Thursday, February 11, 2010

The first chapter of Anonymity Jones

This is the first chapter of my new book, Anonymity Jones, available from Monday 1st March (Woolshed Press). If you like it, please go and buy the whole thing. Even if you don't like it, one of your close friends or relatives might. And failing that, buy a copy for you Welsh cousin whom you never, ever see, but still buy birthday presents for.

ONCE, IN A STREET not very far from yours, there lived a girl called Anonymity Jones. She lived with her mother – who had over the years changed her name from Corinne Randall to Corinne Jones, then back to Corinne Randall – and with a man called John, who behaved as if he was Anonymity’s stepfather but wasn’t in fact her stepfather at all, since he wasn’t really married to her mother.

Anonymity’s older sister went by the name Raven even though she’d been called Megan when she was first born, and some of the way into high school. Raven loved dark, brooding, frightening things, and didn’t live with her family any more. She’d finished school and was hoping to become a writer but hadn’t yet worked out what she was going to write about. So instead she’d gone travelling to see the world, even though Europe is only a small part of the world, and she was seeing only small parts of Europe.

Anonymity’s father, Richard, had once been very much in love with Corinne. They’d met at the accounting firm where she was a receptionist and he was her boss.

At that time he’d had a wife, Virginia, with whom he was no longer in love. Virginia knew about the receptionist from Richard’s work, and would pretend not to notice when, in conversations about things that happened at the office, he would mention Corinne’s name, before hesitating.
Virginia had also pretended to be surprised when she learnt by accident that the five-day conference Richard and Corinne had flown to lasted only two days and that the rest of the time they weren’t listening to long presentations about tax law, and how to run a private accounting firm, but were in fact ordering meals up to their eighteenth-storey hotel room, which had a balcony overlooking other hotels built beside a beach.

Anonymity didn’t know that this was how her parents had met until Corinne used it against her father. This wasn’t because her mother was an especially unkind person, but because she was doing what cats do when they are cornered, which is to spit and hiss and scratch until whatever has cornered them either runs away or has been stripped to ribbons. And since Corinne was a Leo, this might have made sense to anyone who believes in such things.

Anonymity heard Corinne use this information against her father when he accidentally let slip that the conference in Hong Kong wasn’t in fact a conference at all but a two-week holiday with a sales rep who had visited him in his office and left behind several notepads, two pens, a lava-lamp paperweight with the name of a software company on it, and a piece of her underwear.

It was this very lava-lamp paperweight which Corinne Randall, who was still Corinne Jones at the time, had thrown at Anonymity’s father. The sound of the paperweight crashing into something on the other side of her bedroom wall had made Anonymity jump in her bed. She’d been almost asleep, but after the terrible thump and the sound of raised voices in the next room she grew concerned. Her parents had been known to fight from time to time, just as all parents do. But, until now, nothing had been thrown, ever.

‘You must really think I’m some kind of bloody idiot,’ shouted Corinne, who very rarely swore. ‘And maybe I am. Maybe I should have seen this coming.’

‘Why would you say such a thing?’ Richard shouted back.

‘Because you cheated on your first wife, with me! Do you remember?’

‘Look, Corinne ––’

‘Why would you do this to me? Are you trying to punish me for something?’

‘Don’t be ridiculous.’

‘Are you looking for a way out? Because if it’s too hard, with what we’ve got to deal with around here, I’d understand. I would. But can’t we talk about that without introducing a third party? Christ! Again, Richard?’

The argument didn’t last very much longer. For a while, all Anonymity could hear from her room was the sound of their voices, but indistinctly. Then, just when she was beginning to think that perhaps the argument had been nothing more than a rehearsal for another, larger argument to be staged at some point in the future, she heard her mother screaming, downstairs.

‘Get out! Get out! Get out!’ Over and over she screamed it. ‘Get out! Get out! Get! Out!’

By the time Anonymity had come downstairs, her father had gone. Surprisingly, he hadn’t slammed the front door, and Anonymity stood at the bottom of the stairs and frowned at the back of the door.

Corinne was in the kitchen, leaning against the bench with her head pressed against the overhead crockery cupboard.

‘Mum?’ Anonymity said.

Then she felt a hand on her shoulder. It was Raven, who was still living there at that time because she was two weeks from sitting her final school exams.

‘Hey, sis, leave it and come back up to bed,’ Raven said. ‘Just leave it.’

‘But Dad’s gone,’ Anonymity replied, and as she said it she heard the sound of his car roaring away.

‘I know. But there’s nothing you can do now. Come back to bed. Where’s Sam? Has he headed for the hills?’

‘Yeah, he ran out the back, I think. He couldn’t stand the shouting.’

‘Poor thing. He probably won’t come back in for ages now. I’ll go and get him in a minute. But go back up to bed, sis. There’s nothing we can do about Dad right now.’

As she went past her parents’ room, Anonymity looked in there and saw the lava-lamp paperweight lying on the floor at the foot of the bed. It wasn’t broken, because the paperweights that sales reps leave in offices are not usually made of glass, but of a heavy, unbreakable plastic that can easily smash a hole in the door of a walk-in wardrobe.

(c) James Roy, 2010

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Oh, to be the son of an oceanographer...

I'm currently trying to sell a car. It's a Holden Commodore wagon, 8 seats, towbar, aircon, all that jazz. It's been well-loved, done quite a few miles, but at $5000 negotiable, it will suit a growing family very nicely.

So. I put it in the classifieds of the local paper. Got a nibble, which might yet turn into a sale. If so, it'll be $18 well spent for the classified ad.

I also put it on an internet car sales site, run by a large Australian newspaper company. In the last nine days since the ad went live, I've had nine enquiries. And they all go something like this:

I am an oceanographer/petroleum engineer/geologist/naval officer, and I'm currently at sea/in Cape Town/out of the country. I would like to offer you $5,300 for your car, which will be a gift for my son/father-in-law/brother/cousin. Unfortunately, I can only pay with Paypal, so if you give me your Paypal email, I'll deposit the money, and then, when you have the money, my agent will come and pick up the car.

How can that possibly be a scam? They put the money in, you take it out, they sign the paperwork and take the car, and it's all sorted, leaving me with something like $500 more than I expected to get for it. So it's their fault if they want to buy a car sight unseen, and in a couple of cases, even arrange to ship it to the UK. Isn't it? How can I get hurt?

Here's how it works. They put the money into your Paypal account using a credit card. Then, when they've picked up the car and driven away, they go to their credit card company and dispute the sale. The credit card company then comes after the seller for the money. (I'm not sure how this bit works, but I'm assured that it does.) So the seller has to return the $5,300, but the car is gone, probably to a chop shop, or has been cannibalised for parts worth more than the car in its whole form, and is henceforth untraceable.

Two things perplex me about this. First, how barefaced these scammers are. One of the nine who contacted me made the original offer without telling me what his 'occupation' was. Wanting to have a bit of fun, I replied by saying that I wouldn't take Paypal, unless it was from someone reputable 'like a geologist, or and oceanographer who is out of town.' He came back ten minutes later with, 'Well yes, as it happens, I am an oceanographer, currently at sea.'

The second perplexing thing is this: if little old me, who is attempting his first ever car sale on the internet, is getting an average of an enquiry a day, there must be others getting the same kind of scammer interest. So if it's so rife, why hasn't the constabulary set up a sting, to nab the 'agent' when he comes to pick up the car? It wouldn't be hard to organise, would it? I'd offer to help in that regard, except I've little interest in pissing off an organised crime outfit.

So be wary. Be warned. Cash or bank cheque only. Or alternatively, leave the car in Evelyn Lane, Kings Cross with the keys in the ignition next Wednesday night. Damn, did I say that out loud?

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