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Michael Botur 



Michael Botur is a 32 year old New Zealander from Whangarei. 
He has published creative writing in the NZ literary journals Landfall, Poetry New Zealand, JAAM, Takahe, Bravado, Catalyst, and a bunch of crap journals no one cares about. 
He is the author of three short story collections.He has published journalism in NZ periodicals including NZ Herald. Sunday Star-Times and Mana. 

All things Michael can be found:


     Regal Recruitment has art on its walls that’s thematically linked. The theme: power and progress. Josh understands that shit, like Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code understands.

     Know who observed thematic links in weather patterns? Maverick in Top Gun, aiiiiit. That’s how he got the advantage over Iceman. Spotting shit that’s thematically linked is the sign of a good pilot. Josh could be a kickass pilot. God damn, the sisters-in-law are gonna be pissed when he walks into their place and announces the air force have recruited him. Even Sarmila’s parents what don’t speak English are gonna be chuffed.

     Or, Josh could walk out of this minimum wage labouring application BS, drive home, stand over the oven with his bottle of V with the bottom chipped off, get his smoke on, go get a $5 value meal from BK drive-thru, chuck a few gold coins in a pokie machine, feel good for like two minutes out of the day, then maybe face up to all that air force paperwork waiting for him.

     Josh licks his lips, wishing he were licking his heavy, sooty, reeking, bottomless bottle.

     Know who used to use a V bottle to break people’s cheekbones? Grosfky, man. His sister was fiiiine. Fuck was her name again? She used to wear that pink singlet under her white school shirt. Reckoned she was gonna be a personal trainer.

     Focus, bro. Focus before Sarmila texts ya. Fill out this recruitment… thing. Use the pencil with the bit of string holding it to the clipboard like it’s 1992 or something. Focus; Auto-Focus. Both solid movies. Sarmila would kick his arse if he walked out and they cancelled his Jobseeker’s Allowance. Her sisters, too. The shit they’d Tweet about him, maaaannn–

     One of the bros asks him what some of the words on the application form mean.

     ‘That’s Conviction,’ Josh says. ‘You gotta write down all your convictions. Con-vic-tion. Like that movie? With Sam Rockwell?’


    ‘Had Hilary Swank in it. Bout the dude who got locked up for killin a old lady but he never did.’

    ‘Don’t I know you from The Rock?’

    ‘Now thas a badass movie.’

    ‘The Rock, bro. Mt Eden. The big house.’


     Josh takes his application form over to the receptionist. She says she might have work for him, and moves her eyes to the right a little bit. That means she’s bullshitting. He learned that from Investigators, on the Crime Channel. Pilots are a type of investigator. Pilots investigate weather patterns to identify jet streams.

     He zones out during Regal Recruitment’s health and safety video (not a DVD- a actual video, bro, like from last century.) He’s wondering what his fighter pilot movie should be called. Somethin about a kid from the streets who soars like an eagle. It’ll start with Urban. Urban’s a edgy word. An it needs to rhyme so it’s catchy. Urban Suburban… nah. Urban… bourbon? Damn: Urban Josh needs a drink. Urban Josh does not wanna train for no fuckin’ air force fitness test.

     He gets off the bus one street over from WINZ, waits in reception, reading IMDB on his phone, then hands proof of the morning’s application over to his case manager. She asks which day he’s doing the fitness test.

    ‘Tuesday, three weeks. What if I get sick, though?’

    ‘You may lose your entitlement to Training For Work assistance,’ she says. ‘D’you need me to go over the conditions again?’

     The slip from Regal means they won’t stop his benny this week, aiiiiit. For seven days, Sarmila’s evil sisters got nothin’ on him.

     Josh blows some dole dollars on a Batman Burger. You get a free toy with it. For eleven minutes, somebody else is serving him, he is the King of Burgers, even if his crown is floppy. He’s had a smoke of his pipe in them nice spacious handicap toilets. Nothing stink can depress him when he’s got a little weed in him.

     He thinks about Grofsky. Grofsky’s probly mad as hell that he narked on him for Facebooking while he was locked up, but it feels gangsta to be a whistleblower – like, what was it, The Insider, yeah, with Russell Crowe.

     Urban King. He texts the words to himself. Check later if the title’s taken. Jet King. Jet Legend.

     He walks through the mall. They’ve got a pub. He chucks some bucks in a pokie machine, pulls a stool under his arse. He wants to smoke. James Bond would be smokin’ right now – AND winning each time he pulled the handle. He wonders if Grofsky could take James Bond in a fight. Grofsky started doing MMA when he was, like, six. His sister was tough, too, sorta had this manly body, real flat and lean, zero tits, and a mean pointy mouth, but she would hold her body in these real staunch poses when she was smashing exchange students, and that’d turn him on bad enough he had to go and bust a nut in the Gent’s one time.

     Jaimee, yeah, that was her name. Jaimee Grofsky.

     Josh puts his last two bucks in the Virtual Vegas, slurps his raspberry ‘n coke.

     With one bold gamble and everything to lose, he went from nothing to everything. Starring Tom Hardy as Josh Paniora.

     ‘Fi don’t win this pull,’ he mutters, ‘I’m trainin for that test.’





      Two minutes: he remembered right. Two minutes is how long it takes to get a regular stride going and convince his legs to play along. He’s almost definitely got a hairline crack running through his metatarsal already. Pain, bother, hassle. Sarmila’s sisters needle him, they nag, they prod him. They blog about him. They dissed him to his face at Christmas just ‘cause the presents he got Sarmila’s kids weren’t exactly in their prime.

     Every metre he treads is one less letter from his case manager. One less Facebook comment. One less Telugu joke from Sarmila’s old man that everyone cracks up about except Josh.

     He gets up to the big humming green power box, climbs on it, makes a playlist on his phone. Then he gets off, turns back down the hill, heads for home, except when he stops outside his house, his legs are asking for more. They’ve become supple, flexible, like how Jaimee Grofsky used to run on Sports Day once she got warmed up, even though she stank of smokes, she’d annihilate the hurdles after she’d been doin long jump all morning. Her whole family destroyed anything they wanted to, like commandoes.

     Jake can be a Urban Commando if he wants. A fire’s burning inside him as he does twenty star-jumps. Hot, happy chemicals spread into his hamstrings. He squats with one knee on the ground and stretches. Rocky fucks up Apollo Creed. Tommy Gunn skips through alleyways. Joel Edgerton smashes Tom Hardy to become Warrior.

    ‘Hoo!’ Josh lands on the lounge carpet. Dredd looks up from the TV for a good few seconds. Sarmila walks into the lounge, brushing her hair. Josh tells her he’s figured out a way to fail the air force entrance test without flunking out of WINZ, and waits for her to say she’s proud of him for being creative.




     Jaimee’s got herself a Baconator, but no fries. ‘Protein,’ she goes, ‘Heapsa protein in bacon.’

     She’s got Grofsky’s sunken-back cheekbones that say it’d be pointless punchin him, or her, back ‘cause he/she wouldn’t even feel it. See, Grofsky was in Rize 2 Tha Skyz, this hip hop dance crew, and he went to, like, LA and shit – but then Grofsky would waste people at parties with his V bottle. He even hit a paramedic, at this one party.

     ‘So you want some decent quadriceps femoris,’ she goes, destroying her burger, glaring at Josh real harsh. She rummages through his tray of food. ‘See these chicken tenders? You’re allowed them. There’s protein in chicken. Not chips, though. Josh–’ ‘

     ‘Call me Joshua. Joshua’s my screen name.’

     ‘This here’s all potential energy. Even your ketchup: pure energy.’

     Jaimee picks the meat patty out of her burger, chomps it and biffs her bun and pickle across the table at Josh. ‘Got shorts on, like I told ya? Stand up.’ She looks at him like a car she’s thinking of buying. ‘Good. Let’s roll.’


     The fire returns to his legs. He hears dudes in passing cars mocking him. His withdrawn dick is a sock without a foot in it.

     ‘What’s the food like in jail?’ Josh goes as they cross a park. Jaimee is behind him, but her voice travels.

     ‘Shush,’ she goes. ‘You actually on TV or what? Tell me bout this screen name of yours.’

     ‘Nah… it’s dumb.’

     ‘Want more chin-ups? Didn’t think so. Tell me.’

     Josh stops as they meet a river and leans on a recycling bin on someone’s berm. Jaimee kicks him in the knee and he hobbles and starts jogging again.

     ‘There’s, okay, there’s this screenplay I’m workin on, it’s sorta like Top Gun meets Lion King.’ Josh takes a huge swallow of air, tries to stop, and she kicks him again. ‘It’s about a ace, oof, pilot who fights his uncle ‘cause his uncle, uck, killed his best bud in a training accident ‘cause he pushed him– ’

     ‘OHMYGOD he pushed him off a cliff!’

     ‘ –cause he pushed him too hard. Can I stop for a sec?’

     ‘How long you got til your air force test?’

     ‘Two weeks.’

     ‘Then no.

     ‘I’ll stop if I wanna. It’s a free country.’ Josh finds a park bench. Bending over, putting his weight through his hands onto his knees, Josh thinks about God turning the world-oven down to 120. His flesh heals, his sweat thickens.  

     ‘Stop, then, Josh–

     ‘Hell yeah.’

     ‘–if you want me to tell Ricardo.’

     Josh takes a deep breath, licks sweat off his moustache. Ricardo is Grofsky’s first name. Josh tells his legs to get moving again.


     On the steepest street he’s been up without a car, Josh does lunges while Jaimee swears at him. The Grofsky clan’s driveway leads to a hilltop mansion, with its own boxing gym and two garages and twenty motorbikes and ten uncles. Uncles used to pick the bro and the sis up from school. Their bikes were epic-loud. Their leather vests had winged skulls on them.

     Jaimee costs fifty bucks a sesh. Each sesh is two hours. To free up the cash, Josh rolled a drunk person at the pokies, well, outside. A chick, even, well, chick’d be the word for it if she were younger, but she was like 60. Chinese chick. Pushed her into the door frame of her car as she was getting into it. This was in the underground parking lot. He tugged her handbag til it came loose then sprinted. He hadn’t done shit like that in two years. He was impressed with his own sprinting. Real impressed.

     He scored 40 two dollar coins. Paid for almost two sessions with Jaimee, two sessions of her orders and her face-without-makeup and her hair so tight not a single strand escapes from the bun banished to the back of her head.          Jaimee, with her veins and her No Fear tattoo. Jaimee with tiny studs in her ears.

     Jaimee makes a big stink when he hands her a shoe box of gold coins, even though it’s a real decent Adidas shoebox. She leaves it in the postbox as they jog past

     Jaimee blows the whistle swinging from her neck, spits out her cigarette, toes Josh’s bum with her pink sneaker. She is always warmed up. Exhaustion is scared of her.

     They loop cul-de-sacs, they go through a playground and pull their chins up the brightly painted steel, they drop and do crunches. Push ups. Squats, with her on his shoulders, her thighs mashing his eyeballs, her nylon in his mouth.

     This is her personal style for hurting people, standing over people. Her brother smashes bottles on the foreheads of university kids who have never been in a fight before; Jaimee makes people’s joints weep lactic acid.

     Sarmila’s stopped asking Josh what he gets up to while she’s out with the wee ones, spending the day buying up GrabOne deals and onselling them from her sister’s house. Home’s not a productive place, she said.

     ‘But I’m home,’ Josh said.

     ‘WAKEY WAKEY.’ Jaimee is poking his eye. He blinks fifty times. ‘The wife. The kids. They’re not trying to make the grade. Know who is? YOU. YOU, JOSHUA, are trying to make the grade. Stop letting yourself get soft.’

     ‘My bad.’

     ‘Got you this, by the way.’ She lobs a t-shirt at him. On the front: Snitches Get Stitches, and beneath it: Support Your Local Big Red Machine. On the back, in capital letters along the top: URBAN LEGEND.

     ‘Five days left. Don’t think I’m gonna go easy on you.’

     When they jog past Josh’s, halfway through the sesh, Josh needs a drink of that Coke with his name on it real bad. They descend the stairs, open the front door.

     ‘Anybody home?’

     ‘Nah. Just us.’

     She squeezes his moustache with her lips, and her tongue scrapes his gums, and they knock magnets off the door of the fridge, and her hips press into his stomach.


     It’s noisy at the air base, not from planes, though, it's the cars and trucks muttering at 5 kays as they go over the judder bars, and tonnes of cicadas chirping in the trees.

     He doesn’t mind paying her what it costs to get fit, but the sex is a bit much. She's way more into sex than gaming. She said she had a good luck charm for him when they were warming up at 4.30am, when even the guy delivering papers looked surprised to see them, and she got down on her knees while Josh stayed standing, this was at the end of her driveway where anyone coulda driven past. When he came in her mouth he was receiving the gold statue for Best Picture for Urban Legend, the story of one coach who discovered a homeboy with limitless potential.

     ‘You’re Paniora?’ A woman in a blue jumpsuit is standing in front of him. There will be two whistles, she’s explains. Then you will run. 

     They warm up with thrusts. Josh's dick hurts. It’s like something’s pinching the tip. Sarmila’s never made him hurt like this. Jaimee goes over and stands beside the tightbody instructor. Dangerous, lean, hungry women, afraid of nobody.

     There are eight other dudes – seven Islanders and one white. They do 99 sit ups, in lots of 33. The instructor shouts their surnames.

     He’s trying to picture whether Sarmila’s bitchy sisters could do this many exercises, and then he’s trying to squeeze in a quick fantasy about Urban Legend, trying to select the right scenes for the trailer, when the second whistle stings his eardrums and everyone launches.

     Josh rolls off his stomach, tries not to look Jaimee in the eyes as he passes her.

     The first lap is about hanging off the shoulder of the race leader. Stay precisely at his side, so you’re not over-pressured.

     It’s after he’s got the first lap sewn up the agony creeps up from his feet. Mark Wahlberg, Invincible. Jack O’Connell, Unbroken. Stallone. Bale.

     Run slightly toward your opponents and they’ll lose ground. Grunt their names. Hate them. Grofsky them.

     Think of the worst thing that’s ever happened to you as the path, Jaimee’s saying. Every step erases a bit of that hurt. It’s 10560 steps, 3.6 kays, two miles.

     10,000 steps, then the bulldyke with no makeup will let you into the air force and you’ll have free feeds and free dental and get to compose the Urban Legend screenplay between missions.

     He doesn’t finish first – the white dude turns out to be pretty epic. Josh pumps his arms like bellows, like Jaimee showed him, and his lungs feel good, like bellows in old school filthy Paris. Hugh Jackman learned to sing hard-out for that movie. Josh could sing, if he wanted. Josh can do anything.

     That white dude might’ve wasted him but he’s ahead of six dudes. Jaimee is punching one hand with the other. No, her shaking head is saying, no way you could have done better. Is she crying, or is that sparkling dried sweat? 

     Josh jumps across the finish line and goes ‘YEAAAAHHH!’ and lies down in the shade. God pours clouds across the sky. 

     'I am never doin that again,' Josh pants.

     'Think you'll find we have a session on Tuesday,' Jaimee tuts. ‘Right: stretching. The hams. C’mon.’

     The other dudes are sitting down. Couple of them have even cracked open Woodstocks. One of them’s guzzling a pure, clean, shiny bottle of V. Josh licks his moustache.

     The hardass instructor tours beneath the trees, talking to each panting man. She doesn't squat to speak to them, just stands. Like Jaimee. 

     ‘You may just have made it to the final phase of your application,' the instructor says, handing down a signed form. Run Time: 14.33. Not bad. 

     ‘Someone’ll give you a bell next week,' she says. 'Getcha signed up. Good work today.’

     ‘My phone got disconnected…' Josh goes. 

     'He doesn't know what he's sayin,' Jaimee growls. She hands him an apple and a bottle of mineral water. When his sweat’s turned to dust and the ants are nipping him, he gets up and heads for his car. Jaimee follows him to the driver window, tries to lean in. She probly wants a pash.

     He fights to pull the door shut. Jaimee goes round to the passenger side. Josh switches the engine on, winds the last inch of window up, locks the doors.  

     Jaimee comes back round to the driver window, punching her palm.  

     ‘Where the fuck you goin?’

     He winds the window back down a fraction.  

     ‘I don’t wanna join no gay-arse air force. Just had to do this bullshit to keep my benefit. Ain’t you ever seen Dangerous Liaisons?’

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