Tag Archives: micro story

NiKKi, Hiroki Kosuge

18th April, 2014

Church

I went to church on Good Friday. A man standing by the lectern preached about the importance of choice in our lives. Then, we sang a hymn. Every single believer but me sang pretty well.

The preacher said, ‘Anyone interested, please come over here.’ The believers flooded to the lectern. They were asked to choose either a black bean or a white bean. Some took a black bean in a transparent plastic cup. Others took a white bean in an opaque plastic cup.

After having completed the countdown of three-two-one, they swallowed their own beans hastily.

At that moment, the floor underneath the believers who swallowed white beans cracked open and they fell into a deep pit. Those who chose black beans seemed to be relieved and returned to their seats contentedly. The preacher said, ‘You see? This is the importance of choice in our lives!’

Just before leaving the church, I looked into one of the deep pits by the lectern and heard a voice: ‘I should’ve chosen a black bean.’

28th April, 2014

No Woman No Cry

I saw a woman weeping in the train. Her face was reddish and slightly swollen with alcohol. Then her phone rang. While she was talking she only said, ‘Why?’ Hanging up, she started sobbing again. She cried like an animal. She opened the window, and threw the phone to the outside of the train.

The phone pinged, and was run over and killed. The louder she cried, the more brilliantly her tears dropped on her light-blue dress, and shone.

Finally, her body was completely covered with her tears. They looked scaly. She had become a large fish. After flopping on the seat several times, she leaped through the window and dived into the water under the Harbour Bridge. She left behind her tears, which were as hot as melted iron.

 

 11th May, 2014

Mother’s Day

From the bus, I saw a woman in the cemetery. She was polishing a tombstone, kneeling down on the ground. She was the only one in the cemetery. The tombstone was shining like a gray gem while other graves were deserted, or broken.

I arrived at the Shopping Centre. There was a huge arch of pink balloons and flowers for Mother’s Day. There were a lot of people carrying flowers in their arms. The petals of chrysanthemums in their arms were rigid as soldiers. I bought eggs and milk, and left, wondering how cruel Australians were, since chrysanthemums are only used in funerals in Japan.

On the way home, the bus passed by the cemetery again. Nobody was there, but a fresh bunch of flowers were left in front of the shining tombstone. The flowers were swaying like a giggling child, blown in the wind. I wondered how many mothers were lying in the cemetery. Then I remembered my own mother, Nanohana, who was named for a flower that blooms in spring, and was proud of that.

 

29th May, 2014

A Shovel

I happened to find a shovel at a museum shop, which was heavy and reminded me of my childhood. When I was a child, I was afraid of shovels. Every spring, without any good reason, the heavy lumps of iron were given to us, and we were forced to plant sweet potato seedlings. We dug, until the teacher told us to stop. The teacher said, ‘We’ll harvest in the autumn,’ although none of us asked when to harvest. I didn’t really want to harvest, because I knew I would have plenty of food in autumn even without sweet potatoes. I would rather have washed my hands as soon as possible, and have run away from the garden named after the manga character in which I was least interested. The hole I made looked like a grave for me. I didn’t like adults or children.

A museum attendant asked me if I would be interested in gardening. I smiled, looked at the shovel with a floral pattern and then asked her if I could make a grave with it. The staff was appalled and stepped back, but assured me, ‘If you want.’

30th June, 2014

An Over-Familiar Possum

I went to a swimming pool in the city. My goal was to be able to swim fifty metres. I managed to swim forty-five metres today. I am almost there. However, as I forgot to bring my goggles, my eyes became bloodshot and everything I saw became hazy. Even after I had left the sports centre, I couldn’t see things clearly.

Later, I went to a Turkish restaurant. The restaurant was filled with smoke. Rubbing my eyes, I ordered a kebab. A waiter asked if I needed a regular salad. I couldn’t read the menu but could only see his white teeth shining dimly. I left the restaurant, groping for a beacon outside.
The street lights were the strangest. I could see a dim ring around the light. It looked like a halo, and I regretted that I went to the church frequently these days despite the fact I was a Buddhist.

Walking at a snail’s pace to the station, I passed through Hyde Park. There was an extraordinarily huge possum. The possum looked at me as a beggar. I remembered that I had a Tim Tam and opened my bag. However, because of haziness, I couldn’t find it. The possum seemed to be really irritated. Finally, I found a Tim Tam and threw it to the possum. However, the possum rejected it and said, ‘Mate, can I have a durry?’ Then I finally found that it wasn’t a huge possum but a homeless person. I apologised to him and scurried back to my home.

 

13th July, 2014

An Accidental Indian Dance Instructor

As I make it a rule to write outside on a sunny day, I went to a park. When I was sitting on the bench and writing, I could see two girls dancing an Indian dance. One of them was Indian and another girl was Chinese. They seemed to be practicing for a performance. The Indian girl was teaching the Chinese girl. As they had danced for more than an hour in front of me, I realised that the Indian dance consisted of four patterns.

1. Make a loop with fingers

2. Bend knees

3. Shake hips

4. Tilt neck.

The Indian girl (I named her ‘A’) did two-four-three-one-three-four-four-two, while the Chinese girl (I named her ‘B’) did two-four-one-three-one-four-three-one. ‘A’ did two-four-three-one-three-four-four-two again, but ‘B’ did two-four-two-three-one- four-four-one. ‘A’ did two while ‘B’ did four. When ‘B’ did three, ‘A’ did four.

A: three-one-three-four-two-one-three-three-two-one-four.

B: three-one-three-four-two-one-three-three-two-one-one.

So close!

Then a strong wind blew my papers away. ‘B’ kindly picked them up, looked at the B4 sized papers on which numbers from one to four were scribbled and tilted her neck.

That’s it!

 

14th August, 2014

Lost

I took a wrong train. It was a night train to go to Melbourne. I had plenty of time and didn’t have anything to do but sleep. My face reflected in the window was as black as a portrait drawn in Indian ink. It wasn’t easy to sleep.

I looked at an obese man sitting on the other side of my seat. He had been talking to himself, while looking at his computer screen, ‘Crap…Crap…Crap…’ I looked into the screen and found he was watching a film. It was a film of his own life.

He was a child who was lovely, smart and vulnerable. He could get high marks in any subject, but wasn’t good at playing any sports. One day, he was chosen as a rugby team member by lots. It was obvious he was the poorest in the team. He didn’t practice and was absent on the day of the rugby match, because he didn’t want to show his poor rugby playing. Next day, nobody blamed him, but he blamed himself. He reckoned himself a loser. He graduated from school and got a job in a construction company, but soon quit. He stayed indoors and kept on eating. He believed he was always starving despite his body swelling like a balloon.

He clicked a rewind button and started watching the film again, murmuring, ‘Crap… Crap… Crap…’ Then, our eyes met. He said, ‘What are you looking at?’

After an awkward pause, I said, ‘I’m lost.’ He said, ‘So am I.’

 

 15th September, 2014

This Is No Longer A Bus Stop

When I got to the bus stop, there was a sign. It said this was no longer a bus stop due to the changed road conditions. I found an aged couple sitting on the bench. I said this was no longer a bus stop. They looked at each other, laughed and said that was why they were waiting here.

Again, I said this was no longer a bus stop and therefore the bus wouldn’t come no matter how long you would wait. The husband studied me and then whispered something into his wife’s ear. His wife slightly nodded and opened her bag. She fumbled her red enamel bag and took out a piece of a yellowish paper.

It was a timetable. However, I couldn’t read it because there were so many small holes in the paper. Again, I said the bus wouldn’t come, folding the paper. They burst into laughter. I was disgusted with them and started walking. After a while, however, I felt sorry for the couple. Both of them must be suffering from dementia.

After having walked for a couple of minutes, however, I heard a thundering sound. Looking back, I could see the bus stop flying across the sky, like a skyrocket. The couple in the rocket-like bus stop waved to me with big grins. Then, I realised they had been waiting for the moment the bus stop would no longer be a bus stop, literally.

 

16th October, 2014

Arsonist

She called me and said she wouldn’t be able to talk for more than ten minutes because she was now imprisoned. I was really surprised because she was my best friend and was unlikely to commit a crime. I asked what she had done. She said she set the woods on fire, which wasn’t intentional. I suggested that she should have claimed that she was innocent. She said she couldn’t because it was true that she had set fire to a palm tree in the woods. I asked her why she had set the fire on the palm tree. She answered she was falling in love with the tree and couldn’t forgive it for reaching its branch to another palm tree. She confessed that she was about to lose her marbles whenever the palm tree quivered its leaves in a blowing wind. When she was about to say something, the telephone was disconnected. I wondered if she had already become crazy.

Afterwards, I told this creepy story to my partner. ‘It’s crazy to fall in love with a palm tree, isn’t it?’

My partner, a eucalyptus, didn’t say anything as usual. I hugged him tightly, closed my eyes and then enjoyed his clean scent.

 

 4th November, 2014

Coy Carp

There lives a coy carp in the Sinobazu pond within Ueno Park in Tokyo. No one has seen it swimming. Hidden under waterweed, seemingly, it keeps still. It has a hobby, though.

The coy carp is into Twitter now:

 

#Shinobazu Pond

Water is lukewarm.

 

#Shinobazu Pond

Am afraid of Dengue fever.

 

#Shinobazu Pond

I wanna go to the beach someday.

 

There lives a coy carp in the Shinobazu pond within Ueno Park in Tokyo. No one has seen it swimming. Hidden under waterweed, seemingly, it keeps still. It is an ambitious carp, actually.

 

 16th December, 2014

Wednesday, the Day of Loneliness

Mr Sato our boss is now often absent on Wednesday. It’s quite okay because he is just taking his paid leaves. He’s within his rights.

One day, one of my colleagues, however, told me Mr Sato’s secret in a cafeteria at the company.

She said in a low voice, ‘A friend of mine saw Mr Sato in a park on Wednesday.’

After looking around carefully, she added, ‘He was on a swing there. Alone.’

I didn’t know if I should laugh in the moment like this. I just imagined a middle-aged man sitting on a swing by himself.

I thought it would be the ultimate loneliness.

 

 6th January, 2015

Beer & Beach

Mum would tell me when I was a child that life originated on the bottom of the ocean. Then I wondered if we would ascend into the sky like balloons when we died.

I had a friend called Jim. When I first met him, we were final-year students at the university. He was the kindest man I had ever met. We would often go to the beach on Sunday. Jim would tell me the names of birds floating in the clear sky. I would talk with him about my dream of becoming a poet. He would never laugh at my callowness. It may be just because both of us were intoxicated throughout the summer, though.

‘I must be strong to be a poet,’ I said.

‘Poets must be vulnerable,’ Jim said.

After we got drunk, we would exhaust ourselves swimming at the beach.

When the summer was over, Jim left the town in order to get a job in a city on the east coast. On the day he left, we promised to meet again. I haven’t seen him since then.

Some years later, I really became a poet.

Jim became an ornithologist, I heard, and died of lung cancer at twenty-seven.

I have forgotten his gentle voice, sunburnt skin and coy smile. We didn’t take any pictures in that summer. All I can remember now is the taste of bitter tides, and that we did believe we were immortal while we drank beer on the beach.

 

Download a pdf of ‘NiKKi’.

Tagged , , , , ,

Absolution, Leigh Coyle

Mack didn’t say a word either. We just watched as she swept the meat ants away from the dead man’s body, working a perimeter of clear space around him in the red dust. A pig dog, frenzied by the smell of blood, wrenched at its chain and she raised her broom at it and shouted.

Her task was pointless and she knew it.

I didn’t know the dead man with his booted feet sticking out into the afternoon, but then, I didn’t know anyone else on that property. Even Mack I’d only met a few weeks before when we were both walking in the same direction. Mack was one of those bull-headed men who can’t think around corners. He wore black clothes in the heat and any spare bit of skin was covered in smudged tattoos, like he’d done them himself. His front teeth were cracked off right across the middles, a long time ago, if you cared to see the worn down edges of them, and he had a face that was all collapsed in on itself. Mean bugger though.

By the way Mack held himself, his body tense, the way he muttered and moaned in his sleep, how he couldn’t look me in the eye for longer than a second, I knew he’d been inside. But the good thing I’d discovered about Mack was he didn’t ask questions. I liked that much about him and, by sticking together we seemed to find more work. That’s why we were there on that property and why we’d heard the single shot which had cracked open the dawn and for a few moments stilled the day.

Mack’d said, ‘That was no 22.’

I’d said, ‘Yeah, think you’re right.’

Then we’d gone about getting ready for the day’s work, pulling on trousers, sweat-stained singlets, hats bent to the shapes of our heads. It wasn’t our business, so when we went past the house on our way to the horses, we didn’t ask questions, even though we could already see the body motionless with the woman sweeping in circles.  We just wanted to get where we were going.

And when we came back in the afternoon, salt-smeared and thirsty after driving posts into the ground all day, we still didn’t want to find out anything about it, except she yelled out to us and we stopped near the gate, me leaning on the fence and Mack shuffling his boots in the red dust. She was blotchy-faced and sweaty, reddened by the dirt so it was hard to tell what colour her hair was, or whether she’d ever once been a looker.

‘Know what this bastard did?’ she said, letting the broom drop against her thigh.

‘Nuh,’ said Mack, with all the effort of someone who didn’t want to know.

‘Shot himself,’ she said. ‘Right here.’ She glanced back to the house as if allowing it the chance to break out of its ongoing silence. ‘And I’ve spent this whole stinking day trying to keep him nice, waiting for some bloke in a suit to come and tell me he’s dead.’

‘Jeez,’ said Mack.

Mack looked at me as if I had the words he needed, but didn’t want to share them out, so on his behalf I asked, ‘Why’d he do it?’

‘Why does anyone do it?’ she said.

I looked at Mack and thought I saw something disturbing in his eyes, but he was that sort of bloke.

‘Beats me,’ I said.

The woman resumed her sweeping. ‘You’re right there.’

We started to walk off towards the sleeping shed, but her sharp voice continued.

‘We hid all the guns, you know. Every last one of ‘em. My husband put the strychnine up in the roof so he couldn’t get to it, I put all the knives in my undies drawer. Last place he’d look, we reckoned.’

We waited while she snatched a dirty hanky from her apron pocket and wiped at her eyes.

The afternoon was stretched red-tight and all I wanted to do was get to the shed, lie down on my bunk with my toes free from boots and think of nothing much. Mack looked uncomfortable with the woman’s tears and fidgeted with his belt buckle. I saw something familiar in the way her face toughened as she spoke again, a sour tinge to her voice.

‘Made no difference in the end,’ she said. ‘This morning, he just grabbed a rifle from the back of Ron Strodeor’s ute before we had time to stop him.’

She paused as she gazed at the mad-eyed dog. ‘Wish we’d get rid of this bloody useless mongrel,’ she said.

I coughed inside my throat to break the mood and gave her a little nod. ‘Well, we’ll leave you to it,’ I said, stepping closer to Mack so we could both turn and escape in one slick manoeuvre. But the stupid bugger had stopped there, unmoving, so I was forced to stay put too, with the snuffling grunts of the dog and the fading heat of the afternoon sucking up the very last drops of moisture left on earth.

‘He just grabbed the rifle,’ she said. She dropped the broom onto the ground. ‘He just cocked it, put it in his mouth and pulled the trigger.’

Her face was lined by the sun and any womanly softness had been worn away by the weather and too much hard work. She looked like someone I’d known once, but I couldn’t quite remember who. She wept and her tears seemed obscene with their wetness, then she folded at the knees and hunched herself over beside where the dead man’s head was covered by a hessian sack.

‘We did everything we could,’ she sobbed into the dirt. ‘But in the end, it was impossible.’ She began to wail, a great heaving bawling which made her body quiver and I didn’t know where to look or what to do. I wanted someone to come out of the house and take the woman away, relieve her of her futile vigil, let the night press its darkness down upon her. But the place seemed deserted.

I glanced over to Mack for help and he gave me one long desperate look like he was seeking my permission to do something. Then that big tough bloke climbed over the fence into the yard where the woman knelt next to the dead man and he crouched down beside her, his huge tattooed arm covering her back, so their three bodies were butted up alongside each other in the dirt like rusty sardines.

Even then the woman continued to talk, as if her words had been caught up somewhere deep inside and were being flushed out with her tears. ‘We were the ones who told him to come. We’re the ones who promised to look after him. He just about blew his head off.’

She paused and then took in a long exhausted breath.

‘He was my brother.’

Mack’s black-haired hand was stroking down the woman’s back as he muttered to her. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, just the sound of his soft voice curling out into the last flare of sunlight; he was saying more to her now than I’d heard him say in all the weeks we’d been together. The woman remained curved over, but was silent now, listening.

I was useless, worse than that ugly crazy mutt, which still thought it could bust out of its lockup. As I stood there watching Mack with the woman I realised that the expression I’d briefly seen before on the woman’s face belonged to my wife, when I’d finally told her I was leaving for good.

For one blinding moment, I let myself understand I was a million times less worthy than that thug Mack, before I grunted loudly in disgust and left them to it.

 

Download a pdf of Absolution

Tagged , , ,

Joshua & 1000 Words, two works, Aidan Wondracz

Joshua

static

- The difference between a man with religion and a man without is that the man with religion spends his life fulfilling a purpose   whilst the other spends his life searching for one.

follow this road: rugged and rude/ joshua and adem rattle along. dawn brightening to azure day/ falling ochre/ settling to dark waters— spheres glimmering/ in that sky/ that flinches from touch—draining to day/ and back again. sleep/ puffed/ under eyes that want for rest/ on that familiar sight/ home.

static

-And who has the harder path? You may say it belongs to the one without purpose. But how can this be? He can do nothing wrong, for there is nothing right to mark him by. He can make no immoral statements, for there are no moral judges. Such concepts do not exist in a world without purpose.

sun is settling/ ochre chalks the sky/ silhouette landscape/ nigerian border is the horizon/ three-kilometres of sleeping trucks: waiting for inspection/ waiting to cross/ joshua parks in line.  adem turns the radio up.

static

-When he kills a man he does not say, I have killed one of God’s children, for he does not believe in God. When he sleeps with another man’s wife he does not think, I have tempted Eve, for he does not know who she is. He lives free, but lacking life.

joshua lurches out/ onto the ramshackle road/ bordered by rusted huts/ with broken frames/ jutting the sky. charisma of/ safari of red sun/ over red land/ lost to image of/ safari of slums/ poverty’s tread.

static

- He may experience the warmth, the flowering and never the fall, but he will always feel the wintery cold— the same freezing that stems from emptiness. Without purpose, what is anything for?

taxis cycle past/ joshua saddles on one. adem/ obsequious/ stays locked behind/ guarding the wheels from those/ desperate/ to save their hands/ guarding the cargo from those/ desperate/ to sell/ guarding the truck from those/ desperate.

static

- No, the harder path belongs to the man with religion, for every religion brings purpose. He who wishes to fulfil it must walk a path that is hurdled with bumps and hollowed by potholes. And following not too far behind, is Temptation.

nigerian border/ road settles to dust/ dusk settles to dark. no streetlights/ passing cars are the light of the night. old gum-smacked lady sitting on folding chair/ drinking the moon away/ coaxing a smile.

static

- It whispers for us to strike the one who cast the first stone. So we do, and we trip, not seeing the bump. It tells us to steal a glance from another man’s wife. So we do, and we fall, not seeing the pothole

joshua pays taxi/ that curls away/ under blanket of night. he heads along veins/ away from beating heart/ horns echoing/ fading. huddles between shacks and passers/ the way gets narrower/ the way becomes darker.

static

-And sometimes it is easier to lie face down on that ground, or hide in that hole, rather than to show your face. But, for those who grow tired of being numb—for lying too long on the cold—and sallow—for hiding too long in the darkness—the path does not end. Rather, the struggle to rise begins. And you realise that you are not walking on the path of virtue, for virtue is our purpose, and virtuosity is our end. No. The path is hurdled with bumps and hollowed by potholes. It is the path of Error, and the hardest of all. For though the fall is definite, the rise remains uncertain. The ones who leap, knowing this, are the bravest of all. It is in faith and for faith that we do this. And that is all.

a shack/ no bigger than the others/ but smaller than some/ a broken wall/ serving drinks/ tables perched out front/ he pushes to the counter/ counts his counters/ pays/ sits and drinks. warm neon glow of mosquito light/ melts with moonlighting/ over that hunched frame/ brooding/ a sip for thought from a glass filled with drink/ shy of one- and- two- naughts. zephyr of night/ turns to gale of noise/ voices rise/ glasses clink/ urine flows/ shacks rattle/ all passing/ the hunched and brooding frame. into the dark pool of thought/ he looks/ his eyes have greyed/ his stretched lips/ lamed by weariness/ all that shows/ is a hopeless frown. ladies of the night/ splash their feet/ clean to step in. heels flicked on tables/ rags raised above thighs/ dogs go howling/ market’s opened. rensia: pulled- back black hair/ flower dress with ripped petals/ runs her red licked nails/ across joshua’s neck/ whose eyes always set/ on that drink/ shy of one-and-two-naughts. she floats away/ to another man/ happy to rub his face in the flowers. revelry recedes/ silence comes again/ joshua in his bubble/ of blue and moonlight/ sinking deeper/ into that drink that’s turned/ shallow. visions fall behind drooping eyes/ of past time/ sailing the horizon in truck/ sitting where adem sits/ obeying driver as adem obeys/ staying behind as adem stays/ not knowing where driver goes/ now/ joshua knows/ and he shall go. he slips through puddles/ trips over bottles/ staggers to a shack/ heaving inside/ it is busy/ stumbles to another/ whimpering inside/ it is busy. travelling deeper along/ darker it becomes. plastic lawns/ cracking under heel/ he passes through narrower/ darker/ spaces/ shacks almost touch/ clouding moonlight/ hands against walls/ guiding blind feet/ through hanging rags/ painting the laundry/ with sweaty face/ clammy palms. a murmur a rustle/ both at once/ woman appears/ in doorway/ she nods/ she walks inside/ temptation whispers/ he walks inside: one room/ four corners/ bed lies in one/ hatched quilt over stained sheets/ woman sitting/ arms stiff/ leaning over/ he sits beside/ spring pokes through/ deflated condom by his foot/ silence. she shivers/ thought of night carrying/ longer she must sell. he rattles/ thought of night losing/ less he’ll enjoy. he strips her threadbare/ of her threadbare clothes/ she paws for pillow for protection/ lying underneath/ neatly wrapped/ she tosses the plastic/ he flinches/ shakes his head/ she shakes hers at his/ and he shakes again. she pushes the plastic/ into his hands/ his palms are too clammy. condom hits ground/ His face up/ Je n’ai pas dit[1] reads across/ he presses against her/ she pushes away/ deal is off. he rises/ distraught/ disconcerted/ He spoke/ Je n’ai pas dit/ He spoke Je n’ai pas dit. he pulls out fists of money/ she spreads/ deal is back on. onto the streets/ shirtless/ missing a shoe/ joshua staggers/ leaning over/ fist anchored in red/ scrunching money/ whining grows distant. through and through/ he travels/ slipping/ sliding. from behind a shadow/ which one he does not know—perhaps from same one he is standing in—appears four/ three grown/ tall- like/ gleaming teeth/ the other/ small- like/ not yet man/ soon to be. surrounding him/ three umbrella thorns and one bushwillow/ joshua trips. trees bend down/ helping him by the hands/ bushwillow brushes his face/ branches rattle/ tempest subsides/ forest clears/ joshua lies/ blood wrapped/ hands/ emptied.


[1] ‘I said no.’

 

intermission

dawn swallows the dark/ smoke chokes the air/ distant horns/ joshua’s eyes recede/ consciousness catches up/ head goes spinning/ tastes blood/ he fumbles and tumbles/ checks his empty pockets. the night is what he remembers it to be/ dark/ gloomy/ obscure/ a woman sitting on hatched quilt/ he touches groin/ Je n’ai pas dit/ he said no. he crawls his way back to the heart/ with crowds of cars/ and people/ marching through/ market- stands standing in the way/ of every passer-by/ merchants run/ accessories assorted on wooden plates/ marked with prices negotiable/ Je n’ai pas dit/ why did she say no? he touches groin/ car noise exacerbates/ sight blurs/ three kilometres back he travels/ he reaches that familiar sight/ that’s not home/ finds adem curled in seat. joshua and adem move forward/ along that rugged and rude road/ adem pushes back the sleep/ he sits up/ dashboard is too high for him/ to

see

 

an

 

end.

 

 

1000 words

 

Artwork

‘I don’t like the painting. It’s too postmodernist.’

‘It is quite minimalist.’ Francesca tilted her head. ‘But you gain a sense of urgency from The Artisan— a cry for recognition.’

Marion crossed her brows. ‘How?’

‘Well, the red is obviously overwhelmed by the white,’ Francesca continued, ‘it’s as if the artist believes he’s insignificant—like a dot— and feels he is floating in the white. Yet, he manages to triumph because we’re always drawn to the red instead.’

‘I don’t know,’ Marion said. ‘It just doesn’t speak to me as suddenly as his others.’

‘What’s wrong with a bit of a tease?’ Francesca sipped from her glass, sticking a scarlet kiss on the rim, ‘I like my men with a bit of mystery. Though, they can’t be too enigmatic—I still like to have some sort of a hold on them.’

‘Paintings and men are completely different.’

‘The only difference between the two is one is stroked by the brush and the other can’t stop stroking their own, and both have the equal capability of amazing or disappointing.’

‘They always disappoint past first inspection.’ Marion sighed and lifted herself to laughter with Francesca.

The empty floor catered to the high heels and polished shoes that sauntered across the room; women, choked in tight dresses, and men pressed in suits had gathered to pamper and praise The Artisan’s paintings along the walls. However, The Artisan himself was nowhere to be found.

‘Speaking of which,’ Marion searched for a signature on the painting, ‘where is he, and why does he never sign?’

‘You know how artists are; always wanting to avoid the spotlight because they think it will fade the colour of the paint.’ Francesca fidgeted with her cleavage bursting from her dress. ‘I’d be surprised if he actually showed up to this demonstration.’

‘He never does show up to any of them, does he?’ Marion gazed obstinately across the room. ‘I’m never going to understand this male.’

A man, wearing frames without glass, overheard and squeezed himself between the pair.

‘From what I’ve heard,’ he muttered in his glass, ‘he’s homosexual.’

‘And what makes you say that?’ Marion drew tight eyes at the unwelcome company.

‘Well, why else would The Artisan be so shy of public eyes? He’s scared of being berated for his sexuality.’ He turned to Marion, clumsily twirling his wine. ‘There’s nothing wrong with being homosexual, dear. But they have to make a big deal out of it and, judging from the rumours, there’s not even much to make a deal about.’

‘I don’t care if he’s homosexual,’ Marion snapped.

‘Oh, my.’ The man beat his palm to his chest. ‘It seems that we have a bit of an obsession. There’s nothing to blush about, dear. Everyone is bound to fall in love with The Artisan sooner or later. And who wouldn’t! Just look at the paintings. This one is my favourite. I think it captures the true essence of his sexuality and frustration of being unable to speak out.’

Impressing herself upon people was an unshakeable desire of Francesca’s— sometimes she even managed to impress herself— and she replied in a tone that was not too far sounding from ostentatious,

‘The dot represents his loneliness in the world and its centring would show that he holds his sexuality as a core value, but he’s afraid to speak out, because once he does, his value might not remain at his core; he’s afraid of losing his sexuality.’

The man clapped his hands, smashing the glass and splashing the wine,

‘An artist too afraid to lose his homosexuality, why, he’s a proud Tchaikovsky! And you, my dear,’ he lost his footing and held onto Francesca, ‘are magnificent. If only you could peer into my soul, the things you could tell me that I don’t even know.’ And the drunken socialite tearfully tore himself away in search for another glass.

‘They should keep a tab on how many drinks people can have.’ Marion watched the drunken man cradle a stranger in his arm before beginning to sing.

‘No one would turn up to these, then.’ Francesca laughed wiping wine from her arms. ‘And it’s nice to have some character in this room, especially when the artworks lack it. They’re all just colours, shapeless characters; different hues of boredom.’ Francesca took Marion’s sniffing as an obvious expression of the question she wanted to ask, and answered, ‘Just because a painting has meaning, doesn’t make it interesting. It might be interesting to find out what it is implying, but the actual work itself mightn’t be anything fantastic. I could hang this painting on the white wall at home, and the only difference you’d notice was a perfectly rounded, tiny, red stain. No matter what cleaner you used it would never wipe off, and it’d annoy you for being so pretentiously rounded; an irksome red against the white.’

And it suddenly occurred to Marion that the artist did not paint the work for recognition, or to express his sexuality, but rather to become unrecognised. Even though he had layered himself in mysticism, avoiding the public lights, he could not remove his name—The Artisan—the core sentiment of identity. No matter how small a being he made himself, his name had marked him a noticeable red.

Marion relaxed to a look of content. ‘Whether there is anything to look at or not, this painting is still interesting. I like it.’

‘Like what you will, but that doesn’t affect my opinion— I’d prefer a much more interesting stain on my wall,’ Francesca replied.

The front doors opened. A combed man, smelling of lavender, walked in wearing a dress of leather shoes, white collared shirt, black blazer and pants. All eyes were agape; all mouths closed. His hands were timidly crossed in front, but he smiled warmly. After clearing his throat of some uncomfortable phlegm, he opened it to speak.

Francesca leaned over to Marion and whispered, ‘That suit doesn’t match his character at all.’

 

1000 words.

Download a pdf of Joshua & 1000 Words

Tagged , , ,

Burdens, Olivia Whenman

DAMON HILTON

Constable Derrin was standing behind me whilst I was on the phone. In high school we used to call him Herc the Lurk.

‘I love you baby. Please! I won’t do anything like this again. Please baby. Don’t hang up! Don’t hang up!’

But she hung up. I turned around in defeat. I was face-to face with Herc. It reminded me of when we were forced to partner up in self-defence class. He kicked my arse. Ugh, in high school he was a loser. Actually, he’s still a loser. The only difference is the school blazer’s now a badly pressed uniform and its emblem a poorly shined badge.

‘Who was that?’ Herc asked.

‘Mara,’ I said.

“She like princesses or something?”

‘What?’

‘Come with me mate,’ he said.

His mother was Greek. Called him Hercules or some shit after a Greek god who fought monsters. I don’t know. I don’t care. There’s not even anything particularly godly about Herc. I bet the only monsters he ever gets to fight are underage offenders. They aren’t even monsters, they’re just bored.

‘Check out ya face,’ he said.

He opened the bathroom door and let me in. Water had leaked underneath the mirror leaving a mass of black ooze in the corner. My face was blue under the light. On the side of my face there was a stain and on my cheek a splodge. Mara. Black eyeliner and pink lip-gloss. Her signature. I didn’t wipe them off. I left them there for company. I missed her already.

‘You like being a princess?’ Herc said.

‘Yeah, maybe you can be my Knight in Shining Armour and save me? Wait, aren’t you a god or some shit?’ I asked.

‘Yeah real funny wise guy. I won’t be saving your arse until I know it wasn’t you. So until then I can’t let you go.’

‘What does that mean? Is there going to be a line-up?’

‘Yeah mate, there’s going to be a line-up.’

The cell bed sagged in the middle where various arses had been before. I’d been lying there for at least an hour.

There’s a photo stuck above my bed. It’s a school photo of Mara. It was taken in Year 11 a couple of months before we started dating. Her hair was blonde and long, and her lips tinted with pink lip-gloss. Sometimes I’d see sticky residue on the collars of other boys in my year. But then we started going out. After that the lip-gloss smears disappeared.

In Year 12 I used to smoke every afternoon at the train station. I’d smoke one, two, three cigarettes. Commuters would stare. I’d fight with Mara at the station because she wouldn’t kiss me. She said my mouth tasted like shit. Then she said second-hand smoke was even worse than the real thing. She said that it caused cancer and if I kept it up I’d be dead by the age of 30. Than my brother Levi died. So I stopped.

The year after we finished school Mara decided she was going to move away and go to university. She ended up staying. I’m pretty sure she stayed for me. I was glad because I didn’t really care about anyone else in our shithole of a hometown. Mara’s best friend Larnie moved away though. I could tell Mara missed her. But she had me. She still has me.

‘Mate you awake?’ Herc asked.

‘Ugh yeah,’ I said.

‘It’s time.’

I stood against a white backdrop with seven random guys. Actors? Picked off the street? Other cops? I don’t know.

‘Is there anywhere in particular you want to stand?’ Herc asked.

‘Nah not really,’ I said.

Honestly, I just wanted it to be over and done with. Through the observation window I could see the witness’s hair in some sort of bun. There was a vein bulging on the left side of her temple. Frustration? Anger? Exhaustion? I’d seen her three times before. She worked at the jewellers.

She pointed straight at me. Her lips tight.

‘It was that one. He broke into the jewellery store… again.’

Herc took me by the right arm. He gripped it tightly as he walked me back to the holding cell, told me that in the morning they were going to take me to a corrections centre, a new fancy fucking way to say ‘jail’.  I was a repeat offender. Breaking and entering as well as theft was my specialty. This wasn’t the first time I’d stolen something from that store. But it was the first time I’d stolen an engagement ring.

Herc leant against the cell wall, hands in his pockets. He was chewing gum that squelched around inside his mouth.

‘You wanna know something?’ Herc asked.

‘Ok,’ I said.

‘So you and Mara started like dating in year 11 or something, right?’

‘Yeah. What of it?’

‘Nothing mate. It’s just she’s a huge bitch.’

‘Fuck you! You talkin’ shit about my girlfriend? I’d fuckin’ kill for her.’

‘Are you fucking serious? Mate you gotta draw the line somewhere. She’s a bitch. That ring you stole was for her wasn’t it?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Yeah thought so. Just like all that shit you took last time? You know what your fault is mate? You’re massive idiot,’ he said as he shut the door.

Yeah I thought. I am a massive idiot. But I love her.

 

CATS ARE BETTER THAN DOGS

Joel Hilton hit me because I said his dog was stupid.

‘Cats are better than dogs. Dogs can’t even look after themselves. You have to clean dogs. You don’t have to clean cats.’

‘Yeah well dogs are better than cats. Dogs can play fetch! Cats don’t do anything, they just sleep all day. Borrrrring.’

‘No they don’t! I play games with my cat all the time. He likes to play games with this stick thing. It’s got a string on the end and you like wave it around and he chases it and tries to eat it.’

‘That sounds boring Gabby. Your cat sounds stupid. He’s trying to eat string. Cats can’t eat string.’

‘He’s not stupid! Your dog is stupid.’

‘Nuh-uh, my dog’s smart. He can play dead and everything.’

‘Yeah well he’s probably so stupid he should be dead.’

We both have time out tomorrow at lunchtime because Mrs Burrell says so. She says it doesn’t matter if cats or dogs are better. She says I shouldn’t have said what I said. But I don’t think she understands. Cats are better. They just are.

I hit Gabby Wright because she said my dog was stupid. But he’s the smartest dog I know. He’s smarter than Gabby. She’s so stupid. Mrs Burrell says I shouldn’t have hit her. So I’ve got time out tomorrow at lunchtime. Anyway dogs are better than cats. It’s not my fault Gabby doesn’t understand.

It’s lunchtime and everyone else is outside in the playground. It sucks I’m stuck inside on time out. I asked my Mum if cats are better than dogs. She said yes. She said cats are better than dogs because cats are independent. I think she means that cats can go and catch birds and eat them if they’re hungry.

I’m in time out. My brother told me I shouldn’t worry about it. He used to get put on time out all the time. He also said that that dogs are better than cats because dogs can help blind people. All my friends are outside playing. Gabby and her cat suck.

Did you know in ancient Egypt the mummies loved cats? They made statues and pictures of them and stuff.

Did you know one of the first animals in space was a dog? I wish I could go to space with my dog.

Cats always land on their feet.

Dogs are used by the police to find things.

Garfield is a famous cat.

Snoopy is a famous dog.

Cats are better than dogs.

Dogs are better than cats.

Cats are better than dogs.

Dogs are better than cats.

‘Have you two learnt your lesson?’ Mrs Burrell asked.

 

LUNCHBOX

 It was the 17th of January 1963 when the Bray family came to town. Fourteen children + one mother + one father + one uncle + one aunt + one grandmother = nineteen unwelcome Brays.  Their clothes, tacky with tropical dampness, had dirtied in the dust as they set up their makeshift homes. Now they were all brown. George Wright watched through his bedroom window. His mother Patricia shouted from her sewing room, ‘You stay away from them, you hear? They’re filthy people.’ But George ignored her. She never let him do anything. At church he’d often pictured God’s arm crashing through the ceiling and grabbing his mother from the pulpit and taking her away like King Kong did to Ann Darrow.

Pa Keith was the only interesting grown-up he knew. He was 86 but George liked the fact that the wrinkles on his face were so deep he could stick a half-penny in there and it would stay. He also took George to see King Kong at the movies and let him have a whole bottle of Coke. Pa Keith told him it was their little secret. George’s Mum never let him have Coke. She said it would ruin his teeth. She never trusted anyone with bad teeth.

By late afternoon, the vacant lot had been transformed into ‘Brays’ Land’. Their six horses ate the fresh, green grass beside their four caravans placed in a line like peculiar storefronts. Each wooden body had been decorated with patterns and pictures. The doors were round.

There were five girls and nine boys in the Bray family. George counted them on the morning of the 18th of January as they ran around the oval giggling and yelling. His mum said he had to stay inside because of his allergies. George knew she was lying but his dad was home so he couldn’t argue.

George’s dad had really white teeth. George’s dad wore suits and only suits. His pyjamas were even ironed to have the same starchy stiffness as the business suit he sported every day over his body like a second skin. But it was a Sunday and Malcolm Wright was in his home office making telephone calls because ‘A banker never rests son. One day you’ll understand. Now what’s one + five + nine + two?’

‘17.’

‘Good.’

At 11:00am Patricia Wright left for one of her ‘Women’s Meetings’. She took Pa Keith with her and dropped him off at the RSL to play bowls with his friends James and John. George left the house at 11:15am and walked to the oval with his lunchbox, packed with a sandwich just in case he got hungry.

‘Who’s that?’ the oldest Bray asked when he saw George walking towards the cluster of children sitting underneath the only tree on the vacant lot.

‘Oi, who are you?’ he asked George.

‘George Wright. Who are you?’ George asked.

‘Gary…  Ain’t you been told to stay away?’

‘Mum said to stay away yesterday. I thought we could play or something…’ George smiled.

‘Nah it’s alright. We gotta enough kids to play with already. Whatcha got in that lunchbox?’

‘A sandwich.’

‘Can I have it?’

‘It’s turkey. But can I play with you?’

‘Yeah but only if ya give me ya lunchbox.’

‘Ok.’

George played tips with the Brays until their legs were too tired to run anymore. Then George helped them feed the horses. His favourite was called Onyx. His favourite Bray girl was called Maggie. She gave George a kiss on the cheek. Her teeth were yellowed and gritty. She smelt like ants and melted sugar cubes.

‘You’re nice,’ she smiled and then walked away.

George blushed.

‘George William Wright!’ Patricia Wright screamed.

‘I need to go home,’ George said.

‘Don’t you want to stay for supper?’ one of the Brays asked.

‘I can’t.’

George saw his Mum crossing the vacant lot. Her blue dress threatened to lift and expose her underwear.

‘What did I tell you? What did I tell you about going near these filthy people?’ she said.

‘I was just…’

‘You never listen to me George! Why is that? Why are you disobedient? And why does that boy have your lunchbox?’ she pointed to Gary Bray.

George Wright knew what would happen if he told her the truth. A bar of soap in the mouth, a few smacks with the belt and no dinner.

‘I was having lunch in the park and he stole it so I came over here to get it back.’

‘Gary didn’t steal nothin’! That’s a lie!’ Maggie said.

‘Shut up you filthy little liar! Shut up!’ Patricia Wright said.

On the morning of the 19th of January the revelation that a Bray child had stolen George Wright’s lunchbox was the talk of the town.

‘You can’t trust anyone these days,’ Pa Keith said.

‘Yeah, you can’t trust anyone,’ George said as he sipped some Coke.

The police said they couldn’t do anything so a group of men including Malcolm Wright went to the vacant lot. George heard that Mr Bray had some of his teeth knocked out by a cricket bat. They cracked and splintered. Little white dots like breadcrumbs thrown for the birds on the green grass. The Bray family packed up their things and left.

 

NARCISSISTIC MUCH?


How’s the train ride going? J

I’ve got some bogan sitting next to me. He smells like that Lynx chocolate spray all the guys used to spray on themselves after P.E.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA it smells so bad! Sucks to be you!

Fuck you. I’ll buy you some for your birthday. P

Ok. All the boys will want me cause I’ll smell so good!

You wish bitch.

LOL. I’ve gotta go. Talk later. xx

 

My skirt is riding up my leg again.

The guy sitting next to me on the train looks like such a pervert. Shit, he’s looking at me.

Great so I picked the carriage with the seedy looking guy. His red windbreaker reminds me of James Dean in ‘Rebel Without a Cause.’ But he isn’t James Dean. A curly orange mullet cascades down the back of his freckled neck. He has a suitcase. His nose is inflamed and crusted around the nostrils. Wait. Crust around the nostrils. Cocaine? OMG you are such a prude Martina. He keeps twitching. Fidgeting. There’s sweat on his upper lip. Why can’t he keep still? I get my book out of my bag. Sense and Sensibility. I’m just going to ignore him. He’ll eventually get off.

‘Hey is it alright if I leave this here?’ I hear someone say.

‘Ummm yeah. Yeah that’s fine… Wait, what?’ I reply.

I look up and no one’s there. I look backwards down the aisle and I see the guy with the red windbreaker already moving in the space between carriages. Where’s he going? Why’d he leave his suitcase?

I read the tag. It says his name is Sam Bray. I go back to reading my book.

40 minutes later and that guy hasn’t come back. I’m trapped. Trapped forever in an endless sea of green seats and beige plastic walls. I just want to know if he’s coming back. I just want to know why he left his bag because like, is it even normal to leave your bag with a stranger?

It’s been over an hour now. I remember reading a sign once at the station that said you should report unattended baggage. I’m not overreacting am I? Wait, is this even unattended? He sort of implied I watch it, right?

Fuck. Maybe he’s somewhere doing drugs? Maybe he’s hiding in the bathroom snorting more cocaine? OMG what if he’s left me with his stash of drugs? What if the cops come on and do a random bag search? I’m not a drug mule!

Some guy left his bag with me and disappeared. He’s been gone for like an hr. Wat do I do?

IDK. Move to a different carriage? xx

OK.

I put my book in my bag and stood up to leave.  I walked past an elderly couple sleeping in a huddled mass. The woman was snoring like a pig. The thump of footsteps stopped behind me.

‘Hey! What are you doing? I asked you to watch my fucking bag!’

‘I was! You were gone for like an hour!’

‘Yeah so. Just let someone steal my fucking bag instead yeah?’

‘But you were gone for ages.’

‘Yeah and? I was on the phone to my Mum OK. Is that a crime?’

‘No.’

‘Fuckin’ bitch.’

 

Download a pdf of ‘Burdens’

Tagged , , ,

Flying, Janet Holst

James stands at the bus stop with his schoolbag, waiting for the 722. It’s Wednesday, and he mustn’t be late home – it’s Mum’s choir night. But where is the bus? So much of his life is spent waiting, when he really wants to be moving.  Ah, here it is at last, the bus, inching down the road like an old lady, and his heart goes out to it, wills it along, but it’s blocked at the lights; and he wants to stretch out a giant hand and pick it up, save it. If he were Action Man, he wouldn’t be standing here on Wednesday after sports practice, after Mr Grainger pulled him up for not having trainers, Last Warning, he said. No, he’d be – but there’s something sudden up there: a man in the sky. Flying. With his arms stretched out, and his white coat open like a wing; and he’s really flying – it’s like that painting – up high against the blue, the one that Mrs Richards showed them, the boy with wax wings, and the sea and cows and farmers and things all below, not noticing. But James had noticed. With my little eye. The boy’s foot, the little splash. What must it be like? Up high in the silent blue, looking down at the tiny buses and cars rolling underneath, for the traffic is moving again, and the 722 is edging closer…

And the man’s up there. The Flyer. Like God. And the high viaduct is behind him, packed with traffic…but No! Not flying, after all, but falling – flat and fast from the viaduct down to the cars and roaring buses and tankers piled up at the lights. So fast. And James doesn’t, can’t see him land, because the ice-cream truck is just there, and people are shouting and running and pushing, just as the bus grinds in, the doors hissing open, and the driver saying, ‘Are-ya-gedding-on-or-aren’t-cha?’ James pulls himself up onto the step.

Through the back window of the bus the traffic is stopped, and people are crowding in the middle of the road – gawking. Rubber necking. But the bus is moving away, past the post office, past the McDonalds and the hot dog stand on the corner, past a woman with a fat stomach pushing a pram and two kids shoving each other off the footpath. And they don’t know. None of them knows. It’s as if nothing’s happened. Like Mrs Richard’s picture, and the poem she read to go with the picture, but that was all peaceful: if you fell in water, you’d just slip in, cool, the water closing above you, and down below to the fishes. But to land smack on the pavement – or what if you were driving, and someone fell smack on your windshield, like birds sometimes when they get blinded. But what about him, why jump on the traffic? Was he blinded too? An ambulance comes wailing, pushing away the traffic, and a police car whoops along the shoulder flashing red lights.

But the bus goes on.

‘I saw a man flying,’ he says when he gets home. ‘But he fell, and an ambulance came.’

‘Oh?’ says Mum, cooking. ‘Put your bag away and change, there’s a good lad, before your dad gets back.’

He showers with eyes closed, the water pelting hard on his face, and sees again the figure floating across the afternoon sky, but now it’s James himself, high in the silent blue on his own flight path: not falling, not landing – but flying.

Endlessly.

 

Download a pdf of Flying

Tagged