We Landed a Rover on Mars, and then the Royal Family Ruined it all.

Recently a rover landed on Mars. This can be described as nothing less than a massive achievement of mankind. As someone who has learned physics and computer science, I can appreciate the difficulty that is involved in launching something from Earth and having it arrive on another planet. That alone should be good enough for funding – if we could but fire a cannon and have the iron land on another plant that would prove, definitely, that we have mastered not only the earth and the skies but space itself. 

Clearly others had different ideas of what a conqueror should seek. They sent a probe, a computer that was able to think and process and report back. But how much did we sacrifice for this information? 2 billion 350 million dollars, approximately, from my research and from my reckoning. 

This cost may seem great to some. Certainly to most 2.35 billion dollars would be a monumental amount of money to any individual. But this amount was not paid to any individual – it was spread about amongst the community. Parts needed to be purchased, information gathered, great minds of scientists and great skills of engineers needed to be acquired in order to even hope of launching a lump of aluminium, and steel, and iron, and silicon, and phosphorus, and all the other elements held aboard that robot that will analyse and assess probably the only planet that holds the key to our future.

But how much media attention did it get? Practically none. Don’t you know how deep I had to delve to find the meaning of the red stripes upon the parachute? Where it was to land and what it was to explore? Read the average magazine, or newspaper, or rag, or whatever and you’re unlikely to have heard more than a piece of steel was landed upon a foreign land that is unimaginable to us except for price it cost. 

Unfortunately, though, I have not been compelled to write this piece because of my love of the rover. And, honestly, I feel somewhat ashamed of myself. I thought that I would so love the exploration of space and the advancement of science that I would have known of the rover while it was still in development, but unfortunately I only learned about it after it was successfully deployed on that red surface. In all honesty, I write this piece because I have finally been informed of some drama that has involved the English Royals. 

The news that was generated from the quarreling of an outdated and mostly irrelevant royal family far outweighed any news generated from mankind taking a further step into the wild unknowns of space exploration. I’ll admit that I didn’t watch the entire interview, because I was so disgusted within the first ten minutes that I couldn’t continue on any further. The thing that sickened me most is how shallow and weak minded all three appeared to be during the evening. From elementary research I found that Oprah is worth ~$3.5 billion, and the royal family is worth ~$30 billion. That is 1.5 rover missions and 15 rover missions, respectively. 

I can’t say that I’m disappointed. I’ve read and studied history and I know how weak minded people are. But I can’t help but feel that if, instead of indulging royalty and a billionaire who made her riches from nothing more than interviews, we invested in new technology and new ways to reach the stars, then we would hopefully move out of the era where our primary concern is who fucked whom and into the era where we concern ourselves with how to build a midway jump station between here and Alpha Centuri. 

But, again, I have met too many people. And it is always unfortunate whenever I meet people because it always lessens my hope that we will ever be more than a slightly advanced ape on a middling, undistinguishable planet. If Oprah wanted she could invest in multiple probe landings of the Red Planet and could help ensure we set up colonies outside of our own world – but she is more concerned with human comforts rather than real change, and is satisfied knowing that she will die in folds of a golden bed while others suffer the cold of the streets of the heat of a boiling earth. If the Royal Family desired they could match the budget of the European Space Agency five fold, and without even making a dent in their usual pleasures, and that would allow a multitude of ISSs to be built (the original only costing the equivalent of $5 billion USD). But they are more concerned with their own status and ways of spending that money on themselves. Especially considering their ties to Epstein, it is likely that the royal family spent more on disgusting perversions than was spent on science within the empire of the English. 

Ultimately, the only conclusion that can be drawn from what I have written is such – I have no faith in people, I have no faith in mankind, I have no faith. We have already irreparably damaged the only planet that we can live on, and despite our resources we have chosen to remain on the damaged planet. We are all doomed, and it is nothing less than what we deserve. 

Our only hope, really, is to die without hating one another.

But I highly doubt that is possible.

So I say to all you – fuck you.

My First Group Ride

The sound of 20-odd motorcycles starting up at once and revving their engines cuts through the air and the sound is furious. I suspect that the sound can only possibly be compared to hearing the chants and shouts of a group of Maori warriors intimidating their opponents with a Haka war chant. It is, in the most literal sense of the word, awesome. 

    This is my first ever group ride. One of the main reasons why so many people get into motorcycling is to attend these events. There is a certain sense of comradery that I feel amongst these complete strangers that I’ve never felt ever before in my life. Upon first arriving I was immediately greeted by the ride leader who started asking about my bike, but it was soon clear that he knew much more about it than I did. My motorcycle is a second hand Ducati Monster 400 that I got for cheap because it had a dent in the tank. It’s good for riding around the city and in the urban areas that I visit, it can handle corners pretty damn well, whenever I fill it up it doesn’t cost mush, and that is practically all I know about it. 

    Instead of embarrassing myself by conveying how little I know about my own bike I decided to delve into what he was riding. It was a Kawasaki Ninja, a brand and model that I certainly recognised as one of the ones known for being fast. Really fast. At just the first inquest I was given a barrage of information about it – the engine size, how fast he’s gotten it up to – 200km/h according to him, what mods he’s added, how it feels going around corners and also the sharpest corners that he’s ever been around. Going around the group I find that everyone is like this, and it makes them all incredibly easy to converse with and I feel that I’ve learned more about riding in these few minutes than I ever did in the multiple day-long courses I had to go through in order to get my license. 

    That’s one of the great things about people with hobbies – ask them even the simplest questions about their interests and they’ll lay out their whole life story with such passion and gusto that you can’t help but be enraptured. This goes double for most of the people here because if you run out of conversation about their ride then you can simply transition into questions about their tattoos, which they are all too willing to explain and that all have interesting stories attached.

    But for now the formalities are over and my fellow riders have began to pull out of the small petrol station that was chosen as a meeting place and as we peel out the individuality of each of the motorcycles begins to be revealed; there are the high whines that can be associated with the Japanese brands that waste minimal energy on making sounds; below that are the deeper sounding scramblers that rumble and sound like an untamed wilderness – this is where my bike sits – and then, coming up just behind me, is the deep and powerful rumble of a Harley Davidson and a Triumph which sound like the angry roars of a raging bull. These two individuals have decided to stay at the back of the pack to ensure no one gets left behind even though their bikes, with those massive engines, could easily overtake me. The reasons for this, I’ve been told, is because our route is going to be rather twisty and their bikes cannot handle that as well as even my bike, despite it’s comparative disadvantage in engine size, and also to ensure any inexperienced bikers have someone around to help them out if they need it. 

    The first part of the ride is just along a highway that’s about as exciting as driving along Monash, but this is also the part where some of the riders create their own excitement. Ahead of me I can see one of the riders doing a wheelie, going at 110km/h, with all the casualness I would give to stretching my leg while riding. Up next is the man on the Ninja who lifts one of his legs up and over the tank and rides side saddle. He’s not even looking at the road and is simply using a single hand to control the throttle. Turning to everyone around him he gives a brief thumbs up, and I can only imagine he has an enormous grin hidden beneath his helmet. After a while of this a competitor approaches; he cuts up through all of us, gives a response thumbs up, and then lays back on the seat and puts his feet up on the handlebars as though he were simply relaxing on a hammock. He only remains in this position for a few seconds before sitting back up, but I am suddenly conscious of all the muscles I’m having to use just to hold onto the bike at this speed.

    After the casualness of their interaction the ride leader and this competitor, probably someone who has ridden with him for a long time, hold their hands out to indicate that our exit is coming up soon. I know that there will only be a short ride after this exit before we get into the main purpose of our ride. The one who was sitting side-saddle pulls off and slows way down before pulling way off to the side. I see in my side mirror that he’s waiting for the two hogs to come rumbling through before continuing. After the final riders make the exit I see that not only does this person’s act help the group by ensuring that even inexperienced riders get to keep up with the pack, it also helps the individual; because immediately afterwards he puts the throttle on full, opens up the bike, and flies past me at speeds I can only imagine getting to on my little Ducati. In almost an instant he’s back at the front of the group to set the pace and be ready to guide people like me through turns that they otherwise wouldn’t have known to make.

    Soon after came the experience that I was promised and that every rider there was longing for – what was called amongst the group ‘The Twisties.’ This is the stretch of road where expediency wasn’t really considered and so the roads went along to match the natural contours of the hills. I had been through some roads with sharp bends in them before, but never had I experienced anything like this. In one moment you were performing a sharp turn where your knees were an inch above the ground and in the exact next moment there was a wide turn that seemed to last an age where you just had to keep the bike turned at an angle as the further it went one the faster you felt you could go until you eventually ended up doing 120 along it with the engine shouting furiously in an attempt to get you around this damned corner. Then you’d exit it into the next corner that required you to briefly slow down and analyse it and only then would you realise how fast you were going. I never thought about slowing down after that; I only thought about how much faster I could have been going. Speed limits be damned. 

    I felt myself, at the end of each corner, growing more and more confident and my speed at the next bend would increase further and further. Then I understood what a very experienced rider had once told me – ‘just look where you want to go and the bike will take you there.’ So for each wind, instead of looking directly in front of me for any sudden dangers I took the longer approach and looked to the end of the turn knowing that my bike would take me wherever I wanted to go. This was the most exhilarating thing I had ever done in my life, having been constricted to the speed limit or, more often than not, less than the speed limit while riding around the city I felt so freed having no consideration for the recommendations of consultants to the police on how to make as much money as possible aka the ones who make the speed limits.

    Just then, as the Anarchistic thoughts were entering my mind and as I was exiting a long curve I heard the bikes ahead flare up in a way I hadn’t heard yet. I wanted desperately to know exactly why this sudden excitation had happened and when I finally rounded the corner and could see ahead I knew exactly what it was. Before me was a long, empty stretch of road whose only occupants were the people I was riding with. This, even I knew, was one of the most beautiful sights for any motorcyclist. I readjusted my grip so that I would have more leverage over the throttle, then I tucked my elbows into my ribs and bent down so that I contorted to the curves of the machine. I let go of the throttle, took a deep breath in, pulled in the clutch and shifted down from sixth gear to third. 

    ‘Putting her on,’

    ‘Opening her up,’

    ‘Letting her go,’

    ‘Fucking her up,’

    These are all phrases that are used, within the motorcycling community, to mean putting your bike at full throttle and trying to go as fast as you possibly can. After shifting into third gear and breathing out I fucking let her go. My throttle was pulled down as far as I could pull it and my revvs were maxed out. I’ve never read Faulkner’s ‘The Sound and the Fury,’ but if the subject is anything other than going full pelt with max revs on a bike along an empty straight of road then the book is criminally mistitled. The huffing grunt of a hog that I was used to was instead replaced by the screaming, furious cries of a beast that was pissed at something and on a mission to find it.

    My speedo kept climbing – 130, 140, 150 – the wind pounded against my chest even through my leather jacket and it shook my helmeted head so much that I was straining my neck to see straight. I decided to pull my body in even more, pushing my chest closer to the fuel tank, bringing my knees in to wrap around the curves of the bike’s body, craning my neck so I was no longer gazing at the road in front of me but at the fields beyond me. My hand was still full on the throttle and in the brief moment I gazed down I saw that the needle was at 160 and continued climbing. This moment was indescribably euphoric. The machine was no longer a tool I used to cruise around and look good with, it was myself the way I wanted to live. Every facet of the road I felt intimately, as no driver ever could. I was going almost 170 kilometers per hour. The sun shone over me, the road presented itself before me, and the bike accepted me and encouraged me towards ever further speeds. 

    I almost didn’t feel like slowing down. I felt like just letting the road take me. Becoming a spirit of this path and watching speed-demons push their machines faster and faster for all eternity seemed like a pretty fun way to enjoy the afterlife. But this wishful thinking wore off as the bike in front of me snapped me out of it with the flash of her brake light, and so I applied my breaks, geared back up the fifth, and made the turn. 

    Now we were only going 80, and I felt almost sluggish. This was the speed limit around these bends, but I knew I could be doing at least 120 and I wondered why we weren’t. Then I gazed the reason why; up ahead of us was a small little Toyota that was absolutely sticking to the speed limits and was going painfully slow around the bends. This is one of the reasons why I chose motorcycling over car driving – in a car you are controlled by the idiot or idiots in front of you, but on a bike it’s much easier to overtake and weave between moronic motorists. These people were clearly just some fucking Weekend drivers who don’t know how to drive and would probably be banned from doing so if they weren’t so profitable along the toll roads. 

    After a seeming eternity there was an overtaking area and we each went around them. I took a little extra time to gaze through their windows to see what breed of people would be so boring and so earth-bound as to not want to risk their lives along these exciting bends. Unsurprisingly they were an elderly couple. After passing them I let out a short prayer under my breath ‘please lord, let the road take me before I become old.’

    The rest of the ride went on pretty much the same as before. Soon enough we ended up at our predetermined destination – a lovely little pub with an Al Fresco dining area and friendly staff who had a few members who had joined in on these group rides before and were unreservedly excited to let these “hoodlums and hooligans” in and hear all about their experience along the ride. 

    We talked for a fair while, and for every conversation I got involved in the topic of the old couple going ‘fucking fifty’ around a wide bend that easily could’ve been taken at eighty was brought up. So, as far as I can tell, all the members of this group agree with me. Just remember that if your precious sensibilities are upset by the sound of a motorcycle going through your street then don’t worry, most of us will probably be dead soon. That’s one of the two things I learned along this ride – that these people would rather die in a crash after opening her up to as much as she can take rather than die at an artificially inflated age. The other thing I learned is that these motorcyclists – these rugged individualists – believe in a fraternity of their peers, and their belief in this is far stronger than any other group I have ever interacted with. Anyone willing to ride with them is immediately welcomed into the family no matter their background, experience, class, race, sexuality, gender or any other feature you can use to ‘define’ and ‘group’ humans.

    The final thing that I learned was that I love riding, and I will absolutely be flooring it with this group of wonderful individuals again very, very soon.

Be Who They Want You to Be

Start studying the things they tell you to study. Don’t look outside that sphere. Your interests aren’t important to the function of our lives. Put your head down and study, this will be important for your future – our future. Our collective interest is all that you should be concerned with. If it is then we will reward you and if it isn’t we will punish you. That’s what’s at stake here. Here in this classroom full of people with individuality. The entirety of society. You wouldn’t want your parents or your siblings or your grandparents or – heaven forbid – me from suffering would you? Then sit down and learn the things you must learn to ensure no harm comes to them. If you don’t then everything could collapse down around you. The walls, the roof, the very fabric of things that holds us together.

slap. A hand comes down upon my desk. Were you listening to me? I wasn’t. But she can tell lies that slip from teeth and the punishment for lies is worse than the punishment for silence. She informs me that a day of writing out platitudes awaits me this afternoon instead of playing in the fields, playing outside. That’s certainly one way to ensure someone bays to your instructions. Meekly and wordlessly I accept my punishment of detention for the afternoon. Gazing down at the notes I’ve taken so far in class I try to distract myself. I’m bored is all that I think about. That’s also all that is written. This class is boring me. I’m bored. And now I’m punished. I guess you could say that I am boorish. As in bored and punished. I thought it was clever – so clever in fact that I jot down boorish in the corner of my notebook while the teacher continues.

It’s some time before the exercise of listening to this megalomaniac is over and the whole time all I can think about is boorish. Bored and punished. Funny. Definition of boor, by the Merriam-Webster dictionary 1989 edition (the only edition I own) 1. A yokel 2. A rude or insensitive person. The second definition makes sense, but what is a yokel? I doubt I’ll ever know. The USSR was still around in 1989 wasn’t is? I wonder if any KGB agents converted any yokels to the side of communism. Maybe that’s why it fell in 1991, too many yokels. I wonder what was taught in schools under communist rule. I doubt it was so different from what I am taught as to make a difference. The difference is that I know that a yokel is a boor, and I am a boor. Then I think about Cletus from The Simpsons and how he is a yokel and I laugh.

slapping upon the desk again. What are you laughing at? is the question that I am immediately confronted with upon my return to this classroom from the lands of the Soviet Union of 1989 – the land of yokels and Cletuses. I didn’t realise I was laughing was the only reply I could muster. I was just writing down notes. And then I showed her my notes that were full of scribbles that could maybe be construed to represent the things she was teaching at that time. Not good enough was the interpretation that I interpreted from her various screams and condemnations. I guess I would be staying behind for more than just lunch. I had gone too far – my imagination had gone too far. It had imagined things outside of her field of view and she hated me for it.

So I stayed on for the rest of her class – at the back of her class to be precise. The place where all dissidents were sent. The bell rang and all the other students were silently happy – gazing at eachother and sending messages of where to meet up and what to do telepathically. They were all dismissed and merrily they went to their lunches and their designated areas of control as though they were lions. But meekly I shuffled off after the teacher who still had lessons to teach me. I was to spend the period of time reserved to play learning. But, not exactly learning. There was nothing new for my mind to consume, analyse and confront. No, it was something that all knowledgeable beings knew instinctively. Except for me ofcourse. For some reason I had to have special lessons to learn this lesson. And so I wrote and wrote and wrote the message that was so utterly important to our advancement in education. It was so important that anyone who veered from it found themselves writing it out until they eventually believed in it – and they always ended up believing in it. That was part of the appeal of the statement – no matter who you were you would eventually believe in the statement.

And so I wrote it out and as I wrote it out I found myself believing in it, as things are supposed to be. It made sense and only now, upon reading it for an hour, do I understand why it makes any sense. Then I began to think of other people and how they all needed to learn this thing the same way I had learnt it. I begun to think of my past self, of only a few minutes before. Or was it hours? It didn’t matter. That person was behind me. I had evolved beyond him and had learnt through the repetitive writing down of this thing.

In my next class I was far more malleable to what they were teaching me. Even if I disagreed with it. I didn’t want to go back to that place that had me write out line after line after line instead of spending my time outside. That’s how they got me to be who they wanted me to be. And I was happiest that way.


A Day in the Life of a Lower Class Worker (Final)

Lonlieness

The next scene I remember was a bar. A familiar sight within or without a dream. A short drink stood before me, begging me to end its existence. But I was abnormally reticent to do so. Even within a world of my own creation I was scared to lose too much money too quickly. So I drank it down slowly.
Next to me sat a shade of a woman. Dark and mysterious she was. Her eyes were clouded in darkness and only the slightest glimpses of green flashed through whenever the light struck her just right. Her hair was the shade of the desert when the sun was just setting – a deep dark brown.
But now the background of this absurd interaction was starting to break down. The liquor wall collapsed and behind it there was a rushing stampede of wild boars. The liquid in my glass shook with the impact of each of their hooves. But still I persisted. ‘Could I get you something to drink?’ I asked the strange woman who came in under the cover of night and never left it.
‘Sure,’ she replied. ‘I’m just having a Martini. Dry. Very dry.’
I waved to the bartender, who I felt I had known my entire life, but who in reality I had only known this night. He made the drink specified and she began to gulp it down. But I felt my own throat begin to grow dry as I watched her drink her own blessed drink. And those damn buffalo wouldn’t stop stampeding. Or were they bison? Fuck it, I couldn’t remember. Something kept running in the background and ruining everything.
‘So what brings you here?’ I asked rather cliche-ly.
‘Nothing much. Just looking for an escape. You?’
I stirred my drink with my index finger and stared contemplatively out at what used to be the back wall of the bar.
‘Drinks. I guess. I’ve given up on escaping anything.’
‘You really ought to escape, you know. It could be good for you.’
I turned to her. She was sitting on my left. At that moment the left wall flew inwards and a clumsily put together rocket was about to take off. I knew it was clumsily put together because there were about twenty people still on it welding things together. And also it was taking off about fifty feet away from a bar.
‘What the hell do you know about what I should do?’ I asked, ignoring the imminent distraction.
‘Well, I don’t really know what you should do. But I know what i would do if I were in your position. That’s all the advice anyone can really give, cant they?’
‘Yeah, I guess you’re right.’ The rocket was taking off now and all the people who were adding the final touches were thrown off in a blast of fire. I gazed down at my drink and noticed it was empty. I felt that it was probably a sensible time to head home then.
‘Hey,’ I started as I got out of my chair and put on my coat, ‘you wanna hang out some time? Like on a date or something?’
‘Nah, I’m good thanks,’ replied my vision of an angel. I turned to go and then I realised one last thing.
‘Hang on a minute. Isn’t this my fucking dream? Why would I ever have someone reject me in my own fucking dream?’
‘Listen, I don’t expect you to remember this but I’m simply a drunken representation of your own subconscious. You’re so unsure of yourself that even in your wild reality you could never get a date. Well I’m here to tell you to grow the fuck up. You’re not perfect, and no one you meet will ever be perfect. Quit spending so much time finding perfect people and just try to find someone decent. You worthless sack of shit.’
Then the last thing I remember is the wild boars charging towards us and me saying ‘well that’s not exactly fair isn’t it.’
And then my sexy subconscious replied ‘nothing is.’
And then we were both stampeded by some sort of an animal.
And then I woke up. Sweating like a pig. And I wrote down as much of what I remembered as I could.
And then I had to leave for work.
Fuck, man, I had been woken up by a stampede. My usual alarm hadn’t gone off and I was awake at a point in time where if I left immediately then I’d still end up twenty minutes late to work. So I rushed into the bathroom and threw on my discarded clothes from that morning and jumped straight into the car, not bothering to make any food for then or for later. The good news was that I would probably be the first to finish lunch, since I had none, and so I would get home early enough to make some dinner if I felt like eating at that time.
I quickly checked that my tyre pressure hadn’t gone down that much during the little dream-time stint and was glad to see that they were at a perfectly acceptable pressure. Well, they were at least good enough to keep the cops off me for another night. I slammed down on the accelerator and off I drove to work.
And thus another day started just as it had twenty-four hours before. Horribly.


When I got home that night I looked at what I had written and decided that more context had to lay around the absurd dream I had had. Perhaps then it would make more sense. But, now, having reviewed everything that was happening in my life at that time I can confidently say that none of it makes any sense to me.
Why must people suffer so in order to deliver marble kitchen tops?
Why do workers always betray their fellow workers first and their managers last?
Why is alcohol and cigarettes so discouraged when they are the only ways to simulate what humans are supposed to feel when fulfilled?
Why are dreams so fucking ambiguous?
Man, I really wish I had some answers for any of these questions. But unfortunately all I have is more questions. But hey – that’s life.

A Day in the Life of a Lower Class Worker (Part 3)

Lonlieness

I turned on some music and allowed myself to live my own life. I allowed myself these few hours that I had before the sleep that I would only awaken from because work dictated it. Only a faint reading light was on in the room. The smoke of the cigarette curled and danced out of my fingers. I watched it rise upwards and upwards in an intricate pattern and then disperse. I placed the filtered end to my lips and sucked in. The heat burned slightly, but it was the good type of burning. Then I pulled the smoke down into the essence of my being and allowed it to circulate all throughout me before I forced the dancing smoke out of my nostrils, letting it linger there just long enough to burn as much on the way out as it did on the way in. My mind went blank. All the hatred and the anxiety about the previous day and the day that was to come washed out of me with the smoke. My naked body rested against the soft sheets and under the warm blankets and that was all.

I took a drink of the Whisky and it calmed me further. I felt as though I was flying. Finally flying. Flying away from this place, away from this job, away from all of this. I rested back into my pillow – one of the only things that I had actually saved up for in order to purchase something that a richer person would take for granted. It was a beautiful pillow, one of those memory foam ones that conformed to your body type or something. But, no matter, it felt like falling into a cloud each time I came to rest.

The smoke continued to dance from my fingers in an enticing way and the alcohol warmed me in a way neither the shower nor the blankets ever could. Slowly the chemicals of nicotine and alcohol tucked me away safely for sleep. Them each combining to add up to the chemical equivalent of living a fulfilling life with a loving partner. Who ever said smoking and drinking was bad for you has clearly never had to live an unfulfilled life alone.

And so I finally fall into a world all of my own. The one place in the entire universe where I don’t owe anyone anything – my dreams. There’s no landlord who demands payment for a roof over my head, no water company demanding cash for what is the most essential pieces of life, and no boss ordering me around so I can have the privilege to pay off these people.

Music continues to flood through my ears, and the last thing I remember before falling into slumber is The Nutcracker playing throughout the room. And then it enters my brain and embeds itself in my dreams. So much so that the first images that come to me are of a ballerina twirling on her one leg, the other held behind her at a ninety degree angle. Just constantly turning. Every now and again we make eye contact. I am the only one in the audience, and she is the only performer on stage. Slowly she lifts her leg further and further into the air. And it seems that each time she completes a rotation she keeps her gaze on me longer and longer. Finally her leg is fully upright in the air, her body spinning around in place but her eyes kept firmly on me at all times. Her gaze gradually devolves from enticing to threatening. Her unnatural form forces itself nearer me, distorting itself into ever more unnatural shapes before I eventually leave through some sort of mechanism hidden in my chair and am plunged into a deep abyss.

Further down I descended. Only darkness confronted me. Then there was some light. To be specific, there were three points of light. Within them danced three pairs of legs, twisting and moving independently of one another with no care whatsoever to form or function. Just simply dancing and existing as if to entice a being that had awareness beyond what any mortal had. They were seductive and unreasonable. One movement to the next could never be explained. But despite my protests within my own dream, I sunk still further until I found myself at my station.

I cleared my eyes and gazed around for what seemed to be a full minute. Surely this couldn’t actually be my work station. Had I really already had by allotted amount of sleep, woken up, driven here and started working without fulling being aware of any of that happening? Gazing around everything seemed in order. The floor manager was in his usual watchtower, my station partner was working his arse off and yelling at me to work at least as hard as him. Waking up here without any prior memory seemed, to me at least, no more absurd than falling asleep and ending up watching the ballet.

I began working immediately. I checked the list of which parts were on which trolleys and started stacking them up accordingly. But for some reason I was alternately far weaker and then far stronger that I had ever been. In one instance I could barely carry a cut of stone that was about a half kilo, and then in another I easily lifted a piece that was twenty. The mind plays tricks. Cruel tricks. The greatest boxers of all time can barely punch in their dreams. Rich and famous CEOs are as poor as me in theirs. In mine I was weak and useless, barely able to pick up any measly slab of marble. And so I was cast out, thrown aside and some other schmuck was chosen within seconds to take my place. In that short of time I had nothing. Nothing to use to pay for my rent or my water or my electricity or my food or my taxes. All the hands that had been greased before in order to allow me to live would now be dry, and I would simply be allowed to rot.

Read part 4 of the story here.

A Day in the Life of a Lower Class Worker (Part 2)

Lonlieness
We were supposed to receive a break for ever four hours of work we did. After four hours of work we supposedly got a 15 minute break. Then after eight hours of work we got a 30 minute lunch. Then after 12 hours of work we were supposed to receive another 15 minute break. That was the state mandate. Of course, there weren’t any state officials around to enforce such a bullshit law - but there were plenty of shift managers and floor mangers who could throw you out on your arse if you took even a minute longer on your lunch break than they thought you had deserved. In reality you got no 15 minute break after four hours - you just got more work. And in reality you never got a 30 minute lunch break, you got as much time as the quickest to eat; and they ensured it was a competition. Whoever started work after the lunch bell the quickest was allowed off work 15 minutes early, while everyone else was forced to work an extra 15 minutes. So you had to work your way through enough nutrition to get you through the next few hours, while ensuring you didn’t eat too much as to ensure you suffered through the extra 15 minutes at the end of the day.
    For my first week the last thing on my mind was that extra 15 minutes at the end of the day, and all that I cared about was the microwaved warm meal in front of me. But that was only during the first week. After that you learned to down every morsel of food you have in front of you as fast as possible; because during the last half-an-hour of work all you can taste freedom on the edge of your tounge. But then the alarm sounds and you realise that you weren’t the first to finish lunch and you still have another fifteen minutes to work to go. Fifteen minutes doesn’t seem like much, but when you’ve worked sorting marble benches that range in weight from 10kg to 30kg for the past 8.5 hours then an extra fifteen minutes feels like an eternity. You remind yourself that a meal is only a meal, but freedom is freedom and that you’ll never forget this lesson for the rest of your life. More than life, is that fifteen minutes means at least five more kitchen benchtop parts that need to be sorted. So you look up to your supervisors tower and gaze at the time - as the only clock in this entire factory resides within his abode. It’s five past whenever you were supposed to end. Ten more minutes of this. You drag another trolley towards the conveyor belt that you’re working at and put another slab of marble or stone or whatever on it and then put the full trolley in a free position. Then you look back at the guard tower and see that only a single digit has ticket over. Nine more minutes of this.
    Your extra time is up. This is the time they got for free. Fifteen minutes from about ten other workers. One hundred and fifty extra free minutes of work. If anyone put down their actual finish time then they’d be thrown out on the spot, and you’d have to have a pretty fuckin expensive lawyer to get your extra three bucks back. So no one complained, and no one sued. We all just drove home.
By now it was early in the morning. One of the guys who had just finished the same shift I had knocked on my car window just as I was starting her up, ‘hey mate, you’re tires flat.’
    I acknowledged this with a ‘oh, cheers’ and an equally flat nod.
    And so I drove to the nearest petrol station. There I pulled up next to the tire pump station. ‘At the very lest,’ I thought, ‘I could just keep filling up to and from the warehouse so I can avoid the pigs.’
    That was more important than my life at that time - avoiding the pigs. Those fucking leeches of society. From my experience dying was a far less excruciating experience than having to deal with our dear enforcers of order.
    No matter, my tire took the air well enough and I managed to get home without getting harassed or hounded by any of Melbourne’s ‘finest.’
By the time I got home it was about 6am. The only time left in my day was for a quick shower and then straight into bed to rest my sore muscles. I stripped down naked and turned the hot water on in my shower. As I waited for the water to finally heat up I looked at myself in the small shaving mirror that was held on my wall. One of the things I had purchased myself and that somehow slipped under the real-estate managers nose - probably because it improved the look of the place and there was no way I would be able to take it with me. My eyes were sunken and had dark rings all about them, my nose was red and running blue, my lips cracked and my beard was in an incredibly disheveled state. Despite working physically for more than eight hours each day for more a fair while now my body had plumped up and my joints and belly were now criss-crossed with stretch marks that represented the main areas where I would have to flex and bend unnaturally in order to lift and move benches and legs of marble and stone. Beyond this my body had started packing on fat since I never had any energy at the end of a day to actually exercise, and I especially had no time to cook anything healthy and mostly survived on fast food. My blood shot eyes gazed back at myself with nothing but hatred.
    If I had been paying attention I would have realised that the shower had already heated up and that I was wasting what little hot water I had for that night. But I was only paying attention to the hatred in my eyes. The hatred I had for myself - for what I had become. Finally my attention was broken when a thick gob of spit worked its way up my esophagus and I spat the mighty blob right into my sink. Then I remembered the current state throat was in and that one of the main cures was washing in warm water. So I took my sunken eyes, my stretched skin and my fat into the shower in an attempt to alleviate just one of the things that this new job had cursed my body with.
    Now, then, the water turned cold and reminded me that my shower time was finished. I stepped out and let my naked body drip and allowed the cold air to envelop me fully. After a while of working in such as place as I worked the only way you could be reminded that you are alive is through pain. After all, what joy could I possibly gain from living? There was no time to find a partner of any kind, no time to gather with friends or family or even people who wished me well. The only meals I had were either alone or with people who would consider conversation to be a competitive technique. The only person I had in my life was myself and that hateful spirit in the mirror. I walked to bed still completely naked. My clothes would await me on the bathroom floor tomorrow. But tonight My body was mine and mine only and I would subject it to tortures that only I could conjure.
    On the way to the bed I removed a bottle of Johnnie Walker from the cupboard and immediately poured a glass. Drinking at 6:30am had become a habit of mine lately. Then I pulled out a cigarette and lit it. All the while I pulled my blanket up over my chest. I was finally warm and content. The tortures that my body would endure were the ones that I made on my own. They were for myself and of myself. They weren’t dictated by the floor manager in his overlook, and they weren’t made by customers in far off places of Victoria - people I would never meet in places I would never have the privilege to go - they were made by me, with my limited funds and in my cramped room.

Read Part 3 here.

A Day in the Life of a Lower Class Worker

Lonlieness
It was five o’clock in the morning and X Gon Give It To Ya (Dirty) sounded from my phone on the bedside bench. After slapping it silent I looked around the room I found myself caught in - the windows were frosted with cold and everything outside my blankets froze caused my extremities to freeze.
My uniform was hanging in my closet. I quickly put it on - blue ‘workers pants’ from Kmart, a black t-shirt from the local second hand store that was covered by a sweater my mother had purchased for me years before, and atop that was a denim jacket. At this rate and at this time I would already be late for work, so I didn’t have nearly enough time to wash, or have breakfast, or brush my teeth. All I had time for was to get into my car and drive.
Down two floors of stairs I went. My legs ached from the previous days work, but it made less painful when I leaped down four steps at a time. One day I might even be able to leap down all eight stairs and maybe then I wouldn’t feel anything at all. That was all I could really hope for in the morning. All I ever hoped for each morning - to not feel pain.
As I got to my car a familiar sight greeted me - one of my neighbours. We exchange the bare necessary pleasantries. I’m only more familiar with him than anyone else here because I helped him bring a washing machine into his apartment one day, and from that day onward we were forever connected in the bond of fellow labourers with no real social connections. I got in my car and started it up and waited for the engine to warm up. Breakfast wasn’t important, showering wasn’t important, teeth weren’t important - all could be lost without having actually lost anything; but an losing a job could cost you your life. Then my neighbour gave me news that would have led to an even more unfortunate situation than I was in - my tire was flat.
‘Hey wait,’ he shouted as he waved his hand and kept me from going. I wound down my window and asked him ‘what’s up?’
‘you’re front right tire’s flat.’
At this I got out and checked. Alas, it was flat against the ground and the car had a clear tilt towards the front right side. It would only get even worse when I got inside it. But what could I do from here? I stood staring at the impossible situation that had randomly fallen before me.
‘Hey man, I’ll call an Uber for you.’
I looked at this stranger. I never even knew his name. He was just simply the man who I had helped get some electric shit into his shitty little apartment sometime before. Now here he was offering me more grace than my employer would ever give me. It would easily be $15 to get me to the factory that night, not to mention how I would get back.
I couldn’t take this persons money, and I couldn’t afford to lose whatever I would end up earning that night. I got in my car with the still flat tyre and I saw that the engine was warmed up enough, so I turned to my neighbour and thanked him for his offering, but ‘I’ll just fill it up at the 7-11 nearby’ is what I said. I couldn’t get any help, I couldn’t fill it up, I couldn’t change the tire, I simply couldn’t do anything at this time except rush to work and hope that no pigs would pull me over and throw me in the slammer. For some reason losing the tyre and being involved in a massive auto accident that would cause my death was far less scary than ever having to interface with the police, and that was nothing compared to losing this job that I had been in search of for months now. Because I knew that death is unbiased, but due to my poverty I knew that any interaction with the police would either lead to my losing a days worth of work by going to visit the court house, or it would lead to my losing a days worth of work having to pay a pointless fine. It might even end in me no longer having any employment, which would lead to a fate worse than death.
That’s essentially the life of a lower class worker in today’s Australia - waste all your time looking after the police, or waste all your time looking after the politicians.
Well, thankfully I am extremely observant and I managed to cheat a few cop cars and I managed to make my way to work on a flat tyre and I was only ten minutes late.
I tried to sneak my way in. I knew the numerical combination to get into the storage room that included all the overalls and the face masks and the glasses and other OSHA shit that the company included because they wanted to minimise any potential law suites. So I threw on a plastic overall type thing, put on a mask that, after thirty minutes of online research, I had learned actually did nothing to protect against silicosis. Then I walked onto the factory floor and signed my name in for having gotten in half-an-hour earlier.
Walking to my section I attempted to act as inconspicuous as possible. After a few months of this work I had learned that this movement consisted of walking with a sort of meek determination; as if you thought you could be more than you are. But you needed to balance it out with an attitude that emanated that you weren’t worth anything. When you work in a factory your entire life consists of oxymorons. You need to work hard enough to be promoted to manager, but if you dare work that hard then you’ll be given a hard time by the current floor managed because they can’t afford to have anyone show any capability - especially if they show the same ability for less money. So if you work too hard you’ll be given a hard time, and if you don’t work hard enough you’ll also be given a hard time. And hard time means recommendation for working over the weekend - and since we were all technically contract workers then working over the weekend didn’t come with any overtime benefits. It just meant wasting your weekend because your limp dicked floor manager thought you were too big or too small or not good enough for you boots.

An Alcoholics Daily Diet

The first part of this diet comes at the beginning of the day, which for most of you should be around 12:30pm. Any earlier than that and you’re probably not getting enough sleep. If you’re up earlier than that then just simply lay in bed and think about your life until you no longer want to face reality and then get whisked off to a world of your own creating.

Now, once it’s finally an appropriate time to wake up you’re going to want to get rid of that hangover as quickly as possible. There are many ways to do this – eating a hamburger, drinking some water, going for a walk and getting some fresh air. But the way that I find best is by continuing to drink. So here is my improved Bloody Mary recipe.

5oz vodka – the bottom shelf stuff should work just as well as anything else. I mean, it is vodka; literally the biggest selling point is that it’s flavourless and odourless. The cheap stuff will taste the same as the cheap stuff – flavourless. So, just grab whatever you have at hand.

5oz tomato juice – I always have a carton of tomato juice in the fridge just in case I ever need to make one of these. Which is every morning. And it lasts pretty much forever, plus you’re adding vodka to it so that should kill the bacteria…right?

1oz white wine vinegar – I never have lemons on me whenever I want to make a Bloody Mary, so one day I subbed in this stuff and it worked out well enough. If you have lemons then use those, but if you have lemons then I doubt you’ll be reading this.

12 dashes Tabasco hot sauce – You’re hungover, dehydrated, hungry and tired; there’s no way the usually recommended three dashes is going to be enough for you. That’s for pussies who ‘drink casually’ and enjoy having ‘brunch with friends.’ But, my friend and reader, you’re better than them. You’re an alcoholic! Be proud of yourself and also wake yourself up by going completely overboard on the hot-sauce.

Worcestershire, salt and pepper to taste – as with absolutely every single recipe that you ever make you should always make sure to include enough salt and pepper to make it taste good. And also Worcestershire sauce adds a nice bit of fishiness to your drink which will definitely help you wake up.

Optional:

Celery salt – I have literally never seen this anywhere, but all the recipes I’ve seen for Bloody Maries (Marys?) calls for this ingredient. So I guess if you can actually find it then chuck it in.

Horse Radish – I never have ice and so I’ve never made a Bloody Mary in a shaker, I always make it in the glass. I once made the mistake of including the recommended ingredient of horse radish and I ended up with disgusting floating globs of tangy white paste. If you’re going to include this ingredient then make sure to add some ice and shake it up in a shaker thingy.

An egg/egg white – If you wanna turn this into a proper breakfast that’s less liquid and thicker then add an egg or an egg white to your shaker with the ice and shake that baby for a solid minute.

Onion Powder and Garlic Powder – Once, whilst making one of these, I saw onion powder and onion powder on my spice rack and thought to myself ‘hey, we add onion and garlic to literally everything else that’s delicious. Why not this drink?’ and I so I put it in there and it was delicious. So if you enjoy tasty things then I recommend this optional addition.

Alterations:

Tequila and Cholula instead of Vodka and Tabasco in order to make a Bloody Mexican.

Then simply garnish with a single rib of celery and you’re all done. Suck this fucker down and you’ll be ready to drink for the rest of the day. If you feel like making any of your own alterations or additions then go ahead. There have been literally hundreds of books written about the Martini, and that’s just two ingredients and some olives so imagine what you could do with a cocktail that takes at least four ingredients (vodka, tomato juice, salt and Tabasco).

Once you’re done with whatever the hell it is you do in the morning, whether it be jacking off or watching the news or wasting your time writing then it’s time to get into your serious drinking mode. Here I am going to offer a sequence of drinks that will undoubtedly tide you over until probably about 6pm.

The White Russian:

If you have any leftover vodka after the Bloody Mary you made this morning then this is the perfect drink to help mellow you out after that massive kick in the arse. It’s also simple enough to make, so it shouldn’t be too difficult after the five ounces of vodka you’ve already had. It’s a simple mixture of 2oz vodka, 2oz Kahlua poured into a rocks glass that has two or three ice cubes in it, or none if you don’t ever bother to make ice. Then just top it up with cream, or milk, or half-n-half, or whatever milk based product you have going off in the back of your fridge. Stir it together and enjoy the milky, coffee-y, vodka-y concoction that you’ve put together that both tastes delicious and can easily get you shitfaced.

The Moscow Mule:

Making sure to be economical with your drinks is extremely important for an alcoholic, since you almost never have any money to spend on more drinks. This is why utilizing as much vodka as possible is important. Enter the Moscow Mule. Simply wash out the glass that you used to make your Bloody Mary or, if you prefer a disgusting tomatoyness to your ginger beer then don’t. Then simply pour in another 5oz of vodka and top it with ginger beer and ice. Preferably the type of ginger beer that actually has alcohol in it, but some store bought ginger ‘beer’ will do fine. Maybe add in another ounce or two of vodka. And again some ice goes nicely with this, if you have any.

Screwdriver:

Get a bottle of orange juice, drink some down, top it up with vodka. Rinse and repeat until out of orange juice or out of vodka, whichever comes first.

Pirates Daiquiri:

It’s pretty obvious by this point that I don’t make cocktails with ice. Nor do I make cocktails that require any sort of investment in products that aren’t alcohol. If I could then I wouldn’t be an alcoholic – and neither would you! But sometimes I want to treat myself, and that’s when I make a Daiquiri. But not just any Daiquiri – I make the Pirates Daiquiri. This is especially affordable when it’s lime season and limes are, like, fifty cents each. If you have bootlegged or stolen rum then that’ll make it even more authentic.

Grab yourself a rocks glass and put a teaspoon of sugar in the bottom and then grab a lime and cut it in half. Take one of the halves and squeeze it into the glass and use your fingers as a type of strainer for the pulp and the seeds and also for added flavour. Then fill the rest of the glass up with gin and stir with the teaspoon you used for the sugar. Put on a pirate voice and an option eye-patch and enjoy. By this time you should be too wasted to notice that this drink is awful. Sub the rum out for vodka if you want.

Tequila Mockingbird/Tequila Sunrise:

If you’re a lit buff, or just want to seem like one, then you can make this drink that mocks the title of a piece of classic literature. Clean out your Bloody Mary glass and pour in 3oz of tequila, and then pour in about 5oz of tonic water (or champagne is you’re fuckin loaded) and top up with orange juice – perhaps the stuff you used when making your Screwdriver. Feel free to sub in grapefruit if you’re more of a Hunter S. Thompson fan.

Gin and Tonic:

Frankly, I think this drink is for middle aged women who either want to be divorced or who are recently divorced. But who am I to judge you. Go ahead and pour 5 oz of gin into a glass and top up with tonic water. If you have fresh lime then go ahead and put that in there too. This is a pretty unfuckup-able recipe, so maybe save this until later on in the evening.

Now you’re ready for the heavy stuff. It’s time to think about the drinks that you’ll be consuming until at least midnight.

Beer:

Get a beer. Open it up. Drink it.

Wine:

If you can’t afford beer then wine is a totally acceptable alternative. Get the box stuff, you should be so fucked up by this time that you won’t be able to tell the difference. Punch a hole where it says you should, pull out the nozzle thing and pour into whatever liquid vessel you have convenient to you.

Liquor:

This should be saved in case you have any dredges left over from your mixing up during the day. No need for a container in this case, just unscrew the cap and drink up until you end up throwing up all over the floor.

This select list of drinks should be able to get you through any day and hopefully keep you drunk enough to be able to survive through another miserable 24 hours of existence. It only takes three bottles of liquor, and the rest of the ingredients can be purchased for less than the cost of the price of petrol it would take to drive to an AA meeting.

Enjoy, and make sure to drink responsibly.

A Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I met a girl the other day. We went out for coffee and had a jolly old time and, for once, she didn’t ghost me and so we went out on a second date – bowling. I always go bowling on my second dates because it’s enjoyable and slightly competitive, which ups the sexuality factor by quite a bit, and also because the bowling house I always go to has a bar with reasonably cheap drinks. Now, once I get a second date I always get a third date – and I this third date is always at my house and I always end up having sex. That’s my method – coffee, bowling, sex. After that sometimes they leave and sometimes they stay, but I couldn’t care less either way. My mission is accomplished. But one thing I do always like to do is make a different meal each time I invite a new girl over. I’m not sure if I do it for them or if I do it for me, just to break up the monotony of modern dating life. But with this girl, I decided on making grilled cheese sandwiches. I had planted the seeds at the bowling date by telling her that I had spent years as a poor college student perfecting the grilled cheese, and now I had invited her over for one. It was true, I had perfected the recipe.

She came over on the appointed date, but half an hour late. ‘Sorry,’ she said, ‘but I got confused with the trams.’ This is a fair enough reason to be late and, honestly, I had been drinking so much that I forgot what day it was and her presence genuinely surprised me. It was a good thing I had offered such an easy meal to make.

I asked her inside and said some common stuff about how it was alright that she was late and asked about her day in a disingenuous way. I placed her at the dining table and asked her to wait a few minutes while I prepared the meal for each of us. She asked if she could help in any way and I replied that she couldn’t since I had perfected the recipe and any deviation from this exact method would cause the sandwich to be imperfect. Deciding that I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in an awkward sort of silence I thought it would be a good idea to walk her through my method of creating the perfect grilled cheese.

‘Okay, so, a grilled cheese consists of exactly four ingredients. One: the bread, and I pulled out two slices of white toast that I had bought cheap from the groceries; Two: the butter, which was a good brand of Irish butter that I had bought from a specialty store; Three: the cheese, and I proceeded to take out all the necessary cheeses for this perfect grilled cheese; and Four: mustard, and out came the Dijon mustard from the fridge. It is possible,’ I continued, ‘to make a grilled cheese with mayonnaise instead of mustard, but I prefer mustard. But if you add or change any ingredient then you have not made a grilled cheese – you have made some other sandwich that just so happens to incorporate melted cheese.’ I looked at her and she seemed reasonably entertained with my fascistic method to creating a sandwich. ‘Once,’ I continued, ‘I had a man try and serve me a Croque Monsieur as a grilled cheese. If the damn thing weren’t so delicious I’d have thrown it in his face for lying to me.’ She giggled, and so the likelihood of my wetting my pecker increased. ‘Now, the first step is to get your cast iron skillet – and it should only be a cast iron skilled as anything else won’t have the reticent heat capacity to make a proper grilled cheese – and you throw it on an element and turn it up to high. You want the skillet to be ripping hot before you put the bread on it. Now you butter the outside of each slice of bread, and make sure the butter spreads all the way out to the edges otherwise you’re going to have crunchy and soft whenever you bit in around the edges and that is simply no good. Then you flip the slice of bread over and you slather it with mustard. You’re going to want a lot of it because we’re going to be placing a shit ton of cheese atop this condiment and if you don’t have enough mustard it’s going to be so subtle that you can’t even taste it. We’re three ingredients down and no comes the last one – the cheese. For this, the perfect grilled cheese, we’re going to be using four different types of cheeses. I’m going to make two little towers of cheese made up of these four, one for each slice of bread. On the bottom goes American Cheese so that the sandwich has a nice fattiness. After that is the goat’s cheese, which has a delicious sort of creaminess. Then the Gouda, which has a sweet fruitiness. Finally comes the freshly grated mozzarella, for its stretch. Now, the only ingredient where I would go for premium over store-bought is the mozzarella. If you go for the cheap option then you’re sandwich will taste somewhat plastic. Other than that store-bought slices can be easily used to create a wonderful sandwich, but upgrading the ingredients will obviously make a better sandwich. In fact, for the best sandwich it is best to find a black market cheese dealer, or to smuggle in the cheese yourself from New Zealand since there is no law about pasturing milk and milk products in that utopic country. But, anyway, these are the four products that go into creating the singly greatest grilled cheese.’

After this I hold my hand over the cast iron skillet in order to ensure that it is hot enough. I’ve done this so many times that I can tell just from my sense of touch, but if you are not so experienced then having an instant read thermometer might help, and having your skillet at between 80 and 90 degrees celcius is the optimal temperature. After this it is best to turn the temperature of your element down as the grilling of the sandwich will not significantly decrees the rate at which the skillet gains temperature and so you will end up with a surface that is too hot and you will end up with burnt toast, rather than the perfectly toasted slice of toast that we desire. The reason the skillet must be pre-heated is so that the butter instantly reaches its smoke point. If you use a skillet that is too cold and hope that it warms up then you will only end up melting the butter, and that will give you a soggy sandwich which will sting of disappointment.

‘Okay, now for the magic to happen,’ I say as I pry my two slices of buttered and mustarded toast from my cutting board. I place them on the hot cast iron skilled and immediately they start to hiss and smoke, ‘oh god yeah, that’s what I like to see.’ I turn to her and continue my commentary in a sort of pseudo documentary way, ‘okay, now I want to immediately place my little piles of cheese onto my slices of toast. So I’m going to take this stack of American, Goat, Gouda, and Mozzarella and place it on this slice, and take this other stack and place it on this slice. Now I’m just going to leave it for a little while. I want the slices of toast to get nice and brown.’ Every few seconds I lift up an edge of a slice of toast and see what colour it is. ‘The colour transition is the most important part of making a grilled cheese. If you leave it too white then you just end up with soggy bread, though with this method that isn’t likely. But if you leave it too long then you end up burning the butter and the toast and you’ve ruined the entire sandwich with your poor heating performance. You have to wait until the toast has reached a perfect sort of brown. I’m sure most adults can tell the difference between toasted toast and burnt toast. What you are looking for is toasted toast. Now, if you’ve set the skillet to the correct temperature then by the time the toast is browning the cheese should be melting quite nicely – not fully melted to the point you can stretch it out, but melted to the point that that it doesn’t jump back to its original form after being pressed, and where the corners are slightly drooping. This is the correct amount of toastedness and meltedness that indicates the sandwich is ready to be assembled. So, now, I am going to use my spatula to flip one cheese covered slice of toast onto the other,’ and I expertly flip one slice of cheese covered toast onto the other. ‘Now comes the difficult part. The mozzarella in the middle will give you and indication of when, exactly, the cheese has melted. That’s why it was placed last on each of the stacks of cheese, so that it would be in the exact middle of the sandwich and would therefore take the most amount of time to melt. You also need to ensure that each side of the sandwich receives the same amount of time faced down on the skillet otherwise one side will be burnt and the other will be under-cooked. I like to flip my sandwich every minute, and I like to cook it for eight minutes – this is generally the amount of time that it takes for all the cheese, from the outside all the way to the inside, to melt properly. This is also why the particular ordering of the layering of the cheeses was chosen – it went from least meltable to most meltable. The American cheese will take longer than the Goat’s cheese, which will take longer than the Gouda, and of course the Mozzarella will take the shortest amount of time.’ The whole time I was waiting I hummed a little tune. I explained that it was a tune I had learnt while I was still mastering the art of the grilled cheese and that I knew lasted exactly one minute. After my first humming she joined in, though imperfectly she got the spirit of it and it was enjoyable to experience this moment with another person. Each time I flipped the sandwich I was anxious and wasn’t sure if I had burnt the side of the toast that was face down on the skillet, but each time it came up perfectly well toasted. I knew that deep inside that little pocket that the cheese was beginning to stretch and thin in a perfect way.

The eighth flip came up. At this point I stopped my humming, but she continued apparently enjoying herself. I stopped because I knew that it would take precisely a minute to set up in order to serve the sandwich. I first of all had to procure a plate from the cupboard, which I then wiped down with a clean and slightly wet cloth and then dried off with a hand towel. Then I placed it in the precise spot that the plate had to be in order to receive the grilled cheese. I wasn’t sure exactly why there had to be an exact spot to receive the grilled cheese, but it was the original place I had placed my grilled cheese and it seemed fitting to keep with tradition. Then I pulled my two accoutrements that went perfectly with a grilled cheese sandwich. First was two cornichons that added a nice sort of saltiness if you ate one after consuming each slice of the sandwich. Next was a small dollop of slightly spicy BBQ sauce. This was added on the side so that you could dip your sandwich in the sauce and it would add an extra little bit of bite and, to some people who are used to abusing their pallets, at necessary amount of pain.

Finally, with the plate set up and the sandwich perfectly created I took the cheese betwixt two slices of bread off of the cast iron skillet and placed it upon the carefully prepared plate. I gazed at it, top and bottom inside and out, in order to gauge its perfection. After a thorough going-over I concluded that it was as worthy sandwich for consumption. I took out a small knife and sliced the sandwich in half, the blade easily gliding through the structurally compromised toast and the squishy, unresistant melted cheese. Then the final touch was added – a small pinch of Himalayan Pink Salt that would help to accentuate each of the flavors in the perfect way that salt does. I looked determined as I splayed salt onto the two slices of toast before me, hoping to not place too much that the flavor of salt was overpowering, but hoping to not place to little that the salt was underappreciated. It was difficult to tell without being able to taste the sandwich myself, but I suspected that it would look strange if I randomly took bites of my date’s sandwich. But I had made this enough times that I gazed at it and considered it to be amongst one of my greatest creations.

I looked up from the plate and at my date. She seemed to be staring at me with a sort of disbelief and a sort of entertainment. It only just struck me now that I had been dead silent for at least two minutes whilst I finished off this creation, and in the whole time I wasn’t aware of anything she had said. I decided not to embarrass myself further by saying some time that I would hope would redeem myself but that would, ultimately, just make me seem even stranger. Instead I just walked up to her with the plate of sandwich, BBQ sauce, and cornichons. ‘Sorry I was so quite for a while there. I’m just really super into this sandwich. Cooking, to me, is like creation itself. I just get so wrapped up in it that I can’t focus on anything else.’

She nodded in a sort of passive agreement before picking up one of the slices of the grilled cheese. The mozzarella, as it was supposed to do, stretched for what seemed like a mile. Finally the strands broke and she was left staring face to face with a mountain of cheese betwixt two slices of perfectly toasted toast. She dipped the corner into the slightly spicy BBQ sauce and lifted the coated corner to her mouth. She took a bite and her eyes lit up. Without bothering to dip again she took another bite, and this bite required her to tear the mozzarella away from the sandwich as though they were both hungry competitors for the same prize.

‘Holy shit,’ is all she could get out before dipping and biting again and again and again. I finally picked up my half of the sandwich and dipped it into the BBQ sauce and took a bite. It was a bite that I had consumed a hundred times before but this time, just like every other time, the only thing I could think was “holy shit.”

We each sat there, consuming the sandwich as any hungry predator would consume any prey. We didn’t say a word to each other during the whole ordeal. The sauce burnt, the salt enhanced, the cheese stretched and opened up new parts of our pallet that we didn’t know existed. Finally we were finished. She looked at me. I looked at her. We came together and started kissing. We took it to my bedroom. The third date was completed. She never contacted me ever again after that. It was an amazing sandwich.

Trip to NZ (Finale)

Another day broke. I had no clue what date or what day it was, but it broke nonetheless. I knew because the sun shone threw as if it alone threw open the curtains to the living room I was staying in. 

    I was still in my sleeping pyjamas, and so I stripped myself and dressed in the things that I presented myself in yesterday evening. It was simple ware – a shirt and a coat with some relatively thick jeans. Likely the bait man would recognise me, but no one else would. And that’s all I would really need. I didn’t need sympathy or recognition from the bottle shops or the bars – just beer. But hopefully I would get some sort of real discount from the bait man. 

    The previous night I had felt like shit. Mostly I think it was because of him – the bait man; treating me decently when he clearly meant to scam me. So, as I passed all the bars on the walk down to the baitman I took a drink or two from them so that hopefully I could develop enough of a spine to bring in a fish today.

    ‘Heya, how’re you going today? Heard you didn’t have much luck yesterday?’

    I only stared at him with drunken hatred. ‘Yeah, nothing yesterday. I’m sure I’ll get much better catches tonight?’

    ‘Well, that’s the hope,’ said the baitman as he spread a false smile along his face.

Clearly all he saw in me was a cash cow. But I refused to be that. I would catch at least something tonight.

    I followed my footsteps back to the lake and wound up down by the pier. I cast out the line and then poured myself a small tumbler of the scotch I had purchased at the airport. Then I put on some Mozart that I let flow from my earphones. Today was different from yesterday. I felt calmer. More at ease with the world around me. 

    My hand reached for the tumbler that held the intoxicating liquor, but it reached back to the rod as I felt a slight pull. I didn’t know what that meant – whether I had caught a boot or if I had caught a fucking sturgeon. But, instinctively, it meant more to me than a tumbler of Scotch. 

    Then it kept going. My line pulled out further and further and it kept winding in and out and, after a while of complacency, I realised that there was a fish on the end of my line. A real fish. Something that had latched on and wasn’t letting go. I put down the tumbler and placed my drinking hand on the twisty thing on the side of the fishing rod. Immediately the line stopped going out, but I felt pulled out. I placed my right foot forward and stopped my momentum and attempted to pull back. The line pulled back against me even stronger. Now I could feel the struggle. The fish didn’t want to be caught and I didn’t want to lose the fish. 

    My feet were firm. A few seconds went by looking at my line pass back and forth, but never going outward. I was stable and I had the fish exactly where I wanted it. My hand was on the reeling-in thingy and I finally reeled it in and a short amount of the line came in with the fish fighting just as hard as it was a few seconds ago, without me pulling it in. 

    A few mere rolls in and I could feel that the fight had decreased from this fish. With every circulation pulling the fish in would become easier and easier. The fighting stopped and, finally, I could see it’l shiny flesh floating on the surface of the lake right ahead of me. It still flopped every now and again, but all the fight had gone out of it. 

    ‘Fuck sake mate,’ was what I said as soon as I saw its full body pulled up to the rocks immediately before me. 

    It flopped around some more on the surface. I grabbed a great big rock that was near me and I brought it down hard on the fish’s head and I crushed it cleanly. After a few seconds it stopped flopping around. The thing I had caught was a medium weighted trout. Certainly nothing that was in any contention of winning a world record – or even a local record – but it was a fish that I had caught all on my own. And that’s all that really mattered to me when I saw that thing with it’s brains splattered all over the rocks. I had finally bested a master of the sea – I had finally caught a fucking fish.

    This single, rather minuscule, accomplishment of getting a fish out of the sea meant more to me than the last ten years working to ensure that the books of multi-million dollar companies showed more than satisfactory results for the chair members of whichever company I was lying to. And I was glad for it – since that was the only fish that I luckily grasped during the entire day of fishing. But the rest of the day spent drinking whisky and listening to music more than made up for my lack of catches.

    I returned my rod and remaining bait to the baitman, with my dead fish in tow over my shoulder.

    ‘You caught something ‘ay. Let’s have a look at it then,’ said the baitman squinting one eye and staring into the grey mass that was my catch. I tossed his bait and his rod and all his other equipment over the counter and then I threw the fish onto the counter so that it was right in front of his eyes.

    He whistled a quite whistle and said ‘she’s quite a somethin. You ought to be proud of that. Two days in and you ‘ave a meal. You better cook ‘er up right then yea?’

    ‘Yeah,’ I replied with residual salty phlegm in my mouth, ‘I’ll cook ‘er up good.’

    Then I took my fish off the bench and began walking home with it over my shoulder. Every car that passed me had some driver or passenger looking at me as I went through the main street, back over the bridge, and then into the residential area to my friends and her fiance’s house. It didn’t bother me. I had conquered one of the primary elements of the earth – what did it matter to me what people thought of me. 

    My friend and her fiance were quite proud of what I had accomplished that day. She cooked up the trout with some garlic and herbs and citrus and served it to us still steaming. It was delicious – it was far better than the meals I had comped from my company when taking out clients to expensive restaurants. But it was a home cooked meal by someone whose cooking experience consisted of grade 11 and 12 home-ec class who was cooking a fish that was caught by someone who probably couldn’t tell a fishing line from a butcher’s twine. 

    I now had a difficult decision before me. The date on my return ticket was slowly creeping closer and closer, and each day I drew further and further away from wanting to work in my old job. I would sleep and dream then fish and listen and live and desire. All these things I had never experienced working to consolidate numbers with expectations. But I felt better working with these numbers. They were more natural and, despite representing less, they meant more. Catching a single fish that was only a few kilograms seemed to be far more of an accomplishment than balancing the books of a company that was worth a few million dollars.

More days passed, and more time spent with the fishmonger, and with my friend and her fiance, and with the bartenders and pub keepers and the beer pullers. A few more fish found their way into my kipper box, but I found more and more acceptance among these small town folks. One night a local fisherman came down beside me and started a conversation.

    ‘Heya, how’re you coming along? Catching much?’   

    ‘Catching fuck all, if I’m honest,’ I replied, ‘how’re you coming along?’

    ‘I never come along,’ he replied as he gazed out along his line.

    ‘Ah, just looking for something to do then ‘ay?’ I replied in an attempt to stimulate conversation with the stranger.

    ‘Aren’t we all.’ he replied confidently.

    And so we both stood there. Silent guardians over the quietest fishing spot in all of Taupo. Then he left.

    ‘Hey, where’re you going? You’ve not caught anything yet?’ I cried out after him.

    ‘I don’t need to. I’m alright,’ he said as he continued to walk.

The week or so that I had set aside for my vacation into Taupo had expired. When I woke up that morning I was expected at the international gate in only half an hour. It was far less time that I could have had if I had sped the whole way there. I looked at the time on my phone, then I looked at the departure time of my flight back home, and I went back to sleep. 

    Back home everything – I knew – would need sorting out. There were accounts to be drawn out of and accounts that required funds to be put into so that balances could be temporarily acquired; there were balance sheets that needed multiple millions of dollars worth of input and output that no one knew where the input came from or where the output went to but that simply existed. There was so much work to do to – that I would have to do – to ensure that a company, or our representative of that company, could go to investors or partners or executives or whatever, in order to ensure that the money they had invested in said company was being put to good use, no matter how exactly it was being put to use. 

    But here; here there was only fish. If you didn’t get a fish then you didn’t eat a fish. You didn’t need to put it in an offshore account for four years and hope that the next government would be the opposition party and would therefore loosen restrictions on investments in foreign companies. A fish was a fish. You would catch it in the afternoon, bring it home and strip it and then throw the fillets onto the fire and cook it up with some aromatics and citruses and then you would have a delicious meal. No tricks, no legal loopholes, no nothing. Just fish, grapefruit, and garlic. 

    So I pushed the snooze button. I woke up way after my flight had already left. I never even sent a goodbye message to my shithead boss. Then I went and caught something. I couldn’t even tell you what. And that’s how the rest of my life went.