Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – A novel

Cra Pres Honour Roll.jpg

76

Natalie had offered to drive, but Pat declined. The Val was a lot different to her Mitsubishi. When steering, the front of the car seemed to change direction like an ocean liner, as if pivoting from the back wheels.

Taking a mangled car back to Johnny would have been one of the few remaining ways to make his day worse.

“Where is your family?” she asked quietly.

“Queensland,” he replied. “They don’t even know I’m home yet.”

“How can they not know?”

“There is a difference between a mother and a father, and you can see it clearly at a funeral. The father has lost his son, but the mother has lost a part of her body. When my mother sees me, it feels like she’s looking through me, like she’s looking for the… other half…”

“The half she lost,” said Nat.

“The half I killed,” he replied.

**

“Hey Wally,” said Pat as he stuck his head into the office. Wally sat back in his chair with both feet up on the desk. The bookkeeping lay spread out around him, untouched. “You busy this morning? Wanna go to a meeting?”

“Sometimes I thank God I’m an alcoholic because it gets me outta here,” he said.

“Natalie’s here; she’s coming with us.”

**

“Hi, everybody,” Pat began, as he grasped the sides of the lectern. “My name is Patrick, and I’m an alcoholic. But that’s not all. Not the worst of it, unfortunately. I’m also a liar.” He let the words fall as he focused his eyes on the back wall.

“I bought my friends and family with me today, because I don’t know if I’ll be able to say this more than once.”

Pat’s gaze faltered and came to rest on Natalie, where she sat beside Wally a few rows from the front. From that distance, he could clearly read the sympathy. He coughed as if to peel his voice from the back of his throat.

“Every time I hear people talk in here,” he began, “They say something that makes me feel ashamed. I started going to A.A. meetings in the UK because my doctor told me to. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed them.

“When I come here to the Salvation Army hostel, it’s calm. When people talk, they’re saying something they really mean.”

Pat looked at the roll boards for the Great War. The morning sun that cut in through the windows bounced off the timber, making the gold-lettered names illegible.

“The stories that people tell here are remarkable,” he said when he began again. “You walk past people on the footpath and never give them a second thought, and at a meeting you discover that they’re alcoholics and out come these incredible tales. It’s… heroic.”

Again, Pat tapered off into silence. He had the rhythm of a man not yet fit enough to run, who has to alternate his running with his jogging.

“I’m embarrassed. Because I’m not heroic.” A tear sagged on his lower eyelid. ‘I won’t touch it’, he thought to himself, ‘and maybe no-one will see.’

“Travelling is great for a lot of reasons, but it’s really good if you’re a liar. When you’re travelling, you can make up whatever story you think you can get away with.

“But now that I live here in Melbourne, I have to be myself. I really am a particular person. I can’t just make it up as I go along.”

Pat felt the tear deforming against his lashes. ‘I’m crying.’ He thought. ‘What a fucking cliché.’ He wanted to walk away, but his entire return to Melbourne had been leading up to this.

Chunks of the story had emerged when he had tried to talk Stevie down after the brothel, and returning to the accident site with Natalie. He felt that the last piece had to come out – now – or he’d choke on it.  

“When people speak here, I envy them. The things they’ve been through make them legitimate. When I listen to my friend Wally, I envy how funny he is, and how rock n’ roll he is. Everybody knows him.

“He seems to have no problem being himself. But I have no noble tragedy. I’ve been thinking about this lately, and it’s coming to really piss me off.” To Pat’s surprise, this got a laugh.

“I have started to see this woman. We went away for a weekend and I took her along the Great Ocean Road. On the surface, it looked like a romantic week-end, but I had designs. Because…”

“There’s a bit of debate about whether lies or omissions of truth are the same thing. From my experience, the omission is possibly worse, or at least, mine is. It’s been boiling away in my guts like an ulcer.” Pat stopped and took a breath.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: