Real happy that my story ‘The Eulogy’ was selected by Kim Scott for Best Australian Stories 2013.
Download a copy of The Novel Teacher here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/315066
View a sample here: http://goingdownswinging.org.au/site/excerpt-from-the-novel-teacher/
Read an illustrated essay here: http://goingdownswinging.org.au/site/the-meditations-part-vii-eric-yoshiaki-dando-on-the-novel-teacher/
mat and james are talking about the best sort of insects to burn with a magnifying glass.
‘snails are good,’ says mat. ‘you can burn a hole right through the shell and the guts start to bubble through the hole.’
james says slaters are the best. ‘make sure you get the big ones ’cause they curl up into a ball before exploding.
mat says that he stopped doing it after he found out about karma.
james says that he still does it sometimes.
(taken from the novel snail, Penguin Books 1996)
i leaf through the boys’ book of popular science, which was published in the twenties. there is a page explaining each subject briefly. the titles include: ‘the wonder of your backbone’, ‘what everything is made of’, ‘how to breathe poison air’, ‘the modern all-electric kitchen’, ‘why white clothes are cooler than black’.
there is something interesting in this last title.
i was led to believe that black clothes were cooler, but here are scientific diagrams, conclusive evidence. i am convinced: white clothes reflect more light and thus absorb less heat.
howie and i are going to photocopy this page and paste it around brunswick and fitzroy. paste one on the door of the black cat café in brunswick street. paste one on the door of the fitzroy lawn bowls club. start a bloody holy war.
(snail, Penguin Books, 1996)
Jasmine’s Kingswood only has the original radio so there is only what’s on the AM dial. I listen to Joseph Campbell tell American Indian stories on ABC Radio National. It fades in and out all dry and crackly through the Wombat State Forest. I keep thinking about them as I drive through the psychedelia of light playing on the road from the eucalyptus about the end of everything and the beginning of everything and the end that keeps beginning. There is so much static.
There is a cave that is very hard to find, says the radio through the static, but when you have found it you will see inside the cave an old woman making a shirt. And within the stitching and embroidery she puts all the good things and bad things there ever is or was and the shirt is nearly finished and she is just working on the hem and she is using porcupine quills but she has to soften them first by chewing them with her teeth and she has been doing this for a very long time and her teeth are down to nubs just above the gums. And she stitches the quills and everything there ever was into the hem of the garment and it is nearly finished.
And there is a fire in the back of the cave and over the fire is a bubbling soup brimming with all the animals and insects and trees and plants and mushrooms on the earth and the old woman has to put the shirt down sometimes to stir the soup on the fire. If the old woman forgets to stir the soup then some of the plants and mushrooms might stick on the bottom of the pot and burn and be lost forever.
But there is a black dog that lives in the back of the cave with the old woman and while she is stirring the soup on the fire the black dog comes and picks up the shirt, which is beautiful and perfect and almost finished and shakes it from side to side and undoes the embroidery, so that everything that she ever did is undid.
But the old woman picks up her ruined mess of embroidery and begins work on a new shirt including many beautiful scraps of fabric from the old shirt.
‘You should be happy about that black dog,’ the old people say to the young people when they tell this story. Because everything has been made and remade and smashed apart into bits and remade again which is the hidden meaning within the beginning and end of this story.
There is more information, if you listen closely, fading in and out on Radio National but it is cut off by the Wombat State Forest and all I hear is fuzz and crackle and static and eventually I shut it off. Because it is only mind numbing white noise not worth listening to. So I drive on in silence. Just the background noise of the tyres on the bitumen and the engine and the wind through a tiny crack in the window.
A Shortage of Santas
A friend of a friend is recruiting Santas for shopping centres and says that they are having trouble finding them. The money is slightly better than my labouring job.
‘You just need a police check,’ she says.
‘Well I’ve already got one from being a teacher,’ I say.
‘That’s funny,’ she says, ‘because usually you would have to go to Santa school but this year there is no time.