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“Hi, I’m Kim Westwood, and today I’m reading an excerpt from my novel, just published, called The Courier’s New Bicycle.
The Glory Hole speakeasy is a door in a wall down Wickerslack Alley in the capillary-like heart of the city. The eye at the peephole withdraws and the lock snicks back. Rosie, the doorkeeper, complete with leather vest, two armfuls of tatts and a nose ring suitable for a bullock, secures my bike behind her guard stool and drawls, ‘When ya gonna get a real one, Sal?’
She’s the proud owner of a shiny electric speedster — a Harley replica — parked out in the alley.
‘When I win at church bingo,’ I say, too polite to mention that Rosie’s ecotech ‘real bike’ sounds more like a sewing machine than a Harley.
I hand over my helmet and cycling jacket to the cloakroom attendant, a busty glamour puss with eyelashes to die for. Marlene takes my stuff by her finger ends as if it pongs. It probably does.
Downstairs, the air is laced with an aromatic smoke — the Genetically Modified kind that doesn’t give you cancer … or so its distributors claim. The room is large and the lighting dim; beneath the smoke I smell sweat and alcohol and hormones. Ahead of me, broad-backed couches are grouped in protective huddles around the empty dance floor. It’s too early yet for the abandon that will put its cluster of silver poles to inventive use.
This is my stamping ground. A smorgasbord of contraband is traded and variety of services swapped in its subterranean spaces, the entrepreneurial spirit flourishing among its denizens. Operating below the radar of Neighbourly Watch and outside the Morality provisions, it’s also a neutral territory where the Nation First party’s Back 2 Nature laws hold no sway and all judgement over what constitutes as natural, gender-wise, has been permanently suspended. Meanwhile, people elsewhere feel they’ve lost their raison d’être with their fertility, and are busy shoring up their masculine or feminine traits as if to force an uncrossable distance between two non-intersecting camps. Having always manifested the indicators of both and felt like I belonged to neither, where does that leave me? A lean and lanky girlboy, a polymorphous mix: unsettling to some, and downright blasphemous to the Nation Firsts.”
ABOUT KIM WESTWOOD:
Kim Westwood was a weedy, asthmatic kid who devoured books like dinner. This made her want to cook up her own stuff. The first story she wrote was a song. Unfortunately, she had to sing it at school assembly—a trauma still not shucked from her atoms. In 2002, she won an Aurealis Award for her short story The Oracle. Since then her stories have been chosen for Year’s Best anthologies in Australia and the US, and for ABC radio broadcast. She is the recipient of a Varuna Retreat Fellowship for her first novel, The Daughters of Moab (2008). Her second novel, The Courier’s New Bicycle (2011) is twenty days in the adrenaline-fuelled life of Salisbury Forth: Animal Protection Vigilante, gender transgressive and accidental sleuth.
Retreat Fellowship at Varuna, May 2005
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