David Stevens

Archive for 2017|Yearly archive page

Abandoned chunk from a work in progress

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2017 at 9:04 pm

Fucken hungry.  He could murder a cold one too, a dozen, but he knows he could drink a sea and  it wouldn’t fill him with what he needs.

He’s just taking a breather.  No one could deny he’s been digging away down here in the dark.  Working hard.  Its only when he looks up that he realises there’s a kid down here.

Thinking about it, he supposes there are dead kids. Has to be.  Plenty of them. Not much use though, are they, your dead kid.  Not in a mine, he thinks, forgetting how old he was when he started this caper, like he’s forgotten everything, except how to dig. And that he’s dead. He knows that.

Its not a smoko, cos he doesn’t have any smokes.  Can’t, not down a mine.  More a breather.  Not that he’s sure he’s really breathing.  Dead, and he still wants a smoke.  Some habits die hard.  And its not as though he’s just dead.  When he realised he was here, when he woke up working, he didn’ t have any legs left, that’s how dead he was.

The kid’s not on a track, not on rails. Neither is he, now that his legs have grown back, but you know what I mean. He’s not official like. The kid’s not working. He’s on a lark, just wandering about.  Gets on his wick.

The kid sees him. He’s got a lamp stuck on his head, like he’s a miner. He’s a bludger, more like. Shit scared now, not wandering about so aimlessly now. So he should be, bludger.  He wouldn’t bludge down here.  Who knows what they’d do?  If they can bring you back to life, what other shit can they do?  He’s never liked bludgers and he’s never liked wankers.  Remembers that.  Bludgers, wankers, thieves.  Blinks.  A feeling rises, and he remembers it before he can name it.  Shame.  That’s it.  Thieves.  He’s been eating some of the rocks he’s been digging.  Just some little ones.  Surely no one will miss them.  Fucken hungry.

Smell the kid’s fear. Didn’t know he could do that. Bet that’s new.  Scent condenses on his tongue, and saliva flows. He changes inside. Its like feelings he gave up on a long time ago. Longings.

So fucken hungry he could eat his own arse.

But he doesn’t have to.

He’d laugh if he had a voice.   Oh yes.  The kid’s face turns weird, he’s running.  Why?  He realised that he had been walking, without knowing it.  Just a passenger being carried along by legs and hunger.  I see.  The kid’s running away from me.  The kid fumbles in his back pack, loses a bit of the distance between them, pulls out a bit of tinfoil.  That knife won’t help, kid. You gonna murder me?  I’m already dead.

He hops down from the track, into the rubble of what they’ve been digging. Coal. Utility pipes. Dirt. Small trees pulled down through the earth by their roots. Form and complexity. Information and structure. Bits of it lying around down there.

Watcha got in that bag kid? A monster gun? Shambling over, stretching stiff joints. Something wriggling about in there.

Whatever it is, the kid brings the knife down into the centre of it, and it doesn’t like it.  Its jumping around.  The kid sticks the knife into its guts, and it spurts.

O!  The smell. He still can’t remember his name, but flavours flood back, and the drool pours out over his chin.  He can recall crumbed lambs brains and cream and mushrooms and wine – the bitter of the first beer after work on a summer’s day – burning his fingers snatching at hot chips with vinegar, the sun already down and steam pouring from their mouths as they broke battered fish into bits – onion as he licked at his wife’s fingers – stolen honey – other, private tastes…

The thing whatever it was was in his face and he sucked it empty, breathed it down, a wonderful throat-full of blood or motor oil or whatever it was inside, bloody beautiful, and chewing down on the carcass, swallowing it into him, wiping his mouth with his arm then licking the arm clean, the misery in his stomach abated for a moment, letting out a moan like he’s breaking.

The creaking of an ancient unoiled engine returning to life, his voice returned. “Thanks kid.” Clouds were lifting and he stepped out of a haze. “I’m George?” he groaned with the intonation of an unsure teenage girl.  “Yes, I’m George. What the fuck are you doing down here?”

“Looking for someone.”

“Are they dead?”

“Hope not.”

Dream not the impossible dream

In Uncategorized on April 9, 2017 at 8:40 pm

News of the bus misadventure in the Canutes caused me to reflect on an incident from my school days.

Those of a certain age will remember the tightening of the curriculum, when a scientific fine tooth comb was drawn through the hippy length hair of what in those days passed for the imparting of knowledge to the young.  How bracing we found the shock of the new, when the wool was pulled from over our eyes and we saw not through a glass darkly for the first time.  I remember our science teacher, nervous, looking around, perhaps unsure of how we would react to the “New Learning”.  Then he opened his mouth:

“Children.  Here is something interesting that I have to … need to tell you about.  Did you know that flight is impossible?”

How intrigued I was.  I recall the brand new text books that were handed around that day.  I had never had a new text book before, unsullied by the eye prints of ancient children.  One quote has stuck in my mind.

“Flight is not possible, and never has been possible.  It is a scientific fact, that despite the widespread availability of extension ladders, no part of the fossil record has ever been found in the air.”

That clinched it for me.  Magical thinking dropped away.  Years of superstitious nonsense gone.  Evolution proved it.

“But sir” piped up one familiar voice, and even in those days, the teacher dared not ignore it.

“Yes Trevor?”

“Sir, I dream of flying.”

The teacher was flustered, and he looked around more, sweating.  “But that…”

“Sir, I dream of flying.  I’m up in the air, looking down on all creation.  Without a care, I stretch my arms and just fly over everything.  It feels wonderful.”

“I’m sure it does.”

“But its not true, is it sir?”

The teacher was silent.

“Dreams are stupid, aren’t they sir.  We dream all sorts of ridiculous things, don’t we.”

“Yes that’s right Trevor.  Flight is not possible.  We dream all sorts of nonsense.”

“So sir, when you say all the time that we can achieve whatever we want, and that we should follow our dreams, you’re full of shit, aren’t you sir.”

“Yes Trevor.”

I like to remember that day, on nights when I hear the screeching low over head, when there is the illusion of scrabbling at my roof tiles, when something unseen triggers the alarms in my fortified compound.  It comforts me to know that the desperate screeching above, the whooping, the unearthly howls, are all an illusion, for flight is simply impossible.  It pushes thoughts of military experiments gone awry from my mind, so that images of crazed scientists splitting open the space-time continuum are restricted to my dreams.  Which, as we now all know, are full of shit.

Then tonight on the news, the story of the dreadful bus crash in the Canute Peaks, and the loss of 30 or so scientists as their bus plummeted into the unplumbable depths of the Siegfired Chasm, as they were trying to achieve the State of Bliss.  They were crazy themselves, of course.  They had been at a conference where they had been discussing whether the lack of fossils in the air was not because flight was impossible, but because over time, the ground has risen and absorbed the aerial fossil record.  Some things just should not be discussed.

I like to think that some of them survived the horrible, horrible fall, and that they will eke out an existence in those depths, surviving on the flesh of their comrades who died on the way down, but of course, I am an incurable romantic.

Mormon boys

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Lonely Mormons

far from home

wandering through the great apostasy.

Tempted by Coca Cola,

shunning coffee and other like beverages,

is your truth too good for me?

You all rush to share it

with the pretty Asian girls.

Was there nothing on

those buried gold plates

Elohim wanted you

to share with me?

I’ll just have to cross my own desert.

Not for the first time.

*****

Those Mormon boys were hanging around Chinatown in Sydney, and no matter how many times I walked past, ready to talk to them about Joseph Smith, they were too busy sharing their truth* with pretty girls.

*In the words of Vyvyan#, “I’ve never heard it called that before”.

#When some pompous old bloke said he wanted to “protect” Felicity Kendall.%

%”Felicity, you fill me with electricity” – Rik

 

How the Australian Cricket team could FEED THE WORLD

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2017 at 9:05 pm

I dream of an ink vampire, draining chinese ideograms, celtic crosses, pictures of dogs, MOM, southern crosses, rebel flags, big boobed naked girls, meaningless epigrams, fanned cards, LOVE, band names, HATE, gothic script, military insignia, stupid lyrics, astrological signs, hula dancers, horned devils, feathered chiefs, bible quotes, affirmations, garish sleeves.  How it thrives now, after years of sustaining itself only on sailors, convicts, military personnel and bikies.  It has added hipsters and wannabes, footballers and cricket captains to its food supply.  All the skinny Zooey Deschanels of the world, not much blood, but lots of ink.  Spread the disease, so that the hungry may feed on the hipster inksters.  Share the plague, disseminate it throughout the world, so that the hungry hordes may rise up, then descend.  How they scream, the victims when they awake, searching their bodies for their specially chosen design, but finding only a faint outline left.  “Do you know how much that cost me?”  A small child wipes its mouth, hunger sated for the first time.  INK!  MORE!

Warning

In Uncategorized on February 25, 2017 at 8:58 am

Goodness, I haven’t blogged this warning for quite a while. The most excellent Jared Diamond has warned us of the dangers of ecological collapse, but perhaps there is a more pertinent warning of the dangers of … well, of the dangers of sweets:

In 1849, hungry gold miners crossing the Nevada desert noticed some glistening balls of a candy-like substance on a cliff, licked or ate the balls, and discovered them to be sweet-tasting, but then they developed nausea. Eventually it was realized that the balls were hardened deposits made by small rodents, called packrats … Not being toilet trained, the rats urinate in their nests, and sugar and other substances crystallize from their urine as it dries out … In effect, the hungry gold miners were eating dried rat urine laced with rat feces and rat garbage.

– Collapse by Jared Diamond

Now you know: don’t, just don’t. Nancy Reagan was right. Just say no. Never accept sweets from a stranger. Or from rats.

Lost in Venus

In Uncategorized on February 18, 2017 at 11:57 am

Sniff of chlorophyl

whiff of ether

Look down

fronds part and unfurl

cupping

leafy embrace

cool breeze

tugs you in

sinking the green

moss is velvet

plant yourself

lean in and

skin unfurls to mask you

the perfect kiss

inside out

you are draped

try to make sense

of distant calls

lose yourself in

the wind blowing

through her branches

are you dead

or are you

loving the alien?

***

 

lost on venus

lost on mars

press up against

foreign atmosphere

do you lose yourself

if you love the alien?

 

Old school anime

In Uncategorized on February 13, 2017 at 10:18 pm

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.

Secret of the Ninja

In Uncategorized on February 12, 2017 at 9:33 am

Ninjas can’t dance

Ninjas can’t dance

if the music ain’t disco

That is their secret limitation,

a truth that is a threat to their dignity.

It ain’t much.

They can still kill

and fly and turn invisible

and such.

Just don’t expect them to bust a move,

if it ain’t disco.

Bangs and whimpers

In Uncategorized on February 12, 2017 at 7:53 am

Surprise

Cancer too is a prize

You don’t have to queue at the newsagent’s

to buy a ticket

They slip it in with the teddy bear,

the beatrix potter china setting,

the first photograph album,

unnoticed.

The final draw may be foreshadowed

in the missed stitch in the booties

grandma made

put aside, only used at your Baptism.

(“It was her last pair.  Do you think she knew?”)

Unlike the contents of your bowels

or your most recent projectile vomit,

it is not discussed in polite company.

It may stick its head around the corner at 3.30am,

pop into Dad’s thoughts as he tries to settle you

and sees his own mortality as he pictures his own father

rocking him 30 years ago,

and his grandfather walking the floor twenty years before that.

A link in the chain between first and last

Somewhere between the savannah and the heat death of the universe.

You can buy more tickets later on,

or be the lucky recipient of a random allocation.

Just like a five million dollar lottery.

You say you’ll keep working,

but you’ll find that you can’t.

Your colleagues no longer look at you,

well, not the same way.

Early retirement either way.

And lots of time to think.

Lyme Disease in Australia – living the li(f)e

In Uncategorized on February 5, 2017 at 11:21 am

Facebook reminded me of a post I made two years ago. I have updated it a bit and here it is, re-posted. This blog is meant to be about writing and fun things, not medical issues. However, maybe someone else going through this shit will see it and realise that they are not crazy.

Lyme disease in Australia is a nightmare world, and very sadly, we have been involved in it for a decade. You know that 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. And most people using the Australian medical system say, but its good, it helps, they care. That used to be my experience as well.

That nightmare 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. It may not be a surprise to you that cancer is awful. You confront your own mortality. It is painful. There are great indignities with the treatment. There are many terrifying steps along the way. But there are industrial level schemes in place, a plan with every step staffed by expert doctors or nurses or other professionals, who all know exactly what to do, what comes next, and what the ultimate goal is. There is always someone you can talk to. (1) And if there is nothing they can do, someone will say it. They won’t tell you that you are imagining your illness just because they cannot treat it.

With Lyme, there might be say, twenty doctors in Australia who have any idea. One or two may be an infectious disease specialist – I’m serious. 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, AND THERE IS NOWHERE ELSE TO GO. There is nobody to turn to. Hospitals tell you not to come back. (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? (2)” You leave his surgery asking yourself, did that just happen? Did he say those words? Umm, yes. He did. And we had trusted this guy with all of our babies.)

You end up, after many years, at a particular clinic, in a particular children’s hospital. 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 (3). 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 – pathology tests both in Australia and Germany;   tests of reactions to treatment; and clinical presentation, and you find that your child has all of these bugs in their body. Call it what you want (4). But in that mix there is borellia and babesia, bartonella, and a bunch of opportunistic parasites attacking a weakened immune system.

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. They start to connect with each other.)  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.) Really and truly.
  • attending doctor telephones a specialist. The specialist does not leave his chair. He does not see your child. 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, many hours with us. We have attended specialists in Germany and the Netherlands and the Czech Republic. We have spoken to specialists in the US by skype. They were all wrong. Everyone was wrong. But the man at the end of the telephone, he is right.
  • We are about to obtain a surgery we need in Australia. The emergency doctor, trained overseas, recognises the symptoms, agrees with the proposed treatment. A senior doctor arrives. Like us, he is a person of a faith. We see his tzitzit hanging from beneath his shirt.  We think he is here to help. He tells us that “Lyme is a bit controversial,” so we should really go to another hospital for treatment. And we should keep seeing our GP who knows about it. But we should leave this hospital. She is not about to die, so she can go home now.
  • 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.

Then you think there is a breakthrough.  The Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer 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. Studies have proven the existence of the disease in Australia

But, nothing changes. There is no plan in place for Lyme treatment, unlike the systems in place for many other serious illnesses. Denial continues.  The pathologists continue to run the show. They continue to say that a positive result MUST be a false result. The infectious disease specialists say we are all idiots. We can only hope for change, and continue to work towards it.

Politicians become interested. There is a House of Representatives inquiry. There is a Senate Inquiry. Reports come out, supporting patients. But nothing is done. The Health Minister (later sacked/resigned in a scandal) does nothing.

The system is not responding. The medical establishment rouses itself for a moment, simply to go on the attack.

We carry on.

(1) we have all been there – we all have someone in our lives who has gone through this. It is scary and godawful.

(2) I guess he thought the problem was with the B – B – Bounce.

(3) 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.

(4) There is war in the patient community in Australia about what to call it. It drives me insane. Apparently, if we hit on just the right name, then the doctors will have to admit, oh that, yes, we can see that you might have that. Oh, now we can treat it.