Wellington. Built around a harbour and over major fault lines. The best little capital in the world. Arts and culture. Wellywood. And The Cake Tin. Venue for the Rugby Sevens, every February.*
The day before the Sevens start, there’s a parade: the usual nuns, some Buddhist monks, a group of Chewbaccas, the Upper Hutt Flamingoes, two Captain Americas, Rubik’s Cube girls, The Hulk (several times over), Pirates of the Caribbean, Teenage Ninja Turtles, The Libra Pad Men, Dominoes, many groups of ‘schoolgirls’. Gingerbread people.
Colonel Sanders and His Spices, The Fat Strippers, Ten Guitars, The Free Range Chickens, Speedo cops among police officers of various kinds, The Lady Hot Rods, The Fred Daggs, The Girl Scouts. There’s dancing through Courtenay Place—party central—around and past the bars and cafes and their pavement tables. There are Queens. Tongan Ninjas. There are fire fighters. Sailors. Characters from Street Fighter. Prisoners. Superheroes. Captain Americas. Powder Puffs. Drag jandals (yep). Butterflies. The Labiates. And a Bacchus.
From the edge of the large and raucous crowd, a fit-looking and attractive middle-aged man watches the parade arrive in Civic Square. Jeans and leather jacket. Nose that’s been broken a time or two. Expensive hair cut. Watching, and watchful. Ivan.
The man who taps him on the arm is BIG, too. BIGGER. An elegant brute of a guy. A metrosexual who’d look good on a billboard, selling beer to wine-drinkers. Firefly.
Firefly speaks first.
—Any moment now–
A kid tugs at Firefly’s sleeve.
—Firefly! You going to the Sevens?
Firefly feels other parade watchers edge towards him. Takes a nanosecond after all these years. He catches Ivan’s eye and jerks his head: let’s move. Looks down at the kid. Gives him a gorgeous grin.
And then Firefly slips towards a shadowed corner near the library’s steps, loses the watchers in a few deft moves. As swift as those he makes on the rugby field. He doesn’t lose Ivan, who struts to the corner by another route. The parade and the enthusiastic crowd fill the Square now, and Firefly speaks very quietly to Ivan, without looking at him.
—Over by the City Gallery entrance. Bright green. Huge mask. You might recognise the legs.
—Gotcha. Who’s he s’posed to be?
Desperate to reach the library toilets, a Labiate wearing a lavender-printed robe notices Firefly, wonders about the guy with him. That nose. Another rugby player? She can’t pause for an introduction, even to call and wave.
Ivan watches Bacchus for a moment, dancing with another Labiate. When he turns to speak with Firefly again, Firefly’s gone.
Because I hope you’ll suggest an ending for Hemingway’s, sometimes I’ll supply extra information in NOTES like this.
Civic Square, Wellington So much happens in Civic Square. At the moment, it has astroturf and goalposts. Kids play soccer. There are flash mob hakas. Flash mob trick sessions. Sometimes Civic Square’s chokka—during the Sevens parade, for two minutes’ silence for Christchurch and its earthquakes, for the Hobbit protest a while back, or now, during the Festival of Carnivale. Often it’s almost deserted.
Civic Square is not far from Hemingway’s. And even closer to Courtenay Place. Party central, where it can get a bit nasty.
Bacchus If you’re not familiar with Bacchus, in Roman mythology Bacchus (Dionysus in Greek mythology) is the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy. He’s sometimes shown as a beardless, sensuous, naked or half naked youth, and described as womanly or ‘man-womanish’. Here’s Caravaggio’s The young sick Bacchus/Bacchino Malato (a self-portrait 1593-4).
Bacchus symbolizes the chaotic, dangerous and unexpected and is associated with triumphant and disorderly arrival or return from some place beyond the borders of the known and civilised. Wild women—maenads—and satyrs follow him. And the Labiates? More about them later.
*Know this place? If you don’t, here it is: