Sunday, November 30, 2008

The 12 Hours of Christmas

The thouand plus decibel screams of excited siblings pierce her dream bubble. She opens her pretty eyes and prods at the sleep that is caught up in corners. Her fingers snag on clumps of mascara as fragments of last night's reunion creep through her brain. A feeling stirs in her gut - a good feeling. Pedro is back. And she is now back with Pedro. 

She closes her eyes again, and slips back beneath the cosy mantle of sleep to doze fitfully. The noise downstairs probes at her fantasies, and she jolts from sleep as a gaggle of giggly girls bounce on the end of her bed and scream...
"Get up, Annie -it's Christmas. Let's open our presents..."

Her face is now scrubbed clean from last night's kisses. She sits in her Target pyjamas, a gift from Pedro last year, just before they broke up. Her hair is dishevelled, blonde lengthy tufts that look naturally beautiful uncombed or untouched. She swims in a sea of torn print and scrunched balls of old wrapping and eventually wades her way from the wreckage of Christmas morning. Beside her, her mobile searches the airwaves. The phone is a present that came early on Christmas Eve so there is only his number recorded inside. She stares at the signal. The phone refuses to ring.

The wreckage of Christmas morning is over and the piles of personal possessions form a circle around the circle of gathering family and friends. Each comes to claim their pile with equal amounts of disappointment and joy. The good stuff sits on the top of the pile like the angel on top of the tree. The crap sinks to the bottom and hopefully seeps from the pile altogether. Still, the phone hasn't rung.

She has showered and changed - slipped into some of the gifts, trying them on for size.  Her bracelet from Prouds hugs her delicate wrist and her Nikes and snug and already a winner. She has pulled on a pair of old shorts and a white singlet top. She pulls the phone from her pocket as another wave of rellies arrive - car doors banging out front and more squealing as cousins unite. 

She waves away passing platters of food that her mother has slaved preparing for days.  She sips at a Coke that has gone warm and flat and wishes for ice and the shrill of a text message beep. She wanders inside and calls all her friends on the landline. They chat as she picks at the dribble of chocolate sauce that has dried down the front of her top. 
"He hasn't rung?...nope...not even a text?....nope...shit...he will, it's early...maybe..."

She runs upstairs and gets changed. Lunch is around the corner at Aunty's -like they haven't eaten enough already. The crowd merges and plates are crammed high with food. Laughter and popping of corks carry on for what seems like ages. She pigs out on pork and prawns and some ham, then downs a glass of champagne or three, all the while touching the phone that sits in the pocket.

She feels sick and drowsy and happy and sad and the champagne has knocked the living bejesus out of her delicate frame. She curls up on a lie low in the shade by the pool. She is a tiny whale with no beach.

There is nothing - just deep peaceful sleep where even the phone no longer matters.

She wakes and wipes the drool from her chin. Her head buzzes with the feeling you get from residual booze that still hovers about in your brain. She pulls the phone from her pocket. Nothing. Prick.

More cousins bombard. She fills her glass as a second wind fills her sails. She is so engrossed on the catch up she forgets all about what's his name.

She downs another and stares at the screen. She should text him. Maybe he's hurt or sick or possibly dead. Maybe... She thumbs in a message- short sweet and not too possessive. She bails and hits "save" and heads for the champers again. 

Its over for another year - and she stumbles after the family into the car. She winds down the window and hangs her head halfway out,  a mix of happy and sad.

Her head hits the pillow beside where the recently acquired personal pile of possessions has landed. She needs rest. Such a big empty kind of a day. Downstairs she can hear the neighbours arrive -more popping of corks. She wonders about her parents sometimes. She stares despondently at the wall, listening to the din of the crowd beneath her. Then it comes. Two high pitched beeps sing out in her room. She rolls on her side, takes a big breath and grabs her phone from the table beside her bed. She frantically thumbs her way into the great unknown.
"Whajya up 2?" it reads. 
She exhales a long boozy breath and then smiles, her thumb already responding.
It's Christmas at last...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tasting the Blanc

He is hunched over the page, his shoulders rounded, head bowed as though in prayer. A small puddle of light spills over his desk, illuminating the words that are changing his life. He flicks his pen in his fingers, biding his time, wanting each word to roll onto the paper perfectly formed. He ignores the beep of his phone, swills the next word around in his head as though it were a rare vintage wine being tasted. Moments later he finally decides it is good and allows it to pour itself onto the page.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Light-House Keeper

The squelching sound of wet galoshes filled the night air. Lewis Bardo had pulled on his boots and despite his father's stern warning to not leave the house, there he was, all four and a half feet of him, trudging up the hill toward a bright, full moon. He had packed a torch in one pocket. He knew he would need it later. His slipped his hand into the other pocket of his gortex jacket and found a half eaten packet of gum that he quickly calculated had been there since the winter before last. He untangled his fingers from the sticky lump and after pulling his hand from his pocket, he rubbed the gummy residue down the side of his jeans. 

He moved through the night, by the light of the moon. A small lonely figure who had one final thing left to do before sleep would come easily upon him. He dug his boots into the mushy grass slope of the hill, lifting himself higher and higher, eventually reaching the place he had set out to find. He stood on the hill top, a gusty breeze wrapping around him, dishevelling his rusty brown hair. He waited a moment, for another gust to belt its way up the face of the hill. He looked to the sky and there right in front of him, close enough that he felt he could reach out and touch it, the moon full and round, filled the enormous space before him. Its light was vibrant, spilling down onto the village where Lewis would finally sleep later on. 

Sleep - he thought. That was why he was here. As the gust died down, he heard the swish of a cord as it whipped and warbled its way through the sky. Lewis Bardo stretched his arms up to the sky and with the greatest precision, he snatched the dangling cord from the sky and hung on with all his might. He poised himself, reaching into his pocket to pull out the torch. Then he tugged down hard on the cord. The moon went out like a light. He clicked on his torch and quickly and quietly made his way down the hill, his village settled in darkness. Now, he could get some sleep.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Back Pay

I don’t remember her name. All I recall, that day, was my anger – a rolling orb in the pit of my gut. I just learned of my wife’s recent fuck-fest. News that saw me take refuge in every bar I could find. The booze worked its magic, anaesthetising my pain. My logic and reason crumbled like rock, landing in chunks at my feet. Driven by a wild and unavailing need for revenge, I took the first step – crossed over that initial jagged stone - the path became clear thereafter.

 I spotted her in a bar in the late afternoon. She was young, clean, playing the game so when I asked her how much, she gave me a deal I couldn’t refuse. I slapped half the cash in her hand right then. I know a place, I told her. Not far away. I made a quick call and my life changed course. 

We arrived at the place and I led her upstairs, to room number nine. I was oblivious to everything except the sun going down and her arse in my face as she climbed the stairs ahead of me. Just leave, I thought as I took her arm, wanting to say to her forget it but the flickering slide show of Ruth with another man undid me again. I regressed to the hateful revenge-seeking spouse. Paying for sex cheapened the act that would herald my sweetest revenge. So I had her – the clean young thing, for me and because of my wife. 

After, I stared up at the blades of a slow spinning fan. Her scent clung to the sheets, her impression indelibly lodged in my own demise. We said nothing as I watched her walk out, closing the door behind her. Only then did I notice the door was red.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Cross Tic

Can't Have Anyone Over...See
House is still a mess - totally out of control,
All the mess from the party is still lying around,
Oh, God - can you imagine if my mother turned up?
She'd go into a conniption...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Remains of the Day

He sits just outside the door of the restaurant, in the cool of the afternoon shade. His chef's hat has deflated from a morning spent leaning over the stoves. It sags on his head and leans to the left. In his lap is a bowl of fruit salad, left overs from lunch, the colours all mixing and matching and swilling in juice. He picks at the fruit with his freshly washed fingers, dropping it piece by piece into his mouth as he watches the world strolling by. His apron is soiled and his boots are caked with old batter, and he pulls the hat from his sweaty head and welcomes the coolness that hugs his damp hair. 

His shift finished an hour ago but he waits, glancing occasionally at his watch. An old dog crosses the lane and sniffs at his boot and he shoos him away with his foot. The crowd comes in waves down the lane, the random late diners stopping by for the spoiled lunchtime special. He closes his eyes for a moment, and drops a grape in his mouth. He bites down hard and feels the tang of the juice as the fruit-like flesh explodes in his mouth. As he savours the moment he hears the cry of a child.
He opens his eyes and running toward is a small boy, his arms outstretched and his face wearing a smile equally as wide. The boy leaps onto his lap, the bowl of fruit upturning and smashing against the pavement. He struggles against the young boys affections, laughing aloud, the sweet bowl of fruit now soured with his grandson's arrival. He scoops the boy into his arms and stands to carry him off to his villa where they will change and then take the car for a drive in the country, or perhaps a trip to the seaside to chase waves and gulls and the like. They disappear in another wave of the crowd, leaving the dog to lap the remains of the day.

Monday, November 24, 2008


There was not a sound in the house as she padded from her bedroom, along the narrow hall. Morning light fell through the hallway blinds, and she stepped across the sunny slices on the carpet, and then turned into the room at the end of the hall. The room, still clad in darkness, smelt of pine and paper and held the faintest scent of cinnamon. She crossed the room and stood beside the window, and reached upward, grabbing at the curtain cord. She drew the curtain back, exposing frosted glass as the room soaked up the early morning rays.

The little girl turned around. Before her, a giant pine tree stood, its perfect shape stretching to the roof. Around the tree, tinsel hung in layers made of red and green, silver, gold;  and from its branches, stars and balls and fairy lights glinted in the morning sun. Beneath the lowest branches of the tree were gifts, all shapes and sizes, spilling out across the carpet. But that wasn't what she came to see. She raised her perfect face and stared upward at the tree, her eyes transfixed upon its highest point. There an angel sat, perched upon the peak. And more than any gift or any want, she wished that she could be as beautiful.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


 The sun had dipped low in the sky, and had turned the world salmon pink. The boy sat on a craggy ledge of the rock pool and looked out toward the pier, dangling his feet in the tepid sea. He counted the pylons; five lots of legs that stood tall and straight, upholding the jetty that stretched out into the bay. There was no one walking there now and as he looked around he could see that the entire village had gone home. 

He thought about doing the same but again became lost in his young boy thoughts as he stared into the watery depths of the rock pool before him. It took a while before he noticed. Several moments in fact before he saw the concentric pattern that formed on the pool's surface. It started as a small ripple and gradually wound itself into a swirling eddy. 

He watched for a while, wondering how large it might grow. The momentum increased, creating small waves that caused the water to slap up the rock face, splashing his legs and spraying his face.  He pulled his legs from the pool and hugged his knees to his chest, the late afternoon air cold on his skin.  

The water swirled and as he stood to leave, he saw the eddy moving toward him.  It gurgled and bubbled and spat as though something beneath the surface was hunting him down. He stood quickly, realising at once what was beginning to happen. He curled his toes around the sharp boney edges of rock as he climbed his way from the edge of the pool. He made his way onto the path that led up to the fisherman's shed, and he cast a quick glance back at the pool. The water had calmed. 

He stopped for a moment and looked around. On the pier he could see the familiar silhouette of a man had now appeared, his coat blown open, his long stringy hair dancing about in the wind. He watched the man, knowing he was watching him back. He dropped his sandals to the ground and shoved his wet feet into them and then turned his back on the sinking sun.  Without hesitation, he ran. He needed to warn the others.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Peak Hour

She stood amid the peak hour rush, the crowd jostling about her, shoving and thrusting their way down the platform. She clutched an envelope in one hand, its edges jagged and torn from her eagerness to learn of the news. In her other hand was the letter. Her eyes scanned the page, flitting across the words; her breath trapped inside her, her life momentarily on hold. 

A train roared through the tunnel, its approaching force whipping rubbish and dust high into the air around her. She stood oblivious; her eyes intent on finding the word that would finally allow her to breath once again. The crowd around her drained onto the train, the doors snapping shut, swallowing them whole. The train sped away and she stood alone on the platform with a pounding heart and fine tremor in her hands as she read. It was then her eye caught it – the word she had feared but longed for. She stifled a cry but tears still welled in her hazel eyes. A empty Styrofoam cup bounced along the platform before her, and she lifted her gaze from the letter she held. She released the breath that had been caged within, and replaced  it with news that already ached to be told.  

Friday, November 21, 2008


Noah opens his eyes and waits for his mind to catch up. The images come, jagged, erratic. He lies in a space where a stretcher should be, in the back of an ambulance. The comforting hiss of oxygen flows through a mask that is hugging his face. He struggles upward, ripping the mask away.

“Mate, take it easy there,” It’s the voice of his chief next to him. Noah turns and their eyes meet. “Where’s Jonah…where’s my wife… …is Lizzy…is she here…I saw Jonah…where are they…” Outside Noah hears the scream of a siren as another ambulance arrives at the scene. The siren warbles its way down into silence. The sound helps piece some of the fragments together as Noah remembers what is happening outside.

“This can’t be real, this isn’t happening,” he says, pressing his fingertips to his forehead, like they might rearrange the mess in his head; contain it until he can cope. 

He looks through the yawning mouth of the ambulance, to the confusion outside and he is suddenly sick. He leans and vomits out the back of the truck. A long stringy bridge of saliva swings from his lip like a rescuers rope. He wipes it away with the back of his hand. He rambles, frustrated, as his garbled and fragmented thoughts form an incomprehensible dialogue.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Thundering, rain - an internet pain...too scary online, back when its fine...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Relative Relief

It’s the cruel blinding light in her eyes that disturbs her. She rises up on one arm; the other arm shields the glare from her eyes.  Confused, she tries to determine the shape but it’s smell rather than sight that informs her. The booze on his breath sends a chill through her and as she ascends through the mantle of sleep, she knows why he’s come. 

"Thought you could hide from me, eh?” he sneers, tossing the torch down on the ground, causing his shadow to crawl up with wall. She attempts to escape, to scramble away but he lunges upon her, trapping her scream with his palm. She struggles but knows she can’t win. He’s too big, too frightening and the scene too familiar. This has happened before. His hand slides from her mouth as he pushes her back on the bed.

“Uncle Dave, please, no…” her voice croaks into the night. Her hands tremble under his merciless grip.

 “Just co-operate, Cassie, just like you did last time. Be a good girl,” 

She hears the disdain in his voice. Her heart is like a trapped bird in her chest - frantic, frenetic, ensnared. He presses her down and she struggles but still hears the zip of his fly, feels his fumbling grope but then in the half dark, she sees the cold flash of metal approaching his head, and hears the sound of a gun being cocked. “Get, the fuck off her,” someone says. He freezes, and then pisses his pants. She feels the warmth of his urine seeping between them. A welcome relief. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


She tugs at the top drawer. It has stuck again in the heat. One more hefty yank and it gives, punching her in the chest. She rifles about through her things. There are some old socks, a wallet and right at the back, the digital camera her husband bought the week before he died. She flicks it on, desperately seeking a reminder, a glimmer of what life used to be like; something to fill the void his death has created. But there is nothing. Nothing at all. No flickering image of his beautiful face. No reminders of how life once was. The screen is nothing but a dark empty space. And it makes her weep.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Baby Grande

Cars spew over the crest of the hill in a smear of colour. The road is still wet and shiny from this afternoon’s rain. I drive up the road and I see the old dog amble out onto the busy main road. I hear screeching of brakes and car horns that howl into space as I pass. I hunch my shoulders up to my ears, waiting for the thud and the screams. Nothing comes. I turn at the next island and race back in the direction I have just come from. I see the dog, an old beagle milling about in the scrub by the road. There is nowhere to pull over so I turn again at the break in the road and circle back. I have no idea why I am so compelled –I just know that ignoring him is no longer an option. 

 I turn off the road and park my car and head back to the main road on foot. I run, waiting for the blood curdling yelps of bad timing to reach me. I get to the crest of the hill and I see him. He looks up and starts walking toward me.

“Wait!” I scream at him, holding a hand up from the other side of the road. Brakes screech once again and I am powerless. Despite good intentions, I can’t stop him from crossing. A car passes, the driver flinging abuse at me through the window,  

 “Put your dog on a fuckin’ leash,” he screams at me. I shriek back at him but my abuse is carried away on the wind. The traffic eases and I run, nabbing the dog by the collar. I know this dog and have rescued him once before. I have a lanyard attached to my car keys and I tie it around the dog’s collar. He wags his tail, sniffs my hand and then resumes his rooting about in the long grass. He is unimpressed by my efforts. I grapple for my phone in my bag and I call the mobile that is etched in his bone shaped nametag. An onlooker appears and helps me carry him away from the danger. His owner turns up in her car, moments after I have hung up. Giggly kid faces are squashed up against the back windows. 

 “I think he must have nine lives,” she says, equally as giggly as her children. I want to remind her that he hasn’t. He has one life and she is responsible for it. But I say nothing. I drive home with my groceries and the smell of damp beagle on my skin. 

The thing that lingers is the scream of the man who passed by in his car. How easily he blamed and abused. A fist of anger forms in my chest and I am powerless to defend my act. I am innocent but already hung in his eyes. He had no clue. Still doesn’t. In the quiet of my home, as I remember the malice trapped in his voice, I realise he was more scared than me. I forgive. I forget. 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hangover Friday

The promenade glistens, awash with rain that has fallen under cover of darkness. The drunks and the punters have weaved their way out of their Friday night gamble - some loving their luck and finding their beds; others lucky in love and waking in sheets that belong to a stranger. The beach is empty, the surf pounded flat by a storm that had swept in from the north. A hint of light seeps through a heavy night blanket of grey, hoisting the dawn upwards toward the heavens like a cabaret curtain on opening night. The day lies in wait, full of promise and great expectation. 

This morning the water is too cold for surfers. Even the diehards wont venture out at this hour. The summer walkers that paced themselves by the sea every day have dwindled away, no longer pounding the fear of an early death from their bodies, preferring instead the prescriptive warmth of their beds. 

A girl on a bicycle appears as a small dollop of light in the grey morning hour. Her bicycle lamp weaves about on the road and she hunkers over the handlebars, protecting her face from the bitter cold.  She misses the blurry black streak of a cat that flashes before her front tyre. But she feels the thud as the tyre bounces, throwing her balance and shooting her into the air. The animal screams but escapes unscathed and it zigs and zags in a frantic fashion, disappearing beneath a hedge in somebody’s yard. 

The girl, not so lucky, lies bleeding and bruised on the road, the tyres of her bike feet away are still spinning. She pushes herself up, dabs at a knee – at the mash of skin and bright oozing blood that appears through the hole in her lycra skin. She climbs back on the bike, and is grateful the road is deserted. No one has seen her fall. She wobbles a little and building momentum, she cycles away as the cat emerges from under the bush, and cleans itself as though nothing has happened. It watches the girl disappear down the street. Her run of bad luck has only begun.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


A two year old girl sits on her mother’s knee, engrossed in the colourful fishy world of the tank beside them.
“Anna Sampson?” 
“Yes,” the mother answers. 
“The doctor will see you and Lily now,” the receptionist says to her. Anna stands, and struggles as her daughter protests her way out of her mother’s arms. A door opens, an older gentleman appears, a patient and well-practised smile on his face.
“I’m Professor Windsor, come in,” he says. He motions for Anna to sit. Though reluctant to leave her mother’s side, Lily is drawn to a small corner table littered with bright coloured toys.
 “Go on, you can play,” Anna tells her. 
Lily stumbles toward the table. 

The office is decked in leather and wood, and reeks of exorbitant medical fees. The desk, large and bare, promotes a feeling of distance between them. Anna runs her eye over his bookcase but the titles mean nothing. Illiteracy is a safeguarded secret she keeps from the rest of  the world.
 “I’ve read the report, and reviewed Lily’s scans,” he says, without making eye contact. 
“You might want to read these,” he adds, sliding some brochures toward her. Anna senses his arrogance filling the space between them. 
“Your daughter has a high grade astrocytoma. Unfortunately inoperable. I can offer her chemotherapy but it will only lessen her ongoing symptoms, not cure her…” 
Anna’s face contorts in confusion as he continues…“…make her more comfortable. It’s a fast growing tumour, so…” his voice drones in her ears as the ‘tumour’ word sits like a brick in the pit of her gut. She stares helplessly down at the brochures. 
 “So… if you have no questions,” he says, checking his watch. 

Questions collide in her head and can’t seem to find their way out through her mouth.  Anna watches a fly that is trapped in the room. It is beating against the window behind him. Lily crosses the room with her childish elephant like amble, and falls into her mother’s lap, her head catching the tear that has just slid from her mother’s face.
 “Miss Sampson?” the Professor persists. Anna closes her eyes, lowers her head and raises her hand like a traffic cop. 
“Please, can I just have a minute?” It is the only question she can manage right now. 

Friday, November 14, 2008


She sits alone at the restaurant table. She has chosen a table close to the wall, with a window view that enables her to look out more than others can see in. The waiter sweeps by, neat as a pin, and he tops up her Perrier without her consent. She avoids his dutiful smile and looks down at a slender wrist. She is early and already beginning to fill with regret. 

She has worn a high collared dress. It is black and seemingly matches her mood, though she chose it because she knows it is his favourite colour. Shouldn’t that alone say something of his nature? She taps a long painted nail against her glass and then traces the journey of a bubble to the rim. A wayward strand of hair falls loose and she tucks it behind her ear – perfecting her stylish black bob once again. Bubbles dance in her glass and she longs for a long slow sip. She will delay the pleasure. It may ruin the perfect application of Chanel on her lips. 

Her back is ramrod straight, a familial affliction from years of deportment and excessive expense. She nurses a manicured hand in her lap. The other hand toys with the weight of the cutlery already set for the meal. The restaurant is filling around her. She is drowning among the crowd. Soon it will be impossible for him to locate her.

“Would you care to order, M’am?” asks the waiter, his accent annoying her slightly.

“No, thank you. I’m waiting for someone,” she explains, frantically scanning the hordes out on the street.  The lunchtime crowds come and go, their ravenous bellies filled with pomp and ceremony only the rich can afford. 

She waits long into the afternoon, until shadows form on the streets outside and invite themselves in to dine at her table. A waiter hovers in an awkward moment.

“Will you be dining today? We are about to close for the afternoon, Mademoiselle,” he informs her.

She glances about at the empty room. Glances back down at her watch. Looks at her untouched glass of water and notices that even the bubbles have left for the day.

“No, nothing today,” she smiles weakly. She leans and collects her clutch bag from under the table and then opens her purse to pay for the water she has yet to taste. 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Short Note

It began as a simple writing exercise, in September 2008. I was at the Brisbane Writers Festival. Yann Martel stood at the front of the class and said…

“I remember when…”. Our job was to finish his sentence. To write our hearts out with whatever sprung forth from the depths of our mind. In a flash, out of the blue, there you were, waiting in limbo, on a wet afternoon after school. 

 I trudge down the road, my stockings and shoes soaked through to my skin, my hair long and blonde and matted from rain. I see you as I turn the corner, sitting across from Martin thingamy's house. He was well known in those days. The first kid in the street to get a colour T.V. I would sneak down to the corner at night just to spy through the slats of his blinds into his colour bound world. 

This particular day, you sit next to some guy, shorter than you. He is ugly beside you –a small gargoyle protecting his master from evil. He doesn’t say much as I pass but then neither do you. We glance at each other, mumble hello. Pretend we don’t know what’s going on. I want to stop but don’t know what to say so instead, I keep walking, wishing away the immensity of my fear. My heart aches for another day til I see you again.  

We officially meet at a party. You are going out with someone at that stage and I wish for what seems a lifetime that I could be her. Sometime around Christmas we hook up. You and her are feuding.  You search elsewhere for comfort. It comes in the form of me. I hop in your little blue car and we drive through the Christmassy streets of Sylvania. It’s late and my parents have no idea where I am.  I sit in the dark beside you, snatch glimpses of your profile as you drive. The street lights flicker across your beautiful face and I feel like a princess on her way to the ball. We pull up at your house and go in. You have no idea where your parents are – away…somewhere, you think, and we end up in your room, of course, and are guided by a light that filters in from another place. Robert Palmer sings to us all of the night. You peel off your shirt. Simply irresistible. 

I lie beside you in the dark and I touch you, for hours, all over. We talk of all kinds of things – none of which now I can recall. There are records strewn over the floor and the light of the stereo guides my hands across your well-defined curves – into spaces I wish to inhabit. In the dim light I raise myself up, lean on one elbow and look through the night, into your eyes. Shallow seas of green that drown me again and again. I study the cleft of your chin, the curve of your lip that rolls back like a lazy wave when you smile.  You move, shrug me off, get up and change the music, and then you come and sit back beside me and smile. Your teeth are perfectly even and white, and we smoke a joint and you lay back down, eyes closed and grinning while I keep on exploring. We sing along to the words of Matt Moffit, as he leaves a key inside and no matter how hard I reach for you – he’s right. There’s no one home tonight – but I come in anyway. I lock myself in, and become comfortably lost.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Golden Fleece

 The well-heeled crowd crammed on the deck, their Waterford flutes filled and chilled, their shoulders rubbing with as many as time would permit. The ladies had donned their finery for the event and the men looked dashingly handsome in tux n tails. The Krug flowed, but so far had the crippling effect of hands falling short in deep pockets – quite the opposite result the host of the evening had longed for. Though the night was still young. 

Down on the street, expensive rooftops of foreign cars that were valet parked by the river, glinted up at the high society crowd, reminding them of their well earned success and importance. Money was everywhere, and this made Chantelle Duvalle very happy. 

She glided through the crowd, dripping fake diamonds and wearing a smile to match. Her quest was to raise an extortionate amount of money for a small Cambodian orphanage. She knew if enough liquor flowed over these noble lips that surrounded her, she was sure to meet target. She wound her way through the sheep-like crowd all ooohing and arrrhing and out-bleating each other over who had the latest and greatest, and biggest. She slipped past the Governor, nodding and smiling in all the right places, giggling dizzily the way she knew that he loved.

“Fabulous do. You’ve done it again, Chanters…” he smiled, flashing a golden crowned tooth, and raising his near empty glass as she passed.

“Dig, deep…Duddles,” she smiled back at him, winking and then chinking her glass to his and then disappearing through the French doors that led to her lounge. Some stragglers mingled about inside – the majority preferring the coolness of her generous deck with the endless view of the river. It paid to be seen on Chatelle's generous deck.

She set her glass down on a sideboard and continued down a long passage, the sound of her skirt swishing as she moved away from the noise. She slipped a key from her bodice as she came to a door, and glancing once down the corridor to make certain she was alone, she unlocked the door. She flicked on the light and closed the door behind her, snipping the lock. In her bedroom, far from the mad bling crowd, she relaxed, dropping the pretence she knew she could barely sustain. 

 She moved to the bed and sat, lowering her head into her hands. She was tired of this make believe world full of money and fat empty promise. She lifted her head and stared at a photo frame that sat by her bed. It hugged the faces of three small children, their almond shaped eyes looking out at her. She picked up the frame and studied them, a pang of longing tugging her memory. She could picture the stump of each child’s missing limb, the calling card of the land mines that still tortured their life. She remembered their stark empty world. The day-to-day grind of doing your best with nothing. She compared it to the world of those who carried on without her outside – all doing nothing, day to day with the best that money could buy. 

She  drew a deep breath and mouthed a silent promise toward the children as she set them beside her bed once again.  She stood and brushed at her layers of skirt and inspired by this moment’s silent retreat, she left the room in search of the waiters.  With her spirit renewed and her focus in tact, she rejoined her guests.  It was time to charge glasses. It was time to start fleecing the sheep. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


A year after his death little had changed though her sorrow had wound itself down to a dull throbbing ache. She would walk home each day after work and think of him as she passed by the basil bush that grew opposite the swimming pool gate. That was the point in the day where she’d come unstitched and would slowly unravel all the way home. She kept his memory tautly wrapped by thin threads of sorrow but like clockwork each day, she would snag on a memory too raw and too close. And her tears would fall as she passed by the Basil bush. She read some time later that in Persia and Malaysia, Basil is often planted on graves.

 It lasted just over a year, this strange herbal process of grieving. And one day she happened to notice she had made it all the way home and forgotten to cry. A week later a water pipe burst near the pool and a maintenance crew dug its way to a quick resolution, Ocymum minumum sacrificed on the way. The crew left behind a deep earthy hole where the roots of the bush had once been - a hole that eventually fell in on itself, and then disappeared. Her grief vanished in much the same way.

Monday, November 10, 2008


What I really care about is making Daddy well again. I watch him from my bedroom, sneak a peek around the doorway and see him down the hallway, rocking in his chair. He is hunched forward into a half ball, his chin on his chest and though I can't see his eyes from here, I know they look empty. I watch him from the hallway. He doesn't notice me. HIs face is long and sad and he spends hours like this, staring at his hands that are folded like unused napkins in his lap.

Mum says its the war, but daddy hasn't been to war, so I don't understand why that makes him so sad. Last night, I saw him down in the lounge, alone in the half dark, the light of the T.V glowing softly on his sad face. I crept down the hallway and then stood right beside him. 
"Daddy, can you read me a story," I asked him. A long moment went by and then he pulled his head up like it weighed more than a house, and he stared at me with his grey empty eyes.
"Not now, darling...I'm busy," he said.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Down on the beach a crowd had gathered, delirious from the food and festivity.Their fire had burned long into the night, and musicians strummed at their instruments, filling the warm night air with a harmony the town hadn't felt in a long time. The dead had long been buried, and all that remained of the carnage were memories best forgotten. 

The crowd sat around the fire on the sand. A woman suddenly rose and swayed in time with the music and sang with melodic angst in her voice. She took on the form of a tall and willowy shadow set against the blue black Zanzibar sky. She floated, more than danced, in time with the music and then stepped from her huddled circle of friends to walk solo along the beach. Beneath the rays of a half moon, her jet black hair fell loose and long down a dress made of fabric so sheer and so fine that one could easily determine the curves and crevices of her body.

She stopped near the water's edge and lifted her willowy arms to the moon, and laced her fingers together above her head. She arched herself backward, enough to see the inverted crowd and then straightened herself, dropping her arms with too much force by her sides. Her palms slapped at her thighs and she sighed into the night. She was bored with the others - not one of them sparked any interest in her tonight.

She took a few steps into the tepid sea. It was hard to determine the difference in temperature between water and shore. It all felt the same. A wave rolled in; smooth and unobtrusive and she let it consume the parts of her that she could feel. Its force wrapped around her ankles and calves and she felt its lunatic pull as it tugged her toward an ocean of swirling potential. She glanced back up the beach, toward the dwindling fire and subdued conversation of friends and without further thought, she waded into the sea and began to swim.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Apprentice

I think back to that night. The night a diaphanous fog slipped in through the window, humming a tune I was sure I should know. But I’d never seen or heard such a thing. I thought it whispered my name as it circled my head, rolling itself into a playful ball, and then unfurling into the shape of an arrow, to point toward the garden. 

I pulled myself from the tangled sheets, eyes wide, transfixed and staring. I reached out - to see if it was real but it sensed my nearness and pulled backward. It shimmied out under the window, evading my touch. I rose up on my knees, the chill of the windowsill warmed by the heat from my palms as I leaned hard against it. My nose touched the icy pane and I can still see the circular fog of my breath on the glass.

 I looked out to the garden and that’s when I saw you, alone in the yard, the moonlight rippling through the emerald tear that swung from the loop of gold in your ear. You cradled the ivory horn in your arms, and it dimmed and glowed, dimmed and glowed, like it were purring. You held up a hand and you beckoned me to join you, out in the garden, under a moon that held no secrets. So I did, and that’s how it all began…

Friday, November 7, 2008


She lived a few houses down from the school, in a ram-shackled cottage with a rusted roof that sagged beneath the weight of a modern world. The chamfer boards were tired and grey, and shuttered windows banished the menacing light of day. In front, an unkempt garden brimmed with leafless shrubs and thin spiky trees with limbs that stretched skyward in search of a sun. There was nothing sunny or bright about the old house. 

He would pass by on his way to school each day -  on the opposite side of the road, of course. His distance did him no good. The house was a magnet for curious boys and he would feel himself drawn like a moth to a dangerous flame. As he drew near, he would cast inquisitive glances toward the cottage, his head full of rumour too loud to ignore. He longed for a glance, just a mere fleeting moment of eye catching proof that the woman inside was the Witch of Paddington Road.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Postcards from the Edge

The weather had turned as we headed for the State Castle of Český Krumlov. I braced myself against a bitter cold that was as foreign to me as the country I was travelling through. We had left our bus parked on the edge of the historical centre, and set out on foot toward the castle. We trudged across a stone bridge,  the Vltava River rushing beside us. The cold had kept the crowds away and I felt for the tour guides who ventured out for a pittance. As we crossed the bridge, I spied an old man, his threadbare coat huddled around him. He looked to be in his seventies, at least, with a weathered face that mapped the hardships of a long life that had navigated difficult times. He stood at the end of the bridge and as I neared him, he opened one side of his coat, like a novice flasher, exposing his wares beneath. Inside his coat he wore piles of postcards that were strapped to the coat's lining. He tipped his cap with his free hand as I passed, pointed to the cards and then lay his hand palm upward. A small sign pinned inside his coat indicated the price per card. They worked out at about 10 for a U.S dollar. I watched hope fill his face as his eyebrows raised and his brow furrowed into a silent plea. 
"After the Castle," I explained to him. He dropped his head and nodded, his hope washing into the river beside us.

We toured the castle for the day, and I was glad to be indoors for the most part. The temperature had dropped further as we made our way back to the bus in the afternoon. As we approached the stone bridge, I saw him still standing there, his coat still huddled about him and the afternoon shadows growing long beside him. He looked tired and defeated but unwilling to leave. Selling postcards from the edge was, I imagined, his only source of income -given his age. As I walked toward him, I unzipped my money belt and reached in and grabbed $20.00. As promised, I stopped and enquired about his cards, the money still hidden in my hand. He smiled at me, drew his hands together in a gesture of prayer and then bowed his head. He raised his head and gave me a price. I asked for two cards and slipped him the note. 

He opened his coat, I pointed and he dealt my chosen cards and then began fossicking in his money belt for my change. I grabbed his hands and closed them around the note and nodded my head in protest.
"No change," I said to him. His brow furrowed and he pushed back his cap, clearly confused by the transaction taking place. I repeated my gesture and slowly my intention dawned on him. Our eyes met in mutual respect. We bowed to each other and I felt good knowing that at least there'd be food on his table that night - it may not be milk and honey but it came courtesy of a land by the same name. I never missed the 20 bucks.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

For Sam

It rained the day he died and we gathered around his ageing frame. Our toes curled over the edge of despair, all of us willing and able to slide into the murky depths of our grief. I wondered if he knew, if he could tell the end was near;  if he sensed the warmth that filled the room came from bodies crowding his final hour. I imagined him elsewhere - in some far away place running through fields, chasing a ball - pushing up through our blanket of human sadness and escaping to freedom acquired when someone you love finally lets go. 

In his closing moments of life, I pondered the moment that divides us from death. Mere seconds that teeter on a definitive edge and then disappear. I sat by his side and in those final seconds, I tried to see beyond time, into that void of unknowing where I tell myself some kind of comfort resides. But my vision had already blurred and my tears fell anyway. 

He slipped quietly away- no more beating heart, no wag of tail, just a few final breaths where he whispered good-bye. I looked out the window just after -beyond the fronds of a palm that swayed in the breeze. The sky was still grey and the rain had set in, and I imagined him mobile and strong and untethered, chasing the tale of his life. And when he went without fuss, all arms around him, I watched a peacefulness visit his face as he exited quietly, politely. Unleashed at last. Run little fella - all the way home.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Beth slipped the key in her pocket and stood with her back to the door. The weather had turned and a low hanging blanket of grey spread over the ocean. She stared toward the water, at a jagged line of debris that stretched the length of the beach. It formed an unsteady line that divided the forces of nature. 

She rubbed at her arms and considered going back in for her coat, yet decided against it. What harm could a little rainwater do? The quiet of the cottage had driven her out. There was little to do now the others had gone and returned to their make believe worlds of rip, tear and bust. She liked living here – having her friends down for the week every once in a while. It made her feel close in a distant way. It gave her a taste of the world she denied she was missing. 

At the end of the beach, she could see her neighbours preparing to fish. It had become a Thursday night ritual to join them. On Fridays she pan-fried her catch in an old frying pan that her mother once owned. She decided on spending the evening tossing a line and spinning a yarn with her neighbours. The T.V was broken and she hated the silence of being alone. 

The light was beginning to fade, and a slice of sun slipped between cloud and horizon. It flooded the ocean in hues of deep violet and pink. This was her favourite time of the day, yet still she felt restless. She set off along the grassy path that joined her cottage to the sand, and she collected a small lantern that sat at the end of the path. She kicked off her shoes, hearing her mother’s voice nagging her as she went…”watch your feet – there could be syringes…”  She shut out the voice in her head and enjoyed the squeaky grittiness of the sand against the soles of her feet. 

Up ahead, she saw Pete. She watched him casting his rod and saw the line snag straight away. Beside him sat all the usual props – esky, stools and an orange crate he had stolen from the dairy. On the upturned crate sat an old wireless – its music winding toward her as she walked. She smiled at the notion that Pete still believed the music enticed the fish. 

Dancing about nearby was Pete’s wife Elsa, and their five-year-old son. Their laughter lifted high on the salty breeze. They both began waving as they spotted her heading toward them.

“I was just coming to see you,” Beth shouted to them, holding the lantern high in the air. Her hair flew about her face and whipped at her eyes and mouth. She could taste salt on her lips already.

“Have they gone yet?” Elsa shouted into the wind. Her son stopped to investigate a burrowing crab.

“They left a while ago…” Beth answered now close enough to no longer scream to be heard.

“You ok?” Elsa asked.

“I’m fine…”

“He didn’t show, did he?”

“Nope – no biggie – I’ll just consider it my final fling…” Beth flippantly replied, though her heart was twisting in half. An uncomfortable silence fell between them and was quickly filled with the returning roar of the ocean.

“The inconceivable dream, perhaps,” Beth added, her smile quickly vanishing.

She watched Elsa chase after her son who was chasing a squawking gull through the line of the weed left on the beach. Beth turned her attention toward the sea. The setting sun had drained the colours away and left her alone with the earliest shades of darkness.

“I thought you might need this,” she said, turning and offering the lantern to Elsa.

“I think tonight, I’ll stay in,” she added.

“You sure you don’t want to fish?” 

“I should probably go home – clean up a bit…Make sure you catch me one,” Beth called, edging away, increasing the distance between them.

“Sure…” Elsa linked hands with her son and then led him back to the music.

Beth dug her feet into the sand and propelled herself back up the beach. At the edge of the grassy path that led to her door, she saw the car through the trees as it travelled the road. She reached the cottage just as it pulled into her drive. Her hand wrapped around the doorknob, and with the key in the lock – she froze as she stared at the car, and waited for the driver’s door to open. He had come after all. He got out of the car and in the poor light she failed to see the woman in the passenger side. She studied the woman as she climbed from the car and relaxed when she saw the ageing face and the obvious hunch of the old woman's shoulders as she attempted to straighten. .

Beth turned the key and pushed the door open and then stood and watched them walking toward her. It was too late to pretend to be out; and too early to tell why he had come; why he had brought the old woman along. The woman looked the same as she always had - a little more weathered perhaps. Beth watched him lead her from the car and smile the way he always had, and she could feel herself fold on the inside. By the time they had reached her, the rain had begun and Beth longed for the warmth of the coat she had left inside.