On the Brink

A story in which Max Keeye (no relation to Max Key) gains a social conscience. 

Max lay on a faux‐fur blanket, face up, on the deck of the family yacht. Although he was asleep, his body twitched and jerked, rustling his silk pyjamas. The backs of his legs thumped against the wooden decking.

Max was only twenty years old, but his troubled sleep was that of someone much older. And less rich.

His mother sat in a reclining chair, but she was too anxious to recline herself. She watched Max’s fretful sleep and held a piccolo cup in her right hand. She adjusted the wide brim of her had as Max’s father sauntered onto the deck.

Dad wore an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt with a white singlet underneath. The tops of his feet were sunburnt, as was the back of his neck. His nose and cheekbones were smeared with white zinc. He pressed his hands into his lower back and stretched and yawned, roaring as he did so.

‘John! Was that really necessary?’

Dad completed his yawn, cricked his neck and grinned at his wife.

‘Morning, Bronagh.’

‘You’ll wake Max up, carrying on like that.’

‘He should be up anyway.’

‘You know he hasn’t slept since he got back. Let him sleep.’

‘On the deck? If he wants a sleep-in, he can jolly well sleep inside, in a bed, like a normal person-‘

‘Shhhh…’

Max groaned and rolled onto his side. His face screwed up tight. He batted at the air in front of him with his eyes shut. He let out a small whimper, then settled back asleep.

Mum lowered her tone.  ‘His hair. It’s so messy. I can’t help but think it’s a metaphor for his mental state.’

‘He’ll be fine,’ said Dad.

‘What do you think happened to him out there?’

‘He’ll be fine.’ Dad poked Max with his big toe. ‘Time to get up, son.’

Max batted his eyelids open, his dark eyes dull. He looked dead.

‘Max, darling, would you like poached quail eggs for breakfast?’ said Mum.

Max groaned. ‘Not hungry,’ he said.

‘Come on love, they’re only tiny. Little iddy biddy-‘

‘I’m fine.’

Max dragged himself into a fetal position, knees pulled tight into his chest. He hugged his fluffy white pillow and watched the bobbing horizon through his hair.

‘Well, I’m making them for Dad and your sister anyway, you might change your mind.
‘I’m fine.’

Dad stood up. ‘If you don’t want to eat, that’s your decision. But you are sitting at the table with everyone else,’ he said.

Seagulls circled the yacht. Max watched them through the window. A tear rolled down his spray‐tanned cheek.

His sister, Stephie, was immersed in an enormous volume of Modern French Art. The sound of angry punk music leaked from her noise-cancelling earphones.

‘Another beautiful day,’ said Mum. She slid a plate of rye toast, quail eggs and caviar in front of Max. ‘Any plans?’

Max opened his window and threw the plate out like a frisbee. It skimmed along the deck, then broke into three pieces. Seven quail eggs bounced across the planks.

‘Max!’ Dad thumped his fist on the table. Cutlery rattled. Stephie looked up from her book of (artfully) nude ladies. Seagulls swooped the deck and fought over the scattered food.

Max trembled. ‘They deserve breakfast more than I do.’

Mum leaned forward and stroked Max’s face with her well-manicured hand. ‘Max! You can’t keep punishing yourself.’

‘You don’t understand.’ Max blinked hard. He wiped his nose.

‘Here, have a glass of bubbles…’

Max snatched the champagne bottle from Mum’s hand and threw it out the window as well. It hit a young seagull with a thwack.

‘Max!’

The seagull landed on the deck. Thump. Dead.

‘I can’t do anything right,’ said Max.

‘For god’s sake, boy, pull yourself together.’ Dad’s nose flushed pink beneath the white zinc.

‘You don’t understand.’

Stephie removed her headphones. ‘God dammit. He spends one night at a backpackers-‘

‘You don’t know what it’s like!’ Tears and mucous ran down Max’s face, his ultra-white teeth reflected in the rivers of guilt.

‘Son.’

‘No, Dad. I did it for you.’

Dad scoffed. ‘For me?’

‘Yes, Dad, for you. Your popularity has been dropping. My Instagram followers think we’ve lost touch with reality.’

‘You think?’ said his sister, eyebrows raised.

‘I saw things out there, man, thinks that can’t be unseen. Poor people everywhere. Drinking coffee. Instant.’

‘What, not even filter coffee,’ said Mum, filled with disbelief.

‘It was from a ten litre plastic tub.’

‘Pookie, I had no idea it was that rough.’

Dad tried to busy himself in the morning paper, delivered by helicopter.  ‘Don’t baby him, Bronagh,’ he said.

Max picked at the marble table.  ‘The bread. White. Extra gluten.’

Dad smacked the paper against the edge of the table.  ‘Max! Not in front of your sister.’

Max straightened, his voice finding resonance.  ‘No, Dad. She needs to hear this. Stephie. They didn’t even have sourdough. Can you imagine what it’s done to my small intestine?’ Max’s chin dimpled like a golf ball. ‘There is poverty out there. People on the brink. They can’t afford orthodontics. Their teeth aren’t symmetrical.’

Stephie shook her head.

‘How can I sleep on my memory foam lumbar support bead, when I know there are people out there, sleeping on plastic mattresses.’ His voice was shrill, out of control. Max dissolved into tears.

Dad looked at Mum. She refused eye contact. Stephie leafed through her book a little too quickly.

Dad softened. He leaned forward and made non-threatening eye-contact, just like the media coach had taught him.

‘Son. I know it’s hard. People voted for me because they think I’m ‘the kind of Prime Minister they could have a beer with’. But to be honest, I’m repulsed by the majority of my voters. People out there, with no ambition, no work ethic and no yachts,’ he smiled through a shudder. ‘But that’s how the world is. We can’t all be wildly successful. Imagine if everyone owned investment property. Who would rent out our apartments? Who would live in South Auckland? Like it or not, we need poor people to pay our mortgages and fund our lifestyle.’

Dad raised his glass, a toast. ‘If it weren’t for those slovenly folk, we wouldn’t be in Hawaii right now. We’d be on lake Taupo, in a rubber dinghy.

‘But… how do they live like that?’

‘Don’t worry about them. They’re used to plastic mattresses and fleas and seasonal pneumonia. It’s all they know.’

Max frowned. He took a deep breath. Dad smiled softly. Stephie rolled her eyes. Mum swigged champagne.

‘I think I’m hungry now. Have the quails laid any more eggs?’ said Max.

That night, Max slept inside. On the floor. It would be a few days before he would feel comfortable enough to sleep in his memory foam bed, but it was a start.

This is a work of fiction.  Any similarities between persons, living or dead inside, is entirely coincidental.

Meatatarian Yogi – A Hypocrite’s Guide to Happiness

I have been told that it would be wise to provide some information on my show for NZ Fringe Festival this year, so here goes!

Sarah LionyHas Tony Robbins let you down? Did ‘The Secret’ ruin your life? The relentless pursuit of happiness will only make you miserable. Embrace your inner bush-pig. Laugh at death and kick inner peace in the face. Namaste!

I can confirm I will wear a leotard for some of this show.  I can also confirm I will be in drag for another part.

It’s on as part of the NZ Fringe Festival, 13,14,15 Feb (Thursday, Friday, Saturday) and 20,21,22 Feb (again, Thursday, Friday, Saturday) at Understudy, the new bar at new BATS on Dixon St.  It’s at 10.30pm, the perfect time to mix ancient philosophy with spandex.

You can book here.  And if you are participating in the Fringe this year, you will get in FREE (stand-by tickets only).

Dead Dads Club

Yesterday, it was the 12 year Dead Dad anniversary to celebrate the deadness of my Dead Dad.  It was a great day in history, as I made my fabled ‘Dead Dads Club’ public to the world in the form of a Facebook page.  You are most welcome to join it here.

The time has come for me to explain the rules of engagement and philosophy behind this secret society!

1.  To be a member of the Dead Dad’s Club, you must have a dead dad.  Either he is physically dead, or he is metaphorically dead in your eyes.

The Healing Power of Art

2.  The object of the Club is to provide therapy in the form of inappropriate comments- and relishing in the stunned silence and awkward foot shuffling of those with fathers.  Yes, this is a club where non-members will squirm and question our mental health, but be too scared of upsetting, or offending us to stage an intervention.  This is the equivalent of a group of Jewish people making anti-semetic jokes.  They can say it- you can’t.  Hah!

3.  A helpful tool is to draw a picture of your dead dad in the state of decomposition you speculate he is in now.  For example, my dad died 12 years ago, so I have depicted him as a mere skeleton with a few tufts of hair.  Which is handy- because when he had only been dead a few months, I found getting the shading right on rotting flesh to be quite difficult.  Oil pastels were handy for this, as the various shades of brown blend in beautifully.

4.  You must pick an ironic theme song to honour your Dead Dad.  My cousin’s dad died of a heart attack, so she chose ‘My Heart Will Go On’, by Celine Dion.  No, Uncle Terry, your heart will not go on.  Not at all.
My dad died of a sucide attempt that was very successful (Yay!  Go Dad!  You achieved your goal!).  His theme song is ‘I just Wanna Live’ by Good Charlotte.

5.  When referring to ones father, one must always preface his name with ‘Dead’; ie: Dead Mike loved the rugby, my Dead Dad used to eat lambs testicles; or my Dead Father is a bit dead on the inside and outside.  This is to avoid confusion with Non-Dead Dads, and the unfolding of the scenario mentioned later on.

You may wonder how I got the genius inspiration for such an amazing socitey. The truth is, I found myself consistantly being put in the situation where someone would ask about my dad; and then the hideously awkward conversation that followed always left me feeling terrible.  Not because I was upset about talking about my fathers death, but because I felt bad for making the other person feel uncomfortable, and being a ‘buzz-kill’.

Here is a classic example of the regular social murder I would commit, then feel guilty for:

“So, what do your parents do for a living?”
“Mum is a cop, but she is quite keen to move into child abuse.  Prevention.” (Note- I am giving the question asker the opportunity to change the subject, and save them from the hole they are digging)
“Cool.  So what does your Dad do?”  (Damn!  they didn’t take my diversion!)
“Ah, he use to be a fitter welder.” (Last ditch attempt to save situation)
“What does he do now?” (OK, I tried my best, but you wouldn’t stop pushing…)
“He died.” (Atmosphere destroyed)
“Sorry.”  (I bet you are)
“It’s fine, you didn’t kill him!  Did you?” (Trying to make light of situation)
“Oh. haha…. How did he die?” (Fear has paralysed your ability to change subject)
“Suicide.”  (BOOM!)
“Why?”  (Really?)
“I don’t know.”  (I have a fair idea, but am in damage control.)
“Ohh….”  (Situation has been brutally assaulted, and no amount of skin grafts or plastic surgery can make it look pretty again, both parties feel hideous, and will do anything to change the subject)
“Remember the Venga Boys?  They mixed some sweet aerobics competition beats.”  (Nice save, Sarah!)

So after years of apologising and feeling bad, I have found the best way to tackle these situations is with the spirit of The Dead Dads Club.  This is my new Scenario:

“So what do your parents do?”
“Mum’s a cop, Dad committed suicide 12 years ago, but it’s OK, one of those things that was shit at the time, funny in hindsight.”
“Sweet!”

And that is the beauty of the philosophy.  Simple, brutal, non-victimised honesty.

The goal of Dead Dads Club is to disrupt the self indulgent, self pitying mindset that we are encouraged to wallow in after the death of a loved one.  Death is an inevitablitly, not a failure of the health system.  If people want to be all precious about death, let them be the ones left feeling embarrassed, not us!

So draw a picture!  Pick a song!  Experience liberation from social faux pas- with the ‘Dead Dad’s Club.’  Join now!

Sarah Harpur- Funeral Planner

J-Lo plans weddings.  Well she does in movies. A movie.  A really rubbish movie.  A really rubbish movie that my anonymous friend (Donelle Paulette Gardner of Napier, Hawkes Bay, DOB 15/05/1974) owns on DVD.  Along with ‘Shall We Dance’, ‘Enough’, ‘Gigli’ and other critically acclaimed, J-Lo featuring treats.

J-Lo may know how to plan weddings, but I reckon I could take her in a fight.  She may have a height advantage, but she is not a forward thinker like me.

You see, J-Lo has left a massive hole in the events planning market.  Funerals.

Sarah Hapur- A Visionary in Dead People Ceremonies

Sarah Hapur- A Visionary in Dead People Ceremonies

I have decided I am going to take the Funeral planning industry by storm.  The sort of storm that will get your washing really wet,  just when you were about to bring it in off the clothesline.  Intense, I know.

Novelty funerals.  It is one of those ideas that is so brilliant you think,  “Surely it has already been done to death (amazing punnage right there), it just seems so obvious!”

It hasn’t!  People are still way too freaked out about death to have a laugh with it, which is stupid.  People have been dying since the 1960’s.

Traditional funerals are so boring.  They are indulgent, generic and impersonal.  They make you feel sad, then comfort feed you- with cold sausage rolls,  stale club sandwiches and dodgy lamingtons.

I want my funeral to be so hilariously inappropriate that people walk away feeling so elated, that they feel guilty.

I want smoke machines!  And lasers!

I want my casket to be made out of chocolate, and I want people to eat it.  Just a little taste.  Go on.  It’s funny.

I want to be escorted down the aisle by people wearing roller skates to the song ‘Toot Sweets’ from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

I will request that my future great, great grandsons (I have decided to wait till I am 95 to die) squeeze my naked, lifeless body into my funeral costume, a vintage Britney Spears outfit, circa 1998.  This is not only for my amusement, but to ensure they grow up with a realistic view of what a 95-year-old woman’s naked body looks like.  This will fuse with their current expectations of women gained from flicking through men’s magazines to arrive at a hopefully happy medium.

I want the entire church to sing Coolio’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ in harmony, rap and all:

“I’m an educated fool with money on my mind
Got my ten in my hand and a gleam in my eye.
I’m a locked out gangsta, set tripping banger
And my homies are down so don’t arouse my anger.
Fool!”

Ooosh!  I can see the Coolio induced fervour now!  My nana mates  will be doing wheel stands in their electric wheel chairs as my grandkids crump in formation around the chocolate coffin.

I want my lifeless corpse to be attached to marionettes strings, and I want a master puppeteer to make me do the Lindy Hop with Johnny from ‘Dancing With the Stars’, in an elaborate, show stopping finale.

Amazing, I know.

What I love about dying wishes, is it is possibly the only time you can make outlandish requests and people will endeavour to adhere to them.  And if they don’t, they will be racked with guilt, and you will have every right to poltergeist their house for a while and make them doubt their grip on reality.

Funeral planning is your time to be creative.  It is your time to make your dreams come true… (Gush!)

It is your duty to tell everyone now your ideal funeral, otherwise you’ll have a heart attack, and BAM!  Next thing you know your non-puppet body is in a non-chocolate coffin, being buried to “My Heart Will Go On” (your heart will not actually go on if you have a heart attack, Celine is quite deceptive.  Or inaccurate.  I don’t believe she was deliberately trying to mislead anyone, just a bit stupid).

Like it or not, you will die one day, and if you want help in deciding the best hoo-rah party vision for you, let me know.  I’ll even do it for free, because I want J-Lo to feel bad about her lack of business diversification.