Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – A Novel



The drove out to Frankston, not far from the club Pat had worked at a few weeks prior. She parked in one of the small bays set into the scrub that created a natural divider between the sand and the road.

“Do you want to go in here and eat?” asked Nat, pointing up at the restaurant perched above the sailing club. It was built from panels of glass that glinted in the sun. The rails and fixtures, however, were a muted steel grey that refused to reflect the light.

“Looks a bit expensive,” mumbled Pat, putting a hand into a pocket and rubbing the few coins he had.

“I’ve got money” said Nat, and turned to walk up the incline towards the door. Pat followed behind and, not wanting to be entirely emasculated, reached the glass door first and held it open for her.

“Thank you,” she said, flashing him a smile.

“Good afternoon,” asked the middle-aged lady wearing an apron, standing beside the register with her hands behind her back. “Table for two?”

“It’s a bit windy, but the sun is nice. Is this okay with you?” Nat asked as she looped a few recalcitrant stands of hair behind her ear.

“Sure. This is fine,” said Pat to the waitress. “Oh, damn,” he said, letting go of the back of his chair and rounding the small two-person table in order to pull Nat’s chair out for her.

“A gentleman,” said the waitress, beaming. This made Pat feel even more uncomfortable.

“Can I get you drinks?”

“Champagne?” asked Nat.

“Celebration,” grinned the waitress, and clasped her hands as she turned to Pat. “And for you?”

“Coffee. Black. Please.” The waitress turned and left them. The wind picked up and Nat zipped her jacket against it.

“Do you want to change places?” he asked.

“The glare on this side is pretty strong, and I’ve got sunglasses. This is fine with me.” Pat looked over his shoulder to where the afternoon sun glared down onto the bay, its brilliant stare tinting the waves a harsh chromium-white. The waitress returned with drinks.

Pat peered down onto the black disc that floated near the rim of his cup. It looked like the mouth of a tunnel that was so long it was perfectly dark, plunging through the table and into the floor. Pat sent his imagination into it, down and down and down.

“Cheers,” said Nat, lifting her glass towards him. Pat meekly lifted his cup and clinked it against her glass. He sipped at the bitter liquid. Which was as strong and bitter as he had hoped.

“Menus?” asked the waitress.

“Late lunch,” said Nat, as she took hers. The waitress left them again. “Actually,” said Nat, turning and projecting her voice at the waitresses’ back. Then, turning to Pat, she asked, “Do you like seafood?”


“Can we have two of the seafood baskets?”

When the basket of bugs, crabs and prawns arrived, Pat looked into it and saw clusters of angry, abstruse lines and angles; the shells of the little beasts were both jagged and curved.

It was easy to approach meat-and-three-veg in a schematic way, but something like this, it was difficult to know where to start.

Nat, however, had no such problems. She set at claws, tails and armoured thoraxes with zeal. She had tucked her linen napkin into her shirt, mobster-style, and was steadily building a pile of shattered shells to one side of her plate.

Pat hadn’t eaten crabs before; at least, not when he had to directly remove them from their shells. He found after a few failed attempts that the best method was to grasp the body longways between the nutcracker-style pincers and try and split it into two even halves.

The meat lined the shell itself and most of his attempts to get into it were frustrated; when the shells splintered into shards, the meat remained bonded to the fragments.

“This is an ingenious way to starve a man to death,” he said, pinching a shell fragment between thumb and forefinger in order to scrape the meat from it with a knife. “This is the second-most awkward meal I’ve ever eaten.”

“What was the first?” asked Nat.

“I had a goldfish once, in Vietnam. It was like eating a fish-finger full of shrapnel. You know when you eat salmon, if it’s got bones, they come out like nylon threads?

“And they’re all kind of schematically organised in there. With a goldfish, there’s more bones than there is actual fish.”

Nat reached across into his basket and took hold of a crab. She broke it up into a series of large pieces and passed them back onto his plate. “There you are,” she said. “Schematic.”

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