SQUID, AXE, FINGERS AND ME

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By Mario Varricchio

A true but embellished action adventure story about four friends, a stolen guitar, a giant and the power of pastizzi.

It’s GONE…

The Hilux was packed and ready to go, but so full that it’d only have taken a good Bernie Quinlan torpedo kick from Whitten Oval to knock the wheels off. Leaving from Footscray’s old Rising Sun, the car would shortly be heading east to the Tote Hotel, Collingwood for an important gig. The band’s drummer Squid does a final check, “Fingers, where’s ya axe?” Fingers looks up from his phone and says, “I’m gonna take it in the front with me”. After a few more minutes of screwing around they scull their Melbourne Bitter cans in unison, look at each other and again in unison shout “LETS FUCKIN GO!” Having just released an EP they’re hoping this will be the beginning of a hard rocking lifestyle. Twenty minutes later they arrive, pumped! Unpacking the gear Fingers suddenly realizes, “Where’s the Maton??” Squid looks up, “You’re kidding aren’t you? You were gonna have it up front.” After a few minutes of panic, it dawns on them to ring me as I only live around the corner. I answer the call and roar off towards Squid’s place. I change the CD to something more appropriate, Bunyip Skunge (see Issue #18) I get to Squid’s in two minutes flat, expecting to see a guitar case leaning up against his wall. Instead I see nothing. I ring him, “It’s GONE!”

One month later…

“Hey Squid, what’s up?” I say answering my phone. I hear his excitement before he even speaks, “We’ve found the guitar, the Axe found it for sale on Gumtree and it’s literally 15 seconds from my place!” “So what are you going to do?” I ask. His reply is tentative, “Well, I figure if we turn up and there’s four of us we’ll be right if things get ugly”. Before agreeing to help him out I think of all the different scenarios such an expedition could follow. “OK, I’m in”, I finally say begrudgingly, “I hope you’ve got hot Pastizzi for me”. “Maybe”, says Squid laughing, “Meet Fingers at mine in ten and then he’ll walk you around to me, I’m in the car casing this guy’s joint. I don’t have Pastizzi but I may have a Pastizz.”

One thing I’ve learnt from Squid over the years is that one of these delicious Maltese pastry items is called a Pastizz and Pastizzi means more than one. “Just bring what you’ve got, I’m starving!”

I hang up picturing the Squid in his Hilux staking out some guys house, grabbing my black beanie I head out the door.

I get to Squid’s and see Fingers leaning up against the wall on his phone. It’s dark but I can see him there because he’s wearing a high-vis shirt!! “What the Fukushima Fingers, thought this was a stakeout?” I say smiling. “Just knocked off work, stoked to be getting this guitar back!” he replies.

The guitar in question is Fingers’. A rare Maton electric and one that he worked hard to save up for. We walk around the corner to find the Squid sitting in his car all suss like, black beanie, stubbled face all lit up from the glow of his iPhone. “Watch this” I say to Fingers as I sneak up to the driver’s side door and pop my head up and tap loudly on the window. “BAH!” yells Squid as his spinning iPhone lights up the interior like a Blue light disco. Laughing Fingers and I hop in the car.

“That’s the place over there”, says Squid pointing towards a newish designer unit diagonally across from us. “So what’s the deal?” I ask. “Well”, he says “The Axe is in communique with the guy.

Apparently he’s arranged to meet him after seven which is when this guy’s getting home. Axe should be here soon. I figure we knock on the door and three of us stand back while he talks to the guy. Fingers is gonna offer him $100 as a spotters fee”. “Yeah that’s a good idea, I mean, he didn’t steal it he found it and although he legally should have handed it in he really hasn’t done anything else wrong. If anything you bastards should go to jail for treating such a great guitar so disrespectfully.”

We wait…

From what I could gather we didn’t have much info on the guy we were about to meet. We knew that he lived very close to where said guitar went missing and we knew he was expecting to be getting $1100 bucks tonight. “I sure hope he’s not too desperate for a grand. I mean, I hope it’s not going straight to paying off gambling or drug debts!” I think out loud. “I just hope he’s not a big prick.” adds Squid. “I just hope he hasn’t scratched my guitar.” says Fingers from the back. Turning around to Fingers in the back, his face glowing from his phone, I look back at the Squid checking out his black beanie and dark jacket then look back at Fingers with his high-vis top.

“Geez guys lets dim our phones”. Suddenly a car turns the corner; we all look down trying to be invisible. The car passes. “Nah not him”, whispers Squid, “What time is it?” You could tell he was shitting himself. I look at my phone, “It’s 7 now, game faces on boys”, I say rubbing my hands. “What the hell is a game face?” asks Fingers as Squid buries his face in what looks like a Pastizz. “Well”, I reply, “The Squid for example has his Hungry Hippo game face on”. Fingers laughs, which starts me then Squid lurches forward spraying pastry everywhere.

“For Fucks sake” Fingers and I yell in unison. Squid wipes his mouth and looking at me says “Boy we look suss. Take that stupid beanie off”. “Piss off!” I reply “I had mine on first, plus it’s cold, you take yours off. Anyway, where’s my Pastizz?”.

The Squid shoots his arm out and grabs a fistful of pompom and rips my beanie off. Shocked, I lunge at him, trying to do the same but miss and my arm hits the window as Squid tries to wrestle me off him. As Fingers leans in to break us up someone hits the car stereo which blasts out Napalm Death at the volume of a jet engine.

All of a sudden the back door opens and someone jumps in screaming, “Bloody hell you dickheads, the car’s shaking and you guys are making a racket, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone’s called the police, stealth real stealth!” It was The Axe, Fingers’ friend and by all accounts an accomplished metal string bender of some note. “Now, he’s just texted me to say he’s on his way so get ya fuckin game faces on!” The three of us look back and forth at each other and simultaneously piss ourselves with laughter while Axe shakes his head in disapproval. “What have I done?”

He starts to open the door to leave but shuts it quickly as a car turns the corner and into the driveway of the unit we’ve been watching. For probably the first time that night, the Hilux was silent, we all look at each other, game faces on we look back at the car. Out of the front emerges a rather large, strongly built athlete, probably mid 20s and in his prime. He stomps around to the boot, opens it and pulls out a gym bag. “Awesome”, I say, “Straight from the gym and looking pumped. Probably needs the grand to pay off his steroid dealer, how can this go wrong?”

“Nah, nah, it’ll be right, he looks reasonable” Squid reassures me. “Yeah reasonably able to kick our arses”, says Fingers. “Don’t worry, he sounded ok on the phone and he doesn’t look violent.

The Giant slings the gym bag over his shoulder and heads towards the door. A cat rushes out and past him. Startled we watch as the Giant throws down his gym bag and chases the cat swinging his leg out he misses it by inches. He stops and flexes while letting out an enormous roar. Standing there in the moon light I could have sworn he’d just turned into the Hulk!

“Holy shit”, says Fingers “I really love this guitar guys”. The Giant finally unlocks the door and goes inside. “Ok, let’s do this” says Squid, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

We exit the car to the sound of a truck horn blaring not far off on Geelong road. I stop and look over towards the sound and see the glow coming off Whitten Oval. The Doggies must be training.

Axe knocks on the door like a drummer in a technical metal band. Seeing an opportunity I rip into mouthing a heavy and fast baseline then Fingers comes in with the lead. With one foul swoop of hand Squid whacks us each in the back of the head with a timely thud and the impromptu jam ceases.

The door opens and a confused Giant looks at each of us, “Hello?” he says slowly. The Axe pipes up, “Hey man, I spoke to you before about the guitar”. Again he looks at each of us, his mind ticking before he speaks, “No, nah, you’ve got the wrong address”. I stand at the back, phone at the ready. I look at the guys whose faces all seem to be saying “Reeeally?”

Fingers starts up, “You sure mate…the Maton electric?”

They say time slows down just before you die…

As time stood still, I found myself calmly surveying the scene. There’s a step at the front door which we’re below so the Giant looked even bigger as he slowly moved his head from side to side. I looked at his eyes, trying to ascertain his frame of mind. There’s Axe at the front with Squid next to him and slightly behind, then Fingers and then me. Suddenly I sense the Giant retreating and notice him start to shut the door.

“GO, GO, GO” I hear myself shouting in a slowed down muffle as all three of us stumble forward into the Giant pushing him back and into the hallway. “STACKS ON”, I shout as I jump on top of the pile only to be thrown off, landing in the front bedroom. I look up and see myself in the mirror-tiled ceiling, to my left I see Fingers and to my right I see a familiar guitar case.

I look down back at Fingers looking at me. We both look at the case but Fingers is first to grab it and flies out the door.

Following quickly behind I see the Giant standing in the hallway with Axe in a headlock. The Squids off to the side trying to find something in his jacket. While trying to decide whether to stop and help or run, from out of nowhere Squid pulls something out and jumping up like he’s about to slam dunk, presses it into the Giants eyes. Unable to see with his face oozing a strange green paste, he lets go of Axe who picks himself up and flies out the door.

With the Giant stumbling around like Frankenstein, screaming, I turn to Squid and say, “What the fuck was that?” Suddenly his stressed face turns into a smile, “A Pastizz”, he says, “I smashed that motherfucker with a piping hot Pastizz”. “Ricotta or peas?” I ask. “Mushy peas.” he replies. “Still hot?” I enquire. “Man, those things take ages to cool down”. Racing out the door we reach the Hilux to find Fingers grinning inside hugging the guitar like it’s his high school sweetheart.

“What now?” I ask. “Straight to the Footscray Hotel I reckon.” replies Fingers madly waving a $100 bill in our faces. “We just saved a $100 bucks and I got my guitar back!”

“And” adds Squid raising pastry filled hands, “I’ve still got PASTIZZI!”

Mario Varricchio is co-proprietor of arts-focussed café ‘happymaree’ in Yarraville. He cooks, he writes, he draws and is the taker of photos. He also talks.

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