10660914_10152413118564426_564666365_n

DID A LETTER BRING YOU HERE?

You are where you’re meant to be.

Look, here’s the deal: I am trying to encourage people, as best I can, to start reading again. Reading has not lost it’s value to humanity, however I believe the novel has. In our rapid, digital world:

The novel is dead.

The novel is dead, but the excitement of mysterious envelopes is not. I aim to write engaging pieces of short fiction which do not take long to finish, tying in with today’s trends of high-speed consumption. Read it on the train. Read it with your coffee.

And of course, if you would like me to put some words together for you:
EMAIL: jondvdsn@hotmail.com

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/halffocused

1-13092323143ON

FRITZSQUEAL

Sitting alone at a circular faux-marble table in the middle of some crowded cafe, Walter Fritz pulls a revolver deep from the pocket of his canvas jacket and points it at himself. Softly, he lifts the gun toward his head, rests the barrel just above his temple and pulls the trigger. People spit out, choke on and drop their cups of tea/coffee/soy chai.

Then the screaming starts.

The noise of the cafe falls away real quick and then it’s all just gutted pigs. When you stick one in the throat, man – it’s fucking awful. People use the phrase “squealing like a stuck pig” because that’s a nice word for kids who have to see it.

Squeal.
But it doesn’t do the actual noise justice.

The body of Walter Fritz slumps forward, his forehead thumps on the round table and he slides sideways out of the vintage wooden folding chair, his corpse thumping on the floorboards – homely, worn out jarrah.

On the table, a small square of paper. On it:

i would just like to fall forwards into the lake

and i wish i could make myself float still

while slowly i drift towards the bottom

until my nose kissed the mudbed

and i’d take a deep breath in

while it all goes through me

and while it all goes over me

and while i rest there for the rest of days,

until the water dries away.

dirty-windshield-2-www-artofmanliness-com

SUNDAY

im sitting in the car. i put my keys in the ignition but before i turn them i am overcome by weight. i am overcome by heavy feelings in my hand, that connect through my elbow and along my triceps. i drop my hands to my sides. the windscreen is dirty with fog and cloth wipe marks and hand prints and the rising sun breaking through the trees hits the glass rectangle.

and then I am overcome by a wave of numbness. like a small boy in class who puts his hand up to ask a question then thinks twice and puts his hand down, i feel a fragment of emotion. but only an instance. that first sliver of a moment. It is not a jolt of emotion, it is less than a jolt.

the windscreen is disgusting. my car floor is littered with grassy bits of foot traffic, shreds of rolling tobacco, various plastic wrappers that won’t degrade until my great grandchildren are dead, broken glass.

i want to cry.

i try to cry.

i  even well up real nice and my face goes sideways and my lips do that involuntary opening at the sides that they do right before you’re about to properly start wailing your shit.

but then it stops. coming, coming, coming, coming, it’s on it’s way, get ready, here it comes, here – here it is! get your stuff kids!

and then the train just fucking disappears. the kids are orphans. it’s an empty station.

why were you even here?

there is blood all over my passenger seat

no body is going to help me clean it

while the sun rises over perth

I ignore the things i know

pp

STREET 137

Street 137 smells like gasoline and compost and sewers smoked out in petroleum fumes. Decaying but maintained French colonial architecture lines the streets. If your eyes aren’t used to the scenes you get lost the moment you take your eyes off things. Every block looks the same for a while. It takes getting used to but you get there. Everything looks so different at night. 

One day after night in the morning, from the balcony his room is on Jack Nachelson peers down at the street below. He looks down and sees a young boy picking up a kitten by the tail and throwing it out onto the road. He tries to throw it into the path of an oncoming motorbike, but being a toddler he can not build up the strength in his arm to make it. Weak and presumably underfed the kitten only mews out for help. From the balcony Jack hears it’s cries only in his head, the actual noise of the creature drowned out in the hum of motorbikes and whistles and engines and hustle and birds in the sky and the distant trickling like static on loop from the river only blocks away. There is no salt in the water but it is not clean. The river is lined with trash and pockets of filth, where sewage congeals and goes yellow in the cold of night and softens in the sun.

Again, the boy picks up the kitten and tries to throw it onto the road. Jack Nachelson lights a cigarette and looks on. Maybe it was a joint. He doesn’t remember, this was a few years ago now.
The boy tries again and throws it onto the road, himself standing closer to the traffic zone. He has friends now who watch on. A little girl stands three feet behind watching him with no emotion on his face. Vendors selling cigarettes and foreign sodas in orange eskies sit on their plastic chairs selling wares either side. Nobody makes move to save the kitten.

“Hey!” Jack calls out.
Like the cries of the kitten he is drowned out by the humming beehive of bikes which criss cross and zig zag and zoom throughout the spiderweb city, putting and coughing, purring and rumbling. All of them together sing in a cacophopny that never ends. Mechanic cicadas.
The boy throws the cat again and it comes close to a man on a bike who makes no attempt to swerve.

But then a noise is shrill. It rises above the buzz of motors. It is the voice of anger. The voice of punishment. An angry woman. Jack Nachelson looks on. From a door leading into an anonymous room in one of the old French monuments, a woman in a floral dress emerges, walking quickly and with direct intent towards the boy, holding the kitten by the tail again for the fourth or fifth time. The little girl and another little boy both run away.
The sun hits Jack Nachelsons eyes and he squints while she shrieks at him. Something sharp. Something vicious.

The boy’s face emanates fear. While Nachelson cannot make it out from the third floor up across the street he knows what the shift in his body language means. The woman is holding a green umbrella. It looks old and worn, but maintained. Holding the umbrella by it’s handle she lifts it up above her head and brings it down on top of the toddler’s head. He cries out. The vendors selling cigarettes and foreign sodas do nothing. Ten feet away now, the little girl looks on at the little boy.

The woman shrieks again. Sharper and direct, blunter and deeper this time. An assertion of dominance. She raises her green umbrella, and strikes the boy again. Harder this time, at an angle that hits his forehead. The sound rings out into the alley and Jack Nachelson hears it. The sound makes him feel satisfied. The kitten, having recovered from the trauma, patters off into the building from where the woman came. She retreats, and the boy runs away. It had not been her son. She closes the green doors that she came from, green like her umbrella. They creak while they close. The boy runs up the block and turns left, only in his nappy. He runs close to a motorbike who makes no attempt to swerve, then off behind a noodle stand, and he disappears into the day. 

book-with-pills_large

GONZO BLEW IT’S BRAINS OUT

Glancing at the little yellow cylinder of pills to my side, I expect something to jump out onto the page. I’ve got my keyboard in front of me, an open word document and I can hear rain hitting the rooftop. It’s cold, but not too cold. It’s a nice room temperature to sit in. I’ve got my coffee and my cigarettes.  Inside the translucent yellow container are a whole range of colours. Leo gave them to me in exchange for three grams of weed. So now I’ve got this bottle of painkillers, benzos, beta-blockers and sedatives. I threw in some blue pseudoephedrine just for some contrast. There was a point of MDMA in there but I snorted that one pretty quickly.

Lo and behold, I can’t write though. This feeling inside me seems to run along the logic that simply being around drugs will create product. This is some real Hunter S Thompson shit, man

When Thompson blew his brains out with a shotgun, so did the spirit of counterculture gonzo. The movie adaption of Fear and Loathing became a massive hit and inspired thousands of predominately young teenage boys (myself included) to experiment with psychedelic drugs. Through the late 90’s and into the mid 00’s, psychedelic drug use shot up in the west. While not the sole driver, I’m confident that this movie had a large role to play. 30 years later, the beat generation still echoes amongst those who live within “cult” and alternative genres. It’s still all about Thompson, Kerouac and Burroughs (then proceeding to the next most common alt genre(s), Sci-fi/Fantasy.)  At the time, nobody was documenting what these writers were documenting. Fair enough.

But given the unexpected influence that gonzo and beat had on writing in the west, there are underlying elements of permanence to their successes. Today still, people mythologize Hunter S Thompson even to a demi-god status. It ties hand in hand with aspiring writers, and drug use (two groups of things which historically have always interacted.) Everybody loves the idea of a brash, no-rules drug taking writer. Thompson is redeemed by his writing quality. The fact that he wrote well and was respected at the time [as a controversial figure] only reiterates his majestic status. I have met plenty of people who want to be Raoul Duke.  In my budding years of experimentation with both drugs and writing, I was doing the same things. Partying and expecting the results to come. The results don’t come though, you just end up at the same place you were at before you went to the party.

To those who eat the myth, Hunter S Thompson is the pinnacle justification for drug use, because his simultaneous career success and drug use is historically documented via the fact of his own writing. We have tangible recorded proof that this man existed. Thompson is no longer a man but an idea. He is used as an ideological tool to defend liberty.
But is he relevant anymore?

The 60’s have ended. For twenty years, people reflected back on the sixties. The time has passed. Counterculture now still exists, but the meaning has changed. There is none of the apparent spirit of the 1960’s which every writer wrote about today in 2014 Australia. Drugs have been picked up and dropped by collective groups of writers dozens of times since then.

 This lingering mythology of the beat generation is holding back writers now, I believe. Locking us into cyclical frameworks of creativity. Those writers who aspire to write in any “gritty” or “adventurous” way, documenting down and reflecting on personal experience. Hunter S Thompson traveled to Las Vegas to cover a motorbike race in the desert, but instead he took a litany of substances and wrote about that instead. That is what happens in Fear and Loathing. And I agree that within America at that time, it’s good that someone came along and wrote about what it was like in the seedy underbelly of America’s cities. What it was like to go on a 3 day drug binge and still somehow keep his job. People need their heroes. But that time has passed. Thompson was a reaction to a societal era, he is not a transcendental figurehead.

We need to stop putting so much focus on the drugs. The more one talks about them, the more one creates barriers between users and non-users, between legislation and non-legislation. The pharmaceutical industry is one of the dominant corporations across the OECD board. Public and even authoritative support for the War on Drugs is falling across the globe. In the face of this environment we need to change the counter-conversation”, which is becoming more and more repetitive and niche. Functional drug users are now an unspoken societal norm.

Thompson was a great writer who influenced me and hundreds and thousands of others, but the times have changed.  A new conversation needs to begin.

bush

THERE WAS A FARM

Fiona is smart for her age, which hits me while we’re talking about my uncle’s dog. The two of them talk a secret language that only Fi knows.
“Ellie’s sad because she’s dying,” she tells me.
Where did she get that from? Her floating father might have taught her when she lived on the farm with him, along with her mother and brother. He probably did teach her something about saying goodbye to pets and animals. Before he went crazy, her father used to hunt pigs for extra cash. He’d take two pitbulls out bush on a Jeep and come back with ferals. I remember once there was a palava when he went onto private property and found a starved horse, malnourished and suffering. He took photos of the horse and then he shot it in the head. We got the pictures in an e-mail, which later became part of some civil dispute. It was around this time things started changing.
In the end, the family genes got him early.
The family, of course, blame the liquor.

Fi pats Ellie’s head as she sleeps, making her pointy ears twitch. My uncle got Ellie from a shelter some years ago. We can’t ever really be sure, but we’re almost certain she’s got some dingo in her.
“What do dogs think when they die?”
Fi likes to ask these types of questions, which I love answering. Usually. Nine times out of ten they’re pretty good questions. Her brother likes to stay safe regarding theology which I think is an indication that he’ll probably skip the family genes.
The family, of course, say ‘he learns with his hands.’

“Jeeze louise Fi, I’m not too sure. What do you think?”
She looks at me like I’m an idiot.
“I asked you.”
“Well – I guess they wonder why they’re feeling so sleepy.”
Fiona looks up at me guardedly, going over what I said. You can see the cogs ticking. Then she nods a little, and goes back to talking to the dog.
The look in her eye is the same one her father gets.
The same look that flickered in his eyes like a busted fluorescent when he talked about men hiding in his trees and a black helicopter that hovered silently above his house at night. This all started after the Police took his guns away.
I wish that Fi didn’t know the jist of all this, but she does. I don’t see her that often.

She hasn’t seen her Dad in a few years. Fi and her brother often ask when they’ll see Daddy. I can tell lies to her brother because that’s what he wants to hear. He wants explanations with closure. But Fi has the bullshit radar of a senior judge.
The truth is that we don’t know when they will see their father because we don’t know where he is. As far as we can determine, nobody does. He’s technically a missing person, but we know he’s alive. Madness doesn’t just go away and die quietly under the house, where Ellie has been resting lately. Whenever I can’t give Fi an answer she looks at me like I’m an idiot, the way her father did at me when I used to ask him questions as a child. He made fun of me for turning away when he had to neck a pig after a bullet didn’t drop it.

I never particularly cared for my uncle.

That was on his farm, back when he still had his dogs and his guns and his wife and when there weren’t men hiding in his trees. And now I see that look here again on his daughter’s face years later. We all see the resemblance. I feel that she’ll be giving that look for the rest of her life. She’s got herself searching for a reason, now. I try to answer her questions as best I can. She likes running the really weird ones by me because she knows I’ll entertain them. We’re on the same page. She doesn’t feel that way because I’m a boy and she’s adamant that I have cooties, but I don’t mind. Maybe I do have cooties, she’s a smart kid. I get up to go inside and mess up her hair. She tells me not to touch her hair because it smells nice and boys hands are gross.

It doesn’t matter, I sneak in pecks while she’s sleeping, and she tries to suppress a smile and act asleep.

10418196_311537269021873_2095962795064627631_n

NACHELSON

Jack Nachelson rests his gaze upon the hulls of fat metal slugs, looking for his sense of self. Slowly, cumbersome ships trawl into the harbour with uniform synchronicity – a tugboat in front and another in tow. He sits in his front seat parked perpendicular to the water, headlights off. The late 80’s relic purrs quietly in idle. Inside, a thin white coil of smoke wafts upwards from between two fingers lingering on a steering wheel which creaks like old wooden ships when you turn it. The residual must of entombed marijuana smoke pollutes the interior atmosphere, mixing with the briny air outside seeping through the vents. Loose pages covered in frenetic handwriting litter the passenger floor and backseat.
This is his office.
Nachelson haunts the lighthouse most nights. This often gets him wondering if that’s what ghosts are. Not the spirits of the dead, but people who were forgotten. Whom slipped off unseen. Those trees that fall with no one around to hear them.
In a contrived way, the fact that he’s tangible makes him a real ghost. He struggles to define how deep this notion of authenticity goes but he thinks himself to be more real than the points of light garnished across the velvet blackboard of our night sky. When we look at stars, we are seeing light from the past. We are looking at what those stars truly used to look like. Ergo (Nachelson likes the word ‘ergo,’) we all live in the past at night.
And perhaps this is why Nachelson exceeds at stargazing. For he too lives in the past much too often. If only Nachelson could live in the present, he’d probably realise there are more important things than himself going on, and maybe it is within selflessness that he’d find something solid. Something to hold on to. If Nachelson pointed himself towards the present he’d most likely see that he’s never going to find himself on the starboard of the Pacific Courage from Japan at 11pm.
But Nachelson fails to acknowledge the present. He is too caught up constantly replaying everything he’s done, forcing himself into the underworld with Hades to experience the same torments over and over and over again. Inevitably, this leads to self-examination and the great universal cliché: “Am I crazy?”
To be fair: he might be. For instance he is plagued by a memory he didn’t live. An anonymous girl with piercing grey eyes lies on top of him, peering into him. She is beautiful. Vaguely blonde. They are together in a forest. He is taken back by the lush scents of chlorophyll and rainwater. A sky of green leaves is held up by great bark pillars. It is lightly sprinkling – perhaps after a heavy downfall – but the canopy overhead protects them both from the wet. She is beautiful. There is an inherent sensation of harmony wound up within the memory.

But then there are variables.
So perhaps it is not a memory but a waking dream. Sometimes there is music playing, sometimes there is not. This is where the whole thing unravels against the strong currents of realism. He has never been with any girl in a forest with music. So then what is it?
Silently Nachelson hopes that it is not memory or a dream, but rather a premonition. However, expectance taints the broth. This same proverbial broth is the only one in which Nachelson’s ghostlike lifestyle can be maintained. Like a soufflé, the entire thing could be brought down by the smallest inkling of feeling that maybe his life is actually OK.
In fact, it wouldn’t even take this. Jack Nachelson can only exist in the assumption of a vacuum. Acknowledging that any position in society is a reaction to a time before it would bring his entire worldview toppling down. Maybe this is why you don’t take high volumes of drugs in your teens (although he’d turned out better than most of his peers.) And this isn’t even touching the fact that Nachelson is a product of our times. There are Nachelsons everywhere, at any given moment. Hundreds. It isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine thousands. But the Nachelson is not a social animal. Like foxes in the night, or the isolated mountain goats of the Siberian steppes, there is no room to accommodate the experiences of others. This makes Nachelson the Steppengoat.

All of his pedantic restlessness; pacing back and forth, a bored tiger in a small cage. No matter where he goes or what he does he feels like he needs to get out, to escape the ‘confines.’ But Nachelson’s great tragedy is that his confines are held within his mind. If only he was brave. And the richest thing of all is that Nachelson knows that. Given the chance, he will ruminate on the intricacies of his own self as if he knows shit all about anything, for hours.
The honest truth which Nachelson fails to grasp is that he doesn’t know shit. His living in the past-ness, his self-imposed crowns of thorns – it all reduces to sheer egoism. He is completely blind to the world around him. All he does is worry about what people think of him, how he came across in brief interactions, whether or not his handshake was acceptable. This banal sludge of internal review and speculation consumes him, it mines him – it mines his body of any substance, leaving a hollow Nachelson sitting in his front seat at night staring at cargo ships.
I mean for fuck’s sake, if he gets this worked up staring at boats I don’t want to know what a big deal is for him.