The Beginning, Number 6 – The Old Guard

Friday 24 April 2009

The old guard returned from his rounds to the booth by the gate. He put down his torch then carefully poured himself a hot cup of coffee from his thermos. “Don’t forget the sheet,” he said out loud. His husky voice echoed hollow in the silence of the night. From a nail on the wall the guard reached down a clipboard and proceeded to fill in the form. Site round – nil report, 4:06 am, he wrote in his cursive hand, then signed his entry: J Scottland, #04864. Satisfied he rehung the board and settled down to enjoy his coffee. 

“Another quiet night,” he said as he sipped his drink. Not the best coffee, he thought – his wife could never make a good cup of coffee – but it was warm and gave him something to do. Not that he minded doing the night duty – he’d been doing it for so long that these dark hours were now his waking days – but sometimes the shifts were long. There is nothing more dull than routine.

The old guard looked at the wall clock – 4:12. Not long now, he thought. On cue, he heard the soft rumble of the approaching truck on the thin cold air. He swigged down the rest of his coffee and waited patiently for the truck to arrive. 

“Howdy Louis,” he said to the driver. “I see you’ve got little Dom with you. Hello Dom.”

“Yeah, g’day Jasper,” replied the driver. “Yeah, it’s school holidays and it’s my turn to have Dom. Say ‘hello’ Dom.” The boy mumbled a reply. “He doesn’t enjoy these night shifts but it can’t be helped.”

“Nope, can’t be helped,” said the guard as he switched open the large wire gate. “Can’t be helped.” 

The driver gave a short nod and a wink then started the truck through the gates and on towards the buildings. The guard clicked closed the gate before again taking down the clipboard. Waste truck arrived, 4:22 am, J Scottland, #04864. Now again the night was silent.

He sighed, then from his lunchbox took out a ham and cheese sandwich. “Another quiet night,” repeated Jasper Scottland, the old guard, and proceeded to unwrap his sandwich.

9 to go …


The Beginning, Number 5 – At the Pub

Thursday 23 April 2009

Tom returned from the bar. “Hey, I’ve got a joke for you,” he said.

“You sure?” asked Marcus, “You always get them wrong.”

“Nah, nah, it’s good this one,” Tom assured. “It’s a good joke, this one. Heard it today at work. You’ll love it.”

Marcus looked across to Alan who glanced in turn to John. John simply shrugged and sipped at his beer. That was enough encouragement for Tom.

“Ok,” he said, gesticulating with his hands, “there’s this truck, right, and it’s night. Well, more like early morning, but the sun’s not up yet so you can’t really see much.”

“It’s still dark,” prompted John. Tom snapped his fingers.

“Yeah, that’s it, it’s still dark. Anyway, there’s this truck and it’s driving down the road through one of those sprawling suburbs. And it’s really quiet except for the truck.”

“Really quiet except for the truck,” murmured Marcus into his glass.

“Yeah, really quiet except for the truck, which is, like, really noisy. So the truck’s going along until it gets to these big wire security gates, and the guard gets out of his booth and the driver says Hello, and the guard says Hello back and then gets back in his booth and opens the gates and the truck drives in.”

“Is this going somewhere?” said Marcus.

“Hang on, I’m getting there.” said Tom before taking a swig of his beer. He put the glass down carefully on a coaster then stared blankly at the small bowl of nuts. “Where was I?”

“Truck goes through the gates,” said Alan.

“Right,” said Tom getting back in the swing, “The truck goes through the gates and drives up to this huge roller door. And on the roller door are painted the words PTERON: Tomorrow’s Company Today! in big bold letters so you know that this door must have stuff for this company Pteron behind it. And the truck pulls up and this kid gets out of the truck.”

“There’s a kid driving the truck?’ said Marcus.

“No no no, his dad’s driving the truck, the kid’s in the passenger seat. So the kid gets out of the truck and opens up the big roller door and then the truck backs up into the shed.” Tom paused for a moment, his hands reaching out but as frozen as the grin on his face. His brow began to wrinkle. Moments thundered past.

Marcus picked at some crumbs on the table. “You’ve forgotten the punchline, haven’t you?”

The tiniest bead of sweat trickled down the side of Tom’s face, coming to rest in the folds of his forced smile. Slowly he put down his hands and settled back into his chair.

There was a very long uncomfortable silence with only the background disco muzak and the occasional clink of pool balls to crack the hush.

Alan picked up his beer and drowned its remaining third. “So John,” he said as he put down the glass, “How’s the wife and kids?”

10 to go …


The Beginning, Number 4 – Stabs

Sunday 19 April 2009

Black. Night. Cold. Street. Suburb. Mist. 

Quiet. Still. Silent. Screech. Cat. Screech. Another. Silent. Still.

Hum. Murmur. Truck. Close. Rumble. Closer. Roar. Here. 

Guard. Gate. Rattle. Open. Onward.

Shutter. Closed. Beep. Beep. Truck. Stop.

Shutter. Open. 

11 to go …


The Beginning, Number 3 – Insomniac 2nd Person

Saturday 18 April 2009

It’s 4 o’clock and you’re still awake. Not even the shopping channel is putting you to sleep tonight. You switch the television off.

Nursing a cup of warm milk you stand at the living room window and watch the street outside. It’s still dark, only the street lamps lighting the slight mist. You look closer – every light in every window in every house is off, including yours. You stand there, the roughness of the curtain fabric against your bare legs, watching the nothing outside, and sip your milk.

In the near distance a cat screeches and next door’s feral tom – Samson – calls back. Bloody cat, you sneer, should be locked up, but still you shudder. Secretly, you’re a little afraid of that cat.

Down, not yet in sight, you hear a truck murmuring along the road. You look at the VCR: yep, 4.15, right on time. The engine slowly becomes louder and soon the street becomes bathed in the oncoming high beams. A little too bright; you shade your eyes as the truck rumbles closer. As it passes you notice there’s a young man in the passenger seat. “He’s new,” you say to no one in particular.

The street is now coloured red from the rear lights and you watch and listen as the truck continues on its way – its engine becoming softer, its lights becoming fainter. Soon everything in the street is how it was just a few minutes before – silent and dark.

And you are still awake.

12 to go …


The Beginning, Number 2 – Dialogue Only

Thursday 16 April 2009

(a beat)

A – Is it far?

B – We’re nearly there.

(a beat)

A – Will it’ll take long?

B – It’ll take as long as it takes. We’re doing good time. Relax.

A – … I hate these night shifts, always forget how bloody boring it all is.

B – You get used to them.

A – I don’t want to get – 

B – We’re here. Get out and open the door, I’ll back up the truck.

13 to go …


The Beginning, Number 1 – The Original 5 Minute Exercise

Wednesday 15 April 2009

AM. Still dark. No noise – wait – nearly no noise. There’s a cat screeching; another screeches back. Now there is no noise. 

Here is a roller door. A fluoro strip beams down. “PTERON: Tomorrow’s Company Today!” in big bold letters, says the door. To make its point a happy family picnic by a scenic pond. Beyond the pond is a metropolis city.

Now there is a noise – a soft noise – a louder noise – a noise louder still. A truck, a large semi, roars up to the door, beeping as it goes. The door is rolled open – bye bye! to the happy family as they rattle their way onto the scroll above.

14 to go …


Silver Anniversary

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Again, this is a very late entry, things just got in the way, and as this is a very special entry (my 50th) I wanted to make it a sort of review of what’s come before. I am hazarding that that is the reason it has taken me so long to finally put fingertips to keyboard and bash something out – one should look forward to the good times to come and not ponder the bad times before – but let’s just see how we go. I’ll try not to ramble.

it took me about a year of humming and ahhing before I finally sat down and wrote my first blog entry. You see, I’m not a great fan of blogs; most of the time I have trouble seeing their point. Some people keep blogs as if they are lockable diaries:

Susan’s Secrets
Dear Diary. Had such a great time at the fair today. Christine (you know, who I told you about) brought along her older brother Alistair – he is such a spunk though of course Susan doesn’t think so – she just thinks he smells. I think he’s dreamy. And he’s only in Year 12 so that’s not that much older than me. Anyway, we all went on the dodgem cars but there wasn’t enough spare cars and Alistair said that I could sit with him! SQUEAL! One time, going around the corner, he bumped into me and put his hand on my knee! He said it was an accident but I think he secretly likes me!

This was the last thing I wanted to do.

Others used blogs as more of a rant:

View from the Molehill
Now look at what the government has gone and done (link here, here, and here)! It’s bloody disgraceful! What right do they think they have to take innocent lives and use them in nothing more than some sort of gigantic game of political chess! It just shits me that these people, who we vote for, allow this sort of thing to happen in good solid honest neighbourhoods. I mean, my father was born here and worked every day for 47 hard years. You didn’t see him being a scab and I respect him for that. And that’s something the young people don’t get – Respect! They think they can just get it, not earn it. Well, I’ve worked for everything I’ve got in life and what have I got – nothing! And that’s the fucking government for you!

I never wanted that either, as tempting as it might seem. What I wanted to try was to challenge myself, to try something different; get out of my comfort zone.

When I started Clyde in August last year I was also beginning a university subject of Non-Fiction Writing in which, for homework, we were to write a series of short pieces – practice pieces – to limber our writing skills up. The second entry I wrote is one of these (and the fifth, and the seventh) and they sort of became the inspiration and direction I was wanting to take. 

If I was, back those months ago, to have sat down and written a manifesto as to what I was hoping to achieve with this blog, the gist (in bullet form) would go something like this:

  1. With the aim to upload a new blog entry every five (5) days, discover inspiration at the beginning of the five (5) day period, be it a short story, review, strange event, or surreal insight.
  2. Ruminate about this inspiration for a (1) day or two (2).
  3. Write about this inspiration with the intention to keep it short and clever. Allow to stand overnight.
  4. Review the inspiration giving the piece a good edit – a little snip here, an extra twist there.
  5. At the end of the five (5) period, upload this piece of, now quite remarkable, inspiration onto the blog.
  6. Sit back and bask in the international accolades that will surely pour forth after people read your quite most remarkable inspiration.
  7. Repeat.

You may guess, it didn’t really turn out that way.

Well, it sort of did. Reading back the first dozen entries pretty much stick to this procedure, though I did tap into past works, but to me that was all right. Clyde was to be a show of my best works so why not dig out the past good pieces. Socks is one of my favourite things I have ever written. Reading back those dozen entries my manifesto was on the right path.

Also in this first twelve, inspired by my non-fiction teachings, I had written a journal entry about attending a dance party, a piece I’m very much proud of. I think, though, this entry might have paved the way to too many Dear Diary writings, like Bushwalk, not one of the best. I also began using Clyde as a running diary of things I was doing (such as the Movember or Mardi Gras series) which, while nicely written, stray substantially from the original aims of the blog. One of these “What I Dids” even lost me one of my greatest friendships, and for that I am forever truly sorry. It makes is all so much worse that I had predicted it. I just hope that he can, one day, forgive me.

As the blog went on, climbing towards this remarkable Number 50, I tended to rely more and more on these “journal” blogs. This has not always a bad thing; if it’s an insight into an experience, such as Peppermint Magnum (a true story) or Woof Club – Hammer, then I think that’s all right. With these I’ve chosen to show the small moments – the quirks – that hopefully the reader will find interesting and enjoy. But all the Bill stuff – what was there, three main entries and another two he gets a guernsey in – as wonderful as he is… was it good writing? Was I sticking to my original aim? Was I complying with the manifesto? As much as I like writing about Bill, I would have to say the answer is No.

I do also wonder how much of the “journal” entries were simply written to shock – me going to a nudist camp for instance – but I can truthfully state that that was never the aim. I was, on the most, trying to be honest, trying to challenge myself to write about things that are not always comfortable. I don’t think I’ve done a exceptionally good job with this, mostly they come out sounding more like I’m a spectator than a participant, but this is one of my many down-fallings as a writer. I have a very particular voice, a rather skipping-along sound to my words. I don’t write sharp. I can’t do hurt. I’m even worse as lyrical. Now in uni we are attempting to create tones with words; for instance, consider the difference that can be suggested by describing a broken heart as:

gorged, collapsing within, forming a cavern in his chest that merely made his sobs toll like church bells lamenting yet another departed soul.

or:

punctured by that bastard Cupid, but now the arrow gone leaving nothing more than another scab to collect alongside the his loves once treasured, now lost, but never forgotten.

You see what I mean? Anyway, I’m not very good at it (as the above two examples suggest. I had to write about an “elated airport” a couple of weeks ago and I was too embarrassed to read it out in class.) but I do like the rather casual way I write. It’s pleasant, it’s friendly. Somehow I don’t think I’ll ever manage to knock out a thriller, but, at worse, I could always attempt a jolly piece of children’s fiction, though I don’t think they would take favourably to some of my subject manner. This has at times been a problem.

Some of the stuff I have written about has not always been, how you say, family friendly. Sometimes I shudder at what I’ve written. Do I really want my mother knowing that I were nearly caught by the sniffer dogs for sneaking ecstasy tablets into a dance party? Or that I used to work in a sex on premises joint? No, especially when I discovered that my infant’s school librarian (who has known me basically as long as my mother) also reads Clyde (and hope still does; I’m very affectionate about that woman). Still, it didn’t stop me talking about pissing on a feller kneeling in a trough, but perhaps it should have…

The thing is that, while alarming, and not always appropriate, they are the Truth, and by being the Truth they are in turn… Me; and you have to admit, as stories go, some of them are pretty good, at least original. This is off the track but many years ago I became an urban legend, a tale that was told by so many people that friends, when having been told of this event about someone’s friend of a friend of a friend, would delight in ever so casually being able to say, “Yeah, I know him. His name’s Clyde.” One desperate, drunken night I’ll retell it here and then you’ll go “That was YOU!?” But, back to the point, I’m not trying to shock but instead fulfil the manifesto – to tell about those “strange events” that pepper my life.

(Admittedly, I do at times go out of the way to find these “strange events”. I like to think of Life as a collection of stamps: a great big book full of beautifully delicate images, very much like the next great big book of beautifully delicate images, but somewhere up the back are those rare and valuable creatures that make the heart flutter of even the most Laodicean philatelist. I am always on the lookout for my very own “Inverted Jenny”.)

Also, I have partaken of the rant style of blogging, not that I’m overly proud of this, but I felt it was important for me to do so at the time. Take Says the Ranga Queer, for example: a woman I know was soooooo homophobic that I just couldn’t let it past, so I used Clyde as a vehicle to express my rage, and hopefully knock her back a peg or three. I don’t know if she even read it, to tell the truth, perhaps it went to dumb ears, but it made me (at the time) feel better. In hindsight was it the right thing to do? Should I have just confronted her in person? Is it my role – or the blog’s role – to condemn people for their own prejudices? I don’t know. I don’t regret what I wrote, and I think it was important that she knew how I felt, but in such a public arena… 

I mentioned because, as I said before, I lost a great friendship through this blog. Here I do regret – not what I still believe to be True, but for saying it out loud. I should not have said anything – not even to him directly – as it was my own thoughts, and thoughts are silent.

At such an early stage of Clyde’s life (50 is the new 35 I’ve been told) I ask have a achieved what I wanted from this blog? I don’t know how many people read it, but that doesn’t bother me (there are more than 200 million blogs out there, you can’t expect your own to be discover in a mere 50 entries), but I do hope that people who do read my blog enjoy it and learn from it, be it a recipe or of an event, or even just a little about me. Because that’s why I write – to inform and entertain. 

And I like writing.

Reading this entry back, it’s more a ramble than I had originally hoped for, but what the heck- it’s a blog! This may not go down as one of my greatest entries, but as least it was Truthful, and that’s all that matters. One thing though, I will try to get back to the original manifesto and knock out less of the Dear Diary pieces, but don’t think that’s going to stop me frightening you with the accounts of this event or that (like how at the Good Friday party a few days ago me and a couple others by the end of the night were… nah. If you weren’t there, you missed it! Ain’t that right David and Robbie!) 

So, on that note, I’ll just let you know that while I’ll eventually be returning to my 5-day turn-around rule, for the next little while I’ll be posting every day as part of my uni holiday assignment – to write the same beginning 15 different ways – trying to capture the same small turn of events from different perspectives, from different characters, from different approaches. I hope you enjoy.

And I hope you keep reading…