Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – A Novel



Panic short-circuited his erection.

“Uh,” he croaked.

Sally squinted when she saw the towel hanging over the end of the desk. Then her eyes travelled directly underneath to where Pat assumed she saw his underwear around his ankles.

He could almost hear the whirring and the click as she realised what he was doing. Her mouth split into a grin.

“Sally, can you give me a minute?” Pat began to squirm but didn’t want to move, for fear of what she may see. If she hadn’t seen already. His brain became sufficiently unstuck so that he thought to close down the page he had been watching.

Sally covered her mouth with a hand to stop the laughter from falling out. She turned and disappeared into the kitchen.

Pat took the towel off the desk and left the room, walking past the kitchen door, trying not to see her. She was standing against the bench, holding a mug to her face.

Back in his room, the dark was tightly woven. The thread of dishwater-grey daylight that appeared at the base of the blind let him know that the best part of sleep for the night was over.

He tried to finish what he started in the computer room, but it was no good. No matter what he thought of, all the women kept turning into Rita.


“What’s with the ducks?” Pat pointed, indicating one of the six colour prints that hung at periodic intervals around the room. They looked like illustrations from an old-fashioned botany textbook.

“They were my father’s,” Helen answered as she settled herself in her armchair. “I have my notepad today,” she said, placing a hand on the spiral notebook that sat on one arm of the chair. “They were my father’s” she replied, indicating the pictures.

“He liked ducks?” asked Pat.

“That he did. Other birds too, but I also liked the ducks. Or the pictures of ducks. They used to hang in his study.”

“Was your father a psychiatrist?”


“Wish my dad was a solicitor. Would have come in handy.”

“How have you been the last week?” Helen’s gaze was constant as she chased him through the cylinders of chat, pinning him down.

“Not bad. I feel like I did when I first learned to ride a bike. I’ve got my balance, but it’s shaky, and I might come off at any time.”

“How is living in the pub?”

“I don’t actually live ‘in’ the pub,” Pat said, trying to quash any suggestion of bad behaviour. “I live next door and work there on the week-ends. I don’t spend much time inside. Most of my time is spent outside, on the door. I can’t stand the smoke.”

“Do you miss London?”

“Not at all. Now, it’s like a bad dream. I remember things, like scenarios, but my memories seem to occur as a whole lot of bad feelings.”

“Where were you living in London?”

“In a pub.” Helen laughed. “I’ve actually come up in the world. In London, I lived under the pub. In the boiler room.”


“It wasn’t too bad, actually. At least it was warm and dry.”

“What did you sleep on?”

“I had a cot, like an old army cot. I just slept in my clothes.”

“How did you end up living under a pub?”

“I got a job there, as a yardie. Do you know what that is?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Yardie’ is more of an Australian word, but it’s a person who lives and works in a pub. He gets free rent, food and sometimes as much as he can drink, and in return, he does all the labouring and cleaning around the place.”

“And that’s what you did?” Helen asked this while looking over her glasses. Her expression suggested revulsion. As if some hideous emission was leaking out of him, creeping across the floor toward her.

“After a while, that’s what I ended up doing.”

“When did you move to Europe?”

“Probably about… three years ago?” he said, peering at her as if she had receded a great distance. “I had a working visa, so I moved over there and got a job.”

“What were you doing?”

“Stevedore. Bitch of a job – lifting heavy things all day. And I got trapped in it. I couldn’t afford to get a forklift operator’s license, which would have meant I could do easier work for more money. In the end, I stopped going to work and stayed at the pub.”

“Was this the pub you were living under?”

“I was actually living at a backpacker’s at the time. But I ran out of money and working at the pub became a… happy coincidence.”

“Looking at it now, do you still consider it to have been a ‘happy coincidence?”

“It was one version of the inevitable disaster.” Helen’s eyes slipped askance as she scribbled on the pad.

“I was drinking a lot when I was labouring, but once I started living under the pub, it became something else. As a stevedore, I would drink after work with my mates, and it was social.

“How do you distinguish between social and otherwise?” asked Helen.

“’Social’ means I woke up the next morning sober, and I went to work,” Pat replied. “Once I moved into the pub, that changed.”

“What did it change into?”

“Full-blown escapism, I think. I left Australia because I was running away. The stevedore job wasn’t much of an option, and when that finished…”

“Did it actually finish?” asked Helen. “I got the impression you just stopped turning up.”

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