TEXT prose


Michael Gardiner

Some lines on the impertinence of being earnest




Maman tells my younger brother Pierre and me that cousins, Victor and Juliet, will arrive on Tuesday and will stay till summer’s end. Magnifique!

Papa, as usual, says nothing.

But we gauge Papa’s whereabouts – if not his reaction – and track his movements by the postal marks and labels that cover the boxes of books. They continue to arrive. Porcine in promise, if not regularity.

Most recent. It would seem. He has been in Argentina.


Our garden wall is high and thick and made from old stone.

Quarried in places (also) far away.

At a time when family fortunes must have been considerably enhanced.

From the top of the seaward-side of the garden wall, it is not possible to see Argentina. The direction can be accurately plotted, though. It is then sufficient, merely to think of Argentina.

Montaigne thought from, and in, high places. A suitably masculine tower, for preference. Inscripted with all the essential first principles. No books.




I am a socialist, a terrorist. A bomber.

I know this because Maman calls our room a bomb site. That any casual guest would be terrified of becoming lost in the chaos. And that only a socialist could treat, with equal status, dirty underwear and rare tomes.

But Maman understands. Boys.

And the lure of high places. Trees and walls.

Waking from the munificence of dream, I find Pierre is busily diddling his glans. His head a mop of curls beating out the rhythm. In boyhood time.

An avid and dedicated student, ever since I taught him how. I rearrange the room by throwing most of it at Pierre, but he continues undaunted.

Much effort for so little result.

A true believer.

And I do love him so. Even when he is a Balkan shit.

The dream’s detail returns to delight. A dessert to be further savoured. Despite Pierre. And his own almost quiet endeavours. I have endured part of the night on The Great Wall of China, repelling all comers. Cascades of swords in silken costume. Rewards of passionate embraces with Chinese princesses. Flashing forward to save the world in inter-galactic fashion. Similar results.

 I have read, in Papa’s books, that some poor souls do not dream. Pitiable. To live only in daylight. From daylight to daylight. The harshness of it. Bound day by day to only the next day. Until at last. The last.

Never feeling the wondrous awkwardness of transition.

I pad downstairs wearing only a baseball cap. Maman is grinding coffee but looks up to survey the son. She deserves a kiss on the forehead. And gets it.

Is this the new la mode, Jacques, she says, or have you finally exhausted all the clean clothes?

Today is Tuesday, I say, and that thought alone makes me want to be naked.

As I cruise the kitchen the thought also makes my cock twitch, and I give it a handsome tug. Three more, and (je regrette), it’s not going to get any bigger.

The hand remains. Motionless but contiguous.

Divine instability.

You really should confine that to your room, says Maman. What of the neighbours? And what of Pierre?

Neighbours? Aren’t we safe, within our walls and our books? And sweet Pierre, well ...

Pierre? says Maman, is Pierre ... also ... for how long?

Ever since you Maman, in person, and Papa, in absentia but with an appropriate titillating title, explained that it was both natural and good, or perhaps it was the other way around, good and natural, I reply.

Little Pierre ... she says. 

At it right now, I say.

And getting better at it, all the time.

Maman, thoughtful. Perhaps contemplating the coffee and cigarette, or one of the many scripts scattered about, in one of the many teetering piles.

What do you want from this summer, Jacques? she asks, a little later.

I know in an instant.

To understand Schopenhauer and to seduce Juliet. Maybe not in that order.

Maman giggles now, and, I can’t help it, I have to kiss her. Again.

You will take care, won’t you, Jacques? Maman says.

Mais oui, naturellement, but of course, I reply. And then add, I always approach Schopenhauer with caution.

This wins a whack on the bare derrière to shoo me away.

Go on, be off with you, she says, and remember to dress before you go out.




At the station, Victor takes little Pierre for food and wine and affinities. Famished, he says, after the journey. And horny too, I’ll wager.

They will make their own way home.

Pierre idolizes him. And is hopeful of getting more detailed and deviant tips in the finer points of diddling. Victor’s escapades precede him.

Juliet, au contraire, after the usual chaste and courteous kisses to the cheeks, wants to stay awhile. She likes l’ambiance, she says. And, l’idée of people in transit.

We are chaired together among the rows of back-to-back seats. Sterile aesthetically, if not medically, for the many backsides. Juliet’s travel rug sufficient and generous, to cover the conspirators. Real boldness only surfaces when the naturally shy are somehow made brave.

And underneath the rug. Two pairs of hands are joyously and deliciously acquainting themselves. With the body parts of the other.

Another couple sits in the chairs directly behind us. It is impossible not to hear, and overhear, their conversation:

‘I can’t do it,’ the man says.
‘You can,’ says the woman.
‘No. I don’t think I can.’
‘You must try.’
‘But, how?’
‘You must trust,’ she says.

I turn to look at Juliet’s reaction, questioning whether we should move, or leave. To leave them with their obviously private conversation.

Juliet gives a little rapid head motion. Meaning no. Her hand movements slow exquisitely.

I alter mine to keep in co-sine twined.

Trying to be discreet but turning a little more, I can see that the woman’s two hands clasp the man’s arm near the elbow, pulling him toward her. They sit for awhile, then:

‘It’s our only chance,’ the woman says.

This makes the man turn, to look at her face, at her eyes, an attempt perhaps to decipher some shorthand that he has never learned. His mouth opens, but he says nothing. Someone versed in the arts of interpretation or translation might have understood, what he might have said. With a soft sshhh, the woman places the flesh side of a single upright finger to his lips.

He stares. Then:

‘You mean, my only chance,’ he says.

More silence. Juliet’s movements have almost come to a standstill. My fingers that are on the button, I move away a little, to better judge what’s up.

Don’t stop, cochon, Juliet whispers, just go très très slow. And she shows me how. By idling blessorially and strangling and wandering.

The woman behind us must have thought how she might better explain:

‘The moon is just the moon,’ she says, ‘but sometimes it’s not just the moon. Sometimes ...’
‘What is it that you want?’ the man says.
‘I want a nest without thorns,’ she replies.
‘J’désire un nid sans épines.’

Juliet quickly buttons buttons over buttons and zips zips over pricks.

Come on, she says.

Before we get up, she ladles kisses all over my cheeks, mouth, lips.

This makes my face as wet as hers.

What just happened? I inquire, so as to show the fullness of my stupidity.

I made a decision, Juliet says.



Call me later, Wittgenstein.

I need to learn this new form of life.

Give a speech, please, to this community of one.

If sequence really is the grammar of tone. Then I need to learn this.





The elm is our ladder.

Our staircase.

Hand over handhold, foot over foothold and four citizens have topped the wall. It is wide enough for two. Side by side or heads in laps.

We arrange. And rearrange.

After telling us that his new record is coming five times in one night. And this being confirmed by a beaming Pierre. Victor says that he wants to be in international banking and have lots of mistresses. Perhaps some masters, too.

Juliet says that she will be a doctor, a specialist. While the area of expertise is undecided, whatever it is she’ll be plus accompli.

Pierre says that he will be a writer. And write a book that will be valuable and rare. And that will surely make Papa notice. Won’t it?

I say, I have no idea. And would anyone like strawberries? And look, we have sugar to roll them in.




Juliet watches with intent as I piss.

An impressive, I think, ever-changing arc. Each, too impossibly brief to codify in quadratic equative form.

She is intrigued, or more accurately, entranced, by bodily fluids.

Freud’s followers would have their own dubious and dissenting interpretations. Not having exorcised whatever it was that had to be given up to avancer, perhaps. They would be wrong. Yet again.

For Juliet has developed. Définitivement!

Montaigne might see it differently. But then he had to travel high and wide studying la difference, before he could happily and safely stay at home for the rest of his ivory-towered life.

Victor’s is bigger, she declares with authority. A lot.

It is true. Victor is a donkey.

But Victor is not circoncis, I venture tentatively, in an attempt to settle the matter with reason intact. The extra length is surely no more than loose skin. Besides, and here I attempt to trump all suits by using an adjunct premise, he is older by three months and four days.

So? Juliet easily sees through the ploy, but tactful, changes tack. Why cut?

Cleanliness and conceit, I say. Or, as Maman would have it. No point having a head if the eye can’t see.

I twinkle a hard-nippled breast whilst shaking the last.

Un petit drop might have cascaded onto her shoe. For Juliet is applying considerable attention in that direction.

Discovering and improving some lines on Virgil – and Virgile.

She looks up.

Giving insolent rein to the movement of lashes.

Jacques? she says.

Oui, mon petite chou?

Jacques? she says again as she turns.

Her back and shoulders insist upon my chest.

Alors, j’saisir. And I promptly wriggle a hand down the front of Juliet’s jeans and knickers. Tuft mons and curves and curls and wet-sweet worlds. And later, little squirms and squeals.

And the arm-hugging walk.

And the briny-chlorine smells.

Being otherwise manually engaged. I have neglected to zip up.

A minor embarrassment only. For the return journey.

And the old lady on Rue St Clare.

Jacques, mon chéri, says Juliet, I think you should know little peter is out!

Mon Dieu!

I rather suspect.

That, Juliet, of course, knew all along.

All girls are natural weathermen.

Always knowing which way the wind blows.

And knowing what’s up without looking up.




Maman has prepared breakfast for Juliet and me.

Baguettes and jams and coffee and fruits. Victor has already taken little Pierre for the day. They have in mind the botanical gardens, swimming, a movie.

And if there’s time.

A display of arts érotique.

Juliet and I, in underpants alone, discuss possible plans. Her ten-centime pale-almond nipples alert and following the flows.
Maman says that we must not neglect our studies. That there are future entrance exams and committees and scholarships to consider.

And besides, she says, you can’t spend all the time comparing and seeing what goes with what and how well. Then, her words not mine, there’s more to it than Mister James’ little sticks and bits of wood.

Therefore, Schopenhauer is co-opted, to finally get his chance. Can he really improve on Kant? And if he can, does it matter?

Juliet chooses von Goethe. She is interested to analyse and decipher if young Werther’s woes are conceptions de société, or a result of his own innate lack.

Of something.

And we’re off to the base of the wall. The far corner of the garden.

Bon chance, says Maman.




White cotton knickers long gone.
Juliet is kneeling astride.

Virginity. Being non-recoverable.

So that, is what it is like. Now there is a new self to add to all the other selves. Created out of the relationships we have. For we use a different self for different people. A different, unique, self that didn’t exist before. The Jacque-self, with Juliet. Just as the Juliet-self, with Jacques. Must be, and is. Altered, yet again.

Arms outstretched near my head, Juliet raises knees and exquisite haunches, millimeters at a time. The little fellow eventually pollops out. To reflect in his own sticky fashion. Given the eagerness he had, to be there, he offers scant resistance.

Juliet, arching the coltish back. Puts her head down, and looks behind beneath between. She stops. Stationary and silent.
Raising chin to chest I see what has occurred.

We are still connected.

A glinting mucousy cord. Holding crotch to crotch in the lightest of light tug-o-war. The fluids yet to decide, to whom to attach. Where to separate. Impossibly thin in the middle regions. Any slight movement now will decide the matter.
I look up.

Above Juliet’s head the wall towers. I see the edge at the topmost point and can’t help but think of Argentina.

An Argentina of the mind.

And, somewhere above the top of the wall, deep in the blueness of the endless sky. Wispy bits of white nothingness are cavorting. Debating whether or not to become a cloud.

Juliet’s head swivels slowly up to fix me with the steel of grey-green eyes.

Listen carefully, cochon, she says, just because we fuck. Does not make me your girlfriend. Understand?

Mais oui, naturellement, but of course, I say.

Not understanding a thing. Except, perhaps, that it is possible to understand Schopenhauer, without necessarily agreeing.

Girls decide these things, she says. Not boys.

Has she learned this from von Goethe?

In any case. I am compelled to take it as fact.

Now, she says, as she rolls to the side and breaks that tenuous connection forever, let’s try it a different way.

Which leaves me confused. Which leads to confused excitement.

And excited confusion.




With nos frères returned, we sit and daddle in the dappled uneven light of the evenings night.

The wall in sight.

Four horsemen of the future. And of all the many pasts. Remembering nothing of consequence, except the moment.

Maman calls, that there is a new package. From Papa.


And, Pierre says, is there un citation?
Papa always crayons, on the outer casing of offerings, his latest pataphysical revelation. No doubt in his long career this trait has been of benefit to numerous postal staff, worldwide.

Broadening the intangible.

To a new order of intangibility.

Oui, says Maman. It says: If you want to understand true companionship, then you must study the cat.

Bravo, says Pierre.

A plausible theory, Victor adds.

Juliet says, that that is alright in theory, but what about practice?

And so younger brother Pierre, and I. And cousins, Juliet and Victor. We all practice, and practice.
And practice.

Till summer’s end.




Michael Gardiner holds a doctorate in Creative Arts from the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, and has previously published in Social Alternatives.


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Vol 16 No 2 October 2012
Editors: Nigel Krauth, Kevin Brophy & Enza Gandolfo