Up Front by Emma Hart

64

Keeping it Weird: A Night Out in Christchurch

Warning: This piece contains near-toxic levels of in-joke. Reader wtf-ing is inevitable.

We sat with our backs leaning against the stone of the Bridge of Rembrance, watching the crowd go by. After a moment, my companion stopped frailing his banjo, fished in one of his pockets, and brought out a zip lock bag with a couple of pills in it. "Want some?"

"Bob," I said sternly, "where’d you get those?"

He shrugged defensively. "From Dad’s friend, Uncle Alan."

I nipped the bag out of his fingers and over-armed it off the bridge, where the nor'wester took it dancing down the river. "Dude, I said, don't trust that bastard an inch. Fucker told me to fix last week and then dropped the OCR a whole point three days later. Anyway, where'd I tell you to get your gear, young man?"

"From Uncle R-"

"Ah!"

He stopped, and then remembered. He’s a quick learner, that boy. "From the Point Chev pharmacy."

I ruffled his hair affectionately. "Good lad. Anyway, what would your Dad say?"

Bob picked idly at his banjo strings. "I dunno. He hasn’t been the same since, y'know, the accident."

I sighed, and lit another cigarette, pausing to give the finger to the disapproving old biddy who glared at me. I wasn't smuggling Black Sorbranies into the country to take any shit from nuns. "Tragic waste, that. And so weird, that his prototype generator for extracting energy from the sewage in the Avon would just explode like that. Still, at least he lets me babysit now." I frowned, briefly disconcerted. "Did we remember to bring him in off the porch before we left? I can't remember. Never mind, it doesn’t look like rain. Now, what would you like to do? We could go over to Manchester Street and talk to the sex workers, or we could go across the road to the Strip and watch the drunks punch each other."

Bob pinched one of my fags while he thought about it. I considered telling him off, but if he was serious about that career in country music he was probably going to need to smoke a whole lot more of the things. Anyway, if his mother hadn't wanted me to be his moral guardian, she shouldn't have eaten all that unpasteurised cheese. Tragic waste. Especially just after she won the Nobel Prize for Linguistics.

"Maybe we could go to a play or a gig or something," Bob ventured.

"Pah," I said dismissively. "What are you, a Wellingtonian? You know what happens if we stop throwing bottles at tourists and tipping cows. Do you want your rugby team to lose all time? Do you?"

"No," he muttered, lowering his head so his hair fell around his face and emphasised his Byronic good looks.

"Good then, stop being so bloody soft. Come on."

We got our feet, and Bob's face lit. "Look, there’s Kate!"

"Ssh," I hissed, ducking down. "She’ll hear you."

"She's your daughter, why don’t you want to talk to her?"

"It's awkward. I owe her some money," I admitted. "It was a tough year. My book didn't sell very well. I don't s'pose your dad has anything lying around he doesn't remember writing?"

"Nah, don't think so."

"Oh well." I peered across the road around him. "Dear god, what the hell is she wearing? That's way too much cleavage, and if she bends over… wait a minute, that's my dress! No, not the bloody Nissan Skyline, honey, show some class. Go for the Saab, go for the Saab… that's my girl."

Once she was gone, we set off again, clattering our way through a carpet of discarded nitrous bulbs. There seemed to be an even higher degree of muntery about than usual. A few faces I recognised suggested we were about to have one of those 'ex-Christ's lawyer-boy' versus 'ex-St Bedes cockies in for the weekend' fights break out, and while I enjoyed the scoring system (some arcane combination of 'people put in the emergency room' plus 'girls got off with' multiplied by 'number of ancestors on First Four Ships plaque' minus 'number of mates passed out on road' divided by 'arrest record') I had a duty to protect Bob. Even if he was taller than me these days.

"Change of plan, my young shaver."

"I told you not to call me that."

"Sorry. Anyway, let's go to that coffee house by the Arts Centre. You can explain your music to uni girls and I can talk about the development of science-fiction in the Victorian period to that weird guy with the long hair and no shoes."

Bob perked up. "Okay. But do you promise not to lick cream off anything this time?"

"Almost, Bob. Almost."

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