Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

29 December 2013

Golf. The Musical. How It Was Written

He'd thought about it for many months, discussed it with wife and friends, solicited opinion, elicited comment. Mind churn had been unrelenting.

The idea had now almost crystalized - almost; certainly sufficiently for him to put pen to paper or, more accurately, keyboard to screen. This long process of idea development and realization was not unfamiliar to him, he being a successful, experienced dramatist. Its gestation was at last a nascence. Now the work could take shape. He hoped.

He flexed his fingers and typed the ice-breaking words on to the screen in Word.doc:

The Musical.

He set the font and size: Garamond 14pt. Appropriate. Dignified.

He sat back and smiled. There it was. Now for a cup of coffee.

He processed the beans in the grinder, plugged in the electric kettle, tipped the grounds into the cafetière and waited, contemplating the opening scene of the musical - it wasn't quite there yet. Having plunged the piston into the coffee solution and poured a mugful of the Kenyan brew, he was keen to return to the computer.

His immediate impression of what he had left on the screen was that it appeared too bland.

He wiped over 'Golf', changed its typeface to Ariel Black, increased its size to 18 pt. and studied the result:

The Musical.

All right, but it needed colour, and that full stop was unnecessary:

The Musical

Much better.

Then immediately, another thought. His name:

The Musical
Huntly Rodgers

The telephone rang. It was Jerome Lee to remind him that they had a lunch date in an hour. 'Bugger'. He put the iMac to sleep and went to change into something a little more formal.

Lee was florid, corpulent and gave off an odour of stale after-shave. He tended to grunt. His table manners were porcine. He was gluttonous and his manner waspish. But to his confreres - all literati to a greater or lesser degree - none of his shortcomings outweighed his capacity to entertain.

'You still fiddling with that sod's opera?' He asked.

'"Golf"? Yes. Getting somewhere, I think.'

'Bloody silly subject for a musical. Who's going to go to a performance?'

'You might have said the same thing about "Chess". It was a triumph.'

'Hmmm.' Lee poked at a tooth gap with his little finger. 'Sex in it?'

'Don't know yet. I've toyed with the idea of two screwing in a bunker but the thought of sand under a foreskin is a bit off-putting. It would certainly put you off your putting!'

'Make him a Jew.'

'There's a thought.'

The rest of lunch disposed of too much food and surely too much wine. They consumed two bottles of a chewy Pinot Noir, Lee gulping at least two thirds as a dying man at an oasis. Unaccustomed to heavy eating in the middle of the day Rodgers felt uncomfortably replete and slightly fuzzy and after having seen Lee into a taxi following his seemingly never-ending series of dismissive snorts and bright ideas all to do with golf, Rodgers was pleased to see the back of him as he walked slowly along the street towards his apartment building.

The first thing he noticed was the flashing red light on the telephone. He pressed the messages button. It was Nancy, his wife, who was staying with her mother by the sea. 'Hi it's me.' It said tinnily, 'Nothing of import. Just wanted to know how the work's going. No need to reply. I know you of old. Love you. Bye.' beep, beep beep.

Good old Nan. Always knew when to stay away. Once the musical started to write itself he'd get her home again. He fired up the iMac.

The screen came up as he'd left it:

The Musical
Huntly Rodgers

Lunch had made him sleepy. He went to the bedroom and laid down.

Waking at six thirty in the evening his mouth felt dry and metallic. He pressed the mouse on the way to fixing a gin and tonic. The title was still there. Something not quite right. He'd think about it. He sipped the refreshing drink and thought about it. The title page felt like a roadblock. Until he'd got it just so he didn't think he'd be able to proceed to scene one which, in any case, was inchoate to say the least. The trouble with Macintoshes and Word.com was that they turned you into a typographical obsessive. Perhaps he'd have made a better designer than playwright; he just loved all of those font options!

His tummy rumbled, so being naturally lazy he went to the MacDonalds about ten minutes walk away, had a quarter pounder with cheese and a paper cup-thingy of chips before walking back home swearing that he'd never go to a take-away again.

He was plagued all night with salt and saturated fat indigestion coupled with vivid scenes of golf played both on stage and on the links. He did nothing about either discomfort, being between sleeping and waking, until he finally dropped off completely. Too soon a pesky shaft of sunlight stabbed at his eyes through a crack in the curtain. It was nine-thirty in the morning.

Something had happened in his sub-conscious. He booted up the computer and stared at the isolated title on the screen. He ran down the list of available fonts and selected Braggadocio:

The Musical
Huntly Rodgers

Then he enlarged the sub-title and opened up some interlinear space:

The Musical


Huntly Rodgers

And finally put his name in capital letters in the sans serif Gill typeface that he'd always admired:

The Musical


Huntly Rodgers

Then, with an insightful flourish, he searched the Internet for a neat little illustration that would give it life:

The Musical


Huntly Rodgers

That was it! He sat back and studied the title page thoroughly. Then he went to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee which he brought back to the study. He poured a cup of the thick, hot, black brew, spooned in four sugars, sipped contentedly, pressed the command 'insert page break', and started to type:

Scene: A crowded club house. Twelve women in tweed skirts, twin sets and pearls and brogue shoes. Ten men in blue double-breasted blazers, white flannels and black loafers. They stand expectantly, silently, either side of a door up-stage. Through the door come two more men dressed as the other males in the chorus. Sitting on their shoulders is the hero, Dick Killinger, who raises both arms and cries out 'I did it! A hole-in-one on the fourth. Shout the clubhouse.' There is a cheer as the chorus crowd round him. The orchestra strikes up...'

The telephone rang. Rodgers ignored it. The text signal played 'Greensleeves' on his iPhone. He ignored it. The apartment doorbell buzzed. 'Bugger!' he yelled, then louder and louder 'Bugger, bugger, bugger!'

He reached over and unplugged the iMac.


28 December 2013

Mahinapua Hotel, Westland, New Zealand

This hotel has been a popular stop off for backpackers from all over the world. Reports in the newspapers in December 2013 suggest that they might not be coming in future because the tourist buses that bring them won't be stopping here. Shame.

The illustration above appeared in my book 'The Good Old Kiwi Pub'. I can offer prints of it for $NZ95.00 including p and p in New Zealand. They're the same size (and almost indistingishable from) the original at 29cm x 50cm (12" x 20"). That mad sky is not unusual on the West Coast!

Please contact me at donovan@ihug.co.nz or +64 09 4159 701.

© DON DONOVAN. donovan@ihug.co.nz 
www. don-donovan.blogspot.co.nz and www.printsbydondonovan.blogspot.co.nz

23 December 2013

2025: Ironic Thoughts of a Visionary

The year is 2025. New Zealand has had a president for five years, the Green-Labour Government having declared a republic without referendum in 2020. There had been little opposition, the coalition having continuously held power with increasing confidence to the point where it governed with a significant majority. The murmured accusations of election tinkering and gerrymandering that had characterized what the long-serving prime minister had sneeringly labeled ‘the disaffected whingers of the wet right’ (i.e. National, Conservative and Maori) had largely died out by 2017. The opposition only had itself to blame having had no distinctive beneficial policies to offer a public who turned out in fewer and fewer numbers on election days, those who did opting for the devil they knew.

Some semblance of parliamentary democracy had staggered on until early 2019 when, on an otherwise pleasant autumn morning, New Zealanders awoke to hear, on state-controlled radio and television, that the country would henceforth be run by presidential decree (the president having been installed unelected after some years as Secretary-General of the United Nations). Green-Labour members of parliament were now transformed into ‘electorate satraps’ in order to administer and minutely control small districts known as ‘gaus’ - a word borrowed from the German. Many prescient opposition notables had earlier left the country for a long divergent Australia preferring its condition as an American client state to that of isolation and totalitarianism. Those remaining had been given the option of either following the presidential line or of expulsion from the Parliament on the grounds of membership of illegal political parties.

The public of New Zealand reacted with customary apathy to the slow but remorseless impact of the state upon its liberties. Since the assassination of John Key and, from the resulting vacuum, a panicked change of political weightings, state agencies increasingly took over responsibility for the nurturing and schooling of children from mothers (particularly) and fathers (who were, in any case, considered of little account in the stewardship of their whanau). Now, male teachers are no longer permitted to work in girls’ or mixed sex schools (and most certainly not in kindergartens or crèches) and within the foreseeable future they will, as single gender schools are phased out, become completely redundant. (This policy was forced upon the republic ever since it was decreed that any male suspected or even accused by any citizen of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ towards minors, whether or not charged and found guilty in a court of law, would be named and shamed in a monthly ‘no-smoke-without-fire’ gazette emanating from The Presidential Palace, formerly Government House).

Not surprisingly, with advances in human genetic engineering technology, there has been much talk of reducing the male population by selected abortion of male foetuses its biological function being replaced by sperm banks topped up by authorized donors drawn from state run sports academies.

The latest manifestation of presidential power has been the shut down of all media that are not licensed by the republic. This follows an analysis of biased and ‘anti-society’ news items from the last ten years which have openly investigated or criticized such things as:-

1. The extent to which the activities of the security intelligence services should be made ‘transparent’.

2. The issuing of ration cards bearing coupons exchangeable for limited amounts of butter, full cream milk, high fat cheeses, sugar, sugar-based soft drinks, sweet biscuits, confectionery and other items considered inimical to the health of people whom their doctors consider to be obese or genetically at risk of diabetes. (The medical profession, compensated by special payments, has accepted this mandatory obligation in the same way as it complies with notifiable diseases regimes).

3. The removal of all religious symbols from public buildings: crosses and holy statues from churches, Stars of David from synagogues, crescents from mosques etc.

4. The wisdom of replacing the ageing RNZAF Lockheed fleet with Korean transports financed by a twenty year loan at 15%.

5. The extent to which genetically engineered analgaesic cannabis is being permitted to grow in Northland under the aegis of a consortium of South East Asian drug companies.

6. Speculation as to the degree to which the public will, over time, accept a general loss of freedom for the sake of good order.

A mobile pirate radio station has operated from the day that total presidential rule was announced. So far it has eluded prosecution but one of its satellites is believed to have been operating somewhere in the Fiordland region. State radio has acknowledged its existence and has reported the frustration of the police at not having pinned it down. (It is known that a cordon was recently thrown around Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s public lavatory at Kawakawa but nothing was flushed out).

Law and order have been much affected by new ‘cause and effect’ statutes. These hold that in order for an offence to be committed, the offender will have been put in the position of perpetration by the ‘victim’. Thus it is that many burglars are not only being set free but also compensated by culpable householders who have left doors and windows unsecured and who own possessions that invite their theft. These laws do not, however, extend to government agencies such as the Childrens, Young Persons, Families, Friends and Neighbours Service (CYPFFNS) who continue, as they have for years, to place children removed from dysfunctional families in the care of known paedophiles, rapists and de-frocked bishops.

The old and much abused 111 emergency call system was replaced some time ago by an 0900 111 code designed to produce revenue for the NZ Police Regiment. Calls are duplicated to local taxi service centres as the NZPR no longer despatches cars to incidents.

Other happenings in 2025 have been:-

The America’s Cup challenge was sailed in Yupanyang Bay south of Shanghai. While New Zealand did not put up a contender all of the competing boats, including those of the four Chinese syndicates were designed and skippered by expatriate New Zealanders. The ‘Auld Mug’ now resides in the Shanghai Yacht Club and our president has sent a signed picture of herself to the commodore.

The All Blacks, still resisting a change of name to something less politically insensitive, were eliminated from the first round of the Rugby World Cup having been beaten by Patagonia, Easter Island and Zimbabwe. Excuses for their defeat range from the uselessness of the coach who, it is said, spent far too much time giving world media conferences and in any case should get her hair cut, to the fact that the Watchdog Institute for the Management of Public Safety (WIMPS) which, with greatly increased powers, replaced OSH in 2021, ruled that rugby players may not tackle others to the ground, and must wear body armour and orange steel helmets while on the field.

The old Embassy Theatre in Wellington has received a presidential grant of twelve million dollars for re-refurbishment in order to premier ‘Lord of the Rings Come Home’, this block-buster production following the money spinners ‘Lord of the Rings Trilogy’, ‘Heigh Ho the Hobbits’ and ‘The Life and Times of Peter Jackson’.

The new national flag has been unveiled which depicts a kiwi couchant on a field of silver ferns bordered by the spiral device of the Disunited Tribes of Aotearoa. Meanwhile the president has assured Maoridom that pending foreshore and seabed retrospective disallowance legislation will satisfy everybody that matters and that the ten-year protest occupations of the ancient beach at Oriental Bay, and Fergusson Wharf are no longer necessary.

On the international front, the New Zealand dollar is now worth two US dollars and three Euros and the country is in the unique position of having bought everything and sold nothing. The US President, Ms. Chelsea Clinton, has assured our president that while we’re still not allies we’re ‘very, very, very good friends...’ to which our president has replied, ‘nya, nya ni nya nya.’


© DON DONOVAN. donovan@ihug.co.nz 
www. don-donovan.blogspot.co.nz or donovan0001.blogspot.co.nz

21 December 2013

Photoprint for Sale: Waimate North Mission House 1831-2, Northland, New Zealand

This is an original photoprint from my personal collection

Size of image is 30cm x 46cm (12" x 18").

Price is $NZ 50.00 inc. urban p. and p. in NZ.

Please contact me at donovan@ihug.co.nz or 09 4159 701.

© DON DONOVAN. donovan@ihug.co.nz 
www. don-donovan.blogspot.co.nz

09 December 2013

Christmas 2013. Southern Hemisphere

© DON DONOVAN. donovan@ihug.co.nz 
www. don-donovan.blogspot.co.nz or donovan0001.blogspot.co.nz

07 December 2013

Francis Bacon does Lucian Freud

The Spectator invited readers to write a poem supposedly from any famous painter to accompany any of his works. I wrote this one. It didn't get anywhere with the Speccie but I still think it says what I feel.

I can't stand the paintings of Francis Bacon and cannot imagine anybody hanging one on a wall. He did a triptych of Lucian Freud (whose paintings are masterly) which sold at auction a week or two ago for $US142 million!

Freud Bacon

I did of old Lucian a triptych

All streaky, distorted and cryptic.

The usual stuff,

Calling Everyone's bluff.

(Must be good if it's so futuristic).

One hundred and forty-two million!

Bought by Rusky? a Yank? or Brazilian?

It's grotesque and distorted,

The buyer's been rorted

By something that's Mephistophelian.

The Emperor's Clothes doesn't rank

With my prank that's been bought by a crank.

My only regret

Is that I didn't get

To take all that bread to my bank!

© DON DONOVAN. donovan@ihug.co.nz 
www. don-donovan.blogspot.co.nz or donovan0001.blogspot.co.nz


04 December 2013

Photoprint for Sale: Yellow Volkswagen Beetle At Beach With Palm Tree, Port Douglas, Australia

This is an original photoprint from my personal collection

Size of image is 30cm x 46cm (12" x 18").

Price is $NZ 50.00 inc. urban p. and p. in NZ.

Please contact me at donovan@ihug.co.nz or 09 4159 701.

© DON DONOVAN. donovan@ihug.co.nz 
www. don-donovan.blogspot.co.nz

28 November 2013

Sandalwood. A Short Story

The Diamond Wing lounge was almost empty as Perry Durham sank into one of its soft, enveloping armchairs. He looked about him. He could be anywhere in the world, these waiting rooms all had an international look. There were the magazine racks with the latest issues of Time, National Geographic, the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and various glossy inconsequentialities that always seemed to carry the same advertisements for Swiss watches and high end cars - BMW, Audi, Lexus, Range Rover. There were the same potted palms, the computer stations, the tea, coffee and snacks buffets and a small bar, seductively lighted, that would politely offer complimentary drinks to the premium traveller.

Perry guessed that, as with some worldwide hotel chains, the familiarity of the lounge's appointments gave comfort to the frequent traveler - never far from home however far that might be.

He went to the coffee maker, poured a slightly stewed brew and returned, nodding to an elderly banker? lawyer? arms dealer? who acknowledged him fleetingly over half-moon spectacles.

Perry checked his watch. Two and a half hours until his connecting flight. He started to read Time magazine. The world was as it always was and always would be. God - at thirty he was becoming the world's great cynic!

She arrived with energy and almost fell into the armchair alongside his, her shoulder bag going to one side, a topcoat to the other. 'What a mad rush' she laughed, 'and now an hour to wait.'

Perry smiled at her. 'Going far?'

'Paris. Almost a regular trip. UNESCO. You?

'London but I have a longer wait than you'.

They lapsed into silence almost as abruptly as she had arrived. He returned to Time while she fished a paperback from her bag, pulled out its bookmark and settled to read. 

Paul looked at her covertly, having read the same paragraph several times without absorption. She was an attractive woman indeed. He judged her to be somewhat older than he; perhaps in her early forties, with a clear, almost unblemished, face adorned with small laughter lines radiating from the outside corners of her eyes. She had a full, generous mouth and bouncy blonde hair. Dressed in a tailored suit of navy blue, her only adornments appeared to be a tiny, Longines gold watch and a single rope of small pearls about a neck that was not greatly lined.

She caught his eye and smiled. She reminded him of somebody from his distant past and the atmosphere around her, as an invisible aura, reinforced the impression. He could just capture a hint of what he had come to know as sandalwood, it was a perfume that had long struck with him and the memory she had evoked took him back to when he had first been aware of it. Then, he had been a boy of eight years and could not have put a name to it but once or twice over the years the scent had been on the air and he had been able to identify it through a friend in the perfume business.

Now, here it was again with this intriguing woman.

'I've caught you in a reverie'. She smiled, one eyebrow lifting as a question.

'Was it that obvious?' He replied, 'You've sent me back a year or two.'

Then, with that intimacy of strangers who do not expect to meet again, he opened his mind to her.

'Something in you has taken me back to my school years. I was eight, away from home, lonely but madly in love...'

'In love? At eight.' She chuckled, 'The little girl in the next row, I suppose.'

'No. With Miss Kingcombe. She was my teacher. I adored her. I would do anything for her.'

'How long ago? What was she like? Can you remember her?'

'I am thirty now. Twenty-two years ago. I can't remember much from then but some little things stay in the mind for ever and I think she had quite an effect on me. I've no idea how old she was. To a small boy all adults are grown-ups, but I have a feeling that she might have been perhaps eighteen or twenty because I do recall that I had heard her referred to as a student teacher. She was tall - well seemed so - and willowy; I have an impression of her hair drawn back into a practical bun, I can't see her clothes but, oddly, I remember that she wore sandals and that her legs were suntanned with fine, blonde hairs and she had long, straight toes, the big ones turned up as if they were being jolly.'   

He grinned almost sheepishly at her, 'That must sound awfully silly!'

They were interrupted by the barman standing over them. 'Hello again, madam' he addressed the woman, 'Can I get you something?'

'Yes, thank you, I'll have...'

'...don't tell me; your usual chablis? And you sir?'

'Well I'll have the chablis too, thank you.'

As the barman walked away Parry remarked, 'You are a regular, aren't you. How long have you been doing this journey?'

'It seems many years, but not really. I just think he fancies me a bit.' She laughed, 'I don't discourage him. Get well looked after that way. But,' and at that she leaned across to Perry and tapped his arm, 'I'm enjoying hearing about you. Tell me more about Miss - what was her name?'

'Kingcombe. Oh how I loved that woman, I wonder where she is today? I remember that she used to tell us all sorts of things that weren't about writing or sums. And she used to do wonderful colourful crayon drawings of the things she told us. For instance, have you head of a shadoof?'

'Well, it's something Egyptian...'

'Yes, ancient Egypt; and the word has stuck in my mind all these years because Miss Kingcombe told us about how the Egyptian farmers used to irrigate their land by using a bucket - a shadoof - on a pivoted pole to raise water from wells and pour it into drain channels. She drew the farmer using a shadoof and I can almost recall every detail of that drawing that hung on the classroom wall.

'I wanted so much to please her that I got two simple books from the school library, one about ants, the other bees, and I read them - devoured them - so that I could tell her what I had learned. You see, she used to have a session when she would ask the children what they had been reading and I, of course couldn't wait to put my hand up. "Ants, miss; and bees". Well now Perry, Miss Kingcombe had said, why don't you come to the front and tell us all about your discoveries?'
'Were you nervous?'

'No', said Parry, 'I was ecstatic. I stood up there on two occasions at least and told my classmates all that I had learned; the first time about bees, the drones, workers, queens; the hives; the nectar collection and the honeycombed nests. And then, on another day, of how ants, like the bees, were colony creatures, helping each other and so on and so on.'

'What do you think Miss Kingcombe thought of you, then?

'I don't really know from this distance. Perhaps she thought I was a precocious little prig. I don't know. But she filled what could have been a lonely life, she was with me at the time, and in anticipation, and in recollection.'

The chablis was cold, dry and flinty and he watched as she ran her carefully manicured finger down the frosting on the glass to send rivulets to its base. 

She look at Perry. 'And I remind you of her. How so?'

'I haven't worked that out yet. But there's a trigger there somewhere.'

'What happened to her?'

'I've no idea. At some stage I was taken from the school and restored to my parents. In fact I've no idea why I had been separated from them. Never asked. Never questioned happenings. I guess she grew older - well that's rather obvious - probably qualified and found another sea of faces to confront'

He sank into reverie again.

When he emerged he took a sip of the chablis, and said, 'Here's something interesting: I even drew a map of the world for Miss Kingcombe. I didn't copy it, I drew it from memory knowing that South America and Africa were sort of the same shape and separated by the Atlantic ocean and that Australia and the little islands of New Zealand were tucked away in the bottom right hand corner and that great lump of Europe and Asia dominated everything. I coloured it in. I gave it to her and I remember she smiled at me and thanked my very much for it and put it very carefully into the music case that she used to carry'.

The woman sat back in her armchair and crossed her legs. She looked at the watch. 'Not long now.' she said. 'Thank you for telling me your story. It's made the time go so quickly. I might just have a smoked salmon sandwich before I go, can I get you something?'

'On one condition.' he replied. 'That I get to hear your life story, too.'

'Wait.' She walked across to the buffet table and as she passed he caught that evanescent perfume again. Odd how evocative a scent could be.

As they settled to eat she started to tell him about herself but had gone no more that a few words when the PA announced 'Singapore Airlines wishes to announce that the Paris bound flight...'

'That's me.' She cried and gathering her shoulder bag and topcoat, stowing her book and retrieving her passport and boarding tickets made to leave. She pushed her hand into his, 'Sorry, you'll have to hear about me another time.' she said. 'Must go'.

Perry stood as she moved quickly to the door of the lounge. 'Go safely.' He waved and then frowned as that fleeting scent was carried on the air.

She stopped at the door and looked back. 'By the way, Perry Durham' she called, 'you left the whole of India off that map'.

And she was gone.

Perry frowned again and then, as the significance of her throwaway line dawned upon him he breathed, 'Of course. Miss Kingcombe. Sandalwood.'


© DON DONOVAN. donovan@ihug.co.nz 
www. don-donovan.blogspot.co.nz or donovan0001.blogspot.co.nz

27 November 2013

Photoprint for Sale: Pelican, Lake Barrine, Queensland, Australia

This is an original photoprint from my personal collection

Size of image is 30cm x 46cm (12" x 18").

Price is $NZ 50.00 inc. urban p. and p. in NZ.

Please contact me at donovan@ihug.co.nz or 09 4159 701.

© DON DONOVAN. donovan@ihug.co.nz 
www. don-donovan.blogspot.co.nz

26 November 2013

Restaurant Violence (Newspaper Headline)

Pinkus shuffled head down along the shabby street, his unmatched shoes - one of whose uppers had parted with its sole exposing a row of rusty shark’s teeth - kicking aside discarded cigarette packets and butts and candy-striped cardboard tubs once loaded with greasy chicken legs. Autumn leaves swirled around the cracked flags of the uneven pavement and littered, like flotsam in a harbourside eddy, the precincts of over-shop apartments whose doors rarely stood open in daytime.

He paid no attention to the shoppers and business people who, opposing his progress until confronted by him, parted like impatient waters around a slow moving sludge dredger butting upstream on an unswerving course. To Pinkus it made no difference whether the world around his was populated with scarecrows or fashion plates, men or women; he had no eye for a pretty shape, his libido had died years ago washed away by cheap sherry and methylated spirits hidden in their bottles in brown paper bags visited furtively in public parks erected by idealistic councillors for the public good only to be inhabited by the likes of Pinkus and other tatterdemalions.

Pinkus was dying, slowly, of gross abuse of his bodily organs and of malnutrition. A percipient doctor, were Pinkus by chance to find himself in one's presence, would soon have found, among other incipient outward signs of inner decay,  evidence of scurvy. It was hardly surprising for Pinkus dined on a menu of leavings; food scraps which, on a bad day, comprised crusts too heavy for sparrows to carry away or, better, discarded half-eaten sandwiches and doughnuts lying like hidden treasures among the dross of community trash cans. On a better day, Pinkus might find fruit, an apple core, a plum with flesh generously adhering to its stone, a banana with a small cone of sugar-browned pulp nestled at the hub of its splayed panels.

On a good day he would have money to spend; some coins or a low value banknote. They came rarely and from unpredictable sources: opportunistic theft, perhaps from the pocket of a park worker’s jacket left, in the heat of the day, by his wheelbarrow; or from the guilt-loaded charity of a contemplative citizen. On this day, the wealth that Pinkus clutched in the deep pocket of the sagging, oversized army greatcoat that served to cover his emaciated body both from the night airs and public gaze, was a handful of gold-coloured coins that he had found, piled randomly, in the payout cup of a gaming machine in the high street amusement arcade.

They had shooed him away but not before he had scooped out the coins, assuming correctly that his good fortune came from a miraculous moment when a punter, having pulled the bandit machine’s one-arm for the last time, had impatiently turned away disgusted with his inordinate run of bad luck before the final permutation of numbers triggered an internal command to release a minor dividend.

Flush, Pinkus turned in to the mosaic-tiled doorway of a crowded hamburger restaurant and joined a queue of hungry customers. The reactions of those before and after him were worthy of study. Those in front first became aware of the odour; some of  those behind left space, having observed Pinkus's dilapidation rapidly followed by a perceptible change in air quality. Others behind simply did not stay, opting, who knows? for Burger King, Wendy's or Kentucky Fried Chicken a few steps along the road.

Hygienic in her fresh, bright, crisp uniform the girl-child, earning part-time money to help with university costs, blinked disconcertedly as Pinkus came to the head of the queue. But the staff-manual smile quickly re-arranged her pretty face as she asked 'What would you like, sir?' Pinkus, just audible, ordered the cheapest hamburger with cheese, some French fries and a milk shake and dipped deeply into the greatcoat pocket. Out came a few coins, some old crumbs, generous pellets of pocket fluff and a rusty paper clip all of which he deposited into a plastic bowl on the counter. The cashier, already wearing plastic gloves that looked like five-fingered condoms, extracted the coins, jettisoned the rubbish, and holding the paper clip ostentatiously between finger and thumb placed it on the tray with his food.

Pinkus looked around. The restaurant was almost full but he espied a table in a corner against a mirrored wall that was cramped beneath a staircase leading to an upper storey. He made his way there largely unconscious of other patrons, as he passed them, who shrank away with stares of repugnance and disbelief at his filthy appearance. Settling in, he opened the striped box and withdrew its contents. On the table was a red plastic container of tomato sauce, another, yellow, with mustard sauce, salt and pepper shakers and a glass cone with a metal funnel, containing white sugar.

Having separated the top of his hamburger from its cheese and meat patty, Pinkus, determined to get his money's worth, picked up the tomato sauce and shook it vigorously. Aiming the spout at the meat patty, Pinkus sqeezed gently. Nothing happened. He shook the container once more, turned it upwards and squeezed again, this time with both hands, hard, until the dried plug of sauce that had blocked the spout suddenly shot out, followed by a stream of tomato ketchup which arced across two tables and struck Liam Murphy, who was dining with his wife and two boys, in the right ear.

Murphy and his family hailed from Ireland and were sworn enemies of the Ulster immigrant family of Donnellys of which Michael, the father, was passing behind Murphy with his tray of food and drink at precisely the moment the sauce stream struck. Red liquid dripping down his tee-shirt, Murphy turned to see Donnelly behind him. 'You focking bathtard, Donnelly.' He rasped, 'You did that on porpose!' and half standing he brought his fist up under the tray and sent it and its contents flying across the restaurant. Michael staggered backwards, knocking a nearby pensioner off his chair and falling to the floor.

Irene Donnelly took that opportunity to swing her black shoulder bag at Murphy's wife, Kathleen. It caught her in the back of her head forcibly ejecting from her mouth an illegal cigarette which lodged itself in the bag as Irene retrieved it.

A small group of punk rockers, all mohawks and safety pins, suddenly fired up by the burgeoning fight between Catholics and Protestants across the room, took the opportunity to hurl a couple of chrome-legged plastic chairs over the now extremely disturbed patrons. One of the chairs hit and shattered the peach-tinted mirror on the wall beside Pinkus just as he noticed that an unopened striped hamburger packet had somehow appeared on his table.

Unnoticed by anybody, Mrs Donnelly's shoulder bag emitted a small puff of white smoke.

Behind the serving counter young boys and girls of the staff watched, amazed, as the manager ran to the telephone to call the police. As he did so he noticed two boys trying to steal the Coca-Cola clock off the wall opposite the broken mirror. Both boys had long coveted the clock and wanted it for a souvenir. Unfortunately it was not battery driven, it was powered by a mains connexion whose flex ran discreetly down the side of a pilaster to a plug socket, the flex being held in place by a series of plastic coated staples set at regular intervals. As the boys removed the clock the staples flew out of the wall and one of them landed on a meat-and-egg-burger as its owner took a bite. Horrified and in pain he started to choke, his neighbours unaware of his predicament as they either watched, dodged or took part in a melee that now engulfed the whole restaurant. His face scarlet he eventually ejected the staple and, staring appalled, at it lying on the table croaked, 'The bastards, the bastards, I'll sue them, I'll sue the bastards!'

The noise was unspeakable as punches were thrown, territory invaded, hair pulled and eyes poked. Schoolboys attacked rivals, schoolgirls screamed at their boyfriends, pensioners wielded sticks and walking frames and two Japanese tourists, not long off their cruise ship moored in the downtown harbour snapped and videotaped digitally as if the show had been especially staged for their enjoyment. From halfway up the stairs a hopeful man had called the local television station on his mobile phone and while engaged in trying to extract money from them in return for letting them know where the riot was taking place, was rendered unconscious when a metal container of paper napkins hit him on the temple.

Pinkus, safe in his corner beneath the staircase, finished his milkshake and wiped his mouth on a paper serviette that had fluttered from the staircase above his lice-infested head. The table next to his had been vacated by the Donnelly boys who were now fighting and biting the Murphy boys on the floor. Suddenly the table upended spilling a mustard sauce container, a plastic wallet and a few gold coins at Pinkus's feet. He leaned down and retrieved the money and wallet which he dropped into his right pocket while slipping the boxed hamburger and condiment into the other. Then, choosing his moment carefully, he slid out from his table, picked his way across the floor, avoiding writhing bodies and squashed French fries and exited the hamburger bar as the distant sound of police sirens reached his tufted, waxed-up ears.

A small crowd had gathered in the street but gave way to Pinkus as the Red Sea had parted for Moses. He had gone no more than five metres from the door when the restaurant's large front window exploded as Liam Murphy's coiled bulk flew through it followed by his deadly enemy's wife's shoulder bag, now smoking like a bishop's censer. As the police car drew to a halt another chair sailed through the gaping window, bounced off the roof of a parked saloon and hit the blue revolving light on the top of the police car. The light and the chair landed in the high street and were promptly flattened by a No. 88 bus whose driver and passengers were paying more attention to the fracas than the road.

Pinkus shuffled a further fifty metres to where a small, pigeon-infested rest area, remnant of an ancient cemetery, provided a haven from the bustle of the main road. Here he settled on to a green wooden bench as another wailing police car followed by an ambulance arrived at the scene.

Pinkus felt in the left pocket of his mouldy greatcoat and his hand closed over the still intact packet containing a double-meat-with-cheese-and-dill-pickle hamburger. Below it he could feel a few French fries and the plastic container of mustard sauce. Then he plumbed his right pocket wherein lay somewhat more coins than he had had when he had first entered the restaurant and also the wallet which he now withdrew. Inside he found some bank notes, credit cards, rewards cards, membership cards, a blood donor's card and a driving licence. He re-pocketed the bank notes and threw the wallet and its remaining contents under a fuschia bush behind the bench.

Pinkus laced his mittened fngers across the string knot that held his greatcoat fastened and drew his head down below its collar. A half smile crossed his wind-roughened cheeks and their marbling of small, broken blood vessels. He belched gently and as he quietly fell asleep reflected that today, among all the dull days, had been a rather good one - with supper already on hand.



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By Don Donovan