Sunday, June 15, 2014

60) Dog Eat Cat City.

1997 and the entrance to Kings Cross was roped off, causing Arthur to make a detour and get to the In Your Face Café via another street. Two Asian gangs had had a shoot-out at the Fishbowl Hotel, killing one and wounding four. Three days previously, Arthur had walked right into an armed hold-up in progress on Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, the robbers’ lookout man taking a punch at some cops as they questioned him. Arthur had to duck as the punch flew above his head, then cops and robbers ran in all directions, with everybody else rubber-necking the torrid scene. 

What a cruel, horrible city Sydney was, where every street-corner was witness to a mugging, a slashing, a granny-basher. It was a never ending, downward spiral, and each day presented crimes more shocking than the previous. Arthur wondered where it would all end: the total annihilation of any semblance of humanity, just bare concrete canyons inhabited by ghosts and nice middle-class cannibals?

Arthur’s life itself had become a mountain of intractable horrors; the schizo next door howled all night from his balcony and flooded his apartment by leaving his taps running then shitting directly onto his bathroom’s drain-hole so that the detritus eventually oozed through the wall into Arthur’s bedroom and turned his carpet into a miasma swamp. He daily woke up feverish, with a headache, his eyes gummed closed with conjunctivitis, and he complained vociferously to all and sundry, but his caterwauling fell on deaf ears. The Housing Department passed the buck to the Mental Health Department and they passed the buck back, while Arthur threatened to jump from the twenty-fourth floor to see if that would get him some attention. But he knew they’d merely hose his blood away into the gutters with only the usual euphemisms in the newspapers about an unknown loner mysteriously falling to his death from the suicide towers in central Sydney.

He had given up the dream of immortality on the silver screen, he didn’t have the class or the chutzpa, the talent or the perseverance, the connections or the cut-throat ambition. He was a bum who now dreamed of freedom to wander the world’s highways, leaving all responsibilities and social contributions by the wayside. But first he had to mellow out from the rude see-sawing of his mind-states, the bi-polar disease an unjust society had contaminated him with. His Shrink had him on a mood-stabilizing drug and he was somewhat zombified but not mollified. In a low-ebb mood he wandered down the dreaded Devonshire Street in Surry Hills, a zone of previous psychic undoings, to buy himself a cake, last resort and small consolation for a vanquished heart. He went to an ATM and got out his last twenty dollars and with that magic coupon flapping in his hand, he crossed the busy road, eager to get to the cake-shop.

It was a windy day and the breeze snapped the plastic note from his grasp and blew it upon the road. He chased after it, quickly bent down and retrieved it, clasping it dearly to his trammeled heart, it was his ticket to the badly needed sugar-hit. He tottered on for a few paces when suddenly he was tapped on the shoulder and he turned to meet the ugly, shriveled face of a weedy ginger-headed guy in a red Coca-cola t-shirt. The prick informed him that it was his twenty dollars Arthur had just picked up and could he return it please.

“Fuck off!” snapped Arthur, “I just got it from the bank over there. What a nerve you’ve got, trying to claim it!” Still the bastard persisted, assuring Arthur it was his money and Arthur had found it on the road. He assumed an aggressive posture like he was going to fight for money he knew wasn’t his. But Arthur wasn’t cowed, in fact he was outraged. He sized the twit up; he was half Arthur’s age but very close to his size and weight and, with his red, toilet-brush mustache, his face was so ugly Arthur was keen to smash it in.

Arthur stepped forward also in a threatening stance and repeated that the little cock could “Fuck off! The money is mine. I got it from an ATM, here’s the withdrawal slip from the bank to prove it.” “Which bank?” the creep whined, like some television advertisement from an alternate universe. “None of your fucking business, dog?” shrieked Arthur, stepping forward again, wanting the guy to try and be tough. The skinny fucker saw he had no shrinking, disabled push-over on his hands and stomped off, growling like a dog denied a bone, and Arthur screamed after him, “You thieving bastard!”

Ginger Mugs jumped back in a Coca-Cola delivery truck parked nearby and Arthur couldn’t resist yelling, “Go back to Coca-cola land, arse-hole!” He then continued on his way, the cakes not looking so appealing now after this nasty altercation.

But he bought an apricot danish anyway, anything with which to quell the fires of his misery would suffice as compensation for a beat life. On returning to the Elizabeth Street intersection he saw the money-grubbing bastard pull away from the curb in his huge, shiny, red Coca-cola truck. In a flaming fury Arthur rushed into the oncoming traffic and screamed what a low down piece of scum the guy was, trying to snatch twenty-dollars when he had a job driving a truck and didn’t need such a paltry sum. The red-mustache bristled as the bastard swung his door open to hit Arthur in the face with it. Arthur pushed the door shut and continued his abuse. The little cretin’s gnome-like face screwed up into the likeness of a monkey’s arsehole and, hawking up all the foul juices from his rotten guts, he spat directly into Arthur’s face. All semblance of the ginger mug’s humanity was gone, greed and uncaring brutishness filling him like so much shit in a sack, for no reason he would gladly have driven over Arthur, crushing him into the dust, the man’s supposed humanity merely a wraith haunting his lizard’s brain.

The giant, futuristic, red truck swerved into the traffic and sped off, leaving Arthur to wipe the spit from his eyes, the cool set of lunchtime business-men sitting at an outdoor café ogling him with dismay, as if he were some heinous villain, a crazed Coca-cola basher. Arthur tried not to cry there and then, for this was the cherry on the rancid cake that was Sydney, a city he’d devoted twenty-one hard-working years to, only to be spat in the face as if he were a nothing. What a cruel, shallow city it sometimes was, little having changed in its two-hundred year history for those at street level, still a South Seas pirate’s hole come convict slave quagmire where red-coated, dimwit overseers whipped the under-class while the well-heeled looked on in bemusement.

There’s a good reason for the contemporary popularity of zombie and vampire movies: they clearly portray the zeitgeist of the times, many people tearing the skin off others’ backs for a living. Thinking of all the artists, bureaucrats, entrepreneurs, cops, junkies and salesmen he’d ever had dealings with, Arthur felt six out of seven of them ripped, blocked, abused, trampled or screwed him. It was a fact of modern life, especially in the big city, ruthless competition the name of the game. It was survival of the fittest, make that ‘the nastiest’; not made for this world, he was lucky to hang onto his sanity, just.
Arthur scrambled back to his Northcott Tenement dungeon-flat before he was eaten alive by the zombies marauding on the streets and there he wept in private, at what a heartless, mindless world it was, demeaning over even the smallest scrap blown along the gutters. From his tears he dredged up the strength and patience to soldier on and vowed he would yet, some-fucking-how, get on top of this shit-heap called Sydney and break free. All he needed was the money.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.