice – sure she could joke around now but later it would get serious – the intercom buzzed. I ran to it. The person on the other side was the grocery kid. He'd come with the shopping.
“Oh no,” said Sarah.
“Be cool,” I said. I was being a gangster. “I've got it covered.” I quickly went into the kitchen and got rid of all the bags and other evidence. When he came in I pretended that I hadn't just done that. It was hard because I was a little out of breath but I hid it.
“Oh, you've got a friend over,” he said. His little wheel-bag was full of pretty much exactly the same things Sarah had got me, minus a few things that he didn't think I needed when really I did, plus a lot of things that could be plastic but were glass instead.
“Hi!” said Sarah. “I'm Sarah.” He introduced himself and said he'd been told a lot about her, which I don't think is true.
“I've got a daughter who's a little older than you,” he said as he shook her hand. Then he saw the book in her lap. “You shouldn't read those. They're for old women.”
“Oh no, I like them. They're funny. My friend, Clar, she'll love it so much when I show her this. She loves this kind of thing.”
“It's just trash,” said the grocery kid, but he wasn't so sure now.
“That's the whole point, my skat,” she said and fluttered her eyelids. The grocery kid didn't know what to say about that. He smiled and looked at me.
“Uf, she's just like Bronwyn, isn't she?” he said to me. Bronwyn is his daughter. I honestly have no idea if she's anything like Sarah. It doesn't seem likely. I nodded anyway. “Well, I'll come back to have a chat with you later, bye for now,” he said. He got the shopping out (floor) and left. He didn't really come back later, that was just a fake-out.
“Sharky, what are you going to do with all this food?” said Sarah. It didn't fit in the cupboards. My whole system was out of order.
“I'll think of something,” I said.
Love happens every time.
Friday, March 13th 2009
I've been reading quite a lot these past few days. Actually, I suppose I read a lot every day. Being on the internet is basically reading and watching TV is like reading only you use your ears as well as your eyes. So there probably aren't many people who read as much as me. But I've been reading something different from most people. I've been kicking back, spinning up some Burzum and reading the grocery kid's books.
The book are really interesting because they make you want to find out more about the story and the characters in this great way. First there's the set-up: Every book has a different deal, but it always comes down to a girl and a guy. It always comes down to love. Sometimes there's a husband or wife on the scene but they are never a good person. They are an obstacle or a loser. This is kind of realistic because most marriages don't work out, for good reasons. The guy and the girl don't even always end up together in the end – sometimes the story is sad. The grocery kid isn't afraid to take risks like that.
I haven't just been reading the books, I've been playing around a bit with the text on my computer. First I type up a piece of a book, like “Hart van die Luiperd,” but then I change the names of the characters to the names of people I know so all these funny situations crop up, like the landlord and the kid fighting over Henrietta on a boat, or Celene hooking up with @groombridge (not possible.)
I sent a few e-mails to David with some of the remixed stories I made. I swapped all of the boy names to 'David' and the girl's names to stuff like 'Sarah,' or 'Nikki,' or once, for a joke, 'Clar.' Then I did a few scenes from the grocery kid's play. It turned out pretty funny.
Sarah says she will definitely come on Sunday. The landlord helped me draw up a list of all the things she has to buy. She's not allowed to buy any of the stuff she did last time. It's not all bad because some of the things she bought, the dips and the dry food, it's still around. You don't have to buy everything every time.
Die Hotel Eensaam Kelner.
Wednesday, March 11th 2009
The first thing I told the landlord when he came round yesterday was that I needed a new grocery kid. He stopped, halfway through coming in the door. He stayed there for two seconds then closed the door, folded his arms and frowned.
“Did you fire him again?” He said, a little sarcastically. I told him that he fired himself. He'd come to the conclusion that I wasn't caring enough. I didn't know that was part of the deal. I don't see which part of bringing me my shopping has to do with me knowing all the names of his dogs, or whatever. “Well, Shark,” said the landlord as he leaned his back against the door. “Maybe – listen here, I'm not trying to judge you, but maybe you -could- take more of an interest.”
“He doesn't do anything interesting!” I pointed out. “All he does is be old, moan and act like a jerk.”
“He only does that because he thinks you don't like him any more.”
“That's because he doesn't do anything interesting!” The landlord made a lot of sighing noises with his mouth and kept changing his arms around and touching his face.
“I want Sarah to do it,” I said.
“No, Shark.” he said.
“I want Sarah to be the one to fetch my shopping on Sundays. She's ready. She cares for people, professionally.”
“That's really not a good idea,”
“Why not?” I shouted. I didn't mean to shout but I guess that I just really needed to.
“Because...” he said and then closed his eyes until he could make up an answer that wasn't something about how he just didn't like Sarah because she was young and pretty. “You saw what she did last time she did the shopping. You saw how much money she spent. You can't trust her. She's bad at it.”
“I can control her,” I said, looking hard into his eyes. “I've thought about this. I can give her a list.” He came and sat next to me on the bed and looked down. I looked down too. I thought he was looking at something and by the time I realised he wasn't, he was already talking.
“Maybe you should think less about how to replace him and more about how you should make up with him,” he said.
“No,” I said. I was feeling assertive. “He's the one who quit. He's the one with a bad attitude. He should try being without a job for a while.”
“He has a job, Shark,” said the landlord. “He writes those books.”
“What books?” I asked.
He got up and left the room, but he made a sign with his hand that said that it was okay, that he'd be back soon. I heard him go downstairs to his house. Then after a little while he came up again holding a thin book with a colourful cover.
“I can see what he means about you not paying attention,” he said as he put the book in my lap. It was called 'Die Hotel Eensaam Kelner.' It had a name on it but it wasn't the grocery kid's name.
“I've got hundreds of these downstairs,” said the landlord. “He does one about every two weeks. It's good money and work's picking up.” There was a man and a woman on the cover. The man was black and dressed like a waiter. He was standing behind the woman holding a plate of food with a lid on it. He was looking at her and she was kind of turning to look at him but we could still see her face. She looked rich. She looked like she'd seen things.
“This looks pretty interesting,” I said.
“How about I leave it here for you?” He said. He did and I've nearly finished it now.
I e-mailed Sarah and she said that she'd love to get my groceries. She's going to start this Sunday.
I am good at television.
Monday, March 9th 2009
I spent most of last week watching TV. The only thing that really happened that wasn't TV was when the grocery kid came round. Every time I watch TV it feels good because it means that I'm catching up. It means that I've gotten a little better at TV.
I think that a lot of people must be a bit freaked out by TV, by how much of it there is. They must get this idea that even if they sat down and watched TV for the rest of their lives, they would never be able to get to the end of it. TV would beat them and they wouldn't even notice.
I don't have this problem so much, because I won't ever die. I can just keep on watching it at my own pace. I don't think they make TV as fast as I can watch TV, so I'm always winning. It's kind of funny that I want to start a TV company and will make my own TV show some day because it would mean that I'd be competing with myself. I'd still win though. A lot of people don't quite realise what living forever actually means. It means that, eventually, I will clock television.
When that happens, I'll still be me, but I'll have seen everything. I would get the context of every conversation and get every reference and new word. I'd be able to take apart a conversation in my mind and tell which part of it came from which TV show. Every possible phrase or feeling or joke or character type that has been on screen will be in my brain. You wouldn't be able to beat that. Nobody could.
So yesterday the grocery kid came round and I tried to tell him about how I was closer to clocking TV than ever but he didn't want to listen to any of that. He just wanted to talk about the crummy play he wrote years ago.
“Have you read it yet?”
“I've been really busy,” I said.
“You've been busy?” he said back at me.
“Yeah, sorry man, but I've got a lot going on.”
“You just told me you've been watching TV all week.” I didn't say anything. “Watching TV isn't being busy.”
“I kind of skimmed it,” I said. This was true. I think you can absorb a lot of something by reading just a few bits of it. Your brain seems to somehow know the best bits to read. It's all about recognising patterns and making theories about where the story would go, then checking quickly to see if those theories are true. I'm pretty good at it.
“You skimmed it,” he said flatly.
“Yeah, I just got the gist of it, you know,” I said. He was making me uncomfortable. My stomach hurt and I fidgeted.
“And what was the -gist- that you -got?-” He was definitely trying to make me uncomfortable. Even though it was working, I didn't let him see that it was having an affect. I stayed normal, even through this next part.
“There were these guys and they really liked each other,” I said. “They met in school and later on they did some plays that were a really big deal and then one of them died and the other killed himself. It was pretty lame, really, I don't like your stuff generally.” He drew up his face tighter than ever.
“Well, we knew that already, didn't we?” he said. “And he didn't kill himself. That was the whole point. The whole of the third act is him recovering and coming to terms with...”
“I didn't get to that part.” I helped. “I think it would be a better ending if he killed himself. It would be shorter, too. It's too long.”
“Do you remember a while back, a long time ago, when I went away and you all didn't know where I was? But then I came back - ”
“Yeah, you stopped being the landlord.” I said. I remembered that. People couldn't handle it. The landlord (who wasn't the landlord then) called me up every hour to say that nothing had happened.
“Do you know where I was? Do you know what happened?”
“Nobody told you?”
“No, I don't think so.”
“And you never got curious?” I looked at him. “Think about the play. The play is about me!” he was just about shouting. I don't think I was doing a good job of looking comfortable at this point.
“Oh, okay,” I said. It sounded so quiet next to his voice but I was just speaking normally.
“Okay?” he snorted. Then he laughed but it was fake, you could tell. “That's it. You're okay with it. It's all okay. Good. Fine.” He said and I nodded to show him that it was true, that it was fine and I thought so. Then he erupted. “You don't care about me at all. You know nothing about me. You don't even know when my birthday is. I'm just the 'grocery' kid to you now and nothing else.” The landlord must have told him about that name I use for him. Landlord! “Well you can get your own fucking groceries from now on. Here - ” he bent down and put all of the bags of groceries up on the counter where they should be. Then he did a fake smile as he walked past me and went right out of the door. He went downstairs and I heard him talking to his dogs again. This time I listened really hard and I heard a bit of what he was saying:
“Yes, Sam, yes Willy, -your- daddy loves you, yes he does.”
I tried reading his play again later on but it really isn't very gripping. Sarah will be the new grocery kid. She's got a lot less attitude and stronger legs. That means she can carry more.
I used to be able to hear further. There is more traffic outside now.
Sunday, March 1st 2009
When the grocery kid came round today he didn't just bring the shopping. He also brought words. They were all typed out and spiral-bound together. They were old and yellow and he'd made them on a typewriter.
“What's that?” I said.
“You asked about my friend. Well, this is everything you need to know.” He waved the words around in front of me. “He never finished it before he died. I finished it. It's about me and him.” He thrust it at me to make sure that I was touching it. Touching shows commitment.
“I don't really have time to read these days,” I said, but he was too quick.
“Yes you do. Read it.” He let go of it and it fell into my lap.
“I can't read it with you right here watching,” he stared at me.
“You can read it when I'm gone. I'm going now. I'll be back next week. Same time, same place. See you there,” he said.
“Wait, hang on,” I said before he could go.
“What is it?” he said, getting ready for a fight. But I didn't want to fight him.
“Do you still keep your dogs?” I asked.
“Of course I do. They're waiting outside for me because you won't let them on the premises.”
“Are they okay?” I said. He moved his body up and around and changed his voice.
“Barney got sick last year and the vet had to put him down, poor thing. I found a new Staffie a few months ago. Not a puppy, but a mature dog whose owner passed away, leaving him and another dog, a Weimaraner – Sam – who'd known him all his life. So I took both. I couldn't split them up.” He cocked his head and looked at me differently. He got defensive. “Why are you so interesed all of a sudden? Do you want me to bring them up here?”
“No, it's okay. I've just been thinking about dogs a lot lately.” I said. He folded his arms.
“Oh? That's odd, you're not really much of a dog person, are you?” I waited a while, then said,
“Did you get the dogs because you never got married?”
“Or did you not need to get married because you were using the dogs?”
“Oh come on now.”
“I was just wondering what order it came in. Are the dogs enough?”
“You're – I'm going. Goodbye.”
“I was just wondering.” He didn't hang around. He left and then I heard him walk heavily all the way down the stairs and then heard him talk in a high, loud voice to his dogs as he went out the gate. I couldn't hear what he was saying exactly but I'm sure it was supposed to be about me.
Later on I saw a moving truck move some things. The things belonged to someone who lived here. Whoever it was had a long talk with the landlord out in the driveway before he got into his car and left forever. I didn't hear what they said either but I'm ninety percent sure this one wasn't about me.
The things people need to see.
Thursday, February 26th 2009
The second episode of my sitcom is going to introduce all of the lesser characters. We don't get to meet them in the first episode because people need to focus on Ric and his family before they start taking on all these other people and their situations. People can only feel so much at a time.
David will get introduced properly. He'll be in the first episode as the narrator but he'll only be in the background. He's the neighbour's kid in the show, just like he is in real life, and also just like in real life he sees everything and takes notice. He also thinks about what he's seen, through meditation. Every episode starts and ends with David meditating on what's been going on with Ric, which will make the show a lot more spiritual than most other shows. David's parents in the show are actually Sarah's Great-Uncle and his wife. David's parents in real life weren't nearly as old as Sarah's Great-Uncle and they were a lot louder. I heard David's dad shouting quite a lot back when he lived here. Once he shouted at the landlord and the landlord didn't know what to do. It turned out okay though. David's dad apologised. I heard the whole thing from my room.
So the Great-Uncle is Ric's neighbour, and they make a good team because the Great-Uncle was an astronaut too, only he never went into space. He didn't want to take the risk. He helps Ric adjust back into life on Earth. They talk over the garden fence in almost every episode. He's often the one who distracts Ric from his roll-up at the start of the episode. It would go like this:
RIC lies on his folding-back lawn chair. He has a tall glass of guava juice on the little table next to him. A ROLL-UP is in his hand. He is just about to light it when up pops GREAT-UNCLE from behind the fence.
UNCLE: Heya Ric!
RIC: Oh! Great-Uncle! You scared me there.
UNCLE: Sorry about that, but it's an emergency.
RIC: An emergency?
UNCLE: Yeah, I've just gotta know one thing.
RIC: What's that?
UNCLE: Why does nobody ever look good on their driver's license?
There's a pause for a laugh because everyone will realise that it wasn't really an emergency and that the Great-Uncle was just teasing. They'll go on like that for a while across the garden fence, swapping jokes and fake-worries, and then the Great-Uncle will call Ric over to see his latest creation. Great-Uncle's been working on a statue, you see, but the joke is that the statue is completely different in every episode. Great-Uncle can't make up his mind about what the statue is going to be! Sometimes his statues will feature into the plot a little bit, like he'll make a naked lady statue and then leaves it out in the garden (but you only see the back of it) and everyone sees it and some people get upset and then some of David's friends come and spraypaint his door. Great-Uncle's wife will be in it too. She's quite wise because she's got the NASA console that answers questions. She's always solving problems and helping people out, but she's not afraid to be sassy and point out people's faults in a funny way.
The landlord says that when he leaves forever with Celene and the grocery kid to Greyton, he's going to send me a little bit of money each month so I can get by. I'm going to ask him to instead give it all to me at once so I can start my television company. Sarah says she has a friend who is really into photography. I could hire her to do the cameras. Some of the local kids could be the actors. You can make people look old with make-up.
I think it's going to be a pretty good sitcom.
The way it is for sharks
Tuesday, February 24th 2009
Sarah will be all alone in her house-sitting house now. Well, not alone. There'll be the chores to do. And the dogs.
She'd better be careful, really. Dogs are good at knowing the score. They know that the people who are usually on top are away and that they are now the leaders of the house. They are going to try and get in all the best rooms and sleep in the best beds. They are going to try and put the TV in their room and tie up the phone for ninety percent of the evening to show their dominance. And if they win, if you let them jump up at you to lick your face or let them lean weird against you even once, they will win forever and they will not let you forget.
Whenever you see the grocery kid's dogs they will tell you how they won their battle against him. They practically scream it at you in dance. They can't just be cool with this one victory they scored over this one guy who happened to live in their house, which probably happened years ago. No, they have to then try to take over everyone that he knows too. People do this all the time. Whenever I see the grocery kid's dogs (which hasn't actually been in years, but still,) I think of Clar and how she tries to dominate you as soon as she meets you. Only she doesn't jump up at you and try to lick your face – people don't do that, obviously – she uses sarcasm and this voice and she points out obvious things you said in front of the group, and she'll refuse to laugh when you say something funny.
People don't like to think of people behaving like this, but that's the way it is. That's why people and dogs get along so well, because they use the same tricks to get ahead and can't be cool with defeating just the people they needed to defeat when they were young. Sharks aren't like that at all. A shark could go one hundred, two hundred years without talking to anyone and still be fine, so long as there is food.
When I got married to Celene or to the landlord's mother, I don't think I was thinking much like a shark in those particular stages of my life. I was going along with the dog way of doing things. I don't think it was natural of me to do that and I think that might have a lot to do with why the marriages didn't last too long, relatively. I wouldn't try and do it again. I wouldn't marry Sarah or even Nikky if it came right down to it. I'm not like the grocery kid's dogs or like Clar. I won't try to control you then tell all your friends how I won against you whenever they came round. I'll love you, and it will be real, but I'll know the whole time that it won't be long before I'm alone again. Only it will hurt you more than it will hurt me. I'm sorry, that's just the way it is for sharks.
Even the sandwich girl got a computer console.
Monday, February 23rd 2009
“Morning your wife,”
“Morning Sarah. Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, fine thank you,” said Sarah. She'd slept in the spare room with the dogs but she didn't mind the dogs. These ones were calm and understood what you said and behaved like people – good people – not like the dogs that the grocery kid uses. David poked his head around the door. Late as usual!
“Morning Sarah!” he said and he looked like such a little prince. But in a bad way.
“David!” said Sarah. She's shocked by his being there. It isn't usual. “Where did you come from?”
“Oh, just the attic. I've been living up there the whole time.”
“That's why you haven't been answering Sharky's e-mails,” said Sarah.
“Well you should you know. He's so worried. Shame, David – you shouldn't do that to him.”
“Okay I will. Now what's for breakfast? I'm starving!” So Sarah went to go make pancakes, leaving David to take his place at the dining table next to her Great-Uncle, who was using most of the table to work on the statue he was making out of cold steel.
“David, I'm old and past it. All I have left is this statue I'm making.” said Sarah's Great-Uncle as he shaped the metal with his hands.
“No you aren't, Great-Uncle,” said David. “Don't talk like that to me, I'm young.”
“I am, it's my truth. I'm just a human and that's why I can't be alone. That's why I married my wife,” he said. His wife nodded.
“I was the lady who made the sandwiches at NASA,” she said to David. “There were just twelve of us then. When the astronauts went up, you'd see their faces everywhere. Every day of the week would belong to one of them. Monday was for Buzz Aldrin, Tuesday was for Alan Shepard and so on. We had photos of the hands and chests taped to our consoles so that we would know them intimately.”
“Please go on,” said David politely. She did.
“When they came back, we never got to see them again. They were bundled in and out of the building through NASA's back entrance, away from our sight. Their faces were a lie we never allowed to tell. They took all the posters down, and the wall-clocks and desk calenders. When we saw them on TV, we knew that they had hired actors. It's obvious to me now that they came back different and we were being spared the horror of their transformation. I'm glad -you- never went up there, Great-Uncle.”
“I was much safer down here, wife. You can't lose yourself here on the ground. People will always remind you who you are. You just need to look at them and they'll tell you.”
“Would you like some tea, Great-Uncle?” said Sarah. She had brought in some tea on a tray. Yes, she had heard everything.
“How many cups of tea do I have left before I die?” he said. Sarah sat down at the wife's old NASA computer console and did some sums. After a while, a little slip of paper came out of the slot and Sarah read it.
“Ten,” she said.
“Let me think about it.”
Sarah experienced work
Thursday, February 19th 2009
So Sarah's week ran out on Sunday. I didn't write about it as it was happening because she was on the computer most of the time and when she left at night I had to spend the whole time till bed catching up with all my website. It's kind of exhausting being with someone all day, every day. Whenever you laugh at something you've read or even just thought about, they want to know what's funny. Whenever you sigh or groan or make any kind of sound like that, they want to know what's wrong or whether you want some tea. But no, those are just the sounds I make.
It went like this: Sarah would be on Facebook, checking her messages while I watched TV or thought about my sitcom or working on my statue. I'm nearly done on the other foot now. Sometimes, @groombridge would show up and want to chat or I'd have something I wanted to check or look up and Sarah would get up and go make some tea or lunch or just a snack. One or two times, she would pretend to be me when @groombridge came to chat and then she'd play little jokes on him. She'd say that I was just about to move to America or that I was just about to go on TV. She doesn't know that one day I really will move to America. @groombridge didn't get the jokes at first so I had to start typing and explain it to him.
She made me a lot of snacks – more than I'd usually make for myself on a normal day. We used up almost all the food she'd bought on Monday and brought it all down to sauces and rice. I don't eat rice because I don't know how to make it and Sarah left before she could do it. I'm pretty sure that the landlord can do it though. I will ask him when the time is right.
This week she's been staying with her great uncle and his wife for some more work experience. They're really old, like over eighty old, and there's two of them so it will probably be a lot harder. Next week she's housesitting for a friend of her mother's. It's like doing caring but it's just the house you have to look after. It's a good way to get used to all the housework and cleaning, says Sarah. You get lists of things that have to be done every day. She has to water plants and she has to feed two dogs. I don't think I'm cool with dogs. The grocery kid has a few of them. I don't let him bring them around here.
So Sarah's on her career path now. Soon she'll be in England and caring for people and making them snacks and asking them if they want some tea. I won't be in England but that's okay. I'm a shark, we're made to be alone. It keeps happening to us but we can just keeping getting on with our thing.
I finished that game with the robot. The end wasn't anything special. There was a big guy I had to fight but by then my towers were so great that it really wasn't very hard to deal with. After that it just told me to look out for more games from the people who made that game. Yeah, thanks. Why can't the game I played just go on for longer?
Food is the most important part of your day
Tuesday, February 10th 2009
Sarah came in earlier today, at about mid-day. She had lots of shopping bags. She didn't put them on the ground, she put them on the counter where it was easier for me to get to them. I didn't have to bend over to pick them up. These shopping bags were different from the usual shopping bags. They were thicker and had more colours. The food inside was different too. It all looked the same as each other.
“Food is the most important thing in the world, Sharky. You can't live your life eating bad food,” said Sarah. I agreed with her. If you think about it, a huge percentage of your life is spent eating food. If you have bad food then you have a bad life. “I bought organic stuff where I could, but everything's vegetarian and I eat most of it so I know it's good.” We had a lot of fun putting it all away into the cupboards. Sarah wanted to throw my old food away but I'm not ready for that yet. I can still eat it when she's not around. Then she showed me the receipt for it. “I used my mom's card to pay for it but I promised her I'd pay her back by, like, the end of today.” I didn't understand the receipt. I thought it was maybe a typo or an error but I took it into my room and added up all the prices and it still came out as the same total. I gave Sarah the R100 I had for pizza on Friday and the R10 I had stored up for a tip.
“That's all I'm allowed,” I said.
“Sharky, that's not enough. We need more.”
“I don't keep the money any more,” I said. I think things were better back when I did used to handle the money. Stuff was cheaper, too.
“Oh Sharky, what are we going to do?”
“I don't know!” I said. I really didn't. I didn't want Sarah to get in trouble with her mom.
“My mom's going to be so angry!” she said and I felt even worse.
“Can't we take it back to the shop?” I said. The grocery kid has taken things back to the shop before. Sometimes he buys the wrong things.
“No, we can't take it back to the shop!” she said. I've never felt more awful. I looked around at the cupboards full of food that Sarah's mom bought but didn't want. I thought of how strange it all looked in its packaging. I thought of Sarah's mom just tearing the packaging apart and ruining the food because she didn't want it. “Where's your money, who keeps your money?” she said.
“The landlord,” I said, quietly. She calmed down when I said that. She knows that the landlord is cool.
So then she brought the landlord up here and she told him the whole story. He looked at me with his arms folded.
“That's a lot of money for some food,” he said.
“Food is the most important thing in the world,” I said.
“Can't you just take it back to the shop?” he said.
“No,” I said.
“Please,” said Sarah, “He eats so badly. I just want to do this thing for him. The landlord sighed. It was a good sign, I knew. It meant that he was giving up. He always gives up when there are enough people looking at him hard. He went upstairs and came back with the money for Sarah.
“Oh hey, I thought you were going to write a cheque. That's a lot of cash!” she said when she got it.
“I went to the bank today,” he said. He's such a liar. I would have heard if he'd left the building.
Afterwards, Sarah was making me a new lunch with all the new foods. She wasn't upset any more. Everything was back to normal, except the foods, but that was the good part.
“Hey Sarah,” I said while she was at the stove. I was working a bit on my statue but my mind was on other things. “Don't tell Nikky that I couldn't pay, okay?”
“Just don't tell Nikky about this.” She didn't say anything for a while. She was chopping vegetables.
“Okay,” she said. I was glad she said that.
The food was pretty good.
I got a message this morning that promised a week of pure love.
Monday, February 9th 2009
I woke up and I could tell that today was going to be something. I got out of bed and smoked a cigarette (not a roll-up, unfortunately. I'm still learning how to do them,) and thought hard about what might be coming. I concentrated on the spot where David used to be and I remembered that I'd got a call on my phone a while before I'd gotten up. I put my cigarettes back in their place in the box and hid the box in the cupboard under some things. I'm not scared of anyone finding the cigarettes and getting me in trouble any more – I'm past that as a person – but I just like to have everything in its place. I'd hate it if there were boxes of cigarettes lying about everywhere.
So I checked my messages and in my messages there was a message from Sarah. I listened to it and the message told me some things I had to know. Nikki (Nicole)'s parents were back from holiday, she wasn't staying with Sarah any more and Sarah wanted to start her work experience here with me! Today! The message was already three hours old and I hoped so much that there was still time to tell her to come round and that she hadn't forgotten me and gone on to do something wonderful and adventurous with someone else. I called her up on my phone and she hadn't made any plans – she was just watching a TV show about doctors at her house. She said she'd be over. I quickly ran into the bathroom and had a shower and brushed my teeth. I boiled the kettle because I knew she'd want some tea when she came over. I got so worked up that I decided to have another cigarette but I smoked it too fast so I didn't enjoy it and then I got worried that my breath smelled and that I smelled so I had another shower and brushed my teeth again and then I realised that the kettle had gone cold so I turned it back on and waited. When it had boiled a few more times I called Sarah's phone to check if we were still on.
“I'm coming now Sharky, let me just have a shower quick,” she said. I said okay then I relaxed. I boiled the kettle a few more times then tried to watch TV, but it was just the news and some weird movie about dreams so I stopped. I ended up playing that game on the internet with the robot and the tree. This time I even made it past all the flying guys. After that, flying guys became no big deal. They were just one more thing that could come at you. Life is full of things that seem hard at first but then become just one of those things. War is probably like that in some countries. Or being in jail.
Sarah came over at two thirty. She caught me at a bad time because I was further in my game than I ever had been before and I'd forgotten to boil the kettle for a while so the water was basically cold and useless. I put the game on 'pause,' but I couldn't stop thinking about how far I was and how the flying guys weren't this big barrier than held me back any more. Sarah put the kettle back on and she acted big and excited about her first day at work experience. She told me about how many rich, old people need feeding and looking after in England and how they pay you so much English money to stay with them and just be there, and how the English money is worth so much money. You pay these agencies to set you up with old people and they move you around like a samurai ordering his peasants, assigning you old people who you have to touch with your youth and your life. She had all these booklets that told her the secrets of old people.
“There are three kinds of infections,” she said, reading some of the secrets aloud. “Bacterial, fungal and viral.”
“Which is the worst?” I asked. She looked over her notes. She'd highlighted a lot of things in yellow.
“It doesn't say,”
“I don't think sharks get any of those,” I said helpfully. “So you don't have to worry.”
“You might have to fake getting sick,” she said, flipping her pages, “So I can practice.” The way she said it made it out to be something I'd want to do but I wasn't so sure. Practicing you're sick is a good way to get good at being sick for real. I don't want to give my body any ideas.
“You don't have to worry,” I said again and she smiled.
“Let's get this party started, okay?” she said. She was talking about the work experience. We didn't really have a party. “I'll make you some tea.” and then she did. She had to boil the kettle again because, hey, water doesn't stay hot forever, but she did that and then we had tea.
“Can I check my Facebook quick?” she said as soon as I took my first sip of tea. I don't use Facebook. You can't do anything if you don't have a page on there and they won't let me make one. They say that my name is fake but it isn't. So I sat for a while and watched Sarah do her thing. She has so many friends and they've all got something to say or show her. Nikki is on there. David is on there. I even saw Moe, but apparently he never comes on or updates his status. One of her friends was sad, so she wrote something nice. One of her friends wanted to meet up and do something fun that they haven't done in a while, maybe a picnic at Kirstenbosch. She said, yes! Soon! But not now. She's on work experience. Then she fed her pets and built a recycling centre in her town. Then she spent a long long time writing twenty five things about herself because a friend tagged her so she had to do it.
I got pretty tired at some point, I think around Thing About Sarah 14, so I lay back on my bed and thought about my statue some more. When I woke up my tea was cold. Cold tea is disgusting. I asked for Sarah and Sarah asked me how I was. I said I was hungry and I was. I hadn't eaten in hours.
“I'll make you something to eat Sharky, you don't worry about a thing. Just stay there and let me take care of you.” I did what she said and she went into the kitchen. I really wanted to get back to my robot game and find out what else was on the upper levels but I thought that maybe Sarah wouldn't want me to be doing that. It would be hard for her to care for me if I was off fighting robots. Instead I sat up and tried to meditate but I couldn't stop thinking about the game. That didn't go on for very long though because Sarah didn't know where everything is kept in the kitchen and she said that she couldn't find any food. I pointed it out to her.
“Yuck, this is was you eat?” she said. I nodded. “This is all tinned stuff.” I nodded again. I looked at the cupboards. Not all of it was in tins. There was some custard and flour and tomato sauce. “What's this? Franks in spaghetti hoops? Oh my god!” she said, holding up the tin she was talking about.
“You have to take the sausage bits out first because I don't eat meat,” I explained.
“Sharky, I'm going to get you some nice food,” she said. “I'm taking -care- of you now.” I got down and looked hard in my cupboard at my food. I guess a lot of it isn't very good. I've never thought of it as good or bad before – it's just my food. That's the magic of Sarah. She knows whether things are good or bad.
“Can I have the spaghetti hoops, please?” I asked her. “Two tins.”
“Okay, Sharky,” she said.
“But you have to take the sausages out first,”
“I know. I'll do that.”
“Are you going to stay?”
“Not for much longer. It's getting dark.”
While she made the spaghetti hoops I went back to my robot game but she'd closed it by accident.
I can make roll-ups now.
Sunday, February 8th 2009
The grocery kid brought a lot more masking tape with him today. He saw that I hadn't used up all the masking tape he'd bought last week and then he got hard to deal with.
“You mean to say that I brought these bloody rolls of tape with me all the way from the shop and you didn't even tell me?”
“Don't pressure me. I've got a lot going on right now,” I said. He seemed to get taller. Almost as tall as me.
“What have you got going on?” he said. “Just tell me what they are, quickly.” I didn't get the chance to tell him. “You don't do anything. All day you sit in here on your bloody bum and moan and complain and do nothing. Not one thing. The rest of us all've got to go out there and work, all our lives, just so you can stay in here and play with your f-ing tape and your f-ing bottles and your f-ing computer screen.” He was getting wild and dangerous and trying to go for my weak spots so I tried to change the subject. You know, bring it down a notch.
“Whatever happened to your friend?” I said.
“What?” he stopped dead.
“Your friend, the play director. I was thinking about him the other day. He was always round here.”
“He hanged himself in prison,” his voice was hard and sharp. “You knew that. You -knew- that. I don't -believe- you said that.”
“I'd never be able to hang myself. My neck's too big for the rope.” I said, playing around to keep the conversation going, but he ran out the room.
“This is what my life came to!” he said as he went. He pretended to say it to himself but he was saying it to me really. He wanted me to feel bad about his friend even though he's the one who should feel bad. He liked it better when he was trying to get my weak spots.
I told you he was a jerk.
Knocking on doors.
Thursday, February 5th 2009
I've noticed that I write a lot of my blogs on a Wednesday. Guys, this is not intentional. I've never been one of those people who attaches a lot of significance to a day and then does the same thing on that one day forever, or for a long time, at least. Except maybe Friday because that's usually pizza day and it's got all kinds of associations with good food and good people. None of the pizza punks have said anything interesting, by the way. I would have written it if they had. I'm just back in the old pattern of not talking to them when they knock on the door and then picking up the pizza when they've gone. It's a system that works.
The landlord comes over almost every day, but I've said that before. He never used to come over on Sunday because he had to go to church. I've not been to a church in a lot of years. I'm from another planet so I don't have to go. I remember it being pretty boring though. Sundays are also the day that the grocery kid comes around and drops off my food, household things and luxury items for the week. He hardly ever comes round otherwise, even though he lives just down the road. Back when he was the landlord and the landlord was just a kid, we used to hang out quite a lot. He would bring his theatre director friend in too and we'd put on records and I'd show them my new paintings if I had any and they'd tell me what was up with their plays. The grocery kid would write the plays and his friend would direct them but they weren't very good. They were all about how bad the government was and there were never any jokes or interesting characters that you could relate to. But it was still nice to hear them talk about it because there was always something going on and lots of gossip and it felt like progress. Often they'd have to stop the plays or do them somewhere else because people complained about them. They snuck me into one once and I didn't see much to complain about other than that it was really boring. After a while, they said that the police kept coming round their house and then the director friend started acting really weird and cried all the time then he died. I didn't see him die, I just heard about it later. No one came over to visit me for days and days when that happened. I ran out of food and household things and in the night I ran down into the street, trying to find the grocery kid's friend's house. I'd be more calm about it these days but I remember being pretty out of it. I got lost out in the street and eventually found my way back to the building and knocked on the landlord's mother's door and she was in and made me something to eat. After that, the grocery kid and I decided it was best if he stopped being my landlord and he moved into his friend's old house. I tried being the landlord for a while but that didn't work out.
Mondays are the days when I put the garbage out. I never used to do this – the landlord did it for me – but nowadays I do it nearly every time. It's like a special project or a secret mission. I get to go outside when everyone's in bed and it is so exciting and scary because anything could happen in the dark and my blood trembles every time and I always feel like running back up the stairs as fast as I can. I never do though because I'm supposed to be quiet when I go out. I wouldn't want to wake anyone. Being woken up is probably one of the worse things I know. Once, while taking out the garbage, I went to knock on the landlord's door as a joke but I set off the alarm and I must have woken up everyone. I felt so guilty when that happened. I kept thinking of all the people waking up in the dark and wondering if it was the end this time, if maybe the world had finally found a way to get inside and destroy them. The landlord knew it was me. I said that it wasn't, but it was.
So I guess I do have some special days. I never saw myself as the kind of person who would. It's good to make discoveries about yourself like that. I guess it's a lot like knocking on a door, only the door is yourself. Sometimes an alarm will go off, or sometimes your ex will make you some dinner and say it's going to be all right. Sometimes you'll keep knocking but no one will answer. Not today, the door seems to say. You just have to take the money and get out of there.
Fighting robot: Tell me everything.
Wednesday, February 4th 2009
The main bad thing with being a robot is that your entire life is fighting. Even when you're not actually fighting, you're preparing to do it soon. If I don't fight, other robots come out of nowhere and will kill my tree. I don't want that to happen because the tree is more than a tree. It's a metaphor. It's like this:
Tree = life = home = happiness = tree
I could live without my tree, sure. I'm a robot and robots don't specifically need trees, only rocket-fuel and somewhere to sleep. But because of the metaphors and the way metaphors relate to feelings, I can't imagine living in a world without my tree. It's as much a part of me as my robot hands or robot feet.
You might wonder why I got so attached to this tree in the first place. Aren't I probably from some futuristic robot city? They probably don't even have trees in places like that. Why did I come all this way and hang around this one tree that can't even move? Why don't I go back to my own kind? The answers to these questions are all emotional and real ones.
So every day I go out and I defend my tree from all these other robots who are trying to get at it. I can punch and kick and fight these robots, sure. I can do flips in the air that do a lot of damage. I've got combos that I can upgrade. But that's not enough. If you're serious about defending your tree, you've got to have a plan. You've got to build towers. Each tower is special – they've all got their own way of killing. You can't just use the same kind of tower over and over. You've got to be smart.
The towers are a metaphor too, I think. I build them and it takes time and effort and gold. The other robots can't build them. They weren't expecting to find all these towers here, they thought it would be a free ride to the tree. They underestimated me. They didn't know I could do towers.
The landlord came in this morning and mentioned over breakfast that everyone has to be out the building by June. This meant me, too.
“Do you expect anyone to fight you?”
“In June. When you throw the people out. What if they fight you?”
“Don't be silly, Shark.” he said and then we finished our breakfast.
The next thing I do.
Friday, January 30th 2009
So hey – my statue's coming along pretty well. I'm entirely done with the one foot now - I just need to put some laces on the shoe. I'll need to glue the laces on because it's not a working shoe.
I like to imagine what people will say about the statue when it's finished. The landlord will say nice things about it because it's of him, even if he doesn't know what the statue is all about and what it's for. He'll probably want to spray-paint it because he learned spray-painting in the Navy and it's the one thing he does that's artistic even though it isn't really. I don't want him to spray-paint this statue. I want it to remain pure.
Sarah will like it. She'll say it's good work and that it's beautiful and she'll understand it and what it means and will come to mean. Nikky will like it too – she won't just be copying Sarah – and she might even hug me to show me that this is true. She won't 'get' it as much as Sarah will, she'll look at it and she'll smile and say it's cool but her eyes will go back in her head for a hundred miles. At the end of the tunnel into her eyes there will be a note pinned to the back of her skull but it won't be gross. There's no blood. I will see the note. It will say, “Teach me, Shark.” I'll be on the other side of the room and my stare will be hard, hard in a way that shows that I mean what I'm about to say. What I say will be, “Yes.”
When the statue goes outside, all kinds of people will see it and I'll watch and listen to their reactions and discussions from my window. Mr. Roberts from downstairs will be one of the first to see it. He'll be so sorry. He had no idea that a shark could make something so beautiful and meaningful. Then someone will tell him that the very same shark saved us all from the developers and then I'm pretty sure he'll realise how wrong he was about sharks and will apologise right then and there. It will be just a murmur under his breath but I'll hear it. Thank you for your apology, Mr. Roberts, but we've got to move it along. There are more people who want to see the statue. We mustn't keep them waiting.
Clar won't understand it at all. She probably doesn't even know what a developer is. She'll just look at it with her mouth open, making an “uuuhhhh” noise. She'll stay like that forever, her mind in an infinite loop of dull incomprehension. People will wonder if she's a statue too because she will look so realistic. But I'll know. Some day I'll free her, and she will have to live with her world all shattered and bare, but not yet. Not for a while.
When that new pizza punk comes by to bring me pizza, he will be almost literally blown away by what a real shark can do. Fake sharks can't make statues. All they do is confuse you and lie and try to hurt good people. Their pizza doesn't taste as nice as it did when Moe brought it.
And here's the man himself right now, coming to check out this awesome statue that everyone in the hood has been talking about even though he knows exactly what he's going to find. He'll look up at it with his hands playing in his pockets and he'll lean back on his heels and whistle. He'll whistle a tune he heard in the old days, back before people could say anything other than what they meant. Every second of his suffering will run through his Ashkenazi brain and out through his lips while he whistles and the suffering will sharpen his thoughts as it passes over them. The tune went like this:
“Shark, Shark, that's nice work what you've done but when are you going to make -my- statue?”
And I'll stand there, hidden behind the curtain, hearing everything, and I'll smile and whisper,
“Why, it'll be the very next thing I do.”
The credits wouldn't run too fast. You'd be able to read them.
Wednesday, January 28th 2009
On TV, everyone is good at jokes and no one smokes. They smoke in movies, but they never smoke roll-ups. I don't think this is very realistic. Lots of people smoke roll-ups in the world today.
I think Ric, in my sitcom, should smoke roll-ups. That would be something that people haven't seen before in a sitcom. It'll be fresh. There can be a joke about how he rolls up a cigarette at the start of every episode when he's on his own and things are quiet and insightful and he's got his guava juice all poured out there and he's just about to smoke it but he doesn't get a chance to because of all this crazy stuff happening and it only lets up at the end of the episode when everything's resolved and Ric's done a good job and he finally sits down and gets out the roll-up that he made and he's going to enjoy smoking it so much and there's a look on his face that tells us that he can't wait for this to happen and the audience sees his face and laughs and then we laugh and then maybe something funny could happen like a gust of wind blows the roll-up away or a dog eats it. The look on Ric's face! We'd freeze the shot on his face and that's when the credits would come up.
I'm going to ask the grocery kid to buy me some roll-up materials on the next shop he does. I'm going to practice my technique. I've got it all memorized. I was watching Nicole very closely.
Love is in the world, people.
Friday, January 23rd 2009
I heard some people come very quickly up the steps. There was laughter. Not many people come up the stairs like that. I held my breath and waited. They knocked on my door. I didn't want them to be developers. But it was okay.
It was Sarah and her friend, Nicole (from Plett.) I let them in.
“Hello,” I said as I did this.
“Sharky, we ran into your landlord on the way up here and shame, he's so sweet. He remembered my name and asked how I was and everything. The way you talk about him, it's like he's some kind of monster.” I don't think I talk about him like this. Besides, Sarah and the landlord have met a lot of times. Probably what really happened was that she saw the landlord in the corridor and he looked so sad and she wanted to feel sorry for him and decided to turn that sorriness into a scolding for me. I've got people down pretty well.
“So this is where Sarah spends all of her time!” Nicole (Nikky) said this. She was running about the place, poking her head around doors and generally being energetic.
“Not -all- of her time,” I said, truthfully and I tried to wink but I don't think anyone saw because it's hard to see both of my eyes at once. “In fact, she could spend a bit more time here!”
“Don't be greedy, Sharky!” said Sarah. She wasn't angry. We were just playing. “I'll be here all the time when I start my work experience.”
“When will that happen?” I asked.
“Jeez, don't pressure me. I've got a lot going on right now. Nikky's staying with me.” Nikki smiled, but Nikky smiling isn't news!
“My parents are away,” she said. I thought about asking Nikki to stay here, with me, instead. I'd be cool with sleeping on the kitchen floor. But if there's one thing I know about people it's that you can't give them the big emotions first or else they get suspicious and think it's a trap.
“Whatever,” I said. They lost interest in the subject. Nikky started making a roll-up cigarette. I couldn't stop watching her while she did it. It's great that we live in a world where you can roll your own cigarettes if you want to, like if you're feeling independent and don't want to do it the way everyone else does it. I wish I could roll my own cigarettes but it looks too difficult for me. She made me one and we sat by the window and we smoked them. She started asking me questions, all sorts of questions. She asked them very quickly and when I got into it, I was answering them quickly, too. It was like a game show about my life. I got every question right. I must have won over a thousand dollars in game show money. Most of the questions were about my pad.
“How long have you stayed here?”
“About forty – fifty years,”
“Where did you live before you lived here?”
“Where was that?”
“Right here. The courtyard was my old garden.”
“Who was the first girl you kissed?” That was a different kind of question. I was nearly stumped by it but then I remembered.
“The landlord's mother,” I said.
“Ooh la la!” said Sarah, suddenly. “Sharky – you were a bit of a player, hey?” I grinned and I'm pretty sure I was blushing.
“We were young,” I said.
The questions stopped after a while so I showed them both some websites I'd bookmarked and this game I've been playing on the computer. It's on a website and I found it. You're a robot (in the game) and you run around building towers that shoot at and kill all these other robots that are trying to kill your tree. You can beat the other robots up too, if you feel like it. It's currently my favourite game, but I keep dying when all the flying guys come out. Sarah said that the fame was going really slow compared to how these games usually go, but I pointed out that this was a different game and she probably hadn't seen it before.
“Is this what you do, you play games all day?” said Nikki. I winked again but I made sure she could see it this time and she laughed. Then I took them into the kitchen and showed them the statue I was making out of masking tape. “Is it a mask?” said Nikki, but she smiled when she said it and it wasn't mean, like when the grocery kid did it. The grocery kid just isn't very good with jokes, I think. He can't see what the other person is seeing.
I had to explain that it was a statue because all it is right now is a bit of foot and base.
“What is it a statue of? Or who?” asked Sarah. I told her it was of the landlord.
“Aw! You do love him!” she said and we all smiled. My smile was wild. I couldn't keep it under me. It rose up to the top like a bubble and exploded all over my face. It was like she'd found out my secret.
“I love everybody!” I said and it was true. I looked at Nikky but she looked away.
One foot is nearly finished.
Wednesday, January 21st 2009
On Sunday the grocery kid brought round all the masking tape I asked for. That was pretty cool of him, I thought.
Maybe the invisible war is over and we can hang out again just like old times. He could help me with the television company I'm going to set up. He could be the secretary or the P.A – the one who doesn't get much credit but is really holding the whole thing together while all this crazy stuff keeps happening around him. He's always making lists and figuring stuff out. That's a big part of why he's the grocery kid. He was probably a better landlord than the real landlord is. I think the place was happier / cleaner when he was doing it. I thought all of this and I nearly thought about asking him to stay for a little bit but then he said,
“That's a lot of masking tape you made me carry.” Yeah, I know. “What are you going to do with it all?”
“I'm going to make something. Something important,” I said.
“Are you going to make a mask?”
“To hide your face.”
“Out of the -masking- tape!” He was angry that I wasn't getting it. I turned my body against him, I stopped talking and then I didn't look at him until he left. He was trying to joke with me, but he was also trying to make me feel small and like I wasn't quick or clever enough for him. That's one of his attacks. There are lots more.
So I've been working on my statue since Sunday. Monday was all planning and visualizing – I'm going to start with the feet – and I started laying the tape down on Tuesday evening at exactly twenty five past six. I've nearly done the base and I'm starting on the feet. When the landlord came in earlier today, he seemed to really like it, even though he doesn't know what it is yet.
“Nice to see you're painting again,” he said.
“This isn't a painting, this is sculpture,” I said.
“Oh, I thought you were just priming the board, creating like a texture.” He was wrong. He doesn't know much about the creative process. I was always the creative one.
He told me that he's been talking to my son (Michael) on the telephone. He said this very deliberately. He was building up to something. He was priming the board, creating a texture.
“I spoke to Henrietta too,” he said.
“Oh, how is she?” I said. I didn't really care how she was.
“Have you said anything about me recently on your computer?”
“No, I don't talk about you so much,” I said.
“Okay then,” he said, then he moved his arms around a few times and got them in a comfortable position again. “I should read your writing, I bet you're making all sorts of comments and observations,” he said. He smiled and shook his head. I didn't say anything. I worked on the foot I was making until he made dinner.
I wouldn't like it.
Wednesday, January 14th 2009
@groombridge asked me a question about my problems today. We've got into this pattern. He tells me about his problems, which are mostly about his kids and school and money and everything, then I tell him mine, which are mostly about how the landlord isn't on my side any more. It's a good system. Between the two of us, we solve a lot of problems.
So today he asked why I can't just move in with the landlord and Celene when they go to Greyton. There are lots of reasons why I can't do that. I wouldn't like it there. Everybody is old and there isn't anything cool around. I bet they don't even have the internet. The city is where things happen. I don't think I could ever be away from that.
When the landlord came round later on today, I asked him about Greyton. He said that they were still looking at houses.
“How many rooms are in the houses?” I asked.
“Two bedrooms,” he said.
“One for you and Celene and one for the grocery kid?”
“That's right. We want two bathrooms too, but that's harder to find.”
“What about for me?”
“What if I want to live with you?”
“Shark, you're welcome to come visit any time you like, you know you are, but you wouldn't like it in Greyton. It's very wide-open, it's not like Mowbray.” he said. “And it's full of old farts like me,” he added with a smile.
“Yeah, that doesn't sound so great,” I said.
“No,” he said. He shook his head as he said it.
“Can you take the burgular bars off my window, quick?”
“Why do you want me to do that?”
“I just don't want them on there any more.” He walked over to the window to inspect the bars.
“Yes, but why do you want me to take them off?”
“Fine, forget it.” I said and I went back to my websites.
“You can't have them off,” he said, looking down into the courtyard. “It's not safe.”
The fight between me and the landlord
Tuesday, January 13th 2009
I think this fight has been coming for a long time. Ever since the landlord came back from the Navy. Maybe before even then. He wasn't the landlord then, he was just a kid. You can't fight kids. There are rules.
It'll happen when he comes to fire me. After all these years and all the crazy things we've been through together, that's how it will end. He will walk through the door (after I've let him in,) put that sad old 'oh, why me' expression on his face and then tell me to leave the building, gotta get my stuff, the developers are here now, just down in the courtyard, it's time to go.
I think he'll bring the grocery kid with him as back-up. That's okay because I can take them both. I am a shark. I instinctively know how to fight because it is the nature of a shark to be alone and when you're alone out there in the ocean, stuff happens. Sometimes you've got to fight your way out of it. He'll then say a lot of things to fill the space because I won't be talking. I'll just be standing there looking big – big enough to block the door if I wanted to. I'll be beyond talking. I'll be all the way into 'fighting,' and there'll be words that I'll want to say, like, “From the moment I met you I knew that this would happen. I didn't want it to. I tried to stop it. But the world pushed us to where we are.” But I won't be able to say them. I'll do the first punch and then he, too, will be all the way over in fighting. With me. At that moment, the grocery kid will gasp and leave the room. He'll run downstairs to fetch the landlord's old leather boxing gloves. He used to box in high school. The leather is all black and broken. He's had them for a long time. We'll stand there, facing each other, while we wait for the grocery kid to come back. It'll take a while because he's so slow. By the time he finally comes up and helps the landlord put the gloves on, we've had a lot of time to figure out our strategies. Mine will be the best one. I'm not sure if the landlord's gloves still fit him these days buyt if they don't then we can make a plan. I won't need gloves because I reckon my fighting style is mostly headbutts. When his gloves are on and he has been made ready, I'll go at him, mouthing one word – 'win.' The word won't be for him. It will be my word. He'll try his punches but I'll dodge and I'll block. He's old and I'm a shark. I can absorb a lot of damage and then I'll do my headbutts. It'll hurt but I'll be ready for all of it.
When he's beaten and dazed and the grocery kid is calling for him to snap out of it and fight, that's when I know it's time. I'll tell him in my mind that he fought well then I'll pick him up in my mouth, walk over to the window and throw him right through the glass. I'll have to take the burgular bars off the window first though, or else it won't work. The landlord will probably have to help me with that.When the glass breaks and he falls through the window, the grocery kid will cry out and run to try and stop it all from happening. But hey, grocery kid, 1) – You're too late, 2) – I'll punch you in the face while you're not looking and you'll fall asleep right there on the bed. The landlord will fall into the courtyard, right in front of all the developers.
“I'm so scared!” One of them will say, and mean it. There will be a lot of fast talking and anger. They will look up at the window. They'll see me.
“We can't develop here! There's a killer shark on the top floor!” the leader developer will say. They'll all agree and then will leave. Later on they will offer me a lot of money for me to not make a fuss about what happened. I'll tell them that I'm staying and that they'll just have to deal and that I want the stuff that the kid moved brought back to me. They'll send the grocery kid round with the boxes of stuff and then me and him will get talking. We haven't really talked in years. I'll say that I'm sorry I won but that it was the best way and he'll tell me what's on his mind. Then I'll make him the landlord again, like he used to be, but this time he won't cop an attitude because he's seen what happens to landlords who turn against me and my system. I won't have to say any of that out loud though. He'll understand and I'll understand too.
Things will be okay from then on. I'll spend a lot of my time making a statue of the landlord that will go in the courtyard at the very spot where he'll land. He wasn't a bad guy and it's important that people remember him for the times when he wasn't a jerk.
My new relationship with Sarah
Monday, January 12th 2009
Sarah came over today. The first thing she did when I opened the door was ask me why I looked so sad. I could have held her right then, but I don't do that very often. My skin is rough and greasy. People don't like it.
“No one's been to visit me,” I said. This wasn't really true – the landlord and the grocery kid have been over here, same as always, but I meant her.
“Oh Sharky, I'm sorry. I've just been really busy, there's been so much to do. I'm trying to get my visa together.”
“David didn't come over for christmas,” I said. “I wanted him to but he didn't.”
“I haven't spoken to David for a while,” she said. She sat down on the bed like she normally does and started adjusting her hair around. She can put it in so many different configurations. There's a lot of hair in my apartment and it all belongs to other people. I like to keep it there because it reminds me that there are people around, but the landlord says its gross that there are balls of hair around. Quite a lot of it is his, I reckon. “I'll talk to him and ask him what's up, how about that?” she said and then got up and made some tea and I put some of her music on.
“I keep mailing him.” I called out to her. You have to speak loudly when the kettle is on.
“I'll speak to him,” she called back. She came in with tea but I didn't really feel like drinking any. I'd never asked for tea. Sarah blew on hers for a while. She does that all the time.
“Does the place look different?” I asked. She looked around.
“No, I don't think so,” she said.
“The kid moved a bunch of my stuff out,” I said. “Soon they're going to move ME out.”
“Where did he move it to?” she said, looking worried while she blew on her tea.
“I don't know,” I said. I didn't want her to get worried about that. I didn't want her to get up and go looking for my stuff. I wanted her to stay. After three more blows she took her first sip of tea.
“Did you have a nice christmas?” she said.
“I had lunch with the landlord and everyone downstairs,”
“That does sound nice. Christmas was weird for me, it wasn't like a normal one. My family were being really uncomfortable so I tried to spend as little time in the house as possible. I ended up, like at the last minute, I didn't plan it or anything, going camping with Clar and her boyfriend and this guy I'm seeing.”
Sarah and guys.
But it's okay, I'm cool with that. I used to be a bit more aggressive about women. When things got serious again with the landlord's mother, I wouldn't let her go out too much in case she met a guy and liked him better than she liked me. But when Celene married the landlord I was cool with it. I just had gained a lot of perspective by then. You have to realise that sometimes you just can't reach people. You have to learn to be alone. That's what being a shark is all about.
“Sharky, do you need someone to help out around the house?” she said suddenly.
“What?” I thought she was calling my place dirty. I thought she was above that.
“Well, I'm thinking of going to England in winter so I go to their summer and get two summers in a row. I want to get some caring work there, like looking after old people, so I thought that maybe I could build up some work experience here with you. You don't have to pay me, you just have to tell the agencies that I'm signing up with that I did it.”
“Would you stay here with me?” I asked. I imagined her camping out here, like in a tent. She'd live in the kitchen and have a little has stove.
“No, I don't think so,” she said.
I said that I'd want that more than anything. With Sarah around, I could get so much stuff done. I wouldn't have to worry about doing the washing up and I could just focus on my work. And she'd be good in a fight, because I know it's going to come down to a fight between me and the landlord in the end. I think that I always knew that it would end up with me versus him. I'm not going to leave here without a fight and it'll be good to have her on my side.
Looking different and strange
Friday, January 2nd 2009
The kid left today. He got tired of fighting. He's not as young as he used to be. Maybe Henrietta got to him. Maybe there is no reason – he just decided to follow the wind and do his own thing. The kid takes after me, don't forget. I could sit around and throw out theories all day, but here are the facts:
The kid came over early. I usually would have been asleep and might not have answered the door but I'd been up all night downloading music that @groombridge had e-mailed to me. It took a long time because my internet is so slow compared to the stuff they have in America. The way @groombridge talks about the internet in America makes it sound really magical and easy. I might move to America.
I asked the kid what he was doing around here so early. I smiled and said it was okay because I was actually still downloading the last few songs at that point. Then the kid said,
“I thought I could help you with moving some of your things out. You know, into your new – well, the old – the granny flat.” He didn't know what to call it. He shifted his weight and came at me, explaining, “Anything heavy. Which you might not be able to manage.” I couldn't believe it.
“Oh, can you not cut it in court any more? Was it too hard for you?” I wasn't trying to be mean, I was giving him a way out of it. All he had to do was say, 'yes.' He still hadn't come inside yet. This part happened at the door.
“I haven't been in court.”
“You said you were,” I said. I was ready to start quoting him to support my argument.
“I was just playing along with you,” he said. “I thought it was one of your games.” I nodded sagely. I've read that the Romans never used to record their defeats. They were positive thinkers.
Then he came in but he didn't want any tea. His mind was fixed on moving things for me. He wanted to know what he could take.
“I'm kind of using everything right now,”
“No you're not,” he said. “What's in that box?” He pointed to the box by my cupboard, the box full of the landlord's mother's things.
“That's important and private. I'm going to go through that tomorrow.”
“What about all those boxes in the back room?”
“I'm using those too. They've got art stuff in them. I might need it soon.” He went in the back room.
“This one is full of old newspapers,” he called out.
“That's in case I break anything – The grocery kid keeps buying glass.” I pointed out.
“I'm going to move some of them.” And then he did. He picked up one box at a time and walked with it out the door and down the stairs. A little later he came back, out of breath, and did the same thing again. I could have stopped him if I wanted to. I'm pretty tall and I can block up the whole doorway if I want. But the kid just wanted to help. I guess he felt bad about getting defeated in court. He doesn't like to lose. He takes after me that way, too.
My back room looked weird with all those pieces of it missing. I was suddenly worried about breaking something so I put all the mugs and dishes that were lying around my room into the sink where they were safe. Then I tried to remember what the back room looked like before the kid had taken the pieces out but I couldn't quite do it. It was hard to get things back to normal with the back room looking different.
Hey look at me, I'm a developer
Wednesday, December 31st 2008
Hello everybody. Sorry that The Ancient Shark Of Despair couldn't make it to the blog today. But don't worry, I'm going to write one instead. I'm a developer and I'm trying to buy his whole building and turf him and all the old people who live there out onto the streets so that we can build some shops that probably aren't even very good. Then we'll skim all the sadness off those homeless old people and boil it to power even more development. It's a cycle and it goes on forever.
But it's not all fun and games, guys. Developing The Ancient Shark Of Despair's place has been pretty hard. For years, he took a stand and just said 'no' to development. He believes in things like 'community' and 'making the world better,' so he's a tough nut to crack in negogiation-fights. He does have one weakness though and it's a doozy: his landlord.
Basically, his landlord betrayed him just to make a point. The Shark just wanted to do his own thing but the landlord thought that he couldn't do that any more, but the landlord was just jealous that the Shark was spending a lot of time with his new friends (who are young and nice) and not enough with his old family (who are old and dying). So the Shark's landlord turned the tables on him one day and took his building away from him on some technicality and stopped him from having more than R100 at a time because he said that the Shark would only spend the money on pizza and on tipping the pizza guy, who was the best of the Shark's new friends. But then, just as the landlord was about to sell the building to us for developing, the Shark's real son jumped in the way and used his hotshot legal dynamo of a brain to fight us. We've had this big invisible war going on with the Shark for quite some time. We came so close to winning. But now we're losing, friends. We're losing.
Pretty funny, hey? It wasn't really a developer. It was me writing that. I thought I'd shake things up a bit today because it's my birthday. I don't normally do anything special for my birthday but today hotshot legal dynamo of a son and also the landlord and the grocery kid came over and asked me if I wanted to go out somewhere.
“I don't know many places,” I said. All three of them were lined up next to each other. They looked like they were about to sing or defend a goal. They looked so funny.
“Rhodes Memorial? We could have a nice big breakfast with scones,” said the grocery kid. The landlord nodded to show that he thought it was a good idea too. It meant that he wouldn't have to cook.
“And there's that glorious view of the city, Shark. You can see how it's all changed. You know you were telling me about that? How different it all looks today?” he said.
“No,” I said and I grinned and wriggled uncomfortably. “It'll be full of grannies and old people.”
“We could go on a hike,” tried the landlord. “Up Lion's Head, somewhere like that.”
“You won't get me up there with my back,” said the grocery kid. He touched his back with his hand to remind us that he had a bad back. Yeah, we know. “We don't have to go all the way up,” said the landlord. I shook my head. I didn't want to go up Lion's Head. There would be no point in it.
“We could go to the Museum, and see the whale they've got. Remember the whale? We saw it once. Or the Planetarium, you loved the Planetarium the last time we went.” This was the kid talking. “Henrietta and me went just the other day, to the museum, but the Planetarium is still there.”
“I used to take you all the time,” said the grocery kid. Yeah, like I didn't know that. I shook my head again. I did kind of want to go to the Planetarium, but it was too far. If we were going that far, we might as well go to the movies.
“Well then let's go to the cinema,” said the landlord. “It's been a bloody long time since we did that together.”
“You used to take us when we were boys,” said the grocery kid. I rolled my eyes at him.
“The kid wasn't allowed to go in those days,” I said. “He's allowed to go now, right?” They assured me that he could. I nodded. That's what I wanted to do.
It turned out that the Alhambra theatre had closed down a while back, so we decided to go to the Kenilworth Centre instead. I checked on the internet to pick a movie that looked good and we decided on one that was about South Africa and witchdoctors. The kid went to fetch the landlord's mother's old wheelchair and the landlord helped me wrap up in blankets. We used the old blankets that I always used to use – no towels. It was weird that he still had the exact same blankets but I guess a blanket is a blanket. I wasn't too happy about the landlord driving my car or the grocery kid sitting in the front seat, but it was okay in the back with the kid. The drive didn't take long and when we got into the parking lot they got me out of the car, put me in the wheelchair and took me inside the Centre, which is this huge mall with all kinds of weird shops. I'd seen a lot of ads for places like them on TV, and some of the shops were shops from the old days, but different. The kids seemed to really like pushing me around in my wheelchair. The landlord kept taking deep breaths of mall air and the kid (who was driving) kept on speeding up and slowing down to make it more fun. The grocery kid even looked kind of happy, although he wasn't as fast as the others but we waited for him to catch up. Not many people were around, just us boys, going to the movies.
When we got inside the movie house I got really quite excited. I hadn't done this in so long. I kept getting memories of what it was like back in the old days before the grocery kid turned the two houses into apartments and before the landlord came back from the Navy and married Celene. I used to not like those days, as a memory, because I don't think I had all my stuff worked out at that point. I was a lot of things to a lot of peoplen but I didn't have a core to myself that I was proud of. But now I think that maybe those times were pretty fun – I had my girl and I had these great kids and we got up to so such mischief before everything got serious and everyone got old. Stuff changed so much when the landlord moved out and the kid went off to Japan to study and the Abrams got kicked out of their house and it was just me and the grocery kid and a building full of people who complained all the time. At the time I was so excited to be running a business and fixing things the way I wanted them that I was kind of glad that all the changes were happening. I don't think I agree with me-back-then now. While I was thinking all these sorts of things, I kept losing my concentration and whenever the screen blacked out and a new ad came up, I'd ask the landlord if the movie had started. He got kind of irritated with me because it is supposed to be obvious when it happens, but there really were a lot of ads. I guess there's more stuff to buy now so it makes sense.
The movie was okay. It was about time-travel and that kind of mingled with my thoughts, but it was a funny movie and we laughed a lot. It feels weird that they are making movies about South Africa now. It doesn't feel right, somehow. I kept checking on the grocery kid to see if he was laughing and he was, nearly every time I looked. That made me feel good. He used to be my favourite and I when I saw him laugh at the screen, I think he was my favourite again for a little bit.
When we got back in I was so tired but I wanted to talk about the movie to everyone. We got Celene and Henrietta together and I told them the whole plot and the best jokes. The grocery kid and the landlord helped when I forgot a bit or did a line wrong. Even though I was so tired, I stayed up all the way until midnight and then it was a new year and it wasn't my birthday any more. I drank some wine to celebrate and came back to my room. I'm glad that the developers didn't win. I don't want everything to change again.