‘Subburnabla’, by Paul Kavanagh with artwork by Nicholas Modrzewski

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This is yet another piece from our archive of digital good things.


Larry, Tim, Peter, Saul, William, Carl, Lee, Jake, Richard, Sam, Eliot, Macy, Lucy, Jane, Mary, Jean, Elizabeth, May, Wendy, Lilly, Fanny and Viv all live in Subburnabla and they are very, very happy. They work Monday to Friday and love their jobs. They drive to the station to catch the train. The train takes them peacefully into the city. Some read, some daydream, some sleep. They meet for lunch; they talk about work, about the news, about the weather. Some work in the same office. They congregate on the platform and wait for the train home together. Some yawn, some talk about their day, some are excited about getting home. On the train some sit in silence, others laugh, some make plans to have a quick drink at the local bar. Larry, Tim, Peter, Saul, William, Carl, Lee, Jake, Richard, Sam and Eliot after church go to breakfast with Macy, Lucy, Jane, Mary, Jean, Elizabeth, May, Wendy, Lilly, Fanny and Viv.

On the weekends their white shirts dry in the midday sun. Their dogs dig holes and bury the bones they were presented with for being good dogs. They shower to the sound of blenders mixing fruit. They shave to the sizzle of bacon. They run, stretch, play ball. On the weekends they enjoy barbecues and drink bottled ice beer that is advertised on the television. Their gardens are impeccable, the flowers bloom, the trees fruit, the soil is brown. They exterminate the worms, the ants, the beetles. Their cats feed upon the eggs of birds. Larry, Tim, Peter, Saul, William, Carl, Lee, Jake, Richard, Sam and Eliot drink cocktails in the morning sun with Macy, Lucy, Jane, Mary, Jean, Elizabeth, May, Wendy, Lilly, Fanny and Viv.

On Saturdays they go to the mall and watch a movie while eating buttery popcorn and drinking Diet Dr Pepper. On Sundays they go to church and pray to God to save them. They eat steaks, chicken, and pork. They coach football, softball, soccer. They laugh at the jokes they tell over and over and over again. They are interested in each others’ little histories. They share recipes and talk about the television shows. They are very excited about their DNA. They exchange music, movies, and ideas. Larry, Tim, Peter, Saul, William, Carl, Lee, Jake, Richard, Sam and Eliot bask in the sun around the swimming pool with Macy, Lucy, Jane, Mary, Jean, Elizabeth, May, Wendy, Lilly, Fanny and Viv.

The new dreams fade and linger with the old dreams. They stand outside and stare at the stars and smoke. They wave and say ‘good night sleep tight’ as the embers die, as the smoke dissipates. They love to sleep but fear rigor mortis. They drink cocktails in the morning sun. They overdose on a myriad of pills. The alligators feed upon the turtles. Every Monday a little girl wanders onto the road and is hit by a speeding truck. They stand at the curbside and cheer. They take pictures with their new improved cameras that just keep getting better. They erase all abstraction. Every Friday a little boy falls out of a tree. One day somebody came up with the idea to catch the boy. They grill hotdogs and drink Coca-Cola to the sound of bones breaking. Larry, Tim, Peter, Saul, William, Carl, Lee, Jake, Richard, Sam and Eliot dance with Macy, Lucy, Jane, Mary, Jean, Elizabeth, May, Wendy, Lilly, Fanny and Viv.

We help our neighbours to burn down their homes. We disable their smoke machines, we pour inflammable liquid on their back doors, we mess with the electrical systems. When the fire service turns up we act shocked, we ask silly questions and turn into obstacles. We stand and watch the fires. We break into our neighbours’ homes and steal jewellery, electronics, and money. We urinate on the carpets, we defecate in strange places. Foxes feed upon placentas. We teach our teenage daughters to sleep with cockatoos, wolves, lions. We force our teenage boys to rebel, to disfigure themselves, to smoke crack. Larry, Tim, Peter, Saul, William, Carl, Lee, Jake, Richard, Sam and Eliot get naked and sleep with Macy, Lucy, Jane, Mary, Jean, Elizabeth, May, Wendy, Lilly, Fanny and Viv.

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Paul Kavanagh’s books The Killing of a Bank Manager and Iceberg are published by Honest Publishing.

Nicholas Modrzewski is an artist and writer from Melbourne, currently living in Berlin. His fiction can be found in issues of The Lifted Brow.