Short Strange But Nonetheless True True Stories

Nonfiction. But very brief nonfiction.

Jobs I Wouldn’t Do Again If My Part-Time Arts Degree Doesn’t Work Out: A Three Part Series

I was a learn to swim teacher when I was in high school. It was cushy because every human being has some dormant, evolutionary capacity to swim. It was hard because very few human beings know this.

Small children are much more buoyant than they think they are, all of the sinkers were drowned out of our gene pool long ago. The calm ones kind of teach themselves and the truly weak at heart seem to bypass any conscious response to fear and go straight to the psychotic, adrenaline-fuelled doggy paddle that is some biological remnant of way back when we were fishpeople. It takes these ones longer to gracefully bubble-bubble-breathe, but they too work it out eventually. It’s the overconfident chumps that you have to look out for.

Most kids are full of it, but only like two in every five of them have any right to be. The rest are chumps, and a real danger in the pool. Take this percentage of aquatic liabilities, multiply it by the number of children in Australia, divide it by the number of swim teachers and the number of classes, adjust for inflation, carry the six, and it worked out to be about one every lesson. Always there was one.

Overconfident chumps are the reason why bubbles exist and they are also the least likely to want to wear one. They do not truly grasp their lungs’ need for oxygen and they are also the most likely to shit themselves.

A Code Brown is rare and it's not so bad, so long as your supervisor also has somewhere they would rather be. If not they’ll pour two buckets of chemicals in the deep end and send you back in.

I did it for three years and most of the time I was itchy. Chlorine is a wicked, wicked thing.


Counting Sheep is a Crock of Shit

It’s funny how, even without the ticking of an analogue clock anywhere nearby, the passing of time can feel so loud.

This is a very coherent thought. That is a major problem. It is too late (or is it now, more accurately, too early?) for coherent thoughts. They are cancerous. They are poison. They fuck each other like rabbits and suddenly, before there is anything anyone can do about it, amidst the heavy scream of the passing of time, the brain is coherent and awake. Fuck.

And here now will begin the bargaining and embittered sheep counting and elaborate pseudo-science ruses of controlled breathing, prayer saying and lying very, very still. The brain tries to trick itself into sleep. But it is impossible. It will not work. It’s like a computer playing itself in a game of chess, controlling both sets of pieces, instinctively, obviously evading any multiple-step plan, thwarting great genius with exactly the same quantity and application of genius in the following move.

The brain, still fighting the good fight at this point, forces itself to picture a serene and empty beach. Ahhhhh. Yes. Vision of the tide is calming, but it is also vague and boring and brief. Next. The brain now wants to remember every single social faux pas it committed in the year of our lord 2014. And then it wants to listen to that song it heard three days ago but doesn’t really know the words to over and over and over again. And then it wants to relive faraway (yet inexplicably still painful) traumas with lost, unrequited or otherwise hostile loves.

These tracks of thought are themselves so hot and dense that they overwhelm the sound of the passing of time. When the brain suddenly remembers that remembering is not its true purpose for being in this bed huge chunks of hours have gone missing.

And the brain says, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck”. And it says, “Okay, shit, no, now, come on, actually, seriously, stopthinking”. And it keeps thinking just as much and just as fast but now it also feels really bad about it. Much time passes like this, very loud and very hot and at once both fast and slow.

The brain tries to remember the things it usually thinks about right before it falls asleep. It goes one step further and tries to manufacture images and situations ridiculous enough to be dreams in the hope of sneaking into R.E.M through something of a backdoor. It is hard going at first but the brain is wholly committed and in time it starts to work. Visions of strange things and strange places start to domino into each other of their own accord. The brain had been pushing these thoughts along like a father holding the seat of their child’s bike but now, maybe, it has let go. Yes, it has let go! The bike wheels are spinning through an orchard of… busy robots that look kind of like friends from work. And the roads are frozen solid and everyone is ice-skating to work. And there are gun fights in not-to-scale reproductions of the high school canteen. And there is a problem with the paragliding equipment and suddenly the brain is falling.

“Woah!” it yells, lurching upright. It thunders back out of the deep dark hole it spent so long trying not to dig and suddenly, again, it is coherent and awake.

“God fucking damn it,” it says.

And the brain starts to compose these very sentences, unsolicited. It makes them annoyingly worth remembering, and the brain soon convinces itself that they will be lost forever by the morning if it doesn’t turn the light on and write them down, just like it always forgets that its pillow is kind of shit. There is a frustrating back and forth here within the brain, but at last it yields, like it always yields, and turns the light on.

“Counting Sheep is a Crock of Shit” it writes at the top of the page, then smirks.

The brain thinks that it is very clever indeed.

The brain wonders how clever it would be if R.E.M. weren’t such a slippery customer.


Jobs I Wouldn’t Do Again If My Part-Time Arts Degree Doesn’t Work Out: A Three Part Series

Did you know that every single middle aged man playing indoor soccer on a Wednesday night is always right about everything, even handballs they could not possibly have seen, even when they must surely have felt the hard, innocent bone of the shin they claimed they didn't kick? And did you know that the referee (me) is always wrong?

Middle aged men playing indoor soccer on a Wednesday night are bad at expressing their emotions in a healthy way. They decide, instead, to shove strangers, to alternately exploit and denounce the innate subjectivity of a “social, medium contact sport”, and then to become extremely indignant if/when they are caught. The ultimate unimportance of the third division of a local Wednesday night league is somehow lost in the searing heat of five-a-side battle. It’s like the Great War to them. They will kill or be killed in this netted arena - even though the grand prize for winning the competition is a coupon for four discounted games for the following season.

Middle aged men playing indoor soccer on a Wednesday night hate the sound of a whistle, especially the whistle of a weedy, seventeen year old boy (me) that they don't respect, especially when said seventeen year old (still me) tries to calm escalating violence by screaming “Use your words! Use your words!” between whistle blasts.

I have found that no matter how many good calls I make, no matter how much blatant favouritism I show to the team that speaks to me like a human being, no matter how invisible I try to be, it is only a matter of time before I am the villain again. Because nothing unites angry middle aged men playing indoor soccer on a Wednesday night like a common enemy.


Diego Maradona And His Two Very Different Kinds of Magic

Argentina and England did not get along. There had been imperial invasion attempts, nasty, nasty on-field clashes, and the tragedy of the Falklands War to consider.

The first half of their quarter final at the 1986 World Cup was a goalless back and forth that history, quite rightly, neglects. Then, six minutes into the second term, Diego Maradona scored a goal with his hand. If you play it at full speed from a naff camera angle and blur your eyes when he jumps, you can almost see where the officials went wrong. It looks clean and special if you watch it with Argentinian eyes. After the game he said the goal was scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the Hand of God”. Poetry. Is it also cheating? Maybe. But it’s poetry for sure.

Four minutes after heavenly intervention in the form of a blatant handball, Diego Maradona scored the ‘Goal of the Century’. He zigzags sixty yards in ten seconds with the ball seemingly tethered to his boots by some ultra light rope. He makes great British defenders look like statues, or really gumby half-wits who left their spectacles and running shoes at home.

Argentina won the game 2-1. Later they won the World Cup. Disagreement over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands is ongoing.

(A picture of the Hand of God for your reference)


Jobs I Wouldn’t Do Again If My Part-Time Arts Degree Doesn’t Work Out: A Three Part Series

Meter Reading has two main components: being highly visible and reading meters.

And so I, in lime green, would look for a grey box somewhere on your property, hidden under garden beds, behind big, oft locked gates or just sitting idly, smugly and slightly adjacent to plain sight. I would find it and punch four or five or seven numbers into an antiquated handheld doodad. I would hope very much that you did not have a dog that you thought was harmless and that you did not have a particular distaste for the gas company you seemed to think I was the president of. I would go to the next house and do the same, and the one after that, on and on and on. I would go to sleep at night and dream about spinning dials and a face full of spider webs.

There are pretty numbers and there are ugly numbers. An 0646640 is pretty. A 18493 is ugly. Anything with only one five in it is ugly. Occasionally, to my very sincere delight, the four digit numbers would spell out years. Once I came across my full date of birth. Sometimes there would be five 7’s in a row. How can this be? It would take me two whole streets to decide if this was divine providence or an elaborate joke or absolutely arbitrary gas-usage information. Then three hours later I’d get a 66666.

I only did it for four days and I don’t really want to talk about it.