Mildly stoned, with my elbows supported by the back deck railing, I leant forward toward the expanse of unmown lawn that shaped the rear yard. The grass was taller, and it thickened where it encroached upon the back fence. The sun had just risen, and the lawn coated with frost sparkled and shimmered beneath its embryonic rays.
Everyone else was asleep, in beds, in chairs, spreadeagled on the carpet. I had managed to last through the night by tempering my drinking, relatively speaking. I’d found my CD Walkman and a copy of The Residents’ Duck Stab! and sauntered out onto the deck in the hope of seeing the sun rise. The genuine weirdness of the album has never waned. The twisted staccato melodies of the opening track that underpin the manic refrain, ‘Here I come Constantinople, I am coming Constantinople, here I come…..’ alerts the listener to the sinister other-worldliness that lay ahead.
They were spontaneous midweek affairs, these Laburnum parties. To refer to them as parties was perhaps overstating their significance. Occasionally someone might have the foresight to dial in some pizza, but mostly it was all about bourbon, rum, beer and music played loud. The convention was to drink until you passed out, or until the cops shut it all down. It was OK. There wasn’t much else to do in the suburbs.
The trippy cool intro of ‘Booker Tease’ was flooding my thoughts. If there was one song from Duck Stab! that you could possibly get away with playing to your Mum, ‘Booker Tease’ would be that track. At least until the cacophonous saxophone comes a-squalling toward the death.
It was bone-chillingly cold out on the deck. Even in my thick coat I could feel the winter’s vicious bite. Yet as I watched the sunlight filter through the yard to this most incongruous soundtrack, I knew that the sterility of the house would only be a downer. The effect of the pot was creating a very pleasant sensation. The Residents require an exact level of inebriation; overdoing it will induce a type of paranoia you may never return from.
From a colossal gum a raven descended, clutching the lip of the wooden paling fence with its gnarled talons. I was initially startled by this upending of my tranquil surroundings, and even more so by its furious crab-like scuttling as it raced along the fence. It seemed to be eyeing some movement in the long grass. As I peered more intently, I too could see some rustling in the grass. Whatever it was, it appeared to be the size of a large dog.
I continued to gaze into the grass, but as ‘Lizard Lady’ neared its febrile climax my thoughts took off on another tangent. ‘Don’t believe in me, don’t believe in me……….’ and I quickly lost my trail as to why I had been observing the grass at all, or the raven.
As the sun rose incrementally, the secret that lay within the grass became more apparent. The creature had shifted, and visibility had now improved. It was a man. Naked from the waist up, and shaking without control. The light refracted from his belt buckle and almost immediately I realised that it was Russ. That oversized Harley-Davidson belt buckle – even though he’d never ridden a motorbike in his life – spoke volumes.
Russ had gone missing around midnight following a drunken spat with Carrie. Then she made us all look for him, which we did half-heartedly for a short while, before returning to what we had been doing without a second thought. A few short months ago Carrie had been my girl. Somehow she had ended up with Russ, who was now at the foot of the garden, quivering. He sure looked mighty cold. Then again, it was a pretty dumb place to take a nap.
As the raven strutted up and back the fence palings like a drunken lord, the initial strains of ‘Semolina’ commanded my attention. Somewhere behind me the screen door opened and snapped shut. Presently I was joined by Carrie, freshly woken, yawning widely, mostly hidden in a great coat with the collars turned up. She stood beside me, elbows now leaning on the railing, assuming my position. She’d always looked so sweet when she had just woken, though I quickly quashed those thoughts and refocused on ‘Semolina’.
Without warning I collected a menacing punch to my bicep. Peering into the yard, her gaze had landed on Russ, who was now flapping about like a fish on a dry dock. Any thought of Russ had completely left my mind. She negotiated the steps in rapid fashion, while simultaneously looking back toward me and screaming. The music thankfully was at such a volume to mute her histrionics, though one didn’t need to be a lip reader to decode her choice of expletives.
She somehow managed to extricate this shivering wreck from the long grass and steer him back toward the house. I was in the zone now. ‘Semolina’ was the only thing that truly mattered. As they clambered past, Russ jerking like a demonic jack-in-the-box, Carrie speared another torrent of vitriol in my direction. Same expletives, different sequence. I did all that I could to suppress a smile. Instead I focused on a spot just above her right shoulder, and mouthed the words: ‘Semolina, loves the sea shells, at the shore she, loves the sea shells.’
Poor Russ, I thought, as they finally managed to re-enter the house. His skin was a decidedly ugly shade of blue. Still, I didn’t quite understand Carrie’s reaction. It wasn’t as though he had died. Meanwhile, the big black bird had taken flight. I decided to remain outside for a while. At least until the pain in my arm had subsided.
About the Author:
David R Miller lives in the lower Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. He writes poetry, short stories and lyrics. His novel ‘Ever Diminishing Circles’ was released last year, and his work has recently appeared in The Camel Saloon, Red Fez and Pure Slush. He enjoys bushwalking, boules and a robust port.