When I pulled into the street, I saw him leaning against the ash-grey trunk of a eucalypt in front of the courthouse—faded collared shirt and jeans wrapped loosely around his hunched frame, a cigarette cupped in his hands.
He was following the progress of a ute in the middle of executing a reverse parallel park, calling instructions to “swing harder” and “back out”. The driver seemed not to hear him. I pressed and held the horn until he, and everyone else on the street turned to face me. Another stranger in town, they said with desiccated squints and scowls that suggested limited access to dental hygiene.
He rubbed his cigarette into the tree trunk, waited, then crossed the street, scraping his sneakers on the road as he approached the car. Continue reading Waterfall Way
Today I’m going to pass on a secret that’s been in my family for at least a generation or two, and show you how to whip up a batch of Nonna’s homemade gnocchi which, aside from being the cheapest gourmet-sounding meal this side of the poverty line, is the only thing I ever learned how to cook with conviction and mild success; apart from scrambled eggs on toast, which I still fuck up on occasions.
But before we get started I want to give you a bit of background info. First of all, I swear. A lot. A gift from my father before he went the way of all alcoholic diabetics with a monumental appetite for refined sugar. I also have a birthmark on the back of my left thigh shaped like the Eiffel Tower, or an ice-cream cone; it depends on how far I bend over.
As for the recipe, it all came from my Nonna—a stringy old bird from the north of Italy who, like many folk after the war, found herself on a boatful of other white-looking immigrants bound for Australia to work their arses off and get called a bunch of ‘good-for-nothing wogs’. She was the only one in those days who’d bothered to learn any English, which made her pretty popular around the markets and hospitals and court houses and anywhere else where monolingual Italians used to turn up with any frequency.
Nonna was of the old school of cooks: she could march into any kitchen, sift through the shit on the shelves and with nothing but a handful of flour and a stern look, cook a decent family meal, or a snack for passing Nazis, and by three-thirty in the afternoon she’d have the whole house licking their lips and loosening their pants asking where the nearest couch was. Depending on which day you caught her, her skills in the kitchen were either a talent, a gift, or a wicked burden. But whatever her mood, she’d never tell you to do up your fly and get off the bloody couch until at least the coffee had been served. And no one, except my mother and sister, had to help her do the washing up. Thank Christ for that. And no matter who you were—friend, neighbour, dentist, rude man in line at Medicare—she’d touch you on the cheek or on the shoulder when you spoke to her, because she knew that everyone needed something extra, something tactile, to show that other people were listening to them, and she’d leave you with some nugget of wisdom or down-to-earth advice, even if it involved the best way to take up a pair of men’s trousers.
Okay, so I’m painting a pretty rosy picture here—she might had whacked her kids around a bit too, and shot a few of the neighbours’ dogs because they pissed on her azaleas—but she was generally alright, and I have never understood how, from such a sweet lady as my Nonna, came the rancorous crab monster that is my mother. Continue reading Nonna’s Gnocchi: A Real Fucking Treat (A recipe)
The water drummed against the bow of the Gritty Tang as she tugged her way along the western shoals.
Captain Kona stood silently at the wheel, his calloused hands responding in twitches to the pitching and lurching of the spring swells. He glanced at the mirror, and frowned at the curtain of mist that was purling over the horizon. The rains were coming. They’d promised three fingers by evening fall. Continue reading Captain Kona
Chic (adj.): a half-refurbished ground floor space in a former East German apartment block.
Austere plaster swimming with granite and silver adornments; dub music playing softly from speaker cones; retro phones converted into candle holders and pink shag in the toilets – Irving hated this restaurant. The food was overpriced and unexciting, the cocktails nauseatingly pretentious (anyone for a Strawbunny Chokehold?), and the patrons were invariably overdressed proles with huge teeth, or chihuahua hugging metro sexuals with their dress pants on backwards. That’s why, out of all the upmarket promi-troughs, it was Charlotte’s favourite. Continue reading Immer 88
Finn spat into the lenses of his binoculars, wiped them dry, then look down into the harbour.
From the red haze on the southern horizon, the coast ran cramped and arched between the dust and sea like a green wire. There were headlands, the most extreme of which formed the southern end of the bay, a prism of forest and stone that stretched out into the sea like a chain of pyramids. The tip they called the Nail and there was a cabin and a fire they would tend to at night to warn ships away from the bluffs, or to give those who had been driven into the rocks by the relentless northern gusts, those who survived, a point of reference on the hazardous climb from the shoreline. The fire had had not burned in months.
From the sea the face of the Nail resembled the face of a man, old and unwashed, with hollow eyes. Fringes of scrub grew in thick clusters around the promontory, tumbling around deep fissures and rocky orifices, a slab of sandstone shot out parallel to the ocean’s surface and sniffed at the winds, and the roots of trees, dead and living, fed into the shallows, stirring with each flow of air and water. Finn, who had not often look upon it, fancied it to be the face of someone he’d once known, his father, or a priest, perhaps. The personalities changed with every season, each new tide of the weather lending its own character to the vegetation to the jagged coastline. Every storm and fire and flood a new wrinkle on the face of Bendethera. Continue reading Diving Bendethera
The sound is proximate and consequential, like the crack of bone.
He wakes up and curls into a ball. He waits for a pain to tell him he’s broken something, or a betraying silence that says he has finally crushed his wife to death.
When his eyes adjust to the moonlight he realizes he is not in bed, but in the desert, alone and naked, and half-buried in sand. He raises his knees and finds a bowl of felled and splintered trees. Continue reading Measuring Stars
Mr Masao Takeshi, vice president of the Ryou Corporation, squinted through the curtains of the Rialto Hotel’s breakfast room.
Outside, the brilliant May sun glittered off the water onto the buildings, filling the canal with a thousand colours. Tourists scampered over the bridge, pointing at boats, taking photos, and avoiding the Albanian scam artists at the foot of the stairs next to the stained glass boutiques. A bell rang from some distant square. Takeshi looked at his watch.
“Everyone away from the windows,” Takeshi said and straightened his Italian silk tie. “Mr Ryou’s gondola is arriving. I want everything tripled-checked, quadruple-checked… and whatever comes after that. Cutlery, the guestbook, newspapers, salami… you all know what happens now. Yukio, is the kitchen staff on standby?”
A small man with a goatee beard put a finger in his ear, then nodded.
“And the guests, Miss Minako?”
Miss Minako cocked her head. She also nodded.
“Good. Now I want you all out of sight when Mr Ryou arrives. Invisible. In this world you are from this minute on ghosts. We’ve worked too hard to fail now. I don’t need to remind you of what happened in Toledo.” Continue reading The Man Maketh the Journey
As Karen pushes through the revolving door the air begins to thicken with the tang of incense and soy sauce.
Sparkling neon lights flash blue and green and yellow messages against her white-shorts and t-shirt; in bold, red characters, a sign forbids a certain action, of which she is unsure—not to park, or spit, or linger too long in one place perhaps. She thrusts her ticket into her pocket and edges into the current of bodies. Continue reading A Breath of Fresh Tokyo
The sun was pinned to the horizon and flushed the sky orange like an electric stove.
Ray was loading the last of the gear from the landing. He squinted at each bundle to measure its dimensions and weight, before tossing it into the boat.
“John says the weather will be calm ‘til four. Looks alright to me. We’ll be out over the port, up to the north there, across from the headland. There’s a trough full of bream and snapper out there John says. He and the bigger boats aren’t allowed along, they’re out further where the billfish are and we’re not after them.” Ray dropped the plastic tackle box onto the floor with a muted thud. The box’s claps popped open, releasing a spurt of lead sinkers over the ribs of the boat’s floor. “Damn it!” he spat and as he crouched down his brown toes splayed in his rubber flip-flops.
“Leave that and help me get these. I told you to close the thing properly if you take things out. Didn’t I tell you?” Continue reading Sky fishing