Victoria St, North Richmond

“I fear that I am writing a requiem for myself”

The echo of yesterday’s party was stained in the ears of everyone passed out on the ground. A Vietnamese soup bowl, half full of broth served as an ashtray, tiny cigarette butt warships played dodgems through tiny slicks of ashen tinted chilli oil.

There was an empty bottle of rum sitting next to my head.

Vodka when I fly, Rum when I’m at sea, Stella when I’m angry and I’ll drink Gin when I’m free.

I rubbed my eyes until one of the contacts I left in rolled into better shape and I could see more clearly. Wrenching the blanket from the girl passed out next to me I coughed up some stomach bile and spat it at the carper, reaching for a weirdly convenient bottle of Listerine in one stuttered motion.

The day has already started, trains were getting more frequent and the shaking of the foundations every seven minutes stirred more and more of the party awake, either into brief lucidity or an agitated irritability. The main reason I was still awake was an unrelenting need to coat the toilet in a sublime remnant of all the masochistic behavior my body had endured since last night.

Every time that my body shook me awake, the girl next to me would just make me want to fall asleep, just so I could wake up next to her again.

But the toilet was calling a subliminal song with every squeak of a train’s brakes. As I picked up the square of material we had been using as a blanker and fashioned a makeshift cape, she looked up at me wincing.

I used to think I could read minds.

Stumbling to the end of the hall, beige cape in tow, I noticed my friend Herb laying across the hallway, arms clutching at the Yellow Pages, eyes darting left, right, left, right. His astounding drawl of each page's listings was incredible. He laid there simply making up new professions for each name. A dog walker became a high-class escort; a high school tutor became a long-term car park. I stood there a few minutes, Herb oblivious to my presence. My beige cape hung tight from my shoulders.

A roach crawled out of a can of two week old Special Brew and scuttled past Herb’s treasured Yellow Pages. With a speed not known to be a quality of Herb’s, he proceeded to flip open the L-Z and slam it down with a twist and a thud. It was akin to the noise that the trains continued to make, just off tempo with the 6.15am to the city.

I looked down at the mess on the floor.

“I’m in Paris today” muttered Herb sharply.

“And when you finally realize that for each day you waste, for each life you drag down into your own fetid web of manipulation and deceit, that shit WILL hit the fan and the great ephemeral safety blanket you wear on your shoulders will be a petrol soaked rag, burning ever so brightly, lit by those things you woke up in the morning and forgot you did, and THAT THESE THINGS are what others remember..”

Herb never once made eye contact during the whole spiel.

“When the floor spots barking new patterns at me, I’ll be out of here..”

Herb had been staying with us the last month.


I told Herb to shut the fuck up and smoke another cone, as I casually stepped over him so I could simultaneously shit and vomit.

I left my cape outside the bathroom.


One feels inclined to say that the intention that man should be "happy" is not included in the plan of "Creation."

-Civilization and Its Discontents (1929)

Today, I am going to publish a short story I recently had included in an exhibition, where it was superimposed onto a TAB ticket. For those not in Australia and unfamiliar with the Totaliser Agency Board, this is a ticket you use in order to place bets on animals that run around in circles, with the sole aim of multiplying your money based on a factor that the Board acknowledges. I wasn’t planning on publishing this here, but for the public interest (and possibly in generating some hype in order to sell the said piece of work) I decided that I would. But before I give you a macabre Freudian tale, I have written a short prologue to what I am doing and why.

Deciding what you are going to write about is probably one of the hardest tasks you can face as an author. There is so much you could talk about, and the fact of the matter is, most of it is fucking boring. Even this opening sentence is fucking lacklustre. Opinion pieces normally dissolve into a one sided melodrama, and short stories aren’t everybody’s cup of tea. What we, as a community, are faced with is an endless bombardment of topical tripe and inane innuendo. People tell me I should write happy stories, with nice endings and ingrained moral fortitude. But who really wants to escape into that? Housewives who took too many Valium, ended up in the bathroom and forgot what they were doing? I prefer to write about the reality of the many, the ones who had to hock their laptops to pay rent, only to lose the money gambling. The ripping yarns of the kids who due to insufficient parenting (or even overindulgent parenting) end up looking up to the guy who sells them drugs. As a reader, I prefer to be able to feel a connection with a character. They may be painted as societies black sheep, but amongst their own there are definite heroes and villains amongst the villains. The lesser of two evils is still evil, but which one would you prefer to have sitting next to you on the train?

And so I give you the below.

Green Trackpants and a Carton of Milk

The middle aged man strutted past the tram stop with a bop in his step, his Scottish football jersey full of holes, what was left of his hair, slicked back heavily with Brylcream.  A passing compliment about a commuters "great set of pins" was met with a distraught reaction and an offhand comment about 1950's attitudes.

Along he bopped, wolf whistling at empty shop fronts and parked cars. His ageing prison tattoos had wrinkled, winking creases in the morning sunlight. He feared being asleep while the world changed.

A life dictated by traffic jams and red lights didn't favour him. The corporate ladder dangled in front of him like his old cell mate.

The smell of wet asphalt and warm morning sun radiating together. He turned his head and saw a young personal assistant, make up completely overdone, clutching at her Gucci handbag running for the tram. She was swearing at the tram driver as he pulled away and screaming at her phone as she slowly stopped running.

He thought about going up to her and sliding his calloused hands up her skirt. Punching her in the throat and wrenching her thousand dollar handbag from her quivering hands. He thought about walking up to her silently and jamming a broken bottle into her chest and through her lungs. He stopped in his tracks to light a cigarette. He started thinking about giving her a rose. Offering her his 2 for 1 Hungry Jacks vouchers. Telling her his life story, rolling her a cigarette and trying to pass to her whatever knowledge he could.

As he took a long draw on his cigarette, before he could act, she hailed a taxi, eyes locked onto her smartphone, unaware of his gaze.

After a few more draws staring into space and contemplating what could have been, he started his bop down the street again. The pavement boomed up at him with every step, his legs moving in unison, meeting the ground reluctantly as it rose up to meet his beaten pair of trainers.

He saw an old cottage beside the train line, an alleyway leading up to it covered in shitty graffiti. He spun mid stride and made his way toward it, fruit bats flying overhead. A young boy rode past on a small BMX, trail blazing his way through the alleyway, training wheels in tow. Without hesitation he flagged the young boy down.

"Stop, in the name of the law!" he exclaimed at the child. The boy stopped with a skid and rose his head up to face the man solemnly.

"You know it's against the law to ride bicycles without helmets you know" the man muttered sternly.

"Are you even a cop?" the boy asked, his voice not yet broken.

"No, but I am a member of Neighbourhood Watch and I watch my neighbourhood ever so closely" the man replied. "There not be a thing that I don't see, even with these tired, tired eyes"

"Well, what have you seen today?" the boy asked, kicking at the dirt path, annoyed at being stopped but too naive to just ride away.

"I've seen a pair of legs that go for days, I've seen traffic jams, I've seen this little slut miss her tram, I've seen a country full of people like me ignored by people like her, I've seen the pain in someone's eyes when they are hungry, but not all the food in the world would make them satisfied, I've had all my old friends die, I've had all my new ones leave, I've seen, I've seen.."

The man snapped out of his rant.

The ground started to swell and undulate. Seven different sins leaked from it's crust, amalgamating into a buzzing whirlwind, alienating him from the planet he walked on. A sudden shift was had, as if someone tipped the world on its axis. Defiantly he clung to sanity, fingertips worn and sore against the cliff face. The dull thud from inside his head grew stronger and louder, bubbling and boiling until out of his mouth came a vile mix of cusswords, spit and bile. The darkness escalated high out of the ground and surrounded him, all the while venal sadness played a xylophone made out of his spinal cord up and down, laughing as his back contorted painfully with each note.

He thought back to a time in his youth when he used to call a girl up on the telephone. He would call her up and abuse her for no reason. She was a nice girl, nice enough. Nothing remarkable about her, but something drove him to crush her. He would call her up and just insult her. He didn't even know her. Well, somehow he knew someone who knew her, as turned out to be the case. He didn't even remember how he got her number. Whenever he called her, he lay idle on the floor of his small studio apartment, writhing and crawling around. He reached for his Motorola Razr flip phone and dialled her number. He functioned on a sliding scale of wretchedness towards her, starting off at around a 3, maybe a 4, and eventually sliding it all the way into the red, bringing the abuse back down to a reasonable 5 and typically ended on a 7. She normally endured this silently, and wouldn't hang up until he had finished. He would absentmindedly tell her that he was going to rape her, cut her stomach open, fuck her mouth with a pair of scissors, all the while laying prostrate on the floor, slapping a palm at roaches and picking lint off his clothes.

The vortex started to close, and the world around him started to drain, like the world's pigments were made of watercolour and his sobriety was splashing giant swathes of name brand mineral water over everything.

The little boy went and rode for a long time, and didn't get back home until after midnight. He kept riding and riding. The flashing indicator lights of cars and buses faded past him quickly and quietly. His legs, full of lactic acid, pumped up and down as if he was a mechanical steam engine, the fatigue not phasing him. He needed to keep riding.

When his mother answered the door he walked straight past her, washed out look on his face. She grabbed him, tears swelling up in her eyes.
"Where have you been?! I've been so worried!"

"Great set of pins" the boy replied, as he quietly climbed the stairs and crept straight into bed.

© James Hattrick 2014

“O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains!"
-Cassio (Othello Act II, Scene iii)

“Fuck, its hard work being a normie” he said solemnly. “All of the daytime is spent inside four walls, earning money to pay rent for four walls at night time, only to avoid living a life inside four walls!” He fumbled for his lighter, single Marlboro Red drawn slowly from the drab green generic packets that they had started selling them in. His soft hands slid back and forth up his legs, trying to find where the lighter had gone. 

As he sipped his single malt scotch, he tried to avoid getting ash on his girlfriend’s laptop. 

“But what are our options? We revert to a life of hiding things that aren’t ours in the front of our pants, in order to sell them to people who can’t or won’t take the risk of hiding things in their own pants themselves? A life lived not knowing where the rent is going to come from, where a Friday is exactly the same as a Monday? Where you only live for today and the problems and wars of another become so much less significant than the twenty-dollar piece of steak and a bottle of imported Vodka you just walked out of the store without paying for? They are, but the utopian construct of a bygone era, you would do well to imagine it with its hair slicked back with margarine, and washed down the toilet like last nights party..”

I sat back and reclined in my seat; I could tell he was on a roll.

“We could forgo all the niceties of the modern age and share a squat with a forty something Heroin addict named Donald who can’t remember the last time he called his mother? Or we wake up at the same time everyday, and walk into a building to make someone else more money than they pay us? Our options these days are, how should I say, fucking limited.”

His opinions on life were jaded and cynical at the best of times, but that’s why I liked him. The Jam’s Going Underground played at a moderate volume in the background, fading in and out of earshot above the sound of his bellowing and preaching.

He remembered where he had placed his lighter, as he took a deep sigh and slid another cigarette from its coffin. He shook them as if it would make more of them appear in the near empty packet, took a step back from his drink and as he calmly lit up, stared me right in the eyes.

“The weekend warriors who kid themselves they aren’t junkies, they are the worst.”

His stare wavered as he took a long draw on his cigarette.

“But what am I to know? I’ve been there, done that AND bought the t-shirt. But I was never raised to know otherwise. The two distinct worlds I can see living in tandem only exist because I’ve been a happy minion of both. What if they were only manufactured by my psyche, as I tried to rationalize the life I was living at the time? The truth is I cannot, and will not, ever know. But if I were to try and explain this bipolarity to someone else, how can I expect him or her to interpret it the same way I do? You know what I mean don’t you?”

I nodded, but I didn’t.

“Of course you understand, because you’re one of us. One of the chosen few.”

He burped loudly and unashamedly. I could smell a combination of the greasy aftermath of what he considered food and expensive scotch, lingering in the air between us.

“It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but misery is the kindest mistress you can keep. If nothing can make you more happier than to be sad, the happy moments mean so much more, right?”

The self-destructiveness of his being was overwhelming. The next thing he would probably try telling me would be something about God. I reached for my glass and tried to finish my drink as fast as I could. He wouldn’t give a shit that I had to go to work the next day. He would more than likely pull out some highly illegal object soon, in a feeble attempt to rile a response from me. I was used to this from him. Last time we were in this same situation, he pulled out a bunch of war medals and a semi automatic handgun from underneath his bed and tried to get me to go down to the river and shoot fish with him.

“Remember when I used to hang out at the bus station? And just wait until I saw a face I knew? That was my life. I used to just wait until someone who had a life different to mine would walk past, and I would stick to them like glue. I would try to live a few hours of their life, because that was all I had. No job, no car, no girlfriend, just other people’s fucking lives. And I can tell you one thing, people have boring fucking lives.”

He filled my glass for me. I really needed to go, and I think he could tell.

“But in turn, I became a bit of a Pied Piper myself. I remember when you used to follow me, following other people. Now THAT’S a trip! You used to bump into me, remember? Or I’d bump into you, same same, and we would go wandering around together!”

I stared at my now full glass, wondering how long it would be until the next train.

“Yes.. That is true.”

“Now, the kids these days, they just follow people on Twitter. They don’t get their hands fucking dirty! They just read about what another halfwit kid thinks about the latest meal deal they are selling down the chicken shop.. They couldn’t give a fuck about getting lost somewhere..”

The scotch had definitely taken its effect, as he had now gotten up out of his chair and was now parading around the room shirtless.

“Get lost you should, how about that? You should fuck off, I’ve got to write my next piece for the blog and I’ve got no fucking material, what good is it for me to just sit here drunk talking to you? I’ve got to spread the good word of our saving father, the Government!”

He stood on the table, feet sweeping playing cards and rolling papers to the floor.

“We are the youth, and we are getting older! One day we will be able to stand behind the podium and tell YOU what YOU have done wrong and who to hate next! We will stand proudly under the one flag, united! And then there will come the people who grew up next to us, oblivious to our world, standing in the podium next to us, telling us that it is in fact WE that are wrong! And so forth we will tumble, in eternal chaos, cowardly placing faith in the fact that the newest hash tag trending on Twitter will somehow distract you! The true meaning of propaganda is not to tell you a version of the truth my friend, but to make you so disinterested in the truth that your apathy overwhelms you! And when your apathy cannot get any stronger, that is the moment, that is the moment your smartphone tells you to vote for us!”

I slowly packed my bag and got up to leave.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, yes?!” he said, still standing on the table.

I nodded briefly as I closed the door.



People tend to want to brag about an achievement. And there is nothing wrong with wanting recognition for something you aspire to do. But at what point does the ability to boast about something, rather than the goal you are aiming for, become the sole motivator for undertaking the goal in the first instance?

All I can think of is being fourteen, sitting in the city library watching a VHS copy of Style Wars with some friends, being able to relate to doodling on the paper, or being there and bombing it. Back then in Perth, we had the one writers bench in the middle of town. If you were a writer, regardless if you just scratched windows occasionally or if you painted pieces every night, you'd go sit there while your photos developed, tried to sell acquired electronics to other writers and in general just hang out. We did however have the luxury of having one graffiti shop masquerading as an automotive paint store. If you saw a piece that wasn't painted with a chisel, you knew they had gotten the paint from Monty's. The community was very small. And in some ways, the styles that were born of that era reflected that. There were two handstyles, the "junkie" handstyle or the artfag handstyle. If you had mastered both, you were a king. You could always tell just from looking at a tag when someone was from the Fremantle line or if they were from the Midland line.

But like everything, the scene changes. You either move with the times or get left behind. The saying "You're not old school, you're just getting older" comes to mind. Herald the rise of the internet, social media and the Perth Rail Unit's mind maps of who was lining out who, and who got arrested together.

You didn't have to sit at a bench to see photos, hell, you didn't even have to be in the same city as them to see something that was done the night before. It got harder to tell where someone was from, everyone had seen Dirty Handz 2 or Area 08. You could tell who was in a crew together just by looking at their top eight friends. The cliquey element of graffiti, which was always there, got a lot more apparent and lines were drawn.

But it helped in other ways. Like a piece with seven hundred arrows, connections you couldn't see became tangible. If you wanted a new stainer recipe, jump on the internet. Need an interstate hookup for your next welfare cheque sponsored tour? Jump on the internet. Want to work out the freight timetables? You didn't have to sit in a frosty cold bush worried about getting bitten by a rent-a-dog, just Google a civilian rail devotee forum and troll for content. A new breed evolved. Graffiti had become a more mainstream concept and had attracted people that were otherwise not inclined to participate. Graffiti had always been a contact sport, but now the people watching from the sidelines had every opportunity to become players. Which again, isn't a completely bad thing.

Which brings us back to motivations. When did the flick of a piece, whether it's posted to Instagram or not, become more important than the piece itself? At what stage did passing your blackbook around become less collating styles, and more collecting autographs? The Id, the Ego and the Super-ego, conflicting ideas of self, style, anti style, box cutters, Nike Tailwinds, North Face jackets and foil lined booster bags all lead one to a conclusion.


If you don't click like, we've got beef.

A group of rats is called a mischief.

Me and this guy Micky were at a party a few years ago, drinking tall cans of Stella Artois in the backyard of the house where this photo was taken. You know the routine for parties like this, walking around, pretending to be someone you're not, making idle chit chat about how you're "really making progress in life" between large chugs of beer.

Micky grew a bit bored with the charade and the performance artist he is, he decided to hijack the stereo and play a terrible Australian electronic music chart hit on repeat. He would collapse into a sobbing mess on the floor when any of the party goers tried to change it, exclaiming "MAN I REALLY LIKE THIS SONG, IT'S REALLY GOOD, DON'T CHANGE IT OK".

We had probably gotten away with this for as long as it took us to drink a six-pack, until my good friend's ex-girlfriend, who by all accounts was a quiet type, decided to jump in the middle of the conversation, flapping her arms about as if she was an Alpha male pelican, squawking about how she didn't know who my friend was, and for him to leave.

She waited until he went to take a shit, kicked the door down and waved a broken bottle in his face.

I visited that house a few days ago when I was in town for my birthday, and the toilet door is still broken.


So with our heads held aloft, noses to the sky, we acknowledge and disregard our miserable history for what it was.

A time in our life when we thought every girl we met was the one, and people only watched the television when they were stoned.