A Quick Game's A Good Game
Just some more very short nonfiction stories.
The Curious Case of the Big Green Button
Once all the staff have gone home for the day, to get the automatic doors at my gym to open you have to push a big green button that says ‘Push firmly to exit,’ which, not to brag, I have done successfully plenty of times, and I know that it’s perfectly operational tonight because I just watched one sweaty half of a recently finished Spin class button-push their way through the doors, which closed only seconds before I got there, no worries, that’s just the way it goes sometimes, I step up confidently and press the button firmly, arrogantly really, but nothing happens, and still nothing happens when I push it again, and so obviously I push it twenty times as fast as I can because I can hear (and smell) the second half of the Spin class approaching from behind, and since these quick taps aren’t working I move to longer, more desperate, increasingly firm and continuous thumps of the green button but the doors don’t move at all and I start to think that I’m maybe going to die here and the Spin class is now all standing beside me, breathing loudly still, staring dumbly at the frozen door, talking about the ‘really great pump today,’ and how their asses will be ‘soooo sore tomorrow,’ and a few of them look over at me impatiently, and honestly I’ve pushed this button so firmly and so many times that the entire left hemisphere of my body is trembling, and I’m sweating from my temples, and pushing this button is now both physically and pyschospiritually more difficult than anything I did in the last hour in the gym, and the Spin class has grown restless and have spun themselves into a collective tiff and they murmur (loudly) to each other about how they never have any trouble with the big green button when they push it firmly and then someone calls out from the middle of their smug and sweaty pack, ‘Hey, kid,’ and I’m 25 by the way and he says, ‘You have to push the button,’ as if I am not currently right in front of his eyes obviously actively pushing the button and my chest gets suddenly tight and I turn in disbelief and say, ‘I. Know.’ in time with my pushing to which he says, ‘You have to push it firmly,’ and the Spin class murmurs its assent and I want to say, ‘Look, mate, I have never pushed a button firmer than this in my entire life,’ but instead I sigh loudly and loadedly—which I will soon regret—and proceed to overdramatically—regretfully—wind up like a softball pitcher in slow motion, and this extremely regrettable theatrics must take enough time for the door’s computer system to breathe for the first time since I started whacking it a minute ago, and reset itself, and start working again, because when I make my big over the top show of firmly pushing the absolute living shit out of this green button with the force of my entire body, all while maintaining eye contact with the Spin class at large, lo and behold, the door slides open.
Do these things happen to other people?
Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones
We'd meet in the bush on Sundays and after school in the summer. It was BYO stick. It's hard to explain to another person what makes a good stick—it has to be big but not unwieldy, straight but not boring, strong but not heavy. You just know. You see it and you can tell straight away that that is a stick that’s going to be fun to whack your friends with.
Once sticked, we’d hit the pipes. A stormwater drain gushed with runoff from the surrounding streets and spewed out a creek that weaved, temperamentally, through the bush’s many curves, eventually feeding into another stormwater drain. I still don’t know where it goes after that. In some places the thread of the water was no wider than a shoe, and then around the next bend it had pooled into a wide, rocky lagoon. If it rained for more than one day, the creek would swell to twice its size and become a raging river.
During the drought, if you were brave, and had a big enough stick, you might walk into the pipes. Bigger kids up to no good would light sparkler bombs in there, we used to find the husks all the time. There are rumours of one boy, a long time ago, who everyone seemed to have a cousin who had a friend who had actually known him, who walked through the pipes to ‘the other side.’ This was an incomprehensible feat to me, aged eleven. The furthest I ever got was giving my grandpa’s old Nokia flip phone to my friend Hayden. He took a picture a few steps in with the flash on. There was graffiti on every available surface of the concrete tunnel, bleeding deep into the darkness beyond the frame of the image.
The pipes were just a pitstop—mostly we’d hunt for the good rocks. They were the size of a big coin. Edges rounded by some mystical, magical lathe. Cool grey polished concrete folded into an impossible geometric shape, a sort of flat-based, three-sided equilateral pyramid. We called them, 'Triangle rocks,' and spent whole weekends scouring for them in the bush. It was said that they were precious alien gems. Portals to another dimension. Impenetrable, low-fi Government surveillance tech. Mystical symbols ejected from the pipes. Dinosaur poop. Weapons from an ancient war. The intricate micro-sculpture of the old man living in the storm drain. Dropped from the mouths of mighty hawks on their way to and fro landscaped gardens.
In a lifetime of walking around that bush, I found maybe five. The absolute kindest thing you could do, aged eleven, would be to give a Triangle Rock to a friend in need. The second kindest thing you could do would be to stop whacking your friend with your stick.
How to Kill an Indoor Plant in 10 Days
Day One: Look around your room and decide it is boring and therefore so are you. Go to one of many dedicated plant shops in the Inner West. Become honestly drunk on the enthusiasm of the floor workers who will assure you, dirt all through their hair, a photinia tucked under either arm, that ‘anyone’ can ‘nurture’ a ‘plant baby.’ Do not properly listen when the grumpy guy at the counter says that this is a high maintenance fern with very particular light requirements. Buy the biggest bag of soil that they sell, it’ll be cheaper in the long run.
Day Two: Repot your plant baby into its new colourful home using a spoon, because you don’t have a better tool, after skipping through an instructional YouTube video at ten second increments. Accidentally pull a leaf off in the process. Apologise to your plant in embarrassing baby talk. Douse the sucker in water and bring it back inside.
Day Three: Enjoy the renewed life and oxygen and vitality in your living quarters, and name your fern something fun and cheeky like Planthony Hopkins or Sir Leafalot. Congratulations, you are now an interesting person!
Day Four: Send pictures of Planthony to your friends and family.
Day Five: Put your feet up! Relax! Plant parenthood isn’t easy, and you’ve earned yourself a break from the daily waterings and pettings and supportive whispering into the stem. Congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Day six: Forget that you own a plant.
Day seven: While on your way to do something else, notice one of the tips of Planthony Hopkins leaves is a little brown. Urgently rub it with an ice cube while whispering soothing loving things. Purchase a spritzing bottle, a colourful watering can inscribed with your name, plant fertiliser, bug spray, new gardening gloves, and two more pots from the internet.
Day eight: Barely spend any time in your room because it’s really hot in there and you’re busy. One of the things you’re busy doing is going to the plant shop for an hour, where you will purchase all kinds of strange and interesting little green babies from all different climates from around the world. Get a tomato seed growing kit too. Why not? Jam them all into a shopping bag and discover there has been some soil spillage when you get home. No worries. Plant babies are resilient. Leave them outside to deal with tomorrow because you’re tired from the shopping and it’s really hot.
Day nine: Just as you’re leaving to go out, discover all of Planthony Hopkins’ leaves are droopy and twisted, and his soil is hot to the touch. Look around and see that he is in direct sunlight, which is magnified by the window’s glass and burning him to the core. Rush him downstairs and submerge him pot and all in the laundry sink while apologising profusely. Rush outside to get your tools and find that the plants you purchased yesterday are lying on their sides, or upside down, and burning in the sun. Let out a little yelp and rush to their aid. With almost no pressure, feel the leaves ripping off into your hand, see roots encrusted in rotted soil fall loose to the ground, find a sickly sap oozing out of some of their snapped stems. Panic. Say ‘Stay with me, guys! Just stay with me!’ Rush back in and find Planthony disintegrating in the sink, falling apart from his burned roots. Look at your hands in despair and see the blood/soil/sap of your plant children all over them. Begin to cry. Pile the corpses into your green bin and say a few tender words about the circle of life and the botanical guilt you will carry in your heart from this day forth.
Day ten: Spend over $100 in the plant shop, buying weird, exotic looking treasures. Buy a cucumber growing seed kit while you’re there too. This time it’ll be different.