I'm about to release more onto Smashwords.com. Probably three separate releases over the next few months. 3 Surprising Shorts - 3 short stories with a twist. And a collection of poems that have been festering in my computer hard drive for years. And they aren't great art - they range from ridiculous kids poems suited to a Sesame Street on magic mushrooms type show. (If anyone's old enough to remember 'The Electric Company' who had brilliant people like Tom Lehrer writing for them - then some are in that vain, trying to approach his greatness.)
Others are just doodles, some serious and some about serious things, but not so serious in style, like:
The sanctity of marriage is the new topic de jour
Anyone can do it, doesn’t matter, rich or poor
It’s a sacred oath to God that shouldn’t be ignored
Unlike other oaths to God that make us kind of bored.
But don’t let those gay folk reach the altar
They wouldn’t know their fingers from their ring
They’d decorate the church in gaudy colours
And they’d all be booking Elton John to sing!
Marriage is a union, till death tears you apart,
Unless you’re young, you rushed a bit or needed a green card
The ring, the dress, the spot-lit vows, it’s all that we adore,
And I should know, the records show, I’ve done it twice before!
But don’t let those gay types reach the alter
It’s reserved for those who understand the vows
The church is not a toy, like a priest’s young altar boy,
It’s entirely there to join the men and fraus.
The other release is something I wrote just after Inner City - about 10 years ago - a factual account of raising a 13 year-old street kid. All will be free so keep checking when they come online and enjoy with me the drugs, the violence, the 11 suspensions, 3 expulsions and two arrests that made that period of my life so memorable.
The final two Novels I've been working on are also on their way. The Bride Wore Cocaine has been entered in an award for unpublished work and they stipulate it can't be published - even online until judged. Shame because I really think it came up well. It's probably close to something Bret Easton Ellis might write, in subject anyway - about a young man brought up in a protected middle class environment who meets and falls for a girl who shows him the world. The trouble is, like many people who experience something they like for the first time, he likes it too much and goes way too far. His girlfriend actually turns out to be the hero of the piece which is something I didn't even realise until I'd finished writing it - but that's one of the things I love about writing - especially when things work and characters drive themselves. Here's a taste - with very little context other than - Bailey has been given a Xanax for the first time by his girlfriend who is trying to help him over feeling guilty - although she doesn't know the extent of his guilt or just how serious his transgression is:
They both sat and traded gentle conversation as they ate. It didn’t take Bailey long to bring up the one thing he’d been thinking about all day.
“They brought the machine back today.”
“Nothing wrong with it. They replaced some wires as a precaution, but that was it. Daryl nodded as she ate the last of her vegetables.
“So you have no reason to feel guilty. He obviously stuck his hand somewhere stupid, while the power was still on and …” She got up and took the plates away without finishing her sentence. She piled them by the sink and took some ice cream from the fridge. Bailey could see she was going to a lot of effort to make him feel better and while appreciated, he didn’t feel he deserved it.
“You don't have to do this you know?”
“I know,” Daryl said. “Here. Take this.” Daryl split a pill in half and held one portion between her thumb and forefinger, ready to drop into Bailey’s palm.
“What is it?”
“Xanax. I’ll run a hot bath for you. You’ll love it.”
He took the pill and popped it in his mouth without hesitation.
“Where did you get it?”
“My doctor. I told her I had anxiety attacks.”
“You lied to your doctor?”
“I feel anxious sometimes.”
“But they’re not attacks.”
“How do you know? Maybe I just tolerate them better than most people. ”
Bailey had experimented with very few drugs before he met Daryl, but these few experiences had been ridiculously innocent events, more a teenage rite of passage than any real exploration. Drinking spectacularly bad mixers before heading to the local teenage dance clubs run by police or church youth groups were a regular event. He smoked his first cigarette in the laneway behind his parent’s house when only twelve, certain at any minute some local neighbourhood patrol would sweep him up and report back to his parents. In high school and then at university he smoked dope without loving or hating it, but he’d always drawn the line short of anything else. And then along came Daryl. And he trusted her enough to try anything she suggested. Now she was giving him something new to explore and she promised a ride that would only slow him down and leave him sleeping peacefully. It sounded perfect, just what Bailey needed to help his guilty mind relax.
The bath was warm. It had candles flickering at each corner and the bath salts had turned the water aqua blue. When Bailey lowered himself in he found a rolled towel at his head and the music from outside the bathroom was light and soothing. He drifted in stasis trying to gauge if the pill was working.
He couldn’t notice a difference until he began to float at the very top of the water. His body had never been so light before.
Every problem he had drifted away like dirt from his pores. He thought of work. It didn’t matter; Simon Pearce – un-noteworthy; his stalled career – unimportant. The only thing that really mattered was Daryl and he had her, and this bath, that was important too, and Xanax, lovely wonderful soft and woolly Xanax.
The door inched open and Daryl’s head poked into the room.
“How’s it going?”
“Okay,” Bailey said trying not to let Daryl know how completely brilliant he thought both she and Xanax were.
“Do you feel nice and fuzzy?”
“Are you almost done?” She asked.
This caught Bailey by surprise.
“I thought you might be ready for bed?”
“I just got in.”
Daryl laughed. Her half tablet had done what she promised. It took away Bailey’s stress, his worries and his evening.
“Try two hours.”
She helped Bailey from the bath. He stood motionless cupping his arms to his chest as she wrapped a towel around him like he was a little boy in need of maternal care. He leant forward and snuggled his nose into the crease of her neck and came close to falling asleep.
“No you don’t. Wait until you’re in bed for that.”
“You’re coming too, aren’t you?” Bailey’s hands wandered out from under the towel and began exploring Daryl as she did her best to dry him off.
“Of course,” Daryl said. Bailey took this as a cue to plant a kiss. He missed his target as Daryl shoved him playfully away, unravelling the towel as she did and leaving him naked in the hall outside the bathroom. He quickly walked to the bed and disappeared between the fresh sheets.
Daryl drained the bath, blew out the candles and went to turn the CD player off.
“You were in there so long I’ll have to help you get all the wrinkles out.”
Daryl kicked off her shoes and slipped her t-shirt over her head. Bailey didn’t move.
He was dead to the world, lost in a deep sound sleep. Daryl was left horny and alone. She had a seventy-kilogram bed warmer without any of the truly useful attachments working. It took her some time to get her mind to drift towards sleep, but once she had, she and Bailey spooned close together and hardly moved for the next few hours.
Bailey’s mind went to war with the Xanax as it tried to remove all his worries from recent events. As each hour passed the battle was waning towards the mind and the finger of guilt began to tickle Bailey again.
Suddenly, he was back in the bath, but far from alone. Sitting opposite him was Christ, a long greasy beard floating on top of the water, the hairiness of a Middle Eastern hippie who believed in sharing everything, even baths.
Bailey couldn’t hide his male curiosity, given the company, and he stole a quick glance at the Messiah’s jewels. He was cut, but no surprise there. Jesus noticed and closed his legs slightly.
“What are you doing here?” Bailey asked.
Jesus hardly looked up. He was facing a personal crisis of his own, his travel wafers had spilled and now floated on the water.
Christ chased a really soggy wafer and tried to trap it under the water. He used stealth to bring his hand from underneath and grab it by closing his palm slowly. The wafer wanted to escape like a raft, riding the water around it, but Jesus lived up to his hype, he was good in the wet.
“Are you okay?” Bailey asked.
“Are you upset with me, because of what I did?”
“Then why so angry?”
“They nailed me to a fucking cross!” Jesus said, holding up a hand and letting the water drain through the hole in his palm for affect. The wafer he’d just caught escaped with it. He rolled his eyes in frustration and hit the water hard sending a wave splashing onto the floor.
Bailey had expected Christ to be a sweet and forgiving man, but people always expect understanding when it’s someone else who’s done the suffering.
Bailey jumped slightly as a toe brushed his scrotum.
“You should cut your nails,” he said, trying to be understanding of a man who only ever wore sandals.
“You think I want to be here?” Christ asked.
“I’m not sure.” Bailey didn’t know what else to say. He decided to change the subject to avoid any further awkwardness.
“Do you know what’s going to happen to me?”
Jesus stopped what he was doing and glared at Bailey with disbelief.
“Do I look psychic?”
A stunned Bailey watched his bath-mate catch the last of his floating wafers and put them in a silver tin. It was a pathetic site. Wafers are a lot of things, but they’re not waterproof.
“Will I go to heaven?” Bailey asked, still trying to discover if the soggy prophet knew his fate.
For the first time Jesus stopped and looked at Bailey as if he mattered. Bailey thought he heard angels singing and with the acoustics in the bathroom they sounded really good.
“Yes,” Christ said in his best phone voice. It was deep enough to send small ripples across the surface of the water. Bailey had never felt more relieved in all his life. But it was short lived.
“If there was a heaven!”
Bailey’s bewildered expression forced Jesus to repeat the revelation.
“There is no heaven,” he said.
“What do you mean?”
“What do you think I mean? There is no heaven.”
Bailey tried not to look confused, but it wasn’t easy given he was in the middle of a delusional dream which placed him in a warm bath entwined in the legs of Christ.
“If there’s no heaven, why do so many people believe in it?” Bailey was almost certain Jesus was having him on.
“Because people are stupid. It’s a philosophical concept that I tried to explain metaphorically. The moment I said the words ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, those without the means to accept the statement as a conceptual idea began searching for it like it was real estate. And they’ve never stopped.”
Bailey sat quietly, waiting for the punch line delivered by a master showman. Jesus sat waiting, even for him, timing was everything, but there was no tag coming. Finally Bailey spoke.
“So, there’s no heaven?”
The face of the Son of God registered pity towards Bailey.
“You’re not that quick, are you?”
Bailey shrugged off the insult as being from an unimportant source and did his best to show intelligence by expanding the proposition.
“If there’s no heaven, we can do what we want, without any moral implications? It doesn’t matter if something’s good or bad?”
“That’s up to you. Everything’s where it should be,” Christ said, pointing to his temple. “Good and evil, right and wrong, heaven and hell. You want to see them, look in a mirror.”
Bailey thought about this as Jesus soaped up his jewels with an organic soap left by Daryl as a display rather than a functional cleanser. It was part of her overall aesthetic giving the bathroom a sophisticated air. The soaps were matched by clear plastic bags of potpourri laid like mines around the edge of the bath.
“What the fuck is this?” Christ said, as the soap disintegrated in his hand.
“It’s organic soap.”
“It’s leaving little bits of shit all over me!”
“That’s oatmeal,” Bailey said, trying to ignore such a selfish complaint and bring the conversation back to him.
“Who’s the dumb son of a bitch who thought sticking oatmeal in soap was a good idea?!”
Bailey had the feeling Jesus wasn’t giving him his full attention. He pressed on regardless.
“You’re trying to make me feel guilty and own up, aren’t you?”
“No,” Jesus said as he hunted down more oatmeal clinging to the hairs on his chest.
“I know you are,” Bailey said defiantly. “Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here.”
Christ looked at Bailey with incredible intensity and lent forward. Bailey couldn’t tell if the lean from Jesus was to emphasis what was about to be said or to pick a stubborn piece of oatmeal out of his ass. Both tasks were managed at the same time, hardly a miracle, but still impressive.
“Listen carefully. No-one cares about you. There are so many things going on in this world that are so much more important than you, no-one’s ever going to notice anything you do.”
Suddenly Bailey sat up and called out. He’d taken the covers with him leaving Daryl open to the air. She woke with concern.
Bailey looked around. He took a moment to orientate himself. He looked at the room, then the bed and then Daryl, then he calmed down.
“I was dreaming.”
Bailey nodded, but it was clear he wasn’t. He just wasn’t ready to talk about his cleansing religious experience.
And that brings me up to date to the piece that is my current work in progress. It's a labour of love 25 years in the making - not that I've been writing it that long - but that's how long I've had the pieces of the story. It took me many years and many false starts to get to where I am, and in 2010 it was written into a minis series that attracted a really world class director - Peter Andrikidis. At least he loved the script so much he read it in a day and called me, letting me know if we got funding he'd be happy to direct. Does anyone have a spare 15 million?
Anyway, one of the Networks who said a period piece made the budget for a 4 hour mini series prohibitive, thought it would make a great novel - so that's what I'm doing with it and I'm now 100+ pages down and have sent the first 8- pages around and I'm happy to say I have already had some initial interest. Again - stay tuned for developments.