Performing some stories for Going Down Swinging at the Newstead Short Story Tattoo on May 2nd.
I decided to work as a Shopping Centre Santa because I needed something to write about. I had abandoned one novel and started another and I needed a writing project that I could finish quickly.
I did not feel like a writer anymore. I was working in Red Hill digging holes and restumping a house. I made a lot more money doing this than they were paying me to be Santa, but I had already written a story about restumping a house in Red Hill.
I remember being really scared about the Santa job and feeling a great responsibility to do it properly.
I wrote the story very quickly, over a weekend, from notes I had written in my journal. I really enjoyed writing this story because it just seemed to write itself. I had it finished by the time I went back to work digging holes and when I gave it to my boss to read I saw him laughing.
I imagined that I could get it published in The Age Good Weekend Christmas edition. I sent it to them a few times, but then it was published by The Sleepers Almanac and I was happy with that.
The photo was taken with my camera by the photographer who was bossing me around for the day.
It’s quite out of focus so I look more like Santa than I actually did on the day.
Last year I was asked to record my Santa story at Radio National with the good people at Paper Radio.
It will be broadcast this Sunday 21st December at 3pm on Radiotonic, Radio National.
or just click on the link here to hear it right now:
So happy to have my new story about a vegetarian butcher called “Coop” in the new edition of Canary Press #5.
Miss Beardall was shaped like an apple and smelled of Lux soap and talcum powder. I couldn’t get enough of her. I followed her around when she had yard duty. At lunchtime I would watch her through the window of the staff room smoking cigarettes with another teacher who was pear shaped.
Miss Beardall was the only person who appreciated how much I liked potatoes. Everything I learnt from her had a vague reference to potatoes.
She made a point of introducing me to other vegetables. She brought a whole bunch of them in a basket every week. Everybody got to sample a fruit or a vegetable they had never tried before. I remember the first time I tasted my first mango , and my taste buds just went bonkers. I had mango all over my face.
‘You are a fruit,’ she said.
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I find a Japanese toy from the 70’s when I am digging under my dad’s house. Just three parts of a magnetic robot bird. We used to call it a Micronaught. You can put the head of a bird on the body of a man. You can take the arms off the magnetic robot man and attach the wings of the magnetic robot bird to make a magnetic robot bird man. The possibilities are endless depending on how many Micronaughts you have. All you have to do is keep all the bits and pieces in the same place at the same time.
Our toys were stored under the house before our dad took them all to the tip in 1983. It was true we hadn’t played with them for a long time. If I had all those toys now, I could buy a house and a horse and a boat.
I crawl around under my dad’s house like a slater, or an earwig or a daddy long legs looking for the missing parts of the magnetic robot bird. All I find is an Abba card. And, even though it is quite damaged, I put it up on eBay straight away and get $17 paid straight into my PayPal account.
I dig for other missing parts on eBay. I get hundreds of hits for Micronaughts, but none of them have any relation to my particular magnetic robot bird I was given by a Japanese judo player in the early seventies.
I am not sure if I can make this bird whole again. Once a part of something is lost it is hard to get it all back together again. All I can do is assemble the parts that I have and imagine what it looked like way back then.
Thud, thud, thud like giant mutant monsters destroying Tokyo
What is that constant thud? Oh that is coming from the dojo in our back yard. That is the heavy thud of bodies hitting the tatami. Thud. Thud.
Whenever the Japanese judo players visit we get presents – Micronaughts and kimonos and salted fish and salted plums. Seaweed. We run all of the multicoloured fish kites up the flag pole to flap flap flap in the breeze.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
I still have a pair of his pyjamas
One time I was given a little plastic robot toy man by my dad’s sensei, Yoshiaki Shinojima. He treated me like a prince. He bought me a lot of lollies at the milk bar and attempted to give me serious advice about respecting my parents. He smoked a lot of menthol cigarettes and I still remember the smell of his pyjamas. He fought in some serious battles against Australia and New Zealand in New Guinea when he served in the Japanese army in World War II. And he owned two actual tigers that he kept back in his house in Japan. One of his tigers was called Tora, as in Tora, Tora, Tora.
I can’t remember what his other tiger’s name was. I do remember that Tora was on a Japanese stamp. I know my mother still has three of those stamps on a strip glued into an album in a box marked JAPAN 1970 stored in the roof of her house.
Mr Shinojima is visiting our house with a couple of his students from Japan. They are training with my father in the dojo for serious judo business. They spend a lot of time throwing each other to the ground with a loud thud. There is always the occasional audible groan or scream or yell in the morning or dead of night. Thud, thud, thud. They shake the foundations. They disrupt the reception of the TV each time they hit the tatami.
Nearly all of our toys are Japanese and we have no idea what they are or what they do or what they are called. We can’t read the instructions.
I ask one of the judo students about the little plastic robot man and Yukihiro says he is called Mr Stinky. The special power of Mr Stinky is stinking out his enemies.
Then Yukihiro sniffs at my t-shirt and holds his nose.
‘You are Mr Stinky,’ he says, handing Mr Stinky back to me in disgust.
Then later, at a Barbeque with all the Judo Boys from Bendigo and Nunawading,
Mr Shinojima is drinking Fosters with my dad and Yukihiro and I am playing with Mr Stinky.
Mr Shinojima asks me if I like his present and I say oh yes and my dad says –
‘What is it? What is it called?’
And I notice Yukihiro suddenly panic stricken, turning blood red in front of my dad and Mr Shinojima.
‘This is Mr Stinky.’ I say.
‘Mr Stinky?’ says Mr Shinojima, turning to Yukihiro.
‘No,’ says Yukihiro. ‘Not Mr Stinky. This is Ultraman.’
Mr Shinojima is saying something Japanese to Yukihiro under his breath and Yukihiro is looking deep down into his shoes.
And from the dojo the thud thud of heavy human beings like drums.
First published in Under the Stilts, 2013 http://underthestilts.com/journal/
New microfiction from Eric Yoshiaki Dando in Under the Stilts
Illustration from Tilly Hutchison. See more of her work at tillydrawspictures.tumblr.com.