Little Emperor Syndrome by David Wright

David Wright is one of five shortlisted contenders for the 2016 City of Fremantle T.A.G. Hungerford Award to be announced at Fremantle Arts Centre on Wednesday 2 November. Here is an extract from his shortlisted manuscript called Little Emperor Syndrome.

Outside the room’s thick windows, thirty-seven floors below, I can hear an overnight delivery truck pump its pistons. I swear I can even make out the muted rattle of C      Perth’s jangling poker machines, clicking roulette wheels, thrumming table games, which, even at this late hour, will still be …

Still are.

… in full operation, will still be collecting money to pay for my salary, for all of C       Limited’s shareholders, for The State Treasury to fund bells for schools, scanners for libraries, flowers for buzzing wasps to pollinate in parklands, rushing waterways, wider expressways for cars to rev and honk: the whole state of Western Australia.

Now more than ever.

Alert. Intensely alert. Alert despite having gulped Pol Roger at the reception.

To be more precise, I consumed 3.5 glasses of champagne, which amounts to over 300 calories, which is in addition to a relatively thick slice of chocolate wedding cake, four bites of grass-fed venison dunked in cherry-Cabernet sauce, 2.5 duck-fat-roasted, heavily-salted potatoes, a chomp of Gruyère-asparagus tart … I am so aware of caloric intake that I cannot appreciate the joys of gluttony, not even on my wedding day.

‘You look beautiful.’

Lachlan’s girlfriend Sasha and Aunt Margaret tell me this. They are the only two that do. Both are liars.

‘I’ve never seen someone implement micro-expression analysis so naturally.’ He, the no-nonsense ex-Officer for the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, the seminar speaker for C       Limited’s series of workshops on negotiation techniques, has no reason to lie. ‘ASIS could use you. We always need gifted body language lie detectors.’

‘You’re a lucky girl.’

This adjective does not sit well.

Lucky. Like Donald Horne’s 1964 assessment of the country. I am a second-rate person run mainly on luck.

Delicately cough and shift my chafed thighs, careful not to wake Aldo. As-of-thirteen-hours-ago, my husband.

No one ever called him ‘lucky’.

Rightfully so.

Remain, despite 3.5 glasses of Pol Roger, despite seven minutes of intercourse preceded by minimal foreplay, alert. Intensely alert. Uncontrollably alert.

Technically a wedding is foreplay.

Crouch, lordotic. Bury my face in the pillow. Fat sags from my gut. Udder-like.

Light trickles through curtain-cracks, daubing the silky layers of my wedding dress. It dangles from a straining hanger. Not ripped. Not tossed aside. Not even left on the floor. It was thoughtfully stowed.

Insist on coitus more ferarum. Even on my honeymoon, do not allow Aldo a position in which he can look into one of my eyes. Certainly not the left, hidden behind a droopy lid, heavily speckled and strabismic.

No matter how many famous crossed-eyed people history provides (Abraham Lincoln, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ayn Rand, Barbara Streisand), every person I meet either thinks I’m looking elsewhere or drunk. There is always that flash of surprise at the discovery that I am not an incoherent idiot.

Sex, doggy-style sex: a relief from all of that.

Been a while since I’ve had relief from anything.

‘I have to do it this way because of my MG.’

Another lie. Prescribed medication is effective, my MG manifestations are not as severe as doctors feared.

For how long, I don’t know. The body is a time bomb.

Everyone explodes eventually.

Fremantle Press is 40! Celebrate the anniversary and the announcement of this year’s winner of the City of Fremantle T.A.G. Hungerford Award at Fremantle Arts Centre on Wednesday 2 November.

Eventbrite - 40 Year Party and City of Fremantle T.A.G. Hungerford Award Announcement

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