Jimmy Bradshaw gets up at seven every morning. He has done for the last fifty eight years, ever since he was fifteen. He was told that only the sick and the dying stay in bed after seven. He takes his time in the bathroom, carefully cleaning his dentures, tooth by tooth, then deck by deck, using an old toothbrush to grind the yellow crusty gunk that has collected from his previous days eatings. He is in no rush. No rush for young Jimmy.
He has a cold water shave, with the big old razor blades his father recommended him. Razors that glean and gleam. PING! Razors that muscle up and look you in the eye and say “Well, come on faggot, ain’t you gonna have a go?” These razors look like they’d take chunks from your chin as soon as you weren’t looking. Then try to rob your mother’s handbag. He scrapes away his chin hair and sideburns, leaving behind a great big handle bar moustache. Tin can grey. It’s the colour of shopping trolley aluminium. He takes out his little scissors and trims the handles ever so slightly. He takes a dirty dry rag and rubs his face hard and slow. Like a teacher sharing tantric spoils with a virgin. He splashes his mush with “Old Spice – Oil for Men”, the choice of oil for the discerning man in the ages before the metrosexual. He faces himself in the mirror. His eyes shoot blood all through the cornea, iris and under the lid. A dead blue pupil bobs nervously, rolling like a hungry walrus. The lids they sag heavily.
Drooping skin folds like whipped ice cream all round his wrinkled face. His skin is dark and pirate porous. Too many days spent roasting like a legless chicken in the sun. A group of cockroaches regard him from a distance and wonder if the deep fissures that cover his floppy cheeks, were once upon a time rivers that have somehow dried up? Was there a chance of one day inhabiting his head? Should they send parties to investigate? Would there be food inside? Should they attempt landings and perform “reconinsectaissance”? Looking at Jimmy you could see that it wouldn’t be too long before they would have the chance.
Oblivious to the existential quandaries of the growing insect cognoscenti, he takes out his back pocket comb and passes it through the thirty six remaining hairs on his shiny head. Jesus Jimmy Bradshaw, he says out loud, you are one handsome fellah. No metrosexuality here.
He makes his way down the hall to the kitchen. His feet shuffle slowly along the wooden floor, his toes eking their way languorously. No rush for Jimmy. His feet are two hurt and trepidatious lovers. They have been through it all together. They know the sweet vicissitudes of life all too well – the rising and falling, rising and falling, the rising and falling.
He marks his arrival into the room with a roaring cough, a fetid lurching heave that threatens to eject his shrunken blackened lungs through his throat. He stops advancing and clutches the back of his chair, doubling over as mounds of phlegm and black saliva fly from his mouth into his empty hand, onto the ground and over his TV – His sixteen inch, black and white, antenna aerialed, round screen TV. No metrosexuality OR mod cons. His scaldy cough slows down slowly, almost like an old car starting up on a cold, frosty day. He sniffles and breathes wheezily and shakes his head. Jesus Jimmy Bradshaw, he says, for a handsome fellah you don’t sound so good.
The doctors agree too. They told him he needs an operation to stop a cancerous lump, but they cannot operate until his blood proves it can thicken quickly enough. To do this he needs to give up the grog. But there’s no chance of this happening. It’s the only friend he has left. Nothing else is there for him. Only Harry the local barman listens to his story. And a few of the locals. But they don’t care, don’t want to change him. They will comfort him as he kills himself. He’ll do it with a smile. All from the comfort of his home
In modern bullshit “real-estate speak” his home would be called “a cosy self-contained studio with amazing potential. Open plan kitchen and dining room with clean lines gives a great feeling of space, with views of Bulligol Creek”……In real words it’s a poxy little cockroach infested room, with a stove and a broken TV. Don’t bring anyone back from ‘The Biggest Loser’ as they will find it impossible to navigate their hulking masses through the narrow midget tunnel hall. There’s no room to swing your elbow not to mind the cat, and to makes matters worse, there’s a ditch running just outside the window that stinks from all the shit that flows into it from the abattoir two miles away. Don’t contemplate bringing any young lady back here as they would consider you dangerous, filthy, poor and slovenly. There’s also a chest of drawers, a chair and a coffee table.
On the chest of drawers are two pictures and two trophies. The first picture is of him and his wife, Margaret, who died sixteen years previous. Jimmy lost it after she departed, whatever “it” is. They are standing behind their son, Barney and their two daughters, Amelia and Jade. His children call once every couple of weeks, but they are too busy making egg and beetroot sandwiches for their ungrateful kids to worry about him. A monthly trip to Jimmy’s local for a few schooners and a pie is all he wants, is given and takes.
It is 1971 in the photo. They are smiling, tanned and stuck together. Jimmy is wearing a wide collared shirt, a big mop of curly hair with his trademark ‘tache loitering with intent beneath his long schnozzle. His muscular arms engulf his son and wife, with his two daughters smiling like novice toothpaste models in the foreground. His wife has a strange look on her face, somewhere between daft curiosity and lazy concern. Her mouth is slightly agape. She has deep dark eyes, high cheekbones and long light hair that curves slowly over her shoulders and covers her ample bosom. Barney has the look of a brooding teen – a youth having a tumultuous affair with the cruel vagaries of angst ridden puberty. Or did all that angst even exist back then at all I wonder. Maybe he just wants to be out smoking rolled cigarettes, kicking stones and chasing tail. He has a big honker. Girls hear what they say about big honkers. Amelia and Jade have big teeth and big hooters. Twins. They were always glad they had big hooters and not big honkers. Two letters makes the world of difference.
The second picture is of him with a group of mates in his kitchen, sitting round an old round table. There are four young men in the picture, all with big rocks glasses full of whiskey. They are smoking big fat cigars, playing some sort of card game. They are turning in outrageous laughter and pointing at the someone who is taking the picture. Both pictures are in black and white. In the corner of the room are a fridge and a table, with a kettle and a stove.
Jimmy shuffles over to the fridge and opens the door. He grunts a little old man grunt. Uuuuuaaaahhhmm. There is a lump of hard cheese, a stubby of VB, two eggs and a litre of lumpy milk. He scratches his head and looks around the room. Everything is as it was the previous night, week, month and year. He mumbles about the need to go and shop sometime. Gotta go do some fackin shopping sometime Jimmy, he says out loud. He takes out the stubby of VB. Victorian Bitter is an Australian beer with sharp and tinny flavour. It has a cool chemical taste, like chewing on citrus metal sorbet. Being relatively cheap it has become the beer of the common man or the beer for those who don’t have the money.
He sits down and twists off the cap, chucks it in the ashtray. They have twist cap beers in Australia. The more adventurous can open them by twisting them against various parts of one’s skin – the forearm or neck for that matter. Depends how drunk, young and hard you are. Jimmy uses the traditional “fingers with a cloth” technique. Kkkkkkkkhhhhhhhsss. He leans back and listens. Empty. It sounds like a vacuum cleaner has just finished – the “after noise” quiet. Not a bean of anything. Not even a late morning cicada. Not a stray car, cat or Caw Caw bird. Quiet as a melting iceberg it is. Not even a tap to drip. He lifts the stubby up to his lips and takes a long thirsty slug. Gugglegluggluggoogooogopoooooppaaaaaaaah. He slowly takes his arm down to the rest position. He sits. Sits and waits. A fly flies down and lands on his knee, sucking the salt from his sweat. It’s running far too quickly for Jimmy to care. He stares out the window at the cloudless sky. Not even a bird to fly by. He takes another long slug. Guggleglooglloopooooopoolaaaaah ahhhh. He smacks his lips together and listens to his breaths. Slow and uneven. Chesty. Suitable to a man his age.
He scratches his neck. He sits. He’s in no rush. No rush for Jimmy Bradshaw. Since Margaret died Jimmy has taken it easy. By taking it easy I mean shown no public grief, developed malignant cancer, drunk his liver rotten and burnt the heads of most his alveoli with cigarette smoke. He can’t see any point in changing. Jimmy has no need for health any more. Assisted suicide it is. Slow, but deliberate. No note necessary, his footsteps and message will be clear for all to see.
Jimmy takes the stubby one last time and guzzles the remainder down. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah he exclaims, that’s better Jimmy, that’s better. He wipes his nose with his hand. Sniffles a little. The fly buzzes around his eye before landing on his left earlobe. He doesn’t care, in fact he’s glad of the company but he doesn’t let on. Blaady flies, he says. He straightens his shorts and stares at the window. All he can see is blue. Still it is still. He contemplates. Will I go to the pub now or not? Will Magic, Doggo or The Hobbit be down there already? Surely they would. It was after eleven.
He sets off for the pub and makes it in the astonishing time of 26 minutes. Not bad for a hobbling wreck. He meets no one long the way. No cars pass him, no bicycles, no flying furry beatles, no girls. He pays no attention to the flies that land on his neck, nose and legs. He thinks of only one thing – the beer. The sun beats down on him at thirty two and rising. The heat forms a feeling of sheer desire inside him. A deep thirst, unquenchable by any liquid other than his beloved VB. He gets to the pub and swings open the door, relieved at the cool air inside. He nods at Harry who serves him up his beer without asking.
“Heya gaaan mate?” Harry inquires
“aaaaw…Gaan awrih …blaady hot awt there mate”
Jimmy gets his schooner and hobbles over to the table to sup on his own. Nobody else has arrived yet. He stares out into the day. Nothing moves. Nothing sounds. He eyes the bubbles in his beer and sighs, an tired, old man sigh.
He sets off for the pub which is only 660 footsteps from his door. Along the way he passes no one. The sun beams high. The flies are active, “coming down off drugs active” – fidgety and twitchy. His slow arms loop this way and that, not necessarily scaring them, but at least making them move. He swings his arm again and loses his balance, throwing himself into The Bulligol Creek, landing on his head, snapping his neck and killing himself instantly. He never needed the operation.