Saturday, January 2, 2010

Other People's Yarns

Sitting around a fire that burns inside an old washing machine tub - the holes glowing bright with flame in neat diamond lines - and listening to other people yarning; this must be one of my favourite pastimes. Aussie sees my ears prick and that hungry gleam in my eyes(fireglow, red wine and a ripping yarn) and laughs at me. "Okay, Sarah," she says. "You can have that one. I just gifted you that tale."
Other tales are stolen, and that's the thing about writers and storytellers. We are thieves.

Maxine on the Horses' Birthday, Fireplace.

When I was a teenager in Perth, I used to gatecrash all the other school balls. I'd stand in the entrance, all dressed up, and tell the teachers that I was the school councillor and discus champion. I went to all the balls, it was great fun.

They always let me in. They always did, not becuse they were gullible, but because I understand checkpoints and how to get past them.

I was a child in Northern Ireland. At checkpoints, as a ten year old - "Do you have any weapons?"
"Of course I don't! I'm ten!"
But they never found out that I was clad with guns. I had guns taped to me, from me nipples down to my waist and then from the top of my thighs, down to me knees.

Our whole street was a collection of one massive family, living in separate houses that were all joined together through paths over the rooftops. All the sympathisers used to hide there, moving between houses from the rooftop paths.
At our back door, there was a British soldier. He stood there with his gun, day in, day out. We fed and housed the sympathisers. Then we'd go to the back door and give the British soldier his supper as well.

Toa Sister, Fireplace.

We lived right next to a prison, in that window period when the prison moved between minimum and maximum security. During that time, men escaped a lot. One man, to get into prison, he poured petrol over some lovers and raped the woman at match point. To get out, he forged a key to the outer quadrangle in art classes, then he banged a nail into his wooden leg and he used it to climb over the razor wire.

Mum took me to her walk-in walkrobe that day and showed me where they hid the guns. She reminded me how to load and clear it. She showed me where the ammo was stashed. She was worried that an escapee would find me or my sisters alone."If he comes, just aim for his guts," she told me. "Don't worry about fancy head shots. I know you'd be able to do it. Sometimes, I think your sisters would be too afraid, but I know you would be able to do it."

Charlie, Fireplace.

This fire is so smokey and smoke makes me laugh and laugh, wink, wink, say no more hey. Can I hug you? I'm feeling so stoned and happy and I'm a huggy bear really. I've been in prison, just done three years, moved all over the place. What did I do? Killed three people, ha ha. Okay I'm a bit of a fibber. Actually I defrauded the tax department a few mil or so. Set up all those bank accounts and moved money around. Might as well have killed a few people. Prison is full of people who wanna fuck you up the arse. No - really. Not just a rumour. What did I do? Well, look at me, sister, I'm blonde, blue eyed, cute and cuddly. I learnt how to fight. Just start punching on. I could take anyone here down in seconds. I know how to fight. Learnt how to box. It's the only way out. I learnt how to fight young, really young, because I was abused at a Catholic boarding school, when I was a kid. So I may look soft, but I'm not. Was I raped at boarding school? Well, yes. Next year, I'm going to London, where the school is. I'm testifying, against the priests. A nice holiday, don't you think? All paid for. I used to be such a cute, blonde-haired boy, but I'm still a huggy bear, you know. Yes please, I'll have another toke of that.

Allan, Kitchen Table.

A few years ago my father and I travelled around New Zealand. He was a dying alcoholic and I'd just broken up with my missus, so we were just a fine pair, him and me. We'd get to talking, one of the first times we really talked like that. He'd crack one of those crappy N.Z. beers (which one is it? Speights? Tui? Can't remember) first thing in the morning and I'd drive and we'd just rave on about our fucked up lives.
That country, the South Island, everywhere you go, it's the sort of country where you'd take a woman to propose to them. Just me and Dad though, no proposing going on there.
We got a flat tyre out near Milford Sound somewhere. Dad sat in the car and kept drinking and I changed the wheel. I heard a big car, like an eight cylinder, pull in. I could hear Dad talking to someone, but I just kept working.
Then I heard this voice, "You want a hend, Cuz?"
"She's right mate, nearly done," I told him. Then I turned around from the jack and looked up. There's about eight of the fucking hugest men I've ever seen and they're all tattooed. One bloke, one half of his face was almost black with tattoos and the the other half had streaks of blue back from his nose across to his ears. Fuck man, you should've seen those guys.
They all just sort of looked at each other and laughed. Then three of the guys picked up the front end of my car and held it there. I changed that tyre pretty quick!
They said there was a good pub down the road, then they all piled in this black Holden Statesman and took off. Dad and I went to the pub. It was like something in the wild west, with those swinging doors and all dark inside. Music cranking and the place was packed full of Maori's, drinking straight from perspex beer jugs. What a place. We had a great time, Dad and me.


  1. My brother always had some dodgy looking friends, he used to hang with the God's Garbage a lot. They were such loyal mates. As much as I don't want to be one of those people who judges by apperances, unfortunately it is sometimes my first instinct. But I always give people the benefit of the doubt and usually find that my fear has been misplaced.

    The other story reminded me of one of my own.

  2. Thanks Michelle. I can guarentee that other story didn't come from you, by the way!

  3. No I didn't recognise it as mine, just the idea that the person in the story was singled out as the one most capable of being able to shoot someone, and not the siblings. I wrote about what it reminded me of on my blog.