I’ve just read about it on the net but still don’t believe it. So I head out into the wet and dreary day to see for myself. As I near the beach, the evidence trail begins. Exhibit A: a shattered shop window. I cross the road and begin to walk down the grassy hill. Exhibit B: a stretch of tire tracks scarring the grass like a couple of muddy trenches. I hop down from the wall and onto the promenade to check out Exhibit C: a collapsed aluminum fence. I look further out towards the beach and there, finally, is Exhibit D: a lonely looking hatchback, its wheels buried in the sand. Wow. So it is true. There are a couple of other onlookers sheltering under umbrellas but mostly there’s no one about. Lucky. Had this car ended up in the same spot on a weekend or especially during a hot summer’s day, carnage and chaos would reign. Trying to imagine how this could possibly have happened, I become the driver of a hatchback not all that different from my own. I am driving along Campbell Parade. The windscreen wipers slide and thump a steady beat. My right foot starts to cramp. I take it off the accelerator and reach down to rub it. As I do, the steering wheel starts to turn towards oncoming traffic. I quickly swing it back and stomp my foot on the brake. But it’s the wrong pedal. Instead of stopping, the car races towards the footpath. I pull on the the steering wheel. The car fishtails. The back bangs a shop window. Glass rains down. I am pointed away from the footpath and shoot across the road, missing a truck by millimetres. A horn blares. My foot has cramped completely and is cemented to the accelerator. Grass and mud churn and leap. Then I am flying. A fence surrenders as sand rushes towards me. Impact. Airbag. Silence. Adrenaline and shock battle for control. I sit there. Waves crash nearby. After what feels like a decade, there’s a knock on my window. I see a wide-eyed face. “You okay?”. And at that moment, I am the most embarrassed being on the planet.
The concept of a ‘Canadian Diner’ had completely eluded me until a few years ago when “The Stuffed Beaver” waddled onto Bondi Road’s ever expanding stretch of hipster joints. Of course my inner Canadian was intrigued and our family of three went to check it out. My wife decided fairly quickly that it wasn’t really her thing – though she does concede that they do make a mean margarita (that great Canadian cocktail). But my son and I enjoyed it, so it became a place the two of us went to on those occasions when I surrendered to his persistent pestering. The menu tends to cover pretty much the whole of the North American continent – starting with tacos, moving north towards pulled pork, hamburgers, hot dogs and the nominally Canadian dish of Fries Poutine (an artery blocking combo of chips, bacon, gravy and melted cheese). Much of the ‘Canadianess’ comes from the naming of the dishes: “The Celine Dion Dog”, “The John Candy Burger” and something involving Bryan Adams (an instant stomach turner for myself). It has been quite some time since we last visited Beaverland, following a series of mediocre meals. But I have finally succumbed to He Who Pesters and He and I once again find ourselves entering the Beaver’s busy bar area. We are immediately spotted by an exotic yet familiar face. “Oh my God – look how big you’ve got!” And it’s true – my son is now the same height, if not slightly taller, than the petite waitress. I have always been curious about her heritage. She has an Asiatic face but the locale suggests the possibility of her being native Canadian – maybe even Inuit. Her neutral accent provides no clues. “I remember when I first saw this one” and I know immediately the story she is about to share with those around her. I imagine my son also knows and I look for signs of embarrassment. “It was years ago and he was much smaller. I walked past and suddenly – blaaahhhhh – he spews up! Luckily it all went straight into his wings basket, so I just took it away.” My son smiles a little sheepishly but seems fine. We continue into the booth area and, as luck would have it, sit at the very same booth of the puke story. We take the obligatory snap shot with the beaver menu, order our usuals and start to eat. I am relieved that the quality seems to have improved. “Dad, next time you see her coming over, let me know.” “Why?” “Because I’m going to pretend to throw up.” This puzzles me at first. Then it makes sense. Someone has a bit of a crush. I’ve noticed lately how girls have started to transform from ‘Disgusting’ into ‘Hotties’. “Ok. Get ready – here she comes.” “Blaaahhh!” But it’s an anti-climax. She keeps walking towards the kitchen. Still, my son’s not one to give up. After all, it was persistence that got him back to the Beaver in the first place. “Let me know when she’s coming past again.” So I keep an eye out until I see her approaching. “Alright – go!” “Blaaahhhh!” This time she whirls around with wide-eyed concern. When she sees who it is, she knows she’s been had. “Ahhhhh you….” She rubs my grinning son’s hair, proceeds to have a chat and tells us her story. I watch the scene and smile. Well played, son. Well played.
What had been a fun family outing has soured into a seething silence. After warning my son not to walk with his phone in front of his face, I confiscate the device when he re-offends minutes later. Now he hates me. But I love him and don’t want him to turn into a zombie. And believe me, they do walk among us. Though it’s not the brains of others they crave but the desire to distract their own and render themselves oblivious to their surroundings. “People die doing that” I tell him, thinking of the growing number of device related deaths. In my harsher moments, I believe such fatalities are fair enough – a modern day Darwinian culling of those unfit to survive. And at my most extreme, I imagine myself as a master of the universe – deciding to speed up the process. Suddenly, holes open up in footpaths across the globe, their depths descending to the earth’s molten core. Elsewhere, racks of sharpened spikes spring up, awaiting the unwary. And any vehicle that has a device distracted zombie in its path experiences sudden brake failure. Afterwards the lesson will be learned: always be aware. Or this vengeful God will unleash yet another zombie apocalypse.
It’s eleven o’clock on a Monday night. I am alone in the lounge room, watching crap on TV. My wife and son are asleep in their beds. Suddenly, Nitro the two-toned Cavoodle explodes in the hallway. I leap to my feet and rush towards him. As much as I love the little guy, he’s been getting far too vocal lately – especially as we live in an apartment block nestled within a high density area. So I scold him in a hoarse whisper and give him a little clip on the snout. This is something I never do and is an action I regret seconds later. As vocal as he sometimes is, there’s something about tonight’s outburst that seems out of the ordinary. I decide to have a quick look through the peep hole of our door. I am surprised to see an unfamiliar man standing in the common hallway between our unit and the one across from us. “Oh – there is someone there.” “Yeah – there’s someone here”, comes the slurred reply. I gather up our woolly watchdog, feeling guilty. With Nitro tucked under one arm, I open the door. “Can I help you, mate?” The man is tall, with long greasy curly hair. Nitro, a fraction of the man’s size, starts growling. I’ve heard that dogs can smell psychosis – the ‘psychotic stench’. I have no such ability but even I can sense that something is off with this guy. At the very least he’s drunk, probably with a cocktail of other substances also pumping through his bloodstream. He sways for a moment, then points to the other unit and inquires “Is Vanya there?” “No. Nobody called Vanya lives there.” “Who lives there then?” “That’s not your concern. You should just move along, mate. Goodnight.” I then retreat back inside and close the door. I put Nitro down and give him a little pat and apology. “Sorry buddy. Good dog.” My wife has thrown on a robe and asks what’s going on. As I explain, I instinctively grab the cricket bat that we have near the door. We are both unsettled but not overly freaked out. We discuss how our supposed security building has for months now been rather unsecure, with anyone able to access all outside doors without having to be buzzed in. As we chat, I decide to have another look through the peep hole. I am confronted with the full fish-eyed face of the curly haired creep. Adrenaline shoots through my veins. My arm swings back and brings the bat crashing to the door. BANG! “Get the fuck out of here now!” I have gone fully primal – a caveman protecting his family with his big stick. “Whoa – that was a bit full on.” “I mean it. Leave or I’m calling the cops. Actually – I’m calling them right now.” And, for the first time ever, I call 000. I am impressed with the efficiency of the process and in very little time, a patrol car is on its way. My wife texts one of the neighbours on our floor and warns her that there’s a creep on the loose. The neighbour replies that she thinks he’s left the building. She can hear a man outside ranting. He’s equating all apartment dwellers to a word similar to ‘runts’. I decide to call the police back and give them an update. They say that they’ll search the area for him. As my heart rate slows, I vow to contact the building’s agent first thing in the morning and get a locksmith out to secure the block. And as I finally relinquish the bat, I look over to my son’s room and shake my head. That kid can sleep through anything.