We’re making our way along the Darebin Creek towards the Sunday Market at Latrobe Uni and because I’ve just come out of another self-imposed writing marathon which has eaten up an entire night’s sleep in less than four days, I’m fighting a fatigue so complete that I’ve lost control of my facial muscles.
A Family Outing!
My lolling cheeks and looby lips remind me of the dog Hooch from the Tom Hanks classic movie, Turner & Hooch which in turn leads me to think of Forrest Gump and the classic line, Hello. My name’s Forrest; Forrest Gump. You want a chocolate?
There’s an upturned couch dumped ten meters past one of the boys most frequented playgrounds but instead of shaking my head in disgust – as I would usually do – I can only look at its wet, soft, cushiony base longingly.
I’m pushing Maki along in a pram, Reservoir Mum is walking fast-paced behind Tyson to prevent him from falling over on his training-wheels equipped bike, and Archie and Lewis are hightailing up ahead, zipping left and right and trying to outdo each other. When they disappear behind a dip in the bike path, thirty meters ahead, I feel the need to break into a jog to keep an eye on them but my limbs flat-out refuse to obey me and I have to admit to being surprised by this all-over malaise.
Usually, I’d shift my gaze and marvel at the browny-grey water of the Darebin Creek as it rushes over age-old boulders and truck tyres and shopping trolleys but today even the effort of turning my head is too much.
Up ahead where the path bends I see an old man across the street in his front yard. He’s wearing a bath robe, sitting on a beach chair, talking to a dog that’s wearing a woolly red jumper and the scene appeals to me. I can understand the merit of seeing the years out like that.
A few minutes later RM and Tyson are also creeping away from us and when I lean forward to see that Maki has fallen asleep under the warm winter sun I seriously contemplate ducking under a tree for some shut-eye, but because this is a family outing – and one that I have promised the boys all week – I dig deep into my backpack and bring out some legal stimulants to get me back on track.
I’m holding two small white no-doze tablets and one large Berocca tablet in the palm of my hand and I’m suddenly very aware that RM has the only water bottle…
The no-doze tablets go down no worries but the Berocca tablet is the size of three ten cent pieces on top of each other and when I place it on my tongue the sharp tang of it fires every synapse in my facial muscles and charges all of my sense in such a powerful way that I break into a sprint in a shocked irrational attempt to outrun it.
The flavour of it is overwhelming and, yes, it would definitely be more palatable after dissolving in a glass of water but as my legs stride effortlessly along the bike path, Reservoir Mum and Tyson come into focus and I feel an intense buzz that I can only attribute to the eyelid-evaporating smack in the face intensity of taking Berocca straight.
Maki and I have caught up to and passed RM and Tyson and now we’re closing in on Archie and Lewis and I’m moving so fast and furious that all of a sudden I imagine my legs are a circular blur – like the road-runner’s – and because I’m always keen to experiment with legal to semi-legal stimulants in an attempt to beat the mortal need for sleep I take things one step further and bite down on the Berocca.
It’s dampened outer shell explodes into a powdery bomb of such flavoursome insanity that it retards my thought-processes to the point that I associate with nothing but what is happening inside my mouth. I am not longer a lacklustre version of Reservoir Dad walking along the Darebin Creek with his family, I am an orange flavoured bitterness to the power of 10,000 Warhead lollies burning like the Sun inside a wet oral cavity.
For a period of time I am aware of nothing but my own guttural growl, a feeling of weightlessness and spinning, and the cool and funky tunes of ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk; which I was listening to just this morning. Then my eyes find their focus on the path ahead and I can see the green beside me and the blue above. My tongue has coiled itself up at the back of my mouth like overloaded Venetian blinds and when I brush at the irritation on my lower lip my fingers come away glistening a sparkling orange drool.
‘Daddy, watch me!’ Tyson yells.
I swallow hard, press my tongue against the top of my mouth and then say, erratically, ‘Go Tys, ride like the wind!’ as he and RM hoon past.
I break into a jog again and I’m smiling; my facial muscles rejuvenated and the world around me is alive; moving with a common energy that I want to describe as life-force. It’s as if the brilliance of the Universe is the result of God’s own sneeze and I was the tickle in his nose that caused it. I don’t know where to look; I want a piece of everything.
When I look down I see that Maki is stirring and I reach down to squeeze his little hand and say, ‘Hello, sweetheart.’ I’m overwhelmed, and back on track.
When we all gather together to cross the traffic lights at Plenty Road I look ahead anticipating the few hours of excellent family fun ahead of us at the Latrobe Uni Market, and I’m up for it.
‘Hello,’ I say, to Reservoir Mum, feeling the return of the familiar nutso. ‘My name’s Reservoir; Reservoir Dad. You want a Berocca?’