February 2011

A New Zealand Literary Showcase

Issue 14 Guest Artist:
Gordon Walters

Past Features:
Glasgow Voices
Volta: A Multilingual Anthology
(One poem: 93 languages)

15 Miami Poets

President: Peter Robertson
Vice-President: Sari Nusseibeh
Advisory Consultant: Jill Dawson
General Editor: Beatriz Hausner
Art Editor: Calum Colvin
Deputy General Editor: Jeff Barry

Consulting Editors
Marjorie Agosín
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Maria Teresa Andruetto
Frank Ankersmit
Rosemary Ashton
Reza Aslan
Leonard Barkan
Michael Barry
Shadi Bartsch
Thomas Bartscherer
Susan Bassnett
Gillian Beer
David Bellos
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Sujata Bhatt
Mario Biagioli
Jean Boase-Beier
Elleke Boehmer
Eavan Boland
Stephen Booth
Alain de Botton
Carmen Boullossa
Rachel Bowlby
Svetlana Boym
Peter Brooks
Marina Brownlee
Roberto Brodsky
Carmen Bugan
Jenni Calder
Stanley Cavell
Sampurna Chattarji
Sarah Churchwell
Hollis Clayson
Sally Cline
Kristina Cordero
Drucilla Cornell
Junot Díaz
André Dombrowski
Denis Donoghue
Ariel Dorfman
Rita Dove
Denise Duhamel
Klaus Ebner
Robert Elsie
Stefano Evangelista
Orlando Figes
Tibor Fischer
Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Peter France
Nancy Fraser
Maureen Freely
Michael Fried
Marjorie Garber
Anne Garréta
Marilyn Gaull
Zulfikar Ghose
Paul Giles
Lydia Goehr
Vasco Graça Moura
A. C. Grayling
Stephen Greenblatt
Lavinia Greenlaw
Lawrence Grossberg
Edith Grossman
Elizabeth Grosz
Boris Groys
David Harsent
Benjamin Harshav
Geoffrey Hartman
François Hartog
Siobhan Harvey
Molly Haskell
Selina Hastings
Valerie Henitiuk
Kathryn Hughes
Aamer Hussein
Djelal Kadir
Kapka Kassabova
John Kelly
Martin Kern
Mimi Khalvati
Joseph Koerner
Annette Kolodny
Julia Kristeva
George Landow
Chang-Rae Lee
Mabel Lee
Linda Leith
Suzanne Jill Levine
Lydia Liu
Margot Livesey
Julia Lovell
Laurie Maguire
Willy Maley
Alberto Manguel
Ben Marcus
Paul Mariani
Marina Mayoral
Richard McCabe
Campbell McGrath
Jamie McKendrick
Edie Meidav
Jack Miles
Toril Moi
Susana Moore
Laura Mulvey
Azar Nafisi
Paschalis Nikolaou
Martha Nussbaum
Tim Parks
Molly Peacock
Pascale Petit
Clare Pettitt
Caryl Phillips
Robert Pinsky
Elena Poniatowska
Elizabeth Powers
Elizabeth Prettejohn
Martin Puchner
Kate Pullinger
Paula Rabinowitz
Rajeswari Sunder Rajan
James Richardson
François Rigolot
Geoffrey Robertson
Ritchie Robertson
Avital Ronell
Élisabeth Roudinesco
Carla Sassi
Michael Scammell
Celeste Schenck
Sudeep Sen
Hadaa Sendoo
Miranda Seymour
Mimi Sheller
Elaine Showalter
Penelope Shuttle
Werner Sollors
Frances Spalding
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Julian Stallabrass
Susan Stewart
Rebecca Stott
Mark Strand
Kathryn Sutherland
Rebecca Swift
Susan Tiberghien
John Whittier Treat
David Treuer
David Trinidad
Marjorie Trusted
Lidia Vianu
Victor Vitanza
Marina Warner
David Wellbery
Edwin Williamson
Michael Wood
Theodore Zeldin

Associate Editor: Neil Langdon Inglis
Assistant Editor: Ana de Biase
Assistant Editor: Eugenio Conchez
Assistant Editor: Patricia Delmar
Assistant Editor: Sophie Lewis
Assistant Editor: Siska Rappé
Assistant Editor: Robert Toperter
Art Consultant: Verónica Barbatano
Art Consultant: Angie Roytgolz

Click to enlarge picture Click to enlarge picture. Snow on the Desert Road by John MacKinven  


The Army museum was shut for the day, looking like an abandoned sandcastle when Simon shot past on his way to Turangi. He was racing the tide himself, winter’s worst front roiling up the island behind him. It was raining now and six or eight big rigs, beached whales, were lined up in the pub’s vast car park.

The truckies were waiting it out, every reason for a night on the turps.

Just north of Waiouru the road lifted Simon into an even bleaker world. Not quite six o’clock and it was pitch-black out there. He punched his way across the bandwidth, turned up a weather warning through the static: ‘. . . snow down to seven hundred metres and heavy falls expected tonight on the Central Plateau.’ Only just in time then. So much the better if they closed the Desert Road behind him.

Jesus, this weather.

The wipers were close to useless, the heater struggled. His whole being was clenched like a fist around the wheel. Calm down Simon, focus on the road. Or you won’t make it.

He didn’t just have to be at the fishing lodge by seven, he needed to show up for dinner in smart casuals, buffed and chirpy like it’d been a great day out on the river whatever the weather. As long as he did, no one would connect him to what had happened in a Foxton Beach holiday home a couple of hours ago.

‘My catch? It’s in the smoker,’ he’d say if they asked.

The radio still stuttered. The Warratahs: ‘Before this night is through’, an old favourite. He was steady on 130 kph, nothing in the high beam but a million bullets of rain coming straight at him. He fiddled with the tuner.

Another time he might have enjoyed the drive. But he couldn’t stop picking over everything, checking for flaws. Drop the car in Taupo mid-morning. Pay cash for an InterCity bus ticket home. The dodgy licence he’d burn later. The gun and silencer would go into the lake at a quiet lay-by.

He squeezed more sound from the radio so he could hear the lyrics over the wipers, the drumming of the rain, the replay in his head of McCorquodale pleading. The bastard was gibbering before Simon squeezed the trigger. He needed McCorquodale out of his head.

I killed him, and still I can’t shift him.

He wasn’t sorry he made the prick wait to die. No price was high enough. All the poor suckers he robbed of their life’s savings. Greedy no doubt, some of them – others just naïve, trusting. Everyone Jay McCorquodale ripped off would be a suspect: there were plenty. Simon hardly topped the list. And he’d have his alibi.

Jesus Simon, slow down.

He’d burned up the long straights. He was hitting the first fierce set of twists and turns. A vision played in his head – hurtling end-over-end into one of these sudden mysterious ravines – and switched off again as he fishtailed through the trickiest bits, shot into the clear. There’d be no ice, it was too wet.

‘Six-fifteen,’ said the radio and Bruce Springsteen was next on the playlist. ‘Nebraska.’ Crime and punishment, straps across his chest, too close to the bone. The noise McCorquodale made as he died. Worse than the begging. He’d always hear it, sleepless at three in the morning, whenever he thought about dying, that choking, sucking, gasping cough.

Simon flew through the next winding dip in the road, braking into each bend and accelerating out, revs drowning the Boss’s drawl. In spite of the heater his hands were frozen to the wheel. The adrenalin kept him from feeling any pain.

When he hit the third set of hairpins he needed that surge in the blood. Reduce Speed. The big sign barely visible in the headlights, the driving rain turned to sleet and the wipers labouring. The snow must be close behind. Faster, though at the next twist in the road it said reduce speed now. okay, okay, but all the same he flung the car into the last bend, the devil’s elbow where the bridge crossed a mountain creek and the sign screamed 25. The road kept bending, tighter and tighter till he was on full lock, till he was running out of road and out of luck, leaving the highway, airborne and rolling, replaying the everlasting instant from first to final pressure on the trigger.

He woke so cold he couldn’t feel his feet. Seemed like he was upside down, wedged in, head rammed against the roof. There was pain from parts of him he could locate, his right arm and his neck and his head. But his brain was working.

So was the radio.

‘. . . it’s seven fifty-five. News and weather at the top of the hour. That’s almost it for our country music special tonight and we’re signing off with a number from Wellington troubadours the Windy City Strugglers. This one’s more blues than country, and according to the Met Service it could prove prophetic. It’s called ‘Snow on the Desert Road’.

Legs useless, left arm hurting too much to move, listening to Rick Bryant’s aching voice plead ‘Couldn’t make it . . .’. Ticking off the bits under control. His right hand might obey him if the fingers weren’t numb with cold.

It wasn’t just the radio he could hear. A slow, steady, dripping sound. His own blood, leaking from a wound he couldn’t feel? Petrol, pooling, waiting for a spark?

And the fan. Still rumbling, lazy now, battery fading, recycling air with less than no warmth in it. Though the glass had to be intact. Or he’d be meat in the freezer by now. Even so his Swanndri was about as warm as a cotton T. There was a rug in the back but it might as well be in his centrally-heated room at the lodge.

Jesus! His cell phone. In the bag velcroed to the dash, just about reach it with his right hand.

The bag was upside down. Empty.

He’d be seen from the road, surely? Someone would stop, call emergency services.

But when he tuned into the radio again, the disembodied voice trickling into his ice cave had news especially for him: ‘. . . the road closures are unlikely to be reviewed until late tomorrow. They include State Highway 4 through National Park, and State Highway 1, the Desert Road.’