David Stevens

Archive for February, 2014|Monthly archive page

School camp

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2014 at 7:31 am

The school camp was held in another universe. The cabin was small but the huge moon pouring through the window swelled it with liquid light. I could not sleep with the drilling of mosquitoes. I could not sleep this far from home. I had to lie in the tedium, desperate for the hours to pass. With no reference, I could not tell what time it was.

The night before, the only one still awake in a room of snoring boys, I had kneeled in my bed looking out the window, hanging out of my sleeping bag, a towel draped round my shoulders in an attempt to further block the mosquitoes. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. I prayed for sleep. I thought of my family. I said to myself that this too would pass.

In the morning, it started. ”What were you doing at the window?” I could not think of an answer quickly enough, so Kevin answered for me. ”Tossing off, I bet.” Ha ha. Ha ha. Ha haaahaaa. I ignored it, went off somewhere else in my brain while I spooned at the weetbix made with hot water. Mum made mine with hot milk at home. And honey. And sometimes chopped banana. To me, this was like pouring orange juice on cornflakes for a lactose intolerant kid – it might do, but who would want it? ”What were you doing brushing your teeth?” ”What were you doing wearing a hat?” ”What were you doing riding a bike?” ”Why did the chicken cross the road?” . Kevin’s answer would always be “having a wank” or “pullin’ his pud”, and the donkey chorus would erupt. Wheat shreds braying through teeth and braces. The repartee of boys. He wasn’t even in our cabin.

I had thought the silence meant they all slept. It just meant that the fear of Mr Palmer, lying in the corner, was more powerful than I realised. They were all watching, all of the time.

It was unbearable. I ached with the tiredness. I wanted to scream, but I did not want to go through the rest of my school years known as the screamer. The loony who broke down at camp. Let someone else scream first. Of course they were not as sensitive as me.

The idea came to me, and I was calmed. I could test the universe. If I fell asleep, I would not do this thing that I had thought. I could not do it immediately, it would need to wait until the depth of night, to be sure the others were sleeping. If I nodded off, then it would not come to pass. Good. if the idea came from God, then I would know whether He wanted me to do it or not by whether He granted me sleep or not. Fair enough.

I counted sheep. They started off as white, strong merinos. As I got into the high hundreds, they were leaner, scrawnier, meaner looking. Their faces were more canine. Sometimes the dingoes didn’t just kill sheep, I figured, picturing the genetic mingling. I was nearly asleep, but the nocturnal sounds of wombats kept bringing my consciousness back to the surface.

Finally, when the sheep were all mangy curs and jackals, snapping at each other and refusing to leap the gate, I stopped counting and realised I was standing up. With the room flooded, I could float through it. I drifted to the corner where the games equipment had been tossed. I had seen it before going to bed. A loose cricket stump, slipped from the kit, lying there. The cricket pitch was tough here, grassless with the endless drought, and the spikes of the stumps were all sheathed in metal, the easier to knock them into the earth.

I picked it up and let the current carry me. It was no surprise that I found myself next to Adolf’s bed. Even then, I knew him for what he was. I had no doubt of his evil. I stood there a long time. I was not wavering. I just wanted to be in the moment, to be fully aware of what was happening. From an early age, I did not want to simply stumble through life as a mindless sleep walker.

I had waited long enough. I raised the stump with two hands above me (thinking, if I could see this, I would look like a pyjama-ed Druid), gripped it hard, and thrust down. The metal tip pierced, and I leaned in, pushing down, forcing it with all of the weight of my body.

The stump made a shucking sound as it entered Adolf’s chest, and I felt the resistance of bone and flesh. I kept pushing, and would swear I felt the wiggle as it pushed between ribs, the final scrape against his spine.

I felt nothing. I stood back and looked. Clear in the moonlight, the stump was buried in his chest. Nothing momentous. No blood fountain, no demon scream, no flash burn to ash. Not for Adolf the instant dissolution of the centuries delayed death of the vampire.

After a few minutes, I returned to my bed. I had no thought for consequences. I felt annoyed that really, nothing had happened. It was only after I had laid there a long time that I realised that I had staked one of my school mates, and that this was no small thing. I could not have done it. It must be a dream. It could not be real.

I had to look. As I raised my head, Adolf snored and rolled in his bed. There was a drawn out vacuum suck as gravity slowly dragged the wood from meat, and I looked about in horror, sure that everyone would hear it, certain all eyes would turn to the noise. The noise ended, and I rested relieved, until I heard the crack as the stump crashed to the wooden floor.

No one reacted. No one heard. They were all fast asleep.

I got out of bed, not floating this time, more grounded. I knew the solution. Shoes in hand, I snuck past Palmer.

The sun rises early in summer here, and dawn was starting. I would have to be quick. Yes, the axe was sticking out of the wood pile. It was not much effort for me to pull it out of the log, and I was on my way. You have to pick the appropriate weapon when fighting monsters. Adolf was something foul, but he was no vampire. A stake through the heart was not going to deal with him. I would have to put a lot more thought into it. But I was pretty sure an axe through the head would fix Kevin.

His cabin was across the path from mine. I began to run, when I heard the yell.

“BOY! What the fuck do you think you are doing?”

Old Palmer was awake. (I wonder whatever happened to him.)

“Nothing sir.”

“Then put down that axe and get back to fucking bed!”

“Yes sir.”

I was much wearier that morning when I sat down to breakfast, bowl of slop in front of me. Then it appeared, slipped straight in front of me. Crispy bacon on toast, a dab of scrambled eggs, a spoonful of baked beans. I looked up. It was Adolf, feeding me from his personal supply, sharing the bounty that was magically served to him each morning.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Benito” I replied, finding it hard to meet his eye.

“Benito.” He stared hard. ”I hadn’t noticed you before. Benito, you and me. We’re going places.”

And so it began.


Marine Boy

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2014 at 7:05 am

An alleged poem for those of a certain generation …

Marine Boy

You need your gadgets boy,

and how cool they are:

rocket propeller shoes

electric boomerang

oxy gum.

But you will never fit in.

Everything underwater will always be blurry before your eyes

obscuring the truth

that the mermaid is never taking you home to meet her parents.

You are a fish out of water, boy

Always just one stick of gum away from death.

That’s no way to live.

As I am, you too will be …

In Uncategorized on February 22, 2014 at 11:39 pm

Toil is stupid, and now it is over for Bob 2.
Here to go … Trite to say, but the years fly by. How did they get so old, I ask, then look in the mirror.
Bob 2
Alan Myers

Lucky Number 113

In Uncategorized on February 22, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Just worked my way through 113 e mails, quite liked this one 🙂

Hi David,
Thank you for submitting your work to XXX, and our apologies for taking so long to provide you with a response. We were saving the acceptance emails until last.
Yes, congratulations! We’d love to publish your story, pending the editorial process.

Details to follow …

Tips for good living

In Uncategorized on February 13, 2014 at 11:27 pm

In this modern hurly burly world, it is important to have a code to live by. These are the tips I give my children:

1. Don’t marry an evil person.

2. Don’t eat candy you find lying around.

3. Remember, guns don’t kill people. Mostly, its the bullets.

4. You know those bestest ever bestest friends you love so much now? Five minutes after you leave school, you’ll never see them again. Friends are replaceable. So is money, but you have to work to get that.

7. If you hear a scary noise outside, stay inside. And take off that red shirt.

8. Lots of the stuff your parents tell you will turn out to be right, which is very very annoying.

9. Let it go. Let it all go.

10. Don’t. You will get caught.

11. If your plane is about to crash, try and be floaty.

12. Don’t start a land war in south east Asia.

13. Don’t get a tattoo with your girl/boy friend’s name, because they are hard to change. Get a generic one, like “Boyfriend” or “I heart Girlfriend”.

14. Flags are not worth dying for, and taste like shit.

15. Stephen King needs to find characters who are not best selling authors.

16. Don’t tease vegans, they bite.

17. It is possible to own too many books about wars. And to read ‘The Day of the Triffids’ too often.

18. Tolerance is no excuse.

19. Keep the door closed to prevent rats come in.


The new Regime

In Uncategorized on February 12, 2014 at 9:40 am

Launching tonight


How pretty!


Isn’t it pretty?

Regime 03 includes my short story, “Good Boy”.

If you are interested, you can buy a copy here, posted any where in the world. Mmmmm, print ….

A million good reasons to read Aurealis magazine …

In Uncategorized on February 8, 2014 at 4:32 am

Perhaps I exaggerate slightly.  On making my way through the latest edition, I came across the following:

Next Issue
Aurealis appears ten times a year.
Every month except January and December.
The next issue, Aurealis #68
will be published in March 2014
“Icarus” by Tara Calby and
“Avoiding Gagarin” by David Stevens

I knew it was appearing some time this year, I didn’t realise it was next month.

You can visit the good people at Aurealis here:  Aurealis home

When your children have Lyme Disease in Australia …

In Uncategorized on February 5, 2014 at 10:30 pm

This blog is meant to be about writing and fun things, not medical issues. However, I recently sent an e mail to a group of my friends regarding the situation my family has faced over the last eight years or so. I thought I would share a version of what I told them, in the hope that it may help someone else.

Lyme disease in Australia is a nightmare world. You know how when you have a nightmare you can’t really explain it to someone else? Sure, you might be able to say there was a monster, or you were being chased. However, you cannot explain the horrible feeling of the corridor you walked down in the dream because you don’t have the words, and because the corridor comes from a childhood experience you didn’t share with the person. They cannot understand the horror of butterflies, or why in the dream, that particular smile on the face of a clown terrified you, because they did not have the same creepy neighbour, or did not watch the same TV show at just the right impressionable age. The quality of the nightmare comes from our different experiences.

That is what it is like with Lyme Disease. Most people in Australia are used to a world where you go to a doctor and they are interested in what is going on with you. Australia is a First World nation that invests a lot of public money in health.  Even if the first doctor is not very good, you can go to another doctor down the street. If things are a bit nasty, there is generally a specialist to go to. And if things are really bad, there is still a scheme to deal with it, horrible though everything is. Someone very close to me recently had treatment for cancer. This was very scary for all of us, from the diagnosis, to the further tests to see if treatment was available. It has been very hard on him having to go to hospital regularly and put up with the indignities of the treatment, on top of how confronting the illness is. But there was a scheme in place, a plan with every step staffed by expert doctors or nurses or other professionals, who all knew exactly what to do, what came next, and what the ultimate goal was. There was always someone he could talk to.

With Lyme, there might be say, twenty doctors in Australia who have any idea. I do not think that number would include any Australian infectious disease specialists. So you take your child from GP to GP, who refer them to specialists. Lyme is a multi organ, multi systemic disease, it will attack everything, but not necessarily in a predictable way. Specialists generally know only about their own organ or system. In Australia, they do not know to look for Lyme. So they end up saying: I can’t help you, there is nothing wrong in the area I work in. You’ll need to find someone else.  Sorry, not my job to suggest someone.  You end up where you started. Your child is getting sicker, but you’ve run out of doctors. (A paediatrician shrugs and asks your child, “have you ever thought of killing yourself? I would, going through that sort of pain. Have you tried Berocca#?” You leave his surgery asking yourself, did that just happen? Did he say those words?)

You end up, after many years, at a particular clinic. They deal only in symptoms, not causes, or so they say. You and your child need to live a normal life, they say. So Dad, you have to be the bastard in the family. You have to force your child to go to school, whether they like it or not*. You have to show Tough Love. You have to keep pushing them, encouraging them, making them stretch themselves. They have to get on with life, despite their symptoms. Meanwhile, we’ll give the child a psychologist to help them deal with the symptoms. But that’s just what they tell you. What is really going on is that they cannot find a physical cause, so there must be a mental cause. Eventually, they say terrible, terrible things to you.  You challenge them on their deception, and they unashamedly admit it.  And you are angry, but you think, can they be right? Have we missed something all these years?  You doubt yourself completely.

Then one day, by the grace of God and His tool, the internet, you find a doctor who knows about this disease, and you do tests, including laboratory tests, and testing reactions to treatment, and clinical presentation, and you find that your child has all of these bugs in their body. No amount of Tough Love was ever going to kill those bugs. The child could not force themselves to school because the bugs made them very weak and sick. All of the things you have been doing have been the opposite of what you should have been doing. You being the bastard, was simply being a bastard. It did not help one little bit.  Your child has Lyme Disease which was untreated for many years.  They also have a bunch of typical co-infections.

You find that many people in Europe and the US have had similar presentations and symptoms.  (Later you find that many other people in Australia have as well.  You are not nuts.  There are many other families out there going through the exact same thing.)  Their illness was caused by the same bugs.  A doctor with familiarity with that could have started treatment earlier.

Then you find that the tests that helped you are not recognised in Australia. And you find that if you go to hospital and seek treatment in an emergency, the moment you mention Lyme, weird things happen. These things have really happened to us:

  •  attending doctors actually stand up and leave the room (I am surprised they did not cover their ears and chant “lalalalalalalalala-can’t-hear-you-lalalalalala” as they left.)
  • attending doctors telephone a specialist. The specialist does not leave his chair. He gives a telephone “un-diagnosis”. The attending doctor tells you “We don’t accept the diagnosis you have”. He’s spent a total of say 15 minutes over a period of four hours with us. The specialist has never seen us.  The other doctors have spent many hours with us, and have spoken to specialists in the US.
  • A senior doctor has told us that “Lyme is a bit controversial,” so we should really go to another hospital for treatment.
  • Doctors tell us we are wrong, there is no such disease here. (They ignore the contrary evidence. They also ignore that we have travelled to Europe and South East Asia.)
  • A doctor took us into a private room where no one could hear her, to tell us she believes us because she has Lyme Disease too, but she can’t say anything to her colleagues as she wants to continue to practice.
  • when we raised issues about strange rashes and blotches, a doctor said, “Parents are always imagining rashes that aren’t there, they probably didn’t occur”.  So I pulled out my laptop loaded with photographs of the rashes.  He was silent, then said, “So Dad likes gadgets, does he?”

As a sane person who has never believed in conspiracies, you find there actually is one. You find that there is politics beyond imagining behind all of this.

You wonder how you can explain all of this to people without sounding like a nut, because it is beyond their experience, they all know that doctors help people, there would be no reason for a doctor not to. (They do not have the experience of doctors denying symptoms that don’t fit facts.)  And when some people say, “What, they’re still not better?” and they look at you, you feel challenged. Am I mad? Have I done enough for my children? Have I been an effective advocate for them? Is there more I could be doing? Is there another doctor I could have found?  Because when all of the authority figures are lining up and telling you that you are wrong, and when what you go through goes against the experience of everyone you know, you doubt yourself. You doubt yourself all the time.

There is a breakthrough.  The Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Baggoley AO takes an interest in Lyme-like diseases in Australia.  He sets up a consultative committee.  They authorise a scoping study.

The scoping study raises concerns.  There are real issues with it.  There are problems.  You feel that you cannot begin to articulate what they are.  It is the shared nightmare again.  How can you explain it to these people?  How can you find the words to get it across?  How can you begin to say to the scientists and medical professionals, you have it wrong – you have missed the point – of more relevance is this – why are you saying those things?

And then two very sick people produce a document like this, to challenge the consensus and status quo. Despite their illness, they pick the brains of a community of desperately ill people, and they devote hundreds of hours to research and writing. Then they collapse. Then they get up again and keep going. And they collapse again.  But they persist.

The document shreds the medical consensus in Australia. It shows how the clinicians are wrong, and how they have ignored the best evidence here. They articulate the nightmare world of Lyme in Australia, and even though in our house we live it every day, I shake my head and say, how can this possibly be happening? But it is, and it is probably happening to tens of thousands of people. The science clearly demonstrates the medical establishment in Australia is wrong.

For the moment, nothing changes. There is no plan in place for Lyme treatment, unlike the systems in place for many other serious illnesses. Denial continues.  We can only hope for change, and continue to work towards it.

I invite you to read the document.  If you are able to help to change the situation in Australia, I ask you to do so.

#I guess he thought the problem was with the B – B – Bounce.

*That doctor seems so reasonable to your face. Then when you are not there, your child recounts how they collapsed at school, and how Dad had to come and collect them. The doctor interrupts and says, “And didn’t it feel great when Dad got you, when you left school”. Your child answers, “I was still screaming, but it was on the floor at home, not the floor at school”. The doctor dismisses them with a wave and a sneer. Apparently it was his job to be the bastard at hospital.