Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – A Novel

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32

Pat stood by the end of the bar and watched the dance floor darken, feeling as much as hearing the music increase in volume. A greater number of bodies soaked up the sound, so the DJ had to turn up the decibels accordingly.

Pat was used to a more organised, teamwork-oriented approach to nightclub security. This place was reminiscent of the night-time river scene in Apocalypse Now where Willard turned up looking for an officer-in-charge who was nowhere to be found and the war proceeded because of its own momentum. So it was in this case.

The bouncers all wore long trousers and skin-tight black t-shirts, and all had square heads and short hair. They made no effort to talk to him; one or two occasionally condescended to give him a nod. Pat took up a spot beside the bar because it gave him something to lean against.

By eleven o’clock the music had climbed to full volume and the lighting grid was raining down epilepsy confetti. People shuffled and stepped and occasionally blinked at one another.

A girl came and stood close by. From her rigid refusal to look at him, Pat suspected that she wanted him to talk to her. This sent threads of panic snaking through his synapses. She shuffled closer and closer, until she brushed against his knee. Her eyes darted towards him and then she turned and apologized.

“I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay,” he choked out his reply with the natural ease of a man regurgitating a billiard ball. “No problem.”

“Are you having a good night?” she asked.

“So far, but it’s early,” he said.

“I’m Sarah,” she said, and put out her hand.

“Pat,” said Pat, taking her small hand delicately and shaking it. She held her elbow entirely rigid and the handshake was a single movement of the arm, not unlike the lowering of a boom gate.

She opened her mouth to ask a question and a barmaid appeared with an expression about as warm as a shark’s. Sarah went up on tip-toes to shout her order. The barmaid wheeled away and Sarah returned her attention.

“So Pat, how old are you?” she squinted as if looking at him through a dirty window.

“I’m thirty.”

“Wow – that’s old.”

“I guess it is.”

“I didn’t mean it like that,” she said, touching his hand briefly. The contact prickled all the hairs along Pat’s arm, up his back and along his neck. He looked down at her. Two bright eyes shone at him from a pretty, finely-structured face.

“What do you do for work?” he asked, grasping the first question he could think of.

“I breed mice for research.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“How did you get into that?”

“I did a zoology degree. I want to work with animals, and straight out of uni, this job was all that I could get.”

“Tell me,” he began, “Are mice monogamous?”

“Hell, no.”

“I know they fuck all the time, but what I mean is, do they mate?”

“Nope,” said Sarah, raising her glass to her mouth and poking herself in the cheek with the straw.

“Are they always in season?”

“Pretty much.”

“And does the male mouse help raise the kids?”

“Nope – once he’s shot his bolt, he’s off to the next one.”

“Tell me about the female mouse.”

“The female mouse is a dirty whore. She doesn’t care who it’s with.”

“Really?” he said. Sarah laughed, listening to the rusty abacus in Pat’s brain computing the possibilities. She bit her thumbnail and smiled. The shaft of her white neck shone from behind the curtain of her hair.

“Well,” said Sarah, lifting her eyebrows, “I should really go and find my friends. Talk to you later?” She lifted her glass and found the straw with the pink sliver of her tongue.

***

From the look of the crowd, all you had to do to get through the front door was turn up with shoes on. It had been long before Pat had left Australia that he had done any nightclub bouncing, but he knew that the woman-to-man ratio was the crucial factor to the success of any nightclub.

Too many men are always a bad thing. When there is a shortage of women, the competition becomes tougher and the men frequently turn to fighting as a means of venting frustration.

Suburban venues are always the roughest, also; something about the combination of alcohol, commercial dance music and the relentlessly white, heterosexual ‘suburban-and-coke’ crowd.

Pat stood propped at the end of the bar with little else to do other than check out the girls and watch how the crowd shaped up. There were two distinct groups of males clutching their drinks, some with a drink in either hand.

One group stood at the opposite end of the bar, while the other had coalesced on the far side of the room. Large groups of men were always a bad thing, as they tended to change the entire dynamic of a club for the worse.

Football teams who came out drinking together were a magnet for fights. This was a situation exacerbated by the fact that women were too intimidated to go anywhere near them.

The crowd began to surrge towards the bar as a young man whose shiny black hair was quilled with gel climbed up onto it. One hand steadied him on the slippery timber while the other held a bottle by the neck.

Patrons craned forward and opened their mouths like baby birds so he could pour shots directly down their throats. It was a white spirit, but the label was turned the other way. Pat doubted they had any idea of the contents, not caring for anything other than the effect.

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