Fool’s Gold, Fred Shallcrass
Text by Harry Wilson.
First published in Manual #27, December 2010.
Those that have grown up around Fred have been witness to his development from young rascal into the windswept interesting male you see in these pages. He has come a long way in the last few years; from a cheeky 12 year old he has evolved into a menacingly funny gentleman, although it was an arduous task for his parents and friends to sculpt the heart of pyrite he possesses today. In the equivalent of a 21st birthday revelation I would like to provide you with a small collection of stories to give you a peek behind his hurtful, caustic remarks and insight into why he is the person he is today. I suggest you imagine each story read aloud and the awkward look on Fred’s face as we shed some light on his mischievous past.
When Fred was at school he wasn’t a poor child as such, however he developed a habit of earning a coin incentive by performing stunts in order to buy extra lunch from the canteen. These stunts could range from jumping off a balcony into some bushes to sneaking into a locked classroom, and the greater the risk, the greater the payout. The fourth form favourite involved chocolate milk and a severed piece of flax. The other kids felt it was hilariously grotesque and strange, and probably still to this day can’t understand why he would do it. Fellow students would buy Fred a litre bottle of chocolate milk on the condition he drink it in the least possible time and follow it up with a chaser of the juice from a broken end of flax. It tasted absolutely horrible, the most bitter gut-wrenching flavour imaginable. Now, I’m not sure if you know what happens after you consume that much chocolate milk. Let me tell you. First: your tummy bloats. Second: the redecoration of plants and trees with a fountain of chocolate and various food items. Students took great delight in the new shade Fred coloured the garden.
Fred’s career as an amateur hair stylist never really took off because unfortunately his skateboarding took priority and no one would trust his skills with a pair of scissors; this certainly didn’t stop him from trying. By using himself as a test subject Fred has fashioned some of the most impressive haircuts with little more than nail clippers, a razor and a bowl. He has gone through skinhead, bowl cut and rat’s tail phases, stopping just short of getting dreadlocks. Although he has stated on numerous occasions that he doesn’t like any excess trinkets or jewellery it’s clear he treats his hair as some twisted form of self-expression. After flirting with various colours and stages of mohawk his rebellious streak finally shone through with a haircut that can only be deemed a “monk-let” (think shaved top with long, free flowing back; worship up front, party in the back). His school didn’t take kindly to Fred’s act of rebellion and he was ordered by the deputy principal to “shave that abomination off”. There was a hilarious turn of events over the next few weeks as legions of the school’s beloved athletes turned up with haircuts strangely reminiscent of Fred’s concept cut. After hitting puberty recently (at age 19) his eccentricities seem to have settled down, causing him to grow out his bowl cut into a nondescript mane which has been accentuated by a healthy moustache.
“A haircut that can only be deemed as a “monk-let” (think shaved top with long, free flowing back – worship up front, party in the back).”
Fred’s tendency to mildly inconvenience people led him to wander through adult shops in search of the perfect gift for his friend Roger Pimblott’s birthday. After two or three failures he finally stumbled across the holy grail of ‘man-servant replicas’, a saucy blue metallic number complete with several speed settings that he named ‘Shocking Blue Devastator’ (as you can imagine this was quite the mouthful in casual conversation). So picture Fred strutting into Roger’s birthday party, pint in hand, weapon in holster searching around for people to lightly torture. If the photos of the night are anything to go by, he spent the entire night flitting around the room greeting each guest with a polite hello and a complimentary stir of the drink with Shocking Blue. I’m not sure if he even gave it to Roger as a gift. I’m assuming it’s being used at his family home as a doorstop or a paperweight, waiting for the moment Fred is finally invited back to a party.
He could be the only person to break his nose while skateboarding. A week later, in another stroke of bad luck after an altercation involving a Burger King poster, a stolen skateboard and a hostile security guard, Fred had his front tooth chipped by the truck of the skateboard. Now, Fred works for a distribution company and amongst his daily tasks of ordering stock, supplying shops and designing mailouts his job requires a fair deal of customer interaction. Fred’s not really the type to be wrapped in cotton wool so he turned up the next day and did his best to maintain some form of contact with his clients. The result of his injuries forced him to communicate in a system of grunts and tribal noises (which did nothing to take the sting off his insults) until the security guard could pay for his dental surgery. Bad things come in threes as they say, and his third and final piece of bad luck was when the court declared the guard void of responsibility for any injury caused. I’m assuming something snapped in Fred’s head after this. Eventually his nose healed and his tooth was fixed, however we spent the better part of the two years we lived, played, and worked together communicating through his archaic medium.
Of all the vices that people tend to fall victim to at some stage in their life Fred has had a relatively innocent run, but unfortunately for him the deadly sin of gluttony has bought him a ticket straight to hell. His eating habits are appalling! The typical menu on any given day reads like a bulimic pig-out—pies, chocolate, curry, burgers, ice cream etc, often all in one sitting. He’s a growing boy and all, but his body has been held hostage by his bottomless stomach, and for whatever reason his body width has never caught up. It’s concerning to think which direction he will stretch within the next few years. Though not all is well, a trip to McDonalds usually raises his cholesterol to dangerous levels. Lunchtime yields the Mac-Pounder—a Quarter Pounder inside a Big Mac (which is every bit as intimidating as it sounds). This signature burger is fattening to look at and is consumed with blatant disregard for the health of his mind and body. Fred takes great delight in people’s criticism of his eating habits, consuming each greasy morsel with an open mouth, to the disgust of all in his presence—each bite feeding the legions in hell below.
Keeping the last story in mind, Fred used to spend his rainy Friday nights bored witless. Entertainment available as a young man in Wellington is limited, often consisting of heckling the lovely ‘women’ of Marion Street, which usually ended with us scampering in different directions away from a brick-toting lady-boy. To combat the mundanity of this all too regular occurrence we developed a routine of visiting public toilets around central Wellington and leaving our own nuggets of wisdom on the bathroom floor. For many of us, stage fright and constipation were obstacles in the way of our foul little prank. Not for Fred; his food intake allowed him to lay some monstrous coils and logs. The most impressive of all Fred’s creations was on the floor of a very expensive marble hotel bathroom. It must have been the donor kebab he had for breakfast because this thing was nearly a foot in length. Let me say it’s hilarious how similar the Council’s toilet cleaners looked to the Marion Street girls when chasing Fred out of the cubicles and into the rain.
There are aspects of history that can leave you cringing when told to friends and family in public and these are by no means the worst skeletons Fred has in his closet. While his formative years were spent as a meddling scamp, as he’s grown older these little pranks have transformed into an acidic wit, replacing the letterbox explosions with finely honed one-liners. You should keep some of these things in mind if you bump into Fred in public, he might seem cordial, mature and friendly these days but he is capable of reducing you to tears within a few piercing words. Don’t let it happen, bring up a couple of these stories, I’m sure he’ll take it back… or stir your drink.