This is the raw and mostly unedited opening scene of Lucas’s story (the third story in my set)… located in South Brisbane. The moment with the men’s choir comes direct from my own experience, hurrying up the road on the way to South Bank Station in late September, on my way to Conflux in Canberra!
Lucas stopped on the corner of Hope Street trying to work out where the voices came from. They cut an unexpected harmonic through the monotonous growl of idling engines punctuated by moments of loud music as a car sped past against the growing snarl of traffic.
The voices weren’t coming from the ugly white block of the TLC building on the other side of Peel Street. The building which temporarily became a church when Father Peter Kennedy’s mob lost their bid to keep him at St Mary’s and they opened space for him to continue to say Mass there. Luke hadn’t been to Mass in years, but Ally insisted they go and he sat there, imaging his bum on the seat as a finger to the Catholic Church. The middle finger. He liked that idea. And now they were outsing Father Bob down in South Melbourne. The local dioceses really were hell bent on emptying out their churches. Even he’d be hard pressed to sell the Catholic church back to its flock these days.
The crunch of steel against concrete reminded him the corner behind him, once a car park, was now a construction site – 25 more storeys of two bedroom apartments, almost inner city apartments, vapid glass and steel vying for its place in the changing South Brisbane skyline. At least they didn’t knock down the halfway house beside – just the odd block of shops adjoining the car park, where he used to stop in and get flowers for Ally when they first dated.
The corner to his right stood vacant, except for the towering concrete support of bridge which took the train into South Brisbane station, posters in varying stages of decay clinging to the greyness.
He pushed his sunglasses down his nose to look closer at the newish grey building dead ahead, the voices stopping under his scrutiny, as though their song wasn’t intended for anyone, least of all a soulless advertising exec, standing there having a moment on the street corner. Like voices hushing and shutters slamming shut against the plague in a movie. But the shutters weren’t closed, they were all open, an entire wall of louvres, lining the side of the building facing him. A horizontal bank of shelves set up to catch the afternoon breeze. How was it he’d never seen that aspect of the building before?
Luke marvelled at the way the late afternoon sun lavished the wooden louvres with golden hues, caressing them with the care and attention of a lover. A money shot if he’d ever seen one, and he’d seen plenty in his ten years in advertising. He reached around for his camera and remembered he no longer carried it. When was the last time he carried a camera? He couldn’t honestly remember. He wouldn’t defile the beauty it with a dinky shot taken on his iPhone. It deserved better anyway. Better than him and his world framed by advertising hype.
The voices started again and he realised that beyond the wooden shutters, a men’s choir congregated, rows and rows of them, looking like a living jigsaw through the louvres. They all wore odd looking vestments, colours constantly shifting in the filter of the sun. The voices rose and swelled, words woven with harmony; music for the pure joy of it, not because someone paid them to do it.
Goose bumps pricked up beneath his Industrie shirt and down his arm, beyond the rolled up cuff, a million hillock spawning toward his wrist.
He ran his hand through his hair, pushed the sunglasses back up onto the bridge of his nose. Christ he needed a sea change if he was caught on a street corner, in peak hour traffic, having a heightened moment of experience from a men’s choir. Maybe he’d sucked up too many exhaust fumes. Or perhaps he was facing up to his own burn out.
Every detail is so crisp and vivid in this piece. Your writing remains utterly astounding.