Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – A Novel

pint glass


When Pat pushed the bathroom door, the four were standing in the middle of the room, talking. All heads swivelled towards him. The music that came rushing in behind emphasised the interruption.

Pat let the door swing to and walked to the urinal trough. He hooked his thumbs either side of his belt buckle and stood in the attitude of a man taking a piss. The four didn’t say anything, all standing poised and still.

He had his head turned slightly so that any movement would register in his peripheral vision. In the vague reflection held in the small rectangular window above his head, he saw the tall one looking at his back.

Pat was waiting for the king hit, and they knew it. The leader calculated in the way all animals do: ‘Four of us and one of him, but he’s bigger and fights people like us for a living.’

“Fuck this,” the leader said, as if responding to something spoken. “Let’s go to the Punter’s Club.” He flung the door open and the others trooped out behind him.

When Pat returned outside, Johnny was leaning against the wall beside the door. The overhead light sketched hollows under his cheekbones. He had the razor-thin elegance of an undertaker; hunched yet upright, all straight lines, mostly vertical.

Pat stopped and leaned against the big sliding door, watching the backs of the four as they headed towards the mouth of the alley.

“No problem?”

“No problem,” Pat replied as Johnny recrossed his arms. As Pat turned his attention back towards Flinders Lane, a blue-green blur rolled under the light. Johnny, even though he seemed to have been looking in the other direction, leaned back ever so slightly so the missile hurtled past his nose. The loud smash a few meters away confirmed that it was a bottle.

Pat sprinted to the top of the alley and saw the tallest of the four halfway into a cab. The door closed and the taxi accelerated away, stopping at the intersection. ‘The dickheads didn’t factor in the traffic lights’, he thought to himself. Pat was wearing his duffel jacket, and the stuff in his pockets made the tails of it swing with his stride.

The cab came to a halt as the lights at the intersection changed red, the same as the red of its brake lights that burned fuzzy in the cold night air. Pat’s Doc Martens slapped against the bitumen as he ran.

Through the misted glass of the rear window he saw three faces, moonish and frightened, watching him approach. He ran without uttering a sound, holding in the invective so it would build like the steam pressure in a boiler.

The plan was to throw himself across the bonnet of the cab before the lights changed. The driver wouldn’t want to tangle with a crazy man throwing himself into harm‘s way and would most likely surrender the idiots in order to save himself the hassle. Besides, taxi drivers, hot-dog vendors and bouncers tended to stick together.

Pat had about six meters to cover by the time the lights changed green and the cab slowly rolled around the corner. He followed into Russell Street, but started to lose momentum as the cab made its way through the next green-lit intersection.

Late-night diners were walking arm in arm along a footpath lit by rich washes of light that spilled from boutique-store windows. Men in suits and women in long dresses and shawls. They turned to look for the disturbance as the rhythm of Pat’s footfalls shifted from sprint to stop.


 “Catch ‘em?” asked Johnny, still leaning by the door as Pat marched down the alley.

“Come on, Johnny – we’re going to the fucking Punter’s Club.”

“We can’t both go, one of us has to watch the door. At least.”

“Gimme your keys.” Johnny looked for a minute while he thought about it, and then took the tinkling keychain from his jeans pocket.

“Don’t scratch it,” he said.

Pat reversed the big, boat-like Regal out of its alcove and righted it carefully, not gunning the engine until he knew the sound would be cloaked by the cars on Flinders Lane.

When he discovered the traffic was banked up seven-deep to the intersection he threw the Regal into reverse, three-point-turned around and swung up the one-way street the wrong way. The car leapt into Exhibition street, body rolling on the old suspension. Pat had almost tasted blood the flavour of which made him the most crazy; his own.

            speedometer was in miles, and when he realised he didn’t know how many miles constituted a kilometre, he knew he was probably speeding. Which made him think of the Police. Which made him start to think more generally.

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