Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pleasing Yasmina Part 3

The school gym was just big enough to fit a small basketball court. The line-markings on the grimy parquet floor were so old and peeled that you couldn't tell if they were for basketball, volleyball or some ancient sport that involved a lot of confetti. Sagging banners hung between faded colour photos of soccer players with tight shorts and puffy haircuts that reminded Laura of photos of her dad.
The young man with the whistle stood in the middle of the gym on a big black mat with a large red circle sewn into it. He waited for the door to slam shut and then blew his whistle. It echoed loud and shrill around the gym. Yasmina screwed up her face and clamped her hands over her ears, mewing a faint ‘Oww.’
‘Good morning everyone! My name’s Simon!’ He paused and waited for the kids who still droned ‘Good mo-rning So-And-So’ whenever an adult introduced themselves.
‘Okay — now, the first thing I need everyone to do is: choose a partner.’
Kids dived under and over each other to grab their best friends. Groups of three suddenly took on the hunted expressions of hungry people drawing straws on a lifeboat.
‘Okay! Has everyone got someone?’ He looked at Terry, who gave him a nod. ‘Pretty much. Great! Now what I need you all to do now is: take your shoes and socks off!’ He watched the throng of kids remembering how to untie laces and throwing their shoes in a pile by the wall.
‘I think he’s cute,’ said Yasmina thoughtfully as she tucked her ballet footlets into her sneakers. Laura’s heart tried to hide in her guts. Suddenly she couldn’t look at Sumo Simon any more.
‘He looks like Matt from Neightbours, don’t you think?’
Laura made herself look. The man was only a couple of years younger than her own mother. Laura knew her mum wasn’t very old when it came to mums, but Sumo Simon he was still an adult with hairy arms and a deep voice and Yasmina was giggling like she did when the skater boys did tricks and offered her cigarettes outside Westfield.
Laura pushed out a giggle for her. ‘Yeah, he does!’
Suddenly Yasmina grabbed Laura's arm. ‘I want to do it,’ she declared. ‘Oh, we are so doing it! Let’s wrestle each other!’
‘No!’ Laura shook her head violently and laughed her puke-prevention laugh. ‘No, it’s dumb! It’ll be so embarrassing!’
‘Nah, it’ll be heaps fun!’ Yasmina flicked her long blonde hair with both hands. ‘You can meet your new boyfriend!’
‘Shut up!’
Laura tried to swallow a laugh, but all she got was a dry tonsil. She watched two boys putting on the sumo suits. The suits were disgustingly real; skin-coloured foam shaped into wide, flabby rolls of fat. Each had a colourful g-string, big brown nipples and a black, hairy belly button. Laura sucked in her stomach and pulled her long t-shirt down.
Simon led the first two contestants to the centre of the ring and stood between them, brandishing his whistle. The two boys were laughing like ticklish chipmunks and squeezing their foam boobs at the audience.
‘Righty-o boys! Are you ready?’
‘Yes!’ they cried in unison. Simon blew the whistle. The two bales of fat waddled into the centre and grabbed each other in a bear hug. The crowd went berserk as the noise in the gym tripled. Yasmina crowed with shrill laughter. It wasn’t her real laugh — the one that sounded like an asthmatic seal — but the one that she used for the year seven boys who mucked around in PE.
Laura hated how everyone chanted for the most popular kid. No one ever went for the shy one with no friends. She slumped down in her chair. She would sulk her way out of this if she had to.
The bout ended and Simon called out the score in a bad American accent: ‘Fooooourr to werrn!’

He sent the pair to sit down while the two biggest boys stepped up grinning and punching each other in the arm. Soon they were suited up and charging across the mat. One caught the other in the chest so hard that he gave an involuntary grunt and hit the gym floor with a deep thump. Laura’s toes clenched. The suits weren’t very thick at all. If she fell over in them it would really hurt.
Laura hated falling over. She hated her out-of-control flailing that achieved nothing. She hated the jarring shock that pounded through her arms when she tried to catch herself. But more than anything, she hated how the bottle she carried her tears in would get knocked over, and how hard she had to work to stop too many coming out.
More pairs went through and each time it was the same. The wrestlers bumping and rolling around the ring. Simon blowing his whistle. Everyone vying for the next shot.

In the middle of it all, Yasmina’s phone chirped and vibrated in her pocket. She pulled it out like a gunslinger: quick-draw, eyes gleaming.
‘Oh great,’ she groanedand casually flashed the phone to a group of goggled-eyed girls. ‘My first text ever and it’s from my mum.’
One of the girls leant over, reaching out to see the phone, but Yasmina ignored her and slipped the phone back into her pocket like a well-practised magician.
Laura couldn’t take her eyes off the wrestlers. She could see them gritting their teeth and holding their brows tight to stop anything spilling from their own bottles. At least she wasn’t the only one.
‘How about some more girls?’ called out Simon as he helped a pair of boys from the suits. He was looking straight at Laura and Yasmina. Laura shrank into her chair and shook her head, but Yasmina was already on her feet, flicking her hair with one hand and grabbing Laura’s wrist with the other.
‘No,’ hissed Laura. ‘I don’t want to.’
Yasmina groaned loudly. ‘Come on, Law-ra. If you’re not getting a phone, you could at least try and prove your friendship.’
‘Yes, come on Laura!’ called out Terry, who had only heard the first part of what Yasmina had said. ‘Go and have a shot for a change! It’s fun!’
Laura was still staring at Yasmina in shock. ‘But I am getting a …’
Yasmina raised an eyebrow. ‘Yeah, right,’ she hissed. The gym began to fall quiet. Yasmina pushed the phone down into her pocket and skipped out to the mat, swinging her hair. ‘Come on, Laura! I'll take you on!’

To be continued ...

1 comment:

An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32