April the 17th Postcards from the End of the World/new stories
To the female German backpacker, talking to a stranger on the tram.
As my wife, the woman with he enormous breasts once said, ‘it is weird, but it is kind of sweet too.’ That best describes the End of the World. It isn’t perfect. There is poverty and squalor. There is betrayal. The rich get richer. The difference is that when you are down at the lowest point in your life, no one will come to kick you or rub your nose in the gutter. There is always someone to talk to. They may not be able to help you but they will listen and to some people that is more important than money. There is no doubt the End of the World is a strange place. Summer always lasts for exactly fifty-nine days. The heat is unbearable but on the sixtieth day there, a storm arrives which brings heavy rain which is warm to the skin. All the women at the End of the World from the ages of eighteen to sixty run out on to the streets and dance in the rain. They scream like banshees and when the rain stops they go back into their houses and make love to their partners like they never have before. All the men agree that this ritual is weird, but kind of sweet too and they never experience such wild passion like they do after the storms each year.
From the crazy man
dancing to no music
in the street.
To the broad shouldered beer drinking saint
I’ve been married for ten years now. I’m not a religious man but there isn’t a day that goes by that I and every other man at the End of the World doesn’t offer thanks to a young carpenter called Paul. Twenty years ago a rally was organised on a one hundred hectare property on the outskirts of the city. Every unmarried woman and girl attended. The guest speaker, a conformed lesbian was brief and articulate. She told the rally that the reason she loved women was because men were ugly and women were beautiful. ‘We are sexy, and men aren’t. Why should we stay with men? This isn’t about politics or power, status or money, but if we united we would get all those things. I just want to ask you why you would want to love a man, when I am, and you all are so beautiful and perfect.’ There was twenty seconds of silence and then each woman turned to the woman next to them and kissed them. For the next six months, there was chaos at the End of the World. All male and female relationships had broken down and the social fabric of the city had been destroyed. All the women had become lesbians. The Mayor called a rally and asked all the women to gather at the same property they had gathered at six months earlier. He arranged the most senior, from universities, the arts and business to state the reasons why men and women should be together. After half an hour the women were bored and many were
about to leave when Paul the carpenter climbed the stage, carrying a large knife. He pushed the speaker off the podium and told the crowd, if a woman couldn’t love him, he didn’t want to live. He thrust the knife into his stomach and disembowelled himself. All the women were appalled and yet moved that someone could love them so much that he would kill himself. After a few weeks most of the women returned to their former heterosexual lifestyles. Paul’s sacrifice had made an impact on them although when a man proposed to one of them, they all thought, ‘if he really loved me he would disembowel himself.’
From macho man
with an eye patch
over his heart.
To the silent man who could not speak during his own execution.
Fifty years ago, the End of the World was a barren place. It had no inhabitants. The enormous waterfall was the only distinguishing feature there. A scientist happened to be conducting seismic experiments in the region and discovered that this place had the weakest infrastructure on the planet. It was a hundred times more volatile than the San Andreas Fault. An earthquake as minor as point three on the Richter scale could trigger the destruction of Earth. Journalists soon found out about the scientists findings and reported the story in the major newspapers. People flocked to the End of the World for various reasons. Suicides thought this was the easiest place to come to die. Adventurers and thrill seekers saw it as the ultimate challenge. Writers and artists came here to capture the atmosphere of the place in their novels and paintings. Some people came because they were excited at being at the site of a major catastrophe. Soon milk bars, supermarkets and restaurants were built for the growing population. Architects were commissioned to design tall office buildings. No city had been created as quickly as the End of the World. Poets called it, ‘the gold rush of the Soul.’ The people here lived on the edge of a razor blade as though each day were their last. It’s the only place where someone burgles your house and leaves a note of apology. Bank managers work for free. When a woman signs at the End of the World, it is like a high-pitched note of a saxophone, like a cat screaming, like the last sound you will hear as you leave the world.
God Bless you from
the choirboy with the slingshot
in his hands.
To the over zealous lovers, hid tongue locked in a French Kiss.
The End of the World is different to any other place. In supermarkets instead of elevator music, the play Sex Pistols over the p.a. In the Nightclub at the End of the World, there are no condom machines and instead the bouncers hand out copies of Catcher in the Rye to couples as they leave. The Lord Mayor at the End of the World had a budget surplus the envy of the whole planet. Rather than spend the money on perks for his colleagues or erect bronze statues in honour of famous people, he chose to commission programs that would actually benefit the people here. He transformed abandoned warehouses into restaurants that sold dinners at cost price. The most popular program that the lord mayor introduced was the placements of park benches on every street corner at the End of the World. There can be great stress and anguish living here and the benches were provided for the people to rest and gather their thoughts. It was quite common for couples to be quarrelling on the street and end their relationship. They would walk away from their partners in anger and then sit down on a bench. They would think about what they were arguing about and then imagine their life without their lover. Then they would get up and run towards each other and not one word needed to be spoken. The sparrows found the benches at the End of the World quite comfortable too and built nests in tree close by. The first flight of a baby sparrow was to fly from a tree and land on the arm of a nearby park bench.
From the street
nursing a fractured hand.
To the five year old blond girl, sitting on my lap.
When I first came to the End of the World I asked a bartender why there was only one television station here and he replied mysteriously, ‘to stop revolutions.’ I studied politics at the University and noticed that none of the students were interested in joining any political clubs. I read old newspapers on file at the University library and found out the reason why no one at the End of the World had political aspirations. Thirty years ago there was not one but four revolutions occurring at the same time and each leader overtook a television station to broadcast their policies. After a couple of weeks the people became bored with television and stopped watching. After the revolutions had run their course because no one was interested in politics, a Lord Mayor was eventually elected, but he was given no official power to run the End of the World. Unemployed volunteers formed committees to decide policies and make decisions because they lived on the streets and knew what problems concerned most people. Somehow the End of the World ran itself and the Lord Mayor’s only duty was to choose the programs on the one sole television station allowed to run after the revolutions. As long as their favourite films and comedy shows were shown on the television station the people at the End of the World were happy. No one ever tried to overthrow the Lord Mayor as he had excellent taste in programming entertainment for the people.
From the jealous boyfriend
of the nymphomaniac
loved by a thousand men.
To the man so drunk he abuses his own shadow.
Everyone asks me what the End of the World looks like. ‘Describe it to us,’ they ask. One word best paints a picture of the place: waterfall. The End of the World is a huge sprawling metropolis built on rock hard clay and beneath it runs a hundred mile wide underground river. It ends at the edge of the End of the World and becomes a giant waterfall. The river acts as the sewerage of physical life and for the souls of the people at the End of World. In every kitchen there is a hole in the floor where they deposit their garbage and it is carried by the river and over the edge of the waterfall. At night when they dream their fears and worries too are carried by the river and over the edge. The river exits in the hearts of the people at the End of the World and they know no matter what tragedy befalls them, they will be washed clean s they sleep at night. Only one person has ever leapt over the edge of the waterfall and observers say that she fell for miles and is still falling to this day. There is a theory that Sonia didn’t commit suicide but wanted to become one with the waterfall. There is a ritual at the End of the World that on each person’s birthday they throw a garland of roses over the edge of the waterfall and say a prayer of thanks. Then they walk back home to the sprawling mass of humanity that lives at the End of the World as the roses keep falling for all eternity.
From the gospel
singing bawdy ballads.
To the young woman sitting at her computer smoking a cigarette.
Today even the hookers at the End of the World wear flowers in their hair as they trawl the city streets selling their wares. The garbage men sing top forty songs as they go form house to house. When they finish work they drink themselves to a drunken stupor and dream of a life without filth. Three-year old girls squat on the pavement and pee, then smile at their parents. Amid Elections in America, genocide in eastern bloc countries and famine in Ethiopia, lovers laugh at each other on this fine afternoon at café tables drinking coffee and eating Eggs Benedikt. Spring saunters through the End of the World taking down notes of the many people sitting quietly in parks. It watches the young men stand together outside their cars, wolf whistling at the women walking past. Spring listens to the young children ask their father if bears go to the toilet when they hibernate. The father doesn’t know the answer but Spring knows. It chuckles to itself and watches a robin build an impossible nest on a skyscraper at the End of the World.
From the merchant
woman writing her