Today I have something a little different. You’ve read the beginning of Thaw, and you know about my Blogsplash (What, you haven’t signed up yet? Email me your url before you forget!).
Joseph Ridgewell will be joining the splash on the 1st of March at In Search of the Lost Elation, and here is the first page of his book, Last Days of the Cross.
Sydney, Kings Cross and the main drag of Darlinghurst Street; the gigantic electronic Coca-cola sign, The Pink Pussy Cat, Playbirds International, the Goldfish Bowl, the Bourbon and Beefsteak and finally the odd El Alamein fountain, fashioned in the shape of a dandelion. Finding somewhere to live was the main priority but I knew just the place to go – the Oakwoods – a budget boarding house, three storeys high, owned by a somewhat decrepit landlord.
This dive was situated on the corner of Roslyn Street and Ward Avenue and on arrival, I suddenly had second thoughts about the idea. Phew, what a dump. No redeeming features, in fact, an eyesore. I paced up and down the street studying the crumbling edifice with the eye of a sceptic. Maybe there was some place else I could go. Then I remembered my financial situation. $1500 Aussie. That’s all I had to my name – not much by anyone’s standards and whatever it lacked in aesthetics the Oakwoods made up by being dirt-cheap.
I stepped inside. The Reception was empty. I looked around, picked my nose and scratched my balls. Then I saw the bell. I gave the thing a hit – a flamboyant smack and it rang out, loud and clear. And there he was – the landlord – one Mr Hillwood.
‘ow can I help, mate?’ asked the landlord in a way that indicated that he never wanted to help anyone for as long as he lived.
‘I’m looking for a room.’
‘Singles are $150 a week, plus one week’s deposit.’
I did a rough calculation. A week’s room in that dump would leave me with little under seven hundred bucks. Hard times – maybe even desperate times but in times like these the most important thing is a roof over the head. Four walls. That’s all an aspiring poet needs. With four walls to protect him, he could take on the world.
‘I’ll pay for two weeks, plus a week’s deposit,’ I replied like a big-shot. Strangely, Hillwood wasn’t impressed.
‘Rent must be paid each Friday, cash or cheque. A week overdue and ya out,’ he sneered.
On the way to the room, Hillwood told me the house rules, like he was reading me the last rites. Every sentence started with the word no. No smoking in the hallway, no parties, no bringing people into the rooms late at night, no loud music, no criminal activity, no drugs, no disturbances, no fighting, no politics.
No, no, no and then more no.
‘That’s the house rules but there are also the pool rules,’ he added somewhat mysteriously as he led me to the garden area. Pool rules?
Outside, all was revealed. The alleged garden was a small patch of land bordered on all sides by a rickety wooden fence and topped with concentration camp-style barbed wire. In one corner was a triangular washing line, in another a rusty barbecue and in another an outdoor toilet. However, none of these features caught the eye, for slam bang in the middle of this mini-wasteland was a shimmering swimming pool. I blinked my eyes to make sure I wasn’t imaging things but freakily, the kidney shaped pool even had a Jacuzzi. As I stared in wonder, Hillwood proceeded to tell me the pool rules but it was the same shit as the house rules. No this, no that. I didn’t pay much attention and instead thought of myself jumping into the coolness of the water at the end of another hot Australian day – a cold beer situated at poolside. Then Hillman handed over a rusty key and told me to enjoy my stay. A nice word after all that.
“Joe Ridgwell’s one of my favorite writers in the whole world. You can say lots of things about his work, all of them good. But what I like most about Last Days Of The Cross is that it’s damned funny. It’s one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long, long time.” -novelist Mark SaFranko. If you’d like to read more, visit the grievous jones bookstore. There. Thanks Joseph.
Joseph Ridgwell is the author of two books of poetry, Load the Guns and Where are the Rebels? Both published by Blackheath Books and a novel, Last Days of the Cross published by Grievous Jones Press. His work has also appeared in short story anthologies Radgepacket and The Loose Canon, magazines, newspapers, and numerous online publications.