developed for Griffith REVIEW

AT TEN THE sun finally sets and the pub fills up and the news comes on. It’s my round. A couple of aunties up the back give me a nod but everyone else looks pakeha. The publican looks at my tarred hands. You must be one of the roading gang boys, he says. I’m Don. Got any ID?

There’s a couple of bushwalkers sitting at the end of our table when I get back. Cheers. Cheers. A news item comes on about the Ruatoki terror raids.

Farkin rubbish, says the first bushwalker. Eight million bucks of surveillance and they catch some guys shooting pigs in the hills.

Shooting their mouths off in the pub, more like. Cops’ve been watching too many movies, says his mate. They reckoned there’d be grenades and napalm and all they got was three old rifles. Like there’d be Maori terror camps in New Zealand.

Taihoa puts down his beer and leans in close. Nah, he says quietly. It’s for real.

What is? the first guy says.

The training camps. Cops found nothing ’cause they’re stupid. The real guns are buried. My cousin went to that training camp. It was awesome.

The two guys go real quiet.

Cops only found the one camp, Taihoa says, but there’s heaps. That’s why we’re down here. Got work on the roading gang so we got an excuse to come to the island and train. He nods over at a bunch of fishermen at the pool table. Those guys too. They’re hardcore.

What do they teach you? the first guy whispers.

Taihoa glances round, then leans in even closer. It’s the al-Qaeda training manual but with a Maori flavour. Mostly heavy weapons and explosives but they throw in some taiaha and waiata and a bit of cannibalism too.

The guy sprays his beer all over the table. JJ’s pretending to look for something under his chair so they can’t see his face.

And bushcraft, Taihoa says. When we get the signal we gotta leave the cities and live off the fat of the land. Or the fat of our enemies.

The two guys are staring at Taihoa. Now’s my chance.

He’s just taking the piss, I say. The real danger is the octopus.

At that the boys just lose it. The what? JJ gasps.

The octopus.

Farkin yeah, splutters Taihoa. You tell ’em. The al-Qaeda terrorist octopus.

I’m serious, I say. There’s a giant octopus out in the bay. If we make a wrong move and wake him up, we’re done.

Read the full story in Griffith REVIEW’s Annual Fiction Edition. This is an old version of the piece that appears in Arms Race.

Probably my favourite of the whole collection, Nicolas Low’s ‘Octopus’ , is set in New Zealand and cleverly combines Maori culture with fears of terrorism, fears of the outsider, and fears of an ancient, apocalyptic understanding.

- Bookseller + Publisher Magazine

Where … others use traditional narrative forms … Nicolas Low moves to more experimental registers in Octopus … Indeed, there is not a flat note in this collection. It shows us Australian contemporary fiction is in fine fettle.

- Weekend Australian

Read an interview about the genesis of the story: http://griffithreview.com/insight-in-the-mind-of-the-writer/interview-with-nicolas-low-author-of-octopus

Image by Phineas Jones (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
  • Client - Griffith REVIEW
  • Date Completed - December 2011
  • Details - Copyright Griffith REVIEW and Nic Low