Pendock and Progress – A Short Story

“Pendock and Progress” is the second track released from Solkyri’s forthcoming album, Mount Pleasant.

Pendock and Progress (Track 3)

Circling Pendock Close with a bloodied nose. Dripping on to his t-shirt and caking above his lip. Pedalling hard to take the sting out of the pain. Up to the end of the street to the intersection and hanging a left. Barrelling down the footpath to the next intersection, turning around, and coming back. Looping through the cul-de-sac and up the other side, hanging a right and repeating the pattern.

He wiped his nose tentatively with the back of his hand and it came away with claret. Still. Caught stealing ciggies from his dad to give to older mates at school in exchange for pieces of silver and gold. Canteen money for a packet of Twisties. His dad clipped him with a backhander. Shouted how hard he had worked for something he enjoyed and the little bastard was depriving him of that pleasure.

He cleaned his hand on the back of his shorts. Kept riding laps of the cul-de-sac. The bike was a pick-up from the local hard rubbish clean up. Driving home after the nightshift his dad spotted it and lobbed it into the back of the car after giving it the once over and deciding he could get it up and running. Dad lapped the neighbourhood looking for other bikes for the parts he needed. It was one thing he was proud of. A labourer’s hands that fixed something. Made something good. Most of the time it was fabricating houses for posh fucks to inhabit. Other times it was demolishing houses for posh fucks to build another, larger house.

“Here you go, have a ride.” That’s all he said. It was mismatched, given a once over with spray paint to cover the rusted parts but fully functional and solid. His dad had made it. Respect born out of initiative.

But initiative that didn’t know how to move beyond the curvature of the street. The boy understood when a labourer’s hands became idle from a lack of work, they became hands of construction and deconstruction of the family and its relationships. Casual labour and seasonal work, packing shelves or running registers. An array of King Gee, flannies and singlets on the washing line in each neighbouring yard. A system that violently protected itself by keeping people on minimum wage. Keeping the idea of education at the forefront of their minds but at the back end of budgeting.

The blast of a car horn and a wave from an old man at the wheel turning into the cul-de-sac. The boy waved back and watched as the car pulled into his driveway. He rode down the street and pulled up as Grandad stepped out. A firm and static handshake exchanged. Grandad was a bastard of a brute. Nanna had died when he was little. Probably to escape Grandad. Nanna was orange cordial and Scotch Finger biscuits. Grandad was Reader’s Digest condensed books and talkback radio.

“Where’s your dad?”

“Inside.”

“Your mum home?”

“At work.”

“Your nose,” he pointed.

The boy shamefully wiped at the dried blood.

“My dad gave it to me worse.” A declarative comparison indicating the softening of generations.

The car door closed, and Grandad’s shadow lengthened towards the house.

Even though Grandad no longer struck his father, the boy could see how the generations measured up. Toughness was measured in how close you could get to the line of confrontation, prodding, goading, pricking, without copping a smack in the mouth from a backhanded swing. But that line was movable. He could stand his ground. Fight for what he wanted, even if it was only to piss the old man off. But always knowing who had the upper hand.

A genealogy of violence so circuitous and labyrinthine the boy wondered if he was the Minotaur at its centre, or simply the progeny of what was monstrous lusting after flesh and attacking people the way his Grandad had attacked his father, who attacked him and his mum and siblings. The fact a penis swung between your legs meant power and authority through the erect salute made between the pages of Penthouse magazine, and the flaccid outcome of making a mess in your own hands and wiping it away with wads of toilet paper.

The boy kneeled down at the front tap next to the letterbox and turned it on, letting the water run through his hand until it became cool. Splashing his face to clean the blood off, watching the red stain fade through his fingers. Slurping at the water cupped at his chin and feeling it run off the end of his nose, like blood. His hand shot up to check. Finding it clean he wiped his hand across his face. He looked down and began rubbing the spots of blood between his fingers. His mum would be angry he had stained his clothes but if he kept out of her way, he thought he could avoid the sideways glances. On his bike he could avoid the sideways glances of his dad and grandad.

The boy picked up his bike from the footpath and took off up the street. Each house he passed was a photocopied mimicry of an original that once had purpose. Untamed lawn edges or attempted front yard gardens of roses or murraya hedges. Kids’ plastic trikes next to Ford Lasers and Mitsubishi Colts. Fibro walls were good for fuck-all. Fabrication of pretence and a façade of neighbourliness as dog shit was tossed over the nearest backyard fence.

On his next lap around the cul-de-sac his younger brother came out the front door, probably told to piss off outside, and sat on the concrete verandah with a fistful of Hot Wheels cars. Lined them up along the top step and took turns pushing them off, one by one, down the three steps. The clatter of metal on concrete.

The boy felt the distance between himself and his brother, between himself and his father. Absence and ignorance stung like a father’s fist and blossomed into plum-coloured bruises. When they were visible, he learned to use mum’s concealer to hide them. Like she does.

He remembered lining up with his classmates, dressed in the category of ‘normal’ in their uniforms. On the surface it looked the same: blue shirt, grey shorts, white socks and sneakers. Or leather shoes if they could be afforded. But it was the idiosyncratic differences of how someone wore their shirt tucked out, longer socks or all the buttons done up to the very top he noticed as normal, too. Normal was having the shit kicked out of you at regular intervals by your father and turning up to school in the same uniform as everyone else thinking they too had the shit kicked out of them by their fathers on a regular basis. It was never said but always understood, as if bruises had their own telepathy to communicate with other bruises and share the pain as a salve of solidarity as the colours faded like the clouds of a summer storm.

He felt an underlying prickliness in his stomach when he looked at someone and they knew, too. Pendock Close had many faces, poverty being the most obvious. Yet poverty of affection, poverty of acknowledgement, poverty of awareness meant the boy let the prickliness tumble through his stomach, pass some of it out like runny shit to alleviate the stabbing for a brief time. But it was always there.

The desire to be seen, and noticed, not as a meat bag, a human sausage to be pricked and tossed; the fragile skin casing threatening to burst at the impact of a pellet spray of words shot from an arse.

And the boy continued on for another lap of Pendock Close.

* * * * *

The song is based on systematic violence and cycles of poverty named after two streets where the band grew up. I took inspiration from the accompanying artwork to develop the concept of the cul-de-sac, a closed road, a dead end, a place of going nowhere as a sustained metaphor throughout the piece. 

The plan is to have a collection of flash pieces written, one for each track on the album, by the middle of the year after the album is released in March as a download. Stay tuned for details.

You can read the first story, “Holding Pattern.”

 

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