Eric Dando
Published in The Diamond & the Thief – September 09
Published in The Diamond & the Thief – January 10
Eric Yoshiaki Dando was born in Tokyo in 1970.

He is the author of Snail (Penguin, 1996) and Oink Oink Oink (Hunter, 2008). His cartoons and graphic poetry have appeared in Torpedo and Cordite.

He lives in Melbourne.

Find out more about Eric.

Tiny Little Pirates
By Eric Dando

I found it in The Trading Post: '71 Kingswood, $1600. A two tone brown one. I ring the guy, he says I'd better come and have a look. I have my money folded up in a little plastic sandwich bag but it sounds too good to be true, that’s what my dad says and he knows about cars.

I have to crawl through the gutted skeletons of other Kingswoods in the frontyard. He's growing tomatoes down the side, cherry tomatoes. Tiny little ones. He comes out of the back door and grunts at me, opens up the shed. We listen to the engine for a while. The interior is very clean.

We look over the roadworthy papers, drinking instant coffee in his tiny little kitchen, but I am only going through the motions because I do not really know anything about cars or buying cars.

He has made all these sailing ships out of matchsticks, hung them in the windows. He likes the look on my face. I tell him that I think his little boats are amazing and he glows and swells there for a moment on his brown Celtic linoleum. He is fingering the keys, swinging the little golden lion badge on its chain. 'They really float.' He says, 'I've tested them. Down Wanambool, ever get down to Wanambool? Know a beaut little place down there. A beaut little place.'

We take the Kingswood for a test drive. He tells me he built the car from bits and pieces he had lying around, he just likes fixing them. He says he builds the boats from special Indonesian matches. Indonesian matches are the cheapest.

I keep asking him about the car but he keeps talking about sunken pirate treasure at Wanambool. Checking tide charts, fumbling with underwater maps. He has a model of the wreck in a fishtank. The treasure is two thousand years old, submerged for twenty-two and a half hours a day. He wants to show it to me. I think his timeline is hilarious and I tell him, there were no pirates here then, surely.

We test drive the Kingswood all the way to Wanambool. Bushbash through the scrub to a little block by the sea. The block is fenced, the grass is kept clipped by a herd of miniature palomino horses. 'Pirates were much smaller two thousand years ago,' he says.

We get out and walk over to this tiny little hole in the ground. 'It's down there,' he says, peering into the hole 'it's down there. Go down there and get it and the Kingswood is yours.' He keeps pointing down there with his finger. He wants me to go down into this tiny little hole. He promises me a handful of golden doubloons.

'Is that a pirate handful?' I say, 'or a regular handful?'

See, it is just like that movie The Goonies, only much smaller. I am a Gooni and so is he. We are searching for pirates! Tiny little pirates.

It looks like a hole he has dug himself, I'm not sure if the sides are going to cave in, it's crazy and deep and dark. I climb down there. He throws me a box of those Indonesian matches and I light one up. It doesn't take me long to find the treasure. I mean he probably put it there himself. I put it down my shirt and climb back out.

He seems to be under the influence of some exotic drug, 'Give it to me! Give it to me!' He pulls it away from me as soon as i pull it from my shirt, as if I was going to make off with it or something.

He runs his hands over the box in narcotic rapture, snaps off the rusty lock with his thumb and forefinger. Two tiny little skeletons are folded up inside. The skeletons are dressed like pirates. Tiny little pirates. They are surrounded by tiny little golden doubloons.

He gives me the keys to the Kingswood, counts off a tiny pirate handful of gold into a little sack. 'You'd better get going.' he says, ‘It'll be dark soon. I'm staying here with the pirates.' He has a few of those little sailing ships tucked under his arm. 'We will sail on the morning tide.'

I jump in the car and drive, before he has time to change his mind. Driving away, pockets stuffed with gold and money, back firing crazy magic shooting out in sparks and smoke. Tiny little pirate skeletons jerking on rubber bands from my rear vision mirror.

Look, see that little brown speck, that’s my new Kingswood on the freeway.
By Eric Dando

See, they called him Blue because he had red hair. If you asked him why he couldn't tell you. He didn't flaming know. He didn’t understand his name and why it was given to him.

His wife had black hair, freckles on her nose, big brown eyes like a cow. Nobody called her anything, she didn’t have a nickname. Sometimes she tried to make up nicknames for herself but they never stuck. She didn’t know anybody except Blue.

He had seen her on one of his trips out the back of nowhere, she was just sitting there on a suitcase by the side of the road. Blue had gone around and opened the car door for her and she had thought that was so polite. There was no fuss or argument or violence like the other times. He drove her straight to his house in Mt Waverly. It was tiny. It had a square metre of front lawn with a dwarf hedge around it. A little box of a backyard with a tiny wooden tool shed in one corner. Home.

She was sweet on him and Blue gave her everything. She knew his PIN number off by heart, but only spent money on the shopping. She was good like that, the way she cut his toast into regimented Vegemite soldiers.

* * *

She has made some wonderful ANZAC biscuits in the tiny kitchen. She wasn't sure of the recipe, she made it up as she went along. She was naturally good at cooking. Blue sits around on his bum, watching westerns on video, serenely munching on ANZAC biscuits.

Blue likes to watch cowboy movies the best. And gladiator movies, they’re good too. If he had to choose between John Wayne and Charlton Heston he would have to choose John Wayne. He really likes the way they ride those horses back in the Old West.

* * *

Oh yeah and Blue made her promise never to go poking around in his toolshed. The toolshed belonged to Blue. Everything in the toolshed belonged to Blue.

He told her, 'You can do whatever you like in the rest of the house, I don't flaming care. But this shed is mine, that's all. I don't want you in my toolshed and I promise I won't go poking around in your kitchen or anything like that.'

So she gave Blue that promise. She promised to keep away from his tools. To never disturb the mysteries of the male gender. The toolshed was a sacred place. 'What do I want to go mucking around with your tools for anyway?' She said, 'Uhhh! Spiders.'

And they kissed.

* * *

And she must have thought that was sweet, that her little man was such a boy. He wanted to keep his little tools in his little toolshed. Her little toy man. She couldn't help thinking that their home was a dolls house. That their marriage was just a play pretend game. That one day Blue would grow up and they would move to a bigger house and everything would be different.

* * *

Blue likes to watch TV and read books about John Wayne.

The time that Blue got advice from Charlton Heston he was watching one of his movies. He didn't tell Blue directly, he was telling some oiled up gladiator. Blue just thought it was good advice and had always remembered it.

It wasn't like when he talked to John Wayne. Blue talks to John Wayne all the time, on a one-to-one basis. Sometimes John Wayne walks out of the screen and talks to Blue directly about all sorts of things, but usually about how some men needed to be killed in a particular way. Just like cattle and pigs and goats all have to be killed in certain ways. It made sense to Blue.

* * *

Blue likes gladiator movies and westerns mostly. If you asked him why he couldn't tell you. He doesn't flaming know. Blue has a friendly ghost in his head. John Wayne is riding around in there, bumping into things in the darkness, raising hell.

* * *

Blue has been trying to grow a beard for years, but is cursed with a boy’s baby face and hair just isn't ready to grow yet. Maybe it would never grow.

So when he goes out at night he wears a false beard. He gets all dolled up in fancy dress. It puts him in a type of trance. It's a type of play pretend game.

* * *

We can play a play pretend game now if you like. We can play Choose Your Own Adventure™. Here, I'll choose it for you.

Blue is making himself available to you. He is giving you the eye. You are a man that Blue has decided to kill in a certain way. He takes you for a ride in his car and gets you all wacked out on GBH. There is nothing you can do, you are way out in the wilderness with Blue and the ghost of John Wayne.

First he will take the bag off your head. Then he might ask you if you want a kiss. He'll be laughing all twisted, and wired and ugly. He'll get up really close to your face and tell you how disgusting you are and how God hates you now. And what a complete abomination you are.

'And you will never get to heaven', he will say. ‘Never, ever, ever.'

He will never tell you anything about John Wayne.

* * *

After removing the offending organ with a Ryobi Cordless Jigsaw, he will dry it out for a few weeks on the window and then put it in the drill case with the other ones.

It was much better than a gladiator movie.

* * *

So, when she was opening the toolshed door she knew that she wasn't meant to be there because it fell off its hinges as soon as she touched it. Blue had gone to get new tools for his toolshed, out the back of somewhere. Blue was a creature of habit - he was always gone a little while and the first thing he always did when he got back was always have a shower.

It was dark in the shed. There were spiders, big black ones in the corners of things. She couldn't find the light but she had a packet of Red Heads. She could only see for ten seconds or so and she burnt her fingers.

She lit up another Red Head. Now Blue would find the door off its hinges. She had wanted to prove that Blue was another person and now this door was making her into some kind of stranger. She grabbed the tool box and a cordless drill and took them out into the garden.

She found the screws from the door. She opened the drill case but the drill was not in there. The case was full of little bits of dried meat, some sort of Beef Jerky. She didn't look at it really, she was looking at some sort of dead possum thing. She picked it up and examined it thoughtfully. Then she put it back in the case and closed the lid.

She took the drill case back into the shed and got a screwdriver. She put the door on ok, so Blue never discovered her little secret and what did she care if he kept beef jerky and a false beard in his case instead of a cordless drill.