[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.’
‘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?’
‘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.
‘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
and he looks at me and says,
I looked up. ‘This gets you sex?’
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.
‘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.