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Blood and water, brothers and sisters

You know how you sometimes get a period of time when you think: Fuck me…what have I done for this to be happening? What god or gods have I offended to be punished so? Is it over, or is there more to come? Come on, make it stop. I’ll be good from now on. I promise.


Yes, I make bargains with deities all the time. I don’t believe the deities exist, so it can only be my terrified monkey-brain trying to make those deals. Yeah, that’d be it, for sure…


Anyway, just so we’re clear here, all of the following dramatics were entirely First World problems. I am, of course, grateful for that. I have had my share of insoluble, crushing horrors which left me numb with despair, but these weren’t them.


These were more of the “shit happens” variety. No-one is to blame. No-one needs to be slain. No revenge needs to be taken. I’m not even mad. I wasn’t mad at the time, either. I was just…well, nonplussed and a little furrowed about the brow.


I’m not even complaining. You’d know if I was. I’m just telling you about these things because there were several of them, in sequence, and giggling at other peoples’ woes is quite invigorating.


Are you prepared for this invigoration? Excellent. Let us then begin…


The first flight which was booked for me, from Newcastle to the Gold Coast, was an almost nine-hour odyssey. It had to go via Melbourne, for reasons unknown to me. I did not question it, but I did call up and offer to ride up to Goldie instead. It would have been faster.


“No, no,” said the nice lady who was arranging this. “I’ll find another way to get you to the Gold Coast.”


A few hours later, I was advised that, if I was amenable, I would be flown to Brisbane, acquire a hire car, and drive myself to the Gold Coast.


“Sure,” I said. “No problem.” I was as amenable as all get out.


The flight was of no moment, the omens were good…well, absent, as far as I could tell (and I am a big one for seeing omens, let me tell you), and I arrived in Brisbane.


There was no baggage-carousel bullshit. I travel light on one-nighters, and everything I need to exist for 30-odd hours away from home, and ride a bike for a bit, fits into my carry-on bag.


I emerged from the Brisbane terminal and made my way to the car-rental place across the road.


“Hi,” I said to the stern-looking lady at the counter. “I have a car booked in my name to be picked up.”


She started punching buttons on her keyboard. She punched and punched. Then she looked at me. “No,” she said. “There is no booking for you.”


“Yes, there is,” I said, handing her the itinerary I had been sent, complete with booking numbers and confirmations.


She punched her keyboard some more. Then she looked at me again.


“I have found your booking,” she said.


“Great,” I grinned. I knew once she’d seen my papers, grasped the gravity and professionalism of my approach, beheld my neck tatt and my endearing smile, my booking would naturally manifest itself on her screen.


“No,” she said. “Not great. This booking is for next month.”


At this point, a lesser man would have said something stupid, like: “That’s not possible. Check again.”


I didn’t say such a thing. I am made of sterner stuff. I just stopped smiling and looked at my paperwork. And there it was. There was a five where there should have been a four. April is the fourth month. May is the fifth month. I did not notice this when I printed out the itinerary. I did not notice it because I did not look. So that’s on me. I just looked at the flight departure time and the flight number. I assumed that everything that followed on from that would be kosher. Or halal.


“Let me make a phone call,” I said.


I called the nice lady who had organised this for me and explained to her what the situation was. Her response was very gratifying and I felt sorry for her. Mistakes happen. People make them. We are fallible creatures. Provided we acknowledge our error, seek to make amends, and offer heartfelt apologies, only a bastard would take issue.


I am not such a bastard. I’m an entirely different kind of bastard. Ask around.


“Look,” the nice lady said after apologising several times. “I’ll get on-line and sort it out. I’ll call you straight back.”


“She is sorting it out,” I said to the stern rent-a-car lady, and went to sit down on a comfortable chair by the door. Ten minutes later, the nice lady called.


“I cannot make a booking for another car until three-thirty, and you need to be on the Gold Coast at three-thirty.” She then said a bunch of other things, all of which told me she was at a loss as to what to do, but if she kept saying she was sorry, things would get better.


“Relax,” I said to her. “I am a grown-arsed man. I have rented many cars in my time. I can rent one now.”


The nice lady agreed that would be awesome, and that she would reimburse me (as if I doubted that for a second), and that whatever such a thing would cost, it would cost, and so mote it be.


I hung up, and looked for the stern lady, but she was gone. She had been replaced by a fabulous young homosexual fellow. I approached the counter, smiled, and said: “I would like to hire an S-class Mercedes, please.”


He blinked at me, or he may have been batting his overly-long lashes. I was not sure. But I do know what effect asking for a Merc has on some people.


“We don’t have any of those,” he breathed, sounding disappointed.


“How about an M-class Beemer. Or an Audi with an S badge?”


He shook his head. “We have to have advance notice for those.”


“What then,” I asked, “is the finest car you have available right now?”


He tapped his keyboard and replied: “We have a Renault Arkana.”


“That’s not a V12 is it?” I asked, because I actually had no idea what it was, so anything was possible. I knew it was French, of course. But other than it being French, I was lost.


“No,” the young man said, and indicated over my shoulder. “It’s that one over there.”


I turned and beheld a white SUV. I had always wondered what it would be like to cruise into Goldie in a fat-man’s pimped-up Merc, the stereo booming Taylor Swift, the sun glinting off my sunnies, the warm wind kissing my shaved head, the bitches heaving their panties at the windscreen…


I will have to keep wondering. I gave him my credit card, signed where he pointed, and was handed the keys.


“If you don’t fill it up before you hand it back, you’ll be charged five dollars per litre,” he smiled at me.


I smiled right back at him. “I sure will. And it would serve me right.”


I then drove to the Gold Coast. It was a shit drive. It is always shit driving to the Gold Coast from Brisbane on that wretched stretch of clogged freeway. There was not much to look at either. But there seemed to be more amusement parks than I remembered. I am so pleased my amusement park days are behind me.


I arrived at the Gold Coast airport where I was to drop the car off. A cool young bloke met me in the carpark.


“Hey, man,” he said.


“Sup, brother,” I responded, handing him the keys.


“Bro,” he said. “Did you manage to put some juice in the car?”


“Ah, man, no. There just didn’t seem to be a servo I could easily get to on the way down that freeway.”


“Yeah, man,” he nodded. “That’s a dick road, that. But, hey, you know, it’s like five bucks a litre you’re gonna get stung when I fill it up.”


“Whatcha gonna do?” I shrugged, and made my way to the nice hotel, which was maybe 300-metres away.


I love nice hotels. Always have. I don’t get to stay in them all that often because I am not of the moneyed class, but when I do get into one, I make sure whoever is paying is getting their money’s worth. I have been known to take three showers a day. And Reception loves bringing me twelve fresh towels and lots of ice. It’s what they need to do. It gives their work meaning. I don’t really need the ice, though.


The following morning, at 3.52am, I woke up. My bladder required emptying, and as I made my way to the bathroom, my nose started bleeding. This happens from time to time. I am on blood-thinners because of my heart, and now and again, my nose bleeds. Most of the time, it’s not a problem and is quickly sorted. But now and again, the nosebleed is far more profound. This was one of those times.


Twenty minutes later, my bathroom looked like I’d murdered a brace of hookers in it. And they had put up a fight. There is really no need for you to know why I know how that looks.


I was down to half-a-roll of toilet paper, and maybe ten tissues. And the nose-bleed was still happening. I had yet to stain a towel with my life’s blood, and I didn’t want to do that, but the gore just kept on flowing. I was flushing blood-soaked toilet paper down the shitter every minute or so, hoping it would not back up, overflow, and make things even more complex.


It was about 530am when the claret-gush subsided a little. The shitter was not backed up. Cool, I thought. I didn’t have to be at breakfast until 630am. The briefing was at 730am, and we ride out at 830am. Things should be OK by then. I made myself a coffee.


I bring my own coffee these days, because my beloved wife has addicted me to a specific brand, which comes in small sealed sachets. Some 99 out of a hundred of these sachets has a little nick in the packaging which makes opening it a breeze. But one in a hundred has no nick in the packaging, and is impossible to open without a sharp object.


The closest thing I had to a sharp object was my house-key. I sawed at the sachet while blood oozed down my chin, dripped onto my chest, and then onto the shelf where the kettle stood.


I had managed to swallow more of it than I maybe wanted to, but that’s the way these things go. This was not my first gore-filled rodeo.


It was because of this that I maybe got a little too enthusiastic with the house-key. My hands were slippery with blood, and I sawed too hard, ripped open the powdered coffee, and saw it fly everywhere.


When it had settled, I pushed what I could salvage into the cup with my blood-wet hands, poured hot water into it, and sipped. This made my nose bleed harder. But mainly into the coffee cup.


In ten minutes, I had to be at breakfast. So I went hard. Massive pressure applied to the nose, wads of remaining toilet paper on standby, and as I walked to the lift to go up to breakfast, I had managed to slow it to a respectable ooze.


Nonetheless, I quickly ate my rockmelon and grapes. It actually didn’t matter what I was eating. It all tasted like blood. I don’t think anyone noticed my travail, and by 645, I was on my way back down to my room with two rolls of toilet paper I has taken out of the restaurant bathroom.


I now had 40-odd minutes before I had to present myself at the briefing. I had two rolls of fresh toilet paper, the bleeding had slowed, and I felt I had this. Surely I had to be out of spare blood by now, I thought.


I cleaned up the bathroom. I was thorough. You have to be thorough when you’re cleaning up blood in hotel rooms. Surely I don’t have to tell you why, do I? Just be thorough, OK? You’ll thank me for that later.


I made it downstairs on time and in good order, and we rode off at the appointed hour. It was a great day, and you’ll be able to read about the bikes I rode in the next few days. This story is not about that. And it’s not over yet. Of course it’s not.


We returned to the hotel just shy of two hours before my plane home was meant to leave. I chatted with some people, said my goodbyes, and thanked the organisers for their amazing hospitality. I did not notice a forensic van in attendance, so the work I had done in the abattoir that had been my hotel room clearly paid off.


My beloved wife had advised me our dog, Bad Man José, was poorly, and I was needed at home. “I’ll be on the plane in an hour,” I said to her, and went to check in.


“This booking is for tomorrow,” said the impeccable young thing at the check-in counter.


“Of course it is,” I sighed. I must also say I was completely unsurprised by this turn of events, given what I had been through the day before with the car. “But it’s not meant to be for tomorrow. It’s a mistake, and I really need to be on that flight. I have an issue at home.”


She sent me to the actual airline counter, where I laid out my case to the Team Leader and showed her the paperwork, which had already been seen by the hire-car company. She was sympathetic to my cause, but told me there would be a fee that had to be paid if she was to take my tomorrow ticket and make it a today ticket.


“I’ll have a look and see what the best price I can get you is,” she said.


“I will make a phone call,” I replied, as she tapped at her keyboard. “But I am genuinely unconcerned about the cost of the new ticket you have to issue. I’m even good with flying Business Class.”


“We do not have a Business Class on this flight,” she said.


“What a shame,” I shrugged and called the nice lady whom I had last spoken to the day before. I explained to her what had taken place. I also explained that I was sorting it out, because that’s what grown-arse men do, and that I very much looked forward to a complete fiscal reconciliation upon my return.


I got my Boarding Pass and headed for the gate. I was, as always, concerned I was going to get the full security treatment before entering the Departures section of the airport. That’s the price I pay for looking as I do and living in a frightened and judgmental society. But I am sure no-one who looks like me has ever blown up a plane.


I got through the X-ray machine and was looking at the very big and dangerous-looking security guard waiting for me on the other side. And he was looking at me too. Of course he was.


He walked up to me and said in a hushed tone: “I love your work, brother. Keep it up. You’re good to go.”


My flight was boarding, and I got there just in time to have my carry-on luggage weighed by a pretty girl.


“This is two kilos heavier than the limit for carry-on,” she said.


“How much money will it take for that to stop being the heinous issue that it clearly is?” I asked, wondering how my luggage had increased in weight overnight. I have found mysteries like this abound in our world, pilgrims. Overly pondering them is fruitless. And they can usually be resolved with money.


In this case, a nice $75 sorted it all out, and one hand-written receipt later, I was on the plane, in my seat, and ready to go home.


We took off and the pilot informed us it would be a smooth flight, until we started our descent into Newcastle, whereupon he suspected it might be a little bumpy due to some inclement weather.


He was mistaken. The flight was like silk. The landing not so much. That plane was slammed so hard onto the runway, I actually thought we had crashed. People squealed and swore. Some oxygen masks fell from the ceiling. Some lockers opened. Some shit almost fell out.


It was the most brutal landing I had ever experienced bar one. That one happened when I was 25-years-old, and arriving in Athens on a JAT airlines flight from Belgrade. There was a Level 28 storm happening in Athens and we landed sideways and began to tip. The wing actually skimmed the runway, but the pilot somehow managed to get it together.


There was a lot of rain falling when I got off that plane and walked the 20 metres to the terminal. If any more rain was to fall, there would have been no room for air, and we would have all drowned. I was soaked as I paid for my parking, secured the ticket that would get me out of the car-park, and placed it in a plastic bag I normally put my phone and wallet into when I go riding in the rain.


I did this because I knew the machine I had to feed the ticket into, and that would then raise the boom that would let me out of the car-park, would not inhale a soggy ticket.


And to be honest, I really wasn’t up to a police-chase though Hexham and Maitland after I’d put my ute through the unraised boom-gate and made for home to see to my sick dog and worried wife.


The local police need to be humbly grateful for both zip-lock plastic bags and men like me, who have the foresight to carry such things on their person. And to know how to use them when the need arises. You’re welcome, bitches.


I was home about an hour later. The rain had stopped. I think the heavens had simply run out of water after the appalling amount they had chosen to dump onto me as I walked the three hundred metres to my car, then rifled through my bag for the car key, then had a wee. I squelched when I sat down in the car. The windows instantly fogged up with the humidity I was emanating.


I could not have been any wetter had I jumped into a pool when I walked into the house.


“Did you swim here?” my wife asked.


“Not all the way. Just from the terminal to the car. How’s the dog?”


“He came good an hour ago, ate some food, and is now snoring happily.”


It was great to be home.



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Boris Mihailovic

Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.

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