Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – a Novel

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In addition to playing drums, Wally had hosted a punk rock radio show on 3PBS, one of Melbourne’s alternative community radio stations. This introduced him to a number of people with epic record collections, and some would DJ on a different nights at the Re:Public. Saturday night was rock and roll, as defined by Domenic.

This ran an eclectic spectrum from Cream and The Kinks, The Easybeats through AC/DC to The New York Dolls, The Ramones and The Dictators, finishing up with selections from Turbonegro, The Hellacopters and Queens of the Stone Age.

Members of these bands occasionally dropped into the bar when they were touring, which would often close in their honour so they could enjoy a quiet drink.

The other advantage of Saturday was that there weren’t any suits. The offices were closed over the week-end, so the corporate rabble didn’t turn up at nine PM, sloppy-drunk from drinking sessions that commenced at 5.

People came down on a Saturday night specifically for the music. Business was less hectic, also, so Pat found himself doing more talking and hanging around than actual bouncing.

“Hey Patty, hey Dad,” Stevie greeted them as he rolled down the alley on a long, loose stride. He stopped close to Pat and leaned in. “We’re going out tonight, after closing, for my birthday. You in?”

“I forgot it was your birthday,” said Pat.

“Don’t worry. I try to keep it a secret, anyway. You coming?”

“Sure,” said Pat.

“Great,” said Stevie. “Don’t tell anyone, though. Especially no girls.” He disappeared inside.

‘Something Else’ by Eddie Cochran came bounding out the door. Johnny began to bounce up and down on legs that didn’t seem to bend. His arms were straight at his sides. Suddenly, a foot kicked out and the hands came up.

Fingers snapped and the head went forward. He began to scratch at the ground with his brown leather shoes like a rooster.

“I tell ya, I remember when this came out. It doesn’t sound like much today, but back then, people went beserko! Marilyn Manson, nothing!”

A lady in her sixties came up from the other end of the alley with a rotund Staffordshire Bull-Terrier panting and grunting at the end of the lead she held. The gait of the dog caused her gold bracelets to jangle against her watch.

“See here,” she said, “Turn that music down.” Her hair was dyed blonde and meticulously subdued. Her make up was as flawless as a carefully screeded pavement. “People live on top of these buildings around this alley, you know.”

“How long have you lived here?” asked Johnny, craning forward like a tattooed turkey.

“Seven months.”

“The bar’s been here for over a year.”

“It won’t be here much longer if you don’t turn it down.”

“Why don’t you fuck off home?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Are you deaf as well as obnoxious?” asked Johnny. The woman blinked, but said nothing. “If you’ve got a complaint, go home and call the council. They granted the license. Over a year ago.”

The lady turned and walked back the way she came. The night was still and the panting of the dog could be heard as she receded.

“I used to have a dog like that,” he said. “Years ago, before they started popping up everywhere. I actually got the thing from Scotland.”

“Body’s too big for the legs,” said Pat.

“A friend of mine told me I should buy it. It was a purebred something-or-other and it cost a fortune, but I had a bit of money at that time. Anyway. Once I brought it home, it just started to destroy everything.

“It even pulled apart my motor-mower. I took it for a walk in the park once, and this German Shepherd ran up to play with it. It tore one of its ears off. I had to stick the dog up my jacket and run home.”

“Christ.”

“Eventually, I got rid of it. Too much trouble. This friend of mine, he used to take his to the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Association, where they race them, like little greyhounds.

“You can imagine me rocking up on a Sunday morning after the pub shut, in the Kingswood, surrounded by all these old guys wearing tweed and driving Jaguars.” Johnny stamped his feet to compel the blood back up his legs.

“We put the dogs on the track and, thank Christ, there’s a mechanical rabbit. Take his attention off the others. He almost got in a scrap when I put him down at the starting line, but once the rabbit got moving, off he went.

“He was slow to start, but as the race went on, he started overtaking all the other dogs. Just as he gets to the lead, he starts eyeing off the other dog beside him. And he jumps across and bites it on the head.

“I grabbed hold of him, threw him straight in the boot of the car and drove home.” Pat laughed. This was the other thing he enjoyed about Saturdays – Johnny knew how to tell a story.

“Want a drink, Johnny?”

“I’ll have a light beer.”

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