Thursday 16 August 2012

A box of dice and a bag of tricks

"Daddy, what's in the bag?"

"A box of dice and a bag of tricks, love," he would respond, sometimes pausing to kiss her forehead, sometimes stroking her cheek with a faraway look in his eyes. She loved the evenings after school. Her dad was always just waking up when she got home; he would help with her homework and then make dinner while she watched her favourite television shows. They would eat dinner while watching the news and wait until her mum came home. Her dad would take the bag from her mum and head out for the night.

"Mum, what's in the bag?" she would ask as her parents whispered to each other in the kitchen.

"Your future, my present, and more past than you need to know, Crystal," her mum would reply, handing the bag over to dad. They never really looked at the bag, her mum and dad, they just traded it like a relay baton when walking in and out of the small apartment. "Say goodbye to daddy, baby, it's time for bed."

"Goodnight, Daddy. I love you, will you show me a trick soon?"

"Maybe not these tricks, Krissy, honey," her dad would reply laughing, leaning down to pick up Crystal and give her a kiss. "I'd never fool you with these ones."

Crystal sat on the edge of her dad's bed, looking down at his fragile form. "A box of dice and a bag of tricks, Dad?"

"What else could I say, Krissy?" he croaked, hand reaching out to sit on Crystal's knee. "We never wanted you to know, we had a plan. You were never to know." He broke down into another fit of coughing. It sounded so much worse in the sterile emptiness of the hospital room, the machines beeping to accentuate the silence between each of his wracking breaths.

"So why?" Crystal rested her hand for a moment on her dad's limp fingers, and then pushed his arm away from her. "Why do I find out three days before I go to college, why do I find out at all? And why like this?"

"The money, baby. Not a lot, but enough, for you," his eyes were full of guilt, glistening with tears that could not have been far from falling. "Your mum decided that we had to stop using as soon as you were born, but we could still push, we still needed to push, for you, so you saw normal, so you saw us as normal. But your mum fell first, and when she did, I fell soon after. We still pushed, but we lost our way."

"Why didn't you stop when she died? I wouldn't have known, Dad, why would I have known?" Crystal turned her head to look at the doorway, trying her best not to sniff audibly or let her shoulders convulse. "She just disappeared, you let me think she just disappeared!"

"Krissy, I'm sorry. For what good it does, I am sor--" her dad broke into a violent episode of coughing. Crystal looked down at him, at the intravenous tube in his arm adding little to the pinhole damage already in existence, at the blood starting to show through the bandage around the gunshot wound in his chest, and she could feel the shaking in his legs from withdrawal. "I didn't know any other way. I still don't."

"A box of dice and a bag of tricks, Dad." she stood up and looked down at her dad's gaunt face. "Thank you for putting me first, but fuck you for how you did it!"

"It's always gambling and illusion, Krissy, always," his voice had died halfway through the sentence leaving Crystal to read the rest from his lips. She leaned down to kiss his forehead for what she knew was the last time, and left the room to the sound of his ever-weakening cough.

A box of dice and a bag of tricks, she thought. How much do I owe to chance and magic?

Monday 13 August 2012

A six petal rose

I can’t believe I’m doing this, he thought wryly. If someone was filming , they could make a straight-to-tv, midday movie from this tripe. With a smile, he shook his head slightly and pulled the first petal from the long-stemmed rose in his hand. It was a yellow rose, chosen not because of preference for colour, but because it was wilting and had been marked down for quick sale at the florist. Frugality was not a part of it either, he had simply chosen not to waste a healthy rose on what he was about to do.

He was looking out over the ocean from a cliff edge high above the frothy white  mess of wave meeting rock. It was a long drive to get here, but the location had come instantly to mind the moment he decided what he was going to do. Isolated, unblemished by human touch, and windy enough to let nature bite him while he admired her beauty.

He placed the rose petal on his upturned fingertips and stretched his arm out over the edge. An up-draft from the sea below quickly grabbed the petal from his hand and carried it out toward the horizon.

“She loves me.”

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Opal Dreams


Last night I had a dream, and although this is not exactly an earth-shattering revelation for most, it’s strange to me for many reasons — not least of which being the fact that I remembered a dream at all. Many may lament the loss of these subconscious insights, some may even go another level up and take some lucid control of the dream world, but not me. I know all too well what my mind can conjure even when it’s wide awake and as sober as your average monk, so I’m happy to stay away from what it produces unchecked.

Of course it’s not the first time I’ve remembered a dream — I didn’t wake up saying “[What.] The. Fuck. Was. That?” — but it was the first time I have woken and still believed that the dream is an outside chance of happening. When you see the subject matter of the dream, you’ll realise how strange that is. It makes me a little concerned that I’ll start basing my socially acceptable behaviour on whether or not I believe a dream where it happened. Will it get to the point where I dream of walking into a mother’s group to start juggling newborns, and wake up thinking “Yep. Could work.”? Will the argument “I dreamed about it and it totally seemed legit,” hold up in the inevitable trial if I completed the act in real life? It’s probably best if you don’t answer those questions, leaving them rhetorical makes me appear a little less insane.

The dream itself started off in the way dreams do, I dropped into my pseudo-consciousness perfectly happy with the location and the reason I was there. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there is a small, high school swimming and athletics carnival happening in London at the moment — they call it The Olympic Games and quite a few people are watching it. I was in London, at the Olympic Basketball arena, watching The Opals (The Australian women’s basketball team) take on … somebody. I can’t remember the identity of the second team — it could have been Mexico, it could have been Madagascar — and it’s anybody’s guess why I travelled all the way to London to watch a game of basketball. To me, basketball is like a slower version of tennis with less impressive backhands, and even though I support gender equality (where possible) in sports, my dislike for women’s basketball pips the men’s version slightly because there are fewer sex scandals and drug controversies.

So, there I was at the London Olympics, sitting court-side as The Opals played Iceland (probably?), and I can’t remember if I was alone or with a group — there’s every chance that in this dream I was a true basketball enthusiast and didn’t want to be disturbed by non-aficionado friends. Nepal was wiping the floor with The Opals, the score was outrageously one-sided, when the unthinkable happened. Australia’s star batter (is that the correct basketball term?) came down injured in a scuffle with the opposing team’s (Belarus, probably) wicket keeper. At this moment — and I can remember just how certain and focussed I was at the time — I stood up, stripped off my jacket and removed my jeans, knowing that beneath the clothing I would find myself in a basketball uniform complete with my name and number emblazoned on the back.

I looked down, eyes locking on the Australian’s coach, she gave a nod, and I, a twenty-eight year old, male spectator, walked out onto the court to take the position of the injured player in a women’s basketball clash between Australia and Tunisia. The crowd gave an awed “oooh,” but not because a spectator was chosen as a player, because I was chosen over another spectator who was favoured to take the position. I walked around doing a few stretches and high-fiving all of the players, got some advice from the coach, and was sent in to play. This sounds absurd — of course it does — and I know this, but there is still a part of me, muffled and up the back, saying “No, that’s totally how they do it. Most teams only bring just enough players and when one is injured, they can totally just choose someone from the crowd — man or woman.”

What then happened — and I say this with equal parts pride and shrinking embarrassment — was my finest sporting moment to date. I single-handedly brought The Opals’ score back to level with Senegal’s, and then proceeded to stretch the lead out beyond reckoning. Every shot I took hit its mark —I’d like to say that I dunked a few, but even my dream self couldn’t manage that — and The Opals beat Fiji by a substantial margin. When the game was over, I received a couple of pats on the back and a hug or two, got a respectful nod from the coach, and simply walked back to my seat, returned my casual clothing, and left the stadium.

“Da fuq is that all about?” is what most of me is saying, but still, even now, that quiet voice is saying that it’s normal, and that if I were to head off to London to watch a basketball match, it would play out like this. When I argue with the voice and tell it that the most I ever played basketball was to play some games of BASEketball, it tells me that I would perform a lot better under pressure …. The worst part? I am inclined to agree.

I dread the day I remember a dream of something less ludicrous as I might subconsciously convince myself of things that aren’t possible.

Actually … could that explain all of my life’s failed ambition?

Wednesday 1 August 2012

The old man and the sixpence

She waited at the bus stop, lost in thoughts of what the day — the future in general, really — might have in store for her.  It was a big risk this, and she knew it. The first day of her new job, a job she had left everything behind for — family, friends, house and memories — to cross the country and start anew. She stared across the road through the constant stream of traffic, trying to ease her nerves and remember the path to take from the bus set down through the city’s streets to her new workplace.

A shuffling sound she had initially mistaken for the whisper of wheel rubber kissing bitumen brought her head around to see an elderly man approaching along the footpath. His short, sliding steps were not fast, but he displayed the economy of movement and familiarity seen from someone accustomed to working with slightly faulty tools. She looked up at him as he turned to sit on the bench beside her. His face was wrinkled, skin loose from age, corners of the mouth held down by cheek muscles bound with the worn elastic of old age, and despite the thick strands of white hair poking out around his temples, she immediately knew he was balding underneath the grey, woollen flat cap he wore. Her eyes met his for the brief moment before she looked away and she was surprised to see vibrant blue irises and perfect whites — a startling contrast next to the grey radiating out of every other part of him; from his bushy eyebrows to the grey trousers he wore.

She resumed staring through the traffic across the road, watching the old man in her periphery as he reached into the pocket of his sports jacket. A moment later she heard a faint metallic ping and turned her eyes in time to see a coin tumbling through the air, to be caught deftly on the old man’s hand. From his closed fist, he turned it out onto the back of his other hand. The coin showed heads.

The old man looked at the coin and as his face broke into a smile, all assumptions she had made about his disposition vanished. His whole face seemed to glow as the wrinkles came together to accentuate his sparkling blue eyes.

“Heads,” he breathed. Her bus arrived.