For Dan Kelly and the Alpha Males.
It was cold and I sat on my hands and I was only just past tipsy when Ari first showed me his wings. His ex had rocked up unexpectedly and so we decided to hide out in the back of Will’s new share house in Clifton Hill. Inside, our friends shouted at the TV.
Ari didn’t say anything when he showed me – he just took off his shoes. The wings didn’t grow out of his shoulder blades, but out of his ankles and they were small enough that he could fold them back up into his jeans. One was a little bigger than the other. Ari told me that it had all started as a rash and that at first he thought it was just stress related. They didn’t hurt, he said, but they’d often get itchy when new feathers poked through – like after you’ve shaved. He was quiet after that. I didn’t have to ask to know that I was the first person he’d told. We went through the rest of the wine and at one point I leant so far back on my chair that the legs popped from under me. Inside, someone yelled: Let Tom Riddle speak!
Later, when Abbott had finished his speech and people began funnelling outside to bum cigarettes, Ari asked if I’d join him for a paint. We unlocked the bikes and cut through Ramsden Street towards the train station. I could hear the cans rattling in his bag as we rode. Just near those old warehouse apartments by the railway we found a discarded Alex Bhathal Greens sign for the seat of Batman. Ari helped me draw a Batman mask over her face. She had the cheekbones for it.
Further down the tracks, I pointed to where the ‘No HoWARd’ tag used to be. Ari shook his head and after a few tries he floated up to the lip of the building. (I always wondered how they got up there). His wings whirred as he hung unsteadily in mid-air, like the blades on a small, electric fan. I watched as he painted ‘Don’t be a FAbbott’. It wasn’t nearly as clever as the Howard tag but Ari kept on turning to me with this dumb, drunk smile on his face. A train screamed past and he slipped on the last ‘t’ before dropping his can.
He drifted back down after that, at times knocking the wall like an amateur abseiler. Even Rudd, man, he spat. Still a little drunk on the ride home, I shouted over my shoulder to Ari that he’d be typecast at dress-up parties now, that all he could go as was Hermes, Mercury or some misshapen cupid. We crashed at mine, and Ari asked me if I could break down the science of love. I told him it was too late to talk girls. As he began to snore, I wrote down a six point plan for the ways in which Australia was going backwards.
Michael Kruger is a writer based in Melbourne. In June he’ll present a series of slightly surreal stories about politics, religion and family.