I’m off work sick (not COVID), meaning I have the telly in my bedroom to drown out the coughing and the swearing. This morning, I woke up and turned the telly on to continue drowning out the misery, and what came on the screen? Sunrise morning show with Sam Armitage and that grinning idiot Kochie.
I know they’re easy targets and morning TV is not meant to be high-brow entertainment but I was blown away by the subnormal format. It was like watching two grown adults discovering that their genital region has a hidden function, yes, the joys of masturbation. That moment when you discover that you can run solo during a drought, or fill time with some jolly self-gratification.
It’s all exuberance and no substance, not even the consistency of diarrhea to whet the pallet. And what’s worse, it’s dated. This same shit was on morning shows when I was a kid but at least Paula Yates had some street cred and asked some entertaining questions, instead of grinning like a fart in a trance, and spewing mediocrity into the face of her viewers.
Pass me the bong …
“If you can hear me, open your eyes,” the voice says as I come to with a sharp breath. My head is spinning, lying here on this bed in a room that immediately fills me with the frustration of not knowing where I am. Everything hurts. The woman tells me that she managed to get me back into the car before we escaped.
I glance over my arms to see bandages and gauze blotted with seeping blood. My cheek is swollen too. She tells me not to move. I’m breathing heavily and my eyes begin to dart. “Breathe”, she says, “breathe”. It’s happening again but I know it’ll pass. I don’t know what’s happened to me this time. All I can remember are glimpses of my former life, a house, a job, an existence that was somehow leading me to this point now with the outline of a woman I don’t know telling me to take it easy. It gets worse and my eyes squeeze themselves shut. A few other memories flash in front of me before my breathing starts to slow. A few more breaths and then it passes.
“You’re safe,” she says, but I want to know where I am. “In my house,” she answers. “No one knows we’re here.”
I try to get up to get to the window, but she raises a hand.
“We’re well off the track. No one can see us for miles. It’s thick bush out there. We’re safe.”
I lie back down. She stares at me for a moment and moves to touch the bandage on my arm but I pull back. I look at her in a way I’m not used to.
She tells me that she doesn’t know much about me. I don’t answer. I killed my best friend not so long ago.
She’s removed my boots, which I don’t like, and I fumble to put them back on. She tries to stop me, but I react. This bothers me because I used to be a different person. I tell her I’m sorry, I’d just like to put them back on. I don’t lie down again, but I thank her anyway.
I can see a dim light squinting through the blind. It’s either early morning or late afternoon. I ask her if she has any food and she hands me a tin of beans. I’m careful to not eat any more than half for now. I can see she notices.
“Do you have any family?” She asks.
I tell her no.
She’s silent, thinking something over. “We were building this house together,” she says, “when it happened.”
I nod a few times.
“I was a school teacher. I used to love my job.” She has dirty hands and she wrings them. She adds that she doesn’t like seeing kids treated that way. She says she’s not happy with herself that she had to leave them like that, but everyone has had to let go of everything normal.
Before this everyone liked to think that they’d always do the right thing. Everyone worked so hard to find meaning, to live a life that would seem complete, to be noticed, to be respected, to be taken seriously, to be liked and loved. But most of those people are dead now, with nothing left behind but a memory.
It’s easy to think you’re one of the good guys if you’ve never been challenged, but with a gun at your head you’ll find out pretty quickly where your strengths lie. The blood and guts wash away, but that moment will stay with you forever.
I’ve lost touch with who I used to be.
I realise the woman and I have been staring at each other in silence. She barely flinches when she hears the car approaching in the distance. I keep looking at her until eventually, she says that we were followed.
I’m already halfway to the door when I tell her she needs to come with me. But she doesn’t move. Her voice is shaky when she says, “Maybe they’ll reconsider.” As I exit the door I catch one last look. I see her slowly turn her head to the sound of the car and then I’m gone.
They pursue me for three days. I don’t stop running. I take them through the thick bush, into the hills where they can’t follow me by car. It rains one day, thunderstorms the next but they stay close. I can hear them moving at night and it scares me.
By the third day I need to stop. I find myself on the edge of a cliff where I prop myself down against a tree. They’re behind me somewhere but I haven’t heard them in a long while. I don’t know if it’s over yet or not. The wind on my face calms me. It’s strangely peaceful.
I stare out over the cliff, emptiness and beauty, loneliness, and hope. I start to drift off and I let it happen. Wind and trees. Another time in my life long ago.
When I feel something touch my face I don’t have the energy to jump. I open my eyes to see a dog sniffing my cuts. I brush his snout with the back of my hand. Good boy. I had one just like him. Slowly he sits down next to me and together we watch the sunrise.
Cam’s a very good friend of mine and a great writer. He has a dog called Mickey and he gets up at 04:30 every morning to run 37 kms. Cam’s strength of character is an inspiration to me. One day he hopes to have a Peregrine Falcon, called Patrice Mersault.
For the last couple of weeks I’ve been attacked by an Indian Myna Bird down Princes Park.
It all started after the festive season when I discovered that my jeans were a bit tighter, so I decided to rid myself of this excess fat by going for a run around Princes Park every morning. To be honest, the first couple of attempts were just me walking and talking on my phone like an episode of Entourage but after the third attempt I started running.
The day I did manage one continuous run is when the ornithological victimisation began in earnest. Like the Indian Myna Bird, I too am an immigrant to this country. Usually this means we stick together and develop a couple of in jokes about how fucking awful Australian TV is and ask each other why it’s impossible to top up your MYKI on a tram. No such luck with my friend the Myna, known to be the second greatest threat to native birds after land clearing.
So, me and this scraggy bird whose ancestors were introduced to Australia in the 1860s to control insect pests, are now at war. The first time it happened I thought, “It’s just defending its nest, I’d do exactly the same thing”. It’s normal for parents to defend their young, unless you’re Fred and Rose West. So, I took it on the chin and kept on running, almost glad to be part of nature’s wonderful cycle. But one thought kept nagging at me: It’s January and the nesting season is done and dusted.
The night after my first continuous run I slept better than I’ve slept in years. It was one of those youthful sleeps where your head hits the pillow and suddenly it’s eight hours later and Oliver Twist is out in the streets singing, ‘Who will buy this wonderful morning?’ In my case, it’s the number 19 tram driver shouting at people who don’t understand the concept of an illegal right turn during peak hour. That said, I was excited about my next continuous run.
I got up, turned on the TV, saw Kochie from Sunrise crapping on about the dangers of Facebook, repressed the urge to put in a bomb scare to Channel 7, and began stretching with the use of my battered couch. Once I was all limbered up, I descended the stairs and made my way over to the park.
All my running brothers and sisters were out in force with their headphones aiding the onslaught of tinnitus and various digital devices attached to their arms to measure heart rate. Running is an odd culture. From my experience it’s not a place to meet people, although my friends tell me I look a bit thuggish so maybe society in general is not a good place for me to meet people. Once, I was jogging in Werribee at night and got arrested by the police, their excuse being, “We thought you were either a burglar or a plumber but either way we thought it best to get you off the streets”. No charges were laid and, to make up for their ‘mistake’, they treated me to a free Big Mac.
Ten minutes into my run the blood started to flow and my heart rate pounded away like a teenage boy with the house to himself on a hot Saturday afternoon. Some mums were out running with prams, portly couples sweated out fizzy drinks and cheeky visits to KFC, fit young people, the gazelles of the running world, floated passed me, and my favourite running type, ‘the man who used to be fit’, trying to run like a Gazelle but ending up looking like a refugee from a disastrous night out in Bangkok.
I got to my favourite stretch of path that intersects the park and began really upping the ante; heart racing, teeth bared and belly undulating in slow motion, when out of nowhere I copped a beak in the back of the head. I spun around and there was my feathered nemesis sitting up in the branches staring down at me. I turned and started running and once again got beaked. Sucker punched by a foe that weighs at least 200 times less than me. I started running backwards so I could keep an eye on the bird. It followed me but did not attack.
When I was safely back on Royal Parade I decided to stage a stake-out, to see if the ‘flying cane toad’, as they’re now called, attacked anyone else. I watched twenty people run down the same stretch of path and not one of them was swooped. I felt angry and special all at the same time. But I couldn’t help asking myself why I was being singled out for victimisation. I was wearing the same kit as everyone else. My hair was messy but not bright red or resembling the silhouette of an eagle. I was sweating and un-showered but who showers before a morning run?
Later that day I staked out the stretch of path again and nobody else was swooped, not even the idiot in the Rangers FC strip. It was official. I was being bullied by an Indian Myna Bird and as much as I wanted to borrow Big Dave’s air rifle and blow its tiny brains out, it would be immoral for me to do so because essentially I was encroaching on its territory. It brought to mind the fuckwits who want to kill sharks in WA.
To test my hypothesis that it was just me who had earned the vitriol of this bird, I invited my Dad on a walk around Princes Park. I told him about the feathered bully but he laughed at me, telling me that attacks on humans are incredibly rare and unheard of when there was no nest to defend. However, when we got to the same stretch of path, sure enough, I got beaked, in fact, it was the most ferocious attack so far. The bird then tracked us for a good 30 metres before flying off to brag to its mates, who hang out on the brick toilet block eating flies and shootin’ the shit.
I haven’t altered my running track and the bird continues to swoop me and I’ve been wracking my brains for some kind of moral to this story and the only one I can think of is this: If you get swooped by an Indian Myna Bird don’t shoot it with your mate’s air rifle or avoid the situation. Instead, write a blog and just keep on running because being singled out doesn’t always mean you’ve done anything wrong. And anyway, as Hitchcock taught us, if it’s got wings and it hates you, you’re fucked.