Out of It - A novel Cricket novel
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First published in 1987 this novel has acquired something of a cult status among both cricket fans and those interested in experimental prose and bohemian lifestyles. It is set in Auckland in the 1980s and is a mixture of stream of conscious internal dialogue between the main character, PSM, and himself. Externally, it follows the fortunes of the NZ cricket team at Eden Park playing against the world famous 'Out of It' eleven which includes Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Jim Morrison, James K Baxter, Bob Marley, all under the captaincy of Te Rauparaha. Each of the Out of It team includes a literary satire or vignette appropriate to that person. Collages by Greg O'Brien spice up the text and further emphasize the surrealist dada nature of the novel.
From: Out of It - A novel Cricket novel, by Michael O'Leary
As the train pulled out of Morningside Station and swung in a curve to the left in a steady climb towards Kingsland I felt a surge of subdued excitement and illicit pleasure. It was the first illegitimate day that I had taken off work and I remembered with guilt and sheer joy my wife’s voice lying over the telephone as she told my boss that I would not be into the office that day because I had put my back out on the weekend whilst lifting some posts for a fence I was building around our home in New Lynn. It had taken a lot of persuasion and argument the night before to get her to do what she called ‘This immoral act’. I had worked at this government department for nearly ten years, since Maureen and I were first married and had settled down along with the dust, and had never taken a day off.
‘And all for a bloody game of cricket!’ she had screamed in outrage and incomprehension as she envisaged the whole of our safe, secure suburban fortress crumbling into a degenerate void.
‘Don’t shout, dear, you’ll wake the children. It’s only one day and …’
‘Don’t you, don’t wake the children, me! It’s more than “only one day” and you know it. This little escapade threatens everything we’ve worked for and believed in. I thought after ten years you might have changed, but now I see … now I see … Oh! What’s the use!’
Neither of us could say any more that evening but I knew she would do what I wanted. So the next morning I woke not to the usual sound of the 6.30 alarm but to my oldest son and daughter coming in and kissing me goodbye before they left for school.
‘How come dad’s not goin’ to work’
I heard Jenny say and Maureen answer:
‘Well your father’s not well’. Then she came into our room, the baby in one arm and my breakfast begrudgingly balancing in her free hand.
‘There!’ she said, ‘And I hope ya choke on it!’. But as she walked out of the door I heard a stifled chuckle coming from her, and as I watched her back disappear she suddenly became again the beautiful young woman whom I had met at the St Patrick’s Day dance all those years ago.
He stepped down off the train onto what passes for a platform at Kingsland Station. As the old carriages of the City Rail train moved on up towards Mt Eden he had his usual feeling of living in a world which no longer existed. For every day of the last decade when he caught the 7.30 a.m. train from New Lynn and then the 5.15 p.m. home from Auckland, he was aware that he traveled on a transport system which had been condemned to death several times over. As he, Patrick Malone, walked past the Shamrock Rest Home towards Eden Park, he reflected upon metaphoric elements which led him to go out of his way each of these work days in order to catch the train. It was true the bus would be cheaper and quicker and he would have been able to leave his little nest a bit later. He concluded, however, that these were the very reasons he did not follow such logic. It must be an assertion of individuality, a Celtic perverseness against a puritanical system which ensnared his life in so many ways. By catching the train he could, in his own way, make his mark against the English barbarians as if were he in Ireland he might join the Irish Republican Army!
‘Ten dollars, please sir’. Patrick handed over the blue money and walked through the gates to freedom. Yes, that was the only word to describe the feeling he got from being enclosed behind fences in the midst of a multitude of people all assembled together to experience the magic of a game of cricket. He walked around until he found a programme which he purchased along with a hot pie and a can of Coca Cola, then he found a place to settle for the rest of the day. Patrick had brought with himself a small transistor radio for he enjoyed nothing more than the excitement which came from the commentary box. All the wonderful terms, the vast knowledge of the game, and the witty talk from visiting commentators, conspired in him to make him imagine that this must be what heaven was like. Patrick Malone sat alone amidst the steadily building crowd. He was entranced at the variety of people around him, and like a blind person whose eyes are opened after several years of darkness he looked and looked and looked. Eventually his curiosity of events around him diminished and his attention focused on the programme which held all the details of the game itself. The two teams for this One Day International game had never met before: whilst the New Zealand team was a familiar sight to the Eden Park ground, the Invitation Out of It Eleven were wholly new to this part of the world. Some individual names, such as James K. Baxter and Te Rauparaha, the Out of It Captain, were known locally but in the main, whilst people may have heard of individual personalities at various times, they certainly were not known here in the South Pacific as international cricketers. But Patrick Malone was spell-bound as he read over and over the names of his various heroes. He, of course, had followed each of their careers off the twenty-two yard pitch and, unlike most of the Auckland crowd, he supported them against the straight New Zealand eleven. All these years he had been doing all the right things. He was married, had children, a mortgage, was paying off a new car which his wife Maureen used because he refused to drive. It was that and his passion for cricket which Patrick Malone had cherished as his only expression of individuality and rebellion. However’ these feelings and thoughts were far from straightforward. In the days when he himself had been ‘out of it’, he had detested cricket as the ultimate experience of the ‘straight’, elitist, middle-class whom he had despised. But he had detected a certain elitism also amongst his fellow revolutionaries and anarchists which irked him. So, as a test to see how ‘straight’ these so-called ‘out-of-its’ were, he decided to cultivate an interest in the game of Lords. His experiment was an overwhelming success and the result was that Patrick Malone was not only a reject from the society he had rejected, but was also now not accepted by the fringe of society which previously he had accepted.
‘So, here I am sitting on a wooden bench, a rug around my legs, ready to watch another game of cricket. The whole sum of my life is here with me. All that has passed in thought, word, and deed, is now past and here I am, one among many who have also thought, worded and deeded their way through life to this point in time and place. Curious! Absurd! Oh well, I only hope Maureen doesn’t leave me and become just another thing of the past. It would probably appear a fairly minor offence to miss a day off work to go to a cricket game or whatever, but I can see how she’s thinking. She’s afraid of my slipping back into how she thinks I was when I met her’.
At this point a roar went up from the crowd as the two captains, Jeremy Coney and Te Rauparaha, came into the middle of the arena. Eden Park was almost full by this time and the great excitement steadily built as Patrick Malone switched on his radio. Cricket commentary added an almost intangible element to the game and Malone followed every word as though the whole fate and destiny of the world hanged on them.
‘Morning John, welcome once again to New Zealand and welcome listeners to our listeners around the world. Well, what an extraordinary game this should be. The sun is shining, the Eden Park crowd is sparkling. There are a few dark clouds over the Waitakere Ranges but let’s hope the rain stays away and we can all enjoy this tremendous, spectacular day’s cricket. In a moment I’ll run through each of the teams but at this very minute I can see Te Rauparaha toss the coin that will decide who will come into bat … Oh dear! There seems to be some sort of controversy brewing out there even before a ball has been bowled. Te Rauparaha looks very angry and he has quite a reputation for what he might do when his feathers are ruffled. I seem to recall that one time he was so furious that he went to Akaroa or Kaiapoi I think it was … Anyway somewhere in the South Island and …’
‘If I may interrupt Dennis, they seem to have taken a bat out into the middle. It looks like … Oh! How amusing, they are going to decide the toss by throwing the bat in the air and seeing whether it lands on the flat or the back of the bat’.
‘I haven’t seen that done since we played at school some thirty or forty years ago. I can’t even guess what that was about, can you John?’
‘Not for the life of me! Oh well, no doubt we’ll find out in due course. Now if I may, I’ll just run through the two teams and perhaps we could make a few comments on selection and some of the player’s recent form …’
‘Hello, Kia ora, did you hear the one about the fella who ran a fast letter delivery service using a dog. His firm was called Kuria – heh heh heh’.
‘Oh, hello. I’d like to welcome to the commentary box one of our guest commentators, Billy T. Ubufella. And I believe you can enlighten us on the goings on out on the pitch, Billy’.
‘Yeah, and gidday Dennis, John, and everyone. I just been talking to John Wright and he is the man who will vice captain the New Zealand team. He said that all the huhah was about Te Rauparaha taking exception to calling a Māori head a tail and they used one of those ten cents and Jeremy Coney baby called tails. He won, but Te Rauparaha said that’s not a tail, it’s a Māori head. Anyway, he got angry looking like he might eat someone, and so the umpire says we’ll do it like when we was boys, eh boys, and that’s it’.