Beanstalk

Holden Sheppard

Holden Sheppard

Holden Sheppard is an award-winning author born and bred in Geraldton, Western Australia. His debut novel Invisible Boys (Fremantle Press, 2019) has won several accolades including the 2019 WA Premier's Prize for an Emerging Writer and the 2018 City of Fremantle Hungerford Award. In 2020, Invisible Boys was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards and named as a Notable Book by the Children's Book Council of Australia. Holden is also widely published in journals such as Griffith Review and Westerly. Holden currently serves as the Deputy Chair of WritingWA and as an ambassador for Lifeline WA, and was formerly host of the Fremantle Press podcast. He has always been a misfit: a gym junkie who has played Pokémon competitively, a sensitive geek who loves aggressive punk rock, and a bogan who learned to speak French. He lives in Perth’s northern suburbs with his husband.

What was I thinking? A country boy doesn’t belong in Perth.

I was told the CBD was clean and safe, but as I walk into peak-hour Hay Street gridlock, I’m thrown. The alley beside His Majesty’s reeks of urine. Deadlocked cars blare horns and exhale carbon monoxide. This is clean? And these dumpster-divers shouting and asking for cigarettes – this is safe? I’ve never seen a homeless person before.

The bank branch sits inside the gold-rush era Palace Hotel. A glass and steel skyscraper erupts from within it and rises to the clouds, like the fabled beanstalk.

This city grew up too fast, but maybe I did, too. The son of a plumber who wanted to work in finance. A boy with big dreams.

It’s my first day at the bank. From eight o’clock, a parade of human misery passes by my teller bay.

The homeless people have names. Incorrect addresses. No ID. A Centrelink income they can’t access because their bank cards keep getting stolen.

The consultant in the flashy Versace suit is drowning in debt, cash advancing on his nearly-maxed-out credit card to afford a Waldorf salad.

The rich woman with a lazy million in her passbook account limps in wearing a threadbare cardigan. She’s recovering from hip surgery, alone. She asks if she can keep my pen.

These people aren’t sophisticated urbanites. They’re lost, flawed, dislocated. They don’t belong here, either.

Or maybe they do. Country towns are for home-cooked casseroles and a mother’s kiss on the cheek. The city is for drinking alone, losing yourself in a crowd, having a nervous breakdown, reaching for a sky you might never touch.

I leave the bank at four. I see two pigeons fighting over a chip, hear a taxi driver call a pedestrian a drongo, smell the stench of a shirtless bloke pissing on the side of Wesley Church.

I am one of them. A boy with magic beans.
---
© Holden Sheppard, 2020. Holden Sheppard is an award-winning author born and bred in Geraldton, Western Australia. His debut novel Invisible Boys (Fremantle Press, 2019) has won several accolades including the 2019 WA Premier's Prize for an Emerging Writer and the 2018 City of Fremantle Hungerford Award. In 2020, Invisible Boys was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards and named as a Notable Book by the Children's Book Council of Australia. Holden is also widely published in journals such as Griffith Review and Westerly. Holden currently serves as the Deputy Chair of WritingWA and as an ambassador for Lifeline WA, and was formerly host of the Fremantle Press podcast. He has always been a misfit: a gym junkie who has played Pokémon competitively, a sensitive geek who loves aggressive punk rock, and a bogan who learned to speak French. He lives in Perth’s northern suburbs with his husband.

Another story?

Explore the power of words

Select a story