Title: A Winter’s Tale


In: Sport 31: Spring 2003

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, November 2003

Part of: Sport

Keywords: Prose Literature

Conditions of use



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Sport 31: Spring 2003

A Winter's Tale

page 36

A Winter's Tale

When Lambton Quay was redolent of shellfish and brine,

when Stewart Dawson's corner looked brassy and moist,

when the cloud above the harbour and the hills was rich in greys and blues and bluey blacks (a gaseously toxic spectacle?)—

at times like these would Liam Mist take mental photographs, just as if his brain itself consisted of gelatin and silver halides.

Liam was frowning. The girl in bed beside him had honey-coloured skin and straight black hair. ‘Have you ever had a nickname?’ he asked her.

‘Not to my knowledge,’ Lilly Ling replied.

‘I've had a couple, but neither really took.’ Liam cleared his throat. ‘Creeping Jesus was one.’

‘Yuck. And the other?’

‘The Pink Panther.’

Lilly blinked. The girl had smallish breasts with big black titty nipples. Her pelvis was striped by a skimpy wee girdle of pale skin, bikini-shaped.

A morning in 197-. The radio was playing ‘Haitian Divorce’ by Steely Dan. Liam flexed his fingers, then toddled them toward Lilly's nether parts. ‘It's penis time again,’ he told her sadly. ‘It's time alas for another penising.’

‘Already? Goodness me.’

Gulls and salty air. Finals and hanging finals. Porches with wine-gum-orange panes, panes of lemon and watery purple.

Liam was long and pale and skinny, but Lilly couldn't get enough of him. In order to put a roof over their heads, she'd sold her violoncello. (The instrument had been a gift from her parents. It travelled in a cello-shaped overcoat.) A single shallow step bisected their room, giving page 37 them a kitcheny area and a bedroomy one.

Ants were a problem, yes. This being Oriental Bay, you had to hide the sugar from the ants.

Unheralded and dire, penisings took place with frequency, both at home and abroad. ‘I'm breaking my daddy's heart,’ gasped Lilly.

On an empty, icy Sunday of stopped clocks and glazed thoroughfares, the dispirited lovers passed the Plaza picture theatre.

Lo, The Serpent's Egg.

Liam insisted on sitting right up front, in the first row but one. As the scalloped emerald curtain was about to rise, a mob of ankhed and swastikaed bikies arrived, surrounding Mist and Ling. And though the gangsters drank from many brown bottles, they proved to be a docile, even avid audience.

An ankh is a device consisting of a looped bar with a shorter crossbar, used in ancient Egypt as a symbol of life.

Lilly was a proofreader. As she trotted off to work on sandalled feet, her black cape sustained by the haste of her departure, Liam would hope she'd troubled to sponge her cunt.

With the room to himself and the morning before him, he'd thock and thuck at the solid wee portable he'd salvaged from a skip and mounted atop a tallish chest of drawers, typing up his livid picture-poems.

And when would Liam himself get a job, returning to freight yard or hectic market floor? But when?

Lilly read Watership Down. The radio played ‘Hey Nineteen’ and ‘Peg’.

Like a strip of litmus paper, Liam's meaty glans was susceptible to changes of hue. And Lilly liked to finger his mauve or puce helmet, to tease or twink or tweak his glossy knob, sometimes licking the wound of his leaky satin meatus.

The radio played ‘Dirty Work’. The radio played ‘Babylon Sisters’, ‘Kid Charlemagne’ and ‘Deacon Blues’. And Liam Mist conceived page 38 … of a movie shot at night on the streets of the city, a short but very wet and inky film with no dialogue and a soundtrack by Steely Dan.

Lilly Ling and Liam bloody Mist. From time to time, they'd drop a little speed. Drop a little speed and spot a little hash.

A white white white oblivion with chimes. Phew and What? and Holy fucking shit! Himalayan snows; Patagonian tambourines; Burmese finger cymbals. A sightless bliss of Persil purity.

The French word for pipe is pronounced peep. The Tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

‘We'll get married, Lilly.’


‘We'll queer their pitch by getting married.’


‘Will he like me any better, once I've done the decent?’


‘Will she?’


The southerly flung sleet against the windows. ‘So what's for tea, Miss Ling?’

‘Duck in orange sauce.’

‘Duck in orange sauce?’

‘It comes in a grubby tin with a dragon on. I also bought some incense and long-grained rice.’

‘Good for you.’

When the power failed, Lilly lit a candle.


by Geoff Cochrane

Available from good bookshops, or directly from the publisher, Thumbprint Press, 26 Egmont Street, Wellington. Price $24.95.