Colin James


cinema student as contractor.jpg

Ian C Smith


Ian C Smith writes in the Gippsland Lakes region of Victoria, and on Flinders Island, Tasmania. His work has appeared in Australian Poetry Journal, Eureka Street, Four W, Landscapes, Poetry New Zealand, Shaping the Fractured Self (UWAP), & Southerly. His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra Port Adelaide, 2014.

Cinema Student as the Contractor


Unaccustomed to accounting for large sums, my tender is so low the contract is mine. Builders rubbish resembles a set’s riot scene’s aftermath, the only touch missing, extras playing dead. There I am like the last man left alive in a dystopian saga. Among other subjects, I do well in Cinema Studies. I slave, stubborn despite realising the burgeoning man hours merit every cent, foolish to leave these sites immaculate, but I do.

No cheque arrives, just incubated humiliation hatching into rage, out of pocket investing precious cash to rent equipment. Calls ignored, I drive too fast to the developer’s office in an industrial area, rehearsing dialogue, imagining the mise en scene. Christmas holiday period, soundtrack silenced. Closed. All closed. One car in the lot, top of the range. Factory side door unlocked. Stealth. Pupils adjusting to lit shadows. A close-up of time cards all punched out.


Paper rustles in a far office so I ghost to the end of a corridor where I appear, T-shirt sweat-streaked, utterly lacking in seasonal goodwill. I have only seen a man look as unnerved as this in over the top movies, softly clicking the door behind us with my heel.

Like Arnie, I tell the trembling man I’ll be back if the cheque he writes, muttering lame jokes, bounces. Heart surging, arms folded like his sports heroes in framed signed photos around timber-panelled walls, I watch his gold fountain pen skitter across a figure that keeps afloat my dream of an education, happy ending in deep focus.