Newcastle Herald short story competition finalist 2018: The Lone Starboy

WORTH 1000 WORDS: Each day we will publish a finalist in the Herald short story
competition. The winner will be announced on January 27. Picture: Simone De Peak
WORTH 1000 WORDS: Each day we will publish a finalist in the Herald short story competition. The winner will be announced on January 27. Picture: Simone De Peak

KURT Laird was 21. He had always been 21, he had never been 20 and he would never turn 22. On the 21st day of the 12th month every year Kurt, or really his essence, moved.

He had no choice, it was just what happened, the person he left would never remember his influence, all he knew was that the 22nd, 23rd and 24th never existed and he would be someone and somewhere else on his birthday – the 25th of December was always memorable.

The first birthday he could remember was when she walked naked into a backyard in Texas. Not the second largest state of the United States but Texas Queensland, the tobacco capital of Australia. She grabbed her cream moleskins and a blue-and-white checked shirt, with a scruffy dog and the words Blue Bell embroidered over her left breast, from the Hills Hoist, and slid her feet into the R.M. Williams boots at the back door, which fitted perfectly.

She went into the kitchen picked up a large roast turkey and carried it into the dining room as her family sang buon compleanno Alessia. The turkey was bellissimo; Nona had stuffed it with apples, apricots and macadamia nuts from their orchard.

Mamma would never use apricots when she prepared the bird, Alessia thought to herself.

“Papa,” Alessia sought her father’s attention. “Have you read about the Nazis’ anti-smoking campaign during the war ...”. Her father cut her off: “Ally, cigarettes are our livelihood, you know that would be the death of us, everything we have worked for is on this farm.”

Something in Alessia stirred. It was warm and she had never felt it before. She wanted to stand up to her father and say “But it’s cigarettes that are killing people. It’s what killed Mamma ...”.

Kurt cleared his head, remembered the insignificance of genders, and laughed. LGBTQIA, huh, at various stages he/she had been them all and others that the current generations had never thought or heard of.

The transfers were always random and non-linear. Even if he was lost in space for three days, he remembered with clarity the years of being 21 ... 

Alessia Solanales 1945

Isaac Newton 1663

Dorothy Wordsworth 1792

Quentin Crisp 1929

Humphrey Bogart 1920

Justin Trudeau 1992

Cab Calloway 1923

Des Collins 1952

Shane MacGowan 1979

Sissy Spacek 1960

Annie Lennox 1975

Rod Sterling 1946

Kurt Laird, 2017. Number 72. With a shock of black, unruly hair and a pencil-thin moustache, his time had arrived. He felt that familiar completeness that welcomed him on the first day of the transfer; a smooth, deep inner warmth filled his soul. Kurt arrived at number 572 Hunter Street – a strange coincidence he thought –  in a beaten-up hired van from Kogarah via Artarmon, to collect his meagre belongings … two guitars, two amplifiers, a classic Tony Parker lounge and armchair, a framed Texan state flag, a bright red pushbike, that Ang had bought for him, a white sleigh-style king single bed and a basket full of unwashed clothes.

The white, graffitied panel-lift garage door on the back lane of number 572 squeaked opened magically and Kurt swung the van into the designated car space. He cut the engine and opened the driver-side door and was engulfed by arms, legs, hair and lips, smothering his whole being.

Angela Lee could not contain herself.

“I can’t believe you are finally here.” 

It had been too long.

She looked over Kurt’s shoulder at the bed in the back of the van. “You won’t be needing that anymore, leave it in the garage; I’ll get my dad to take it away tomorrow.”

Kurt, for the first time felt overwhelmed by love, unconditional, exhilarating, tail-wagging love. He responded equally to Ang, this 20-something playwright launching her career and wanting to be with him.

Kurt’s thoughts randomised but always congregated in a neat dozen which slightly annoyed him ...

Quit smoking


Wandering lonely

A naked civil servant



Jazz music

A lemon tree

A dirty old town

Coal mining

Human rights 

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone, why did his thoughts end on that? He’d always thought he was not from this world. What was the go with the three missing days? Some sort of resurrection …

Bullshit, he thought.

Kurt refocused. Ang had disengaged, and he grabbed her back, throwing his arms around her, collecting and swinging her off her feet with sheer delight. Ang squealed: “You are the first guy to move in”.

Kurt laughed deeply, the best laugh he had ever heard. This year would be the start of everything. He felt so small but connected to everything, inside himself and outside as far as the universe had expanded. He felt the Big Bang was occurring here and now at the Star Apartments and Hotel with Ang Lee. In 72 years he had never felt this alive.

Kurt had enrolled to study at the School of Creative Industries which, like him, had just moved into town, co-located with the Faculties of Law and Business at the University of Newcastle’s, NeW Space Campus, a dynamic architectural collision of glass and sandstone in a building on the corner of Hunter and Auckland, 200 metres from his and Ang’s new home.

Kurt and Newcastle had woken up – the cataclysm of space, time, matter and sound had meaning. This was the right time, in the right place and no more straight lines when it came to music.