This is the first draft of part of Chapter 1. There’s some racist language in there, but one of the themes I want to explore is the effect of casual or unchallenged racism so it’s not there gratuitously. I’ll post something to the blog about the themes of this project in future.
We rejoin Brian nearly twelve months after having lost his crowd control job in the prologue. He’s been mostly on the dole in the meantime and finances are a worry for him. He’s got a job offer from Neville Coffey, who runs a small security company:
Neville Coffey always had a reputation as being a dodgy fucker, but like I said I wasn’t in much of a position to be choosing my employers. I’d actually worked for him before, well, kind of. He’d run the crowd control on a venue in the city and some nights, when they needed an extra guy, they’d outsource to the company I was working for at the time. So a few times I’d worked with his guys and they seemed alright. Nev’s reputation never come up while I was working with them, but in the industry if you mentioned Neville Coffey’s name people’d narrow their eyes and tell you to watch him. ‘He’s a slippery bastard’ they’d say.
So when I go to meet Neville I’m already a bit nervous ‘cause I’m not too sure I can trust him. In the phonebook and on his website his business is listed at a swank address in the city, but he gets me to come and meet him at some little office in the middle of the suburbs. It’s part of a strip of little offices across the road from a shopping centre. There’s cheap lawyers and accountants with single door frontage and narrow stairways that lead to pokey little rooms. On the walls are some of those motivational posters with images like oars in water or an eagle in flight and under the image there’s words like “effort” and “leadership”. One of them has a woman with no arms who’s painting with her foot and underneath it says “what’s your excuse”.
The girl on the desk is nice enough. Her name’s Suzie. She’s blonde and tan and pretty in a way. Not like a model but well dressed and nice make up. She smiles and takes my name and asks me to wait. Then she’s back to answering the phone or working on her computer like I’m not even there.
There’s some old copies of “Australian Security Magazine” and a stack of glossy brochures advertising Neville’s company. I flick through one. It offers crowd control for pubs, clubs and parties. I did an 18th party once and I’m never doing another. According to the brochure Neville also specialises in security guards, security patrols, close personal protection, risk management, debt recovery, fidelity investigations and every other thing under the sun. The brochure is decorated with pictures of Neville and the blokes who work for him. Sometimes they’re in suits carrying briefcases. Later they’ll be peering out of a car with a camera in hand. On the next page they’re near a small plane on tarmac with a waiting limo. They look like fucking idiots. But like I said, I can’t be choosy.
Neville leaves me waiting half-an-hour so by the time I see him I’m pissed off even though I’ve got nothing better to do anyway.
The girl at the desk leads me to another room, even smaller than the waiting room. There’s a table here and four chairs. When Neville comes in he’s got two of his guys with him. A big, fat wog with greasy hair and a tall, skinny kid with a shaved head. I recognise them from the brochure outside.
‘Brian, mate. How’s it been?’ Neville asks. He puts on like he’s happy to see me but we’ve never really met face-to-face before. He’s smiling ear to ear and all charm. I wonder if part of the reason he’s got this reputation is that he looks like a rat. His top teeth are too big at the front, so when he smiles that’s all you see. His nose is thin and pointed and his chin’s weak.
He sits opposite me and his two guys take the other chairs, one on either side. I wonder why they’re there. Nod to each of them in turn. The skinny kid nods back. The wog just smiles enthusiastically and sweats a lot. It’s not even that hot.
‘Brian this is Leo Angurio.’ He indicates the wog who keeps smiling and says nothing. ‘He’s the head of my mobile security patrols. And this is Jason Milligan.’ The kid nods again. ‘He’s heading up my static guard division.’ He reads something in my reaction. ‘I know he’s young, but he’s good. You can trust him. Now at any given point any of the three of us might contact you so it’s not like you’re just taking orders from Jase or from Leo, or from me even.’ He gives a little laugh that’s gotta be fake. ‘Well I say “taking orders”, but you know what I mean.’
‘Yeah,’ I say. ‘I reckon I know what you mean.’ The wog seems distracted already but the bald kid just keeps looking at me. Makes me kinda uncomfortable. ‘Look I don’t mean to be rude, but I been waitin’ half-an-hour here Neville. Tell me what job you want me on and I’ll get straight out there if you like.’ He laughs again. Maybe genuine this time.
‘Straight to the point. I like that. I do. I’m sorry about the wait Brian, I am. You know how things get sometimes. The shit hits the fan somewhere and suddenly you’re arranging shifts or sending a patrol somewhere. Anyway, we have a job in the northern suburbs mate. Inner-north, not too far from you I understand. We thought it’d be right up your alley.’ He smiles. Waits for me to say something. I can’t think of anything worth saying so Neville just presses on. ‘It’s a block of flats in Brunswick mate – sixteen of them, but there’s a few empty ones. There’s been a little trouble there of late. The cops are aware of it and they’re right on board with us. Basically over the weekend someone’s taken apart some of the fence where the flats back up against a park. Anyway they’ve come in through the fence at the back of the lot and they’ve gotten into one of the vacant flats. Probably just kids having a party you’d reckon but they’ve fair trashed the place and then they’ve gone and put up some racist shit on the walls and that sort of thing. Normally wouldn’t be something we’d be involved in but there’s a big breach in the fence, it’s not getting fixed before Easter, and like I said there’s a few vacant apartments in the block so the body-corporate’s worried about squatters and vandals and shit like that. There’s a bit of overseas investment as I understand it so they’re just claiming the security costs through insurance or as negative gearing or whatever. No skin off their nose to have a guy on the site overnight for the next week or so.’
‘So it’s a week’s work?’
‘Well at least I reckon. At least a week. See the big issue here is it’s Easter next weekend. Now we got hit with this Saturday night and I got someone on site last night but that was a temporary fix mate. We need someone who can be there every night this week, and ‘cause it’s Easter I’m struggling to fill my regular shifts already. Too many young blokes are ducking out of town on the long weekend you see. Anyway I heard you live alone, no kids or anything, and I was hoping you’d be right to work through Easter.’
‘Just night shifts?’
‘Yep. Twelve hour shifts. Seven pm through to seven am. Piece of piss mate, you’ll spend half the time in your car. Give the block a foot patrol every half-hour to an hour. Flick your lights on to anyone who looks dodgy and that’s about it. I just need to know you can do it right through the Easter weekend mate. Give me that assurance and you’re on the books. When this job ends there’ll be other shifts for you I guarantee it. We’re going gangbusters in here for work at the moment. I can’t get good guys on my books quick enough. I tell ya Brian. All I get are bloody Indian students who can’t speak a bloody word of English. You advertise a job and there’re two dozen of these fucking resumes that stink of curry before you get to a name you can pronounce.’
‘I’ve got a boy. He lives with my ex-missus. I’d want to see him on Easter Sunday.’
‘Not a problem mate. Like I said it’s just seven to seven. The day’s yours. Spend a few hours hunting eggs with your boy. Just make sure you’re right for Sunday night.’
I make a show of thinking it through but it’s bullshit and I reckon they know it as well as I do. Neville needs me to cover this for him, but if he doesn’t get me he’ll get someone else. One of the curries perhaps, but it doesn’t really matter. He just needs a body on site. I need to pay the rent, and that means I need him a lot more than he needs me, and that means that eventually I nod and shake each of their hands in turn just like we’d all known I would when I first turned up.
This excerpt is about half of what I’ve written for Chapter 1. I’m still getting comfortable with the first person but I think it works for Brian. As a reader we will really get a sense of how he understands things and how his character operates.
I’m still a bit uncertain about the tense. At times I’m finding these really great phrases in the simple present and I want to use them. In my head I’ll plan out whole scenes in simple present, but then when I write I sometimes revert to simple past. At times the narrative is going to require some variation and obviously with dialogue any tense or aspect may come up, but it’s Brian’s narrative I’m most interested in. The prologue was in past tense and I like the idea of having the prologue past and the novel present, but it may not work… we’ll see. I suppose that’s part of the ‘joy’ of drafting.
Right now the project is just over 4,000 words (9/4/2012). A bit less than I’d planned for from the prologue and Chap 1, but for 20 chapters and an epilogue that would give me about 80,000 words.