Stop over in Johnsonville (To recap)


Now you may recall how the infamous Frank Sinatra Blacklist had cast its great shadow over my life like a dark and purling, all-absorbing, hope-sucking, cunt-like storm cloud, and never, never, never, not once in my life had anything ever gone right for me, despite all of my good looks, charm, grace and riches. For one thing there was my Mother (she being the first misfortune). Then there was my father Archie (the second major impasse to success). And though I can hardly blame Frank Sinatra for either of those occurrences, it’s fair to say that they are representative of the kind of bad-luck which has befallen me every day since I first lit eyes upon this awful world.

But then it happened that (after a series of events which I have removed from this blog for legal reasons which will become clear) I saw the infamous Frank Sinatra Blacklist spiralling through the dark air down into a deep and impassable quarry.  I even fancy I could hear Frank Snr sobbing on the wind as I watched its descent into hell. If it ever reached the bottom of the quarry, I’m sure the List burst into flames, or was torn to bits by fetid rats. In any case, assured of its destruction, I left Casa Sinatra on foot, and took the pink Cadillac from the road outside the gates, and headed on out into the Wide World with a brimming sense of coming good fortune. Fortune, you see, could not possibly fail to come with the destruction of the List; the List had been the only thing really holding me back all these years.


Eventually I ended in a sticky dough-nut shop, in a mall that sits half-way out of a town called Johnsonville, on Route 87. The name Johnsonville had endeared itself to me because of its no-name quality; here, in Johnsonville, I thought, there was no one of import, or significance, or even mild interest. In Johnsonville, everybody had names like Ana or Sara (there was always one letter missing to make them sound more foreign) though really they were just the sort of name a girl might have if the last you saw of her she was nostalgically fading into the fog or the ferns; they are the names of women who die at a convenient plot-point in order to give the protagonist a McGuffin and dramatic dynamism for the rest of the story. Here, I thought, in Johnsonville, I could not fail to make a fortune. After all, it is not hard to best red-necks. And it is never a chore to pull one over on the world’s most pitiful people.


As I perused the mall, which was a hub of activity (the elderly smoked on the benches while they waited for their grand-sons to return from playing Nintendo in the Department store) I thought, with a great sense of satisfaction, that Johnsonville, for people such as I, must be a place of ample opportunity and the kind of luck that gets so often overlooked by people without imagination. Mark: even there, in that suffocating place, of slightly twilight-like underwater lighting, where the Video (!) store was still hung with posters of Patrick Swayze in his prime, there were checked-shirted men to bedazzle, banks to rob, suckers for pyramid schemes aplenty devouring burgers in the food-court. I leaned against a ferny garden delineated by a curved wall of glazed brown bricks and dreamed up the plans for the kind of Real-Estate swindle my great-great-grandpappy Jack “Washington” Shitsville would be proud of. I could even run for mayor since the last Johnsonville mayor, who got in on a temperance ticket in 1962, had recently died after years and years of covert and almost constant tippling, to everyone’s great surprise, though I would have thought the ruddy complexion was a dead give away, but apparently red faces and wine noses, and the ordinary complexion of hicks are not too dissimilar to the untrained eye.

So there I was in the dough-nut shop. Next thing a gentlemen with an evidently hellish dental-care regime happened to ask what a purdy girl like me was doing in a place like Johnsonville. “Not really your kind of town, I woulda thunk,” he said.

I assured him it was. But then when I told him of the good fortune coming my way after the certain destruction of the Frank Sinatra Blacklist, his eyes really came alive. “Sure,” he said. “Ain’t nothing ye cain’t do, if ye can keep yer wits about ye. That’s why they call it the Land of OPPORTUNITY.” I thanked him for his kind words and conventional wisdom, and left him to pick up the bill. Then I went out into the parking-lot, almost blinded by the sunlight glittering along the rows of cars and their bull-bars.


To improve the collective gene pool, more folks oughter marry their cousins


The humorist in question was in fact sitting at the next table over from us, we had had the misfortune of overhearing him all night. Now his book club had departed and he was left alone looking around for a woman to bore & disgust.  Finally his astute eye fell upon me. Sometimes I fear I am too beautiful. There is no other reason why I should constantly fall victim to misguided attempts to ‘cheer me up’.  He made a pun. I did not allow any expression to register. He believed himself to have ‘crossed the line’ in his attempt at mirth (how easily & erratically women are offended) and so apologised: “I’m joking.” Meantime two girls had encroached upon Francis to beggar a cigarette, then to thank him for the cigarettes they stood smoking and swaying in such a way as to communicate the fact that Negro music could step up their passion by degrees. To win his heart they made a few entertaining remarks about the appearances of the other girls. “Friends of yours?” asked the man.

“No, they are tarts,” said I. A little later, when it occurred to me to ask, I said, “Don’t you know a tart when you see one?”

“I’m a doctor,” said the man who was the death of everything funny in the world. He was being serious & professional when he said, “Most of the girls I’ve seen naked are dead. And horribly diseased or disfigured. It is truly terrible.”

“It’s not a happy situation,” I agreed.

After many diversions of this variety Miss Malice came around calling “Closed!” and turning  on the lights. It was the time of night when women tend towards melancholy. The doctor scurried off into the mists looking for someone to rip. On the street again, Frankie & I stood in the winking blue anti-injecting light of a HMV sign, which, if you’d like to know, shows a little dog named Nipper whose master died & left Nipper & his phonograph & voice recordings to his brother (the artist) who noticed Nipper sitting up and listening whenever his old master’s voice came on. I mentioned this story in a casual fashion & Francis had tears dripping down his face. There is an Asian guy who busks playing keyboard on Bourke Street  – at every moment it is the soundtrack to the best Hallmark Postcards Telemovie you’ve ever seen & as the tram crawled towards us from the Elizabeth St stop seemingly in filmic slow motion the heart strings swelled and it was a terribly poignant scene.  “I never cry,” said Francis. “Except once when I thought I lost my phone. But it was on the table in front of me. I was just sad about something else.”


“There, there, cousin,” said I. “Be a man. It is only the gin crying. Now you will remember to come tomorrow. At 9 o’clock sharp. To serve the writ on Brooks.” He had offered to help me and the aunties (for love, not money; I had promised to introduce him to my show business Mother & maudlin papa Archie Shitsville, though their claims to being show biz people is pretty tenuous after all these years of masterful slovenliness & dedicated soaking). In fact that was the real reason we were out celebrating with the bottle. “You have saved us from a terrible fate, Francis,” said I, really meaning he had for a while put off the prospect of me having to live with old aunts in Shitsville Ranch. “A fate worse than death,” I embellished, to make him feel important. His tie was askew. He had confessed tonight he was frightened of Armani models because they reminded him of SPORT. (“The look in their eyes is so intense and they are covered in so much sweat they might as well be in an ad for Gatorade.”) “To you we will be eternally grateful, cousin Francis. And so. 9 o’clock.”


“9 o’clock,” said Francis. “On the dot. I promise.” He tipped an invisible hat to me & (stumbling) followed the doctor into the mists.