Sex and Drugs and Rock `N Roll
OR
The Cooling of Nathan Pearson

The title is nearly as long as the novel; more of a novella actually. Grif', the hero and narrator, lives on the fringes of his society, by choice. He and his friends live and love on their own terms. Life is never dull.

Here's an excerpt:

THE ADVANTAGES OF LOOKING BACKWARDS

There's a book called Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck where he has these chapters entitled 'Hooptedoodle' that don't have a lot to do with the main story (you can see why it's my kind of book). Anyway...

Back in year ten history classes I used to watch Geraldine from off to one side, near the windows. There were lots of distractions. I could look out the window then sneak in a long stare at Geraldine. It was particularly good in the mornings because the sun shone full on the glass and anyone looking at me from inside was blinded by the glare.

Of course I was sprung eventually. It was the afternoon so not particularly good for backwards glancing but there I was, lost in daydreaming and half asleep from Gravesy's monotone. I didn't hear him stop talking. I didn't hear him cough.

And then he was right beside my desk.

'Something fascinating at the back of the room, Mr. Griffin?' He was always formal when he wanted to show you he was in charge.

Play dumb. 'Pardon, sir?'

'Something, or someone,' (nice emphasis) 'obviously fascinating, Mr. Griffin.' He was trying to embarrass me.

I still played dumb: look up, mute.

'You've been staring, rapt I think is the word, at the back of the room for...' He groped for a time period.

I tried to get it over with. 'Yes sir.'

Gravesy had forgotten his watch. He was always forgetting things and chuffing back to his staff room or sending one of us. Now he looked at the clock on the wall. 'At least five minutes.'

I tried cringing. 'Sorry, sir.'

No soap. 'I'm at the front of the room, Justin.' He knew I hated my first name. 'The front. I'm who you should be watching.'

'Yes sir.'

'If you're watching you're listening...'

'Yes sir.'

'You're learning.'

'Yes sir.'

'No more looking backwards, Mr. Griffin.'

I couldn't resist it. 'Not even in history.' A grave tactical error. Some of the other kids laughed.

'See me at the end of the lesson.'

Ah well. Ten minutes later I risked a glance at Geraldine. She was looking straight at me. I think I blushed. She smiled at me and winked. Honestly. I know this will sound corny but I felt my heart go flippity flop and turn over, swelling in my chest.

 

BACK AT THE DANCE

There I was, gaga with all my recent speechlessness, crouched down with Geraldine and Natty seated on the gutter.

She scuffed out her cigarette against the gutter and looked at me after a while and said, 'How're you, Grif'?'

'Okay,' I said. 'How 'bout you?'

'The same.'

Silence, dead, flat silence.

I said, 'It's nice to see you,' or something similar.

'Is it?'

'Yep.' I was being casual. I wished I hadn't.

'That's very bloody decent of you.' She'd gone all frosty and English on me.

'What?'

'That's the longest sentence you've said to me in five weeks.'

I said nothing.

'It's good of you to finally acknowledge me.'

'I said hullo.'

She snorted contemptuously. (She's the best contemptuous snorter I know.) 'Hullo, goodbye.'

I thought of The Beatles song. I couldn't help myself, nor could Natty apparently. In the silence he, staring at something or other in the gutter, his head down, began to softly croon, 'Why, why, why, why, why, why...'

Geraldine burst out laughing and my heart kick started. (More schmaltz on the way, sorry.) I started blurting...'I didn't know...I mean...It was so long...'

This was awful; this stumbling, bumbling, shambling, moron tongue. But it was all right, apparently. Out of pure ignorance I'd done something right. She smiled at me and patted the curbing beside her. She took out another cigarette and lit it. She even offered me one then laughed and said she'd forgotten what a health freak I was.

But girls don't let you off that easily. She sort of frowned, letting me know I hadn't been completely reprieved. 'I thought we were friends.'

'We are.'

'You've a funny way with friends.'

I'm a quick learner – I said nothing. I was all ears, no mouth.

'I've been back five weeks.'

'I'm sorry,' I said.

'Why didn't you come and talk to me?'

'I wanted to...' I sort of petered out.

Now it was her turn to use what Mrs. Donneman, our Speech and Drama teacher, calls the mute expressiveness of the eyes.

So I explained...'
: Stephen Kimber, 2000

If you like this you should be able to track it down at Jacobyte Books. It was posted on their site on August 7. It is available in CD, download and - from the 22nd of November - paperback/print on demand format.

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