Sport 29: Spring 2002
When the podiatrists escaped we immediately set up roadblocks. But they were apparently wise to us and kept to the footpaths. Somewhat unfairly, too, they must have been wearing orthotics with rich crepe soles, which allowed them, well after dark, to ripple right past our defences in a distinctly crepuscular manner and make for the safety of the park.
In this way the podiatrists taught us the meaning of frustration.
There was no way, especially in the darkness, that we could retrieve the podiatrists from the park. The powerful sequoias hid and comforted even the bravest of them in a scent of turpentine, made sharp by the moonlight, whereas the more timid lay pressed into the gaultheria where they were wrapped about with wintergreen.
We could do nothing. We did joke that the iron railings around the park meant that the podiatrists had simply caged themselves in, but we were equally aware that the railings with their fearsome spikes kept us out just as effectively.
In this way the podiatrists taught us the meaning of irony.
All night the podiatrists hid there, out of sight, out of reach, but not out of hearing, and eventually safety page 41 overcame them and they grew cocky and footloose and realising our powerlessness began to cry Yippee! Yippee!
Thus the podiatrists taught us the meaning of scorn.
We could almost have tolerated this had it not been for the uncomfortable realisation that somehow in the night tinea had been set loose. We could feel it burning and insinuating itself all over our feet, between our toes. Burning and burning. Itching fearsomely.
And all the while the podiatrists, behind the iron rails and hidden in the dangling embrace of the redwoods, cried Yippee! Yippee!
As the burning sensation all but overcame us it seemed almost as though we could hear the tinea joining in the chorus: Yippee! Yippee! in tiny subsonic harmonies.
When dawn broke we were in a really bad way, jumping from foot to itchy foot. The light, perversely, had made the podiatrists even cockier, more sure of themselves. They broke free of the shaggy trunks, the perfumed ground cover and sported, gambolled. They flaunted their tubes of fungicide. They played touch rugby with them, flinging the crème of our desire from player to player, coming at times infuriatingly close to the railings. Every so often one would cry Yippee! as if unable to help it. Would leap into the air clapping his crepe soles.
In this way the podiatrists taught us the meaning of hate.
It's Highway 69 and it's as hot as a chilli on a griddle out there with a greeny jealous sky and red dirt as far as the eye can spit and here's Christine all in purple standing on the stoop of the Lipstick Pickup Diner waiting for the punters to start arriving.
And the punters do.
Here's patrol car with a big blue light and a pair of short-sleeved cops in seersucker shirts and moleskin pants and one of them says ‘Nice paint job, Ma'am’ and Christine at first thinks he means her Lip-Glo but he really means the pink façade and the plum letters fashioned after flower power, all curlicues and petals and possibilities.
And here's a couple of choppers with apehangers and sideburns and buckskin and fringes and here's Billy and Wyatt with legs like wishbones easing off the gas tanks and moseying along up the steps and ‘Can I do you breakfast boys?’ asks Christine, her great purple empress tent-dress hiding the fact there's three months to go, and Billy grunts but Wyatt turns his blue shades to the green sky and asks ‘You get much rain here?’
Christine doesn't reply because here's George coming round the corner zipping up his fly and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. The grin he flashes Christine is of startling loveliness, shiny as the day is new, and he pushes his way into the diner and sinks into a buttoned burnt orange booth all vinyl and Formica.page 43
Here's the orders: flapjacks for the cops and black jaffa and eggs sunny side up for the boys and the smells are golden honey and dark mocha and a sizzle of albumen and here's the door opening and Jimi's standing there in a black hat with medallions round the brim shining like silver dollars and holding his Fender Monterey Stratocaster before him like a benediction and Christine stares and her mouth gasps and she feels a tiny kick within her. The light is behind Jimi and he's all fuzz and feedback and his hair rises like an aureole about him as if he's underwater and floating in a green sea.
George grins his lovely grin and pats the orange vinyl. ‘Sit down Jimmy,’ he smiles and Jimi says ‘it's Jimi with an “i”’ and George beams and says ‘Sure Jimmi.’ And Jimi says ‘… and one “m”’ and ‘What'll it be, Jimi?’ asks Christine but Jimi doesn't reply merely slipping in beside George and nodding wordlessly, expressionlessly, at Wyatt and Billy. ‘I'm a headliner, too, baby’ murmurs Wyatt and Billy grunts ‘Say what's that axe made of man?’
But Jimi doesn't reply. Instead he holds his handpainted tomato-red Stratocaster, all curlicues and petals, to his teeth and pulls at the strings. There is a twang of yellow and a twang of mauve and Jimi is chewing a thick spiral of silver, which slithers from his moving jaw like living vermicelli. George's eyes widen and his grin broadens. Wyatt sighs as Jimi takes the headstock in his mouth and bites. There is a crunch of chocolate and Christine feels the kick once more. One of the cops looks up over his flapjack and his eyes narrow. He nudges his neighbour.
And here's George looking with wonder as Jimi works his way down the neck chewing remorselessly pausing page 44 only to spit out the odd white plastic tuner. ‘Lord, have mercy …’ whispers George. ‘Is that what that is?’ Jimi turns to him all fuzz and distortion, breaks off a piece of the pickup guard and hands it to him silently. George takes it in his mouth and chews deliberately. He sees turquoise. He sees vermilion. He whistles softly, sibilantly, and says ‘Lord, it has a real nice taste to it …’
Jimi meanwhile has chewed his way down the neck to the lacquered body. He looks up and asks a question with his eyes of Wyatt and Billy who both nod soundlessly.
But here's the cops syrup at the corners of their mouths standing up hands on holsters leaving their flapjacks. They stand by the booth. One wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. The other says ‘What the hell is this? Troublemakers?’ Christine licks her Lip Glo nervously. Wyatt turns his blue shades to the cop and Billy sniffs ‘Oink’. Says the other cop ‘I think we oughter put them in the cage.’ Jimi chews on as if they weren't there at all. Yellow. Marigold. Lapus lazuli. Wind. Mist. Water. Haze.
And here's the cops with their guns and the boys are standing, led out into the red dirt and the green sky and the radio is full of fuzz and feedback as they wait for the grey paddy wagon. Jimi kneels in the red dirt spitting out the last white volume knob. Billy scowls. Wyatt raises his blue shades to the green sky and all is brown. Christine is back on the stoop and her purple dress lifts in the breeze. And here's George, grinning his lovely grin, and kissing the sky.
Wyatt looks down, then pulls Jimi to his feet gently. ‘Tell me’ he says ‘You ever want to be somebody else?’