An excerpt from the latest draft of Shangri-la.
IVAN: They sent the boy up in a plane. I was there when he took off. They were applauding as he walked the length of the hangar. He carried his helmet under his arm and what looked like a white orchid on his lapel. I assumed it was from his girlfriend, but I couldn’t see any women around. No doubt she was hooked up somewhere. He could have been talking to her through a microphone in his suit at that very time. Read The Rest
Every time she opens her mouth another reason not to be with her flies out. It flits around his ears on gossamer wings for a few seconds and then dies painfully of suffocation. Reasons not to be with her can only survive in the specially formulated atmosphere found in her abdomen.
If he had another chance, and he desperately wants one, he could drive her mad in a minute. He had finished reading Chekhov. All of Chekhov. He finally understood how he should have been around her during the time they were officially a couple. Three months after the fact, Lachlan realised that Millie thrived on frustration. If the troubles of wealthy Russian landowners in decline had taught him anything, it was that Millie wanted to be provoked each morning as she swallowed her green sludge probiotics*.
Probiotics. What a stupid word. Nutritionists should leave the invention of words to the professionals, he thinks.
The only waitress in the place eats her lunch of two poached eggs on toast at the table next to him. He considers choosing a tart that he doesn’t want from the display case just to disturb her. The scene following would interest him. How well he could feign nonchalance as he makes his way from the table. How skilfully he could keep her exasperations in his peripheral vision. No, don’t get up, I didn’t realise. Don’t be silly, please eat your lunch. Oh, all right, if you don’t mind. I’ll have a lemon meringue pie. Is that gluten free? No?
Can it be?
He has it out for the waitress population because his friends have dragged him to be near the beach. He can see the sandy grass through the window. Not content with their nay saying from an urban distance these friends sought validation of their urban sensibilities on the very doorstep of potential disaster. And besides, Lachlan needs to build a fucking bridge. All the while Lachlan sits in this café with its black leather arm chairs and enjoys these seats abject refusal to be carefree, sea breeze or nautical. So bulky and numerous are they that people must contort themselves around them to reach the window seats. They surround him, like the perverted dream of a Japanese television producer.
He pulls his fringe down and looks at the world outside. Little kids run along the jetty wearing dark green dinosaur hoods^. That is sick, he thinks. He doesn’t believe all these chicken bone philosophies but there are limits. What does it mean about human kind if we can miniaturise the possibility of our own destruction and give it to our kids to hit each other with? It’s either a very good thing, or a crying shame. Not for the first time today, he wishes he had a pen to write his thoughts down.
Here at the end of the world, Lachlan wonders if it would be better to be with someone who doesn’t love him anymore or with no one at all. Outside, on the jetty, a little boy in a green hood with teeth along the seam pretends to devour his mother.