Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Follies Of Formicidae - Amber Johnson


The Follies Of Formicidae

Amber Johnson

Annerley, QLD

As the tiny soldiers make an epic journey, following the promised scent, their beady eyes fall upon the crystalline mountain that towers above them. Ebony plates cover their bodies in natural armour ask they trek onward. In a single file regiment, they scale vertical heights like they were born to climb. No safety rope or harness secures them from the fall, only tough feet and the strength exceeding that of men keep them secured to the walls. Team work keeps them going along with the trust in the brave soul who dared venture first. Should the scout break formation and retreat, the company’s morale will diminish.

Once they conquer tapering cliffs, the fumes that rise from the caldera become intoxicatingly potent. At the very rim of the volcano, the regiment halts. They no longer march in the orderly fashion that they followed throughout the climb. A caldron of emotions bubbles within them until anarchy breaks loose. Some pace nervously around the lip, watching others surpass them and plummet to their demise. It is the cautious ones that survive the longest. Once they have gained the courage to make a steady descent into the hazardous pit, the amber nectar beckons them closer. Only when their eyes fall upon the pool of molten gold do they realise that they are not alone.
They were not the first to find this sacred site, and they won’t be the last.

Legions of fallen kin litter the citrine surface with twisted bodies. Their shiny black corpses float along the lost sea like a fleet of sunken ships. A few survivors struggle to pull themselves from the depths, pleading for help from the new-comers. Some of the adventurers heed the warning cries and scramble in a hasty ascent towards the exit. They will not risk their lives for this madness. Others have travelled too far to return empty handed. They know that this will be their last journey should they fail.

One dares perch above the sacred liquor. They pay no regard to the fact that the pool is tainted by the flesh of their kinsmen. The desire to quench their insatiable thirst is too strong. Feet cling to the slippery walls as his lips send ripples across the surface. Taking note of his method, others began to follow suit.

Two opportunists fish their comrades from the aureolin sea, dragging them up the steep ascent. Whilst it may appear that they are respecting the dead this is not the case. In a barren land where each meal could be your last, you take no chances. Regrets are for the weak and protein is scarce.

It is often not the journey there but the one home which is the hardest. I have watched countless victims fall prey to madness, consumed by the giddy thrill of the hallowed syrup. They never leave, forevermore lingering at the surface until the jitters kick in and they drown in sickly bliss.

Those few successful enough to survive the quest return with protruding bellies, filled with sweet triumph. Their opaque skin reveals the amber fluid stored in their rumps in preparation for harsher days whilst they scurry away from the mass grave that rests upon my desk.

Bio: Amber says that this poem follows the humble journey that these little creatures found themselves undertaking across the expanse of her desk. She had looked at a glass of juice that she had left for no more than 20 minutes before it was conquered by adventurous ants.

Encounter - Michele Fermanis-Winward


Encounter

Michele Fermanis-Winward

Leura, NSW

Without a shock
or sharp intake of breath
the snake and I connect.
Late afternoon
when I presumed
it safe to wander out.

There by the door
among the clogs and boots
it eyed my little dog
and she unsure
what action best
stood anchored to the ground.
While I admired
the beauty of its scales
black as a polished shoe
with muted red below
so I could name its kind.

I turned,
scooped up my dog
and praised her reticence.
Tomorrow I will raise my boots
upturned upon a bench.

Bio: After a city-based career in visual arts, Michele now lives and writes surrounded by birds and the bush.

Fly Bys - Toni Paton


Fly Bys

Toni Paton

Blackheath, NSW

We make quite a noise as we buzz through the day,
Surviving on refuse, on rubbish tossed away.
We are not averse to fresh food, if, perchance we find,
Food not covered, morsels left behind.

Never welcome, rejected where ever we go,
Disliked with a vengeance, this we know.
Yet – we are here for a reason,
Excelling in the summer season …
When the sun is shining, the days are warm,
’Tis time to swoop, in abundance swarm.

We are drawn by aromas repulsive or sweet –
Places to multiply, substance to eat.
No place is immune, to ‘we’ nuisance flies.
‘They are even here,’ everyone cries!

To ensure our species shan’t become extinct,
Survival relies on natural instinct.
Depositing eggs, when threatened, in strife
So they can survive, create a new life.

Though we’re disliked, not welcome, we say
Take note, believe us – we are here to stay!
We’ll work on your rubbish, help manage the mess.
We thrive on this planet – couldn’t settle for less.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Most unusual noise competition

Just a quick reminder to all our narratorAUSTRALIA contributors - and even those who have been reading and contemplating contributing - that we are looking for entries using the phrase

it made a most unusual noise as it landed

to be published during the week commencing 1 April 2013.

Short stories and poems - haikus, Fibonacci Sequences, Dimitric Sequences if you must! But get 'em in and get 'em in fast - time's running out!

And don't forget to add into the 'Bio' line that you're entering the 'Most unusual noise week competition' or words to that effect so that we know to look at your entry for that week.

Happy writing! :D

The Creak/Creek on the Stairs - Janet Mancy


The Creak/Creek on the Stairs

Janet Mancy

Tallebudgera, Queensland

The apartment felt lonely now that Bill was gone. It made noises which sounded remarkably like weeping. The taps did weep. They dripped constantly, depriving Mary of sleep until the early hours. When finally she did drift into an uneasy slumber in the wee hours she woke just a few hours later. Usually she willed herself to rise, to get her day started.

Lately Mary had been feeling a little unwell. She’d have to ring the doctor to make that appointment. The one she’d been putting off for weeks. She’d thought her tiredness was the result of Bill’s sudden death. The funeral arrangements had been taxing on her. She’d had to contend with disagreeable in-laws and their snooty offspring.

Then there’d been accommodation to arrange. Her small house had overflowed with people she hardly knew. They offered help, trying to ease their own grief in any way they could. She’d appreciated their efforts, but found it stifling. She and Bill had led a quiet life – they were not used to fuss. They’d avoided it whenever possible, preferring each other’s company.

After the visitors had departed for their various homes, amid promises to keep in touch, Mary had the house to herself. The first few days were a blur. She simply was too depleted to attempt anything, let alone sort through Bill’s personal effects. It was a small comfort to be surrounded by his things. Reminders of his interests were everywhere. They’d been unable to have children, so there would be no-one to pass them on to.

To please a well meaning friend, Mary decided to see a grief counsellor. The time was set for mid-morning. It will be the shortest session in history, she thought ruefully.

The receptionist was all smiles and welcoming. Having given her details Mary was ushered to a chair. She immediately felt at her ease. The décor was restful and calming, none of those garish colours seen in some more modern waiting rooms.

The clients were a mixed bag. For the most part they seemed relaxed, apart from one lady, who was tearfully wringing her hands. Mary surmised her lost to be quite recent – and settled down to wait her turn. By the time her name was called she had perused most of the ancient magazines in the waiting room.

The counsellor was a spry looking man in his mid to late forties. His hair was beginning to thin at the temples. Just a touch of grey was visible. His gaze took in her neat appearance.

He’d not had time to read her history, apart from a cursory glance when he’d had a few moments to spare. It had been busy this morning, but the waiting room was almost empty now. Many of his clients had chosen early appointments as they had jobs to go to.

The woman sitting before him was of retirement age, which meant he could grace her with a longer consultation. He’d wave the extra charge this one time in the name of good customer service.

‘Mrs Black, may I call you Mary? My name is Kerry O’Connor. Kerry to you. Tell me about yourself. What brings you here?’ The mark of a good counsellor is to listen and this he did with great patience.

Surprisingly at ease with this stranger, she unburdened herself about things she hadn’t consciously thought about in a great while. Things previously only shared with Bill in their quieter moments together. O’Connor sat passively, only interrupting occasionally in order to clarify some point or encourage her to continue.

Counsellor O’Connor was well pleased. Mary Black’s initial session had been revealing. No further appointments were necessary. A pity. She could have proved a rich source of income. He thought of her parting words as she’d left his office. ‘I won’t be needing you again. I only came because a friend was worried about me. I’m staying at her house tonight – she insisted. I’ll be able to tell her what a great help you’ve been. Knowing her, she’ll soon be sending more business your way!’

Mary fully intended to visit her friend that evening. She’d had to cancel as she once again felt unwell. She was rather tired and looked forward to a quiet night in her own bed. Sarah would understand.

She made her way up the stairs of her two story apartment, her feet dragging with every step. Nearing the top, she felt an urgent need to use the toilet, but couldn’t summon the energy to make the extra distance. Such a short distance, such an effort of will. It was all too much. She was exhausted!

Mary’s bladder opened, releasing a warm stream of urine. The creek on the stairs became a flood and with it flowed her dammed up emotions.

Counsellor ‘Kerry to you’ O‘Connor, with impeccable timing, chose this very moment to put his plan into action. He’d taken time after Mary’s session to read her file. Deciding the recently widowed woman was rich pickings, he worked on a plan to share some of her perceived wealth. He let himself carefully into Mary’s home. It was surprisingly easy.

A quick scan revealed nothing of value in her small living room, apart from various models, signifying many interests. There was a large record collection which might be worth a second look. He could do that as he was leaving. He’d need some sort of bag to carry them. He should be able to find any number of them in the house and decided to try his luck upstairs.

At first he did not see Mary sitting on the step. She was doing her best to be quiet, but could not stem the gush that issued forth. She held her breath and observed him until, reaching the halfway point, his foot slipped from under him and he landed in a heap at the bottom of the stairs.

Mary could not contain herself. The more she laughed the more relief she felt. Her relief grew in volume and a yellow river rained down upon the would-be thief. The step on which she sat creaked in rhythm to her swaying. It was punctuated by hysterical laughter and sounded like a strange eccentric band.

Based on Mary’s description police apprehended a bruised, foul smelling, soon to be ex-grief counsellor. Dishevelled and shamefaced, he was led away between two burly law enforcement officers.

Following this encounter Mary’s demeanour underwent a change and she found herself smiling at the oddest moments. The local Police Citizens Youth Club may appreciate Bill’s many models and hobby paraphernalia, she decided. Bill had supported their cause for many years. The association had become more than just a voice on the telephone over time. It had meant a lot to Mary that some members had attended Bill’s funeral and offered ongoing support.

The recent adventure sustained Mary. She thought of the times Bill had endured her nagging when things needed fixing about their home - glad now that he had not found time to mend the annoying creak on the stairs. In her imagination she could hear his booming chuckle reverberating from another realm.

Bio: Janet says she wrote this as a result of a trigger set by the Nerang Writers’ Group earlier this year. This group meets in an aged care facility on a fortnightly basis.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

What A Day! - Jean Bundesen


What A Day! 

Jean Bundesen

Woodford, NSW

A cyclone rages along the Queensland coast, but in NSW…

We are driving across the mountains
Tires drumming on the highway
Surrounded by clouds
Light rain is falling.

A Sage in a long grey woolen coat
Could describe this wet weekend
His coat shrouds the scene
Trees snuggling up. 

Approaching car headlights glisten golden

On the glossy road
Like the shiny buttons on the Sage’s coat.
Visibility’s reduced cars ahead are
Just greyish shapes, in misty rain.

It looks like everything is asleep until
Sulphur crested Cockatoos screech.
Bright yellow Wattle blossoms
Add a spot of cheer.

Our windscreen wipers slip-slop back and forth.

Off the mountain clouds lift –
Theatre curtains rolling back,
Leaving sullen grey clouds above
But no rain.

Groups of Lombardy poplar trees
Turning gold along the highway
Banks of Brunswick Green pine trees
In the distance.

We have gone far enough; home is calling …

Bio: Jean’s interests include photography, water colour painting, reading, gardening and writing which she was inspired to do after attending a number of creative writing  courses during 1999 –2001. She Wrote her first piece of poetry in 2000 and continues.

Jean has been the Coordinator of the Blackheath Creative Writers since March 2010, when the founder, Walter Smith, retired. The numbers have since tripled.

Alice Springs Regatta - Armin Boko


Alice Springs Regatta

Armin Boko

Lake Heights, NSW

Unlucky to freeze
In Moscow zoo,
It’s dawn and already
warmish thirty two
At Alice Springs,
Where a mob of red ‘roos
In the suburbia
graze the night through.

On Todd’s River dry bed
A regatta is to take place,
A real regatta we’re told
On real river sand.
A true sensation;
World’s one and only
Regatta on sand.
Media and tourists
Swoop down on Alice
Adorned in her finest.

Alice drowsy begins to stir
At first daylight; engine running
A Police van pulls up
To pick up strugglers
After a hard night’s binge.
Log fires put out,
Hence a free ride assured
Back to the outback station.

Council’s rubbish truck
Calls up next to collect
Bedding of sorts, miscellaneous
Litter, empty booze
Containers for most part.
All Police leave’s cancelled,
Let the regatta begin.

Cheers and salute to all
Part takers, dignitaries
And spectators,
Skipper and deckies
Brave seamen, welcome all!
And the Mayor goes on.

Ahoy! Ten minutes
To the starting gun,
Maneuver the craft
On long reach helmsmen,
Watch out starboard
For pushy upstarts!

Starter’s gun off,
Hell for leather
From hereon;
And it’s free for all
No handicap rating
Either sailing in NT.
In quick step as one,
We charge down wind
On the spinnaker leg.

Alas, without spinnaker,
Blooper or big genoa,
Propelled by our own feet
We run through heat
And choking dust,
All the way to the finishing line.

Winners to be showered
By deafening jubilation, crowd
Some already on turps,
Here in Alice Springs NT,
World’s one and only
Regatta on river sand.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Passing Over - Davidvee


Passing Over

Davidvee

Glen Waverley, VIC

Process of dying is underway,
lungs and heart in rapid decay.
They say I can’t expect a stay,
it may possibly happen today.

Reconciled, can’t procrastinate,
too weak to even remonstrate.
No choice but to lie and wait,
one more move to checkmate.

Will heart or brain be first to chill?
Do I struggle or just lie still
or a progression, by divine will,
a series of steps to fulfil?

I wonder who or what decides
where the essential me resides?
Is there anything at all inside
to pass over to that ‘other side’?

If not and there’s nothing there
to move through a porte cochere,
well then, do I bloody care
if I do not end up somewhere?

No more strength to converse,
pain is growing, getting worse,
nervous system’s quite perverse.
Can't take any more, call nurse.

More and more I’ve become fond,
of morphine, true magic wand.
It will slash life’s final bond,
ease my way to the great beyond.

My Holden Barina - Irina Dimitric


My Holden Barina

Irina Dimitric

Mosman, NSW

My Holden Barina rhymes with ballerina
I’d write a terza rima to my Barina
If only my muse would enthuse

An Aussie car is what I like
I’m so glad she’s not a bike
My mane will stay dry in the rain

She takes me from point A to B
Humming softly as a bumble-bee
Via alleyways and highways

To park her is a piece of cake
I can do it half awake
Squeeze with ease into smallest space

My Holden Barina rhymes with ballerina
For this little beauty here’s a rima piccolina
Not Dante’s terza, but a fine rhyme of mine.

Bio: For the poetry buffs out there, and those who love to learn something new every day (your mother was right, it IS good for you!), this is Irina’s one style of terza rima or tercet. She created it along the following pattern:

Each stanza has three lines (tercet).
The first two rhyme.
The third line contains internal rhyme.

The rhyme pattern in this poem is, therefore:
aa(bb) cc(dd) ee(ff) gg(hh) aa(jj) with the internal rhyme shown in brackets.

Irina says that on the day she created this from, 18 May 2012, she checked online and could not find mention of a poetry form like this one. Perhaps we should call it a Dimitric Sequence? (Please see 26 January for enlightenment on that one!)

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Julian and Cecilia - Jenny Kathopoulis


Julian and Cecilia

Jenny Kathopoulis

Wodonga, VIC

Present
My name is Julian and I am scared. Cecilia will not leave me alone. I am in the bathroom, hiding from her at the moment. I go to the mirror and look at my reflection, my pale face and huge scared eyes stare back at me. I quickly go to the door and lock it because Cecilia can get violent at times and she’s very strong. She’s becoming more and more demanding. I told her to leave me alone and I’ve been ignoring her. She hates it when I do that. I need to get rid of her or she will ruin everything. Livy must not find out about her, never. She’s getting reckless and appearing when she shouldn’t. It’s like she wants us to be caught! I can’t believe it all started so innocently all those years ago.

Seventeen years ago
I am nineteen years old and in the throes of another beer buzz. The nightclub is crowded and the smell of smoke and sweat overrides everything else. I’m on the dance floor, dancing and laughing while enjoying the sensation of the floor spinning underneath my feet until I taste bile mixed with alcohol in my mouth. I quickly leave my friends and enter the toilets rushing to the basin. I splash my face with water and close my eyes in an attempt to make the nausea go away. I can feel my breath becoming shallow, fast and my heart picking up pace to match my breath. I fill with dread as I recognise the signs of a panic attack.

‘No, no, not now, please.’

‘Awww, what’s the matter? Is the poor little boy feeling sick?’

My eyes fly open. In the mirror I can see a woman standing just inside one of the cubicles. She is blonde, mannish with watery blue eyes. I spin around to face her.

‘Wh-where did you come from?’ I stammer.

‘Been here all the time, sweetness.’ She moves closer to me. She oozes sexuality. I feel the stirrings of sexual attraction but also revulsion at the same time.

‘So what’s got the poor boy all worked up?’ She is brushing up against me, her finger tracing the sweat running down my face. I can smell her fermented breath breathing into my mouth. It turns my stomach.

‘Ummm, nothing. Just drank too m-much,’ I say pulling away, but she moves with me, leechlike. ‘I, umm, better get going, gonna go home. I feel like crap.’

‘Well, I have just the thing for you,’ she says, pulling a small vial from her top, being sure to flash bare skin. ‘Here, take this. You’ll feel better in no time. I promise.’

I stare at the vial with its green liquid in it. I remember all the panic attacks of late, the stress, the constant tightness in my chest. I want to relax. Just for one night. I take the vial from her.

‘So what’s your name?’

‘Cecilia.’

‘Well, here’s to you, Cecilia,’ I mock salute her, before downing the liquid.

Cecilia laughs slyly.

‘Thata boy. How about you show a girl a good time now, huh?’

This is the last thing I remember of the night I first met Cecilia, but since that night, we are inseparable.

Twelve years ago
I am twenty-four years old and Cecilia and I are at a party. We are both high and a little out of control.
‘Hey Jules, this is Ari. Isn’t he scrumptious?’ Cecilia squawks. She has draped herself over Ari as they sit on the couch.

I sit on the arm of the couch, trying to keep some distance between myself and the loved up couple, pretending not to notice Ari’s hand on Cecilia’s thigh. Cecilia notices my disapproval.

‘Come closer, silly,’ Cecilia stretches out her hand. ‘We don’t bite ... much,’ she coos as her hand glides up Ari’s leg, obviously enjoying my possessiveness. Suddenly I feel tired, tired of all the mind games.

‘You ready to go Cill?’ I stand abruptly.

Cecilia’s eyes narrow. ‘Ari, honey, can you get me a drink?’ Ari stumbles, clumsy in his effort to impress. ‘What the fuck is your problem, Jules?’

‘Nothin’, just wanna go. Not really interested in watching you lie all over some guy. It’s getting old,’ I say, the drugs fuelling my confidence.

‘Yeah, well you’ve become a bore lately, haven’t you?’ Cecilia’s voice is getting louder. I know she does this on purpose because she knows I hate scenes.

‘Whatever, Cecilia, whatever. Go have your fun with Ari. I’ll be here.’

‘You could join us,’ she says, running her finger down my arm, her face inviting.

‘Not tonight, Cecilia.’

Her face closes and she stalks off.

***

Much later I am ready to go home so I look for Cecilia and find her and Ari in a bedroom. I stop short as they are in the middle of having sex and I watch through the slightly open door. Their backs are to me and they are facing a vanity table. Ari’s eyes are shut as he pounds into Cecilia from behind. Cecilia catches my reflection in the table’s mirror and smirks. We stare at each other for a moment. She sees the hurt in my eyes. She knows she has won. Why must it always be this way with her? I ask myself. Always these silly mind games. I vow to distance myself from her.

Ten years ago
‘Why don’t you just leave him the hell alone?’ Cecilia screams at my father. I am twenty six and we are at my parents’ house for the quarterly ‘family dinner’. Cecilia has just reacted to yet another of my dad’s put downs of me. Half of me cringes and half of me applauds her.

‘Not once, just once, have I heard you say something positive to Julian,’ she continues in full flight. ‘It’s always, “Well you could have done this better, Son”, or “Why didn’t you do that, Son?”’

My parents sit, staring at Cecilia with identical gasping fish expressions, their eyes bulging and mouths wide open with shock. I suppress a sudden urge to laugh with nervous tension.

‘Cill, stop. Please.’

Cecilia then rounds on me. ‘And as for you, stand up for yourself and start being a fucking man! You make me sick, you’re such a little pussy!’

She then stands suddenly, overturning her chair. She turns and leaves the table but our eyes meet in the hallway mirror.

‘I’ll be waiting in the car, you got five minutes,’ she tells my reflection as she heads out the door.
‘S-sorry, Mum and Dad,’ I mutter to my parents as I scramble after Cecilia.

Seven years ago
‘Oh Cecilia, her name is Olivia and she’s gorgeous.’

‘Oh Cecilia, her name is Olivia and she’s gooorgeeoous,’ Cecilia mimics back at me.

I am twenty-nine and Cecilia and I are sitting on her bed. After the fiasco at my parent’s house I tried to distance myself from her but Cecilia wouldn’t allow it. The more I pushed her away, the more she tried to get closer. There were tears and promises but the nature of our relationship was continued: Cecilia acted as she liked and I always forgave her.

‘Come on Cill, don’t be like that,’ I plead.

Cecilia looks at me, suddenly sincere. ‘You won’t forget about me now that you’ve met somebody, will ya?’ I am surprised by her sincerity and the vulnerability in her eyes so I gather her close and hug her from behind. We smile at our reflection in the mirror propped up against the wall. The same vulnerability is reflected in my eyes as I answer her. ‘Course I won’t forget you, Cecilia. You’re a part of me. Just promise me you won’t ruin this for me?’

Cecilia’s smile wavers. ‘Promise.’

We both know we are lying to each other.

Three years ago
‘She’s cheating on you, Jules.’

I am thirty-four years old and Cecilia and I are in the bedroom that Olivia and I share as husband and wife. I am furious with Cecilia. For the last four years Cecilia has been taunting me with suggestions of Livy’s infidelity. At first, I simply laughed it off but slowly her taunts began to work on my insecurities, as only Cecilia could do. My distrust of Olivia nearly ruined my marriage until I woke up to Cecilia’s games.

‘Shut up Cecilia. You’re lying. Stupid bitch.’

‘Aww, what’s the matter? Can’t Julian handle the truth?’

‘It’s not the truth, Cecilia. Now stop the silly games. While I’m at it, Cecilia, I know it’s you coming in and touching Livy’s stuff and stealing her clothes. She fired the cleaner, thinking it was her, you idiot,’ I ranted.
‘Stealing her clothes? Please! She has the style of a twat. Don’t insult me,’ Cecilia sneered.

‘Cut the crap, Cecilia. I know it’s you. Only you would write SLUT on the mirror.’

‘Yeah well, if the shoe fits ...’ Cecilia lets the sentence hang and walks to the dresser. She studies her image in the mirror, reapplying her lipstick. Her reflection blows me a kiss. My self control snaps. I lunge off the bed and grab the back of her head, pushing her cheek up against the mirror.

‘You leave Livy alone, you listen. Enough, Cecilia, no more,’ I growl against her ear.

I know I will pay dearly for this but I am too angry to care. Cecilia’s laughter begins slowly and then becomes a cackle. I stare at her reflection, her scarlet mouth twisted in laughter, the lipstick smeared. Our eyes meet in the mirror and to my surprise Cecilia is crying despite her cackling laughter. Her cackling vibrates in my mind and I need to get away from her. I run out of the room with Cecilia’s cackle chasing me.

One year ago
‘Tell me about Cecilia, Julian.’

I am thirty-five years old and I am talking to my psychiatrist, Lana. I have decided to get professional help in an attempt to help my marriage. Cecilia is a constant presence in my marriage. Even though Olivia is not aware of her, she is a major player in our marriage with her insidious accusations.

‘Umm, well, she’s strong and bold. Everything I wish I was.’

‘Alright, then what’s the problem?’

‘Well, she lies to me about Livy and tells me Olivia is cheating on me, for one.’

‘So why don’t you end the relationship?’ Lana says logically, not understanding that our relationship is anything but logical.

‘I can’t.’

‘Why not? Why can’t you end the relationship with Cecilia, Julian?’

‘’cause, I need her ... in some messed up way. I rely on her,’ I answer. I jump off the chair, agitated. I catch my reflection in the window, my frightened eyes look back at me. I think I catch a glimpse of Cecilia’s sardonic smile. She is everywhere.

One month ago
‘I’m sorry Jules, really I am,’ Cecilia cries.

‘Just leave us alone. This time you’ve gone too far.’

I am thirty-six years old and Cecilia and I are in my car. I have told Cecilia that it’s over. I don’t want to see her anymore. Her last little game of hiding a pack of condoms in Livy’s bag nearly led to Olivia getting hurt again but thankfully, just the second before I struck Livy, I realised the truth. I promised myself then that Cecilia had to go. Today I was keeping my promise to myself.

‘Please Julian, I–’

‘No Cill. I can’t do this anymore. Too much has happened. It’s over!’

Cecilia’s jaw clenches. ‘You don’t get to say it’s over. Understand? You’re nothing without me. Who’s the one who sticks up for you, fights your battles and stops you from getting walked over, huh? Me, because you’re a little pussy. I say when it’s over, not you!’

Cecilia then undoes her belt and flings open the car door, slamming it shut behind her. I look in the rear view mirror just as she turns around. The rage in her eyes turns my blood cold.

Now
I am thirty-six and have locked myself in the bathroom. I can hear Cecilia looking for me, calling for me.
‘Shut up,’ I whisper.

I am terrified Livy will hear her and all our dirty secrets will be found out. Cecilia has the power to destroy everything. If Livy were to find out about her, it would be the end. I look in the mirror and Cecilia’s reflection stares back at me, smirking, defiant.

‘Julian? You alright in there, babe? You’ve been in there a while.’ Livy is at the door.

‘Yeah, I’m fine, Liv.’

Go to hell bitch,’ Cecilia screams in my head and in my heart I know I will never be free of Cecilia. Cecilia is a part of me, the part that wants to be set free, the part of me that I despise and fear and most importantly, a part of me that I will never let go.

My name is Julian and I am scared.

Bio: Jenny lives in the North East of Victoria with her husband Charlie and two children, Kaitlyn and Pearce. She has just completed a teaching degree and is looking forward to teaching.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Billet - Alicia Braithwaite


The Billet

Alicia Braithwaite

Kanimbla, NSW

‘Out here,’ the woman said as she walked to the back of the house and gestured towards a closed-in verandah. With the twin iron bedheads against the wall, they reminded him of hospital beds – white sheets, white coverlets – except for the thick, homemade crocheted throws at the end of each one.

‘This is nice,’ the young soldier said politely.

‘Spare blankets in the wardrobe. It gets cold at night when the sun goes down.’

‘I’ll be fine,’ the young soldier reassured her. ‘I have to learn to rough it, Missus.’

The woman smiled tiredly. ‘I’ll call you when tea’s ready.’ She turned and left abruptly.

The young soldier shrugged. Not your motherly type, is she? Feel like I’m imposing. A bit rough when I’m off to fight for my country: I thought country people were friendly. He stared out at the acres of thirsty soil; three granite boulders huddled together near the chook house in the backyard.

‘I wouldn’t be too hard on her.’

The young soldier spun around, his slouch hat flying out of his hand. Opposite him, sitting on the spare bed was a soldier in muddy, ill-fitting khaki.

‘Where’d you spring from?’

‘Me?’ he laughed. ‘I’m always around. Keeping an eye on things. Making sure Mum’s alright.’ He smiled wearily at the newcomer. ‘Me mum’s had a rough trot. Don’t be too hard on her.’

‘I didn’t know she had a son.’

‘Only one. Me! The bad boy.’

‘Bad? How?’

‘ “Wilful” she calls me. Ran away to fight. Her best bad boy: I know what she thinks, always thinking about me,’ he said idly pulling at the wool of the crocheted throw. ‘Anyway, what’s your name?’

‘Tommy!’  

The weary soldier laughed. ‘That’s a shame. Tommy! Bet you get ribbed a lot.’

‘Why?’

‘You know, tommy gun. Maybe your parents knew you’d go to make a soldier some day.’

Tommy shrugged then asked, ‘What’s your name?’ as he held out his hand.

‘Len,’ he said, shaking the proffered hand. Abruptly he said, ‘When do you go?’

‘Two days,’ Tommy answered, eyes sparkling, his boyish face full of hope for adventure. ‘I volunteered. Off to France!’

‘Muddy place, France.’

‘You been there?’

‘Yeah! Dad was there too.’

Tommy looked surprised. ‘When?’

‘The last war,’ Len laughed bitterly. ‘The Great War! “The war to end all wars”. At least, that’s what everyone hoped.’

Tommy asked cautiously, ‘Did he make it back?’

Len’s face took on a strange expression. ‘Would have if he hadn’t got lead poisoning.’

‘That’s a shame,’ Tommy said, head bowed.

‘Yeah! More like a family tradition. His father went the same way.’

‘Lead poisoning? ’

Len nodded. ‘Occupational hazard if you’re a soldier.’

Tommy looked blank and then laughed. ‘Oh, you mean bullets.’

Len shrugged. ‘Well, young Tommy: not yet blooded.’

Tommy blushed under the soldier’s gaze. ‘I know it sounds funny but sometimes I think I’ve already been to war. Sometimes, I’m sure I hear gunfire and smell cordite.’

‘Maybe you were always a soldier. Maybe you were a soldier in another life. Some people believe that. Learning that fighting doesn’t win the war.’

Tommy grinned. ‘That’s a mad idea. You mean, soldiers just come back as soldiers until they refuse to fight any more?’

Len smiling gently shrugged again and stood up. ‘Maybe. You should take a look at our granite boulders before you go off fighting.’ He looked keenly at Tommy but Tommy just smiled back uncertain. Changing the subject, Len said quickly, ‘Look, it’s almost teatime. Do me a favour. Don’t tell Mum you’ve seen me. It’d only upset her. Alright?’ He stood up and hurdled over the spare bed, disappearing around the corner of the verandah.

Tommy shrugged. Odd family! Why wouldn’t I tell her?

Just then, Len’s mother walked out to the verandah. ‘Alright?’ she asked, echoing her son’s last word. Briskly, she said, ‘Bathroom’s first on the left.’ She pointed outside. ‘Outside dunny: drought’s not broken so don’t waste water.  You from the city?’

He smiled pleasantly. ‘Erskineville! All my life.’

She nodded. ‘Tea’s ready.’ She walked back to the kitchen, Tommy following.

They sat opposite each other, lamb, gravy, roast potato and pumpkin, peas, and slices of thick bread on a plate in front of them. They ate in silence. When she’d cleared the plates and put them in the sink, she said, ‘I’ll put the kettle on.’ Placing the teapot on the table, the woman sat down heavily, staring into her cup.

‘Very nice tea thanks Missus,’ Tommy said. She nodded shyly. ‘Do you get some help on the farm?’

She sighed. ‘I do most of it now with help from my neighbours at harvest time. My son used to help.’

She looked up at him and smiled her tired smile. ‘My bad boy.’

‘Bad? How?’

‘Wilful. My best bad boy! Sorry,’ she said suddenly. ‘I’ve forgotten your name.’

‘Tommy!’

She shook her head. ‘That’s a shame. Tommy! Bet you get ribbed a lot.’

‘Why?’ he asked slowly, feeling his scalp tingle.

‘You know, tommy gun. Maybe your parents knew you’d go to make a soldier some day.’

‘That’s just what …’ He stopped himself in time.

The woman glanced up at him and then back into her teacup, as if she would find an answer there.

‘You know Tommy, mothers have sons and fathers dig graves. The men die of warring. And the mothers die of grief.’

Abruptly, Tommy stood up, his chair falling onto the kitchen lino. ‘Those granite boulders out back: I think I want to see them.’

She nodded slowly. ‘I’ll show you.’

With his heart beating wildly in his chest, Tommy followed her onto the verandah and out to the backyard. Without looking at them, she waved him forward.

Slowly, Tommy squatted down on his haunches, staring at the weathered face of the rocks in front of him. Taking his time, slowing his breathing, he began to read the inscriptions:

Leonard Albert Frost, died 1899, Boer War, of wounds sustained.

Leonard John Frost, died 1916, the Great War, of wounds sustained.

Leonard Frost, died 1941, World War II, of wounds sustained.

And then, further down, he read:

Mary Frost, died 1942, mother of Leonard Frost, of grief.

‘That’s right,’ she said softly. ‘I’m buried with my son.’ Turning to the young soldier who rose pale before her, she asked, ‘You’ve volunteered, Tommy. Will you still go off to war?’

Friday, 22 February 2013

I Am Desire - Graham Sparks


I Am Desire

Graham Sparks

Bathurst, NSW

To think that I could ever be a Buddhist,
or ever be a Daoist even!
To think that I could shed desire,
desire for anything,
desire for female flesh,
desire to clothe conceptual bones of dreams
in flesh that I could touch and feel,
and bring those dreams to life.
To feel them being born through me.

In the past they said I was a cunt,
I cannot prove them wrong,
The world is flesh and I’m its man.

Bio: Graham says that when he was young, he was a saxophone player in a reggae band, and was the token honky (white guy). A witchdoctor lady, who was versed in various tribal shamanistic disciplines as well as psychology, numerology and astrology, did a reading of him one day and declared that he was the ‘infinite creative potential of the Virgin’s birth canal’.

My Friend the Yowie - David Anderson


My Friend the Yowie

David Anderson

Woodford, NSW

While walking below the Three Sisters one day,
Through the mist a tall bloke came heading my way,
I said, ‘Mate, how come you’re so bloody tall?
I’d hate to face you in a bar room brawl.’

He said, ‘I’m hungry. You got something to eat?’
I laughed. ‘Where’d  you get those huge hairy feet?’
‘I’m a Yowie, Son, don’t you understand?’
he said, as he reached and held my left hand.

‘I’m lonely, where’s a girl to be my sweet wife?’
My other hand reached for my Swiss Army knife.
‘I’d be your friend, but then I would worry,
That I could end up in a Yowie curry.’

He laughed. ‘I can’t cook to save my own skin’
I relaxed and said, ‘ Don’t you have any kin?
No brothers or sisters, parents, or mates,
To line you up with some promising dates?’

‘That’s the problem, Son,’ he sadly replied.
‘You see, every last one of them has up and died
Now what do you say, will you be my friend
And bring my solitude to an end?’

I assumed a facade of being really brave,
When he lead me to his Mt Solitary cave.
I said, ‘Living like this could send you quite mad,’
He hung his head low with a look oh so sad,
His eyes welled up, and he started to weep.
‘In Megalong, they blame me for killing the sheep.
But I’ll tell you true, that’s no work of mine,
That’s the black panther living in the Jamison mine.’

I said to him. ‘Mate, now I understand.’
And smiling, I hugged his huge hairy hand.
‘We’ll get your story on Sydney TV,
when people meet you they will plainly see ...’

Then I stopped, and knew that if this I tried,
My new found friend would be crucified.
In a lab, by scientists and ASIO
There must be more safer ways for us to go.

Well I tried to think of what I could do
I don’t want to see him in Taronga Zoo
So I brought him some things to enjoy a new life
A fridge, plates, spoon, a fork and a knife.
A solar panel for electricity, 
a satellite dish, a colour TV.

Laptop with broadband, a stove that he’ll brew
A nice pot of tea, and some wallaby stew.
He’s even on Facebook, as large as you please
Aussie friends by the thousands, and some overseas.
Makes girls want to meet him and see the real deal
But wait till they meet him – and his photo is real!

My friend the Yowie, he’s nine feet tall.
You’d hate to face him, in a bar room brawl
But now he’s happy, ’cause I’m his best friend
And he’ll never face loneliness, ever again.

Bio: David says that friends were talking about the legend of the Yowie and the black panther in the Blue Mountains. As he often walks the Federal Pass, it inspired this poem of someone meeting a Yowie.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Gran’s Billy Lid - Julie Lock


Gran’s Billy Lid

Julie Lock

Box Hill South, VIC

‘I see Gran!’ Billy shouted joyfully as he ran onto the front lawn.

Gran pulled her car up in the driveway and clambered out. Ten year old Billy rushed to greet her. ‘Hello Billy,’ she said, leaning down to give him a huge hug.

‘Hello Gran,’ he replied meekly.

‘What’s up? Where’s that lovely big smile of yours today Billy?’

Maree, Billy’s mother, appeared at the front door. ‘Hello there, now don’t you sook him up too much Gran.’

‘Why not? My dear Billy,’ said Gran, giving him a big kiss on the forehead.

Billy stayed close.

‘He’s been a naughty boy,’ said his mother.

Whenever Billy was badly behaved a favourite toy would be placed up high out of reach.

‘What’s all that, Billy?’ asked Gran, looking up at the garage roof. On the top of the corrugated iron shed were Billy’s bike, his ride-on tractor, his scooter and all his cricket gear.

‘It’s been a really bad week Gran,’ he replied.

Bio: Follow Julie on Twitter @Juli3Martin

Daisies For My Daisy - Laura Brown


Daisies For My Daisy

Laura Brown

West End, QLD

Darcy stood awkwardly at the light post, his walking stick barely holding his dense frame upright. He squinted through the cloud haze until the dancing man turned from red to green. Large figures, void of expression, shoved past him in efforts to make time go faster.

Drivers yelled at him, at each other. A symphony of horns filled the canvas of white noise coming from the secret box behind his right ear. His feet had stopped moving forward across the asphalt. Instead, he was moving on the spot. A flash of yellow screeched to a halt.  Daisy Dogs Car Wash was painted on the side, in letters large enough that even he did not need his trusty magnifying glass.

‘We better get you checked out,’ a voice called out above him.

‘Daisy … I knew one once. A bright young thing. Down on her luck, even to the very end. She won the lottery, you know. Then it came – the real bad luck.’

‘Don’t move. Help is coming.’

‘She hit her head on the side of the coffee table. Mild concussion was all she was told at the hospital. Next thing, she was dead.’

The clock tower in the distance sent out its hourly chime – four gongs in all. The first drops of rain sliced his skin as around him, the brown landscape softened. His brittle fingers stretched, their warmth contrasted against the sharp concrete.

‘Daisies for my Daisy,’ he gasped. A warming smile came over his face. The stranger’s brief chuckle turned to a sob when the lightness of the hand within hers grew heavy.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Tripping Over Rainbows - Na Na G


Tripping Over Rainbows

Na Na G

Springwood, NSW

Tripping over rainbows, falling down the cracks ...
Offer an arm to lean on thru these roaring years,
mirror my mirth, lend comfort to my deepest fears ...
when dreams are shattered, old friends prove untrue,
give me your smile to stir the pulse anew.                                                                

Puzzle Of Life - Jadei Brown


Puzzle Of Life

Jadei Brown

Edgeworth, NSW

Life is a puzzle of many pieces
Some days pieces fit easily
Other days we struggle to match
At times we feel we have lost pieces
And the puzzle will never be complete
I thought my puzzle was finished
Until you turned up
With you came a picture of a puzzle
That looked similar to mine
Just a few different pieces
I didn't wanna change mine
As I had taken so long
To put the pieces together
Although the new one looked much clearer
I struggled for a day or two
As I was over putting the pieces together
When you said though you would help
I chose to start again
Together we worked day and night
So many times I wanted to give it away
The puzzle you bought me was too hard
But you stayed strong and by my side
And together we put the pieces in place
Now I see the complete picture
Without your pieces my picture
Would never feel right
So thank you for helping me
To join the pieces tight.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Summer Storms - Lynn Nickols


Summer Storms

Lynn Nickols

Griffith, ACT

Wading through whiting in warm water shallows
Watching the fish whisk away, shadows fleeting
Wondering why they are nervous like swallows
Waiting for whispers of wind, heartbeats heating.

Suddenly up comes the southerly buster
Showering its leaves across water and sand
Soon we retreat to some shelter, protection
While Summer’s hot swelter turns cool on the land.

Cumulus clouds brilliant white, growing darker,
Fluff across forest and sweep across scree
Water first sprinkles, then splashes, then rushes
Through everything, everywhere, down to the sea.

Soon there is lightning and rumbles of thunder
Crashes and flashes and tumbling branches
Then it’s all over. The sun bursts asunder,
Sparkles and shimmers and rainbow enhances.

Air smells of greenness and life in the earth
Crickets go crazy and fish head to sea
It’s summery season, the wildness, the rebirth
Vigorous nature enjoying a spree.

Bio: Lynn has been writing since her retirement, enjoying the creativity and stimulation. She is delighted when others enjoy the results.

Paradise - Judith Bruton


Paradise

Judith Bruton

Lennox Head, NSW

If paradise was just across the road
What would you do?
Admire it?
Dream upon the ancient pines and birdsong;
Feel the cool sea breezes and misty mornings
Photograph the dawn                    
Paint midday?

Maybe venture into the archetypal forest
to touch the afternoon?
Immerse yourself in the warmth of tropical air
Feel leaves and grass moist beneath your step
Watch light dapple your body with myriad shapes
Look into infinite seascapes, rivers and bays of changing hue
Paint twilight?

Perhaps you would capture
the spirit of paradise in words?
And plant a memory seed
in places afar
where paradise once was.

Bio: Judith Bruton is a published writer and artist who lives and works in Byron Bay, NSW. For more about Judith, visit her website at www.judithbruton.com

Monday, 18 February 2013

Bend in the River - James Craib


Bend in the River

(A Bent Sort of Hymn)

James Craib

Wentworth Falls, NSW

Brethren Divine there’s a Bend in the River,
Revert In Behind and thou shalt be saved.
Taste of the sacred wine ~ Dei Herb Vintner,
Never Thine Bird shall be kept in a cave.

That’s where we should meet ~ Bend Thine River,
Dive In Brethren the waters shall cleanse thee.
Never Bind Their clothes – they shall not shiver,
Words In Thee Verb Rind like the bark of a tree.

It’s time to forgive and Rebind The Riven,
Let’s meet for a drink at The River Bed Inn.
Wine, whiskey, song and Thin Beer, Driven
Divine Brethren to where the River Be Thinned.

To Those In Need - Connie Howell


To Those In Need

Connie Howell

Wentworth Falls, NSW

Come, let me touch you
And heal your hurts,
Let me spread my wings around you,
Protecting you from life’s sad days
And baffling ways,
I am a shelter
Please come,
Abide within my loving arms
Secured against my breast,
I’ll love you and enfold you
Until it’s time to go
To meet again the challenges
With strength renewed once more,
And as you go along your way
Look back from time to time,
And see me as your beacon
Between this life and Divine
For I am in the middle
Of this world and the next,
And I can help you always
By bridging rivers deep.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Trapped - Athena Zaknic


Trapped

Athena Zaknic

West Beach, SA

He feels he is choking
Escape is the only way out.
The lure of the unknown beckons
beguiling and welcoming

His paralysed guts
nullify all courage mustered.
The rope of his efforts
loosened,  is now giving away.

Failing to divert his path,
defeated he falls back
onto a wayward world
 that is devoid of reverence.

He’ll never be anointed
by exotic fragrant balms
in far away places
where the daring are rewarded
with a simple tune
on a four holed flute.

Bio: Athena is a member of the U3A writing group in Adelaide. She has had her poetry and short stories published in hard copy and online over the past three years.

Dispatches - Peter Goodwin


Dispatches

Peter Goodwin

Warilla, NSW

There may already have been something wrong with me when I came ashore. I was making my way through the docks, along dark passages, when someone hit me from behind. I was warned to stay away from such things. I was left bleeding among bags of imported flour. On exchanging signals, the night watchman let me pass. I greeted the morning sun, my shaking arm raised above me like a flag. It had been a long campaign in countries too small to name, on seas too vast to chart. Our king in exile, our palaces in flames, we abandoned our posts, and fled the capital. We suffered terrible defeats from town to town, village to village, our broken and bleeding bodies strewn across the untilled fields of abandoned farms. On tree limbs bound with vines or curved planks nailed together, we set sail, the open sea our safe haven, but each landing, on various islands, the president’s militia set upon us again, slashing us with steel blades. Our harvest gods silent, our stone temples ruined, we scattered and went our own way. With fake papers, I boarded a cargo vessel. I needed a modest port away from the shipping lanes, a place to write dispatches to the king. The voyage was rough, without women and decent wine. I found both in an underground bar in the poor part of town. It was dark, secluded, little alcoves, a candle on each table. The woman behind the bar, draped in the coloured garments of her island civilisation, approached again, and gave me another glass of wine. A gesture from me, she sat down. I was tired of crossing borders by night, hiding in cellars by day, drinking dangerously by choice. I had nothing to say to her. I was already drafting my dispatches. She took command, told me the story of her life, the plot long, the theme intense. I let myself drift towards her as though I was lost at sea. It was not her words that tempted me. I had heard too many confessions, unsolicited, unhinged, to fall into that pit. It was her body, dark, beautiful, unknown to savages, a peaceful shore, where I could lay down, close my eyes. By the hand, along a dirt track, out of sight, she led me to her isolated shack by the river. I wrote my dispatches at night, the witnesses gone, the town dead, the lights extinguished, the roads too dark to walk, the ships in the bay rusted, empty bulks long neglected, the captains drunk, unfit to voyage. Night after night, while I wrote my dispatches, her olive skin glistened in the lamplight from my desk. Night after night, my dispatches became stories, my stories poems, my poems fragments, my fragments broken lines, even I, one day, would no longer be able to read.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

The Milliner - Henry Johnston


The Milliner

Henry Johnston

Rozelle, NSW

Long gone the drowsy days of selling newspapers to the young and the arthritic old. Days of meagre wages saved for the months beyond schools’ end and finding a job on Courland Street. Dim, dusty, dark days when I would collect the ‘inkies’ from a Greek newsagent who stacked my shallow yellow pushcart.

With pea whistle in mouth, I would traipse the neighbourhood, seeking out regulars, swapping stories and teasing barking dogs.

The run began at 7 am, rain or shine. I remember a woman with curlers trying to coax me inside to fetch a non-existent cat out of a tree, the happy chappies and tired workers and the occasional kind-hearted soul with a 50-cent tip.

The frail elderly waited by their letterboxes, coins clenched in withered fingers.
I would flick one from under my arm and watch, as they hobbled back indoors, not a word spoken between us.

I liked the Europeans. I imagined they bought a paper to enjoy the pictures and break up their day. Perhaps they kept it for a son or daughter away at work. Some smiled and tried to tousle my hair, others pointed at a car parked in the street and said in halting English, ‘bloody fast mite’.

Mrs Frankel spoke with a German accent. She too waited outside, tapping her coins on the metal fence once I came into view. With newspaper in her grasp, she’d snap it open, and scan the headlines all the while muttering in my direction. I walked on when the tension eased from her face and I sensed our one-way conversation fade into the bustle of the street.

One Saturday morning Mrs Frankel lost her temper.

‘You are late. Where have you been?’ she demanded.

‘It’s raining,’ I shot back, ‘and my barrow is full of water.’

She snatched the sodden newspaper from my hand, relented and beckoned me in doors.

Most of the homes of the old town boasted three ducks hung on floral wallpaper with matching Formica furniture, but Mrs Frankel’s house displayed none of these niceties.

Faceless wax store dummies lined the hall, each in perfect proportion to a female head. Hatboxes filled the parlour and in the next room stood neat piles of newspapers. Mounds of sheet music rested within easy reach of a black upright piano.

I towelled my hair, and sipped a mug of sweet coffee. A song tinkled in another room.

‘Never be late again,’ she said.

‘All sorts of things happen around here, and besides,’ I said, ‘I’m leaving in a few weeks, and I’m not sure who’ll take over the run.’

‘I must read the paper every day,’ she said. Her words shot into my eyes.

Mrs Frankel led me to a room filled with hundreds of multi-hued hats made of straw, felt and taffeta. She walked to a dressing table unlocked a drawer and lifted out a green cardboard box, and chose a handful of yellowing papers which she fanned and gave me.

I read out the unfamiliar shorthand code.

‘Your last received first inst. Stop. Cabling 50 pounds to Olga Frankel c/o Austerlitz Hotel Friedrickstrauser. Stop. Regards, Leopold.’

Each telegram — there were at least 30 — looked and read the same. The sequence of days of the week did not vary. Short, curt details of money transfers, ticket sales and hotel bookings, signed ‘Leopold’ or ‘L Gottlieb, Sydney, Australia’.

The stamp of an ornate double-headed eagle gazed from the right hand corner of each document.

Then the telegrams changed. The deep imprint of a cobalt blue Nazi Swastika suffocated the words printed on the parched pages.

‘See the date,’ she said.

‘March 12 1938,’ I replied, a date which meant nothing to me.

Mrs Frankel then spoke two words in her precise Austrian accent.

Anschluss Österreichs. You understand,’ she said, as a sobbing tremolo caught her voice. ‘I designed hats for the daughters and wives of the elite of Europe. Marlene Dietrich visited my salon, and the wife of the Austrian president Madame Schuschnigg. And that doe-eyed whore,’ she paused and bit her lower lip, ‘Eva Braun. Do you know these people or are you too stupid?’ she said. The words struck me as if a whip across my cheek. ‘I survive by knowing everything,’ she said, gesturing toward the street.

I walked to the front door and into the pouring rain.

A few days later, I told the Greek my time as a paper seller ended once my trial final exams began. He blustered and called me a lazy so-and-so, but he understood the ritual. Sure enough on my last day, a friend accompanied me to the newsagency and volunteered to take over my run.

We met up again during a brief summer of long hot blue-sky days. I asked after the newsagent and joked about the bald man in the Onkaparinga dressing gown, but his gaze dropped when I mentioned Mrs Frankel.

He described how a council truck pulled up outside her house and a crew of men wearing facemasks wheeled trolley loads of junk on to the street.

Three weeks after Mrs Frankel’s death, the gramophone short-circuited the flimsy fuse box, blacking-out most of the street. Curious electricity workers traced the fault back to her house.

They found Mrs Frankel upright in a chair, a newspaper in her hands. A blistered 78 record had melted onto the turntable. No one could read the title on the label.

On those rare days when I return to the old city, I strain to hear the paper sellers’ whistle; a shrill modulated toot followed by a pause then a trill, now close by or distant, and I recall Mrs Frankel’s favourite song, and think of her as I hum the tune under my breath.

Inches - Dianne Dean - January TED Comp Winner


Today we bring you the November winner of The Electric Discounter Writing Competition:

Inches

Dianne Dean

Winner January 2013 TED Writing Competition

Ignatius looked upward. Way, way up there was his target, glowing golden against the bright blue sky. It was hard to see through the scratched and ancient goggles but, honestly, he didn’t need to see it properly.  It was up there. He was down here. His job was to climb the green expanse that towered above him, taking vital measurements along the way. Scenery just wasn’t an issue.

The boss had assigned this climb to Ignatius, citing his vast experience and knowledge. The awestruck looks his younger colleagues had given him had ignited a warm glow of pleasure deep in his gut. Looking up now, though, his confidence drained away. It was really big. Really, really big. Ignatius started fiddling with his harness.  Checking and rechecking buckles and stitching that he had already checked hours ago back at the office. His radio fizzed to life.

‘Everything okay out there, Iggy? What’s holding you up?’ a concerned voice, his supervisor, crackled in his ear.

‘Fine, Bob,’ Ignatius was ashamed to hear his voice squeak, ‘Just, well, you know …’

‘I know, Iggy, but the job’s gotta be done. Up you go, now. The research department needs these readings.’

Ignatius closed his eyes against the gentle reprimand. Thing is, he knew Bob really did understand. Once the best climber in the business he had been given greater and greater challenges until, one day, a fumbled slip followed by a spiralling tumble had left him unable to scale the green poles ever again. Ignatius had seen Bob, when Bob thought none saw, staring upward at the gold above him with an expression of such longing that Ignatius had turned away in embarrassment.

Swallowing his fear, Ignatius wrapped himself around the rough surface and pulled himself upward. Within a few minutes he spoke into his radio.

‘Two,’ and a few moments later, ‘Two.’

‘Makes four!’ Bob replied.

Relieved pleasure flooded through Ignatius at the traditional response. Bob was such a stickler for tradition. Ignatius had heard some supervisors no longer bothered. But, right now with his nerves fluttering, Ignatius could think of nothing he would rather hear.

‘Four.’

‘Makes eight! Keep going, Iggy, you’re doing great.’

Ignatius groaned. Bob must be just as nervous as he was. Those silly rhymes were a dead give-away. He risked a look upward. The top was still a long way away. Got to keep going though.

‘Eight,’ he rasped into the radio. Sweat was starting to pour, making his grip slippery and precarious.

‘Makes sixteen. Take it carefully, Ignatius.’

Muscles were starting to ache and tremble. Each inch he gained cost him more and more in energy. Not long now, though.

Finally he announced in relief the final measurement, ‘Sixteen.’

‘Make thirty-two. Well done. Iggy, good climb …’

‘Hang on, Bob.’ Ignatius interrupted his supervisor. He looked around with panic, ‘I’m not at the top.’

‘What?!  Are you sure?’

‘Of course I’m sure. The top is at least another couple of inches away!’

‘Then you gotta climb it, my boy.’

‘But there’s never been one more than thirty-two before. Never! Not in all our history!’

‘There is now,’ Bob’s voice was level, ‘Up you go.’

Ignatius shook his head. Bob was right. He had to climb it. Renewed energy coursed through him as he worked his way up the green until his head brushed the golden petals.

‘Three,’ his voice trembled.

‘Makes, ah, thirty-five,’ Bob chuckled, ‘You made history, Iggy. You’ll be on the television tonight for sure. Down you come.’

Ignatius took a deep breath and looked around. A strange thought crossed his mind. All his working life he had been doing the climb and, somehow, this time it occurred to him that these objects he climbed, these flowers, could almost be described as, well, almost beautiful.
Wryly he shook his head. The thin air at this height must be affecting him.

Ignatius pushed himself away from the stem with a powerful jump and released the parachute.

Time to get on with the next climb.

(Inch worm, Inch worm
Measuring the marigold
Seems to me you’d stop and see
How beautiful they are.)

Bio: Dianne lives in North East Victoria with two children, two cats, two fish and one husband.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Rain - Jennie Cumming


Rain

Jennie Cumming

Blackwood, SA

The gentle rain on the tiled roof
wakes me with memories
of soft slippers in the hallway
and a child needing comfort
in the night.

No children now.
Only the rain to comfort me.

Bio: Jennie won the 2009 Australian Radio National Breakfast Program prize for a haiku.

Croak - Robertas


Croak

Robertas

Drummoyne, NSW

God’s a practical joker
He’s the Phantom Croaker
There is no frog
And I can sense His
Self-satisfied smile
As he watches me peering here
Staring there
Aiming my antennae ears
At the CROAK-CROAK-CROAKS

Hours pass
As does eventually my persistence
My Absolute Determination
To see one of the little bastards
How many times
I’ve focussed and zeroed in
And silently edged toward
A CROAK – one of the Chorus
I know it’s coming from there
That half-sunken log
That weedy place
I’ll spot you ... you @!#* ... FROG
But when I’m almost there ... can’t fail
The Chorus stops
Silence reigns
Except for the hiss of steam from my ears

God’s a practical joker
Making noises to suck me in
Contorted-mouthing clever CROAKS
Slapping His sides and rolling with laughter
Another sucker! ... Gotchew-a-Beauty!
CROAK CROAK CROAK

Thursday, 14 February 2013

A Flash Of Red - Naomi Fogarty


A Flash Of Red

Naomi Fogarty

Perth, WA

The sound of the wind as it rushed up behind her was like a jet engine roaring towards the ground about to crash land. The noise was terrifying and as it hit her back, it whipped her long hair viciously around her face. Her hair looked like a pile of writhing snakes and for a split second you could almost swear she had become Medusa. Her large, green eyes had gone from bright and joyful to a darker shade of wrath and it seemed like they were daring you to stare right into them. Begging you to so she could turn you into stone. The bright blue sky that previously had birds flying and singing so sweetly about had quickly disappeared as the black clouds started to form around her.

She loves the mixture of danger and excitement that lightning brings when, for just a bright, blinding second, it zips across a dark menacing sky. It tantalises her and leaves her wanting more. She loves the power of thunder, the way it seems to vibrate through her bones as it releases its fury just above her head. In the middle of this chaos she stands strong and firm, not afraid, feeling no fear of death, just empowerment with every single breath. This is exactly where she wants to be, this storm is a part of her. The icy cold wind felt refreshing on her skin and she inhaled it deep into her lungs and just like a balloon she suddenly started to grow with every breath she took.

She had become the storm and towering over the landscape she looked down and chuckled with glee. The black clouds around her head were thick and dense so when her chuckle rumbled through them it echoed around and around never seeming to stop. The wind stopped blowing as she looked down at something right in the middle of what would become her path of destruction. Her dark eyes squinted into a sinister glare as one corner of her mouth lifted into a smirk and she rubbed her hands together in anticipation. Very slowly she raised her giant hand up high and with a click of her giant fingers she brought the storm down upon it.

The rain was pouring down so thick and heavy it was impossible to see what was in front of you. But not satisfied with this she blew the clouds an icy cold kiss and the rain then turned to hail and with a damaging force it fell to the ground. Spinning around in a circle she then became a tornado ripping everything apart at the limbs. This seemed to please her and, looking smugly around, she thought that from now on she would call herself The Tempest, like the storm from Shakespeare’s play. This part of her could be conjured up any time and any day. But like all storms they eventually run out of force. The rain became lighter and the dark clouds were slowly starting to drift away as she became small once more as the damage she wanted to inflict had been done.

She had used all the power that the storm had provided her and with The Tempest inside her now kept at bay, out of nowhere came a piercing scream. Blinking her eyes as if waking from a dream she glanced around at the mess she stood in. She was standing in the kitchen where cups and plates were smashed all over the floor and whatever food that had been on them was now smeared on the walls. The kettle on the stove behind her had finally reached its boiling point and the steam pouring out of it was starting to fog up the room. As she looked around the damaged kitchen she saw something cowering in the corner. It was the same thing she had brought the storm down on, and she was quite sure it was the same thing that had just screamed.

His eyes were big and bulging right out of his head and his mouth had dropped down to the ground. Sitting on top of his head was half an egg shell, while raw egg yolk dripped off his face. With a shaky finger he pointed down at something she was holding. Gripped tightly between her white knuckles was a sharp, deadly knife. With a nervous laugh she dropped it onto the table and looked back at the frightened man, her green eyes full of innocence. Sighing with satisfaction she said, ‘So … I have a temper.’ As an awkward silence filled the room between them, one of her delicate fingers brushed a lock of hair out of her face. It entwined itself around her finger and looked like it flicked out a forked tongue at him. Then with a shrug of her shoulders she said, ‘The red hair really should have been warning enough.’

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Ode To The Fledgling Flown - Ruth Withers


Ode To The Fledgling Flown

Ruth Withers

Uarbry, NSW

Do I sound bitter, do I?
Do my words sound harsh and accusing?
Do you wonder why you bothered calling home?
But it isn’t home now, is it?
It’s just the house where your mother lives,
And you don’t need her now; you’re on your own.

But did you think I’d worry less,
Not knowing how or where you were?
Do you think the mother also leaves the child?
If the fledgling’s wings are but
Half-grown the day he leaves the nest,
Don’t you know the worry drives her nearly wild?

And should it be a comfort;
Should I be pleased and proud to know
That strangers do for you what I should do?
Am I such a lousy mother?
Have I given you so little
That what they give is more than I gave you?

And do you begin to comprehend
The futility of mother love,
That has one use in life, one thought in mind?
That works so hard for oh, so long,
That breaks the spirit in the quest
To make the fruit far better than the vine?

So yes, perhaps I’m bitter now.
I will admit to the shame and pain
Of seeing yet another fruit fall green;
Of yet another fledgling flown
Before his wings are fully grown;
Of wondering what the point of me has been.

I was supposed to raise you up;
To build you strong and good and wise.
I was supposed to make you ready for the world.
I was supposed to guide and nurture;
To keep you safe from pain and harm.
I was meant to get to watch your wings unfurl.

In your undue haste to leave me
You have robbed me of my purpose.
You have told me that I wasn’t up to scratch.
Just because they said you could do,
You decided that you would do,
And as you left too soon I had to stand and watch.

Bio: Ruth wrote this after finally hearing from a child who had left home and not kept in touch. She says there are always snippets of information to be gleaned, and those snippets are usually just enough to tell you that you have good reason to worry!

Love Not Lost - Sam Elliott-Halls


Love Not Lost

Sam Elliott-Halls

Campbelltown, NSW

Time’s flown by
Still asking why
Things that’ll never be
Said between you and me

The silence crashes around me
No answers abound
Just questions that beggar
Answers that’ll never 
Be found

The angry brother
The hostile mother
And we who loved you 
Like no other

People sang your praises
They still do
I loved you 
Couldn’t reach you

Sheltered we were
From their deeds
Those who hurt you 
Took away your smile
The promise and love
Of a beautiful child

You ran like the wind
Are you still running now
Would you answer
If you could
Were you still here

Look at the land
That nurtured the child
The great silkie oaks that shared your smile
Stores your secrets
Still do
But can give to me
No answers
Just silence be

You said I’d know 
After you go
You gave to me 
It washed over me
The emptiness you felt
The stone walls 
A castle
Around you built
A citadel, a fortress, a fort

We were there with you once
Protected by your love
But as we grew
Two individuals that never knew
The secrets of the family
They couldn’t wouldn’t talk

It was left to we younger ones 
To ponder the answers
That we’ll never understand
The aggressive stand 
Of just one man

Your eyes held a light
Through that last night
I’d never seen
A brief moment in time
Your love will survive
That love we’d shared
When I was a child
Too brief
Those last few days
Before you left 
And went your way

I promised you no pain
Never again
We will go on
Protected by your love
Carry this this burden
No longer an encumbrance 

We will protect our own
And like we didn’t 
They will know 
All that we 
We should have known.

Bio: Sam wrote this in memory of her mother.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Love and 13 Cossacks - part 2 - Paris Portingale


Love and 13 Cossacks - part 2

Paris Portingale

Mt Victoria, NSW



... continued from yesterday morning ...

On the street they were both a little staggery, just a little.

She said, ‘Down this way,’ and they walked without touching.

Before they reached the corner he said, ‘I’m so much less an idiot than Harry, you know. I can do logarithms in my head.’

‘Really?’ she said.

‘I can show you how much less an idiot I am. If you want me to,’ he told her, and she said, ‘Go on then,’ and he stopped and took her arm and turned her so they were facing and he moved closer to her and she looked up at him, because he was a little taller, which, as I said, is often the way with these things, and she tilted her head slightly because it was obvious his plan here was to kiss her, but instead he said, ‘I’ll show you I can get you all the way home without spewing in the gutter,’ which is what he did and it proved no effort whatsoever.

At the entrance to her block of apartments they stopped. She said, ‘This isn’t a euphemism. Do you want to come up for coffee?’

‘Why not?’ he said, and they took the little lift up to the fourth floor and she found her keys and they went inside and, while she went into the kitchen to make coffee, he lay down on the couch in her lounge room and went to sleep.

In the morning he woke up with his head feeling like it did most mornings and his hand tingling from sleeping on it, and he got up and found the toilet and peed and washed his face and came out to find her. She was in the single bedroom, lying on her stomach under the covers, on the bed and she smelled lightly of cigarette smoke and perfume, and he found the smell strangely exotic and compelling. He sat on the edge of her bed looking at her and after ten minutes of this he tentatively reached over and touched her hair and her eyes opened and for a moment she looked at him uncomprehendingly, then she groaned and said, ‘Oh God,’ then, ‘There’s a bottle in the freezer. Oh God, get the bottle from the freezer. I’m seriously about to die. I’m on the precipice of death. Seriously.’

‘Okay,’ he said, ‘you wait here.’

‘I’m going to pee,’ she told him, and she pulled off the covers and got out of the bed and small-stepped, almost tip-toeing, to the toilet in her underwear and he heard her close the door and throw up in three retching contractions.

She was sitting up in bed when he came back with the bottle. It was vodka, chilled to a thick oiliness so it didn’t make the usual splashing sound as it hit the glasses. He’d brought a bed tray with fold-down legs he’d found and he set it up across her thighs and they each lifted their glass to their lips, both giving that early-morning, first-drink shudder you do when you’re starting early, as they were, because he saw the bedside clock and it said 8.30 am.

They were pissed by 11 am, still in her bedroom and the bottle was mostly empty. She said, ‘There’s another in the cupboard,’ and he got up to find it. On his way back he noticed the bookshelf and briefly ran a hand over some of the spines. They were mostly poetry, a lot of Keats, and he pulled one out and took it with him.

Back, sitting on the bed, with their glasses topped, he opened the book, flicking through, and he found a page and, smoothing it down he read aloud:

I met a lady in the meads
Full beautiful, a faery’s child;
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.
I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long;
For sideways would she lean, and sing
A faery’s song.
I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She look’d at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

She said, ‘Keats. He was still just a little boy when he wrote that. He used to make me cry. Not so much now. Actually I don’t think I’ve cried in quite some time. Guess that’s an indicator of happiness, right?’

‘Maybe,’ he said. ‘We’re the only species that cries, I guess because none of the others developed the ability to read Keats.’ He looked up from the book. ‘Do you have any Byron?’ he asked her.

She said, ‘No,’ and he said, ‘There’s something I’d love to read you. It’s sad and angry and about the end of the world. It’s really very sad, but in a kind of not-sad way. When I read it, when I get to the end, it makes me want to kiss someone beautiful.’ He snapped the book shut, to distract from what he’d just said. Then, ‘There’s never been anyone there before, when I’ve read it. It’s just that, you’re here and there’s a bookshop not that far away. We could …’ and he looked at her to see if her face said, ‘yes they could,’ which he figured he could read there, or at least he couldn’t see, ‘no they couldn’t,’ and he stood and picked up the tray to take it to the kitchen, saying, ‘I’ll wait for you out here, till you get dressed. If you want to go. Or we could do something else. Or I could just go. Maybe I should just go.’

She didn’t say anything, and he said, ‘I’ll just go,’ and started out of the room with the tray and she said, ‘I’ll come,’ and he said, ‘To the bookshop?’ and she said, ‘Yes,’ and nodded, and he said, ‘Only if you want to,’ and she replied, ‘I want to,’ and he said, ‘Really? Because I could just go,’ and she said to him, ‘You’re such an idiot, you know that?’

He said, ‘Like Harry?’ and she told him. ‘No, idiot. And stop mentioning Harry. Harry was only a ploy, anyway,’ and he filed that away to explore later and took the tray into the kitchen to let her get dressed by herself, which was polite and quite right at this stage of the relationship.

So, they walked together the blocks to the bookshop, not touching except for twice, when they crossed the road and he grabbed her hand to steer her and keep together, so that, once the street was crossed he released her, and the second time, when he dropped her hand, he ran his through his hair in an absent way, to show how insignificant the action had been.

On the way he bought two flasks of vodka, but they didn’t open them. Not straight away. She put hers in her bag and he put his in a pocket, and when they reached the bookshop he held the door open for her.

And as luck would have it, in the reverse of the way you mainly find luck doesn’t have it, the bookshop had the volume of Byron he needed and he found the poem and, standing towards the back of the shop, in amongst the bookcases, he opened his vodka and drank some and passed the bottle to her, then he read her the poem, ‘Darkness,’ by Lord Byron. And when he’d read the final lines –

They slept on the abyss without a surge
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The moon their mistress had expired before;
The winds were withered in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perish’d; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them. She was the universe.

– he saw it was alright and he kissed her as the shop assistant rounded the aisle to ask if they needed any help and, seeing them, turned and returned to his counter with the question unasked.

When the kiss ended he said to her, ‘That’s exactly how the poem should end. I’ve known that for so long, without having it ever end that way. But now it has.’

‘It was beautiful,’ she said, and he said, ‘The poem?’ and she replied, ‘Yes,’ and he asked, ‘And the kiss?’ and she said, ‘I don’t remember,’ so he kissed her again.

Of course they ended up in the bar, sitting in front of Jimmy, ordering 13 Cossacks, in doubles, and drinking them while he recited sections of poems he’d written when much younger. The pieces he could remember. And she recited for him a poem she’d written to a young man, twenty he was at the time, she was eighteen and so much in love she thought she would surely die. As surely as the night was black, as surely as caterpillars grew wings and the tide turned, as she’d told her friend Marcy, in the toilets of the Bright Hill cinema complex one Saturday evening before the show. She’d sent it to him in the mail, and a few days later he sent her one he’d written himself, that began, ‘My love is like a red, red rose,’ so she knew it was Robbie Burns and love evaporated the way it tends to in the face of minor treacheries and the subversion of the little truths that seem to hold the whole thing together. Hers had been about how love is like a mist and when two people are in love, how their mists coalesce and in the mixing a wonderful and special energy is established that, properly nurtured, can carry the two through all of their days on the earth. She explained it was a young person’s poem and he both nodded and shook his head to say it was, yet was simultaneously much more.

At 9.30 pm, an early hour, he said to her, ‘If we leave now we could still fuck,’ and she said, ‘Are you sure? I thought we’d given up on that,’ and he told her, ‘Not entirely,’ and she said, ‘Okay then,’ and they got their stuff together and wished Jimmy a good night and ‘bonne chance’ for some reason, even though it was clear he had little need for any additional good luck at that particular point in things.

They went to her place. He’d said, ‘Let’s go to your place for a change,’ and she’d replied, ‘Break the routine,’ and he’d added, ‘A change is as good as a holiday,’ and she’d said, ‘Change is the lifeblood of the universe,’ and he’d stumbled, ‘Change … change … nope I’m out,’ and she’d clapped her hands and said, ‘One nil.’

In her apartment they undressed each other, lying on the bed, facing each other, which was awkward, but there was strangely no rush and in a funny way the awkwardness made it somehow more of a funny, special thing, and when they were finally unclothed he looked at her for so long she began to wonder if everything was in fact alright. It was alright. He was in a kind of hazy awe, and the alcohol was ebbing and flowing so that he kept jumping back to the start, to begin his examinations again, as though from the very first instant.

Afterwards they drank and talked and drank and talked some more and about an hour before the sun was due to rise they went to sleep. And when they woke up, somewhere around the midday, they took it in turns to throw up in the toilet.

They were married four days later, in a civil ceremony, and as Jimmy couldn’t get away they got permission for Rory, the table-wiper, to take an hour off to be the witness, and when they got back, Jimmy showered them with the torn pieces of a dozen paper napkins he’d made for them during a slow spell at the counter.

And over the next months they managed to work and drink and sometimes make love, when they remembered, and the occasions for making love seemed to become more and more separated until they stopped altogether one night after a drunken fight about something like tomato sauce or why the lottery had to be a fake, and he’d staggered into the night street and slept under cardboard in an alley somewhere and next day collapsed on the way to Jimmy’s for a quick one before work.

The doctor at the hospital told him it was his liver and he’d replied, ‘Good God, do I still have one? How extraordinary,’ and the doctor had smiled briefly, then told him just how bad it was, and when he’d finished, his patient made a whistling sound and said, ‘Boy, I could really use a drink right now,’ and the doctor shook his head the way they do with naughty patients and gave him a pamphlet which outlined more fully his condition and what to expect.

She came to see him of course, always pissed or just flat out drunk, and as he was sober now, he found the visits increasingly unsatisfying. Jimmy called in once, saying he’d meant to bring a bottle but had forgotten at the last minute, however he’d definitely remember next time, but there was no next time as the bar was a full time occupation and even very regular customers could only expect so much.

And as it transpired, on the very night his mortal coil finally shuffled itself off to join all the other shuffled off mortal coils, wherever it is in the universe they ultimately reside, and the usually jagged red line on his bedside monitor went flat and lifeless, pretty much at exactly the moment those things were happening, she was entering Jimmy’s, trailed by a fattening  businessman in an unnaturally shiny suit and skew-if tie, leading him to be introduced to another man, met the night before, in this very same establishment, to say, ‘Fattening business man, this is the other man. Other man, this is fattening business man. Business man and I are going back to my place to fuck,’ and the man she’d met the night before got to his feet, more than a little unsteadily, and just looked at her, till she said, ‘Well, see you,’ and left.

Bio: Paris is the author of the novel Art and the Drug Addict’s Dog, The Trouble with Daleks and many other short stories and anthologies, available from The MoshShop, Amazon, Smashwords and iTunes.