The Mini-burger

FanFic in the Birmoverse

This Golfing Life – Dr Yobbo

David Lawrence had lost a few things in the two years since the Great Stellar Shitfight.

 Four kilos. A bunch of friends. His sense of humour. His job. Stood to reason – come crisis time, governments spend pragmatically on stuff that protects their interests, i.e. explodey goodness, bread and circuses, rather than the discretionary items, the fluffy stuff that gives warm fuzzies to swinging voters. Like spending money on basic research. Research into advanced weapons tech, alternative energy, GM crops or any other applied, targeted, outcome-based, synergy-leveraging, low-hanging-fruit-picking, buzzword-soaked technowank which might dig the big wide flat brown land out of the overpopulated refugee-camp mentality it’d become mired in? Thumbs up. Blue skies curiosity-driven stuff? GTFO. As Lawrence had been forced to do, once the ARC had been wound up as a luxury the nation couldn’t afford and the funds originally contracted to, f’rinstance, research into evolutionary biology rediverted to explodey goodness, bread and circuses.

Lawrence had, however, gained in other areas. Primarily in the area of a horrendous slice off the tee which no matter of stance adjustment, amateur swing-doctoring or inventive swearing was going to fix. He nudged another fifty-cent Kmart ball away from the pile and addressed it distrustfully. Loose. Swing through it. Let the club do the work. The club was a whizz-bang Titleist competition driver with more shiny movable parts than a Hollywood starlet’s face. Of course, now that much of the nation’s golf courses had been repossessed for growing food to feed the unwashed masses, it was worth about as much as the load of balls at Lawrence’s feet. And a load of balls was all that the techo whizzbangery from the Titleist R&D labs (presumably now a pile of rubble somewhere in the US Midwest) was worth, seeing as though no matter of tinkering, fiddling and general arsing about with the movable weightings and reclinable toggleblurters made the fucker go in anything resembling a straight line. Not that it mattered much out here. It wasn’t exactly the 18th at Huntingdale, Lawrence reminded himself, the low rock-strewn hummock rising slightly over the remainder of the roughly-rehabilitated ground that had, a generation ago, been Blackwater Mining’s first productive coal seam. Two hundred yards away, a mangled Give Way sign, salvaged from a losing argument with a Caterpillar B797 on one of the service roads – B797s won most arguments they entered into – had been javelined into the churned earth as a makeshift pin. Even opening his stance up like that still-astonishing footage of Shiv Chanderpaul facing Warnie front-on a couple of years back (international test cricket having gone the way of basic science research in terms of non-essential distractions) he still couldn’t get within cooee of the bastard.

Why the chordates? Why only the chordates? How the fuck does that work?

He hated when he started thinking like this. He hated being reminded that he was wrong. That there wasn’t always solid, logical, experimentally-derived, peer-reviewed explanations for everything. There used to be. He could defend the scientific nature of the universe to anyone. He used to shake his head in mild derision of the creationists, fundies, whackjobs and nutbars who needed deities, fairies, superstitions or Great Spaghetti Monsters to explain the world around them. Lawrence’s universe was explainable by observable, testable phenomena. That was what made him good at what he did. Not stellar, not Nobel-winning job-for-life rock-star status – not like Alex, who’d been marked for greatness since day one, when they’d first met as proto-PhD-peons at USyd – but pretty bloody decent nonetheless.

Not just vertebrates, but everything with a spinal cord. What’s doing there? What’s the mechanism, for Christ’s sake?

Waste of time, he reminded himself. Plenty of minds sharper than his had chewed the problem to a pulpy husk, to less than bugger-all resolution. Which, as things always goes, only gave the spotlight to the fundies, whackjobs and nutbars who pedalled a range of supernatural bollocks to a credulous public, anything from God’s visitation for legalising gay marriage to the antimatter-fuelled outer space bodily eructations of ginormous outer space aliens from outer space. There had to be a proper explanation. There was a proper explanation. But Dave Lawrence didn’t have it. What he had was half a bottle of paint-stripper Mudgee mud – even crap wine was over the odds on price these days, but red kept better than beer on field trips – a bucket of balls, an oversized driver and a headache.

Bizarre bloody way to pick off an entire phylogenetic lineage. The only lineage that could have formed intelligent life, in point of fact. Almost like…

Shank. He’d tensed up as he’d hit through the ball, grimacing against the obvious conclusion. No. Bollocks to that. Not the ‘intelligent life deleting other potential intelligent life prior to invasion’ argument. There were enough muppets pedalling that shite already. Straight from the realms of bad sci-fi – any moment now the ghost of L.Ron Hubbard was likely to rock up with an army of Thetans riding shottie – and besides, if you’re trying to wipe out all forms of intelligent life with the potential to self-aggregate into higher social structures, why start with the Red States?

It’s the arthropods, the insects and shite. They’ve never forgiven us for out-evolving them, the bastards. It’s probably those big fuck-off bug monsters from Starship Troopers. Where the fuck’s Doogie Howser when he’s needed?

He hadn’t quite lost his sense of humour. Which was an achievement, considering what else he’d lost. Alex had taken up a senior postdoc position in Nobel laureate Marlon Weissner’s developmental biology lab at UC Berkeley in January of ’03. He’d booked flights to go over and see her – technically it was to go to a conference and talk to a bunch of lab heads in the Bay Area about job prospects, but he knew what the dull, monotonous ache in his chest meant. Either coronary heart disease, or he missed her a hell of a lot more than would have been suggested by the last-summer-holiday origins of her pre-departure fling with him – an inevitable pressure release that apparently Stevie Wonder could have seen, according to that standby of gossip rags, Friends Close To The Couple. The ensuing two years without her, much of which had been dominated by the same dull ache in his chest, had pretty much backed up his original hunch. ‘Tis better to have what now? No it isn’t. You can fuck right off.

Stay loose, swing through, let go.

Let go. If only he fucking could. And knowing his luck, letting go would just mean losing his grip and hurling Munter’s driver halfway to the flag. At that moment the sky was ripped apart by a quartet of F/A-18s heading south-west – presumably home to Williamtown – but these days Lawrence barely noticed the flyovers. You’re living in a massive refugee camp, you learn to ignore the military toolage. Or the military tools. In fact, that’d been one of the main reasons he’d taken up his old mate Munter’s offer of employment at Blackwater – other than the minor need to eat and pay his bar tab – to get the hell away from the seething masses of stinking humanity on the eastern seaboard. Central-western NSW didn’t attract a lot of visitors, even now that there was a lot more visitors to go around. Digging stuff out the ground was more important than ever to the National Interest – presumably why Blackwater and a bunch of other private resource-based interests had been forcibly nationalised under some very dodgy legislation passed under urgency by Reichfuhrer Howard’s kitchen cabinet – which meant Munter, or Senior Research Geologist Mark Munton to his boss, was a busy Munter. And needed more field assistants. The pay was two fifths of fuck all, but Munter did offer Lawrence his own ute, sat phone, a flat in town and all the coal he could eat.

Four years of undergrad. Five years of a three year PhD. Two overseas postdocs. Fifteen first-author papers. All to end up holding a fucking theodolite for a bloke voted Drunkest Man in the Universe at our Year 12 formal after-party. Who to this day drops his strides when the pub jukebox plays Eagle Rock.

Nup, there’s that fucking slice again. Regular as a prune-eater’s morning movements.

The tappetty rattle of a diesel ute woke him from his self-immersion.

“Ay,” said Munter, hairy arm out the window of the company Hilux. “What’s doing?”

“Thinkin’.” Despite spending most of the last dozen years living in trendy inner-city locales across the globe, Lawrence was still a bush kid at heart, and subconsciously found himself mirroring Munter’s almost comically rural drawl – itself becoming ever-more rural the longer Munter had lived out west.

“Drinkin’?”

“Possibly,” Lawrence shrugged, sheepishly conceding the half-emptied bottle of shiraz near his feet. It wasn’t like Munter to get all moral recidivist when it came to alcohol intake.

“I meant,” Munter clarified with a grin, “would you be interested in doing any, you cunt.”

He thumbed over his shoulder where an Esky was perched in the tray. It was probably piss-foul XXXX and it was probably warm, but Lawrence wasn’t feeling too picky.

“Yeah, you could twist me arm,” he grinned, noting the dusty old half-bag of clubs in the boot. The same ones they’d used as kids back up home to belt golf balls off the top of the quarry into the river below. There was the small hazard of needing to carry a row of riverside houses and a national highway, but that was just motivation to get under the thing properly and give it some stick. There was still an hour or two of light left in the day, and a spectacular sunset was in the offing. As it usually was out here, given the massive amounts of light-scattering ash and dust still orbiting the stratosphere after the Great Stellar Shitfight.

Uncle Teds. On ice. Shit, someone got paid this week. The lads cracked an Extra Dry each, flicking the lids into the tray, and contemplated the landscape around them. Ignoring the low hum of the Blackwater Number Three pit a few kays to the west, they could have been on the moon. Lawrence wondered if this was what it looked like beyond the Wave. Then thought of Alex again, before deciding not to. There hadn’t been anyone since. He wasn’t sure there was going to be.

“Shit happens for a reason,” declared Munter, out of nowhere. He wasn’t nearly drunk enough to be philosophical.

Lawrence couldn’t really let that slide.

“Any idea what the fuckin’ reason might be then, O Wise One?”

Munter nodded laconically. “The Big Fullah upstairs had money on your Rabbitohs winning the Premiership. Not a fuck were they getting it done after losing the first four of the season, were they now.”

“And so… he nukes the Septics??

“He moves in mysterious ways,” Munter observed, “or so I’ve heard. A bit too fucken mysterious for my liking, but you get that on the big jobs.”

Despite his black mental state, Lawrence allowed himself a grin.

“As good an explanation as any I’ve heard today,” he concurred

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4 April, 2009 - Posted by | Pepsi Challenges, Without Warning

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