When Brooks indicated that he intended to continue our conversation in the privacy of the taxi the unexpected hero of the hour turned out to be my unfortunate papa, Archie Shitsville, calling long distance from Las Vegas. He’d gambled away his last dime for the one hundredth time & refused to believe he’d ever been card-sharked, but his annual check from the government had saved him again. [There are photos of Archie, former teen idol & singing cowboy, shaking hands with Nixon; the U.S. government has been secretly floating him since the Sixties on the assumption that you can’t trust an alcoholic or the tell-all memoirs of the children of old movie stars.] He’d used the money to place an inspired bet and come up aces. And so he phoned to tell me all about it — the rush he got being in the money again, etc. — it is really a much longer story we shan’t go into. On the phone he sounds far away & stoned… “Showgirls last night… 8000 bucks later… this morning my tie was so covered in glitter I had to throw it out.”
“Daddy,” said I. “On a normal day it would be all very well for you to call from Vegas to boast about the high-life. (How are the Mafia treating you?) But today of all days, daddy –” (tears were making speech difficult) “when Brooks wins & the aunts lose their house & worst of all they will have to live with me in Shitsville Ranch…” (Brooks loaned me his handkerchief from the front seat of the cab, sniff, sniff) “We are going there now to see the house exploded…”
“I must’ve done a lot more than I remember last night because there are bruises all over me, some queer thing with my arse and you don’t make a lotta sense, darlin’,” said papa. “Who are the aunts?”
“Your aunts,” I said, articulating. “They are your aunts.”
I’m sure he was about to deny he had ever had any aunts when he was overcome by the shakes and his voice became cloudy at the other end of the line, which runs fragile but taut between us like the fine silver lineament from a spider’s rectum connecting Melbourne, OZ to Las Vegas, US and also Palm Springs where he occasionally goes to dry out when he remembers his mama (my grandmama Gladys Marylouanna Pleasance-Shitsville) lives there.