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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This Gets You Sex?

[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]

‘Wayne,’ he said, offering me his hand. ‘Wayne Jackson.’

‘Steve. Steve Lydon.’

‘Lydon, hey?’ he asked.

‘No relation,’ I said. ‘And yes, I like the Sex Pistols, yes, I saw The Filth and the Fury and yes, I liked some of what Public Image Limited did, but the later stuff is pretty crap.’

‘Fair enough,’ grinned Wayne, turning back to his rack.

‘So what about you?’ I asked after a minute or two of feeling embarrassed by my little outburst. ‘This your ideal job?’

‘Mate, a job’s a job. But yeah, I’ve always wanted to work in the post office. Me and the Buke.’

‘Who?’

‘Buke. Bukowski? Charles Bukowski?’

‘Friend of yours?’

‘He’s a writer. A poet. He worked for the post office in America in the fifties, delivering mail and fucking all the bored housewives. He was an alcoholic.’

‘So which are you? A poet? Or an alcoholic?’

‘Depends on when you’re talking to me.’

‘And have you managed to fuck many housewives since starting here?’

‘Not yet, but times have changed. No, the sex, for me, comes from the poetry.’

‘From the poetry,’ I repeated.

‘Yeah,’ he nodded.

‘You get sex from poetry?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Bullshit.’

‘Well, check it out.’ He grabbed a small card-covered booklet from his bag and flipped it onto my desk.

Hard Times by Wayne M. Jackson,’ I read out loud.

‘That’s me.’

‘I’ve seen this before somewhere.’

‘It’s in a few bookstores. Brunswick Street Books, Missing Link, Polyester. . . You might have seen it around, yeah?’

‘I guess I must’ve.’ Wayne’s list of stockists had jogged my memory. The last time I went into Polyester to check out the new zines, I’d seen Hard Times, with its grainy black-and-white photo of a man sleeping in a doorway. As usual, I’d reorganised the stock to make Gina’s zine, Zines, She Wrote, more prominent, placing it on the top of the pile. Fuck ‘em, I’d thought. The harder I make it to find homemade poetry books, the happier the world will be.

I bit my tongue, flipped to a random page and read a little bit. The poem was called ‘Shit Happens’.

three a.m. in the Punters Club
and I’m down to my last gold coin again
and I don’t recognise anyone here
who I could go halves with for a beer
so I wander out into the street
and the fresh air punches me in the throat
and I watch the hot dog man pack up
leaving spilled puddles of mustard
and barbecue sauce behind him
and I start off in the direction of home
and I pass that old Greek guy sitting outside
the back door of the bagel bakery
and the two of us go dumpster diving
for day-old bagels
and we share my last cigarette
stuffing our faces with dry bagels
and I give him my last gold coin
and say goodnight to him
and tell him to take care because
shit happens,
and he looks at me and says,
I know.

I looked up. ‘This gets you sex?’

‘Sometimes.’

I’d never thought to try to get sex with poetry. Making the girl laugh, yes. Getting the girl drunk, sure. Getting myself drunk, absolutely. But it had never occurred to me to use poetry. I probably don’t know enough about poetry. I’m okay with limericks. I could do that one about the old man with the beard off by heart. But the vision of my rendition of ‘There was a young man from Nantucket’ inspiring wanton women to throw their undies at me was hard to sustain.

‘It doesn’t rhyme,’ I said.

‘It doesn’t have to rhyme.’ Wayne snatched his book back from me. ‘Fucking philistine.’

‘No, it’s good. I liked it. It was . . . interesting. Like something that could really have happened. Very, um, evocative.’ I backpedalled, wanting to be polite, looking for the right kind of compliment. He might have an ego on him, but there was something charming about Wayne. I’d never had a workmate before—I’d never had real work before—and Wayne seemed interesting enough to fill the job description.

‘You should come hear me read sometime.’

My vague compliments seemed to have placated him. ‘I’ve got a feature this Thursday, at the Jamieson. You should come.’

‘A feature what?’

‘Just come to the Jamieson on Thursday, about eight, smart arse. I’ll be reading my poems on stage. Some of ‘em come across better when they’re performed.’

‘Does it cost money?’

‘Nah, I’ll put you on the door. But the first beer’s on you.’

‘Sounds fair,’ I said, hefting the bags under my arms.

‘Eight.’

‘Okay, but if it sucks you owe me a beer.’

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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Lionel Fogarty: “The Mununjali Exemption Man To my Grandfather Fred Fogarty”

The Department of Family Services and Abos lied to me. My
grandfather came to Purga at ’bout 19 or 18 hundreds and
married a Murri woman who gave him sons. In 1922 he was
given exemption certificate from the acts. He came from
Mununjali people who lives in Beaudesert. My grandfather was
gammin and told he was free, but when his son hit the
manager his son was sended to Barambah.

— Lionel Fogarty, “The Mununjali Exemption Man To my Grandfather Fred Fogarty”

Read the full poem here, along with more examples of Fogarty’s work.

For Sorry Day.

Posted in writing

Rush

[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]

The cup thunks back onto the table, empty, & the bean races through your blood, bouncing off the walls of veins capillaries arteries arterioles venules entering your brain & showing those neurons & synapses what for. “Get moving, you sluggish chemo-sensitive sonsabitches! We got the power to keep you up for hours!” Neurons hesitate & pitifully protest but soon are caught up in the song of ZAP! ZOW! ZAM! & ZING!! Eyes widen pupils & nostrils dilate hair tingles limbs tremble risorial muscles tense mouth opens throat opens & WHEEEEEEEEE!! HOT DOG! YEE-FUCKEN-HA!! We’re There.

“Oh, yes,” cries the bean, “you just can’t argue with us! Born under desert skies, that ol’ goat-herder really wondered what in Allah’s name was up with his goats, didn’t he? We got them dancing & jiving & writing iambic pentameter in Russian! We got them bleating up a storm, running around like they’d just had a barb-wire enema! & when HE started chompin’ on those beans, he got such an Allah-be-damned surprise, he fell to praying & didn’t stop bobbing his head up & down for a week. We travelled the globe, stopping off in the Americas, sharing a spot next door to our cousins, the cocoas, & we got this to say to you. Have another cup, boy! Hell, have two more! We’re looking for a new home, & we picked you!

We don’t care how you have it, white, black or even with that fuzzy chocolate crap on top, just so long as you have it. Can’t you feel the strength we give you? Energy, my friend. N. R. G. Now you can go out & do whatsoever your bunny-beating little heart desires. Twice in ten minutes. Go for it boy, sprint! You’re ours now, you sonofabitch. All the way from Brazil to you. We want you to have a good time, & all we ask in return is that you HAVE. A. GOOD. TIME. Now, don’t you feel like another? Hmmmmm?”

Your quivering hands put the percolator back on the stove. You strike a match (dropping the first, but getting it the second time) & hear the satisfying thump! of igniting gas, & as your pores exude the rich, textured smell you’ve come to think of as home, the caffeine molecule goes deeper inside & bonds with DNA. Adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine & caffiene.

Witness the birth of a new being, more coffee than man.

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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Like what you read?
Go off-blog with Adam's ebooks!


Man Bites Dog, Adam's novel about posties, poets, dobermans & Angela Lansbury is only $5!


Not Quite the Man for the Job, Adam's award-winning poetry collection, is also only $5!

Adam Ford is the author of the poetry books The Third Fruit is a Bird, Not Quite the Man for the Job and From My Head, the novel Man Bites Dog and the short story collection Heroes and Civilians.

He is the genius behind the cult-hit website Monkey Punch Dinosaur and the twitter novel Aramis Fox.

He also makes zines and comics. This is his website.

His email is ADAMFORD-escargot-LABYRINTH-full-stop-NET-full-stop-AU

This website was made on the traditional lands of the Jaara Jaara and the Wurundjeri peoples.

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Also I Write This Twitter Fiction Thing Called Aramis Fox

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