WEIRD SOUP XII: "THE KING OF AUSTRALIA"
"The King of Australia spends free afternoons creating great works of art for the general public. Today he froze an explosion. Hung a catty PA from the steeple of an invisible church. Created a giant out of steel girders. Painted clouds red and let them float freely in the rafters. 'Contrary to popular reports, I never wanted to be Jean-Luc Godard,' says the King of Australia. 'That was somebody else's idea. In my spare time, I paint dreams. I lasso children. I cage the public randomly, expose them to colour and light in narrow cafes. I eviscerate sixty-stone virgins for public consumption. I puncture reality. I castrate. I rotate. I disorder. It all comes fairly naturally...'."
by HP Tinker
COPYRIGHT © 2005, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The King of Australia has died several times in recent years, once from lung bronchitis, twice from chronic cancer. Yet he always bounces back. "Time is like a shot of penicillin," observes the King of Australia. "It sucks all the pain out of the past…"
And his old impishness endures to this day.
As does the inner seriousness revealed by a late-night liking for avant-garde improvisation in the company of incredibly pretty young women…
…always dashing down a corridor, racing toward another meeting, another interview, always casting long and handsome shadows in his wake…
"Yes, I am King of Australia! It seems unlikely, I know, but then I make for an unlikely king at the best of times. Conversely, at the worst of times, I struggle with the burdens of my position, I wrestle with conscience and fight consequence, so many forces conspiring to thwart my more noble endeavours …and I only became King of Australia by chance. The previous administration had aged badly by common consent, started out with the best of intentions, only to be sidetracked, let everybody down to such a degree that it thoroughly saddened itself and could never admit it publicly. A small band of children's philosophers and short-skirted entertainers and hairdressing addicts championed my cause… crowned me King of Australia: a surprise, yes, but nevertheless I was grateful. At my inauguration, there was pink champagne and powerful renditions of Beethoven's Ode to Joy and John Lennon's "Power to the People". They also supplied me with women, shapely, ample women of varying proportions. None of these women being you, however, this is where my happiness stalled and eventually faltered…"
On a balcony overlooking the public square, the King of Australia raises a glass of good strong wheat beer and studies it carefully.
"You need some love in your life," his personal barman tells him. "Everybody does. To love and be loved. The feeling of love coming at you from two directions simultaneously..."
The King of Australia takes a mouthful of the good strong wheat beer.
"Well, there was someone once," he explains. "But she came and went. It was her decision. There was little I could do about it. I wasn't involved in the mechanics of the actual decision-making process…"
The King of Australia eyes the dawn, marvels at the well-proportioned curves and impossibly-shaped contours of the dawn. There is something impenetrable and mysterious about the dawn, yet something approachable and yielding too. "How I wish I could lay my post-coital gaze on such a young and nubile-looking dawn every morning…"
Outwardly a committed democrat deeply concerned about social tariffs, butler injustice, dinner mountains and the legality of freelance duck, inwardly the King of Australia feels he has what it takes to become a great dictator or mass murderer or paranoid Scotsman. However his soft, often hesitant exterior belies an even softer, more hesitant interior…
…an outbreak of moderate tedium veering throughout the country. A sudden, all-encompassing wave of moderate tedium… washing through the plains of Australia with an enormously half-hearted exhalation… elder statesmen on their feet, yelling: "Give the people more narrative! This is what the people want! How else can we combat moderate boredom? The people need narrative!"
"And themes," they add, slowly sitting back down again.
The King of Australia waggles his index finger passionately.
"Don't the people already have more than enough narrative in their lives? Aren't they already engorged and inflated on the remains of too much narrative? Perhaps they don't need more narrative… perhaps they need less… perhaps they need to think for themselves, without restrictive templates guiding their thought processes… perhaps they need to feel new feelings… experience new modes of experience…"
Swiftly dispatched to conduct moral-boosting narrative-based adventures: the King of Australia rounding up a harem of evil quiz show contestants whose breath has the power to bring great armies to the brink of tears… the King of Australia saving a redolent young woman from the clutches of some long-haired men, before forgetting to take down her contact details… the King of Australia accidentally conjuring up the ghost of an Elvis impersonator during an awards ceremony who to the delight of assembled guests breaks into an impromptu boogie-woogie interpretation of "Kentucky Rain"...
Suddenly students taking to the streets, the badges of serious-browed young women proclaiming We YThe King of Australia… a new life-sized statue unveiled: the King of Australia in bronze, beer glass lofted victoriously… many onlookers noting that the King of Australia's hands are "surprisingly small"…
Down in his subterranean headquarters, the King of Australia dashes around like a speeded-up character in a Charlie Chaplin film. His small hands are spinning. Every 10 seconds someone accosts him with a new request. The King of Australia answers accordingly:
"Not now -"
Hunched in a hideous armchair, the King of Australia sits brooding. Are the pressures of my enlarged sense of diplomacy and too much democracy beginning to engulf me?
The King of Australia spends free afternoons creating great works of art for the general public. Today he froze an explosion. Hung a catty PA from the steeple of an invisible church. Created a giant out of steel girders. Painted clouds red and let them float freely in the rafters. "Contrary to popular reports, I never wanted to be Jean-Luc Godard," says the King of Australia. "That was somebody else's idea. In my spare time, I paint dreams. I lasso children. I cage the public randomly, expose them to colour and light in narrow cafes. I eviscerate sixty-stone virgins for public consumption. I puncture reality. I castrate. I rotate. I disorder. It all comes fairly naturally..."
Seeing the grave expression on the face of the King of Australia, his senior advisor Mr. Pompidou advises: "When experiencing sexual uncertainty, solicit comfort from your threadbare social support network…"
"But I don't have one…" points out the King of Australia.
"Well?" says Mr. Pompidou. "What about your wife?"
"Really?" says the King of Australia. "My wife?"
What on earth was Mr. Pompidou talking about? the King of Australia wonders, a short while later, face to face with the face of his wife, showing her his latest State papers. "Call yourself a King?" she scoffs. "What kind of poor excuse for a King are you? And what are you the King of, exactly? You don't do anything remotely Kingly…"
"It's sleight of hand," explains the King of Australia, speaking slowly, as if to a trainee solicitor. "Done with smoke and mirrors. Although nothing appears to be happening, below the surface great schemes are being schemed…"
"You're wasting your time," she hisses, tearing up the papers in front of his nose, stamping them into the dust… then she peels off his slime-encrusted socks and washes them on a slow-rinse cycle.
The King of Australia encounters other women, of course.
"But you are married!" they object.
"No, I'm not," he retorts.
"Oh, yes you are," they counter.
"No, I'm not," he retorts again.
"Oh, yes you are," they counter again.
"Well, I am, yes, technically," he retorts again, "but only in a manner of speaking…"
"Wasn't there someone else once? A princess?"
"Yes, there was a princess once, a long time ago. She abdicated her position, relocated to New York… became the most famous whore in all TriBeCa... I believe she was last sighted in Paris, eating marzipan for a living. The whore of TriBeCa possessed such a sweetly self-centred worldview, naïve in its own egoism. Also," remembers the King of Australia, "she liked to drink. And to drink is to dream, to reach out toward the impossible, to break through the usually impregnable…"
They met long before he became King of Australia. She worked in an Unpopular Art gallery where an exuberant new artistic language was being created out of tyre prints and concrete. His favourite exhibit: "Capitalistic Princess On A Colourful Table, 1979". Gazing wide-eyed at the beautifully formulated princess balancing one-legged on a colourful table: nakedly yawning…
"I've seen you here before…" she said, dancing over to him.
"Indeed," he explained. "I've been here before…"
The expression on her face wrestling with itself briefly before finally succumbing to the universally acknowledged law of gravity…
"It was late. I was tired. My guard was thoroughly down. I was confused. The weather outside was appalling. I had danced gaily through the electrical storm, dodging bright blue bolts of brilliant light. In the aftermath, the soles of the shoes were frazzled, my hairstyle slightly mussed. The storm spent, everything became almost tranquil, a situation arose quite quickly. Luckily I believe in the innate malleability of situations. Without going into it too deeply, situations are eminently malleable. They may appear fixed, but they are actually quite transitory, constantly in a state of flux. Situations are arbitrary, not necessarily meaningful at all, although meaning often gets applied to them retrospectively, possibly quite erroneously. Her elevated forehead, exotic facial muscles set a powerful train of events in motion… but obstacles stood in our way. Fences. Barbed wire. Walls. Doormen. Husbands. Wives. Legal requirements. And when I finally analysed our relationship, I came to the conclusion we didn't actually have one. I tried self-aggrandizement. I tried telepathy. I tried exotic foodstuffs. I tried tranquillising darts. I tried Jack Daniel's. I tried everything in all honesty…"
… the King of Australia describing his anguish on seeing his wife imprisoned for a series of sex crimes with a variety of sub-mental navvies: "My anguish is large and somewhat unwieldy. Rather like an amorphous pale-blue hotchpotch of kaleidoscopic spikes of raw gun-metal emotion," he says. "As my wife is completely guilty of all charges, I am consumed by several shades of this anguish. On the other hand, she was a danger to herself, society, democracy and me. So things have probably turned out for the best…"
In the open air, the King of Australia liberated, flirtatious, calm, brutal, buzzing with energy, alive…
"Do you believe change is finally on its way?"
"Yes, I am almost certain it is coming -- if not from above or behind, or the right or the left, then from somewhere I like to think of as 'that place over there… fairly near the woods.'"
His life suddenly intersecting with lives of dazzling ordinariness… a waitress serving soup with a complimentary foreign accent. The King of Australia intent on paying for the soup himself. Only for the bemused young waitress to say, with a sugary smile, 'It's on the house…'
…a bored barmaid expelling phlegm from both nostrils at record speed. 'Can I take this stool?' the King of Australia asks the bored barmaid. 'Officially the stool is the property of the bar owner,' she says. 'But it's perfectly within your rights to borrow it for a while so long as it remains right here on the premises...'
… tall, headscarfed women in shorts and bikinis, a fleet of them on roller-skates overtaking him in a tree-lined avenue. Despising their exposed flesh and summer thighs. Why did they do this? Flaunt their nubile limbs and happy-go-lucky faces? Wondering about the girls of summer, wondering where they went during the other seasons…
These other women not tempting him, however.
"No. Instead, I took refuge in the company of whores. Stranded in a social wasteland. An unresponsive context. Whores on every corner. Standing in doorways. Likeable whores for whom anger management was not an issue. I did not have a problem with these whores. They were approachable. In front of me appeared a large, colourful woman: bountiful breasts, hair dyed black and artfully positioned with fixing gel. She juggled her breasts up and down and smiled alarmingly. I wondered: is this a nation of whores? Are we beholden to those we should not be beholden to? Do we not speak for ourselves? Do we speak up for those who should speak up for themselves? There are many very talented whores in Australia, I have discovered, located mostly in the nether regions, usually along the docks… each has differing skills and appetites and aptitudes… they will happily provide you with a quote if you ask for further details…
Sitting in an empty bar in the middle of the day, feeling faintly amoral. The Ambassador of Bulgaria perched opposite, an elegant champagne flute in his hand. "When you mislay a wife," says the Ambassador of Bulgaria, "it is imperative to acquire a new one for yourself as quickly as possible… just how many new wives do you think you will be requiring?"
(NB: "I sought refuge in alcoholism. At my regular political meetings tending to drink too much wine… neither congress nor the senate minding my blatant drunkenness in the slightest, however…")
"Another glass of wine?" asks the Prime Minister's less than attractive wife at another political meeting.
"Yes," slurs the King of Australia, kissing the Prime Minister's less than attractive wife full on the lips. Taken by surprise, the Prime Minister's less than attractive wife kisses him back on the lips too, quite passionately.
("I wondered why I had done this. I liked the Prime Minister. I certainly didn't want to upset him by kissing his less than attractive wife. So why did I kiss the minister's less than attractive wife? Yes, it was a bad and unwise thing to do, and on subsequent state visits the Prime Minister's less than attractive wife has adopted a less than sunny disposition toward me…")
The King of Australia eagerly carrying a copy of The Brothers Karamazov up to bed. "Dostoevsky offers such useful advice for the lovelorn," he explains. Unable to sleep, the King of Australia wanders back into the kitchenette area, turns on the light, contemplates a swift Martini, decides against it, chooses a biscuit, a bourbon cream instead. Eating the biscuit, the King of Australia watches a film on the small kitchen top TV: Tom Hanks comically entangled in a romantic situation. The romantic situation is going badly at first, notices the King of Australia, but then via an entirely implausible series of events it works out rather well.
"Things always work out rather well for Tom Hanks," observes the King of Bohemia, sitting in a sauna. For his own safety he is accompanied by a team of fifteen secret service agents wrapped in white linen. "The whore of TriBeCa wants to meet me on Monday," the King of Australia tells the fifteen secret service agents. "It has to be Monday. No other day will do, she says. This perplexes and troubles me. Why Monday? Why not, say, Thursday? Or Tuesday? Or why not, say, Saturday or Wednesday? Or, for that matter, Friday? What is wrong with Friday? Even Sunday. Sunday has a lazy, easygoing kind of provincial charm. Yes, Sunday would make a perfectly charming day for a meeting. But Monday… why Monday?"
"So what are your intentions toward the whore of TriBeCa, then?"
"I have nothing but the finest of intentions toward the whore of TriBeCa, of course. I simply wish to express my frank regard for her in an open and fairly graphic sexual manner."
Fuzzy rain drizzling from a blanket of sky. The whore of TriBeCa appearing with a flat cap pulled down tight over her face, as if in disguise or possibly undercover…
"Yes," exclaims the King of Australia, "while you sat and watched daytime TV, I averted major disasters, befriended banana republics, kick-started unnecessary revolutions, rediscovered the secrets of lost empires. I have overseen a magical transition from a dark time of tyranny to a quiet period of personal liberty… so I believe my new position of authority might impress you…"
"Maybe," says the whore of TriBeCa, unimpressed. "But for the time being I am erring toward the side of caution..."
… swaggering though the streets, a string quartet following at a discreet distance performing a Tchaikovsky andante…
"I have no confessions to confess," says the King of Australia.
"And I can only breathe the truth," says the whore of TriBeCa.
"But is truth not confession?" asks the King of Australia.
"Yes," says the whore of TriBeCa. "But the biggest truths are dream-like, inconstant visions, harbingers of implausible possibility…"
"Well, if you say so…" sighs the King of Australia, unable to find the exact combination of words to actually express the infinitesimal sense of sadness pummelling his skull at this moment.
"Whenever the whore spoke to me in her unusually blunt Northern hues I always rather enjoyed it. She always blazed her baby blue eyes in my direction too. Why did she blaze her baby blue eyes toward me in that manner? I could never find any conclusive motive for her doing so. It could easily have been misconstrued. Eventually she disappeared bleary-eyed down a corridor of dwindling possibility wearing a long blue coat pursued by zombie-like courtiers... leaving again for even newer pastures, predominantly barley-covered hills…"
The King of Australia consults the television guide: You've Got Mail, Mermaids, Analyze This, Ghostbusters II, Baby Boom, "Sleepless In Seattle"… a genuine plateau of organic despair flattening him into his mattress… May… March… July… now the months seeming to pass him in a continually non-linear sequence… August… June… September…
"In many respects," muses the King of Australia. "I think I may have failed…"
He chills a 1943 Bordeaux, drinks it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
HP Tinker lives in Manchester where he has carved a niche for himself as an "hilarious deadpan surrealist". His fiction has appeared in Ambit, Pulp.Net, emwriting, CrimeSpree Magazine, among other places, and here at 3:AM Magazine where he is an editor of sorts. Recently three of his "post-Gibson, neo-Lynch" crime vignettes were anthologised in Dreams Never End edited by Nicholas Royle.