Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Last night, late, I took a young woman up to St. Ives on Sydney's leafy far north shore. She paid with an Amex card and a strange twist to her face, half apology, half pride. Perhaps she thought I'd rather have cash. As she was getting out, she looked back and found something sitting on the back seat. It clearly wasn't hers so she handed it to me: a small oblong wooden box with a marbled inlay top. As I drove away through the white-lit yet somehow dark, deserted streets - like a Delvaux painting perhaps - through which occasional sleek expensive cars hissed, I picked the box up and gave it a shake. It rattled thinly. I got momentarily lost; I was running out of gas; so I put it aside until I found a 24 hour servo on nearby Mona Vale Road. While the car was filling I took another look at the box and discovered the sliding mechanism that opens it. Inside were pills: one and a half of them. They are pale green, smaller than an Aspro but not quite as small as a Valium. On one side of the whole tablet are the letters APO; on the other, WAR 2.5. What are they? Who left them there? Shall I try one? Maybe the half, on the weekend? The box is nicely made, with a small heart burnt into the base; inside there is a residue of pill-dust, as if it has been used to carry supplies of whatever it is for a long time. When I was lost up the wrong end of Warrimo Avenue where it turns into deadend Timbarra Road, a rabbit skittered across in front of the cab and disappeared into the darkness of Kuringai Chase, a wilderness of bush stretching all the way north to the Hawkesbury River. Must have been the coincidence of rabbit and pillbox, plus I'm reading Alice in Wonderland to my sons, that gave me the song I can't get out of my head today:

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall

And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall
Tell 'em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
Call Alice
When she was just small

When the men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you've just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low
Go ask Alice
I think she'll know

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the White Knight is talking backwards
And the Red Queen's off with her head
Remember what the doormouse said:
"Feed your head
Feed your head ... "