Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – a Novel



Alan drew closer, grinning, jutting his chin forward. The whiteness of his teeth and the blackness of his pupils held all the light in his face. Pat looked down at the man. Alan had become an earth for all of the dark things that swirled inside him.

“Listen,” said Johnny, coming forward, away from the wall, “I’m the principal investor. I pay wages, I employ staff. I choose the patrons. And I have my friend on the door here,” Johnny put a hand on Alan’s chest as he slid into the breech like a razor under wallpaper, “Because his taste is impeccable. You see, I don’t want an obnoxious little shit-bird like you in my place, either.”

Johnny had secured Alan’s attention; his eyes flicked from Pat to the face of the old man addressing him. “Now fuck off,” said Johnny, and pushed him in the chest, just hard enough to send him back from the door.

“This doesn’t suit us anyway,” said Alan. He turned on his heel, scraping the bitumen with a leather-soled shoe. He and his supporter followed the balding suit back the way they had come. Alan’s parrot stopped at the mouth of the alley. He stuck a fist up and yelled,

“Wankers!” A police car was prowling Flinders Lane at just that moment. It halted and one of the officers called the parrot over. He crossed the pavement obediently and bent down towards the window.

“Want a drink, Johnny?” asked Pat.


Inside, the bar was very full. The building was long and relatively narrow and the near-capacity crowd filled it like a black, bilious cloud. Only the people within the first eight feet could be seen to have faces and features. The rest became one long agglomerated mass.

There were a few backpackers dressed like clowns from a Middle-Eastern opportunity shop, a few suits that had snuck in early, and a whole lot of inner-city urbanites. Of all the things to change in Pat’s absence, the strangest was heavy-metal t-shirts becoming a fashion item.

They had been a strictly bogan accoutrement since Pat-BC; their sudden proliferation was something else that made him feel old.

This observation served to return his sense of having drunk away ten years of his life to discover he’d lost the whole heartbreaking tract of it. He knew that Alan the stockbroker was a wanker, but what he’d said had penetrated – he still felt the lingering sting.

Pat held his hands up to the light emanating from under the bar and looked at his fingertips. In the low light, they were shaking. At least it isn’t from the drink, he thought to himself.

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