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It's Friday evening and we're watching Wheel of Fortune. It's rare for us to watch a lot of TV because we're usually fighting, doing something stupid in the backyard, or hanging around out front. Besides, we hate most of the crap on the telly anyway. The only good thing about it is that sometimes when you watch it, you can get a bright idea. Previous bright ideas we've had in the midst of TV are:
Attempting to rob a dentist.
Moving the small lounge table up onto the couch so we could play football against each other with a rolled-up pair of socks.
Going to the dog track for the first time.
Selling Sarah's busted old hair dryer to one of our neighbors for fifteen dollars.
Selling Rube's broken tape player to a guy down the street.
Selling the telly.
Obviously, we could never carry out all of the good ideas.
The dentist was a disaster (we pulled out, of course). Playing football with the socks resulted in giving Sarah a fat lip when she walked through the lounge room. (I swear it was Rube's elbow and not mine that hit her.) The dog track was fun (even though we came back twelve bucks poorer than when we left). The hair-dryer was thrown back over the fence with a note attached that said, Give us back our fifteen bucks or we'll bloody kill you, you cheating bastards. (We gave the money back the next day.) We couldn't end up finding the tape player (and the guy down the street was pretty tight anyway so I doubt we'd have got much for it). Then, last of all, there was just no way we could ever sell the TV, even though I came up with eleven good reasons why we should give the telly the chop. (They go like this:
One. In ninety-nine percent of shows, the good guys win in the end, which just isn't the truth. I mean, let's face if. In real life, the bastards win. They get all the girls, all the cash, all the everything. Two. Whenever there's a sex scene, everything goes perfectly, when really, the people in the shows should be as scared of it as me. Three. There are a thousand ads. Four. The ads are always much louder than the actual shows. Five. The news is always kind of depressing. Six. The people are all beautiful. Seven. All the best shows get the ax. For example, Northern Exposure. Have you heard of it? No? Exactly -- it got the ax years ago. Eight. Rich blokes own all the stations. Nine. The rich blokes own beautiful women as well. Ten. The reception can be a bit of a shocker at our place anyway because our aerial's shot. Eleven. They keep showing repeats of a show called Gladiators.)
The only question now is, What's today's idea? The truth is, it's more of a decision to conclude on last night, as Rube speaks over at me. He starts with an "Oi."
"Oi," he says.
"What are your thoughts?"
"You know what. Perry."
"We need the money."
"I know, but Mum and Dad won't let us help pay the bills."
"Yeah, but we can hold our own end up --pay our own food and stuff so everything lasts longer."
"Yeah, I s'pose."
Then Rube says it
He speaks the words, "We're gonna do it."
Only, we know we won't pay our own food. No. We have no intention. We're doing this for some other reason. Some other reason that wants inside us.
Now we have to wait till Monday so we can ring Perry Cole, but already, we have to think -- about everything. About other guys' fists. About the danger. About Mum and Dad finding out. About survival. A new world has arrived in our minds and we have to handle it. We have decided and there is no time to stick our tail between our legs and run. We've decided in front of the telly and that means we have to give it a shot. If we succeed, good. If we fail, it's nothing new.
Rube's thinking about it, I can tell.
Personally, I try not to.
I try to focus on the woman's brilliant legs on Wheel of Fortune. When she swivels the letters, I can see more of them, just before she turns around and smiles at me. She smiles pretty, and in that split second, I forget. I forget about Perry Cole and all those future punches. It makes me wonder, Do we spend most of our days trying to remember or forget things? Do we spend most of out time running toward or away from our lives? I don't know.
"Who y' goin' for?" Rube interrupts my thoughts, looking at the TV.
"I d' know."
"Okay then." I point. "I'll take the dopey one in the middle."
"That's the host, y' idiot."
"Is it? Well I'll take the blond one there on the end. She looks the goods."
"I[ll take the guy on the other end. The one who looks like he just escaped from Long Bay Jail. His suit's a dead-set outrage. It's a dis-grace."
In the end it's the guy from Long Bay that wins. He gets a vacuum cleaner and has already won a trip to the Great Wall of China, from yesterday apparently. Not bad. The trip, that is. In the champion round, he misses out on a ridiculous remote control bed. In all honesty, the only thing keeping us watching is to see the woman turning the letters. I like her legs and so does Rube.
We know that on Monday we'll be ringing Perry Cole to tell him we're in.
"We better start training then," I tell Rube.
Mum comes home. We don't know where Dad is.
Mum takes the compost out to the heap in the backyard.
Upon returning she says, "Something really stinks out there near the back fence. Do either of you know anything about it?"
We look at each other. "No."
"Are you sure?"
"Well," I crack under the pressure. "It was a few onions that were in our room that we forgot about. That's all."
Mum isn't surprised. She never is anymore. I think she actually accepts our stupidity as something she just can't change. Yet she still asks the question. "What were they doing in your room?" However, she walks away. I don't think she really wants to hear the answer.
When Dad arrives, we don't ask where he's been.
Steve comes in and gives us a shock by saying, "How y' goin', lads?"
"All right. You?"
"Good." Even though he still watches Dad with contempt, wishing he'd get the dole or Job Search payments or whatever you please to call it. He soon changes clothes and goes out.
Sarah comes in eating a banana Paddlepop. She smiles and gives us both a bite. We don't ask for one, but she knows. She can see our snouts itching for the gorgeous sickly cold of an iceblock in winter.
Next day, Rube and I begin training.
We get up early and run. It's dark when the alarm goes off and we take a minute or two to get out of bed, but once out, we're okay. We run together in track pants and old football jerseys and the city is awake and smoky-cold and our heartbeats jangle through the streets. We're alive. Our footsteps are folded neatly, one after the other. Rube's curly hair collides with sunlight. The light steps at us between the buildings. The train line is fresh and sweet and the grass in Belmore Park has the echoes of dew still on it. Our hands are cold. Our veins are warm. Our throats suck in the winter breath of the city, and I imagine people still in bed, dreaming. To me, it feels good. Good city. Good world, with two wolves running through it, looking for the fresh meat of their lives. Chasing it. Chasing hard, even though they fear it. They run anyway.
"Y' awake, Rube?"
"Jeez, I'm a bit sore, ay. This runnin' in the mornings isn't much chop for the ol' legs."
"I know -- mine are sore too."
"It felt good but."
"Yeah. It felt great."
"It felt like I'm not sure what. Like we've finally got something. Something to give us -- I d' know. I just don't know."
"Purpose," Rube continues. "We've finally got a reason to be here. We've got reason to be out on that street. We're not just out there doin' nothin'."
"That's it. That's exactly how it felt."
"But I'm still sore as hell."
"So are we still runnin' again tomorrow?"
"Good." And in the darkness of our room, a smile reaches across my lips. I feel it.