HELLO INTERNET BOY #30:Gifts

Despite never having met my teenage love interest, there was one instance where he managed to somehow appear more real and central and in my life, like when a ghost decides to become a poltergeist and starts moving shit around.  That was when my internet crush sent me a package of gifts in the mail. I didn’t realise it at the time, but limiting my interactions with this guy to MSN Messenger, ICQ and the forums of a fantasy roleplaying game kept the entire relationship as a… fantasy. As something not real. That could be sectioned off from my real life when it became too uncomfortable, or threatened to expose some truths about my sexuality. Even the rare phone calls, his voice crackling through my Nokia with a breathless, American accent, were less than real. They were also exciting and stressful and I missed every third word.

So when a package of stuff appeared out of the blue, I opened it up in my room (or the caravan I lived in out the back of my parent’s tiny house to be precise) and had a small panic attack. There was a gorgeous letter along with it, where my name had been written in painstaking calligraphy with blue pen, on some kind of bright, spiral stationary. There was a lot of feelings in the letter. It was super teenage. I felt uncomfortable and flushed while I read it, but that wasn’t what freaked me out.

There was a chunky man ring, which I loved, despite the fact that I am definitely not someone who can wear rings. There was… a man bracelet I think?

And then, underneath it all, there was a Playstation.

And this is what freaked me out. The idea of a Playstation was somehow too big, too real. If I wanted to play this, I would have to explain to my parents where the Playstation came from. It was a big white box of reality. So I gave it to my friend Bob.

Problem solved.

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Merry Batmas – get my book for cheaps

Hey, look. I’ve been banging on about my book a lot, for like an entire year and I’m frankly sick of it. You’re probably sick of it. We’re all sick of it. There’s been a metric fuckton of amazing people who have bought the book, supported the book, come to see me read and just be plain amazing. I want to thank you. You’re amazing.

But I also understand that it’s hard to make cash dollars in the big city, that times are hard, that books are expensive, that sometimes you just can’t buy a goddamn book, even though you really have the best intentions of doing so. I do that all the time. I apologise to all the amazing books that i’ve wanted to read this year, but have been tooooooo poor.

So anyway, because of all this, I have reduced the price of the ‘Bats ebook to 99c, for a week or so in December.

Whaaaaaat? Are you mad? That’s like five red frogs. Basically, here’s my book. Just have it. I want you to read it. I hope you enjoy. I’d really be flattered if you could take the time to have a read, and maybe share the link around and let anyone you know who is the kind of jerk who likes stupid short stories about funny supermans about it.

Here’s the link to Amazon Australia: http://bit.ly/BatsAmazonAU

And Amazon US: http://bit.ly/BatsAmazon

THAAAAAAAAAANK YOU.

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A Man Made Entirely of Bats: LOOK AT THE COVER

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Jesus, Mary and Tim – I’m so frickin’ excited to reveal the cover of my collection A Man Made Entirely of Bats. Oh my goodness. Without further ado, here it is:

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I just love how in many ways it’s saying ‘I’m a decapitated head. I may not be able to form words through my severed vocal cords, but I still have something to say’. I love how there is a ‘man made entirely of bats’ in the background. The bat ground. I love how it says my name, like I’m a real person, and not a robot.

This is the work of the ultra-talented Daniel Lethlean Higson. Bronwyn, my publisher showed me his work right at the beginning of this process – ‘I’ve seen this guy and I think he’d be perfect for your writing’. And it is totally true – I absolutely adore this cover. He’s also done amazing interior illustrations in the book. Daniel’s work is colourful and weird and endlessly fascinating. You can check out more of his art at mountforeverest.tumblr.com

A Man Made Entirely of Bats is coming out on March 1st 2015, but we’re doing a super cool preorder drive at the moment, which means you’ll get it much earlier than everyone else. Also, you get it for the cheap-as-free price of $17.99 instead of $22.99, and it will include a personalised message/story/litany of insults from me, and a free 6 month’s subscription to the Spineless Wonders Bookclub – that’s a download every fortnight for 10 weeks starting in Feb 2015,  valued at $15.

It would be really, really great if you considered getting in on this pre-release offer, perhaps as some kind of Christmas present – what do you get the person who has everything? A really weird book. What do you get your weird nephew? A really weird book. What do you get your enemy? A really weird book, which will dismay and disorient them!

But what is it even about, you ask? Well, why don’t you listen to one of these handsome experts who wrote nice things, which is just such a lovely fucking thing to do.

‘Despite – or, perhaps, because of – a recurring preoccupation with the television show Friends, A Man Made Entirely of Bats is a consistent laugh-riot.’

SIAN CAMPBELL, Scum Mag

‘Featuring a colourful assortment of superheroes, mutants, zombies, bank robbers and boy bands – these stories are wonderfully bizarre, original and hilarious. A new and original voice, Patrick Lenton’s short stories bring qualities rare in Australian fiction; inventiveness, humour, and a fine sense of the absurd.’
RYAN O’NEILL, The Weight of a Human Heart

To order, you just need to go to the Spineless Wonders website: here. You’re so great.

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Minor Act of Bio-Terrorism

Friendship

So, this morning I was standing at the station listening to ‘Wrecking Ball’ by Gillian Welch and I was thinking about a romance book I’d just read which said something about passion being important in life, and I was trying to think what passion feels like, but I just kept thinking about the flu.

When the train pulled up, I looked at my reflection in the train doors because I accidentally shaved my whole sideburn off the other day and I can’t stop looking at it, and saw a wasp fly directly into my neck. I was already stepping into the carriage by this point, and I really wasn’t worried because in my heart I was a sad southern woman, and I kind of loosely grabbed the wasp in my hand and flicked it away. I then went down the stairs and sat. In reality, what I’d just done was grab a wasp and throw it directly at a bald guy in the standing section, and for the rest of my trip I just kept hitting ‘repeat’ on Wrecking Ball and watching everyone freak out and run around as this wasp kept landing on people, and every station more people would get on, tired-eyed commuters in suits with running shoes who don’t expect to be in any danger and there was always this moment, where they look at everyone else ducking and screaming and they just stand still, listening to music or playing on their phone and then suddenly they’re like ‘holy fuck, there’s a wasp on me’.

It was pretty great, I felt pretty powerful, I wanted to poke the lady next to me and be like ‘I did that, I threw that wasp’. I think that passion is pretty nice maybe, which is probably the point of all these romance books that I sell, but I think life is all about throwing wasps at things, and seeing if they stick. You’re either a wasp thrower or someone surprised by a wasp. Or maybe you are a wasp. I dunno. What’s a hornet?

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #10: QUITTING

Congratuwatchout!

There are some thoughts that you can only reach when walking through freezing, mist-filled streets at 4am, when a crazy man is screaming monotonously in the distance, when drunk nightclub people are still waiting for taxis to get home. My thought was this: I have made some mistakes. My thought was: Some people are experiencing worst things than this, like leg amputation and pregnancy and medically not being able to eat cheese. My subsequent thought: Those people are not me right now, this is still awful.

As I waited for the first train of the morning to lumber into the station like a long hippo with a stinky moist inside that we all sat in, my final thought was: I am quitting my job this month.

Probably the only thing I truly admire about myself is that once I have made a decision I will pursue it with the tenacity of a brain-damaged terrier chasing a seagull. That day at work, buzzed on the thousand coffees I drank secretly in a toilet stall, I made lists. Lists of potential things I could do, ranked and cross-referenced with pros and cons lists. Lists of all the lists I would make. Colour-coded lists. Secret lists.

A week later, I was enrolled in an Honours degree at university. The problem with my dum-dum dog tenacity is that sometimes it means the ideas I pursue aren’t GOOD ideas, but the fact that I then dropped out of that degree about two weeks in is another story for another time.

If you’ve never had the experience of quitting a job you truly detest, I thoroughly recommend you do so. It’s like walking down a shadowy alley and seeing all the muggers surround you, but unknown to them – you are a ninja robot killing machine. Inside you are only more indestructible steel.

On the day I discovered I’d been accepted into the degree and its subsequent Centrelink payment (which I never received, FYI) I stomped my metallic legs into my boss’s office and told her I was quitting. It’s not so much that I disliked my boss, it’s that I thought she was a terrible person and really bad at her job. Also, I disliked her. Fun things that we’d been through together: the time she threatened to fire me after a customer spat at me, the time she tried to deny me a day off for a funeral, the time she changed all my shifts to the 5am starts.

In my head, I dreamt our showdown would be full of snark and wit. I wanted to be like ‘say goodbye to all of this, you monster, good luck replacing my particular brand of apathy and incompetence’. Instead, I found myself being overly polite and telling her how much I’d enjoyed working in the place that had probably given me a minor drinking problem.
I told her I’d be happy to stay for another two weeks and help train my replacement, and also subtly sabotage things around me and really wallow in my leaving. I wondered if I could somehow take her down with me. But, being my diabolical arch-nemesis, she was like ‘Actually, this can be your last day. Please write a formal letter of resignation and… we can leave it at that.’ She tapped her sharp nails on the table as a dismissal, and I left the office, feeling cheated. This was supposed to be my amazing, drawn out and dramatic leaving, showing that i’d won. Somehow, she’d reversed everything and made me feel dismissed.

I spent the next few hours trying to work out a way to one-up her. I plotted stealing things, or leaving fruit somewhere. I schemed leaving a series of cryptic notes hidden around the store to mess with her mind and maybe even drive her insane. And then, when it was my lunch break, I realised… I could just leave. I could just walk out of there, and let all the anger and spite leak from the back of my head like baby drool.

So I gathered my stuff, said goodbye surreptitiously to the people I liked, left my resignation note on my bench and strode into the future, an uncontrollable smile pasted across my smarmy face.

But also because I am in no way above absurd spiteful gestures, my letter of resignation was a penguin holding a sign that says ‘I quit.’

 

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This was the LAST in my #curriculumworstae series. Thanks so much for coming along on the ride. I’ll be starting a new series on Facebook soon, which will also be published on this blog. The support for these stupid stories was amazing! YOU GUYS ROCK SO MUCH.

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #9: BEAN DOWN SO GODDAMN LONG

Robots

‘Err, umm, God bless?’ I muttered as I handed over my resume to the angry looking woman behind the counter. She immediately and visibly brightened.
‘And God bless you too!’
It had been rumoured for a long time that Gloria Jeans was owned by the Hillsong Church and was staffed entirely by brainwashed evangelists. I’d been wandering the streets forweeks by that point, desperate for any sort of casual wage so I could pay the rent. I felt that passing myself off as a believer was a small price to pay
She took a cursory look at my one page CV and winked at me. ‘We’ll give you a call.’

A week later I stood behind the counter at Gloria Jeans for a trial shift. The place smelt like coffee in pain. They taught me various ways to torture the beans – the crushing device, the milk burner, the thing where you put the ingredients and steam goes in it? In seemingly no time at all, I knew all the basics of how to utterly mutilate a cup of coffee.
‘Here you go, have a cup of the coffee you made!’ said my excited sixteen-year-old manager.
‘Please no’ I whispered. She looked at me like a puppy meeting a sassy tropical bird.
‘I’m lactose intolerant’ I told her.

My Bible-fearing, milk-hating web of lies collapsed by the third day, when my carefully contrived persona was shattered when one of the ‘baristas’ handed me a boiling hot metal thing that you packed full of beans and then shot boiling water through. The boiling hot coffee thing. He handed it to me, potentially to clean the beans out, but not being able to read his mind or identify the contraption, simply grabbed it in my hand.
‘JESUS CRAPPING ON A DOG’ I screamed, as the super heated metal burnt my hand skin.
‘God fucking mother shit’ I continued, running it under water. All the teen management looked at me scandalised. The customers, people who willingly put our boiling bean-swill in their mouths, couldn’t care less, obviously being either incredibly tough or devoid of feelings and taste. Later that day someone asked which church I attended. My breezy answer of ‘the one around the corner, you know, Saint MUrmbls’ didn’t seem to cut it. I was caught by a manager sitting at a REAL coffee shop on my break, desperately inhaling un-poisoned caffeine into my face.

When I was let go at the end of the week, in an exit-interview held by two High School dropouts, who were concerned that in the end, I might find somewhere else which would make me happier to work (re: literally anywhere else), I took my trial shift money and realised that sometimes, no matter how desperate you are, you have to draw the line. Look what I’d become – a creature of lies and malice, literally burned in the course of trying to make a buck. It was time to take a stand, and never again would I blasphemy like that – from now on, I would never impugn the holy name of coffee. Because if there’s one thing I believe in, in this crazy, mixed up world, it’s coffee.

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #8: KNIFE FIGHT

Mosquitoes

Hey, think you’re pretty tough working at the LAVA FACTORY or in the SWORD FIGHTING PIT, I bet you do. Oh, you save kittens from fires, do you? Oh, you climb tall mountains to study goats, that’s pretty dangerous, I suppose. If you’re, like, I dunno, a giant wuss?

Me? No, I don’t working in the danger-field anymore, I got out of that racket, you can bet on it, whoo-boy. Yeah, I worked at Boyles Hotel in Sutherland. Yeah – that Boyles. The Boyles on the ass of the Shire. They say bikies used to frequent the joint in the eighties, and start fights and do other things that bikies do. Like sing ‘Leader of the Pack’ and turn into werewolves. Yeah – bikie stuff. And you know, all the bikies who didn’t die from their violent lifestyle – they’re still there. Yeah, you can see them in the corner, on dialysis and shit. And let me tell you, they sure get mad if you don’t mix their Toohey’s Old and Toohey’s New in exactly the correct amounts. Real mad. Mad enough to cough a whole bunch and nearly die right in front of you.

And yeah – the bottleshop attached to Boyles was legit dangerous. Lots of undercover cops hoping to catch us selling to teenagers. And let me tell you – they were right to suspect us. Not because we made it a habit, but because I was so shit at maths, I would regularly fuck up calculating their age from their license. And once, and I swear I’m not even fucking with you at all, some guy came and threw a knife directly at my head. A knife! And then my supervisor, who now represents Australia in some form of martial arts, vaulted over the bar and chased him down and like, kicked him in the face. Apparently this guy was a serial repeat offender in the ‘throwing knives at us’ game.

Why did I leave? I guess you could say I got burnt out – staring danger in the face and not flinching takes it out of you. Or I guess I decided that maybe serving beers to the worst people in the world had lost its glamour. Or I guess, more truthfully, the managers were giant homophobes and took all my shifts away because “they don’t want to work with a fag” yeah, I guess that was probably it. And then one evening, I’m coming home on the train and one of the supervisors is high as a kite and he comes and tells me, ‘yeah, man, nobody would work with you because you were gay’ and for some reason the only thing I can think to say in response is ‘I’l show them gay’ and shake my fist a whole bunch, while this guy just chews and chews on his tongue. 

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #7: CRIME

The Dentist
I came in like a wrecking ball. Like a bad attitude in a bad suit. Like a minimum wage employee with minimum fucks to give. Casual employee – casual attitude. I’d worked at the airport for two years by this point, and took the news that I was transferring to a different store, over at the other end of the airport, with little-to-no interest. ‘A shitty leopard can’t change its shitty spots’ I probably said to myself, doing a wicked ‘grind’ on my ‘skateboard’ or something similarly indicative of rebellion in that show, Degrassi Junior High. I’ve never been on a skateboard, FYI.

On my first day in the new store, I discovered that Mega C (as the store was called) was actually an entirely different animal to Mega B. If Mega B was a shitty leopard, then Mega C was a gormless elderly cow who liked to lick electric fences and was scared of big flowers. Everyone was super friendly in Mega C. They made me feel welcome and inquired about my well-being. The manager invited me into her office to ‘get to know me’, rather than to yell at me for telling lies to businessmen. Our lunch breaks were sprawling hour and a half affairs. It was a weird utopia, which I gradually relaxed into, like someone who didn’t expect to be in a spa-bath, relaxes into their surprise spa-bath.

But it wasn’t to last: the entire reason I’d been transferred in the first place was as a vanguard for Mega B. Like an aggressive tumour, or a burst sewage pipe, Mega B was going to expand all the way around the airport until it had reached Mega C, swallowing it up and incorporating it into one super evil hybrid leopard-cow. The staff in Mega C were worried that things would change, and when they asked me what it was like in the other store, I would just stare into the distance, trembling.

And while that did actually come to pass, a freeway being built right through a sleepy farming community, Mega C was broken well before then – and it was because of me. Chatting one day in the tech department, I told the guys that I’d recently bought a Nintendo DS, and was looking forward to playing Pokemon on it. One of the guys was like ‘Oh, you know, I can put like, 200 games on one card for you, it will just cost you $50 for the card’. And I was like, ‘that’s great value!’

The next week, I walked into the store and wandered over and gave the dude the money, and wondered why he looked so uncomfortable. It was only when he was fired the next day for conducting illegal business transactions on the store floor, that I realised that what we were doing wasn’t actually a legal thing. The police got involved, and several more people were fired, as a black-market ring was apparently flourishing in several sections. The store was riven apart by suspicion and doubt. There were grim rumours of a ‘narc’ who had dobbed in all these people – these employees who nearly all supported large families and came from lower socio-economic backgrounds. But it wasn’t a narc, it was me. I was the gormless cow, gormlessly wandering in the crime pastures, sleepily ruining everything for everyone else. 

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #6: SPRUIKER

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I’d been rostered to work on the opening night of one of my plays even though I’d put in for leave months earlier, and I had to kick up a fuss. It’s not just because I wanted to see my play and sit in the audience with fear sweat running down my back, it’s probably because we were so low budget that I was also fulfilling the role of being a human strut for the stage or I had to stand there shining my phone as a stage light, something like that.

Anyway, because of the fuss I kicked, it somehow got around the airport that I was an actor, because the idea of a playwright was too difficult for them to get their heads around, which is actually pretty fair, because playwrights are pretty ridiculous things, like Puffins or overly ornate hats.

A new manager with fire in his breath and misplaced enthusiasm in his shiny shoes came up to me one day and said ‘Hey, you’re an actor, how do you feel about walking around the store with a microphone and spruiking our special deals?’
I said I didn’t feel like doing that at all, because I was currently involved in a very elaborate daydream about zombie-elfs. He then rephrased and said ‘Here take take this microphone because you have to do this.’

I tried my best to tell him that while I am a confident speaker, I have no control over what comes out of my mouth, that my brain was well lubricated slip-and-slide, where the thoughts would go barreling down with absolutely no concern about what lay at the end, whether soft paddling pool or misplaced family grandmother. But he ignored my warnings, because I think he didn’t know what a slip-and-slide was.

‘Hi, look at our booze’ I mumbled, desperately trying not to make eye contact with the hordes of customers I walked through. My voice echoed all through the store, clashing with announcements of late flights and boarding gates. ‘Umm, you’re flying in a plane, right? That’s pretty… terrifying. Why don’t you buy two bottles of Tanqueray for $42? That might help.’

‘Hey you, what are you buying? Bundaberg Rum? Why? Do you want a memory card? What about this… I don’t know what it is.’

‘Hey, look this is two litres of vodka, if you drank that all at once you’d probably die! I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure you’d die.’ My manager looked at me across the store and shook his head violently.

‘I mean, maybe you wouldn’t, but you’d probably have to go to hospital. I went to hospital with alcohol poisoning once, ha ha ha I was drinking Johnny Walker Black in an army barracks can you believe it, and an ambulance man slapped me! Right in the face! Johnny Walker, ladies and gentlemen, which by the way, totally has 20% off, so that’s cool.’

After that I didn’t have to spruik because I’d actually broken the law by talking about unsafe drinking practices, but it was a pretty fun day.

CURRICULUM WORSTAE #5: BOMBAY SAPPHIRE

At the airport I ate lunch with about twenty middle aged ladies – perfume sprayers, booze pushers and jaded checkout assistants with fingernails that could probably cut glass. Every conversation ended with ‘You don’t have to stand for that, you need to make a scene’. One lady would grab my hand and in a thick accent say ‘You go to the union and you say, I have had enough! They will try to take your very blood here’. She was later caught stealing and was fired, and when the police took her away she tossed her magnificent head of rock-solid, hairsprayed hair and spat on the ground.

My favourite game was to take fun customers over to the Bombay Sapphire representatives, who would make cocktails in plastic cups and talk about the aromatics and flirt with the middle aged men or relate really heavily with the women about where they were staying in Fiji or Bali ‘Oh, that sounds beautiful, I would give my lift tit to go with you.’

One day I’d been late to work, as Bridget and I were really sad and drank way too much wine every night, and I really needed coffee but had no way of getting it, so in desperation I drank a bottle of V. I’d never had an energy drink before, and because I was doing it sneakily, I drank it all in one quick go, and suddenly I had the briefest moment of pure euphoria, where all the fluro lights turned into sparkling rays of diamond, where the future was laid out in front of me with easily accomplished goals, where I smiled dreamily at my jittering hands sticking out of my ill-fitting suit cuffs.

This passed, and I was immediately nauseous and confused, and tried to hold on to that feeling of confidence and destiny that I’d briefly held, and while I scrabbled vainly for that I watched one of the Bombay women drop a bottle of gin onto the tiles, and a shard of glass punctured her eye and everyone was screaming except for her.