Pie Square is a story of the most remarkable fast food chain ever conceived. It is rapidly spreading across the world, devouring its devotees, and creating enormous wealth for its owners. It supplies not only sustenance for the body, but for the mind and spirit too. Its all enveloping philosophies are moulding the youth of the world for an impending revolution that will turn global society upside down.
This is a story of “coincidence” and how various sequences of events can lead to power, fame and wealth. It is a tale of delusion, split personality, and divergent thinking. It is satire aimed at the fast food industry, its bizarre executives, the powerful forces of advertising, and the cancerous growth of big business. Youth is examined in terms of how it is exploited and of its wasted potential and how early experiences affect later life. There is nostalgia for the sixties and seventies; yet a wealth of comment on video games, junk food and computer technology, the clichés of today.
IN MY SEVENTEENTH YEAR: NINETEEN SIXTY-FOUR
I WAS CALLOW AND LEAN, fearless through ignorance and innocence. Mid summer with a shilling in my pocket I had escaped the trivia of my school friends who were scuttling around the sand hills of Adelaide’s beaches tweaking virgins’ breasts and vomiting cheap claret, putting colour into empty holidays. I was lucky to have a friend in Jack Kerouac who helped me fail matriculation “English”, and pushed me into a refractory stance that pointed my thumb to an azure sky, and forced me to follow the melting black ribbon of road that led to Sydney.
“You failed boy. You failed boy” they had all chanted. “No matriculation. No university. No guaranteed future. You will end up being a bum like all the rest.”
I was probably the butt of many a truckie’s mirth, being a slight eight stone hidden behind a conspicuously concealed sheath knife (my instrument of death and revenge for those who sought to violate me).
“I’ll just pull over here for a brief rest,” he said as he pulled his thirty-five-tonne truck quickly off the road, sliding into the gravel. “I’ll just put these blankets up around the windows so that we won’t be annoyed by headlights of other trucks,” he obviously lied. There wasn’t much room for me in the truck cabin. “Oh, I’ll get out and start hitching again,” I suggested as I moved my hand toward the door handle. “Oh no, you don’t need to do that, we’ll just have a cosy nap together.” He must have thought I was completely stupid.
“No I’m busting for a shit,” I said thinking of about the most repulsive thing I could in these sorts of circumstances. I insisted on getting out and noticed he quietly got out the other side looking underneath the truck. That’s when I decided to leap quickly back into the truck, grab my haversack and say, “well, not much happening. Must be a bit constipated. I must be on my way. Good-bye.” Lucky for me another truck came rumbling past. “Christ they’re all psychopaths,” I thought to myself
Two days of desolation, running periodically from black masses of flies that would swarm on my back, sleeping on crushed golden stems, nature’s soft mattress, and eating from tins of cold baked beans, delivered me to my first Christendom, Bondi Beach. A day of walking and talking with a tongue glib with naïveté, fed me morsels. Further vagabond wanderings on the beaches and I was invited to a flophouse full of accommodating Maoris. Perched precariously, like an outland-ish cartoon drawing, sat their conference room, atop some Bondi terrace houses. Here I stayed, occasionally interloping into the bustling beach scene below.
MY PERILOUS JOURNEY to Wellington was punctuated with little humour, apart from the refusal of fellow passengers and hostesses alike to be in my vicinity. This was the legacy of my departure from Australia, a feast in which every morsel had been thoroughly saturated in garlic oil. Ah, that herb of ancient gods that forbids the presence of vampires and others. The days that turned to years in New Zealand worried me with their inanity. The plot was continuous, and unnerving in its predictability. I bled the country for its geographic beauty for three years, with occasional sorties to Australia to recharge my psyche.
The parochial habits of the publicans I was servicing with my manipulative skills to increase blood alcohol levels were frustrating. I had to hide any semblance of academic or intel-lectual merit (a trait I had learned well in Sydney), for these slaves of the beer barons were the masters of mediocrity. They could only cope when life and its complexities were reduced to its lowest common denominator. Unfortunately this was most often expressed in terms of obscene jokes, racist or sexist gestures, and second-hand talk of sporting events. There were occasional crescendos of delight when I assumed a disguise, sometimes sartorial, sometimes socio-economic. I would plunge into the thick crowds of insanity in fringe university pubs where there were semblances of the push Teforp used to describe. These were my periods of relief.
The monotony of applying diluted psychological theory to the design of bars and beer labels pushed my thoughts more and more toward the mystical. Even back then I decided to attempt a novel that would encapsulate at least some of the man as I had so briefly known him (but I didn’t get very far).
ADAM TEFORP AND MYSELF were nestled into our air line seats most comfortably, luxuriating in the kind of hospitality that only the Greeks can offer (we were flying Olympic Airways of course). It would seem that our proximity to the gods, as we cruised through the heavens, intensified their selfless role.
The preceding night had been a valedictory feast and occasion for generous draughts of ouzo. Suitably besotted we had started laying the plans for a journey once again into the strange lands of bulk feeding. Jetting across Europe in a microcosm of the highest technology seemed very appropriate as we talked incessantly, exploring ways of improving upon the impasse that convenience foods had seemed to reach. Swilling the last vestiges of a good summer for a vintner somewhere in Burgundy, Teforp exclaimed, “We’re certainly picking the right country to test a new area of fast-food marketing (Sydney had disappeared from his vocabulary). There is no target market differentiation in England. None of the big boys have bothered. They have presented their stores to the public with the product and the decor predetermined. Whatever population groups, age groups, and so on turn up is really a matter of serendipity. The assumption is that all people need to eat, some will eat the products they produce; so if stores are put in the right location, the optimum number of customers will be attracted. It pretty well ends there. Of course if a few factors like cleanliness and service are not forgotten, and the price is realistic, proportionately more people will be attracted to the purveyors who consider these points, rather than to the others who don’t bother.”
Teforp and I had just decided that we needed to pinpoint a particular age group to whom we would offer our services. We thought it portentous that a report had just been released to the press indicating that the few million little Anglo-Saxons between the ages of eleven and seventeen spent a staggering three and a half billion pounds each year on their juvenile needs. No fast-food company had isolated this adolescent group as a primary target for their goods, although some be-grudgingly accepted their patronage to make a few extra pence.
“Record companies, the clothing and film industries, have all been exploiting the juvenile market for years,” I said. “I think fast-food operations are essentially worried about teenagers lurking around their establishments throwing ketchup at each other, and generally terrorising the gentlefolk. Besides kids of that age don’t usually consume food in convenient locations in the manner they’re supposed to, according to the management. The objective is to have people in and out of the store as quickly as possible, to free up the tables, sell more food and thus make more money.”
TEFORP HIRED ONE OF THOSE wonderful, old, woody canal boats. There is an ancient, almost circus troupe look about these vessels from the outside. Our craft was a deep maple colour with intricate gold, thin-lined patterns tattooed onto the outside panels of the superstructure. There was something reminiscent of the old wooden gypsy caravans that I had seen so many times in books of my childhood.
We picked up our floating lodgings at Weybridge and looked forward to scrambling inside to get out of the chilly drizzle that had been hanging over Surrey for the past few days.
As soon as Teforp had pressed a thick wad of notes into the gnarled hands of a canal pirate we dived into the lower sections of the boat to inspect our berths. It was a delight of old polished timbers and brass, made sumptuous with thick piled modern carpet and exotic leather upholstery. The galley and bathroom were both lined in the most opulent looking Italian tiles. All the copper gleamed with the pride of an industrious owner. There was a wood-paneled refrigerator stocked with champagne and fruit juices. The cupboards were filled with smoked oysters and stuffed olives, tins of game soup and packets of delicious looking crackers. There were even some aromatic salamis hanging from the ceiling. Stilton abounded, and surprisingly fresh looking fruit poured out of large wicker baskets.
There were two cabins, one with a double bed at the stern, the other with four berths nestled in the bow, forward of the galley. Teforp triumphantly claimed the double bed, and was excited when he opened an oak-paneled door to reveal not a wardrobe, but a compact ensuite bathroom. His cabin was luxurious, with a piled deep blue carpet that lapped a full twelve inches up each of the walls. A pair of dueling pistols, or facsimiles were fastened on the bulkhead above his bed. These were obviously the captain’s quarters.
My cabin was only very slightly humbler. It boasted the same richness of carpet and oak paneling, with many gleaming brass fixtures. The two top bunks could swing down to give the cabin an even more commodious atmosphere. Perhaps I had been living in England too long, and had become used to cramped spaces, for even the narrowness of the long boat was not seen as a hindrance.
After an initial warm-up of mead, with a little port-soaked stilton pasted into crisp celery sticks, Teforp started us on our journey through the backwaters of Surrey. He pushed a red button and our lazy home gurgled slowly into life, its heart throbbing with a low deep vibration.
Navigating the canals was not difficult, but required concentration. Consequently for the next few days we would spend about two hours in the morning chortling along. We would then pull up in a field, and if it wasn’t damp would sit on the deck with a hamper full of tasty treasures looking at ducks and cows, and secretly worrying about Pie Square.