ELTHAM HIGH SCHOOL ANTHOLOGY
Ned Polidano 2021
Shark Logic Creative Response
Journal Entry for 5 July: One whole day now since my ‘death’.
I sat in my rental car as the beaming sun turned the vehicle into a toaster oven. My car was parked skewwhiff, taking up the best part of two spots, adjacent to the shoreline. I sat from the car and watched as the police struggled to fight the blistering wind as they set up a marquee. They had a range of communication and radar equipment set up along the shoreline, which I would frequent each morning. Crowds of pedestrians were being lead towards the site by curiosity only to be ushered away. The police set out this morning to find the swimmer reported missing yesterday in the early morning. However, they would not find me, as I did not intend to be ‘alive’.
As I arrived after weeks of meaningless driving and eluding the authorities, I slowly rolled in to the town I would now live. The town was dull and depressive symbolic of the horizons of my new life as ‘Joseph Forster’. The sea breeze blew across the town revealing the true must and neglect of the seasonal beach town. Nothing took me by surprise, the dull shopfronts and the compulsory singlet and thongs dress code were cloned from all other towns I had seen whilst driving. The prospect of a new life dragged my thoughts back to the family of my now ‘dead’ self, Craig Thompson. The hole left in my soul by the loss of Craig and my family was gaping and insurmountable. My sons Peter and John would be dearly missed but leaving the love of my life Marion would hurt the most. These past years I had barely seen them, Marion had the house and I was as good as exiled. Perhaps my gambling and drinking had gotten out of hand. I suppressed those thoughts to be explored at my agony later. Instead, I thought of the years we spent together exploring the inequalities of Australia.
As I drove, my eyes glanced across my shoulder they darted towards the fluorescent Victoria Bitter sign cemented to the rusty iron roof of an aged pub. The rural appeal of a loyal Australian pub enticed me. I could drink to forget. I pulled the car over and turned off the ignition. I sat from my car staring into the hypnotising abyss of the pub. The toxic scent of spirits drew me nearer without conscious thought or reasoning. However as I reached for the door my mind returned to the depressing topic of my family. Would I not be returning to addiction-filled life of Craig Thompson by exposing myself once again to the spoils of alcohol and gambling?
‘One drink surely could not hurt.’ I thought to myself whilst staring into my pink tearful eyes in the reflection of a miniature surfboard hanging from my overhead mirror.
With that thought, I reluctantly gave in and dragged myself out of the car and onto a wooden stool facing the bar.
‘Howsa going?’ Mumbled the worn bartender with the croak of years of smoking. ‘Not bad,’ I responded. ‘Waddya want?’ ‘Glass of scotch.’
As I sat sipping the scotch and allowing the toxicity of the alcohol to burn my throat, memories of my life as Craig played in my head like a slideshow. I thought back to my old local pub sitting on a stool mesmerised by the flashing lights of the pokies. Upbeat sounds, from all the machines clashed, and echoed throughout the long hall prohibiting my ability to think. I had a day’s work in a jar next to me. Excited at the prospect of riches I began pouring my money into the machine. Loss after loss after loss I maintained hope but my glory never arrived. I peered over to my jar; I was left with only twenty dollars. Marion would kill me I had busted yet another day of wages. Debt was closing in and school fees did not come cheap. Disappointed, I dragged myself over to the bar and drank continuously without any thought or emotion only with the desire to forget.
After hours of meaningless drinking and reminiscence, I looked up.
‘Would my new life be just as depressing as my old?’ ‘Isn’t life just pointless?’ I missed my family it was as simple as that. ‘Why can’t I just live a meaningless life but with the slight presence of family?’
‘Time to go mate,’ croaked the bartender. Reluctantly and with the support of two grown me I hobbled out onto the street. I looked over to my car. A row of worn phone boxes littered the footpath each with a peeling Telstra logo plastered onto the glass. A thought hit me like a head-on truck. I could call home, not to talk but to hear and absorb the voices of those I love. I waved off the bartender and patron that were struggling to keep me upright and preceded to the box with the will to hear the ones I love.
I stood staring down the phone, it rested on a metallic bar surrounded by keys, which appeared to be soaked in years of vomit and urine. The stench was unbearable but the feeling of failing Marion and the kids again was piercing. They were better without me. I will call but I should not speak, they could not know I was alive. I dialled the sticky keys and rested the phone on my shoulder away from my face.
‘Hullo, hullo’ Peter said ‘Hullo?’ a questioning rising inflection in his voice. I could feel him in front of me. I tried to speak but could only emit a coarse breath into the end of the telephone.
My Creative Response is written in the current tense perspective of the alias ‘Joseph Forster’ (Joe) from Robert Drewe’s novella ‘Shark Logic’. It is set simultaneously after Joe fakes his death and arrives in his new dull beachside town and incorporates his struggle to overcome abandoning his family and old life after a long battle of substance abuse. Throughout my piece, I have explored the events of ‘Shark Logic’ before the written storyline to provide a new perspective of why Joe decided to leave his family and highlight the toxic culture of Australian alcohol consumption and gambling addiction.
In order to mirror Robert Drewe’s detailed use of imagery to explore Australia’s drinking culture I describe Joe as ‘staring into the hypnotising abyss of the pub.’ I continued my exploration stating the ‘toxic scent of spirits drew me nearer,’ to demonstrate the lure of addiction and to be consistent with Drewe’s description of Joe as a recovering alcohol addict. Through his addiction, I have explored the theme of fractured relationships that are ever-present throughout Drewe’s pieces in ‘The Body Surfers’. I sought to link Joe’s faked death to his attempt to protect his family from himself and his addiction and previous life which I named ‘Craig Thompson’. This is shown as throughout my piece he reflects on his period of shame where he would pour his ‘money into the (pokies) machine’ but still is yearning to reach out to his family but all the while knows they are better off without him.
I have attempted to replicate Drewe’s use of minimal staccato dialogue, as he interacts with a worn bartender at the pub. Their conversation is held back with both men eager to keep their personal lives hidden, fitting cohesively with the Australian ‘bloke attitude.’ The bartender greets Joe mumbling ‘Howsa going?’ In which Joe responds ‘not bad.’ This conversation attempts to replicate Drewe’s writing style and continue the exploration of Australian themes.
My creative response is aimed to create a parallel with Drewe’s ‘Shark Logic’ as Joe finds himself lost and resorts to alcohol and attempts to reach out to his family. Furthermore, my creative response aims to fill in the gaps of Drewe’s Shark logic and provide elusive details to be interpreted for a greater meaning to the character of Joseph Forster.