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  • Roo I Macleod

The Tick's to Madness

I’ve just finished a book, Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathon Letham, centred around Lionel Essrog the human ‘freakshow.’ It is a classic detective story, set in Brooklyn, mainly, about a group of orphan’s adopted by Frank Minna, a man of dodgy leanings, to be his gofer. They do furniture removals, driving and the odd illegal job until Frank is murdered and deposited in a dumpster. Without their leader, the boy’s become rudderless, one of them arrested for the murder, and Lionel decides it’s his responsibility to find the killer. There is an absurdity to the ‘freakshow,’ the concept of a lad with Tourette’s trying to investigate and interrogate witnesses and suspects for the crime. There’s the obvious pun, with Lionel and his tick’s trying to find out what makes the world ‘tick.’ But what I loved about the book was Lionel’s Tourette’s speak. The play with words, the rhyming and rhythms of Lionel’s affliction made this book special. Lionel states at the beginning of the book, trying to describe his condition. ‘If I were a Dick Tracy villain I’d have to be Mumbles.’ And this brilliant rhyme when they’re trying to establish what a building with Zendo written on it is all about. ‘Don’t know from Zendo, Ken-like Zung Fu, Feng shui master, fungo bastard, Zen masturbation. Eat me! Poetic, eh?

And I’m reading this great book at the Asylum, the Dystopian world that offers me employment, comparing the insanity of that world to Lionel’s affliction and the streets he needs to walk to survive. The locked doors, the codes, the rules, and the madness that bounces off the secure walls.

‘Tea, tea, want a cuppa tea. I’m so thirsty. Tea, tea…’

And the eternal need to smoke. ‘Got a light,’ the demand, with no cigarette in hand. ‘You got a light. I know you got a light. Need a light, I do, I need it. You got a light?’

‘No, I don’t smoke.’

And the look, the disbelief. And then the question. ‘Got a light?’

No…’ And I look to the staff, wondering why he’s not asking them. They lounge in patient's chairs — some sleep, and one girl is having her hair braided. Another is eating off a patients plate, drinking their tea. And I’m wondering if there is much of a difference between them and us. Everyone wanders. There is an aimless destiny, with most of the staff seeming to be lost and confused. The only difference I can see is the staff have the code, the access to the world outside.

I broke my car recently. I knew I needed to check the oil. Every day, when I started the motor, my father’s words dominated my thoughts. ‘Check the oil, check the water, kick the tires, then start the car.’ Simples. But day after day, I blocked out his mantra ‘check the oil, water, kick the tires,’ and started the car anyway. And I asked the mechanic, well he was a roadside techy type, what’s wrong with it?

‘It’s knackered.’

Damn, I say. I sort of need it.

‘Shoulda put some oil in it then.’

Shoulda. Coulda. Didna do it. And my dead father is shaking his head like I’m the madman.

The above is probably nothing to do with Motherless Brooklyn, so don’t let that stop you reading the book. It’s a great read. Five Koala stamps. And that’s a lot of stamps as the little imps didn’t fair too well in the latest bushfires.


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