Written and Directed by David Shiner

The perfect Christmas gift for the whole family Cirque du Soleil will arrive in Melbourne next month with the new production, KOOZA. One of the most acrobatically breathtaking shows in the Cirque du Soleil stable, KOOZA is a colourful, sparkling homage to the traditions of circus and combines thrilling acrobatics with the art of clowning.

Photos Matt Beard Costumes Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt 2012

KOOZA will open under the famous blue-and-yellow Big Top at Flemington Racecourse on Friday January 20, 2017. KOOZA opened to rave reviews and a standing ovation in Brisbane recently. The Courier Mail said, “This is Cirque du Soleil’s pinnacle… so spectacular, so obviously death-defying, so totally insane that I found myself with my hands over my face. We all love Cirque du Soleil but this time they have outdone themselves. And I haven’t laughed so much in ages.”

For those looking for the perfect Christmas gift to treat every single member of the family, KOOZA is your answer. Over 7 million people around the world have already enjoyed the magic, wonder and incredible feats of KOOZA. Tickets for the Melbourne season of KOOZA are available at or by phone on toll free 1800 036 685.

Photos Matt Beard Costumes Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt 2012
Photos Matt Beard Costumes Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt 2012

Fun Facts about KOOZA:

  • All of KOOZA’s performers apply their own make-up. This can take up to two hours! – The Teeterboard act in KOOZA flings artists into the air where they execute quintuple twisting somersaults… and that’s just the prelude!
  • The name KOOZA is inspired by the Sanskrit word “koza,” which means “box,” “chest” or “treasure,” chosen because one of the underlying concepts of the production is the idea of a “circus in a box.”
  • KOOZA’s beautiful costumes were designed by Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt. She drew inspiration from a wide variety of sources including graphic novels, the painter Klimt, Mad Max movies, time travel movies, India and Eastern Europe, clock movements, tin soldiers, marching bands and more. This all merges to create a colourful look that alludes to Alice in Wonderland, Baron Munchaüsen and The Wizard of Oz.
  • There are more than 175 costumes and 160 hats in the show—1,080 items in all, including all the shoes, props, wigs.
  • The contortionists’ costumes appear to have metal chains and jewels on them. The metallic chains are actually made of elastic and the jewels are silicone, to prevent any injury to the performers.
  • One army costume features more than 400 individually sewn metallic flaps to create the effect that it is armored.


The international cast of 50 acrobats, musicians, singers and actors present heart-stopping feats and laugh-out loud antics to a live soundtrack fusion of jazz, funk and Bollywood beats. With nods to Carnivale, the Day of the Dead, military fashion, rock and roll and 1920s cotton club glamour, KOOZA is a visual feast. We follow The Innocent as he takes a journey of self-discovery through a comic kingdom of eccentric characters, electrifying thrills and out-of-the-box surprises.

“Spell-binding feats have you gasping… remarkable acrobatic and other physical skills wrapped up in a slick, lavish staging… the performers are exceptional.” The Sunday Telegraph, Sydney

“KOOZA delivers in all areas…never fails to elicit gasps from the audience… packs a thrill of danger… the final scene is as touching as anything I’ve seen from this company.” Sydney Morning Herald

“tribute to the golden days of circus…joyous to behold… human beings doing bizarre things for the enjoyment of others and getting a huge kick out of it.” The Australian

“Super heroes don’t exist in Marvel comics – they live, breathe and perform each night under the Grand Chapiteau. You simply have to buy a ticket. Trust me, you will not regret this pre-Xmas purchase.” Dance Hub Magazine

“Cirque du Soleil is never just a circus! It’s a bright, acrobatic entertainment cavalcade that balances thrills and laughter, daredevil and slapstick in an expertly choreographed and perfectly timed performance.” Stage Whispers

For more information and tickets, visit


Brisbane – Now playing to January 8 2017, Skygate Brisbane Airport (near DFO)

Melbourne – From January 20 2017, Flemington Racecourse

Perth – From April 13 2017, Belmont Park Racecourse, Victoria Park Drive (off Farmer Freeway), Burswood


The ultimate Cirque du Soleil experience with the best seats and access to the intimate VIP suite one hour before the show and at intermission, including delectable wines and hors d’oeuvres and take home souvenirs.

Sponsors Cirque du Soleil gratefully acknowledges Kirin as the official sponsor of the KOOZA Australian tour. About Cirque du Soleil Cirque du Soleil has brought wonder and delight to more than 160 million spectators in more than 400 cities in over sixty countries on six continents. 

Circus 1903


Step right up! The Circus is back and with Elephants!

In a world premiere event, the producers of the biggest selling magic show in the world (The Illusionists) have teamed up with the award winning puppeteers of War Horse to present a thrilling turn of the century circus spectacular with all the thrill and daredevil entertainment one would expect from the circus, with an exciting new twist.

Thanks to sensational puppetry on a never seen before scale, CIRCUS 1903 –The Golden Age of Circus puts puppet Elephants back in the ring by introducing the largest ever performing African elephant and her baby to international stages. The award-winning team of puppeteers and model makers who created the UK National Theatre’s War Horse have designed, built and brought to life two stunningly beautiful elephants for CIRCUS 1903 –The Golden Age of Circus. In addition, there has been a national competition through the media for a member of the public to name the baby elephant. That winner will attend the Media Call and the name revealed.

CIRCUS 1903 –The Golden Age of Circus brings together the very best traditional circus performers from all around the world. Acts will include – a cycle artist from Germany; juggling from France; rola bola from Russia; hand to hand acrobatics from the Ukraine; an high wire act from Mexico; and a knife thrower from Brazil.

CIRCUS 1903 –The Golden Age of Circus will open in Canberra on 1 December and then tour to Sydney and Melbourne.

TAGG reporter Murray Schoorman will be in attendance on Melbourne’s opening night 4 Jan 2016 and states “What a way to welcome the new year! This world class event is sure to impress”

Cirque du Soleil arrives in Melbourne next month with KOOZA!

Cirque du Soleil will arrive in Melbourne next month with the new production, KOOZA. One of the most acrobatically breathtaking shows in the Cirque du Soleil stable, KOOZA is a colourful, sparkling homage to the traditions of circus and combines thrilling acrobatics with the art of clowning. KOOZA will open under the famous blue-and-yellow Big Top at Flemington Racecourse on Friday January 20, 2017.


For those looking for the perfect Christmas gift to treat every single member of the family, KOOZA is your answer. Over 7 million people around the world have already enjoyed the magic, wonder and incredible feats of KOOZA.


Photos: Matt Beard Costumes: Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt ©2012 Cirque du Soleil




NICA: The Landscape Project

An amorphous cloud of high – revving molecules, continually on the move, fusing ,unfusing climbing, jumping, bumping, entangling ,disentangling                            

They hone ‘em well at National Institute of Circus Arts Australia (NICA). The performers don’t wear the spangly , glittery costumes of yore, but they sparkle with the effervescence of youth.

 The latest crop of bright young things to emerge from three years of intensive circus arts training exhilarated the audience last night with their graduating NICA performance The Landscape Project . Perky, cheeky air of young children having boundless fun. Don’t be deceived, they’re risking life and limb to entertain us. They’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and ice-packs into perfecting their bodies and minds to do what most of wouldn’t have a hope in hell of doing.

The Landscape Project is a three Acter brilliantly directed by Debra Batton.


The First Part with its subdued lighting and khaki shorts and tops reminded me of a boy scout campfire. Yet it was primal and earthbound with bodies strewn all over the floor, slowly coming to life here and there as individuals emerged to do their thing. Simple props like rows of champagne bottles to balance on, chocks of wood to clack together –  a clumsier version of indigenous music sticks.A night landscape punctuated here and there by a few strums of a guitar nearby, a flute somewhere else.

The Second and Third Parts ramped up in colour and action as each of the 14 graduates from all over Australia and New Zealand strutted their stuff . They rose to greater heights as the set provide several different physical levels to operate  upon – and under.As an ensemble, the performers explored every nook and cranny of the stage landscape.

I particularly liked the inventive ways the audiences’ eyes were directed all over the landscape of the large stage to focus on particular acts. For example,  once it was a ball rolled across stage from one group to another.  Another time,  two performers stared intently through giant binoculars to make our heads turn to see what they were looking at.

The wow factor was rampant. The students’ hard work paid off as they trapezed, juggled, hooped, balanced, trampolined, acrobaticked, entwined their bodies with single ropes suspended from the ceiling – all the usual circus skills but choreographed in fresh new ways.

Even though they worked as an ensemble, the different personalities shone through as they each showcased their expertise and uniqueness.Their quirky, fun touches totally captivated the audience .

For example, the routine of the  juggler who always whispered in a loud stage whisper to the audience and his two accomplices was a real attention grabber and very cute.

The petulant girl who always wanted to perform with the wooden chair only to be upstaged by others was a contrasting thread throughout.

The flexuality of the androgynous contortionist, who must have had some high tech hip transplants to be able to swivel those ball & socket joints 360 degrees, defied any notion of body limitations.

The subtle campy body language and facial expressions of the 3 young men exiting from their balancing act, was somehow both suggestive and innocent. It certainly raised a warm chuckle in the audience.

All fourteen of these super graduates were brilliant, energetic, flying high in their circus arts. One can only wish each one  a bright future. May they wow many more audiences.

Thank the Powers that Be, that funding was not withdrawn from NICA. The excellence of the Institute’s training and choice of students is world class and worth every bit of hoolah  – moolah spent on it.


Let me break the news to those who haven’t awakened yet to the terrible reality of politics. There is no Left or Right anymore. There is just the craven lust for power and to keep the globalists happy in their bid to create a New World Order. By the way, this vision of an Utopian world may not include you or I, unless we make a heap of money rather quickly.

Of course the Left Wing Parties will still campaign on the pitch that they’ll raise taxes so that us little folk will get looked after but after they’re elected the bundle made out of increased taxes won’t trickle down to us but will be squandered on incompetence, stupid decisions, and their campaign to be re-elected. Or have I missed something?

The Right Wing Parties will run on a campaign of strength (usually meaning starting a new war somewhere and raining bombs on ordinary people like us who have no idea what the fuck is happening), business acumen, cut taxes (so us poor people have more money in our pockets for luxury items like bread), and will then proceed to squander money on incompetence, stupid decisions, and their campaign to be re-elected. Sadly, I haven’t missed anything.

My dad was a staunch Labour man all his life and was so far to the left he may as well have been a Communist. He had an intense dislike for bosses, police, the Royal Family, priests, June Allyson, Prime Minister Menzies and anyone he thought was a “big hat, no horse.” After several drinks he’d  want to start a petition to have a statue erected to Ned Kelly. Dad had lived a tough life losing his mother at the age of two and then being given up, with his two brothers, to relatives to bring up. He’d been denied much in his life including parental love and struggled all his days to show the great love he felt to those he cared about most.  I don’t think he’d have much time for the Chardonnay sipping new age Left Wingers. But that was him. And it was a different world. A slower, simpler place where people, if you were any good, did the right thing regardless of the cost.

But politics, nowadays, is mostly a game. The system rarely throws up someone who stands for anything other than getting elected,  and if it does, that naively principled person will either be crushed under the wheels of the machine or stabbed in the back by colleagues eager for the spotlight. And therein lies the problem.  The ego. Candidates want the top job for the wrong reason. General Ulysses Grant was a shy man who drank excessively not only to go into battle but in order to face people. To him, becoming President was his worst nightmare. But within days of winning the Civil War (there’s an irony in those words), his leader, President Lincoln, was slain and Grant knew that unless he ran for President everything that they had achieved in that long and bloody war would be undone. So, Grant sought the position not out of ego or a lust for power but out of a sense of duty to benefit the country he loved. People like this don’t come along often but history does have a habit of producing them at the right time.

I have met many politicians in Australia and Los Angeles in my time and save for a few good people, most of them were elitist phony snobs pretending to have a purpose in life. Having spent most of my years in the theatre I can judge a performance when I see one.  This great disappointment has made me totally apolitical. I am not a card carrying member of any political organisation so I am not shackled by party lines and rooting for “our” designated leader as if it were a football game. My party isn’t officially registered.  It is the Party of Common Sense. But no one is hated more these days than a free thinker. People have to categorise you. Put you in a convenient box and tick it. Sometimes I agree with the Left, sometimes I agree with the Right. It depends on what the issue is and what the arguments are. And when you think about it it’s the free thinkers that actually elect the government. The swinging voters, as they call them.

So at this time with all the problems facing our world I would implore voters to ignore the smear campaign ads, the dirt (whom amongst us can throw the first stone?), and all the manipulative side tracking issues they throw up to take our attention away from the real questions, like, “What are your policies?” “What are you going to do differently that you haven’t already done to disastrous effect?” “What are your plans to get people back to work?” and, if the heavenly powers above have stated that one must attempt to help one’s neighbours, “What are you going to do to ease the struggle of the aged and the unwell amongst us?”

Then take a good long look into their eyes and back your instinct on who, if any, are sincere and true.

After that, God bless us all and lead us not into the valley of darkness. Amen.

(c) Frank Howson 2016

BOBBY DARIN AND THINGS (like a walk in the park)

Bobby Darin sacrificed himself to entertain us. Public adulation gave him life through one vein as much as it took from another. Once you’ve awakened that sleeping beast it can never be conquered – only lived with until that fateful day when your body becomes still from the exhaustion of hanging on too long.

Bobby now sits at a table with Hank Williams and they discuss loneliness and lost highways that bring you to nowhere. Oh Father where is art in thou heaven?  And why did you allow us to break our backs working in the fields only to have our crops contaminated by the ignorance of others?

Strike me down for uttering the truth.

Strike me down with the pain of living it.

Strike me down with the regret that I could’ve made a difference if only I’d wandered from your path.

Strike me down if you think it may help someone.

(c) Frank Howson 2016

Circus, the ultimate contemporary art?

Circus is an art form that has continued over the past decade to captivate audiences and grow in popularity. Having reached critical mass, a fixed feature in festivals around the world built upon a long and colorful history, those childhood memories under the big top most of us share, and more simply the way it responds to the here and now. In Melbourne we only need to look at the continued success, both here and abroad of our very own Circus Oz, perhaps Australia’s first “modern” circus trope to encapture this notion.

The company are now also opening their door to support the work of others, as part of this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival, they are responsible for presenting 7 works over the three weeks of the festival at one the most historic, loved and beautiful venues bestowed to Melbourne, The Melba Spiegeltent. TAGG spoke with Circus Oz Senior Artistic Associate Antonella Casella about the upcoming festival season.

Antonella, why circus?

I feel this year is a real watershed year for circus in the Melbourne fringe, I feel like fringe  festivals all around the world the circus has been growing and bubbling up into a major part of the programming in places like Edinburgh and Adelaide in particular, and I feel like this year Melbourne fringe has really come up to that level, of having that mix of incredible international touring work as well as completely brand new work emerging artists taking their first steps into being creatives. We wanted our hub to reflect that whole range I guess

What do you think is behind the continued success and growing popularity of circus?

I think it’s the art form for the era, I think it an art form that can tell any story to anybody and it can draw on any other art form, there is no reason why a circus show not have text cannot have comedy story line or narrative or a completely post-modern non narrative arc, multimedia juggling movement, dance, sculpture, one of the show nominated in Edinburgh was a Melbourne show that d a bit of kinetic sculpture and explored climate change. I feel as an art form it is full of opportunity and it’s the ultimate contemporary art.

What do you think could be attributed to the ongoing popularity of circus?

There are no rules and that’s not just for the performers but for the audience too, they still hold it in their heads that idea of the traditional circus, a lot of what they remember is the greatest show on earth, the old 1940’s back and white movies, with Tony Curtis. People still hold that traditional circus model in their head, but then they come and see a contemporary circus show that still has the level of incredible skill,  but it’s basically exploring conceptual ideas, it’s like getting your whole imagination opened up when you walk into a circus.

So what are some the highlights that people should look out for as part of the work presented at The Melba Spiegeltent?

Each piece has something really special about it, there’s one coming from Brisbane by Cacus called ReStrung I haven’t seen this version and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a reworked version of a show they already made and have been toured internationally to festivasl which highlight independent contemporary work of circus and physical theatre. It was a real break out work for them, it immediately spoke to people, because it had such a personal connection with the audience, it was these five individuals basically bearing their truths of who they were on stage, through circus. It was really touching. Now they have reworked it with a musician to create a whole new layer of soundtrack to it, I think it’s going to be a really beautiful piece, really moving.

The No Frills Cabaret is something I’m really excited about, because it’s called the No Frills Cabaret but the truth is its actually full of some the most amazing international touring circus acts, so  there’s going to be some quite spectacular skill on show.

Then there is Undertone which is interestingly another circus show looking at the cross over between music and circus. Whereas Restrung is with live music, Undertone is with electronic music and the electronic music is folded in to their circus equipment, it’s completely integrated.

The Loneliest Number which is by Hannah Cryle who is an emerging solo female circus artist, who’s incredible strong, she’s one of the strongest women I know, she could be the next Australian strong woman. But she’s also very creative, she’s actually worked with six different directors on six different vignettes to explore the performance possibilities for her work.

The Cactus County Wild West Cabaret, it has absolutely no circus a tall, I think it hails originally from a comic radio show and the basically have a great time parodying the wild west, singing and being very silly.

Do you feel Circus Oz along with other major companies should play a greater role in supporting the work of independent artists?

I think it’s critical for us to do that at the moment, we all know that the funding environment has changed significantly and there is a lot less funding support for independent artists, but also for all independent artists it’s always a struggle to pull together enough work. And it’s always a struggle to pull together enough time to focus on your creative work, that’s the hardest part but also the most important part of the process.

Circus Oz is really committed to opening up this incredible space that we have, to foster that process both the creation of it, as well as the presentation. Which is why we are not only supporting artist to be in the fringe, but we are also supporting artists to develop their work here in the rehearsal spaces, not just for our venue but for all venues putting on circus in the fringe. So I feel we are working hard to support the whole ecosystem, because at the moment that part of the ecosystem needs more support than ever before.

How do you see Circus Oz within the broader context of circus and performance arts in Australia?

You know it’s interesting because in many ways Circus Oz was Melbourne’s, even Australia’s first circus of a new era the reinvented circus if you like. I think even from the beginning what Circus Oz has brought to circus, is the notion that its about reinventing something, about making it current making it contemporary, taking risks to do that. I think that has always been a part of our  core artistic values, so I think as a company we really bring that notion of takings risk, even though we are a major I don’t think we are perceived as a place where you have to follow rules or do things how they have always been done. That’s a really special quality that Circus Oz has.

Looking forward what are your hopes for circus, the upcoming festival season and for the company?

I think this is a really important year for circus in the fringe, because we have our hub presenting this incredible range of work but there is almost like a virtual circus hub across Melbourne this year. My dream for our circus hub is for it to provide a space where artists can really celebrate the whole range of what circus is in a way that no other venue can, because it’s the Melba Spiegeltent.  We can present late night cabaret through to experimental theatrical based circus work in this incredible space; I guess it’s also my dream that artists can keep exploring these ideas. My other hope is a lot of other audience members will come along on this journey with us.

There are so many great shows happening at The Melba Spiegeltent, with the season opening on the 16th of September. Whether you book tickets to see one of your favorite artists or companies, or take a risk and perhaps explore something new and magical, you’ll be doing your bit to support the work artists for more info click here

Laughter and Tears

After the triumph that was The Flying Dutchman, a production that melded classic form with cutting edge technology. Victorian Opera is once again set to grace the stage at the legendary Palais Theatre. This time it’s with an adaptation of Pagliacci, a performance that premiered 1892. In partnership with Circus Oz, this classic work has been re-imagined as Laughter and Tears, set in a small Italian village either side of WWII. Laughter, follows thwarted lovers, buffoons and foolish villains as they prepare for a performance in an incredible Italian theatre as the war encroaches. In Tears, the war has just ended and performers are returning to the theatre. At the helm of this performance is Olivier Award-Winning director Emil Wok, who spoke with TAGG about the upcoming production.

Emil, let’s talk firstly about your career, and what has led you to a life in theatre?

I was the son of a principal baritone at Covent Garden and grew up in the ambience of the
performing arts.  I was bitterly disappointed when I found out that I didn’t have the material, as my voice teacher said to become a classical singer so I went and studied mime in Paris  with Etienne Decroux and bathed in silence for two years .  This led to training in basic tumbling and a few of the Circus Arts at the Gymnase du Cirque, where I grew to love the circus.

Talk to us about the melding of circus and of opera, how do these two forms compliment or perhaps contrast each other, what do they individually bring to the table?

One is the art of voice and the other of movement, both are gifts of the remarkable achievements of the human body and therefore they are totally in allegiance.  The approaches are different because the training is different but both can, in the hands of gifted and passionate artists find a voice that’s quite unique.  So you are delighted by both the sound and the sight of two of the most wonderful of performing arts.

How have you re-imagined Pagliacci, a work originally penned in 1892, for a contemporary audience?

I’ve set the first part as a performance of a commedia in a provincial theatre in Italy forty five minutes before Italy declares war on Britain and France.  The second part which is Pagliacci opens in the same theatre after five years of disuse with a commedia that is a political satire about the fascists.  Difficult brief you might think and you’d be right.

Visually, what can audiences expect from the production?

Glorious set and costumes, physical comedy, beautiful aerial work: a show for young and old alike.

What are some of the other theatrical devices used?

Subtitles that have a mind of their own and so you can understand the Italian.

And are there any themes in this work that are perhaps relatable to the here and now?

War: it’s increasing risk as the extremes of politics create the terror that walks with it.

Laughter and Tears plays The Palais Theatre on the 13th 16th and 18th August 2016 to book tickets or to find more info click here


15th June to 10th July

From its beginnings in 1978 in nearly 40 years the success of Circus Oz has elevated to great heights, having many sell-out seasons in all parts of Australia as well as international touring including performances in New York City, London and Jerusalem.

Today their base is in the inner suburb of Collingwood Melbourne, a true Arts Hub with a permanent Spiegeltent on sight and wonderful facilities, where the new creations of Circus Oz projects are born.

I had the pleasure of attending last nights Circus Oz Melbourne Gala performance of TWENTYSIXTEEN under the Big Top Birrarung Marr and what a pleasure it was. A full house that spanned every age range, quite an assortment of colourful ladies, gents and toddlers, all eagerly awaited an anticipated spectacle of great proportions.

We were not disappointed, in fact the night delighted, tantalised, astounded and most of all made us shriek with laughter. TWENTYSIXTEEN is jam packed with non-stop raw and vibrant hilarity.

Lots of bells and whistles throughout and many thrills (with one or two minor spills) fed the cravings that appeal to a typical circus audience, but not wasted on the novice I’m sure. There is a blend of new and old style circus, for me there must be the old style, it is the foundation of what great circus is all about, but the new also revitalizes the senses.

Two hours of high-energy flying trapeze, Chinese pole, unicycles and juggling acts, intoxicating the minds, defying the boundaries of what a human form is capable of. This you expect from all circuses, but Circus Oz gives much more.   The characters represent a true depiction of Australian unique humour. The Australian larrikin comes into play and there is no humour like it in any part of the world.

Oh and I must mention the amazing band playing throughout, carrying us to greater highs. TWENTYSIXTEEN is such pure joy, full of colour, great effects and magic, all the ingredients that leave you feeling delightfully satisfied.

Extraordinary and very cheeky TWENTYSIXTEEN is a perfect blend of entertainment that anyone can appreciate. What an ensemble of talent, with newcomers in 2016 Sam Aldham, Robbie Curtis and Sharon Gruenert joining April Dawson, Ben Hendry, Spenser Inwood, Kyle Raftery, Ania Reynolds (Musical Director), Matt Wilson and Dale Woodbridge-Brown and Flip Kammerer making a come-back.

2016 Guest Show Director: Anni Davey, Senior Circus Artist and Founding Member: Tim Coldwell, Senior Artistic Associate: Antonella Casella, Musical Director: Ania Reynolds, Set Design: Emily Barrie, Costume Design and Founding Member: Laurel Frank, Lighting Design: Paul Jackson, Prop Design: Michael Baxter and Guest Act Development: Debra Batton and Jo Lancaster.

A huge applause to this amazing array of performers and the crew all deserving of the standing ovation at last nights show.


Ray Macky sat at a table for one. He was used to it by now. It wasn’t like the old days. In those days it had been tables for two, or four or twenty-four. He’d been wildly popular in his younger days. In those times he thought it’d been due to his personal charm but now looking back from the cruel vantage point of having lived too long he saw it for what it was – he’d had success and that’d brought truck loads of money in its wake. He must’ve wined and dined every opportunist in town and even married some of them. He’d enjoyed the crème de la crème of the beautiful and sexy who were, at their hearts, the very worst of humanity. Had he learned anything from all this? No. Zip. He still melted inside when a pretty one smiled at him. These days they smiled at him out of pity – he seemed like a kindly old harmless fool instead of a wealthy one. It seems the last faculty to die is one’s stupidity. Each marriage had grown shorter and the settlements larger until there was nothing left. Ray, in his few honest discussions with himself, lamented the small deaths that led up to the big one. The death of his trust; the death of his respect; the death of his generousity; the death of his health; the death of his longing; the death of his libido; the death of his caring.

Sometimes on a summer’s night at an outside table for one, surrounded by young couples in love, he held on momentarily to the conceit that on one such night a beautiful, kind, understanding woman would notice him and walk into what was left of his life and everything leading up to this would suddenly make sense. But he was also smart enough by now to know that this was only the dream of an old man who needed something to clasp onto to bring sleep each night.

Ray liked to walk home from his favourite restaurants on such nights although friends had warned him it was no longer safe to do so at his age. It was a different time and now young boys roamed the streets filled with enough anger to pleasure themselves by bringing down the vulnerable. As if life hadn’t hurt them all enough.

On these late night walks home Ray would try and remember the sound of his parents’ voices and it’d comfort him. Step by step back into the past until he was a young lad again. Back to a time when he was loved…no…treasured, and the future was so filled with options and adventure that he couldn’t wait to be older. Where did it all go, he wondered. Was he so busy running to and from things that he forgot to savour the pleasure of each moment? Or did he enjoy them so much that time accelerated? Whichever scenario, the result was the same – he was now weary. Not just in body, but in spirit. And sad. Sad that he had had so much love to give and dissipated it on all the wrong people. The worst of them had damaged him for the best of them. In recent years he’d had the opportunity to have relationships with certain women but had always declined the offers or let them die on the vine from his lack of interest or follow through. All he knew was it felt good to finally have all the power. He could now no longer be seduced by a pretty face, a sexy body or a woman with a wicked mind. It gave him some satisfaction to see their surprised expressions when their games and charms no longer worked on him. Alas, they were too late. He had no more chips to bet.

His nightly walks also made him think of those that had gotten away. The ones he should’ve stayed with and the ones who broke his heart by leaving each time the money ran out. He’d had such rotten luck in love, although he wasn’t quite sure that some of the horrific scenes he’d endured should be classified under that sacred four letter word.

He wished he could go back in time and give his last wife the things that she’d needed that now seemed so clear but back then were unfathomable. What an idiot he was not to see. And now he was being punished for it. A life sentence. A dead man walking.

He wondered where his son was and what lies he must’ve been told to have distanced himself so much from a father that loved him more than life itself. But such things were too painful to think about if one was to keep going forward. He preferred to think of him as the young man who had worshipped his father. A dad who could do no wrong.

On his last nightly walk home, Ray Macky heard his son’s voice yell out to him from behind and he turned, smiling, his eyes suddenly filled with hope of a new beginning, or a miraculous renewal of what had once been the most loving of relationships. For a few moments Ray was taken aback at how much his son had changed. His face had grown hard and cruel in ways that he couldn’t quite grasp. And he was older than his years. Had he caused this damage to the one he had so loved?

Then he heard the suddenly unfamiliar voice demand money, “Give me your money, old man, or you’ll get this!”

Ray looked down to see a knife in the boy’s hand. Surely his son wouldn’t pull a knife on his own father? If he wanted money all his son had to do was ask and Ray would’ve given him anything. Ah, but then again, Ray no longer had anything. He was back in the here and now, and the cold realisation that he was of no longer any use to anyone.

“I only have twenty dollars in cash I’m afraid. But it’s yours, Tommy, take it, my boy. I can get you some more on Friday when my pension is in my account..”

“Tommy?…Who the fuck is Tommy you stupid old bastard?!”

“Tommy, don’t you recognise me? I’m your dad. I’ve never stopped loving you…”

Ray didn’t get to finish his sentence before the boy grabbed his wallet, thrust the knife into his stomach and ran from the stranger.

Ray fell to the footpath as a warm pool of blood formed around him. Lying there he wondered what he had done to make his son hate him so. Didn’t he know that life just got in the way sometimes and people had no control over where it led them?

Ray attempted a laugh that a monetary figure had finally been placed on his life and closed his eyes in peace that all debts were now paid.

Ray’s last thought was that he hoped the twenty dollars would be of some help to the boy.

(c) Frank Howson 2016