What do Stephen King, God, that chick who wrote Harry Potter and yours truly have in common? We’re all best-selling authors with millions of fans. Alright, I might be exaggerating a bit by putting myself in such elite company, but I have just released a new novel. It’s called I Will Hunt Them Down Like Dogs and it’s a revenge thriller set in a nightmarish vision of Samoa. It’s available on the Kindle store right now, but if you’d like to read the start of it to see what it’s like, scroll down. There aren’t a lot of jokes in it, but there’s sex and violence and all that good stuff, so I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
Scumbag Johnny was one minute from dying on the piss-stained floor of a public toilet block on the outskirts of Newcastle. If a drunken teenager hadn’t stumbled in on his way home and seen Scumbag lying there with a needle in his arm and foam spilling from his mouth, it would’ve been the end.
If an ambulance wasn’t called, if he wasn’t taken to hospital, if a group of tired doctors hadn’t brought him back from the brink, Scumbag wouldn’t have embarked on adventure that took him across the ocean to a savage island. He wouldn’t have had a chance to see unimaginable violence and indescribable beauty. If Scumbag hadn’t made it, he wouldn’t be sitting opposite Sia Faumuina in a dingy, windowless room at the end of a long hall at the Barton Rehabilitation Clinic, with rusted water pipes banging outside like an unwelcome visitor.
Sia’s hulking frame took up most of the room, and his body odour took up most of the rest. It was a scorching day but they were locked inside, away from temptation, like animals.
It’s not like Scumbag needed much space anyway. His heavily-tattooed arms were thin and weak, his face pale and skeletal. The faded remains of his blue mohawk were slicked to his skull, where fur was starting to grow over home-made tatts, like weeds taking over a long-forgotten garden. He sighed and lay back on his rusty cot, looked up at the ceiling.
“So why do they call you Scumbag?” Sia’s voice snapped Scumbag out of his daze. They’d shared a room for six weeks and Sia hadn’t said a word for the first four, so his soft islander tone still came as a surprise. The big man cradled a bible in one thick arm and wore a smile on his face, and Scumbag couldn’t help thinking how different this man was from the wild-eyed monster he’d first met when they were brought here.
“Look at me, I am a scumbag,” he replied. “I’m a drug-addicted piece of shit, I’ve let down everybody I’ve ever known, been to jail…”
“I don’t mean that. We’re all scumbags, this is a drug rehab clinic, bro. But why is that your nickname? Where did it come from?”
“Well, you know I’m in a band. Well, was in a band.”
“You’ve mentioned it a time or two. They were called, ah, The Fucks, if I remember.”
“Right. The Fucks. Can’t forget the name, I’ve got it tattooed right above my heart. Well, growing up, all I ever wanted to be was a punk rock singer.” Scumbag sat up, then paused. Throughout his time at the clinic, as he shook and sweat and puked as his body struggled to come off the drugs, he’d resisted opening up. Part of it was his ingrained anti-authoritarian attitude. For someone with ‘Fuck the police’ inked on his neck, talking about feelings and all that bullshit to a counsellor doesn’t come easily. The other reason was that, without the safety blanket of drugs and alcohol, the past looked a whole lot darker. “You know, when I was a kid and stuff was bad at home, I could always put my headphones on and listen to music. I’d listen to a song, imagine being up there on stage, away from all my problems. Away from my parents, away from the kids at school who would beat the shit out of me. All I ever wanted to be was the lead singer of a punk rock band. And so one day I shaved my head and became Scumbag Johnny. I stopped letting people push me around and became to baddest fucking skinhead in town.”
“And what about that little boy? What happened to him?”
“That’s all you’re getting out of me today, Sia.”
“OK.” Sia opened the bible and started reading while the water pipes thumped around outside.
“So what about you?” Scumbag finally asked. “We get out of this shithole tomorrow. You look like you’re doing pretty well. Where are you going to go?”
“Back home. Back to Samoa. I’ve brought a lot of shame to my family, with my drug abuse and the time I’ve spent in jail. I came to Australia to earn money for my family, to make them proud, but all I created was a trail of destruction.” Scumbag could see a tear in the corner of Sia’s eye, but the big man didn’t let it fall. “It’s time to go back home and make things better. Go back and help with the family business, away from all the temptations of Australia.”
“Nice work if you can get it. Must be good to have people you can rely on.”
“It’s more than I deserve. And you?”
“Well, my band sure as hell doesn’t want me back. Not after the, ah, incident. I’ll land on my feet, I always do. But the idea of survival seems a whole lot harder without drugs to soften the edges.”
“You think you’ll relapse?”
“I have every time before. What can I say, I like drugs and they like me.”
“Even though they almost killed you?”
“We all have to go sometime, Sia. I can’t see myself eating my vegetables and saying my prayers and living to 100. And I’m tired, I’m always so damn tired.”
Sia looked down at his bible, flicked through a few pages, and read for a few minutes. Scumbag just sat there, looking into space, thinking of nothing. It had been a long time since he’d had good thoughts.
The big man put the bible down and leant forward. His cot squealed in pain as he did so, until his face was close to Scumbag’s. “Why don’t you come with me?”
“Come with you? Where?”
“To Samoa. You can stay with my family and help out with the business. Eat good food, enjoy the sun, and stay away from temptation.”
“Do I look like the sort of guy who enjoys the sun?” Scumbag held out his pale, inked arms, and Sia smiled.
“To be honest, you look like you would burst into flames if you stepped into the sun, bro. But it would be good for you. A fresh start. I worry that if I leave you behind, that will be the end of you. And I consider you a friend.”
“Shit, big man, are we going to hug now?” Scumbag thought of his accommodation options when he got out. There was a halfway house back home in Gosford, where he could share a room with three lunatics and a thousand cockroaches. Maybe he could find a friend who would let him sleep on the lounge. Maybe. The options weren’t exactly tempting.
“Alright, fuck it, I’ll come with you. Lying on the sand and drinking from a coconut doesn’t sound all that bad. But if I end up marrying one of those weird ladyboy things they have out on the islands, I’m blaming you.”
“They’re called fa’afafine and they wouldn’t go for someone like you. They like a bit more meat on the bones, you know. I’ll give my parents a call, let them know to expect company.”
“And Johnny,” Sia said softly, enveloping Scumbag’s hand with own and shaking it warmly, “this is your one chance to make things better. Don’t fuck it up.”
If you’d like to read more, the full novel is available on the Kindle store.