Someone’s Stolen Your Dog

[Being the latest in a series of excerpts from my novel, Man Bites Dog, which is currently on sale at Tomely for only 99c until 23 June 2014]

We follow the receptionist out the back, into a cavernous room with a leather-upholstered table in the middle. Between two benches on the right-hand wall is a large metal door.

‘He’s in the freezer,’ says the receptionist, motioning to the metal door.

She puts on a lined parka and opens up the freezer door, pushing down hard on the handle.

‘Did you manage to determine the cause of death?’ asks Gina.

‘Well, we had assumed that it was something he ate.’

‘You haven’t done the autopsy yet, then?’ The receptionist stares at her.

‘The what?’

‘The autopsy.’

She frowns at Gina. It’s partially a frown of confusion, but there’s some indignant something-or-other in there as well. ‘You want a necropsy?’ she asks. ‘I’m sorry, Miss . . .’

‘Reynolds.’

‘Miss Reynolds. I’m afraid that only your aunt herself can request a necropsy. It’s a rather delicate and serious matter, best left to the next of kin.’

‘But I am next of kin,’ Gina says.

‘Well, technically, yes,’ says the receptionist, ‘but you weren’t Gavin’s actual owner, if you see what I mean.’

‘But my aunt asked me to enquire about the possibility. She just wanted to be sure—you know, to be sure that she was right about her suspicions.’

‘Her suspicions?’

Gina clears her throat. ‘She thinks—though I don’t necessarily agree—that her mailman poisoned Gavin—Jeeves—with some chicken or something.’

‘She thinks her mailman killed her dog?’

‘Yes.’

‘But that’s ridiculous!’ I say. ‘Whoever heard of something so patently ludicrous?’ Both Gina and the receptionist stare at me. That same look again. ‘Well, it is pretty dumb, don’t you think?’ I say, sheepishly. ‘A mailman murdering a dog. Stupid. If you ask me.’

‘As I was saying, Miss Reynolds,’ the receptionist ignores me, ‘only your aunt herself can ask me to perform a necropsy. I can understand why she would want such a thing, but there are procedures to follow.’

‘Aunt Abby asked me to ask on her behalf. She doesn’t want to be there for it, but she does want to know for sure if it was the mailman. She’s too traumatised by the loss to come in person. I’m sure you under- stand.’ With this last, Gina goes into her uber-charming mode, only just stopping short of batting her eyelashes.

‘Of course it wasn’t the mailman,’ I say. ‘That’s just stupid.’

‘Steven, can you be quiet, please?’

I shut up.

‘Look,’ says the receptionist. ‘If your aunt calls me tomorrow morning, I can do the necropsy in the afternoon. Tell her that she doesn’t have to be here, but that I do need to speak to her personally.’

Gina nods. ‘Well, okay. I’ll get Aunt Abby to call you tomorrow, but could I still just see Jeeves now?’

‘Certainly. I’ll bring him out.’ She opens the freezer door again and steps inside.

‘Why would the receptionist do the autopsy?’ I whisper.

‘Necropsy. She’s not the receptionist. She’s the vet.’

‘But she was behind the desk,’

‘She’s wearing a white coat.’

‘I can see that. I thought it was just a uniform.’

‘It is. A vet’s uniform.’ Our squabble is interrupted by a cry from the vet.

The two of us bound towards the freezer. The vet is standing beside a stainless-steel trolley. There is no Doberman corpse to be seen. Above the trolley, on the side wall of the freezer, which would be the back wall of the surgery, is a small window, about two metres from the floor. Directly underneath is a pile of shattered glass.

‘I don’t believe it,’ says the vet. ‘Someone’s stolen your dog.’

Stay tuned for further excerpts from Man Bites Dog, or buy a copy from Tomely for only 99c and read the whole thing for yourself.

 

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Nostalgic for Now

[Being an excerpt from the poetry collection Not Quite the Man for the Job, on sale at Tomely for only 99c until 23 June 2014]

Garlic sauce from the two fifty kebab
makes its way through the paper bag
to collect in the bottom of the satchel
strapped to my shoulders.

Down the back streets on my grownup BMX.
I’m remembering all the old moves:
foot down to turn a corner,
swaying as I stand on the pedals.

I’m a self-powered projectile fueled
by two pubs and two bands.
No money changed hands over the bar,
but I’m high on something tonight.

I cut through the Edinburgh gardens,
past ghosts of Fitzroy full-backs,
riding by touch over asphalt
pushed aside by trees that got there first.

Casting double shadows under streetlights,
hearing the buzz of tyres
and the click of spokes
and the chunk of changing gears.

Through Piedimonte’s carpark,
past places I could have had my first kiss.
Along freshly-minted footpath,
pulling leaves from the trees as I pass.

This night is a free game of pinball,
a fresh bagel, the smell of her skin,
an answering machine filled with good news,
dimples on the head of a Guinness.

I’ve forgotten my longing for things past.
They’re gone. They were good. That’s enough.
Tonight there’s no need for “remember when?”.
Tonight, I’m nostalgic for now.

Read more poems from Not Quite the Man for the Job - buy it now on Tomely for the mere price of 99c!

 

Posted in writing

Published: Whose Doctor? Reflections on a Time Lord

Whose Doctor? Reflections on a Time LordBack in November 2013 there was a lot going on around the 50th Anniversary celebrations of Doctor Who, and I managed to get in on a bit of that action here and there.

One thing I got to do was a reading at the Litho Club in North Melbourne as part of the Melbourne City Library’s 50th Anniversary program.

The Not Quite the Big Finish: A Night of Doctor Who Spoken Word was a brilliant night featuring nine amazing readers from the cream of Melbourne’s authorial intelligentsia (well, eight plus me) waxing smart on the Doctor.

I was stoked and kinda nervous to be sharing the stage with folks like John Richards and Ben McKenzie of Splendid Chaps fame, as well as luminaries like Emilie Collyer, Karen Pickering and George Ivanoff. Everyone was amazing and there was a lot of Who-love in the room at the end of the night.

There was talk that night of somehow collecting the pieces that people had read for posterity, maybe as a a one-off podcast, and I chipped in to suggest that maybe an ebook collection would be an easy enough and fun enough thing to do.

Seven months later (and in the long lead-up to the first appearance on our boxes of Peter Capaldi as The Twelfth Thirteenth Fourteenth latest Doctor) I’m proud to announce the arrival of Whose Doctor? Reflections on a Time Lord.

It’s a fantastic collection of essays, commentaries and poetry that looks at Doctor Who from multiple angles, no two of which are the same.

So here’s what you’ve got:

  • John Richards’s wry essay about original companion Barbara Wright as the true hero of the show
  • Karen Pickering’s passionate excoriation of Steven Moffat’s gender politics
  • Jules Wilkinson’s hilarious opening lecture to a class of would-be companions
  • Ben McKenzie’s heartfelt admission that Seven is his favourite
  • Emilie Collyer’s touching poem about how she, her partner and her step-daughter bonded over Sunday nights with Christopher Eccleston
  • LJ Maher’s playful examination of New Who’s subversion of the male gaze
  • Philip Ashmore’s nostalgic revisitation of his relationship with the show and its monsters
  • George Ivanoff’s cheeky request to become a Doctor Who scriptwriter

Oh, and there’s also my poem about how Donna was faking it so she could leave the Doctor and have her own, much more excellent adventures without him.

So yeah. Doctor Who ebook. You can buy it right now from either:

  • Tomely (in .epub or .mobi format)
  • Smashwords (in formats including .epub, .mobi, .pdf and other reader-compatible versions)

It’ll set you back only $5US, so there’s no real reason not to, really.

If you’re a blogger or a reviewer or a Who fan of some kind, I’d be more than happy to provide you with a copy so that you can spread the word and extol our virtues (if you’re so inclined) – just leave a comment below this post, or email me at adamatsya [this is not an at] gmail [this is not a dot] com.

Thanks to all of the authors involved in putting this sucker together, and especial big-arse thanks to Aimee Rhodes and the Melbourne City Library for bringing everyone together in the first place.

Further thanks also to Mr. Nathan Curnow, award-winning poet and all-round nice guy, who worked with me on my contribution, giving me some excellent advice on how to improve on the version that I originally read in November.

[insert your own witty Who-ism by way of a pithy closing comment here.]

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Posted in writing

Citizens for Correct Grammar In Public Spaces

[Being the latest in a series of excerpts from my novel, Man Bites Dog, which is currently on sale at Tomely for only 99c until 23 June 2014]

A week after the comma conversation Gina had turned up on my doorstep at around ten-thirty at night.

‘Hey,’ I said. ‘I was just getting ready for bed.’

She was dressed in a black Bonds long-sleeved T-shirt and a pair of black jeans.

‘I’ve got a plan.’

I stood in the doorway, waiting for an elaboration.

‘You have to get changed,’ she said. ‘Into black clothes. We’re on a mission.’ Gina followed me up to my room. She had her hands tucked behind her back, and she was grinning.

‘What?’ I asked.

She thrust a stack of A4 sheets at me.

‘Your mission, should you choose to accept it.’

I flipped through the stack. They were all the same.

‘You must have some black clothes in here somewhere,’ she said, rummaging around in my wardrobe.

‘There’s a pair of jeans in the bottom cupboard, and I think my black jumper’s in the lounge.’

‘I’ll go grab it,’ she said. I took a closer look at the pages Gina had handed me.

We represent Citizens for Correct Grammar In Public Spaces (CCGIPS). Your place of business is in contravention of the prime directive of our organisation. The signage that you currently display incorrectly utilises apostrophes. We request that you amend your signage to bring it in line with the standards set and observed by the Australian Government Printing Service (AGPS), the recognised authority in matters of grammar usage and style in Australia.

You have two weeks to comply. If you have not complied by the end of this two-week period, further steps will be taken.

Yours sincerely

Jessica Fletcher

(secretary, CCGIPS)

—Guidelines follow—

Apostrophe:

6.162 The principal use of the apostrophe, normally followed or preceded by s, is to indicate possession (also indicated by using the preposition of):

  • the horse’s mouth (= the mouth of the horse)
  • the horses’ mouths (= the mouths of the horses)

6.163 The apostrophe is needed to indicate possession with nouns only; the pronouns hers, its, theirs and yours are already possessive and do not need the apostrophe. It’s means ‘it is’, while its means ‘belonging to it’.

(For further information on the use of apostrophes, please refer to the Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers, published by the Australian Government Printing Service.)

Gina came back with my black jumper tucked under her arm.

‘What’s this?’ I asked.

‘Our constitution.’

‘But I was just going to bed.’

‘And now you’re not. We’ve got work to do.’

‘Don’t you have a date tonight?’

‘Don’t you?’

I grabbed the jumper and pulled it over my head, then stared at her for a moment.

‘What?’

‘I need to get changed.’

‘I’ve seen my brothers naked, you know. It’s not like you’ve got anything I haven’t seen before.’

‘You haven’t got any brothers.’

‘Oh. Well, I’m sure they were somebody’s brothers . . .’

‘Get out, dickhead.’

‘Are you this coy around other girls?’

I stared Gina down and she left the room. I slid out of my blue jeans and into the black. ‘Want to clue me in?’ I called.

Gina came back to watch me dig out my old black Converse boots. ‘I got to thinking about the whole comma thing, and I felt sorry for you, Steven. It must be hard to live in a world that so frequently abuses punctuation.’

‘It’s torture.’

‘Well, I came up with a plan. We can’t do anything about Jessica’s comma now, but we can take action on a local level. We’re going out onto the streets and we’re going to paste these notices on the windows of any shops that have the temerity to blatantly and publicly contradict the rules of good grammar.’

‘We’re going to what?’

‘You heard.’

‘Yeah, but I thought I mightn’t’ve.’

‘You heard.’

‘Vandalism? Aren’t we a little bit old to embark on a life of petty crime?’

‘It’s never too late. Besides, this is vandalism for a higher cause.’

***

The back seat of Gina’s car was covered with what looked like the standard beginner’s postering kit: papers, brushes and a bucket half-filled with grey gluggy stuff.

‘What’s in the bucket?’ I asked.

‘Rice flour and water. The best postering glue there is. Cooked it up an hour ago.’

I stuck a finger into the gunk. It was still warm. ‘Thought of everything, haven’t we?’

‘Let’s start out on High Street. Bound to be a couple of likely candidates for a pasting up that way.’

‘I know just the one,’ I said. I’d caught a tram past the second-hand furniture store just the other week and had stared aghast at its blatant grammatical infringement. Painted in fluorescent pink capital letters outlined in bright yellow was the phrase ‘1000’s of BARGAINS INSIDE!!’. At the time I had contemplated tossing a rock through the window on my way back, but now I had a much more educational and constructive alternative.

***

‘Totally inappropriate,’ mumbled Gina as she stepped out of the car. I stood silently on the kerb, clutching the stack of leaflets. Gina came upbeside me, bucket in hand, and we stood in front of the offending window to consider our approach.

‘I’ll glue if you keep a lookout,’ she said. ‘We can swap later.’

I nodded and passed her a pamphlet. She slapped it on top of the offending number, and painted a liberal amount of paste over it. I leaned against the car, glancing around. Only a few other cars were parked on the street. A block or so towards Separation Street, people were hanging around outside the pool hall. The Number 86 tram whispered past on its way into the city. A quiet weeknight in Northcote.

Gina stepped back to admire her handiwork. ‘That oughta learn ‘em.’

The paste had covered the entire pamphlet in a greyish white sludge, obscuring the text.

‘That stuff dries clear, right?’ I asked.

‘You bet. Clear and immovable. Let’s find another one.’

We didn’t have to look far. Two blocks south, the front window of Northcote Whitegoods King announced: ‘Fridge’s, Washer’s & Dryer’s DRASTICALLY REDUCED’. I clucked my tongue in disapproval and set to work.

Stay tuned for further excerpts from Man Bites Dog, or buy a copy from Tomely for only 99c and read the whole thing for yourself.

 

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isms

I’m a bit worried
about all of this
rampant pigeonholism &
unnecessary categorisationism,
but I guess you could say
I’m a believer in
sleeping latism,
vegetarian lasagnism &
thai green curryism,
romantic poeticism,
friendly humourism,
pub bandism,
early morning sexism,
Sunday paperism,
brand new bikism &
crappy old carism,
late-night T.V.-ism,
Star Trek Voyagerism,
good bookism,
open firism,
thunderstormism &
user-friendly cynicism.

Read more poems from Not Quite the Man for the Job - buy it now on Tomely for the mere price of 99c!

 

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She’s the Murderer

[Being the latest in a series of excerpts from my novel, Man Bites Dog, which is currently on sale at Tomely for only 99c until 23 June 2014]

I first met Gina when I was at university. I was working at a call centre three evenings a week, asking the same stupid questions to different uninterested people fifty to a hundred times a night so that I could afford to pay my rent. Gina was my shift manager. She assigned the slabs of phone numbers we had to trawl through.

We became friends when we discovered a mutual appreciation of bad American television. I was in the kitchenette making myself a coffee, whistling the theme song from The Greatest American Hero.

‘I used to watch that show when I was little,’ she said.

‘Me too. My dad even bought the theme song on single. We used to play it all the time. They don’t make shows like that any more.’

‘Thank god for that, hey?’

‘I thought my dad was the Greatest American Hero.’

‘What?’

‘Yeah, he had blond curly hair just like him, and he used to wear red pyjamas in bed.’

‘A dead giveaway.’

‘And when I asked him if it was true, he’d just smirk and tell me that a good superhero never reveals his secret identity.’

‘What was that actor’s name?’

‘No idea.’

‘I wonder what he’s up to these days.’

‘I don’t.’

We got to talking about all those dreadful eighties shows we vaguely remembered from our childhoods, like the A-Team, Remington Steele, The Fall Guy and Who’s The Boss? Gina’s favourite was Murder, She Wrote, the one about Jessica Fletcher, the lady crime novelist who solves murder mysteries in her spare time. Gina used to sit up past her bedtime, snuggled in her mother’s lap, not really understanding what was going on, but enraptured all the same.

The premise of the show is that Jessica Fletcher has written so many murder mystery novels that she has a unique understanding of how a murderer’s mind works, and can solve crimes better than the police. Every week she somehow finds herself involved in a murder case, and through careful investigation and reliance on her crime-novelist hunches she uncovers the truth and brings the perpetrators to justice. Nobody ever thinks to ask why this eccentric crime novelist is coincidentally at the scene of a murder every single week.

Gina loved Jessica Fletcher, loved the way she second-guessed the bad guys, loved the way she made the cops look like idiots, and especially loved the smug-yet-humble demeanour that she adopted when revealing who the killer really was.

‘She’s some feisty chick. She’s got the moves, she knows what’s going on. Jessica Fletcher is my hero.’

‘She’s the murderer.’

‘Don’t ever let Mum hear you say that, Steven. Bad-mouth Jessica, and you’re history.’

Now, I’m all for lionising the stars of crappy American TV. I love to lampoon the poorly written scripts, the hack actors, the plodding moralistic values ‘hidden’ in the subtext of these shows. But Gina’s affection for Murder, She Wrote seems to go further than simple irony. It’s a little disturbing. Sometimes I wonder if there is an ironic component to her love of the show. But even when Gina’s at her most twisted, I love being around her because it’s invariably more entertaining than not being around her.

At the call centre we would email Internet gossip to each other, about the actors from various US schlock-TV shows: what David Hasselhoff was up to these days, rumours of a Hart to Hart reunion special, cinematic cameo appearances by the guy who played Howling Mad Murdock. One time, Gina even sent me pictures of the cast of The Greatest American Hero with my face pasted over all of theirs. After work we’d go out drinking, watch 24-hour science fiction movie marathons and memorise the dumbest lines to scream at each other in the pub, bitch about the zombies we worked with at the call centre and swap stories about the minefields that were our love lives.

It was inevitable that our bonding over trash culture would set us up as some kind of two-person clique at work, and also inevitable that our workmates would come to think of us as ‘those two loud weirdoes’. We expected such a reaction, and we revelled in it. What we didn’t anticipate was that our ‘misuse of company technology’ (translation: logging into the TrashTeevee message board an average of fifteen times a day) would get us fired.

The night of our last shift, Gina and I sent a company-wide spam email with a big picture of David Hasselhoff smiling his best Knight Rider smileas he perched on the bonnet of K.I.T.T., his sentient crime-fighting car. To accompany the picture we had composed a farewell message.

Your computer has been infected by the Knight Rider virus!! This virus is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS!!! It transforms your hard-drive into a sentient, crime-fighting robot with flashing red eyes and a patronising English accent! It transforms the user into a curly-haired 80s bohunk with a fetish for leather pants!!! The only cure is to watch seasons one through five of Baywatch sequentially, though the user runs the risk of turning into a curly-haired 90s bohunk with a fetish for red Speedos!!!! BEWARE!!!!!

Neither of us has worked in the telemarketing industry since. Gina scored herself a sweet gig tending bar at the Empress, and I fell back into the generous arms of Austudy for the remainder of my degree.

So in return for the joys of sharing Gina’s company and having her include me in her outlandish schemes, which can only be described as ‘cockamamie’, I pretend not to be disturbed by the giant poster of Jessica Fletcher that is the focal point of Gina’s lounge room. I turn a blind eye to the bookshelf filled with videotaped episodes of Murder, She Wrote that her mother actually listed tape by tape on her household insurance form. I join Gina and her mother for their M,SW marathon parties, watching back-to-back episodes until I fall asleep on the couch, with the two of them sitting up well into the morning, calling out encouragement to their on-screen heroine.

‘Attagirl, Jess! You tell that nosey Amos Tupper to keep his opinions to himself!’

‘You tell him, Mum.’

But there’s one thing I cannot tolerate. One thing about the show that drives me absolutely out of my skull.

That goddamn comma.

‘What the hell is it doing there?’ I once asked Gina.

‘I don’t see the problem,’ she countered. ‘It’s grammatically incorrect! It’s not a bloody sentence! It makes no sense!’

‘What? It’s perfectly clear. Murder, she wrote. She’s a mystery writer. She writes murder novels. See?’

‘No, I don’t see. If that was what you were trying to get across, then you’d write “she wrote murder”, or something.’

”’She wrote murder” sounds dumb.’

‘So does “Murder, she wrote”! At least you could put quote marks in there. If it said “Quote, Murder, comma, unquote, She Wrote”, then that would at least be grammatically correct. I could see that. I could understand what was going on there.’

‘Calm down, boy. It’s just a television show.’

I raised my eyebrows and motioned to the four-foot tall photograph behind us, smiling into the lounge room like a cross between Chairman Mao and Ronald McDonald.

‘Okay, okay, so it’s not just a television show,’ Gina admitted. ‘But it’s not worth getting all messed up over a comma. You’re not going to change anything now. They stopped making it years ago. It’s history now. Murder. Comma. She. Wrote.’

I sighed in exasperation and settled back into the couch. On screen, Jessica was explaining her latest hunch to a room of assembled guests.

Gina poked me in the ribs. ‘You get worked up over the smallest things, mate.’

‘It’s a matter of principle.’

She kissed me on the cheek and went into the kitchen to grab another couple of beers. I stuck my tongue out while her back was turned.

Stay tuned for further excerpts from Man Bites Dog, or buy a copy from Tomely for only 99c and read the whole thing for yourself.

 

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The Modest Demands of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Guitarist

all I want to do
is play
three
chords,
sing backups
and drink the
rider
before the
drummer
gets to it.

Read more poems from Not Quite the Man for the Job - buy it now on Tomely for the mere price of 99c!

 

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Posted in writing
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