Sport 16: Autumn 1996
Peter Hall-Jones — Come Here and Think That
Think of me as a guy trying to benchpress too heavy a weight. It’s halfway up and I have to admit that it is too much, that I am going to fail. No big deal. But then I realise … I’m going to have to lift it, because otherwise I’m going to have to lower the bastard onto my throat. Hi there, my name is Charlie Vogt.
Yeah, okay, I come in too loudly. What the hell—I’m from Invercargill. We’re like that. We operate in big strange drams, but we always keep our cards close to our chests. Take Chris Knox. Or Michael Parmenter. Or Bill Manhire. Or old John Lithgow—the man who put the bends in hairpins and the dinks in paint-can lids. Or Miss Rowena Jackson who, in the Melbourne of 1940, did an unbeaten 121 consecutive ballet spins.
Sure, my point is lost. Why don’t you just take my word for it? I mean, the point is that Charlie ‘Go Boy’ Cobb, a crazy prick I have known for twenty-seven years, has proposed to my mother, and she has taken him seriously and said yes and booked the Lorneville Hall.
But I am getting ahead of myself. My name is Charlie Vogt but my friend (this same Go Boy) calls me Bott. Bott Vogt and Go Boy Cobb: two Charlies, and fairly well known around here. In fact we have been best friends since Intermediate.
The first time I ever got drunk was with Go Boy. We were fourteen, and we took his father’s car to a party in Te Anau. I must have said or done something stupid, because while somebody kept Go Boy distracted with a drinking game, a couple of the locals took me out back and used me for a hackey sack.
The next thing I knew the police had turned up. I didn’t answer their questions, of course, and after they had gone the guy who had been doing page 58 most of the beating (I think his name was Den) took me back into the party and gave me a beer.
He arranged a place for us to stay that night, and the next morning he came over with his girlfriend (Nerilee?) and took the two of us out on the lake. Go Boy caught his first fish, and nearly got a hiding for being too friendly to the girl.
That night we went to a twenty-first. Go Boy and I refused to drink Speights, but the locals insisted, and hid our bourbon. I remember a group of us playing on a huge mound of rubber tyres out in some back paddock. It was raining, and somebody ended up with concussion.
Later the evil but hospitable Den passed out, having first thrown up in the lounge. Charlie and I were told to take him away. We got him as far as his doorstep and then Charlie started punching the shit out of him. I didn’t know whether to stop him or to laugh, so I stood there and watched. After a little while I whooped. Later that night a car full of his mates chased us halfway to Lumsden.
I have to say it—at times there’s something pretty strange about being drunk. It’s right there in the two words: there’s a turning of the tables— the bottle somehow rights itself, and it’s the drinker who is tipped and drained.
Anyway, I’m going to die. Pa-DAHhh.
Death by what? Well, you don’t get to know or choose, do you? Death, maybe, of being 35 and still living with my mother. Death of seeing even this shitty ending slipping out of reach. Death of living in a town with a place for everything, and everything in its place. Death of all quite so on the Western Front.
All I know is that when I look out my bedroom window I can see it coming.page 59
And with it comes the vision of Miss Rowena Jackson doing her consecutive ballet spins. Her head stays absolutely still while the rest of her body is a blur. Perhaps she will reach the crowning 121st as I watch, and will come to a gentle halt and smile, before her body corkscrews back the other way twice as fast.
Although her head is immobile, her hair is giving crazy little flicks. She is staring at me. When the vision first came I tried not to think about it; I went and helped mum to clean up. But when I got back from the kitchen Rowena was still at it. Making good.
I suppose it could have been worse. It could have been the life-defying John Lithgow putting his bends and dinks in things.
Anyway, moving right along. Go Boy called a fortnight ago and said that he wanted me to be his best man. I said yes because it seemed like the only thing I could say. I managed not to whoop. Now the day of wedding has come around. My mother has hired a three-piece suit for me. I’d refuse to wear it if I could find a way of doing so which wouldn’t seem childish.
I put it on this morning and shaved. She insisted on combing my hair, and gave me a parting. I haven’t messed it up for the same reason as above. It’s her day.
And she looked great in a way that was just so stupid I wanted to keel over.
Charlie got sacked from the wool scour when he was caught halfway to the Woodlands pub on a forklift. It seemed funny at the time, but the smile has congealed on my face like sausage fat. Oh Jesus. The best song title ever, it’s got to be: Hank Williams’ ‘There’s a Tear in my Beer’.
I’ve got to get out of this house.
Old Rowena is still staring at me. She needs a facial expression, but nothing sticks. I’ve tried hate, fear and melancholy, contempt and page 60 bewilderment. She just ignores me on her way to smiling beatifically, in sympathy, because after all is said and done I still don’t know a thing.
I’ve got to get out of this house.
I’ll go for a walk downtown in this ridiculous suit. I’ll wear it inside out and show the green chrome of the inner lining. I’ll oil up this dicky parting. And I’ll pick a fight with the first person who looks twice. Come here and think that. Cunt.
Go Boy and I were outside the Post Office one Friday night (it’s still what it was) when a guy jumped out of a car in front of everybody and leapt into the air and waved his fists and yodelled. Then his mates took off before he could jump back in.
After that I’ll make my way over to Lorneville and drink till I get drunk. I’m betting that the death thing has been postponed again.