D__OUCH__E

by Michael Botur

From the collection Hell of a Thing (The Sager Group, 2020)

**

1.

Andi finds Lotus on the steps of Auckland Art Gallery. There are black paw-prints under Lotus’s shoes. She’s been playing in the fountain while she waits for Andi, who is late. God damn electric buses only run once an hour.

Lotus could’ve gone inside the gallery already but it’s too awkward, dealing with the guard-dicks on the door, plus she’s finishing her chamomile tea and you’re not allowed to take drinks in, so sayeth the authorities. Their title is minder, officially, these door-dicks. That’s one of the many things the girls hate – why does a painting need a chaperone? This is supposed to be a public gallery where courageous ideas can stand. Let it be free to view 24/7. Let it be an open air gallery. Let the art be unguarded and free.

Door-dick Marcus sees the girls entering and pulls a bollard close. He strokes the velvet rope. Secure. Now the girls have to stand in the lobby’s concentration camp of retractable seatbelt tape and chrome bollards. Marcus is a student too but he does this door-guard shit to try get a better chance of having his art on the walls here.

‘Tickets, please.’

‘Gimme a break,’ Andi says, ‘This is a public place.’

Marcus flops his weary head. His chins crease. ‘You gonna shoplift from us today, Andrea?’

‘True artists don’t repeat themselves, sellout. I’m here to check out wall space. I’ll have a piece in here real soon, trust me.’

‘Kay, well, you’d be the first. Students’ve never had their stuff on display in here, it’s a meritocracy ’n shit so…. Yay for ambition, lady.’

‘Don’t call me lady, fatass. It’s an ARIStocracy. This place invalidates women of color, that’s the problem. It’s all white artists.’

Marcus coughs into his fist.

‘Dude, before you try to say I’m white, okay, I don’t identify as white, so fuck what you’re thinking. Will you let us past?’

‘I still need to check in your bag; stuff’s insured for millions in there. Sup, Lotus.’

Lotus blushes.

‘Why would I want to steal phallocentric white-o-cratic bullshit anyway?’ Andi pushes her backpack into Marcus’s shirt and tie and his fat jiggles. She’s nearly six feet tall, Andi, with shoulders like soccer balls and a thick neck. ‘Here’s my stupid bag.’

Marcus attempts to rummage through the backpack. Andi snatches it out of his grasp and the girls sprint onto the golden parquet and begin catching up on the new artworks. Andi and Lotus have just 20 minutes until the gallery closes.

The girls love this place and hate it. They have to visit at least once a week to remain part of the conversation, though most of the artworks on the walls are conservative and deserve to be destroyed. The indigenous stuff needs to be repatriated to its homeland.

From the ground floor up to the mezzanine, the girls give Auckland Art Gallery a lightning tour, looking for new pieces to hmm over. Mostly it’s the same old stale pale males on the walls. They tally up what the value would be if it were all torn down. There is millions of dollars in insurance behind this art. Irreplaceable, sure, but overvalued, not to mention overrated. It’s hard to agree on which piece is the number one most offensive, actually. The ten square metre Jackson Pollock in the South Atrium is pretty undeserving – just another Caucasian abrasion. Then there are the Colin McCahons taking up far too many metres of wall. That wannabe Christ appropriated Māori culture and there’s never been redress.

The girls reach the Contemporary Art rooms which host works by some graduates of Elam School of Fine Arts. Pretty much every Elam-ite has spent a few years in Prague and Berlin then returned to the art school on Symonds Street to tutor, though Andi and Lotus have been told that’s not an option for them. Sellout suckups anyway, those tutors. Total Quislings. One Elam grad has a whole room to himself. His so-called masterpiece: an open bucket of paint on a pedestal. It still has the Bunnings Warehouse ‘SOLD’ sticker on the side. The bucket contains dried white paint solids frozen into a frisbee. The label claims the piece makes an introspective postmodernist statement about Syria. Really, the white disc of dried paint represents a contraceptive pill, the girls agree. A very subtle misogyny, though impossible to ignore.

Andi leads the tour, waving her dismissive fingers at each disappointing artwork. Lotus follows up with her tablet, live-Tweeting her outrage. 

Just as bad as the Eurocentric art colonizing every level of the gallery is the Do Not Touch Please barrier frame on the floor around the Haisla totem pole in the Indigenous Suite, a totem built to honor forest god Tsoda who saved the Haisla people from smallpox. Lotus appreciates the font, a variation on Highway Gothic, very autumn 2010, perfect for the cover of the next edition of her zine, though the message spelled out by the gorgeously ironic font is impossible to stomach. Do Not Touch Please, it says. Like, literally? The frame around the totem pole is a square of gold poles lain in four sections a couple inches above the ground. The girls look at each other and wordlessly agree what needs to be done. They lift the four bars of the Do Not Touch frame, grunting, dismantle it and shunt it aside. In a corner of the ceiling, the security camera twitches. Andi feels it burn her neck. She points her middle finger at it. Fuck rules. Fuck Do Not Touch. First Nations peoples can decide for themselves whether they want to be touched or not.

Andi grabs Lotus’s wrist and checks the time on Lotus’s FitBit. Nine minutes till the place closes.

The Hubbard Room is the next travesty. Its centre is cordoned off with four road cones with caution tape around them, a wet floor sign, a coffee cup with an inch of blonde coffee with a milk-skin floating on the surface parked on the third step of a stepladder positioned under a displaced ceiling panel. Some wires are dangling down. The actual room itself becomes the artwork as people orbit the stepladder. The piece makes a statement about the purpose of art galleries in post-New World Order western cultures. It won this year’s Walters Prize.

Andi swallows, saves her outrage for the Mackelvie Collection of imperialist racist shit upstairs. Seven minutes ‘til closing time. Better get to work. Lotus takes care of the Grade D offensive, following the plan they’ve agreed for today. Lotus lowers her glasses, ensures she’s not being followed then backs into the women’s bathroom. She visits every stall, pulls ten zines from her underwear and uses double-sided tape to stick a copy of Routon to the toilet walls. Routon is revolution without the evil. The plan is the zines will be spotted by patrons, assuming they actually bother to sit on the toilet.

The Grade D operation complete, Andi and Lotus get to work on Grade C.

Lotus trots diligently to the lobby and stands in front of Marcus, who has been pulling the tall blinds closed with a long rod. She doesn’t think of him as a door-dick. He’s a cog in a discriminatory machine, that’s all. Without saying a word – and Lotus hasn’t spoken in days, apart from Tweeting – Lotus twirls, showing off a skirt made of woven plastic fibre upcycled from plastic bags found on the beach at Mission Bay. Marcus asks to touch the dress, his canines creeping over his lips. Letting him touch the dress will buy her comrade a few more minutes. Lotus stands still and silent while he fondles her.

In the Indigenous Room, Andi checks over her right shoulder then reaches under her right legging and pulls out knitting needles. From her left, she produces a mostly-completed woollen web. She moves outside the Indigenous Room, closes the doors, wraps yarn around the handles and with sixty seconds of twisting wrists and fingers links the door handles with knitted woollen yarn, woven tightly enough to hold the doors closed. Andi then reaches deep inside her skort, produces a one page A4 paper manifesto from the front of her underwear and holds it against the wood of the door. She dips back into her skort, under her knickers this time, puts two scooping fingers inside her labia, pulls a glob out and pastes the corners of the poster on the doors with four smears of blackberry blood.

Andi is confronted immediately, palms on her shoulders, fingers digging into her collar bone. As she is guided outside onto the street, she warns door-dick Marcus that if he puts a finger on her she’ll begin civil proceedings of sexual assault and will also lodge a compensation claim with the gallery. Marcus looks at little Lotus to see if she, too, feels harassed. Lotus shrugs.

Fuck this place anyway. No point in patronizing it if it won’t support student artists. Andi bans herself. Lotus stays away in solidarity.   

2.

They return within days, this time in black pants and white shirts and black bow ties.

Wednesday night’s fundraiser begins with the Manukau String Quartet playing Schubert while the tuxedo’d and ballgown’d sponsors stand against the six metre curtains waiting to applaud. Poised in the dark half of the room, with trolleys and trays, are Andi and Lotus and the other dozen catering staff. They were warned they’d be busy tonight. Lotus keeps the barrier arm open out in the alley while vanloads of food are delivered. The code to open the garage door is 5465. Amber Anderson repeats the code three times in Lotus’s face because Amber Anderson is too God damn busy to stand by and type in four simple digits, mmkay, and there’s a rule against writing it down. 5465. Got it? Yay. Hurrah. The code is good for a month; some of tonight’s staff will have to get up bright and early and come back here to pick up Amber’s platters and breadboards and keg and folding tables as the vans can’t take them tonight. Come down the ramp to the loading bay, enter the PIN, through the service roller door. The PIN opens the gate and deactivates the alarm.

Lotus nods and nods. She stoops lower than her five feet one inch of height. Amber Anderson runs off to yell at some moron who’s forgotten to dust powdered lime flakes on the oysters before carrying them out.

Reductions and nibbles and tasting platters are wheeled in, unpackaged, heated or iced, seasoned, lain on porcelain and silver and served to the hundred-odd people splashed across the floors, fora and stairs of the gallery.

The reason for tonight’s fundraiser is the unveiling of a half-paid-for Banksy discovered in an alleyway in Clendon, transported brick by brick and given the south wall position on the first floor. The gallery borrowed $2.2 million to buy the bricks, which has cut into next year’s budget, hence tonight’s whip-round. There is a Diamond guest list, a Gold guest list and Silver and Bronze integuments so the names and profile photos of likely donors are easily identifiable to members of the board who carve paths through the room, hit their philanthropic target, squeeze his or her shoulder, pump his or her hand and sell sponsorship and brand platforming rights. The Herald has sent its Spy photographer Ricardo. He’s paid to photograph each handshake. It helps turn a suggested donation into an embarrassing-if-it’s-not-confirmed donation.

Looking through the throng at her BFF, Lotus can tell Andi is pissed. Andi – half a head taller than most of the plebs here – is moving like a Terminator, nudging people aside with her big arms. Andi wants the night over. Andi wants the routon to kick off.

Secreted in a corner, cupping her mouth over a platter, Andi hoiks up a batch of her private reserve spit, the snotgreen phlegm at the back of her nostrils she has to pull down with an emphatic hoik and use throat muscles to force onto her tongue so she can perfectly spit the goo into the reduction of spinach and feta she’s about to serve to these creeps. She also spits toward the floor, waddles up to the Banksy and toes the spit onto the bottom of Banksy’s bricks so nobody notices and she doesn’t get told off.

Lotus sees Andi’s snot games but her attention is elsewhere. She’s staring past these fancy zombies, tallying the value of the paintings in the Mackelvie room. This whole desperate art student-resorting-to-catering-thing? It’s a front for the girls’ real purpose: getting deep inside the enemy’s base.

Not surprising, of course, is that the gallery tonight is staffed with Lotus’s biggest fan, the fatass door-dick with the tie and shoulderpads. He’s sidling through the throng and saying Wassup and – ope -no no no, no no no, please don’t do that – Marcus is leaning in for a kiss on the cheek.

Lotus grins 110 percent, forcing her cheeks outward so the ceiling lights burn Marcus’ saliva off and it doesn’t soak past the second layer of epidermis. After a couple seconds’ awkward silence, Lotus realizes no one is watching. She doesn’t have to pretend to hate him without Andi around. He can’t hear her tiny voice so he squeezes her arm and leans in. He’s talking about the artwork on the new Call of Duty game but she’s in sensory overload. She can smell his Listerine and count the number of chest hairs with zits forming where the follicles are blocked with grease. Kind of sexy, in a dorkish way, but Lotus has to get back to work. She can’t be distracted by fantasies of sleeping with the enemy. After serving lab-grown hamburger patties to Heart of the City board members Max Gimblett and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett as they deconstruct Ralph Hotere’s Godwit/Kuaka, Lotus is pulled aside by her boss, who’s so stressed that she is shaking. Lotus HAS to return in the morning to pick up two beer kegs and a stack of tablecloths with driver Willy. Lotus needs to open up and disarm because Willy isn’t trustworthy.

Lotus nods to indicate she’ll be there. She wants to speak, but she’s saving her words for intellectual übermensches. She holds up the numbers using her fingers. 5465. Grin? Grin. Attagirl.

On the dais at the end of the room, Andi is shoving a prawn kebab into the hands of Auckland City Councillor Cathy Casey and shunting her to the right so she’s not blocking Te Whenua, Te Whenua, Engari Kaore He Turangawaewae by Robyn Kahukiwa. It’s one of the few pieces in the place worthy of respect and Andi wants to look at it without a fucking bureaucrat in the way.

At the end of the night, Lotus passes Andi in the stainless steel kitchen and they exchange a few whispered words that mean everything.

Coming in at 7.30. Picking up the shit at 8.

3.

Andi enters Auckland Art Gallery, strides through the lobby and into the bowels of the building. Nobody stops her. She is in disguise as an ordinary aristocrat, after all. Andi wears a navy blue suit, bow tie and five colorful barrettes to draw attention away from her face. Lotus follows eight minutes later disguised in a thick raincoat with a pull-over hood. The girls waited three hours today for rain and in the end it was only a speckle, but the rain justified the disguise. The girls have something serious planned.

They’re hesitant to enter the Mackelvie collection at first. Just being in the room feels like a vote of support for Western supremacy. It’s all Edwardian and Victorian oils on the walls in here with three marble sculptures and four bronze. The oldest of the paintings dates to 1603. The most valuable is insured for 10 million Euro. All of the paintings are deeply problematic. There’s the Lawrence Alma-Tadema portrait of Cleopatra which appropriates Afro-Arabian cultures. Then there are the more subtle inflections – a bongo drum in the background of Bundy’s The Day of Sedgemoor; the body language of the male authority in Pope Makes Love To Lady Mary Wortley Montagu by William Frith.

The girls crouch, creeping around the room, ready to sprint, keening their ears for the twitch of the ceiling cameras. If security knew what they had planned, they’d be arrested already.

‘D’you think Marcus is on shift?’ Lotus rasps.

Andi is momentarily speechless. Lotus breaks her silence only to waste words on some door-dick?

‘Who? That guard-boy? Yes, no? Who cares?’

‘It’d be good to know,’ Lotus mutters.

‘The hell’s that supposed to – will you do your thing already?’

Lotus takes her slingshot from her handbag and aims at the security camera. She unpackages the tampon Andi has wrapped in silver foil, puts the soggy crimson cartridge in the barrel of the slingshot, aims at the camera and launches the bloody bullet. It hits and leaves a smear of dark red juice on the camera lens.

Andi reaches into her underwear, extracts a 110ml tube of spray adhesive from her vagina, peels off the $4.99 Gordon’s Art Supplies sticker then takes a scroll of A3 protest art messages from her left breast pocket. Each of the twelve A3s is lain on the public bench, quickly sprayed with adhesive then plastered over the chief white male imperialist in each of the Victorian artworks. First to have his face covered up with poster paper is the distasteful 1915 Simpson and his Donkey by Horace Moore-Jones, a truly sickening slapstick designed to manipulate the public into support for the modern-day Crusader conquest of Turkey. Other paintings are plastered with protest too. Posters over moustaches. Posters over tricorner hats. Excited, nervous, hearts hammering, the girls barely breathe.

The chiffon-wearing waif beside the swan pond in the Frederick Goodall painting from 1788 is now standing beside a square of white paper with some scandalous words. The diaphanously draped sister in John Godward’s Memories finds herself staring at a man with a staunch white poster for a head. Andi and Lotus plaster posters over every repressive male until the room is woke, then stand against the wall as the cops arrive.

Door-dick Marcus is glimpsed, pacing, pissed-off, conflicted, piles of blubber under his hunched elbows as he thinks about what to do. Two electric blue police constables ask the girls to come out to the street. There’ll be no force, no cuffs, no roughness. The girls put down their spare posters and adhesive and descend the stairs, sniffing. On the way out, before her arm is bent and she drops the pen, Andi produces a silver Sharpie from her cleavage and with three strokes draws a penis on the mouth of the portrait of Governor Grey.

4.

Andi and Lotus fall into their flat at 4 am. They’ve managed to find an Uber with a Driver of Color. His headlights carved through the black and then he was gone. An IMMIGRANT has done the hard labour to drive them to KING’S land. So much significance in those words, significance doubled, no, TRIPLED by the wines they glugged in the pub after the pigs let them go. MAAAAAAhahahahaha. Jesus fucking Christ. The driver was a business student at AUT University, originally from Waziristan. His life story was utterly fascinating and the girls wish they could have more time to honor him. The girls don’t deserve this flat. Too spacious. You could fit fifty families in here. They stare out different windows, studying the towers of Kingsland lit like Christmas lights.

Lotus wraps her duvet around her, yawns as if to say goodnight, but Andi slaps the island tabletop in the kitchen and announces a meeting. Don’t you dare go to bed, Lotus Chua. Revolution begins, bitch. This is no time to back away.

It’s been an insane night – day as well, actually. It was 3.04 pm when they were arrested. Lotus filmed the whole thing. The car ride to Auckland Central Station was eight minutes. They were each dumped in holding cells while police tried to get confirmation from Auckland Art Gallery’s chief executive whether she wanted charges lain. Fingerprinting and photographing the girls took 90 minutes. They were then returned to a holding cell, which Andi didn’t want to be released from as she was engrossed in conversation with an indigenous cellmate whose rights had been violated. The two were released after being given a formal warning, typed on a sheet of paper with an NZ Police letterhead.

The mission to achieve the Grade B offensive was successful, no doubt about it. The challenge for the girls now is to achieve a Grade A. Up the ante. Push the structure over.

Lotus, wobbling on her feet with tiredness, nods to agree she’s keen, she’s down, she’s committed, absolutely. The state has shown it will retreat when confronted. Lotus will join the daylight strike against the target, she’s just battling the yawns right now, YERRRRRRR, she’s seriously sleepy and has to say goodnight.

Andi tells her comrade that’s absolutely fine, go for it, girl, you enjoy your beauty sleep. Andi is loading the coffee machine with two bullets of Nespresso as she puts out the threatening platitudes. While the coffee is pouring, Andi is pushing tiny tablets of No-Doz out of their package. Pushing the No-Doz into the espresso Lotus Chua better seriously fucking drink unless she wants to be outed as a Little Eichmann.

Andi isn’t sleeping tonight and nor is Lotus. Back off now and there’ll never be a student presence in the city’s public art gallery. Back off now and the establishment will win.

Andi is placing her laptop computer on the kitchen island and switching it on, jabbing the password in, tapping her foot, chewing No-Doz, laying down a rectangle of poster paper to draw on. What the girls are having right now is a summit, and apogee, a peak, a pass. Lotus shivers inside her blanket, holds the fabric against her ears, trying to quell the yawns.

‘Oi! Wakey-wakey!’ Andi is clicking under her friend’s chin. ‘Stop dreaming about your boyfriend. Draw a comic about your imaginary marriage if you’re that desperate. I need your attention here.’

Andi takes a sharpie and begins sketching the plan on the back of the poster. She forces Lotus to finish the drawing. Make it look good. Buy in. Get complicit. Spread the struggle.

5.

It is 4.59 am when Andi types 5465 into the keypad and the roller door opens. Birds scream in the trees. The black sky is stained blue. Amber Anderson Caterer will shortly receive a dawn phone call from IMS Security to ask why she’s using a supplier’s security access code even though no catering has been planned tonight. Amber Anderson Caterer will tell those inbred rejects to fuck off and call back when their computer ain’t spazzing.

The sky is indigo now with pink diluting it. They can’t afford to have anything other than moonlight in here. The girls struggle to find the light switches so it takes four minutes and 48 seconds to cut the wires holding each Mackelvie monstrosity to its wall. The girls bump into each other once, twice, – FUCK!- as they scamper around the room, tearing each painting down and chucking the artworks in the middle of the floor. None of the paintings can be simply yanked – Andi knows this, having tried to tug a couple of them off as she was plastering them with her manifesto. There’s a certain twist, then a jiggle, then a hard oomph to yank the screws out of the walls.

Thirteen pieces of European art are unclipped from the wall within three minutes. An alarm sounds after the Waterhouse is pulled down. Motes of plaster dust dance in the light. The darkness thins and the girls’ eyes adjust. Blue floor, grey walls, black city with a coat of orange. The alarm remains a consistently shrill 99 decibels no matter how many misogynist artworks are pulled onto the pile. Sledgehammers and drills in the ear.

The girls are pleased to see chips of dried paint and gold splinters as they stack the pile. The art’s damaged, chipped: Fantastic. Andi scampers to the Indigenous Room, seizes two lengths of the bronze barrier arms and drags them through to the Mackelvie Room. The girls erect a barrier around the pile of paintings. DO NOT TOUCH PLEASE is redacted with a Sharpie so it reads D____OUCH____E.

They’ve failed to plan for the absence of lighting. This isn’t enough daylight to film with. They’re working in watery blackness. Lotus finds the Torch app on her phone and lights the pile of paintings. The thickness of the gilded frames has given each painting several inches of height. Combined, the stack of paintings is four feet deep.

Andi kicks the glass cabinet housing the fire extinguisher and axe. She has her weapon. Yusss.

Lotus takes photos while Andi hacks at the paintings with the fire axe, using her feet to stomp them into position for choice chops. She injures her foot trying to stomp through the Bramley, which weighs 150 kilograms. Chips fly into the air as Andi hacks at the Bundy, the Burne-Jones and that so-called lovemaking one by he-who-shall-not-be-named which is deeply rape-y. Andi’s thick shoulders endure the lactic acid, the burn, the exhaustion, but she’s glad when the destruction is done. After three blows, the axe is stuck in a thick wooden backing. She has to kick it loose. Andi picks up a shard of oily board and snaps it over her knee. Lotus continues to document the Grade A offensive with the camera on her iPhone. It’s a three step technique, over the next two minutes, systematically damaging the paintings. Andi penetrates half of the canvases. The other half at least have wedges cut out of their frames. Three works have glass on their faces; Andi ensures these are all smashed.

Before they’ve fled the scene, Lotus sends the video reel and a couple of the best photographs from her phone to the NZ Herald newsroom. It’s 5-ish, now, possibly 5.30. Print time, the girls hope. Yo, bourgeoisie? Eat yourself for breakfast.

The girls exit through the service entrance into an orangey world that smells of coffee and exhaust pipes and damp shadows steaming. The sun is coming up. The seagulls are stirring.

From Albert Park the girls dash hand in hand down Vulcan Lane, across Queen Street, up past the beggars, the bungy rocket, Sky City and over to Victoria Street West and towards the NZME building where Andi hunts for the NZ Herald  logo as she produces a small reservoir of vaginal mucous. She moistens the corners of her last manifesto then plasters it on the glass walls of the entrance of the building. The Herald must take notice. The manifesto demands to spread through media. What the girls did was Grade A. What they did deserves discussion.

The girls are picked up moments later and invited to get inside the cop car. Not even manhandled, just politely asked in, then informed they’re under arrest. Sick with post-adrenaline nausea, they’re glad of a warm ride to the station, a blanket and a cup of sugary tea.

6.

Andi begins reading Long Walk To Freedom on the bench in her cell. The bench is a rude rectangle of stainless steel riveted to the wall. It’s not even ironic architecture. It’s unintentional bad taste design. She feels like writing an essay on it.

As if the design-crime weren’t bad enough, they’ve taken her shoelaces and piercings. The conditions really are barbaric. No fresh water, no mattress. Andi is mentally composing her letter of complaint to the United Nations when her cell is unlocked and she’s told “Time to go.”

‘Seriously? You’ll dismiss People of Color that easily? Pfft.’

Andi is escorted through a series of yellow-painted concrete corridors which veer off one another at 90 degrees. She’s sure the corridors are lain out in a swastika shape and is attempting to prove it when she’s released into a visiting room. Mum is on the phone on the far side of the plexiglass; Dad is pacing the room, chewing the end of his necktie nervously, his Italian shoes clacking on the hard cold concrete. Mum’s hair has been razored painfully short and angular; Dad’s has spilled into a silver topknot some barber has convinced him is trendy. Mum and Dad explain they’ll kill the next two hours at a café across the road. The police charges have been negotiated by Uncle Baz, who is a barrister with Kensington Swan. There will be zero court time so long as the girls agree to sell their piece to the gallery. Thanks to the video on the Herald website, the Mackelvie Room revolution has gone viral. It’s all the art world can talk about.

In the backseat of the car they toss her a Weekend Herald. The headline is a brand, a burn.

Protestors’ $20m Gallery Bomb.

*

Andi doesn’t see Lotus for ages. The two lay low at their parents’ houses until the contract is settled and there’s definitely going to be money and the charges are definitely not going to happen.

Heart of the City has talked to the girls’ lawyers. The girls’ lawyers have talked to the girls’ parents. The girls’ parents and lawyers have talked to Elam and Whitecliffe and Creative New Zealand. Nobody has talked to the Herald until the whole thing’s been finalized.

Known to have cost $20 million to create, the installation titled D__OUCH__E tops every art discussion worldwide. Douche is preposterously postmodern, powerfully provocative, creatively confrontational. The way two of the paintings face one another in the perfectly-positioned pile obviously represents the artists’ demand that the art establishment face itself, concludes Peter Schjeldahl of the New Yorker.

Andrew Paul Wood describes Douche as “A work of gynocentric genius and a timely rejoinder to Georgia O’Keeffe’s triptychs and Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party.”

The Guardian suggests a Turner Prize may be likely for Andi, considering her mother still holds a baronet title for a family castle near Penzance. She’s English, if she chooses to be.

There are endorsements from Banksy, from Damien Hirst, and the Demarco European Art Foundation.

Douche is sold for an undisclosed sum to a buyer who allows it to remain in Auckland Art Gallery. The piles of chopped paintings are fixed forever in the Mackelvie Room with epoxy resin and invisible screws and piano wire. The walls of the Mackelvie Room remain exquisitely damaged, sporting tiny white craters in the plaster where the wire fixtures have torn chunks of wall out as they crashed, details which are thought to represent a desire for the fall of Cecil Rhodes and other pillars of the old establishment.

Andi visits her installation regularly, asks the door-dick to screen off the room, as her deed requires, and sits on a padded bench and stares at her artwork, usually clad in an expensive shawl from Donatella. She thinks about Frith and Goodall and Godward fighting for a position in the Royal Academy of Arts. She thinks about her younger self fighting for a bowl of fried cabbage in the queue outside the Hare Krishna yurt on campus.

Lotus catches up with her occasionally, during Douche board meetings, though she’s busy supporting Keas and Brownies at the Howick Scout Hall. Her daughters have just hit five years old and while Marcus is a good father and drives her to art gallery fundraisers every month, Lotus doesn’t have much time for the revolution any more.

Congratulations Vera Dong – Northland regional winner – National Flash Fiction Day 2021

Family Meals

Vera Dong

Every Chinese Spring Festival Eve, Mum invited Dad’s parents, sisters and brothers for a family meal. Our cold, dim kitchen held a traditional mud stove, and a honeycomb briquette one. The month leading up to the meal, less water was boiled, more food-ration coupons were saved. A week before, Mum spent every evening in the kitchen, sitting down only to ease her back pain. White and red radish pickled in sugar and salt; preserved duck eggs, boiled, cooled, and cut; identical thin wedges like toy boats docked in a quiet harbour. Pan-roasted Ci Gu (taro) from Mum’s garden; soup with pork bones from Dad’s chess mate butcher; white-liquor pork sausages and gluten-rice-ginger meatballs were made by Mum’s mother living on a farm two hundred kilometers away. They were a once-a-year treat.

Our chopsticks did not work hard that night. We needed space to relish Mum’s spring- onion noodles after our guests said Wan Shi Ru Yi (all goes well) and goodbye.

Mum and Dad renovated the kitchen soon after the food ration was lifted. A brand-new two-head gas stove sat in pride in the middle of the old kitchen. Every Sunday evening, Mum’s kitchen was a hot sauna: steaming ginger-pork buns; bubbling chicken soup with peppery pork and baby bamboo shoots. Mum sat there smiling, watching us dipping the buns into rice vinegar, soaking the chicken and pork in sesame, garlic and red-chili sauce.

She apologized for not being able to feed us good protein when we were growing up. Steam softened wrinkles around her eyes and lips. Tears in her eyes sparkled like bright stars.

Many years later, we visited Mum in China. With her back bent, she managed ginger-pork buns and meatballs. Her grandson wanted burgers and asked if we could order a takeaway and have it delivered.

***

Check out all the shortlisted entries, winners, and regional winners at NFFD here.

FREE four day film workshop in Whangarei – write a script, make a film

This July school holidays, Script to Screen (in partnership with Northland Youth Theatre) are returning to Whangārei to run our 2021 Northland Film Workshop. Once again, this free four-day film workshop aims to help Northland based rangatahi develop skills in crafting a story idea, writing a script, and acting for the screen. I’m wondering if you could spread the word to anyone you know aged between 15 – 23 year olds that might be keen to come along this year?

No experience or prior knowledge of filmmaking is necessary. This year, filmmaker Hamish Bennett (Bellbird, The Dump, Ross and Beth) and actor Laurel Devenie (Shortland Street) will teach participants about finding a story they want to tell, crafting a narrative that is compelling on screen and acting for the screen.

Spaces are limited so those interested should register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.nz/e/northland-film-workshop-2021-registration-160459268993

Tuesday 13 July – Fri 16 July

9am – 2:30pm each day

Northland Youth Theatre, 86 Bank St, Whangarei 0110


Morning Tea, Lunch and Afternoon Tea provided. However, if you have special dietary requirements (gluten free, dairy free, keto, paleo, etc) please bring food with you.

You can find more info about the workshop on our websiteEventBrite,  Facebook Page / Event or on Instagram.

Would you like to help Speculative Fiction Writers of NZ? They could use you…

Want to meet other authors and network beyond your local groups?Keen to make use of all those awesome non-writing skills you have?Want to bring your own interests and enthusiasm to your favourite speculative fiction group?
Then join the SpecFicNZ Core!


Join the Core and boldly go where you’ve never gone before!There’s no need for previous experience—just a willingness to pitch in and learn as you go.Projects for which we would love extra helping hands:Revamping the SpecFicNZ website Engaging online as part of our social media presenceOrganising workshops, retreats, and other eventsPursuing grant moneyOrganising programmes and projects such as our member reviews, catalogue, and anthologiesComing up with new and fabulous ideas for initiatives for our membersThe Core meets monthly via Zoom. Email admin@specfic.nz to register your interest:

Ngaio Marsh Awards for Best NZ Crime Writing – Whangarei Libraries Event.

On Thursday June 10, four authors whose books have been part of the Ngaio Marsh Awards for Best NZ Crime writing convened at Whangarei Central Library, greatly entertaining a packed house of crime fiction fans.

Photos here:

Whangārei Mystery in the Library 2021 series
Join five northern authors for an evening of criminally good conversation.

The Ngaio Marsh Awards, in association with Whangārei District Libraries, invites booklovers to a thrilling evening of criminally good discussion with five talented northern storytellers.

Whangārei poet, novelist, and award-winning short story writer Michael Botur will chair a panel featuring fellow 2021 Ngaio Marsh Awards entrant Caroline Lawson, Kerikeri thriller writer Catherine Lea and past Ngaios finalists Andrea Jacka and Stephen Johnson.

The authors will discuss where their inspiration comes from, how they bring fascinating characters to life on the page, craft page-turning storylines and infuse their tales with real-life issues as well as touches of crime and mystery.

Registration Essential
Spaces are strictly limited.
Please register by email to libraryevents@wdc.govt.nz

The panel

Michael Botur is a poet and author whose short stories have won awards in New Zealand and the United States. Takahe magazine described him as “a writer considered one of the most original story writers of his generation in New Zealand”. He’s published several acclaimed short story collections. Crimechurch is his latest novel.

Andrea Jacka – Although an avid reader from the early days of Peter and Jane, it wasn’t until Andrea reached her early forties that she began to write. This soon became a passion, then an obsession and resulted in her first novel One for Another, a thriller set in 1880s Idaho which became a finalist for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel.

Stephen Johnson is an Australian-born television news and sports producer who has swapped the TV studio for a writer’s garret overlooking the Tamaki River. His debut novel Tugga’s Mob, a finalist for the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards, was inspired by three seasons working as a tour guide on double-decker buses around Europe in the 1980s.

Caroline Lawson is a Northland author who grew up in Fiji. Memories of a Community Cop is ‘more than a biography’, the story of local policeman Quin Turton’s life on and off the job after moving to Northland as a young man. “A delightfully written evocation of a life well lived … a worthy addition to anyone’s library.”

Catherine Lea is a Kerikeri author who worked in the technology industry before becoming a thriller writer. Her six novels range from comic police procedurals to high-octane thrillers entwined with US politics. Her book Child of the State was shortlisted for the Silver Falchion Award for Best Thriller by the Killer Nashville festival in the United States.”

Concerned about housing? Submit a poem to Landing Press

We want poems from people who maybe have never written before but have a small story to tell about housing.

Concerned about housing? Submit a poem to Landing Press

Landing Press, Community Housing Aotearoa, Emerge Aotearoa and others are sharing the call to contribute to a poetry project. 

The poems will be published by Landing Press later this year and will include all aspects of housing – ownership, renting, homelessness, memories of houses, houses lived-in in other countries, political, funny nostalgic, painful.

Landing Press’s goal is to bring together experienced and first-time writers in one book. 

Here is the call for submissions from Landing Press:

Submission guidelines

For those interested in taking up the challenge, submissions of up to three poems (each a maximum of 40 lines) should be emailed to Landing Press by 18 June 2021 for experienced writers, and 31 July 2021 for those needing help to get started. Each poem should be on a separate page along with name and contact details (email address, postal address and phone number).

Poems and requests for help should be emailed to landingpresshousing21@gmail.com.

Why poems?

Poems can be very simple. They can tell a small story, offer an insight or a new perspective, shift people’s heads, and they can bring together experienced writers and first-time writers in one book.

Who is Landing Press?

Landing Press is a small Wellington not-for-profit publisher. We publish poetry that many people can enjoy, and we want to give a voice to people who are not often heard.”

Kaupapa

“In this new project we want to work with community housing providers and many others across the housing sector.

What do we want for this collection of poems about housing?

We want poems about every aspect of housing – owning, renting, having no house, memories of houses, houses lived in in other countries, political, funny, nostalgic, painful. We don’t just want poems by people who have written a lot. We want poems from people who maybe have never written before but have a small story to tell about housing.

Book Launch with Northland author Barbara S Carr

41 Rathbone Street, Whangarei

Saturday 1 May 2021 3:00pm – 5:00pm

You are warmly invited to the launch of Barbara S Carr’s Anthology of Short Stories.

Join Barbara to launch Shifting the Mind’s Eye – a captivating collection of short stories spanning the 1950s to the present in Aotearoa New Zealand. Perspectives shift and change as themes of relationships, personal values, the impacts of war and death are explored. Barbara Carr’s story-telling pulls us into her characters’ private worlds with depth, insight and humour. Time slices are offered within a truly New Zealand context.

Barbara Carr has lived in Te Tai Tokerau (Northland New Zealand) for 20 years. She has loved writing since her childhood and as an adult has won awards for her short stories. With a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and History, Barbara is interested in how the past echoes through time. She is a humanist and an environmentalist.

Shifting the Mind’s Eye will be available to purchase for $20. Barbara’s recent historical novel From the Bottom of the Well will also be available for $30. Please bring cash.

In addition, Patricia Brickell – whose painting has been used for the book cover – will exhibit some of her work.

https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2021/book-launch-with-nz-author-barbara-carr/whangarei

February writer news from Te Tai Tokerau Northland.

Northland creative writing news this month:

  • Did you know we have a children’s book publisher in Bay of Islands? Giltedge Publishing relocated to Kerikeri from Wellington a couple of years ago. Check out their fascinating publications for the likes of National Geographic. (https://www.giltedgepublishing.co.nz/ )

Don’t forget, the closing date for submissions to Pavlova Press’s pavlova anthology has been extended until 31 March 2021. All details are here: https://pavlovapress.co.nz/call-for-submissions/

Best of Three – new short story – by Michael Botur

‘First you tell me I’m the leastest favourite, then you call me a cheater. I’ve had a gutsful. I’m walking.’

Best of Three

New short story

Michael Botur

*

We locate the room with lights hanging low over green rectangliar ponds. The tables.

Time to kick Pop’s arse at pool.

‘Don’t need one of those cheap ones,’ Pop grumbles as I select a cue from the wall for him. First criticism of the night. There’ll be a hundred other disses, slights and slams at the The Papanui Club tonight. Cheers, Pop.  

He lifts his black plastic cue case onto our table, opens the lid. Damn cue looks nearly new. ‘Maple,’ he goes, ‘Genuine maple, unlike that fake rubbish you’re holding. Ere: forty bucks. Get us a couple pints. Make yourself useful. Keep the change, I know you need it.’

I put down my crappy cue, take a couple steps across the carpet and pause. ‘I can pay for my own beer, Pop, Jesus.’

‘Thought you had debt collectors on your case. Don’t you have to repay WINZ?’

I throw up my hands. Some things in life are true, but you don’t say ‘em to a man’s face. I stomp over to the bar, slap two of the old man’s stupid insulting twenties on the bartop, bring back the beers. Pop says ‘Much obliged,’ ’cause he thinks it’s clever to go through life never saying Thanks. He shoots a cracker of a shot, smiles with half of his face and does a cocky wink as a solid ball and a stripe each go down a pocket.

Pop rests with one hand in the pocket of his wool overcoat, as in Hurry up, Junior. Me and Pop usually do our weekly catch-up over at the Hornby Club if I’m not locked up or in detox or whatever, cept the Hornby Club’s shut for renos this month. Everyone there is used to how fussy Pop is now that he’s retired, with his combed platinum hairpiece and scarf and shiny brown shoes and how he’s the only man that drinks Guinness. Today, over-dressed and over-anal for this place, he’s getting a few queer looks from the only other people in here at 2pm on a weekday, these old hunters with epic bellies.

Pop places his gloved fingers on the felt, lining up the yellow and potting it. He then sinks his maroon ball, his red, his blue, his orange.

‘Didn’t realise you were participating, sorry,’ he goes, blowing the tip of his cue like it’s a gun barrel. ‘Table’s all yours.’

I’ve had a toot on the ole pipe this morning so I’m a bit jittery and I’ve chosen a cue that’s bent, so I’m lucky to knock my orange ball down, though it jars over the hole and my cue ball rolls to a place where I don’t want it to be, stuck behind Pop’s black.

Least I get another shot.

‘I’ll have to use the spider to get over,’ I tell the old bastard.

I manage to make my cue ball pop over the black and I’ve nudged one of my balls successfully into a side pocket and I’m already putting the spider rest back under the table when Pop manages to get hold of some words.

‘FOUL FOR YOU, LAD. There has to be consequences, when you stuff up.’

Pop’s barging me out of where I’m standing. I let him have my spot. Cloud of cologne.

He takes a shot.

It’s a miss.

‘There’s rules against putting a man off when he’s trying to take his shot, boy. You’ll pay for this.’

‘Try cheering up once in your life, Pop, you ain’t got many years left. I done this empathy course in jail, right, and you know what they teached us? They teached us there’s no point being unhappy. Waste of your life, yo. It’s half the reason Mum killed herself.’

I’ve let the Guinness and crack get the better of me. Shouldn’t’ve mentioned Mum.

Unhappy?! I’m trouncing you! Do I seem unhappy?’ Pop necks his beer, presses his purple nose into my face, takes a fifty from his leather wallet and forces it into my fingers. ‘Listen pal, my daughter – your bleeding sister – works for the Red flipping Crescent, she speaks fluent Arabic and she talks to the United Nations High Commissioner on a daily basis. That make a father unhappy? Eh? Meanwhile here’s Timmo, your younger brother running Shoefinder Dot Com in London! If having two successful children is unhappy, then call me unhappy.’

Pop turns his pink face away, bracing himself on the table, staring down at his balls. I can see his back and shoulders billowing. His breathing takes a while to return to normal.

After staring at the fifty dollar note for ages, wishing I had the guts to drop it, I go and fetch the beers.

I guzzle half my Guinness, lean over the table real casual then sink my blue. The red and yellow go in next, though I wasn’t really aiming for them. I miss and it’s Pop’s turn so I go have another sip of my beer, then another couple sips, then reply to some texts and by the time I look up, Pop’s caught up and he’s onto the black.

He misses, smacking one of my balls accidentally. He stands there, not blinking, wondering how he fucked up.

‘Sall good, Pop, take the shot again.’

‘Decent people don’t bend the rules.’

‘Who even cares? No one knows but us.’

He forces me to shoot. I send the white ball rolling and it settles gently behind the black. Pops smirks.

Second game, I hit the red hard enough to knock her off the table.

I’m immune to the snorts of the fat-bellied old punters in camo gear as I reach under their legs to fetch the ball, my face inches from their crotches. I’m three beers deep and my head bobs like a dinghy.  

‘You still have a shot,’ Pop goes, examining his gold watch. ‘Time for a few more flukes. Set em up for you, I did. Enjoy the fruits of my labour.’

I bend over the table, line up a great shot, but I can feel Pop’s eyes drilling into my back. Hard to concentrate. Pop was principal of Shirley Boys High School before retirement dumped him on his arse. He personally coached a few sports teams, yelling criticisms at the kids before he’d come home and chew the shit out of my brother, my big sis, and especially me.

Mum copped it too, hard out.

I take a deep breath, close my eyes, whack the ball with the stick. When I open them, the purple isn’t on the table.

‘Typical,’ Pop snorts, studying some harness racing on TV. ‘Let me know when your luck runs out.’

I sink another, actually, and another, and we get down to the black, the two of us chasing it around the table. I guess the effect of the beers and smoke cancels out the wonky cue which is why I’m so accurate. Finally I get the black down after three attempts.

‘Best of three?’

‘Pardon?’

‘Like, d’you wanna play a third game to decide who’s the real winner? We only just got here. May as well.’

Pop checks his watch, tilting it so it can be “accidentally” noticed by the cackling old fat boys in their hunting boots.

‘I suppose I can make time.’

*

Pop breaks and manages to sink one of each colour. He shakes his head like he’s disgusted. He plays the game mostly sinking two in a row, which is real decent, cept his insistence on playing fouls has him getting mad at the table.

‘You rigged this godforsaken thing,’ he goes after I sink three in a row. His fingers fondle the table, looking for traps or magnets. His eyes are red now and the beer’s made him knackered.

‘I won, man, fair and square.’

‘Correction: losing due to another man’s foul isn’t the same as winning.’

Pop demands to swap cues. I give him the shitty cue and take his heavy maple stick. While he’s distracted by the boxing on the TV screen, I nail all my final balls, scull my beer and sink the black, a perfect shot with the white ball slowing down just on the lip of the hole.

Pop glares. ‘This cue is rigged.’ He yanks the stick out of my hand and shoves my old wobbly cue back in my arms.

‘So you wanna play on? Cause if you do, it’d have to be best of five, y’know, with the maths and whatnot.’

Pop is too red-faced to even listen, fuming and wincing like his chest is full of needles. He says some crap about the table being tilted, and if not that then the cue ball is weighted. He swaps the white with a ball from another table, racks up the colours, orders me to break them while he watches through a microscope.

Cause I’ve gotten back Mr Reliable Dodgy Cue, I’m feeling warm and I’m winning and I’m loving the boxing on the TV.

Pop agonises over this one shot. The cue is supposed to knock the orange into the yellow to bump the purple into a side pocket. It’s beautiful, with both the yellow and the purple going in, and Pop takes the game leaving me with four balls still on the table.

Problem is, I take the next game. In total I’ve won three against his two.

‘Awesome playing with ya.’ I check the time on his watch. ‘I’m late for a piss test. Gotta buy wee-wee off this dude. Laters.’

Pop is glaring at something out the window in the carpark. He’s choking his cue.

I’ve taken four big steps when I hear him beg.

‘Best of seven, then.’

*

Pop completely owns the sixth game, playing aggro, road-ragey, muttering to himself, telling me to stay clear, breathing so heavy over the table I see a couple drops of drool leak out, like his body’s warmed up, face flushed pink, but it’s like his skin’s starting to hurt and he takes his coat off and hangs it up.

By the time I’m racking up the balls for the seventh game, I’ve lost count of how many beers I’ve had. I’m more concerned about the effect on Pop, cause there’s dried white foam around his lips and he clutches the leaner posts like he’s on a ferry, swaying.

Whatever, pop. I’m not playing that well since I had a quick toot on my pipe in the handicapped toilet. He’s owning Game 7 for a while, fair and square, til he completely fumbles an easy shot on the eight cause he’s not pinching his cue properly. I take advantage, sinking four outstanding balls. Confident, precise shots. I’m relaxed from my smoke. Meanwhile the old man inspects his numb fingers like he’s had a bee sting.

I’m about to take Game 7 and I strike a massive shot from the far opposite corner. It whams the ball into the hole but the white hops up onto the edge of the table, does a little dance and rolls off.

Pop picks it up, shaking his head like I’ve just dropped a Fabergé egg.

‘A loss is a loss, I’m afraid. And a win is a win.’

‘Hang on one tick: you explicitly said that stuffing up a shot when you’re ahead isn’t the same as the other person beating you.’

‘I said no such thing.’

‘YOU DID.’

‘Heavens to Murgatroyd, your brother and sister don’t yell like this.’

‘TIMMO AND JASMINE RECKON THEY’RE TOO COOL TO HANG OUT WITH THEIR DAD, DUMBARSE. Know who’s got nothing better to do than be your buddy? ME.’ The hunters take their eyes off the trots and watch us, grinning. ‘THE HELL YOU LOOKIN AT?’ I bark at the fatbellies. ‘WANT A TUB OF POPCORN WHILE YOU WATCH?’

I slam a twenty on the bar, buy our sixth beers and we repeat the cycle.  

We’ve finished Game 7 and Pop’s got four wins against my three. If he takes the next one, he’ll have five wins out of eight. Victory to him.

I need to double down.

The old man’s trying to rack the balls one-handed, bitching about his arm being numb and tingly. I give him some of his own medicine, bumping him aside, racking the balls perfectly, snatching my cue, doing a break so crisp that it sends two balls of each colour into pockets. Bugger me. I’ve never seen four balls go down off a break.

‘There ya go,’ I tell Pop, pushing his cue into his cold clammy palms, ‘Set you up to win.’

Except Pop doesn’t win. It’s that gammy hand of his, he’s carrying his left arm in an invisible sling. I beat him by a margin of three balls. Pop pretends he hasn’t even noticed, hunched over his cellphone. ‘Ere – he’s done it again, he has! That brother of yours: shortlisted for the London Business Awards. I get Google News on the old telling-bone, I do.’

I ignore him and we concentrate on our game for ten silent minutes.

I lead by one ball; Pop follows but never catches up.

The eighth game is mine.  

I have to blink a couple times til I believe it.

‘That’s four each. Still wanna play the final?’

‘I do.’

‘Like a literal, no-goin-back all-time decider?

‘I believe I’ve responded.’

‘Pop, I’m serious, man. If I win this, you gotta shut up about how one dude losing isn’t the same as the other winning, alright, cause I know you’re tryina say that’s me, like I’m the loser out of the three kids and WHOA WHOA, UB UB UB UB UB, shutcha mouth, before you try say it’s just that Timmo and Jasmine are winners: I know what you’re sayin. Okay? So just… .’

Pop is racking the balls, but real slow. He seems worn out.   

There’s fifteen balls that go in a pool triangle. To rack em truly perfect, Pop puts the One at the very top, then the Two beside the Three. He sets them up so the stripes and solids alternate, with the black eight ball in the heart of the triangle. He tries to put it in position and almost can’t, what with his left arm failing on him.  

The bar lady dings a little bell, calls last orders. The entire pool hall is black now apart from a circle of yolk-coloured light around our table.

This is it. Final game. The decider. Ninth of nine.

Pop is on smalls, solids, lows. Whatever you want to call them, they’re going down well, considering his fingers are sweaty and Pop is dizzy and he’s resting his top half on the table.

The camouflage hunters have given up pretending to watch the horses. Now they’re concentrating on our game. Light in the blackness. One of them winks at me. His mate winks at Pop.  

Pop begins the end. He puts down numbers 5 and 7 pretty quick, then it takes him ages to sink another. I’m being a bit wankery, nudging some of mine in front of his, tactical manoeuvres to stress him out. I’m sinking as I do, though, and most of my seven are down pretty quick, leaving me dealing with a table that’s like a minefield. If I don’t wanna get penalised for fouls, I need to get around the enemy balls without scraping them.

The camos get tired and waddle out of the bar and get into their trucks. Bon Jovi is singing one minute, next it’s silence.

The pool hall is by now empty. A caretaker is hunched over a vacuum cleaner, scraping the carpet. What time is it – closing time? Jesus.

With one ball to sink and five in my way, I’m forced to do a jump shot. The old man clutches his face like he’s just seen me step on wet cement. He’s pretending to puke and threatening to call the barmaid when my ball rolls to the edge of the hole, slows to a standstill, then plops silently into its slot. Pops gets down on his knees and crawls under the table, one hand holding his hairpiece.

‘Pops, man. What the… ?’

I hear a thin, strained voice. ‘You think you’ve…. Think you’ve… fooled… fooled me.’ His voice has had all the bass taken out of it and he breathes hard on either side of it.

I get down on the ground with him, crawl under the table, embarrassed as hell. There are old stiff French fries down here, a paper napkin, a historic drinking straw… and my old man. He’s rolled onto his back. Clutching his chest like a curled-up cockroach.

‘Pops, man, first you tell me I’m the leastest favourite, then you call me a cheater. I’ve had a gutsful. I’m walking.’

I crawl out. Brush the cob webs off my knees. Grab my jacket and my smokes.

Pops isn’t calling after me.

Okay, old man. Act silent, then.

I step over big chunks of the carpet. I’m almost out the door, I’m squeezing the pipe in my pocket, I’m getting near to the parking lot, there’s a bus station beyond, except it feels like I’m stepping through quicksand, time’s slowing down and my legs turn around before my brain does.

It’s pretty obvious the old man’s having a heart attack back there, and he’ll need me to hold his hand in the back of the ambo, cause I’m the only sucker that’ll stick around to see who’s the best of three.

Check out Audible narrator Ian A. Miller of Northland, who has recorded over 100 audiobooks

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a professional narrator on the world’s largest audiobooks platform? Ask Northland writer and performer Ian A. Miller.

The Northland resident has narrated over 100 audiobooks from a range of countries. Click on the samples – you’ve gotta love that voice.

Here is an impressive list of his work:

Want to get hold of Ian or listen to samples of his work? Click through.

https://www.starnow.co.nz/ianamiller

  • Professional narrator.
  • Ex radio newsreader, freelance voice over
  • Film, tv and online narrations
  • Skilled in script interpretation
  • Mid Atlantic English delivery
  • Specializing in Audiobooks, corporate video and strategic commercial media.