"Getting By As A Decoy"
Shane Jesse Christmass
Standing next to the sunglasses rack, I accidentally knock a few pairs of sunglasses onto the carpet, and when I reach down to pick them up, I notice that the dust from the sunglasses has settled on top of a high heel. There’s this mildewed air about, and as I look up, I realise it’s come from the person who owns this high heel; it’s come from the pharmacy attendant who’s standing over me. Her limbs smell bulky; they’re much more languid than mine, and she smiles, making the cracking red of her lipstick peel awake into her cheeks.
“Can I help you?” she says, but I realise she can’t, for Melbourne Central feels like a foothill. It feels like one giant sweat pore. I point to my friend Allan. “I’m just waiting for him.” I mention to her. My friend, Allan Dollon, is standing next the counter. He’s waiting, and I suppose I’m waiting, for his prescription to be filled. The pharmacy attendant turns around and goes back behind the counter. She’s got a pleasant little squiggle to her arse.
I resume picking up the fallen sunglasses and I start to give into some type of starvation. I also start to wonder where Spiro Lisa is. She said she’d meet Allan and me outside the P.O. boxes next to the pharmacy. We’d been waiting for about five minutes, when Allan decided to give up on her and go get his prescription filled.
I don’t like waiting. I don’t like waiting for Allan Dollon, and I certainly don’t like waiting for Spiro Lisa. I’m getting all jittery. I feel like there’s points in time, much like this one, whereby I’m being dragged back towards something that’s so primitive it can only escape at night. Waiting makes me a target for that kind of primitive monster, and waiting, transforms me into a decoy, because I am, standing in the pharmacy, feeling like a slice of bait amongst damp sand, and on this very afternoon, this primitive evil is getting enticed; it’s going underfoot, and it’s in training to entice others. My central nervous system, much like waiting, is crippling the person, me, with this lame condition. I don’t like it; it’s like a storm brewing stone that’s fallen out of my palm. I continue to pick up the sunglasses from the carpet. I’m on my knees when suddenly an intense craving comes. I cup my hands and watch all the tremors seep. I stand up, holding a few pairs of sunglasses, just as the bad health takes hold. I step back and watch the side effects churn amongst the fluorescent lights in the ceiling. These tremors are in one part of my body, and my body has now become rampant.
Allan Dollon, Spiro Lisa and I are all now in the warehouse. We’re drinking cheap and rotten beer that’s come from Amsterdam. We’re sliding butter knives to each other across the linoleum tabletop. I’m not too sure what the others are watching, but I can see slimy scales roost around my satiated appetite. I can see a reflection of myself and Allan Dollon in the brick wall opposite. Our bodies remain with a human appearance, but at turns they go from being slave to snake, to vim to snake, to slave to vim, and back to human again.
I take a sip from my drink and notice how the Amsterdam beer is now stopping what it once was doing, for the liquid used to stop my essence from becoming reptilian. Allan Dollon starts playing with a butter knife. He runs it up and down his left thigh. Spiro Lisa scratches her stomach, and then starts chipping away at her consideration. Her mind is made of yolk, in fact all of the parts of the egg. Her intelligence is yolk, egg white, albumen and brown shell. The putrid and cheap Amsterdam beer is now dripping less frequently from the grill in the wall than it was a few moments before. The intact rubble in my jam jar, which I’ve been drinking from, is refusing to go down my throat. I start to rummage around in my wallet. There are old receipts, library cards and, thankfully, some money. I come across Justine’s number and my mind falls across some crooked memory. The last time I saw her I was fucked-up drunk, playing host and caught in that process of waiting that I was thinking about before. I was a smashed decoy uttering nonsense; however it occurs to me that Justine will be at the Archon Bar tonight. The cartilage within me creaks under the weight of my contracting muscles.
Spiro Lisa is starting to get restless. She has an anxiety that’s familiar to me, but one I’ve never seen in her before. She jumps up like her body’s trying to tell her to remain gagged.
“I need a drink.” she blurts out. “Who’s with me?” Allan Dollon grabs his coat, and I grab mine, and we both start putting them on. Spiro Lisa turns toward me and says, “You don’t come around much anymore Toby, but I knew I could count on you.” The sedation of the Amsterdam beer makes me smile slightly, yet all I can do is nod my head and say, “Yes.”
The people in The Archon Bar don’t believe me, maybe they think I’ll always be here, but I need to make a decision to get back to fact. My purple lips are weary from always being held hard against the rim of the jam jar, and while that’s fact, that action actually isn’t my truth. I form my thoughts within the tangle of my stomach, and I blow tobacco smoke into the snout of taking stock. If there’s a law that says to be blind, and another law that says to be a servant, then I wish to take nothing to my burial chamber. I blow some more tobacco smoke into the snout of taking my time.
We get into The Archon Bar and we line up in the new stools. We’re sitting along the breadth of the bar. We order something that soothes into our mouths and moves into our necks. We skol and slurp some Australian beer that irritates down into the belly, like a venom encroaching against the intestine. Spiro Lisa looks awful, like some decayed anger is forming in her head. She’s unable to free her real meaning from the albumen she was playing with before. Allan Dollon is sapping his strength in some maddening act, so that he can regain his strength later on. He pushes some guy, who I think is called Alex, up against the back wall. As I turn my attention away from Allan pushing Alex, Justine walks into the bar. She throws her hips. She giggles and stutters. She laughs and chokes on her concealed self. She flies up into the air, and when she comes down she’s right up against me. Her tits and nose are in my face. I’m sitting on a stool facing the bar, leaning with my elbows upon it. When she comes down she lands on her haunches. She rolls and keels under the stool posts. She looks in ashtrays for cigarette butts. She genuflects up and stands over me. She falls over and crawls around in her red boots. She turns into slave then snake, vim then slave, snake then human and back to snake again. I notice not much has changed. Justine still seems to be falling for the whole science of glamour, for the discipline of disastrous allure. Her hair has shitty-looking feathers in it, and on her lower arm are numerous plastic and tacky bangles, all of various colours. She flicks her ash, missing the ashtray, and the bangles click in unison with each other. Her hair turns past her shoulders, and her ends have platinum tips. I can take her and bush her aside easily, but the back of her thighs start ringing a siren within me. Earth is on a secure alert. Justine slithers as a snake does, all smug and snide, like she owns the contest before it’s begun. Whenever she’s around, I don’t know whether to dumb it down, or smarten up. She stares at the pot glass and her head cracks open without understanding. Only the things that are concurrently dripping are interesting, and only the things which are delirious are welcome, and having thought that, no one sees the flecks of varnish tucking into Spiro Lisa’s remains.
Justine slides her cap down in front of her forehead. We stare at each other and there’s some type of strength in such an action. Sand grains are being sprinkled across our breastplates. Justine picks up my box of matches, and standing next to me, she lights her cigarette.
“Hey Toby,” she says with the cigarette in her mouth. “I thought about you this week … when I broke a fingernail at work.” I don’t reply, for Justine is foreign to what is within me. Her ignorance consumes me. It makes the tone of my voice mistrustful. Justine still keeps peeping. She’s got nothing to say and I’m agitated by this. I’m perverted by the weaponry of her ignorance. All I want to do is retreat; retreat to something no one knows what of. I want to go where there’s eerie silence, where there’s obedience to a well-dressed order; to go somewhere where, at first appearances, nothing seems like such ignorance. I want to be where the within is unleashed, viperous, leech-like, dangerous, combustible, where it’s broken-down but rebuilt from the broken pieces, at once Phoenix-like, but also extremely stupid and uninteresting. Allan Dollon’s voice, Spiro Lisa’s and mine have been cancelled by the ignorance’s of others. Someone like Justine, in all her tired and stylistic triumph has now given me the excuse to run after the voice of one. They’re not going to take any of us out like this, in love and all alone. I’d rather rip doors off their hinges.
The publican appears for the first time this evening. He counts the money in the till, pockets some, and runs his eye across his bar.
“What do you want to hear?” he yells out to Allan Dollon. Allan Dollon mumbles something to the publican, but I don’t hear it, however I know what Allan Dollon needs to hear. He needs to hear his spine crack and he needs to hear something hiss uncontrollably. I need, however, to hear something that assumes the station to assault. I lean in and kiss Justine on the neck. It smells like a musket shot.
No one stares at Justine, but I notice that Allan Dollon stares at Spiro Lisa, and that Spiro Lisa stares at me. I shift my eyes to somewhere else. I stare out into the street. There’s nothing left to wish for.
I pick up someone else’s chair and snap the chair leg from it. The wooden shards, the termite-infested splinters rise with accuracy into the stale, ineffectual air. No one notices except that guy who might be called Alex, who’s still getting pushed up against the back wall by Allan Dollon. I sit back down on my stool. The Archon Bar is an extravaganza. Justine comes back from the toilet. I sit still facing the bar and still leaning upon it. Justine is behind me and she slides her arms around my waist. She’s drunk. She talks into my ear. “I can’t believe I never noticed you before Toby,” she says reluctantly. “How come I never noticed you when I worked with you?” With that remark she’s summed it all up. She’s lobbed it like it’s a succinct piece of spit. “You know why Justine?” “No, no I don’t. Why?” she replies. “Because I didn’t have any feeling inside. I don’t want to honey up to you.” And with that, I grab Justine’s cap from the bar and place it on the stool to my left, the one that Spiro Lisa has just vacated. I want to make sure Justine doesn’t sit there anymore; however I do know that she’s going to stand right next to me.
It’s nearly closing time, or perhaps it is past closing time and we’ve been locked in. The Archon Bar is a spectacular. All I see is red switches and loud sounds that are taken and brushed aside far too easily.
Red noise slaps my back and ruptures my insides, and something damaged and astronomical stops to ring a signal in my head. There are seeds all over the beer-wrung carpet, yet nothing looks like it will grow in this deserted maze. The Archon Bar is a circus, yet amazingly, there’s no more confusion. Justine has left my side. She’s now kissing Brendan Maseru. Allan Dollon, Spiro Lisa and myself, are just leftover arbiters who fell apart from those who whispered to us, from those who pouted towards us. I walk to the toilet and push open the door with a head full of disarray. The bathroom is full of high fog. There are several bodies lying on the ground, however I’m not afraid to enter out of their minds. My head begins to abrade and diagnose all the audible states of clatter. My mouth mopes amongst the possibilities of a new dialogue. I heave and my vomit falls onto one of the bodies. I clean my mouth with water and spit the water into the urinal. I head back into the Archon Bar. The Archon Bar is now a catalogue; it’s a prospectus. I prise Justine away from Brendan Maseru. I’m hold myself up by resting my right arm on her right shoulder. I sway, yet manage to speak. “I’m sorry, Justine. I was rude, but can you stick around. I just have to make a phone call.”
© 2010 Moronic Ox Literary Journal - Escape Media Publishers / Open Books
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About the author:
Shane Jesse Christmass is a Perth-born, Melbourne-based writer. In 2006 he was runner-up in The Age Short Story Competition with his entry "Remaking the Image of the World" which the newspaper’s literary editor, Jason Steger, called a "highly inventive story, chocked with surrealistic allusion, nightmare imagery and psychological menace" … In 2008 Paroxysm Press published an anthology of his short stories called Croak & Grist … He’s also published a number of stories including “Shut Down the Pick Up” (Waste, 2004, Paroxysm Press), “5”, (Shotgun, 2006, Paroxysm Press), “The Arvo & Early Evening of the Axe”, (10 Years that Didn’t Kill Us, 2008, Paroxysm Press), “The Charnel Stink Within”, (Mini Shots, 2008, Vignette Press) and “Cold to the Point Past Death”, (Red Cent Publishing, 2010) … Other fiction work has featured in the journals New Wave Vomit, LIES/ISLE, amphibi.us, Cordite, one-eight vulture, dotdotdash and The Diamond & the Thief, as well as sound poetry in the Atlanta journal, As Long As It Takes. He’s just completed his first public reading of his screenplay, Orderly, at the inaugural Lion Pie Laboratory in Sydney. He edits the journal Queen Vic Knives. He’s also a member of the band Mattress Grave.