“I haven’t had a very productive week,” sighs Soda, fiddling with the broken arm of her sunglasses. Wayfarers – real ones, not the rip-offs I can see at one of the market stalls nearby. She holds them out to me hopefully. “Can you fix these?” Then, frowning into the contents of her huge gold shoulder bag, “Wait… there’s another pair in here.” She picks them out suspiciously, looking between the identical items in confusion. “That’s…. so weird. I don’t know which is mine…”
I’m yawning as she tosses the broken sunglasses very carefully a few feet away from us, where they land near a small white poodle. The poodle sniffs them, then glances over at Soda disdainfully. Wayfarers are so over, even canines know it.
“I’m hot,” I announce, stretching sleepily and rolling onto my back. We’re sitting in the patchy grass near the red swings and overflowing bins, with the other hipster kids and drunks and deadbeats too hungover to do anything than impotently watch the markets unfold. “As in genetically blessed and because of the fucking…” I wave my hand in the direction of the sky. The unmoving sun beats down mercilessly even though it’s autumn, because Sydney only has one climatic expression: sunny. I picture a cancer forming beneath the surface of my t-shirt, like on the ads that are all over the TV like a raging STD. Something about melanoma forming before you even tan. Shots of a faceless model lying on a towel who has tiny tits like my sister and long alien legs like this girl who got off on getting her toes sucked from my second – no, third – high school. I’m good with body parts. But who goes to the beach anymore?
“I mean, it’s so goddamn sandy at the beach.” I mutter. “Sand up your ass for a week. That shit ain’t right.”
“Mmmm…” says Soda, eyes trained on a waif boy in Bart Simpsons shorts looking at a second hand book about sailing. “I think I know that guy. I think he’s a designer of something.” She frowns and squints at her fingernails: blood red and chipped. “I think we made out once. Maybe. I don’t remember”.
The markets are getting busier. The smell of Japanese pancakes mixes with the sweet smoke from an invisible jay as kids moving overseas or home hock crappy clothes and plastic jellewry. A collection of junk I barely remember buying earlier – 80s porno keyrings, Mickey Mouse ears, a cactus – are arranged in the grass at our feet. Useless offerings from consuming atheists. I’ll give the key ring to my mum, and the cactus will be, as I explained to Soda when I bought it, “proof I can commit to something other than vodka-based beverages.”
“Jamie. Your impression of a homeless junkie vampire is inspired.” Jules appears in front of us eclipsing the sun, still in the purple suit he was wearing last night, smelling like gin and – inexplicitly – burnt rubber. He bent down to pet my hand with faux-pity. “And no, I don’t have a dollar.”
He sat down between us, running a finger up Soda’s crazily long, waxy legs until gasps breathlessly, giggling and brushing his hand away.
“What do you give an anorexic for their birthday?” he asks. “C’mon Soda, you should know this.”
She ignores him, inspecting the ends of her pale blonde hair for split ends.
“Um… scales?” I guess.
“The Good Food Guide,” he answers impassively. “And I did that last week. My pain-in-the-ass attention-seeking cousin. Fucking hilarious.”
“Like you can talk, you fat fuck,” I smirk back at him. “Jules’ autobiography: ‘Yes, I’ll Take Seconds: The Julian Ashbury Story’.
Jules grins. ‘From Buffet Bars To Shitty Cars: One Man’s Journey From The Bottom To The Middle’.
‘Gain Weight Now, Ask Him How,’ adds Soda, putting on the Mickey Mouse ears.
Jules shrieks with laughter. “And I thought modules were personality-free zones,” he deadpans. “I wuv you, bunny chicken. You’re almost actually funny.” Then, pulling himself to his feet. “C’mon. It won’t shock you to know I’m in the mood for something salty.”
Jules bums change off me for some overpriced Turkish pizza, then we drift back together through the makeshift stalls chocked with second-hand cowboy boots and glittery handbags and books about loneliness because Jules was looking for a “suitable offensive” birthday present for someone called Michael and we didn’t have anything else to do. Soda keep saying she needed to get her nails done and I had vague plans to work on new tracks at the studio, but the sun stayed in the same part of the sky and since time wasn’t moving there didn’t seem much point. Jules was talking about his night, alternating between laughing loudly about unfortunate dance steps and staring into the middle distance trying to remember the actual sequence of events – club, house party, pub, house party, no that’s not right, wait, house party, club, bar, etc etc etc when suddenly he stiffens. As he was leading the charge we all knocked into each other, slapstick-like. A red-headed boy with great cheekbones wearing a ‘Jesus Says Relax’ t-shirt is shuffling idly through some flannelette shirts on a wobbly rack. Jules gasps.
“Yeah, way too early for rangas,” I agree. “They should only be allowed outside under strict supervision…”
“Shut up Jamie,” Soda shifts her weight, half a head taller than both of us. “Who dat, Jules?”
But Jules had already composed himself, channelling his Andy Warhol-esque blank stare. “No one.”
The boy ran a hand through his ranga curls, checking the time on his phone. He’s not even that hot. Soda sighs. “Let’s split, you guys. I have to go to Sexy Nails…”
“C’mon.” And Jules is heading over to the boy, widening his eyes in pretend surprise. “Kim?”
The boy – Kim, I guess – glances up and I see a look of something like surprise or horror or both flick over his face, as he coughs. “Jules?”
“Ohmigod, hi!” Jules leans forward, brushing his pale cheek with a kiss. “Fuck off, you look great, you bitch.”
Confused, Kim glances cautiously back at me and Soda; impassive bodyguards in massive shades – me holding a cactus with both hands like it possesses religious significance, Soda still wearing the Mickey Mouse ears and holding an unlit cigarette as if she was offering it to, apparently, no one.
“You look like a stupid model in those ears,” I hiss at her.
“I am a stupid model,” she parrots back at me. “Shut up, I’m trying to eavesdrop.”
“I’m just up for a few days…” Kim’s saying, pulling at one pretty nice earlobe nervously.
“That’s great!” Jules’ voice goes weird and high, before it evens out again to perfect Jules pronunciation. “Let’s carpe diem and do a cheeky drink tonight. I just bought an apartment in Kings Cross. It’s all sorts of amazing.” He cocks his head, oozing charm. “What are you up to these days?”
“I’m, um, still doing photos for Oyster.”
“Oyster! You know who’s fabulous?”
Kim clears his throat. “Who?”
“You!” Jules exclaims, swatting him playfully.
Kim laughs, and then catches himself. Jules’ eyes glitter. The boy in the Bart Simpsons shorts passes us, glancing at Soda, and smiling. Her voice rasps into my ear. “Better offer. Ciao.”
The white poodle trots past us, bored, as she starts a few metres in one direction, stops, confused and doubles back the other way, following the boy. Two chubby teenage girls nudge each other red-faced as she passes them oblivious, recognising who she is, and I feel sorry for them and the fact they’re holding a second hand Jet CD, because that band redefined the word ‘lame’ in a totally radical way.
“Look um, I’d love to catch up Jules, really, seriously, but I have a dinner… thing tonight….”
“Come over after. I’m cereal,” Jules’ voice lowers, and he sways a few inches closer to the boy, shooting out sex vibes like it’s past midnight. “It’d be great to… catch up.”
It’d be great to… fuck. Jules meet subtext. I can’t believe you guys don’t know each other.
“OK,” Kim finally says, nodding. “But I can probably only do an hour at around 11…”
Jules winks, dropping his voice. “That’s plenty of time.”
The ranga almost blushes, making me almost notice the almost cute smear of freckles across his nose. “What’s your address?”
Jules is quiet as we weave our way out of the market towards the car, failing to even raise a smile at the 15-year-old emo kids steeped in eyeliner and dancing sadly around a stereo playing The Cure remixes.
“Hate sex with an ex,” I yawn, picking out a yellow rose from the bunches for sale near the entrance. “You should be more excited. Hate sex is hot sex.”
Jules glances at me. “Where’s Soda?”
I shrugged, sniffing the rose, “Where is anyone? Where is anything? What is knowledge, Jules. Seriously.” I hand the rose a boy wearing earmuffs and enormous army boots walking past us, who smiles at me and I smile back.
Jules’ car still has that addictively sterile new car smell, which makes me feel good and powerful and almost awake. I pull a few spikes out of my cactus, which I’ve named Felix, accidentally pricking myself and drawing blood.
Jules slides behind the wheel, flicking the mirror down, watching himself say, “We have to go via the lab. I need some stuff.” He turned the key in the engine. “I need you at mine tonight.”
I laughed. “Baby, I know you wanna tap this ass, but our days of threesomes ended when the free beer-and-Rohypnol parties at l’universitie did, d’accord?”
“I’m serious. Cancel any plans you had tonight. It’s gonna be…. karmic.”
“Dude, that’s the guy from that show about criminals who become chefs!” I say excitedly, as we eased smoothly out of our park, passing a stocky dude with great pecs on the footpath, staring up at the sky. “I think he killed someone! Fuck, now I feel like mandarin Crème Brulee. That’s his speciality. He’s like, really, really amazing.”
“Wow,” says Jules. “Double wow.” We drive through a flock of pigeons, maybe hitting a few, and we leave the markets.
The streets are chocked with Saturday traffic so instead of driving, we mostly end up sitting, bumper to bumper, sun still unmoving in a completely empty sky. I watch a couple at a Crown Street café, wearing totally gay matching cut-off cargos and white-shirts make faces at our exhaust fumes, and I think, ‘Dudes, it’s the city, what did you expect?’. Their tables and chairs are so close to the street I can see the headlines of the newspaper they’re reading. “Teenager attacked by hedgehog” and yet another article about how obese Australians are getting. We’re a nation of fat goddamn fucks, and it’s a goddamn disgrace is what it is. I announce this to Jules, who hasn’t even noticed the fact his CD has been skipping for the past few minutes on the same 80s diva rift. I hit the stereo, and it stops.
“You were in The Brag this week,” I sprinkle a little hash over the cigarette I’m rolling.
“What?” and then, “This fucking traffic… Move!” Jules screams and hits the horn hard.
“The Brag. A photo of you out at Vegas, or Candy’s.” I pause, wetting the paper slowly with my tongue which I imagine glistening somewhat beautifully in the clear autumn light. “You were wearing sunglasses but you still looked wasted.”
“Which ones?” Jules stared straight ahead, then farted.
“Umm….” I try to think, lighting my cigarette carefully. “The ones that look like Ben’s but not – they have that detail across the top. A riff on Ray Bans. Amber glass. Thin frame. Funky-classy.”
“The Ksubis,” he mutters, squinting.
“Yeah,” I agree, happily. “The Ksubis.”
“I lost those.” Then he screams. “FUCK ME! MOVE!” and hits the horn for what seems like a very long time.
I melt back into my seat slowly, and meditate first on the memory of the photo of Jules, and then of the photo of me and this very, very hot Italian or Spanish guy that was in the magazine three weeks prior. I don’t remember the photo being taken but we both look really good in it; bored, stoner slack gazes glancing in annoyance at whatever wannabe-paparazzi was taking photos of us – the cool kids in the corner drinking scotch who’ve ‘dated’ the DJs and are always waved past the quivering queue by tiny, mixed-ethnic-hot door bitches.
“Do you want some?” I wave the thin, too tightly rolled joint in Jules’ face and he swats it away like a mosquito, annoyed.
“Finally,” he moans as the traffic starts to move.
I blink, confused. “Are we in a hurry?”
We park surprisingly easily near the student lab Jules goes to school at and I trail him, peacefully stoned, as he swipes his way past disinterested security and inside. He stuffs various, unidentifiable bits and pieces into the coffee-brown leather satchel I helped him shoplift from Orson & Blake a few weeks ago, in spite of – or because, I guess – he can totally afford it anyway.
“I thought you were on holidays,” I frown, suddenly remembering an end-of-semester party that involved a Superman costume, strawberry slushies and a blowjob.
“Holidays, yeah,” he replied, pursing his lips as he inspected the tiny nonsensical writing on a back of a packet of pills, “One day to come together to release the pressure. We need a holiday.”
I chuckle. Jules is cool.
I’d completely forgotten I’d said I’d hang out with Tina this afternoon to get high and watch vampire movies until she texts me back in the car, and I convince Jules to drop me off. A ragged prostitute with really bad skin who works the corner near her house starts to walk to the car as we slow down, and then stops when I get out and hiss at her.
“Tonight, OK?” Jules says to me warningly. “No later than 11.”
“Your interest in my ass is flattering but desperate, baby.” I shoot him a cheesy grin as I slam the door.
“Eleven!” he yells, screeching up the quiet street.
I forget which house is Tina’s and have to call her which seems to take longer than it should as the hash makes me forget even the simplest things in my phone. She yanks the door open and I instantly regret coming, even though I can see the outline of her admittedly perfect breasts underneath the Garfield t-shirt she sleeps and fucks in. She’s in a shitty mood.
“How many times have you been here?” She stalks down the dark hallway, and I follow, bumping into something as it’s kind of hard to see with my sunglasses on.
“Um… hi? Hello? It’s nice to see you to?”
“Don’t be cute Jamie,” she snaps over her shoulder. “It’s not you. It’s fake. It’s annoying.”
“I’m a slave to the lost art of conversation. Sue me.”
She goes into their small, dark kitchen where she makes a point of ignoring me as she rummages through the fridge for something, so I wander over to the dining room table where her flatmate Anna is reading the News Review section of a paper and drinking green tea. Anna is one of those makeup-free yet undeniably hot political girls who’s always going on at Tina about leaving lights on in the house and recycling, like, everything. She pretends to hate me on principle but I’m pretty sure deep down she wants to score me but can’t because it’d fly in the face of a feminist principle. The house smells like chicken soup.
“Hey,” I slid down next to her, and sigh.
“Jamie,” she replies without looking up.
“What are you reading?” I lean over and sneak a peek down the front of her baggy t-shirt. She isn’t wearing a bra and I catch a glance of small, pert, pink nibble causing hot flashes of horniness to race up through me before she looks up, and instantly, I’m glad I came.
“The paper.” She stares at me, arching an eyebrow. “Do you know what that is?”
I laugh and sit back in my chair, spreading my legs slightly. “Propaganda.”
“Is this my avocado?” Tina calls from the kitchen. “Anna, is this mine?”
“Yeah,” Anna replies flatly, still staring at me. “Propaganda for who, Jamie?”
“Um, the government?” I play super dumb, meeting her gaze. “No wait, the man. You’ve gotta stick it to the man, Anna. Do you like sticking it, to the man?”
She smiles at me grimly. “I’m reading about the war in Congo,” she announces loudly. “It’s the longest running war for the past two centuries. Over five million people have died. Did you know that?”
“No.” I replied. Then, “That totally sucks, hey?”
“Yeah,” she says, giving me a weird look. “It sucks.”
We stare at each other and I shrug, taking off my sunglasses. “Where’s Congo?”
“Oh,” I say, relieved. “OK.” I wondered if there’s any chicken soup left and if it was any good, then realising if Tina made it, it probably is, because she makes that shit from scratch.
Anna folds her hands over the article primly. “How’s your Dad?”
I knew she was being a bitch on purpose, and it was making me all kinds of excited. “He said to say thanks for burning effigy you made him. He said it was really,” I cocked my head, pretending to rack my brain. “… lifelike and touching.” I raised my eyebrows at her, smirking, and let my eyes drop to her cleavage, before rising up slowly her gaze. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?”
“You’re an idiot,” she says smiling calmly, and in that moment, I know she wants to fuck me and I wonder how far off the possibility of a threesome with her and Tina actually is.
I smile too, now definitely horny.
After Tina gets over being mad which involves me playing at being sooky and sorry and faux-forlorn, we go to her room and fool around on her bed for a while but she won’t let me take her panties off and after alternating between pretending not to care and getting my hand swatted away from trying to rub her clit I give up, and concentrate instead on rolling a joint while she lies back on the bed and watches me.
“How’s work?” she asks.
“What do you mean?”
“Work,” she repeats. Her room is really messy, one of the things I like about Tina. “OK, forget it.”
“Is that the new Cut Copy album?” It’s on her floor under some uni notes. “Awesome. Now I don’t have to buy it.”
“I’m thinking of moving to Melbourne,” she says, shifting up onto her elbows.
“For work?” I ask, twisting the top of the joint neatly. “That’s cool.” I lean over and pick up the album, which looks cool, but the CD isn’t in the case and I can’t see a loose CD anywhere. “Is this is the stereo?”
“Not for work,” she says, ignoring the CD case, sounding irritated. “No, for a change. Nothing’s happening for me here.”
“Oh,” I say. “Cool, babe. Melbourne’s way cool. I think the band is touring there in a few months. I’ll visit.”
“Yeah,” she says, watching me light the joint. “I’m thinking of going, like, next week.”
“OK, I’ll get the this back to you by then,” I’m pretty sure that won’t really happen but I tap the empty case, hoping she’ll tell me where the CD is anyway. I suddenly realise what she’s saying, and I try not to sound excited when I ask, “Have you told Anna?” I slid my hand up her thigh, letting it linger politely a few inches from her crotch. I easily picture Anna’s pale, bare tits, the look of disgust mixed with desire as I unbutton her shirt for the first time, hands shoved hard into her jeans pockets as I kiss and play with her nipples. “Does Anna know you’re moving out?”
“Forget it,” she mutters, grabbing the joint and taking a hit. “You’re a real jerk, you know that?.”
“Aww, isn’t that what you turns you on about me?” I pull her close and nuzzle her neck which makes her giggle, then she stares at me sadly. Tina has big eyes like a cartoon character, and today they look almost too big for her little face. I cup her chin in my hand and kiss her gently.
“You look cute today.” I say, and I mean it. “I gotta jet soon. Let’s put on The Lost Boys.”
By the time I leave it’s early evening and the band meeting that was planned had been cancelled via a fairly incoherent text from our manager Monty who had apparently been on some kind of bender which was ‘strictly business’ and had instead instructed us to rehearse which I didn’t bother replying to – hello Monty-the-mindless, it’s a Saturday night – so I catch a cab back home over the Bridge, because I need a hot shower and a cold beer pretty fucking badly. As I unlock the door, I turn this phrase over in my mind, suddenly pleased, and make a mental note to write it down as a possible song lyric.
“Hot shower, cold beer,” I sing deliberately tunelessly, tossing my keys on the glass table in the big hallway. The crash echoes through the house like a gunshot.
“Jamie, for godsake, don’t throw those keys on that table!” My mother’s voice shoots through from kitchen. “I’ve told you, it’ll crack.”
“Crack?” I bound into the kitchen like a puppy. “Are you doing crack Lynette? Can I have some?”
My mother is dressed in a pretty classy white jacket and skirt, applying a smear of red lipstick in the hallway mirror which is about as big as my king-sized bed upstairs. Classical music is floating out from the pool, mixed in with the sound of polite laughter, and then my Dad’s huge, deliberate guffaw. There are half a dozen unfamiliar handbags and suit jackets slung on the various lounges. The thought of liberating a few fiddies from them briefly crosses my mind.
“Don’t be silly Jamie,” she says, eyes trained to her reflection. “Where’ve you been?”
“Church,” I reply. “Reading to the blind.” I watch her apply a clear gaze over the red. “I thought Dad was in Japan for that conference. Something about why rice is so awesome?”
She tuts, hiding a smile. “He leaves tomorrow night. Go and say hello.” She steps back from her reflection, pouting, fluffing her hair which looks freshly cut.
‘Pass.” I say, starting to sing, “I need a hot shower, a cold beer.”
She turns to me with a bemused smile before involuntarily gasping, irritated. “Oh for godsake Jamie, you have lipstick smeared all over your face.” She goes to rub at my face and I duck easily, giggling, glancing at my reflection. “Go and wash it off before someone sees you.”
“Hot shower, cold beer” I sing loudly as I pad up the stairs to my room. “I gotta good… lipstick smear.”
Everything in my room is covered with a layer of dust, as if I hadn’t been home for years. As I flop back on my bed, naked and wet from the shower, puffs of white particles (dead skin cells right?) shoot up and hang in the air made yellow by a desk lamp. I dig this room, but everywhere I look there’s shit I should be doing. On the desk, unpaid phone bills. On the floor, dirty clothes. Next to my bed, unopened university readers. Unfinished song lyrics. Demos meant to mailed to community radio (isn’t that Mindless Monty’s job? Earn your 10%, you moron). Party invites and exhibition openings and media things I’d forgotten or missed or lost and then found, too late. Lynette instructed our cleaner guy Bevan not to do our rooms for some insane reason but I’m sure I could come to some arrangement with him behind her back. It was actually starting to smell like something died in here. A barely there knock.
“Come in if you’re horny.”
A pause. “It’s me.”
Great. “Permission to come aboard.” My sister Lola opens the door slowly. She’s wearing a green shapeless shift dress, a half-drunk bottle of red wine hanging limply from one hand. She looks, as always, too thin and too tired. I fumble around for something, and find a pair of sunglasses. I put them on.
Without looking at me, she wanders into my room as if she was alone, walking with some difficulty to the window to gaze fearfully at the city skyline as if it was being bombed and we were all doomed. She tips her head back and takes a swallow of wine, wiping a wet cheek with the back of her hand. This is not my ideal way to start a Saturday in the PM.
“So what’s new pussycat?” I roll off my bed and begin the hunt for clean underwear. “Hey have you seem Mama’s new haircut? The Stepford wives called and they so want that wig back.” Miraculously I find a semi-clean pair of black jeans and pull them on.
Lola stares at my stomach. “You look thin.”
“Yeah,” I say, grabbing the wine off her and taking a long spicy mouthful. “Rock ‘n’ roll ‘n’ in ‘n’ out.” Then, even though I don’t really want to, “So do you.”
Her mouth twists into a pained smile, and she sinks down against the wall. Her elbows and collarbone stick out, reminding me of a bird’s skeleton. Bird’s Skeleton. That was a cool song name. A faded Prince tour t-shirt from medieval times (1988) is the coolest clothing option in reaching distance so I pull it on, and look for a pen to write it down. Lola mumbles something, folding her legs up against her bony boy chest. Bony boy chest. Inspiration, it seems, is striking. “What?” No pen in sight. Note to self: Have to get Bevan in to sort this whole scenario out ASAP.
“I broke up with Brad,” Lola repeats. “He moved to Amsterdam.”
“He was a dick, baby,” I say, giving up on the pen search, deciding to instead text the phrase to myself, which seemed far more 2008 anyway. “Wait, which one was Brad again? The Country Road model, right? Seriously – that is really lame.”
“A sick girl. He couldn’t be with a sick girl.”
I can’t help but roll my eyes. I love my sister and all, but she is a major drama queen and this whole ‘depressed misunderstood actress’ phase was getting really fucking depressing for me. “Well I only do quote unquote sick girls,” I quip, finding my phone. “So take it as a compliment.” A text from Jules. ‘If yr here by ten, the pepsi’s on me’. I grin, thrilled. “So, you staying in tonight, bella?”
“No plans?” I run some sticky product through my hair, which is totally refusing to play ball. I’ll get my fringe right in the cab.
“No plans…” she answers softly.
“Cool. Well, I’m heading to Jules so I gotta motor. Don’t worry about Ben. You’re hot, you know it.” I took another long swallow of wine which makes me feel full and warm and good all over. “Try and cheer up, OK?” I bend down and give her a kiss on the cheek, looking into her inky eyes seriously. “There’s a war in Africa, you know? People are dying.”
I have no trouble getting a cab whatsoever. We speed over the bridge, into the belly of the beast. Around me the city throbs; ready, waiting, willing.
Riding the empty lift up to Jules’, and I’m able to inspect my reflection for a solid minute. Thick black hair cut choppy whilst high by a straight 14-year-old kid from the suburbs we snuck into a club and then got ridiculously plastered which turned out OK, in the sense that my hair looks messy and just-woke-up cool, and the kid let Jules make out with him even though Jules kept laughing and describing how great his ‘emptiness’ was. Cheekbones that pay for everything. Long lashes that score everyone. My Dad’s features set permanently into a vaguely arrogant stare. Lynette’s excellent genes, meaning I can live on Mickey D’s and Coronas and not pork up. Pale arms, vampire complexion. I put my sunglasses on and relax my shoulders as I reach the 21st floor, catwalking it to Apartment 4B if only to amuse myself. Piercing painful awful techno greets me as I push open the unlocked door.
Despite the warm evening outside, it’s icy cold and I can’t help but shiver as I head down the wide, tiled hallway and into the large open plan apartment Jules’ parents bought him a few months ago. He’s standing at the counter intently blending what looks like a bright red cocktail mix.
‘Hey!’ I yell again, but the music’s so loud he can’t hear me. I walk over and swat him over the back of the head, he jumps, his whole body jerking like a puppet on a string.
I laugh, and he throws me a dark look, turning the music down with the remote.
“What’s that?” I ask, pointing to the mix. “Raspberry? Menstrual blood?”
He shoos me away with a flick of his wrist. “What time is it?”
“Ten,” I lie. Then, picking my way past discarded leather jackets and food wrappers and highlighted text books on my way to the large suede lounge that faces the LCD screen TV, “You need to a get a cleaner in here. This is no way to keep a beautiful apartment.”
“It’s third world chic,” he mutters, dipping a finger in and tasting the concoction. “It’s honest.”
I switch the TV on, flicking past a newsreader with an unfortunate forehead, a lame looking action movie, reruns of Skippy: The Bush Kangaroo (as opposed to Skippy: The Inner-city Kangaroo?) and onto Channel [V]. A band I kind of know from just around are slouching in totally gay monkey suits, singing real seriously about love being some kind of life threatening illness. “Donde esta la coca? I’m dangerously sober ATM.”
“Here.” He tosses me a small plastic baggie with not much more than a few lines in it, and I almost say something whingey, but decide against it, ‘cause it is free and Jules seems a little bit grumpy. I rack up a couple lines on a Vogue Soda’s in which Jules only keeps on the coffee table in order to torture her because she looks like, according to Jules, she’s mid-way through taking a dump, and it’s funny because it’s true. Because there isn’t much I only do a small line, but it’s OK enough to make me feel good and proper and high.
“Taste this,” Jules puts a very full martini glass full of the bright red in front of me. Then, as he strides back to the kitchen. “How was your afternoon? How’s Tina?”
“Still on her back,” I quip, downing half the cocktail in one big sip. I was right; raspberry.
“It’s a woman’s place innit?”
“Damn straight. Hey. This shit ain’t too bad.”
“Damn straight. Do you have any limes?” I ask.
“Then this perfection.”
“Thanks Jamie.” Jules looks over from the kitchen and I see him wiping white residue off his jacket sleeves.
“Is that coke?” I ask, alarmed, glancing at the tiny baggie.
No,” he replies, looking up at me. He sniffs the red concoction, muttering to himself, “Should I put this in the fridge? Yeah. Yeah, the fridge.” He pulls open the huge heavy door to reveal it’s guts overflowing with Chinese takeaway containers and Diet Dr Pepper.
I settle back into watching TV, happy, and soon there’s another band playing who have shapeshifted from their normal band selves into soldier outfits but instead of guns they’re holding really big pythons who are shooting blue and silver stars at midgets dressed like little pirates.
“I gotta story for you,” Jules announces, flopping next to me on the couch and placing a silky purple eye mask over his eyes. “So my friend Javier goes for a job as a fashion director for a high profile glossy wank magazine who shall remain nameless…”
“Oh,” I say, getting it, finishing the cocktail thirstily. “Wank Magazine.’
“Yes.” Jules says, placing his fingers into his temples and massaging them gently. The midgets have morphed into dinosaurs who are all disco-dancing and drinking cocktails from the skulls of the band members, who are still singing. “So, the interview goes fine, Javier’s great, blah blah blah, and right at the end the editor, who’s a chick, goes to him, ‘Right, I want to try something now. I want to try some role-play. Imagine you’re a woman..”
“What?” I laugh, yawning.
“Yeah, get this, ‘Imagine you’re a woman and you’ve had an abortion, and I’m the aborted baby. What would you say to me?’”
I giggle. “Are you serious?”
“Totally,” laughs Jules. “How fucked up is that?”
“What did he…” I yawn again. “What did he say?”
Jules glanced at me, concerned. “Are you OK? You look wiped.”
I blink, feeling calm and heavy and sleepy. “When is… When is that guy getting here?”
“Another hour.” He stood and stretched, the eye mask slipping down to join the rest of the junk on the floor. “Take a powernap til he gets here. I’m gonna shower.”
“It’s weird I feel so tired,” I say. “Even after the coke.”
“No, that’s good,” replies Jules. “I mean,” he frowns, taking his jacket off on the way to his ensuite. “It’s good your body can tell you it’s tired even after you’ve taken drugs. You’re connected.”
“Yeah,” I agree, eyes closing. “Connection. That is good.”
Dreams: Me, very distraught, on a plane trying to send messages to the band or my family or Tina about the terrorists onboard. They shoot a woman in front of me, I scream, crying, trying to order more champagne, wondering why the hell I’m in economy because we always fly up the front. Her head open in the aisle. Jules sitting a few rows back, watching impassively and clapping slowly, the sound like distant bullets. Later, Anna dislocates her jaw and takes bites out of Tina’s thigh. Soda wets herself on a shoot, humiliated, and Jules takes a photo.
A television sitcom laugh track wakes me. The first thing: light. The second thing: pain. My head is throbbing so hard it feels like it’s twitching rhythmically with every heartbeat shooting waves of poison blood to my temples while a vice squeezes my brain mercilessly. All I can do is groan, instinctively curling up like a baby, covering my eyes.
“Shut… Shut the window,” is all I can muster, and I feel, rather than see, movement at this request, and the room suddenly darkens. I groan again, “What… the fuck?”
The sharp crackle of pills being popped from aluminium casing, plopping into water, followed by a soothing fizz. Jules’ voice, soft, almost motherly, “Drink this.” A tall cool glass is nestled into my hand and at that point I realise desperate awful thirst is part of this considerable problem and with a mind of their own, my lips find the thin rim and I gulp the lemon-flavoured fizzy water down in three long swallows. “More.”
Sitting up as Jules strides to the kitchen, I realise, confused, the implication of the horrible light outside.
“It’s four o’ clock.” The rush of the tap sounds way too loud. “It’s Sunday.”
“I know,” sighs Jules impatiently, returning with the water. “It’s my funday too, and I’ve been stuck here waiting for Sleeping Beauty to realise it’s the 21st century, romance is dead, and the prince you’re waiting for is either gay, married or just not that into you.”
Jules’ scornful expression is reflected in the black glass of the empty coffee table. The apartment is spotless. “You cleaned?” I suddenly shiver, weirded out. “Jules, what’s going on, what happened?”
He makes a face, tapping out a cigarette. “OK, look. This is embarrassing because I know how much you idolise me as the Willy Wonka-esque supplier of excellent drugs in Sin City but,” The switch of the lighter, the classic Jules too deep inhale, “I think that coke was bad.” And, exhale, a steady stream flows above my head. “And not in the black Michael Jackson way. In the white Michael Jackson way: ghastly, dire, unpleasant.”
“Four o’ clock?” I ask again, noticing with relief the pounding begin to slowly dissipate, if only because; “I’m having trouble accepting this situation, Jules.” I’m pretty sure the fact my mother secretly drank a glass of pinot gris a day while pregnant – confessed tearily the Christmas my father gave her a first edition of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolfe? – turned me into quote unquote a party machine. Nothing dealers cut coke with is going to get my coma on, and from memory (and bitter experience) the worst the Bolivian Marching Powder from last night could be accused of is being a touch too friendly with Equal the Equaliser. But sugar ain’t horse tranquilizer.
“Jules, the coke was fine.” I say, bewildered. “That couldn’t have made me…”
“The ranga didn’t even show,” Jules is continuing, all but ignoring me. “So you didn’t miss out on anything.”
“So why didn’t you wake me up? We could have gone out. Why didn’t…”
“Look Jamie,” Jules snaps venomously, on his feet and almost shouting. “You passed out, I went to bed. I didn’t get laid, you slept till four, which is undoubtabley an indication of your ill health or poor social skills or both! So if you don’t mind, I’d like my apartment back. I have things to do.” Then, as an afterthought, a lie. “I have to study.”
And then I get it. I don’t know what made me pass out and I guess I’ll never know but suddenly I realise Jules is upset because the ranga didn’t come, in any sense of the word. Queen Jules – anti-love, pro-sex, bitter, fabulous – had been completely stood up, and he actually cared. It was almost cute and I almost felt sorry for him.
“OK, OK mien fuehrer,” My body’s stiff, dumb, useless as I shove feet into shoes and start heading up the hall. “I’m leaving.” The floor is squeaky damp – Jules mopped!? I touch the walls, my finger leaving a silver, streaky trail in the wet there too. “Wait,” I stop, suddenly turning and almost afraid.
“What?” Jules looks down at the floor, then back up to me. “What’s wrong?”
I look past him nervously, into the unrecognisably clean apartment. “Where are my sunglasses?”
// sample ends//
By Georgia Clark
Jamie and her privileged, politically disengaged friends living in the spoils of 2008, become unhinged with dire consequences. A political black comedy. A timely warning against apathy. An investigation into the highs and lows of Generation Y. What happens when you turn the other cheek on Egyptian cotton.
The Scavengers is darkly funny, unsentimental, surreal, muscular and lean.
The story unfolds though the eyes of Jamie, our clueless narrator who is unaware of the many people and situations imploding around her as she indulgently bumbles through a responsibility-free upper middle class existence. The story explores a generation (my generation) who have been raised with no knowledge of real hardship (war or recession), who have everything handed to us on a plate, such as health, job opportunities, sexual freedom, and what we have done with it.
These stories involve:
– The fact she genuinely cares about her current shag, Tina. Tina will eventually get sick of Jamie’s apathetic attitude to their ‘relationship’ and break up with her
– Her sister’s debilitating eating disorder, which lead to her death
– Her father’s right-wing dealings and the lengths Tina’s flatmate Anna will go to mine her for information as Anna her radical left-wing group organises to sabotage his developments, including blackmailing him over an affair he is having
– Jules’ killing spree. Jules drugs and accidentally kills an ex-lover he believes gave him an STD. When Jules gets away with the murder, Jules decides to kill other people he believe have wronged him or his friends. This is seen second-hand through an oblivious Jamie (who Jules drugs in the first draft notes, to test his concoction is effective), who doesn’t realise what is happening until the end of the story. If you keep people ignorant, how much can you get away with?
Jamie The narrator. Readers are most likely to think this character is male, but the gender of the character is actually kept ambiguous and revealed to be female at the end. Bisexual. Plays in a band, Dick Get It In Ya. Wealthy family, still lives at home. Self-obsessed, funny, lacks self-awareness, unintentionally arrogant
Julian (aka Jules) Jamie’s friend. An intelligent, gay med student. Intentionally arrogant. Darkly funny, cruel streak.
Soda Jamie’s friend. Semi-famous model/ student. Beautiful, slightly clueless, dreamy.
Lola Jamie’s sister, who currently has an eating disorder.
Lynette Jamie’s mother.
Tyson Jamie’s father. A right-wing business man, who is having an affair
Tina Jamie’s current shag
Anna Tina’s radically left-wing flatmate