Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Some time ago, when I happened to be in Chicago (I was being drawn into a sordid web or corruption and intrigue at the time - long story), I chanced to stop in at a used book store on the East Side.
On a whim, I purchased a old, battered notebook. As it turned out, this contained handwritten notes towards an unpublished short story (or possibly a screenplay) which I've tentatively titled "The Maltese Tax Cuts".
The story, as I reconstruct it, concerns the adventures of a hard-boiled, cynical satirist attempting discover the truth behind rumours of valuable tax cuts and fiscal stimulii - money which various ruthless, shadowy figures attempt to hijack. Eventually our hero comes to believe that they never existed at all.
I have reproduced the most legible parts of the notes - fragments really - below, and done my best to arrange them into a sensible order.
Of course I wish I knew more. Is there some unpublished manuscript or uncompleted movie (perhaps, fittingly, abandonded halfway through production when it proved too expensive)? There was nothing to indicate authorship.
I would have enquired about the notebook's provenance, except that when I returned to the shop I found it had been demolished by unscrupulous property developers.
She sashayed out of my life like a lady who was leaving a seat in Parliament to take up a high-ranking UN post and wasn't afraid to show it. Just don't call her a dame. That's not a title she accepts.
It was like an explosion in a pinstripe factory. I hadn't seen so many snakes since the reptile house, and I wasn't even past the lobby. Hungry eyes, hungry like the eyes of a reporter who'd just heard Tony Veitch had been caught kicking David Bain and Taito Phillip Field to death while coming down with swine flu.
"Hey yeah, Phil Goff. Whatever happened to him?"
"Maybe I shouldn't have promised to cut your taxes like I did," she said, "Maybe I shouldn't have done a lot of things!"
She looked up at me, mad as hell. Dames. One minute they're spinning your wheels, next minute they're crushing your car.
"So the stimulus is real?"
He smiled at me. One of those puppy-dog smiles that reminds you puppy-dogs are descended from wolves.
"It certainly is," he said, "Why, it's quite enormous."
"But nobody's seen it."
"Just a little more time. Plans are in place. I'm sure it will turn up."
"But no tax cuts?"
"We couldn't possibly afford them."
"But if tax cuts are supposed to be so good for the economy..."
"Just imagine the deficit!"
"Isn't that why we were running surpluses before?"
"Deficit, I tell you!"
"You do know the economy isn't the same thing as the Government books, right?"
He leaned forward, ready to invite me into his parlour.
"Please," he said, "can't we be friends? I have so many friends. Perhaps I could offer you..."
"No dice, pal!"
"Would you like some kind of home insulation fund?"
"Fat chance, buster!"
"There might be an SOE chair free..."
"I thought you only gave those to people you'd called incompetent crooks."
"I could make an exception."
"Stick it up your jumper!"
"You do seem to be unusually stubborn. How unfortunate. My associates will see you out."
It was all starting to come together and it wasn't pretty. It was super. Not super like a superhero or super like a good night at a swinging club. Super like a super city - when you're force-fed a super-sized milkshake made of shouting, fighting and disenfranchisement, until finally you're so huge and bloated you can't see your own feet in the shower. Bad super.
They took me into the parking lot out back for some "consultation". I knew I had to play this careful. If they were planning to "put a cap on" me, I had the life expectancy of a pig with the sniffles.
Turned out the thin one was Minister of Holding Your Arms Behind Your Back and the short one was Government Spokeman for Punching. His first hit left me dizzier than a Tertiary Education Minister in a helicopter.
"Can we cut him?" asked the short guy.
I asked him how the building public support for the Auckland amalgamation was going.
He thought about that for a half a second, then answered me with a right hook. It connected hard. "Mandate that," he said. I dropped faster than a Reserve bank Governor who thinks he can do something about the recession.
And then everything went the colour of the next budget.
Lyndon has been thinking about film noir because he is appearing in WellingSIN City at the Fringe Bar on May 10, 17 and 24 as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival.
But, has anyone else noticed that in the picture at the top of the story, the person in black standing behind Bogart appears to have a cat on their head.