Issue 25: Michael Farrell

Pumpkin Brulee

Frank was telling us a story from his student days in Russia

I and presumably Sue at least knew that he was never there

But as a good friend once told me nothing is 100% bullshit

Advice which keeps me on the alert at times like these

Especially when someone says their real name’s Hamlet

And absolutely no one objects wasn’t it Hugh in college

Apparently Frank recognised someone in St Petersburg

Which was a miracle because there was quite a heavy fog

This was someone he’d dated in Yass or Eden or Wagga

Then Frank started singing in a credible Russian accent

Looking directly at Rupert who’d been in Youth for Christ

Typical ploy but it made Rupert stop his mooning at Sue

She recited ‘The Man from Snowy River’ in a bluesy tone

Startling those who didn’t know that her set piece ended

The Man was my great great grandfather give me a tenner

The Colt was mine I remark coldly hand me your money

‘Fire’ At The Pointer Sisters Factory

Years ago I worked at a furniture factory. Some people would say (then and now) that a person who read books all the time would be better off working at a library. ‘It’s all trees’, I’d say to them. Being the hirer and firer got me my nickname. I’m not sure if mine came first, or Fairytale’s. The foreman earned that one. We were on and off for most of the time I worked there. He would come home with lipstick in his pocket, porridge in his mo, spinning some yarn about having his tyres stolen. If there were layoffs I always got Fairytale to give the crew a little speech at smoko. First he’d mention the bosses, then the law, then the government, then the unions, then the trees, and by the time he got to the koalas they just wanted to know who was getting the boot and not why. I was learning to sing ‘Fairytale’ with the town choir for the annual town-founding celebrations. There was no ideological point to it. But then the Pointer Sisters nicknames started to spread. Should I Do It (shortened to Should) and Jump (For My Love (mostly just Jump)) were brother and sister, and the song titles seemed to sum up their dispositions and relationship. Automatic drove an automatic, but once we dubbed them that everything else they did (and said) seemed “automatic”. So far so literal, but in traditional reverse style Slow Hand (Slow) was the fastest worker we had, and would sometimes make elaborate sculptures out of the wood, disassembling an elephant with an umbrella and reassembling it as a patio bench, in the same time it took someone else to just do the latter. He’s So Shy (Shy) was known for pissing in public, and general exhibitionism. We tried (I’m So) Excited (first Excited, then I’m, then So) on the secretaries, thinking it might help them be enthusiastic, but it was the kiss of death. After the second quit, we learned our lesson and used it on the dourest person in the place. In retrospect it was a bit rough, but they stuck around. Still called Excited even though retired to the Sunshine Coast, I’ve heard. They were the greatest hits, the best of, there were dozens of others I had to wrangle on paper every day, and then go home and do the same with Fairytale in person at night. You’d think my name would make me unpopular, but actually the crew used it as an excuse to come up close to me on frosty mornings, rubbing their hands. I guess you can’t stop romanticism. And no, we never had an actual fire – I was in charge of workplace safety too. This, as I said, is too long ago, and telling you is how I forget.

Michael Farrell lives in Melbourne. Latest book: Family Trees (Giramondo 2020). Michael also edited an Australian tribute anthology, Ashbery Mode (TinFish 2019).

Copyright © 2021 by Michael Farrell, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.