Good Bye Boom Boom (excerpt)

Malcolm Lau was one of those people who walked on the charmed side of life. I swear, should Malcolm drive the wrong way up a freeway, at peak hour, everyone would crash except him. Malcolm with absolute impunity could walk under ladders, smash mirrors and totally ignore black cats wandering across his path. Well that is until the fifteenth of March.

Seeing as Malcolm was a dragon baby of Chinese extraction, it is just possible that the fearful Ides of March, associated with death and disaster, did not figure in his horoscope. Blissfully unaware of the drama that was about to unfold, he inserted the key, opened the door, then gave a mock ceremonious bow to the cleaning staff now entering the restaurant.

A most impressive restaurant it was at that. No expense, within reason, had been spared when furnishing the Imperial Red Dragon with richly carved furniture and wall panels imported direct from mainland China. Large by local standards, it could seat one hundred and fifty hungry souls at a sitting. It featured a well stocked bar, spotless toilets, an entertainer’s stage and a kitchen equipped to meet the demands of the most fastidious of Chinese chefs.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005 – a not so auspicious day for young Malcolm.

Like many other restaurants, the Imperial Red Dragon was closed on Tuesdays. Mr Lau preferred to have all his staff absent at the one time and a non-trading day allowed Malcolm the luxury of checking all the aspects of restaurant management that could not be attended to during busier days of the week. Only the cleaning staff of two, answering to the names of Merve and his mad mate Josh, were allowed in on Tuesdays. They had been with the restaurant since its inception.

Like all the staff they had become family. They ate, worked, gambled and fished together. The fact that they were cleaners was never a problem. There was no room for class distinction at the Imperial Red Dragon.

So it is not surprising that when torch-bearing Merve crawled into the ‘Hole’ to replace a faulty pilot light he shot out backwards, wrapped his hairy arms around Malcolm, and nose-to-nose shouted out ‘Jesus Malcolm, why didn’t yer tell a bloke there’s a pair of feet in there?’

‘Whatdoyer mean feet ? ‘ says Josh, who was the first to recover.

‘Feet, like yer standing on, yer nong, but with bloody red painted toe nails to boot.’

‘Feet,’ says Malcolm who was wearing the look of a stunned mullet. Although to be fair it was difficult to determine if his current state of demeanour was caused by information reported, or the massive body hug from Merve.

Merve plonked his frame down upon an up-turned milk crate. The shudder that started in his toenails worked its way north. He would have lit a cigarette but he gave up smoking three years back. ‘I’m telling yer, there’s a pair of feet in there and as far as I know they are still attached to the rest of a body. It’s gotta be a sheila because the nails, they’re painted bloody red.’

‘Did she say anything?’ asks Josh

‘Buggered if I know. I wasn’t hanging around to have a conversation with a pair of feet. It’s …it’s …it’s an experience I could have done without mate. I reckon she might be dead, anyone want a cuppa tea, I’ll put the pot on.’ All of that gushed out of Merve in one flood of nervous chatter. He didn’t wait for a reply. Just hauled his frame off the milk crate and went to make the tea.

The bolt-hole, or ‘Hole’ as she was called, was an obscure but esential part of the Imperial Red Dragon’s decor. Completely hidden by a free-standing workbench it offered immediate crawling access from the kitchen through to the underside of the entertainer’s stage. An area that offered comfortable, temporary accommodation for up to six illegal chefs. Not that the kitchen ever supported such a number of individuals. Because the immigration people usually sent in a couple of diners well before the raid it was important that the ‘front of house’ staff never used the bolt hole. Any missing waitress would be immediately noted by the ‘cockatoo diners’, as they were called.

The Hole was not a feature you would find in any western restaurants but a first class Asian establishment certainly had need of one. Specialist Asian chefs were difficult to come by and it was somewhat pointless to ring your friendly local employment agency. The Immigration Department was even less obliging when it came to work visas.

Good Bye Boom Boom (excerpt)

iAN Derrick

Tweed Heads, Australia

  • Artist

Artist's Description

An excerpt from my self-published 248-page novel, Good Bye Boom Boom

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