Category Archives: Lost and Found

Lost and Found 4: Wanderlust

He assumes it was an accident, rather than deliberate cruelty. He assumes it was drunken forgetfulness, or frustration with a blister, or something to spite the original owner of the shoe.

He tells himself it was not knowingly cruel.

It’s cruel, all the same. Somehow it’s worse that it’s only one shoe. One garish purple boot, made for striding confidently out into the world. A statement of sorts. I wear sturdy footwear, for the road I walk is long and hard; but I wear my footwear purple because fuck you, that’s why.

The shoe rests against his own feet. He sees it with his peripheral vision, stuck as he is with his gaze forever drawn upward, his mouth in that moue of astonishment.

When he first reached this town, with his two equally gormless, equally impressed bronze friends, he was astonished. He was impressed. Now he’s just here. All the time. Every day. Staring at the roofscape and wondering what else he’s missing. The people who pass him talk of other things. A river nearby. A tall gilded tower that can see way out to the ocean (and what is an ocean, he wonders? The closest he can understand is that it’s vast like the sky and wet like the clouds: to him the moon on stormclouds is his understanding of ships and seas).

Other people speak of even stranger places. Sand and forests and cities with great bridges and snowfall. He doesn’t really know what those words mean, but they sound wonderful.

He longs to go. To bend and snap his metal feet from the concrete and take a step. Take two. Three and four and to see a new angle of those rooftops, a new street, who knows, maybe that river (a ribbon of dense cloud on the ground, he wonders, is that what it looks like?).

He longs to move and to discover.

Instead, one purple shoe leans against his own cold feet and reminds him that his wanderlust is futile. All he can do is stand and gawp and wait for the world to come to him, and hope that their exotic words like pyramid and lake and mountain and free will one day make sense.


Lost and Found 3: The Solo Rapture

When the Rapture came, only Henry Smithfield noticed. Everyone else was rather too busy just living their flawed lives.

Henry, a paragon of virtue in a tarnished world, heard trumpets and looked to the sky as he walked past the Federal Court of Australia on La Trobe Street. To his left was the court building, all imposing glass and concrete with its brightly coloured entryway, and the rather less glamorous concrete fountain. Over the road, to the right, was Flagstaff Gardens, filled with morning joggers, tai chi classes, city dwellers taking their city dogs for a run on the green.

To tell the truth, Henry was a little bit smug that he was the only one to hear the trumpets, to notice the call of the angelic host. He thought it more than a little ironic, too, that the call had come while he was part way between the halls of justice on one side and a former cemetery on the other. The final judgement was coming at just the right time and place.

Henry stopped in the street, stood on the edge of the non-functioning fountain (nobody seemed to have cared enough to turn it back on again after the easing of a decade of water restrictions) and held his hands to the sky. Waiting.

The heavenly host played a few more notes and then paused, allowing stragglers to catch up. But no-one else heard. No-one else stopped to look towards the heavens. Well, one or two people, but they were mainly checking for potential rainclouds. This was Melbourne. You could never entirely trust the forecast.

A few people paused to cast a curious glance at Henry, but he wasn’t hurting anyone and besides, the daft bugger in his jeans and hoodie and dark sneakers looked beatific more than dangerous. Perhaps his case had been found in his favour, they thought. One jogger gave him two thumbs up and a congratulatory grin on the way past.

The heavenly host gave a little sigh, looked at their sole audience member, shrugged and figured that maybe Facebook hadn’t really been the best way to send invitations to this particular party. Still, there was no need to blame Henry the Pure for being the only one with manners enough to notice the call.

With a beat of their wings, the host created one hell of a downdraft, which collected Henry and then drew him up. It was a bit startling at first, and Henry kicked his feet, trying instinctively to stand on solid ground. His shoes fell into the puddle of water lying on the base of the defunct fountain. He waggled his socked feet a little, then decided it was quite pleasant, this flying business. Grinning, he let himself be lifted.

Nobody noticed.

So, Henry got to heaven and found himself the sole occupant of a rather more dull than expected paradise.

The remaining inhabitants of the earth mainly didn’t notice that Judgement Day had been and gone, and went on being the embodiment of good and evil, heaven and hell, god and the devil, in their own personal way, sometimes in the very same person, as they’d done ever since they’d been given the gift of choice.

Only one person ever missed Henry, and that was his sister, who had loved her brother but frankly found him so impossibly perfect that she rarely saw him. His perfection made her feel inadequate, whereas most of the time she felt she wasn’t such a bad old stick, really. She was kind to animals and the elderly and bought the Big Issue and tried to be supportive and to be a good friend. As human beings go, she really was a lovely person. Not perfect by any means, but she made an effort. If heaven had been a little less rigid in its spiritual dress code, she might have heard the call.

But rigid it was, and most people are flawed, and really, the vagaries of heaven and hell had never really had that much impact on daily life on earth, the in-between place where devils and angels were part of the same clay that made everyone else.

In the end, the heavenly host withdrew entirely from earthly affairs, and valiantly tried to hide their disappointment from Henry that Judgement Day had been such a fizzer. Words were definitely going to be had with the marketing people.

And the world? It went on, being good, bad and indifferent, depending on the predelictions of its individual inhabitants, as it always did.

Lost and Found is and irregular series of posts about random items I find abandoned on the streets. Sometimes I’ll make up stories about them.

Lost and Found 2: Changeling

Lost and found 2 changelingOn Australia Day I went to the Moonlight Cinema in the Botanic Gardens to see The Sapphires (courtesy of the Northern Territory tourism commission). What should I spy on the way in but this spangly sign that surely faeries have passed nearby, up to no good of course?

Bloody treacherous faeries.

Faeries, you see, get fancies. They see things they like and just take ’em. Pretty, shiny, sparkly things. And also babies. Faeries have an unfortunate tradition of taking a shine to some chubby little darling and whisking it away to the Land of Faerie to feed it little cakes and sips of flower nectar and generally spoil it rotten.

They’re not stupid, though, faeries. Even they have noticed that vanishing infants and toddlers create an awkward kerfuffle amongst those slow-witted and reality-bound humans, and some of those humans are annoyingly attached to their offspring, as well as irritatingly persistent in trying to get them back.

So faeries leave a substitute. A little changeling, very much like the child it’s replacing, but quieter. The changeling cries less, fusses less, is more placid and obedient and docile. With this sly bit of subterfuge, the faeries hope that the humans will just be grateful that their infant is suddenly much more pliable and easy to manage and not pursue the matter.

It’s not going to work this time though. Do you see that sparkly little jacket? That pink and spangly thing with flowers in it? That belongs to a bright and lively little girl who is always chattering and giggling and, well, yes, also screaming sometimes. She’s a kid. She doesn’t know all the words yet for what she wants and needs, let alone has oratory skills to help sway her audience to her way of thinking. When she’s a teenager, she’s going to be absolute hell, in the best possible way. In the meantime she chatters and giggles and screams as occasion demands.

Right now, she is making the Faerie Queen wish heartily she never saw the kid. Right now, she is expressing her opinions rather forcefully, even with her limited vocabulary, about the taste of bleeding flower nectar and the use of cobwebs – GODDAMN COBWEBS – as a blanket.

Have these faeries never noticed what kind of spiders live in the Real Plane that is called Australia, that this little girl quite rightly views with concern? It’s hard to feel cosy and relaxed sleeping under a little blankie made of the butt-silk of venomous things. Okay so maybe the kid has a problem and if she just thought about it she’d work it through and think the cobweb blankets were neat, but on the other hand, she’s thinking, you are not my real parents, who would never make me sleep under poisonous spider butt-silk sheets and wouldn’t make me drink bloody flower water and where the absolute hell is my bunny and my ninja My Little Pony and MY MUUUUUUUUUM?

For their part, her parents are not impressed with the obvious substitute they found in the stroller. This whey-faced, doughy, dull little baby with all the personality of an undercooked bread roll. Okay, so humans are not of themselves magic, but they’re not stupid, and they are, as explained, attached to their children. So these parents are going back to the gardens with this dull little changeling and they’re going to stand under the tree where they last saw their own child and they are going demand the return of their daughter. Loudly. Repeatedly. Insistently. With many, many swear words and very little in the way of attempts to bargain with the magic folk. Screw diplomacy. Give us back our daughter you creepy little winged freaks before we find a way to burn down your fairy fucking halls.

And frankly, the Faerie Queen is going to be much too relieved to be rid of this bold, brave, uncompromising, strong-willed and vocally enhanced human child to worry overmuch about the lack of courtesy.

Lost and Found is an irregular series of posts about random items I find abandoned on the streets. Sometimes I’ll make up stories about them.

Lost and Found 1: Bootless

Walking around any town, any village, any city, I’m always aware of the idea of the unknown history of a place. Who has walked this way before me? What worker, thousands of years ago, paused at the foot of this same pyramid? What Roman soldier took a breath as he stood by this wall back when this was Londinium?

Hidden histories aren’t just separated from me by time. People walk past every day, and I sometimes find myself wondering who they are and what their story is. That woman who is smiling as she talks to someone one the phone; that teenage boy who looks so sad: what dramas or everyday histories are unfolding for them? As a writer, and therefore a student of human nature, I can’t help but wonder.

And sometimes, the world at large leaves unexplained artefacts behind. Signs of some other story of which I can only see a single line. A sort of punctuation mark in what could be a comedy, or a tragedy, or some bizarre adventure.

I’m always fascinated by the discovery of random articles of clothing. Over the years I have seen shirts, single shoes (sometimes broken, sometimes not), pairs of shoes, baby’s bibs, single socks, underwear for both women and men, once a pair of good quality black dress trousers, and most recently, boots. I always wonder how these items were separated from their owners, and whether the separation was amicable.

Some things seem obvious (or at least likely) and often the implied story is, let’s face it, a bit sordid, probably involving too much drink and fumbling liaisons between horny friends and lovers.

Still, my brain being what it is, I sometimes think of other stories to attach to this random paraphernalia I see in the streets. Being a writer of fantasy and horror, my brain sometimes supplies fantastical options.

Take this pair of boots, found placed neatly by the bin next to the bookshop at the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke Streets one Saturday morning.

My first thought was that some wicked witches clearly don’t feel terribly comfortable in ruby red slippers, so well-worn walking boots seemed like a fair option. An opinion perhaps not shared by any gingham-clad poppets who may have accidentally crushed said witches to death. I would have thought a sturdy pair of walking boots would have been a better choice to wear while tramping off to find the Emerald City, but maybe they clashed with the dress.

Otherwise, I like to think of these boots as belonging to a rare creature who visited this fair city from some other-wordly realm. Having arrived and adopted a more suitable physical form for this environment, this charming and curious creatue (in the guise of a young Frenchman, perhaps – there are a lot of French visitors in Melbourne these days) spent a few days exploring a human city. Perhaps saw the art gallery. Perhaps lobbed into the Toff in Town to discover this thing called blues music.

And when it was time to leave again, our psuedo-French wraith discarded his disguise, allowing the clothes he’d spun from smoke and cobwebs to blow away. Only the boots, which were real human boots and had been required to protect his delicate feet from the strangely hard and unforgiving surfaces of this city, were left. So he put them to one side and, regaining his true form, wafted down the grates to rejoin the creek that once ran where Elizabeth Street cuts through the city (and still runs its secret way below the asphalt, and thence into the Yarra). Perhaps he’s out at sea now, in some peculiar watery world, failing to convince anyone he knows that there is such a thing as a tram.

Lost and Found is an irregular series of posts about random items I find abandoned on the streets. Sometimes I’ll make up stories about them.