The Continuing Adventures Of Alice Spider: A Selection
Alice In The Eighties
I am a woman of the world, thinks Alice Spider
and I belong in this city.
This morning a visitor arrives at her flat: Peter
Benzedrine – an intelligent and generic young
man and incipient junkie. Alice makes them each
a cup of instant coffee, milk and one. Peter
Benzedrine rambles on. Stop the Tour, Vote
Labour, Save the Forests, Prevent the
Exploitation of Women in Advertising. Alice stops
listening, concentrates instead on his clear, grey
eyes, curled lashes, bare neck. You’re a good
listener, says Peter Benzedrine. No Nukes,
Education Cuts Don’t Heal. An image flashes into
Alice’s mind; she sees him ashen, lifeless, the red
splash of blood across his chest. Alice the Knife.
Sometimes she laughs, sometimes she cries,
sometimes she just doesn’t care.
1982. Start the year with a bong; deep
inhalations with fun-loving companions, then it’s
away to socialise. A guy called Jake is driving.
It’s not his real name. The car is green. Another
car heads straight towards them in slow motion
and Gosh Dad Look. No-one panics, but they’re
all thinking this is the big D. Fortunately a few
unanaesthetised cells are left in the brain of the
guy called Jake but not really called Jake and in
slow motion the green car goes up, up on to the
pavement. The other car passes safely. What a
cunning stunt, think Alice and her friends. Time
to party. Make some new friends and forget their
names. Oh wow.
Hash ash on the carpet, plastic glass in pieces on
the floor. Party time on Saturday night. Citizen
Band blares out from the stereo and the cask gets
passed round. More bloody Blenheimer. Some
–one spills beer down Alice’s skirt. Someone’s
cigarette burns a hole in her black jacket with the
red lining. Party time on Great North Road. She
said she’d write a poem about the plastic glass in
pieces on the floor. We were all in pieces on the
Alice Spider is stoned again. She is watching a
black-and-white TV set, but the two men on
screen are wearing fluorescent pink shirts and
red-and-blue striped trousers. Everyone is
watching me, thinks Alice. Soon the police will
come. Alice can feel her brain shrinking. Her
hands are shaking. A knife pushes deeper and
deeper into her back. I will never do this again,
says Alice. Alice Spider is lying. Alice knows that
somewhere she is laughing at a pink TV set, but
she can’t find it.
Alice And The Wooter
Alice and her friends make a wooter. You
make a wooter like this: first tie a bunch of
plastic bags together with many knots, thus
producing a long knotted string of plastic
bags. You attach the string of plastic bags
to a light fitting, or, if you’re having a
bonfire, to a long stick. If you’re indoors,
place a bucket of water underneath the
long string of plastic bags.
Set fire to the end. When the flame gets to
a knot, a hunk of burning plastic breaks
away and falls into the bucket of water, or
into the bonfire if you’re having a bonfire,
making a Woot! sound. It’s best to do it
when you’re flatting, so you don’t mess up
your own home.
Alice In The Eighties Part 2: The Wellington Years
Alice and her flatmates have a party. They
acquire several long tubes of plastic
rubbish bag material, before said tubes
have been segmented into actual rubbish
bag-sized sections. They attach one to the
vacuum cleaner at the top of the stairs so
that there is a permanently inflated tube of
air snaking down the stairs and into the
lounge. Other sheets of plastic are draped
across doorways and over walls.
The party is gatecrashed by a group of
punks. Alice watches a punk woman trying
to persuade one of the guys she came with
to tell her which of them fucked her the
night before, when she was too far out of it
to know what she was doing. She is
saying, I just want to know which ones it
was. He doesn’t tell her.
Alice goes to see some bands in a club off Cuba
Street. It’s a good night, good dancing.
Alice dances in front of the stage, on her
own. She doesn’t mind being the first up
there. She wanders outside to find a toilet
and while she is queuing, watches a
woman wrapping a leather belt around her
friend’s arm; tapping for a vein. The friend
is pregnant. She’s saying, heroin’s better
for the baby than alcohol. Alice hopes
Alice The Camel
Alice wakes up one morning. Her lover
sings to her, Alice the Camel has two
humps. It’s an action song.
Alice And The Ring
Alice has painted lips and a gleam in her wicked
eyes. Alice Spider has a ring of confidence.
Alice’s needs are primal and she knows no
shame. She knows how it feels to slide a hand
over a bare thigh. She knows how to take. She
knows how to give.
Alice applies for a job. Under the Interests
section of her CV, she writes Fucking and
These things happen at Alice’s place of work:
A man drops a still-flaming match into
his rubbish bin, setting fire to it
A woman gets drunk and falls off her
A man keeps a stash of live
ammunition under his desk.
Alice Eats Meat
For seven years, Alice is a vegetarian, a
proper one. Not a vegetarian except for
salami or a vegetarian except for gravy or a
vegetarian except for the occasional oyster.
Alice is a real vegetarian.
Then one day, on a flight to Sydney, Alice is
of a mind to eat her airline steak. So she
After that, Alice notices that sparrows have
started looking like mobile snacks. She
suspects she has spent too long in the
company of cats.
Alice Goes Visiting
Alice goes to Dunedin to visit friends. They
decide they will all drive back to Wellington
together. It is afternoon before they set off.
They share a smoke or two to get into the
holiday mood. On the way they stop off to
look at the Moeraki Boulders, which prove
even more impressive when chemically
enhanced. Alice and the Merry Band are
halfway to Christchurch before anyone
notices that the handbrake has been on all
the way. They reach Picton a few hours
before the ferry. Two of them lie on the
floor under blankets so they don’t have
to pay. It’s a good trip.
Alice And The Angel
Alice’s Guardian Angel shows up one day,
all feathery and glowing. Piss off, says
Alice. I can look after myself.
Alice Does It
Alice does it in the back seat of her
flatmate’s car, on the lawn outside a
Ponsonby church and in a tent at
Sweetwaters. She does it in the sand
dunes at Castlepoint and under the trees in
a National Park, with people walking
nearby. She does it in a phone box, in the
toilets at a nightclub, in the middle of Frank
Kitts Park and on the floor of someone’s
office just as the cleaner walks in.
She does it out of love, out of desire, out of
loneliness, out of friendship, out of
She does it in the living room, in the
bathroom, on the couch in someone else’s
living room, in the beds people share with
their girlfriends when those girlfriends are
Alice thinks there’s a lot to be said for
Alice Spider Discovers French Surrealism
In the upper reaches of sanity, the snow
has begun to fall. Great white clouds of
fluffiness covering the unimaginable takahe
and reaching us in our tussockland. In a
hut on the hill, giant tuatara wrap
themselves in polypropylene and coats
made from plastic recycled in China. The
sky has emptied. Now there is only the soft
landing of doves that have escaped their
gilded cages and fluttered down to earth.
Heaven will be like this, thinks Alice.
For many years, we have found the knitting
of cave-spiders disturbing, and the
complacency of penguins at the edge of the
world has sent us into a tailspin. It doesn’t
have to be this way, no. It could be
lamplight in krill city and thunder in the ice–
rink. Somebody, somewhere is eating a
Too late she wandered into that laboratory,
wishing she had been taller, fitter, better at
polo. Her eyes flashed in the eerie glow of the
test-tube. Dada, she cried. Dada!
Alice Spider Has An Affair
Alice Spider has a secret affair. He buys
her high-heeled boots and lingerie. He
brings her bottles of bubbly (the good stuff)
and Danish pastries.
They meet in hotel rooms.
Alice Spider And The Red Lurex Socks
On Sunday morning, Alice strides into
Bodega, her red lurex socks encased in red
patent leather boots. After the third latté
and a promising astrological prediction from
Stella Recamier in the Sunday Star Times,
she begins to feel human again. She
notices that she is the only person who has
come to Bodega alone; the rest of the café
is populated by couples silently sharing
the newspaper and animated groups of
young women communicating like crazy.
Alice has her red lurex socks on. Alice the
Alice attaches suction pads to the soles of
her red lurex socks so she can walk up the
sides of buildings.
Alice and the Astroturf
Some weekends, Alice goes to the garden
centre to look at the Astroturf. When she
has looked, she drives home again.
Alice Spider goes shopping. She buys
sixteen lava lamps, a Holden convertible
stationwagon (well they should have made
one) and three miles of Astroturf. Alice is
driving herself to distraction.
Alice digs up her front lawn and replaces it
with Astroturf. She plants tulip lights around
the border. Alice sees that this is good.
Alice goes to a Wedding
Alice Spider goes to a wedding and has too
much champagne. She dances with the
groom, the bride, the best man and the
groom’s ex-wife’s uncle. Then she totters
outside for a bresh of freath air.
Didn’t expect to see you here, says Peter
Benzedrine, appearing from behind a joint and
a rose bush. Aren’t you the same Alice Spider
who used to yell Don’t do it! every time she
saw a car with white crepe paper on the bonnet?
Prerogative etc., sniffs Alice.
What happened to your principles? asks Peter
Benzedrine, rolling up again.
There was champagne, says Alice.
There’s only so much happiness in the world
to go around, says Alice. People who take
drugs are using up more than their fair share,
making life harder for the rest of us.
There was a kind of logic to what she said, but
Peter Benzedrine knew there was something
not quite right about it. Happiness is limitless,
he countered. There’s more than enough for
everyone, all the time.
Then why are so many people living wretched
and miserable lives, asks Alice. I blame the
She holds out her hand for the joint.
Double hypocrite, he says.
Taking what’s mine by right, says Alice.
Shottie? he offers.
Why not, says Alice.
So. What are you doing these days, asks
Writing the great New Zealand novel, says
“Didn’t Keri Hulme already do that,” asks Alice.
Peter Benzedrine ignores her. It’s no less
than she expected.
It’s set in London, he continues. Alice raises
one eyebrow (she’s been practising ever since
she first saw Star Trek).
London is part of New Zealand, says Peter
Benzedrine. Name one person you know who
hasn’t been to London. You can’t be a real
New Zealander until you’ve shared an
overpriced and overcrowded London flat with
ten other kiwis who know your best friend’s
brother from Eketahuna.
Alice Goes To A Nightclub
Alice goes to a nightclub. There are people on the
dance floor who are young enough to be her sons
or daughters and old enough for her to take home.
Fortunately, Alice is too far off her face for this to
be a sobering thought.
Alice Spider Sees Mountain-Woman
Alice Spider goes to the park and sees an old
friend, a mountain of a woman. What do you see,
Mountain-Woman? asks Alice. I see Blue forever,
says Mountain-Woman. Blue above, Blue beyond,
Blue as far as I can see. And what do you hear,
Mountain-Woman? asks Alice. I hear people
squabbling over crumbs while the rest of the cake
rots, says Mountain-Woman. What do you want?
asks Alice, I want people to stop asking me
questions, says Mountain-Woman. Fair enough,
says Alice, and she goes to the pub.
Alice And The Babies
Alice has never wanted children but now here she
is producing all these babies, suddenly, every
week a new one, filling her house. She wonders
where she’s going to put them all, soft and hairless
as they are, and needing her. They just keep
slipping out of her, in her sleep. Wake up on
Monday mornings and there’s another one,
slippery and crying at the bottom of her bed.
She converts the living room into a baby dormitory:
rows of little makeshift cots and squares of cut-up
The birthing stops after a few months at which
Alice is hugely relieved. She’s had to give up work
to care for them all and isn’t sure how many more
she can afford. There seem to be about twenty or
thirty of them altogether. It’s hard to tell, as they’ve
developed quite quickly and half of them are
running about in the garden already, or getting
under her feet in the kitchen. Unable to tell them
apart, she hasn’t bothered naming them. She
feeds them all on pancakes — her specialty.
The older ones are talking already, in some
strange language they have in common that
excludes her. Alice wonders sometimes whether
they’re really hers.
Within the year, they’re fully formed adults, but
about a third of the size and rather more orange
than most people. They play quite merrily in the
garden together, coming in only for meals. She
tries to teach them to say ‘pancakes’ but they
either can’t or won’t. Instead, they bang on the
table with spoons to let her know they’re hungry.
They all leave home on the same day. Alice whips
up pancakes for the very last time. She knows
they won’t be back. Then one by one they
solemnly kiss her goodbye, tip their hats (she’s
made them one each out of empty pancake mixture
boxes) and are out of her front door and away.
It’s lonely without them, but she gets used to it.
Alice Ties The Knot
On holiday in Las Vegas, Alice is struck by
the need to marry. She chooses a male
impersonator called Vic, who wears her best
snakeskin boots and fake sideburns for the
occasion. The happy event occurs in a small
chapel where confetti costs extra and a man
dressed as Elvis sings Love Me Tender.
After the kiss and the optional confetti, Alice
and Vic part company. It’s a pretty open kind
Alice Spider Goes Swimming
One day, Alice goes for a swim in the sea. She
swims out a long way, past the beach, past the
island and into the open ocean. The sun warms
the waves and Alice moves through them,
simultaneously a part of them and skimming their
surface. I am the sea, thinks Alice. I am waves,
I am ocean, I am swimming. I can swim forever.
So she does.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Janis Freegard won the BNZ Katherine Mansfield short story competition in 2001. Her work has been published in a number of magazines and anthologies, including The Listener, 100 New Zealand Short Short Stories 4, Poetry NZ, JAAM and Takahe, and has been read on National Radio. Janis lives in Wellington and completed Greg O’Brien’s summer poetry workshop at VUW in 2001.