SATURDAY, APRIL 25, 2009
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15, 2009
FRIDAY, APRIL 10, 2009
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8, 2009
TUESDAY, APRIL 7, 2009
“Not far away. How about you?”
“Down from Melany for the day,” he said.
“She’s a beautiful dog,” she kept her eyes on his face. Out the corner of her eye she caught the other woman, shifting from foot to foot.
“I found her by the side of the road. She was only a pup,”
“She’s a lucky girl,”
They talked for nearly an hour, there beneath the trees, the ocean a giant blue backdrop.
“I should let you two get going,” she finally said. They walked as a small silent group back to the car park, the woman striding ahead. As they bid their farewells, he pulled a card from his pocket and slid it into her hand. He looked down at her and smiled.
“Maybe we’ll catch up down here again, sometime,”
“Maybe. I usually end up here on Tuesdays” she said, closing her hand around the card.
“See you later,”
TUESDAY, MARCH 24, 2009
Before her was endless ocean. She sat beneath the trees on a white park bench and contemplated her life. She felt unsure. About everything. The day was perfect. A cool breeze blowing in and a sun round and warm shining down, warming her feet. She bowed her head – not in prayer. Someone once told her that prayer was all about talking to God and meditation was all about listening. That’s what she needed to do; just listen.
She closed her eyes, the sound of the wind and waves filling her ears. A dog barked in the distance and she opened her eyes for a glimpse of it. Dogs. They were her weakness. She watched it chasing the waves, bouncing through the clear water, not a care in the world. Her life should be like that, she thought. Carefree and playful and void of all worry. If only.
She closed her eyes once again, resisting the temptation to get up and move. Resisting the uncomfortable feeling that sat in her chest. A feeling of loss like she had come adrift from her moorings and had lost her way. With eyes closed, she asked for a sign. Just a small fragment of a clue to help her regain her bearings. She imagined her heart like a compass within. She prayed for direction; she begged for true north. She licked at her lips and could taste the salt and was unsure whether it came from the sea or her tears. She answered her question by wiping her face.
She glanced at her watch and stood. It was time to get home. There were things to be done. She made her way up the hill to the car. Crossing the park, she saw him. He was standing beside a woman. They seemed together but not as a couple. Nearby was a dog – black and white, a heeler. She was beautiful. The dog was drinking from a bowl near a tap. She glanced down at her feet still covered with sand and then felt a pull, like some guiding force leading her sideways toward where they stood. She stopped in front of the dog.
“Ah, you’ve come to pat my dog,” he said, smiling down at her. She looked up at him. He had blue eyes the colour of lapis and a gentle face. She looked down at the dog, who looked up at her. Its eyes were the colour of autumn and its face was as gentle as her masters.
“What’s her name?” she asked him, returning her gaze to his face.
“Maggie.” he said.
Her eyes settled on his face. A happy and gentle face. He was beautiful.
“You from around here? ” he asked.
SUNDAY, MARCH 22, 2009
I often wonder where ideas come from. Do they hang about in the ether and filter down into available space? Or do we attract them on some vibrational level? What makes me wake in the middle of the night with a story line running through my head? The subconscious has a lot to answer for but that still doesn’t explain why certain people get certain ideas. What made J.K Rowling think of a wizard boy, as she chugged along one day on a train? I wonder, if she hadn’t taken notice of him, would he have moved on and appeared to somebody else?Do thoughts and ideas already exist as some kind of ethereal energy that beg our attention in order to populate our reality? I can almost see them floating about in the air, bumping into people’s heads, demanding to be taken seriously. Like all the times I think of something and say to myself,
“I’ll remember that…” and then don’t. The idea moves on, never to be seen ( by me) again. Is there a great conscious creative connection going on that we must acknowledge and tap into or else be left without a clue?
So many questions…so little time to ponder it all. The one thing I have learned is to take notice when a little whisper of an idea swings my way. Instead of relying on memory, I grab it and pin it to the closest piece of paper I can find. A $2.00 investment in a packet of mini notepads now strewn through the house have helped wrestle these fleeting ideas from the air. The notepads have at least given me the time to consider the idea’s worth later on – before it moves on and is forgotten for good.
THURSDAY, MARCH 19, 2009
I recently became motivated to get my life in some kind of order. Part of that clean up was learning to utilise my electronic calendar. I have been plugging in important things that need to be done for the day and so far, it is working right on schedule.
For my writing, I enter a block of time that is specifically dedicated. It might be a two hour time slot for plotting. Or a one hour session on scene tracking. Whatever it is, it becomes an important appointment with myself that I must keep. When I log onto my mac in the morning, and start checking emails and surfing the net, my calendar is running away in the background. When I procrastinate past my allotted time to “play, trapping myself in the sticky wide web, a calendar reminder pops up and lets me know that I have a word count to meet, or a scene to develop etc. It helps me refocus. And it makes me set goals. It is easy to click it away but it is far more rewarding to acknowledge it and get on with what task I have set to improve my writing.
They only take minutes to set up and once they are in, you can drag and drop them from one day to the next when you plan for your next writing session. It’s a little like having your conscience online and having to be accountable. Which reminds me…time for bed!
So, how do you keep yourself on track?
TUESDAY, MARCH 17, 2009
Yesterday, after a long writing session, I’d had it. But I had reached my goal, so in order to reward myself, I took off to Sandgate. One of the things I learned in Monique Beedles workshop was that it is important to reward yourself when you reach a goal.
The pay off was just what I needed. The weather was perfect and after a healthy lunch at a cafe, I sat and pondered some more scenes for the book. Because I was out “paying” myself, the extra work I did at the table didn’t seem like work and the new atmosphere fuelled my creativity. I rounded the afternoon off with a walk by the sea. It emptied my head and cleared out the fatigue I was feeling after hours spent in front of my computer. So from herein, rewards are the way to go – after the hard work is done – of course.
Rewarding yourself keeps your energy flowing. When I don’t reward myself, my creativity flags a little and it all becomes like a lot of hard work with little or no gain. Not all rewards have to cost, financially. They can include a walk by the sea or through your favourite park, coffee with a friend, a walk around the block, an hour of reading or gardening or just doing your favourite thing. Whatever it is that you need to feel recharged after the work is done. Julia Cameron, who wrote ‘The Artist’s Way’, advocates having an artist’s date. This is a pre-planned date with yourself that you must keep, and it is to be spent doing something creative and fun. It is simply a way of rewarding yourself.
Next time you reach that goal, no matter how small or large, take a moment to reward yourself in some way. It keeps the enthusiasm alive knowing that something nice is waiting at the other end of the slog.
SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 2009
My Official Board of Story-ness.
Yesterday I attended Dr Monique Beedles workshop – Project Management for Writers. It was a fantastic workshop filled with many tools and tips on how to meld daily life with a writing life as well as figuring out how to squeeze in time for yourself. I wonder how many writers out there take the time to plan out a schedule that is dedicated to writing. I know that when I have a dedicated time slot allotted for writing, I am more likely to feel in the mood. When I wing it, and fit it in where I can, I often find excuses to not write because so much else needs attending to.
After doing the workshop with Monique, I am ready and rearing to get on with the tasks. I have a long term and short term map and goals all plotted out on a story board. My head feels lighter and I feel so much more organised and inspired to get on with writing instead of muddling through the quagmire that is my brain when there is no plan to follow. If you have a plan or routine that works for you – I’d love to hear about it. The board includes scene maps. plotting templates, a writing map, word count goals, a plan for the next week and month plus a “free” area to randomly jot general stuff that comes to mind.
After planning my writing life, I realise that blogging everyday is no longer a possibility if I am to achieve my major writing goals so I will instead blog with days that have “U” in them – Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday. Saturday will be my writing day off.
I’m off to plot and plunder the muse…
SATURDAY, MARCH 14, 2009
FRIDAY, MARCH 13, 2009
“Marshall, think carefully. He means what he says,” Angie said. Her voice was soft but convincing. I stared at the door and then turned to face Pa.
“What if I can’t find her? Then what? It would be like losing her all over again.”
“Finding your mother is a choice you must make. Taking on these powers…I’m afraid, isn’t.” Pa explained.
“What do you mean?”
“The power accepts you. You cannot escape it once it has chosen,” he said.
“What makes you think it has chosen me?”
“The penny that you now carry in your pocket…” I instinctively felt for it.
“How did you know about the penny?” I hadn’t told anyone I had taken it.
“There are many things I know about. And it is my job to teach you all of it. The penny has chosen you, Marshall. You are wasting your time if you think you can run away from it.” I felt the warm pulsing of the coin and for reasons I couldn’t fully understand, I found myself walking back toward Pa. I fell into the chair, my head swimming a little and my limbs heavy as lead.
THURSDAY, MARCH 12, 2009
“Is this meant to be funny?” I asked him. There was no way my mother could have survived.
“You think I would joke about my own daughter’s death?”
I felt hot and sick and needed air.
“I don’t know what to think. How can she still be alive?” I felt sweat trickle down the back of my neck. I pushed myself up from the chair.
“I need to get out of here.”
I wanted to know but couldn’t handle believing it had all been a hoax. I’d spent so much time getting my head around her being dead. I moved toward the door.
“You can’t leave here. Not tonight,” Pa said. His voice was slow and even. It was clear who was now in control.
“Why not?” I glared across at him.
“It’s not safe. People know you are here. They know why you have come. My brother will be watching out for you. The thing is, it isn’t your mother he wants. It’s you. He will draw you out, Marshall. And then he will kill you. Trust me. He has killed before. He will kill again.”
I stood halfway between the door and the chair, uncertain which option to take.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 11, 2009
The room fell quiet and nobody moved for a while. I glanced at the clock on the mantle. It was nearly two. I heard rain against the roof, a soft and constant reminder that the weather had turned.
“So you’re telling me I’m next in line? I’m the one who is meant to take over these…powers?”
Pa nodded slowly.
“That’s right. It’s all up to you.”
“Like I explained, if you don’t take on the position as Time Keeper, then the title goes to my brother. We can’t let that happen. There’s something else I probably should tell you…”
I waited and wondered while he shifted himself in the chair. He leaned forward, his arms on his knees. We were mirroring each other. He looked at me, concern spread over his face.
“I don’t think your mother is dead.” My heart skipped a beat.
“What do you mean?” I asked him. My heart thudded about in my chest. I took a deep breath and waited for him to answer. He said nothing.
“What do you mean?” I insisted.
“I think she’s alive and I think you can find her,” he said.
TUESDAY, MARCH 10, 2009
He walked slowly into the room, his hands pushed deep into his trouser pockets. He looked younger, and not so cranky.
“Surprised to see me?” he asked with a chuckle. I could feel his enjoyment oozing toward me.
“Can someone please tell me what’s going on?” I asked, looking from him to her.
“It would be my pleasure,” he said, pulling his hands free, and taking a seat on the couch. He leant forward, resting his arms on his knees, his head bowed low. Finally, he lifted his head and looked at me.
“It began when your mother was born…” he said. I settled back in my seat. This was going to be a long night.
MONDAY, MARCH 9, 2009
We moved into the lounge room and she motioned for me to sit. I sat in a chair opposite where she stood. I sunk back into the cushions for protection from what she was about to deliver.
“So? You planning on telling me now?” I asked. I was tired of the cat and mouse game we were playing.
“It will probably sound lame,” she offered.
“Your grandfather has powers you obviously don’t know about,”
“Yeah, like he has the power to be a royal pain…”
“That’s not what I mean. His powers are well known here,” she explained. I wished she would cut to the chase. I looked to my right. There was a photo of me and my brother taken when we must have been about three. It felt weird seeing a part of me in such a strange place.
“So what are these so called powers?” I asked, looking back at her. She paused for a moment before answering.
“He can manipulate time,” she said. I stifled a laugh.
“You’re not serious. You brought me all the way here to tell me this?”
“No,” someone said behind me.
“She brought you all the way here so I could tell you all this…” I recognised the voice straight away. I spun in the chair and saw my grandfather standing in the doorway.
SUNDAY, MARCH 8, 2009
The gate snapped shut behind me and I followed her down a narrow path. Torches flickered and spat along the path.
“Keep up, we don’t have much time,” she said.
“The guards will have seen us come in. They will be wondering what we are up to?”
“Can you blame them?” I asked.
” Just keep up, OK?”
The path led down into a valley, where buildings sprawled across the land. We turned onto another path that led to a small house. We reached the house where she fumbled through the keys she still held in her hand. She found the one she was looking for.
She stepped up onto the porch and opened the screen door and then slipped the key into the lock.
“How many houses do you have?” I asked.
“This isn’t mine,” she answered, opening the door and waving me inside.
“Should I ask?”
“It belongs to your grandfather. This is his house. Welcome home,” she said.
I stood in the foyer and looked to her, as the porch door slammed shut.
“So why are we here?” I asked. She closed and locked the door.
“Because here is the only safe place to tell you the truth,”
SATURDAY, MARCH 7, 2009
We jumped off the ferry and headed from the wharf. The place felt different – kind of eerie. I felt suddenly on edge. There was no one around and the narrow streets were lit only by lamplight that glowed feebly into the dark night. We walked in silence for several minutes before I asked.
“Where are we going, exactly?”
She cast a quick look over her shoulder and then quickened her pace.
“Shut up and keep moving.” There was an edge to her voice that matched the uneasiness I was still feeling.
“Don’t say anything,” she whispered through clenched teeth. “And don’t look back,” she added.
I resisted the impulse to do so. I cranked up the pace to keep up with her, and strained my ears to hear footsteps other than ours but all I heard was our hurried steps along a dark street now lined with old stone cottages.
We hurried up the hill, my breath catching in my throat from the cold night air. As we neared the top of the hill, she dug in her bag and pulled out a large set of keys. We came to a high stone wall at the top of the hill and we stopped before a large wooden gate. She slipped a key into the lock and pushed at the gate. It groaned open as if in pain, allowing us passage into another world.
FRIDAY, MARCH 6, 2009
I Dizzy is and Dizzy was
Too dizzy now to write a blog,
Catch up tomorrow…
THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2009
Just as she promised, a ferry arrived before I had time to stamp the cold from my feet. I was glad to get on and huddle inside away from the wind. I took a seat near the front, and she settled beside me. Not as close as I would have liked. I stole a quick glance at her as she rummaged about in her bag. She was pretty, but not too pretty. And not much older than me, maybe a year or two. She caught me staring.
“What?” she asked, her blue eyes flashing toward me.
“Nothin’…I was just wondering…how old are you anyway?” I blurted. My face warmed in the cool night air.
She giggled a little and then looked away. An uncomfortable silence slid between us.
“I’m seventeen,” she finally confessed.
I’d been right in guessing our age difference. She was only a year older than me.
“You live by yourself in that house?’ I asked. She looked at me again, her face more serious now.
“Marshall, this place isn’t like where you are from. We do things differently here,” she explained.
“Is that why you’re taking me to some strange island in the middle of the night?”
“It’s hardly the middle of the night, and yes, partly. Our parents don’t hassle the way they do in your world. There’s more freedom here. For now, anyway…” Her voice trailed away and she looked away, across to the other side of the boat.
“Where are your parents?” I asked. I watched as her teeth sunk into her lip. She bit down hard and long before answering.
“I don’t know where my parents are.”
She turned and spoke the words looking directly into my eyes. Her gaze was hypnotic.
“It’s a long story. Not one to start telling tonight. Another time, perhaps,” she said, looking away. I felt bad for pushing the point. The look on her face told me I’d stepped over a line.
“No problem…” I muttered, looking out of the window.
My mother had been missing for days. I at least had some small chance of finding her. I tried to imagine not knowing. Not having a single clue. The thought terrified me.
The ferry pitched through the chop of the water, and the motion threw us off balance. The movement left us closer together. I wondered how long since she had seen her parents. I could feel the press of her body against me as she fought beside me, against the swell of the sea.
“We’re nearly there,” she said, suddenly standing. I felt a chill whip into the space where she’d been. I got up and followed her to the door. I wanted to know more about her. I wondered how long she would keep me out in the cold.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4, 2009
We ate dinner in silence. My mind was miles away, trying to piece together the past few hours. Patience wasn’t my strong suit but I had little choice. She wasn’t giving anything away. She, too, seemed to be lost in thought.
“We can go when ever you’re ready,” she said, clearing the things from the table where we sat.
“I’m good to go,” I said, noticing my plate was barely touched.
She grabbed her coat and bag and I followed her back down the hall.
It was freezing outside, and the wind had picked up, shaking the limbs of the trees on the street. We made our way back down the hill and through the town to the wharf.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“There’ll be a ferry along in a while. We’re going there,” she said, pointing to lights that blinked out in the middle of the black sea.
“Were is there?” I asked. Her secrecy was beginning to bug me.
“It’s where your grandfather lives when he’s here. It’s where you’ll find out your truth,” she said.
TUESDAY, MARCH 3, 2009
“It’s not really my place to tell you. Why don’t I fix us something to eat. I’ll make a call and we can go on from there,” she said.
“Why isn’t it your place to tell me? Tell me what?” I asked.
“Tell you why you ended up here, Marshall. It’s not my place. But I can take you to the one who should tell you.”
“And then what?”
“And then you can find out the truth,” she said.
The truth. That seemed to be something that was lacking of late.
“Who is this person?”
“Be patient. You’ll find out soon enough,” she said.
MONDAY, MARCH 2, 2009
“Let’s say we’ve been expecting you here for a while…” she said.
“You want to explain that a little better?” I asked. She pulled out another chair and sat next to me.
“Marshall, has your grandfather told you anything?”
“Like why you even found this place. Do you know who your grandfather is?” I laughed.
“Of course I know who he is. He’s my grandfather – what else could he be?”
“Your grandfather isn’t just a grandfather. He’s quite famous here,” she explained.
“How’s that?” I wasn’t following her at all.
She leaned back in the chair and rubbed at her temples. It reminded me of my mother.
I sat patiently and waited for her to explain.
SUNDAY, MARCH 1, 2009
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2009
“Where did you get that?” I asked her. I crossed the room to pick up the letter but she beat me to, snatching it up from the table.
“I need to explain somethings…” she said, pulling a chair out for me to sit in.
I sat and waited for her to speak.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2009
We climbed the hill to her house; a small terrace that looked over the island. She opened the door and stood to one side, waving me in.
“After you,” I said, waiting for her to lead the way. I followed her, closing the door behind me. She led me down a narrow hall and into a small bright kitchen, flicking on lights as she went. I stood inside the kitchen door and watched as she filled the jug.
“Would you like tea?” she asked.
“No, thanks. Just some idea of what’s going would be good,” I said. I thought of leaving – going on without getting involved. I glanced around her kitchen. It was neat and tidy and gave little away. On the table however was proof that convinced me to stay. Leaning against a vase full of flowers was an envelope. There was no mistaking the writing. It was my mother’s hand and the note was addressed to Pa.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2009
She looked around at the crowd passing by.
“We need to find somewhere where we wont be noticed…in case…” she said.
“Lead the way then,” Something in me trusted now her, perhaps her link to my mother.
“The Inn isn’t a good choice. Not if the person chasing you is who I think it is. We can go to my place. It isn’t far,”
I considered the possibility of it all being a set up. My logical side wore me down and I let her guide me through the village streets of this foreign island I had dreamed about. Suddenly, there was the very real chance that things might work out.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2009
She looked surprised.
“Marshall, its OK. I’m on your side. I know all about you. People have been expecting you for a long time. Though I get the feeling nobody really knows you’re here yet. Who does know you are here?” she asked.
Questions flew through my mind so fast I couldn’t keep up.
“What could you possibly know about me?” Her head tilted a fraction, and her brow furrowed. Her face softened into some kind of understanding before she finally spoke.
“Your mother is missing, and your brother and father are supposedly dead. You grandfather is old now, and wanting to retire…his tools are missing and you’re looking for…”
“All right, enough…” I said, looking around. She knew way more than I imagined. The next question was how did she know so much. But that’s not what I asked.
“Somebody tried to kill me back on the mainland – a guy with a knife,” I felt for the handle through the thin cotton of my shirt.
“What did he look like?” she asked.
“Kinda tall, thin. Ugly and bleeding. I smashed his nose with a can of beans. He followed me down to the wharf,” I explained.
“So someone knows you’ve arrived. Marshall, you’re not safe. I can help you, if you will let me,”
“Why should I? I don’t even know you,”
“I think I can help you find your mother. You just have to trust me, ” she said.
It was the trump card that won my hand.
“Let’s talk then…” I said, re-linking our arms.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2009
We bustled along the gangplank and onto the wharf. The sky was now dark and the wind whipped at my face, leaving me icy cold.
“Where are we going?” I asked her. I knew nothing about the island, only what I had seen in my dream. I figured little of that could be considered a reliable source.
“Have you eaten? I’m starving. There’s a small inn at the town square. Let me buy you some dinner,” she offered, pulling me along, our arms still linked. I stopped suddenly, alarmed at her taking control.
“Answer my question first. Before we go any further. Explain as we go like you promised,” I said. I had no idea if I trusted her yet.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2009
Her hair flipped across her face, obscuring her features. The sensation of knowing her well swelled in my gut but my head couldn’t connect to a time or a place. The ferry’s engines churned the water around us, slowing us in order to drift onto the jetty. She pulled back her hair with one hand, and with her free hand brushed the remaining strands from her face.
I rubbed at the lump on the back of my head, hoping her name might slip out from under the swelling. Only pain came to mind as my lapse in memory became glaringly obvious.
“I’m Angie. We met at your grandfather’s store,” she said.
The pieces fell slowly but firmly in place. I recalled her admiring Pa’s Grandfather clock. I’d backed into her hauling some boxes inside.
“What are you doing…here?” I asked. I was confused by her presence. How did she get here? I’d fallen through some kind of portal. Of that I was sure, but we had first met on the other side -and now again here in this place that was still foreign to me. She laughed but I was missing the joke, and my face told her so.
“You really don’t know, do you?” she said.
The ferry docked and the gangplank slammed down, bridging the gap between ship and shore. For once, I was speechless. The crowd shoved from behind, edging me forward. She moved next to me, linking her arm through mine.
“Come on. I’ll explain as we go,” she said.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2009
The ferry gathered speed and the man on the wharf shrunk to a speck. My fear shrank along with him. I stood up straight and walked over to the other side of the boat. I could see the Woe Islands up ahead, and could tell as the boat veered to the left that it would stop at the North Island and most likely go on down the coast to the point. I leaned against the rail and felt the sting of the knife’s tip dig into my flesh. I’d forgotten I’d slipped it under my belt as I leapt on the ferry. I subtly readjusted its edge, pulling my tattered shirt down low to conceal it once more.
The ferry was crowded. It would be easy to jostle my way off without paying. I made my way closer to the exit, where a young girl stood staring out at the sea. Her face was familiar. She yanked up her collar, protecting herself from the breeze that had suddenly picked up. I watched her for a while, her long blonde hair flicking about in the wind.
The engines wound down as we approached the North Island, and I looked ahead to see how close we were. When I looked back at her, she was staring right at me. She cocked her head to one side and a smile crept over her face.
Marshall?” she said, turning to face me. I wracked my brain trying to think of her name.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2009
I snatched a can of beans from the shelf and flung it hard at his face. I heard the crack of bone as he grabbed at his nose with his free hand. I sprang to my feet and lifted my leg and kicked him hard in the face and then smashed my fists down on the back of his head. The knife clattered to the stone floor. I swept it up and slipped it beneath my shirt and scuttled out of the pantry and back into the crowded bar. I spun around and caught his bloodied face through the crowd, one hand holding his dripping nose and the other, pointing at me as I escaped out the door. My feet pounded against the cobble-stoned path as I bolted along the lane. I turned down another lane that led down to the dock. A ferry sat at the wharf and passengers crowded the gangplank, shoving their way on board. I ran as hard as I could and sprang up the gangplank. I was the last one on. The deck hand hauled in the plank and the boat sounded three blasts of its horn as it slowly reversed from the wharf. I leaned against the cabin, sucking in air. I saw him running down to the wharf, still holding his bleeding face. I was safe for the moment but hadn’t a clue where I was headed.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2009
He led me through the crowd and into a small room next to the bar.
“What are you doing you here?” I asked him. He ignored my question and shoved me into the corner. I slammed into some bags of flour, a cloud of white dust rising up from the impact of my landing.
“How about I ask you the same thing?” he said.
We were in a small pantry off the main kitchen. I scanned the shelves for a weapon that might help keep me safe. Aside from canned beans and a round of foul smelling cheese, there wasn’t much I could grab for.
“SO?” he insisted.
I had my excuses for being here. I just wasn’t up to explaining. The less I told anyone, the better it would be for me in the end. I shrugged my shoulders toward him and kept my mouth shut. The silence angered him. I watched the veins pop out from the side of his head. I probably should have considered the knife in his hand.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2009
I fought the urge to throw up as someone grabbed hold of the back of my shirt. I closed my eyes and screwed up my face against the oncoming blow.
“Leave ‘im alone…” said a voice. It belonged to the man who had hold of my shirt. He shoved me through the door of the tavern before I could get a good look at him. Inside, I turned and saw who it was.
“Shut up and act like you’ve never seen me before in your life,” he whispered into my ear. I did as he said, and felt the tip of his knife pressing into the small of my back.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2009
I followed the cobblestone path down the hill, its edges lined with clusters of flowers. The colours lifted my spirits. I felt exposed as I traipsed down the hill and I imagined anyone down in the village could see me as plain as day. It made sneaking into the place impossible. I quickened my pace and scanned the narrow lane ways that separated the village huts. Smoke drifted from chimneys and disappeared into the washed out sky. Over the water, the sun was sinking into a band of cloud that stretched over the horizon, and the windows in the huts began to glow as the villagers lit their evening lamps.
I reached the bottom of the path where a walkway led into a narrow street lit with lamps already burning brightly.An old man pushing a cart of apples turned out of a lane and onto the street. He nodded and smiled at me as I passed. I nodded back, taking in the baggy trousers and un-tucked shirt that he wore. He was dressed as shabbily as me. The shops were all closed, some bordered up completely. They looked unlikely to ever open again.
I crossed over the path and turned down a lane where I saw an old tavern at the end. I could hear laughter and music spilling onto the street. It was as good a place as any to get lost in a crowd. Perhaps I could find somewhere to sleep for the night. I was headed for the tavern door when a fist landed hard in my gut. I folded in half, the wind knocked out of me once again.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2009
I fell backward into the darkness. Out of control, I flipped through the air, spinning faster and faster. I reached out for something to grab. There was only the wind rushing between my fingers. I felt my stomach lurch as I flipped several times. I closed my eyes and hoped I wouldn’t throw up.
I slammed against something hard and the world became suddenly still. When the pain in my back and head settled, I opened my eyes and sucked in the breath that had just been knocked from my lungs. I blinked several times, getting my bearings, trying to make sense of the last few minutes of life. I looked around me and realised I was lying under an old stone bridge.
I rolled to one side. Next to me, a door was set into one of the pylons. I could see old worn steps leading upward. I climbed to my feet and stepped toward the door as a gust of wind barrelled under the bridge and slammed the door shut. There was no handle to turn – just a keyhole and nothing more. I pushed at the door. It didn’t move-I was stuck in this place and had no idea where I was.
I raked my hands through my hair and spun around. There was no one nearby. Up the hill, the road disappeared into forest. Downhill, the road swerved to the left and ran down to a small village. I rubbed the back of my aching head where a lump had begun to rise. I needed to find somewhere to hide, until I figured out where I was. I headed off down the cobblestone road, following its curves, trusting it to lead me to safety.
Around the corner, the road continued on but a path veered off to the left. A broad leafy tree grew at the side of the road, its branches forming a green swaying arch over the path. I stood in the shade of the tree and looked down at the town below. It skirted a coast where dozens of boats dotted its shores.
Some distance off shore was a small island. I stared at it, disbelief clouding my judgement. On the island was the place I had dreamed of the night my mother went missing. The sun was inching its way down through the sky. It would be night before long. After such a long search, I knew this was place. I had found it at last. I stepped from the shade of the tree and made my way down the path into the village. I felt for the coin in my pocket. It hummed beneath my fingers and without even looking, I could tell it was already aglow.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2009
“Marshall, there’s been an accident,”
Penny’s voice waded through the quietness. My eyebrows sagged from the weight of a frown and panic seeped up into my belly. It continued to rise and it settled somewhere in my chest. I pushed myself to the edge of my seat.
“Is my mum OK?”
I could feel my heart pounding through fear.
Penny said nothing for a moment, then placed a hand on my shoulder. The smell of fresh lemons drifted past me.
“ The police found some of your mother’s belongings…at the ferry terminal…”
I wanted to speak but my throat felt like it had twisted shut.
“What things…’ I finally croaked. The room seemed suddenly darker even though the curtains were open.
“Her handbag, actually. It seems she was about to get on the ferry. She was holding something that… exploded. Marshall, we think your mum fell into the water – from the force of the blast. We haven’t been able to find her. We believe that the force of the blast…it…it was an enormous explosion, Marshall. It seems highly unlikely anyone could survive being that close…”
Her voice was barely audible by the end of the sentence. Despite the details, I couldn’t make out what she was saying.
“I don’t understand…” I said to her.
“We think your mother might have been killed in the blast,”
I felt hot and sick and needed air. I pushed myself from the couch and staggered. Penny grabbed me and sat me down again.
“You’re joking, right?” I asked, half laughing, half crying, searching her face for the punch-line.
Her expression didn’t change.
She dropped her gaze and stared at the dying roses in the vase on the table.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2009
Penny reefed open the curtains, flooding the room with afternoon light. I winced from the brightness and looked down. In front of me, on the coffee table was my mother’s favourite vase. A fine pale crack snaked from one end of the vase to the other. I knocked the vase over when I was five years old and my mother had spent hours painstakingly fixing it, telling me that if you loved something enough, it was worth all the time in the world to put it back together again. The vase stood brimming with blood red roses she had picked yesterday. Petals were scattered around the base of the vase. At some point during the day, the roses had wilted and died.
Detective Bletcher walked back into the room, his mobile still stuck to his ear. He finished the conversation and snapped the phone shut.
“I’ve got to go,” he announced, nodding toward Penny, and then toward me. He left without saying another word.
Penny crossed the room and sat next to me. I leaned in to her as her weight sunk down into the cushions. I edged away and stared straight ahead, wondering when someone was going to say something. Her partner perched himself on the edge of the seat of an armchair, his head instinctively cocking to one side as a siren wailed somewhere off in the distance. The room grew uncomfortably quiet, filled only with the rhythmic ticking of the clock above the mantle.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2009
“Who are you?” I asked.
“Andrew Bletcher. Marshall, I’m a detective. I need to ask you some questions, if that’s all right…”
The closer he moved, the harder my heart thumped in my chest.
“About what?” I said, an edge of meanness in my voice. The weight of the stolen book hung in the bag over my shoulder.
“You should talk to my mother first,” I said, changing the subject, buying myself some time. If he was willing to wait for her, I could figure a way to dump the book somewhere by the time he explained where I’d been and what I had done.
“It’s actually your mother I need to talk to you about. Marshall, there’s been an accident. We should all go inside and talk,” he said, looking from me to the other two officers who now stood beside me.
The bag over my shoulder thudded to the ground, and the world slowed and crowded my head. I wasn’t sure what he was saying but the look on his face told me something bad had just become part of my future. Something far worse than me stealing a book.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2009
I slowed as I approached the driveway. One officer sat in the car, the radio crackling staccato bursts of a nasally voice that told him to “stand by and await further instructions…” A female officer appeared from beside the house, speaking into a handset.
“House is secured…the kid’s not here…over…”
I hated being called kid. I thought about running but didn’t need the extra attention, and it was too late to dump the book. I just kept walking, pretending not to notice them.
I glanced backward, in case Mum was on her way down the street. The man in the jacket was behind me.
“You’re Marshall Kincade?” he asked.
I stopped and slowly turned to him, his question sounding more like he was stating a fact. It was only his rising eyebrows that told me otherwise. His shadow stretched toward me, his head shading my feet. I stood motionless, recalling Nellie’s advice about strangers.
I hesitated in answering him as he fumbled inside his jacket. I comforted myself with the fact that if he were going to shoot me, he probably wouldn’t do it in front of two cops. From his jacket he produced a wallet. My shoulders sagged with relief to see it wasn’t a gun. He flipped the wallet open and held it up. An impressive looking police badge stared back at me. He lifted his empty hand, palm facing toward me, as though he meant me no harm, as though he knew I might run. I edged backward, out of his shadow before I answered him.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2009
Beneath a thin layer of dust, I recognised Pa’s loopy handwriting. I blew the dust from the pages, revealing directions and a roughly sketched map. At the bottom of the page was a single line – ‘COME ALONE’ it read, in large letters. A gust of wind carried along the back corridor. There had to be an exit somewhere further down. I shone the torch down the passage, where a wall kinked the passage in another direction. I picked up the book and started walking.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2009
I shined the torch around the room. In the pale light I caught glimpses of boxes and trunks and old clocks that Pa had been storing away. I moved the beam of light over the walls. There was a switch on the side wall and I crossed the small room and flicked the switch downward. A feeble glow filled the room but it was enough to see all that was around me. The air was musty and damp and again, I felt a gust of cold air blow over me. I looked around and then I noticed a passage led off the back wall. I crossed the room, and shined the torch down the narrow opening. At the end, I could see a small table on which sat a book, its pages splayed open. I moved slowly toward it, wondering why Pa would hide it away.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2009
She crept down the stairs and into the shop. The outlines of the clocks began to take form as her eyes adjusted to the dark. She made her way between the shadowy forms, toward the main counter. She stepped behind the counter and with her foot, felt for the edge of the old rug that covered the floor. She fumbled in her coat pocket and pulled out her torch, flicking it on. A puddle of light fell over the rug.
Crouching down, she pushed back the edge of the rug, revealing a trapdoor set into the floor. She slipped her fingers through a cold metal ring handle, and pulled up hard,setting the torch down and slipping her free hand underneath to haul the door fully open. A gust of cold air swept up to her face as she yanked on a lever to wedge the door open. She picked up the torch and pointed it at the opening, where there were several old wooden steps leading down to another room. She stood and took one final look around the shop and then headed down to the room below.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2009
He felt the heaviness of the decision he was to make. He sat at the water’s edge and considered each outcome. He reached for a twig that had washed up on the beach, and he drew a line in the sand. He could step over it and walk back to the boat where he would be free to go on without worry. It would be easy. Just go.
In the pit of his gut, anxiousness stirred at the thought of returning to Pan’s Palace, and trying again. He knew he couldn’t go back. Not as he was. He looked over his shoulder, up at the face of the towering cliff. He would need a new plan, and a disguise so clever that no one would know who he once was. He stood and turned to face the craggy sharp edges of rock and without further thought, he took the first step and began the way back, leaving the line in the sand for the others to cross.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2009
There was nothing left to fight for. Max tossed the stone into the water and walked back to the boat, alone.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2009
There was only the ticking of the clock to be heard as they waited for the battle to begin…
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2009
Beneath the first light of dawn, he climbed the narrow stairs up to the deck. On reaching the top, he noticed the pain in his leg was almost gone. He lifted his shorts, and studied the scar that ran across his left thigh – a pink puckered track pulled together by skilful stitching. A few more days and the wound will be healed, he thought. He needed no further setbacks to keep him from getting the stone.
He looked out at the water. A white-naped crane swooped low to the surface, and then circled its way back toward Max. It fluttered and flapped its wings as it landed on the side of the boat. Max watched the bird, its head turned toward the open sea. Following the bird’s gaze, Max saw on the horizon, a shape that quickened his heart. It was the form of another boat, double masted and moving slowly toward them. Max strained to see the shape of the boat, and the flag that flew from the tip of its foremast but the boat was too far away. There was no time to take any chances. He pounded on the galley roof, alerting the others, as he watched the boat gather speed, the wind moving it closer toward them.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2009
A blue moon glow fell through the night air. Max leaned over the side of the boat and stared down into the still black water. The glassy surface helped calm his troubled thoughts. A round moon face beamed up at him, and beside it, he caught his own reflection. It was a face he barely recognised. The others slept soundly below, exhausted from the day’s torrid events. For them, the fight was nearly over. For Max, it had only begun.
He winced as he moved; his injured leg something he was still to get used to. He gazed out at the sea as memories of Pa and Laila drifted toward him. In his mind’s eye, he could see Pa, at home, his slippered feet up on the table and his dinner balanced upon his knees. He never thought he would miss him this much. He regretted leaving without saying good bye. He only hoped he would get to see him again. Max stared back down at the water, its glassy surface finally disturbed. He felt the dampness on his cheek and only then realised it was his tears that had broken the water’s surface.
“Are you crying?” he heard her voice carry softly toward him. He hadn’t heard her climbing the galley stairs.
“Just a sore leg,” he replied, not looking up at her, his lie hanging thick in the still night air.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2009
She barged inside the shop like she owned it, and muttered an insincere “excuse me, please.” Her tone made it an order more than a request. Max shuffled to one side as the Madam took up all the room, pulling maps from shelves and shaking charts about, flicking pages, snapping orders to her sick-kick who had caught up to her barking voice. Max recognised her face, and knew to stay just out of reach. He could smell the trouble lingering on her skin. She snapped and snarled instructions at the wiry man, scolding him like a child.
Max cast a sideways glance at her. She looked nasty-mean, a face pinched hard into a scowl, and hair that looked as though she never washed.
“Just shut up,” she snapped as the wiry weedy man with the rotting teeth began to speak. He cowered back into his shell, awaiting further insults or instructions. She folded up the map, and shoved it back up on the shelf. She clearly wasn’t buying; not when she could get her information here for free.
“Let’s get out of here,” she snarled, turning slowly, casting Max a savage look. The wiry thing ran after her, catching up to her out on the sidewalk.
The sudden howling screech of brakes pulled Max’s eyes toward the street. The howl was followed by a sickening sound; two thuds and then some screaming. Max stared at where the Madam and the wiry man had stood. Now they both lay motionless upon the path, the driver of the car leaning forward over them, screaming, yelling, “Someone help,”
The two lay still, without a movement. No rising chests, no flickering eyes, their life blood slowly trickling off the path and down the drain.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2009
He closed the door, his eyes shut tight, as though not watching might somehow mute the snapping lock. He leaned against the door and heard the clomp…clomp of passing clogs against the wooden floor, and the muffled whispery giggles of the servant girls. He held his breath as silence fell and then he felt again, for the icy handle of the door. Fear forced the breath from his lungs as his palms and fingertips travelled up and down the door. There was no icy handle. He was trapped.
His eyes fought against the dark and it took him several seconds for his pupils to adjust. He turned and looked around, and could feel his eyes stretching wide, trying to make out shapes amid the inky black. His head began to spin, his balance thrown out by the lack of light. He blundered backward – stumbling up against the door. Frantically he searched for a button or a switch. Something that would spring the door and let him out. He couldn’t yell. There was no one to help. He turned and leaned his head against the door, blinking back the tears that held his fear inside. The wooden door smelled dirty – dank, and reminded him of being on the boat and he longed to be back aboard, sailing on the sea.
“Pssst.” He heard the noise hiss through the air. Max stiffened at the sound and slowly turned around, his throat all but closed, his voice reduced to little more than a husky croak.
“Who’s there?” His eyes scanned the blackness and then he spied it in the corner of the room. A tiny blob of light, the same colours as a peacock’s feather. Blue- green-blue-green. It pulsed just like a heartbeat.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2009
The door creaked open and Max squeezed from his hiding spot behind the bins. He watched and waited for the servants to bid their night farewells. Above, the moon was nothing more than a sliver in the sky; an ally to help him on his way. One servant held the door ajar while she chatted to her friend. One final parting bow, and then they were on their way, leaving Max alone.
Pressed against the palace wall, Max edged himself toward the door, and slipped his hand between the door and jamb. He pulled the door back slightly and poked his head inside and looked around. The door led to a passageway, rooms running off from either side. Max slipped inside and closed the door behind him. He crept along the darkened corridor, his ears straining for the slightest bit of noise. The smell of cooking onions wafted down the hall and his stomach sang in protest once again. He tried to think when he last ate but the thought just made his stomach grumble more. No time for food, he told himself.
Ahead, he saw a stairwell, dimly lit, leading up to yet another door that blocked his way. He heard the doorknob turn and then a shaft of light fell down the stairs and voices carried down the hall. People coming; more servants finished for the night, he thought. He scanned the passageway, looking for a place to hide as the servant’s clogs clumped down the wooden steps.
He pushed himself flat against a door. No good. He would still be seen. He felt behind and grabbed the icy doorknob. It was a chance he had to take, and the risk weighed heavily before him. He had no idea what lay behind him. He could see their outlines moving closer and slowly felt the panic seeping through his body. His legs began to shake and his mind began to fog. He turned the knob as gently as he could, and the door clicked open. The room expelled a musty fug as he leaned against the door. He held his breath and slipped into the darkness.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2009
The crowded square fell silent as the tiny figure shuffled forth. Max stayed well hidden in the shadows of the temple. From here, he had a perfect view of the woman as she took the stage. Though short in stature, her mere presence seemed to mesmerise the mob. She wore a blue black Manchu robe adorned with red and black embroidered dragons; her coal-black hair pushed up beneath a matching head dress. Her face was pale, like snow, and her eyes were upswept slits of black. She stood before them, like a frozen icon, her mouth pinched and ruby red, her face a frame of evil.
Riding Blind 5
She squeezed her eyes shut, the sound of his voice overwhelming her.
“This is such a mistake,” she thought to herself.
Another loud cheer erupted from up on the clubhouse deck. The voice responded again,
Her head filled with mindless chatter so loud that it left her with nothing to say. Slowly she pulled the phone from her ear, fear and regret drizzling steadily, slowly filling her up. Her hand shook as she hung up the receiver. Her coin clanked its way through the phone and clattered into the tray. She dug another coin from her pocket, her silence costing her dearly.
She stood in the booth for a while, and the notion of filling herself with booze passed fleetingly through her mind. She reminded herself that those days were gone, and caught herself out on her own backward slide. How quickly revisiting the past could restore such dangerous patterns.
She fed the coin in the slot and redialled the number. It answered at once.
“Hello?” she noted a tinge of annoyance in his voice.
“Jack?” Her hand clenched the receiver so tightly, her fingers hurt.
“Yes, this is Jack. Who’s this?” There was a hint of playfulness now back in his voice.
“Jack, Hi, it’s Ella…I got your …”
“Ella?” he cut her off.
“Yes, it’s me,” she said, looking back out at the darkening sea. A silence drifted between them as dark and as deep as the ocean before her.
“Where are you?” he finally asked, his voice softening.
“I’m down at the surf club,”
“Our surf club?” she could hear the surprise in his voice. He clearly wasn’t expecting a house call. Something fluttered inside her at his reference to “our”.
“Yes, our surf club,” she smiled.
“Fuck. um…where are you staying?” he asked. She realised she hadn’t a clue, hadn’t thought much about where she would be by the end of the day.
“I actually hadn’t given it much thought until now. There’s a motel I passed back on the coast road, I’ll probably…”
“No, no,don’t do that. I just thought you might be already staying somewhere. I’m guessing you got my letter?”
“You’d be guessing right,” she said staring at it as it lay in her upturned helmet that rested on the bench.
A silence fell between them again. In the background, voices carried over the quietness. She imagined him somewhere, sitting back, watching the tele, drinking a beer.
“Well, you know where I live. Come on over.” She heard his nervousness tightly disguised by his laughter and figured he was possibly even more scared than her. The thought made her feel better.
“Maybe I should book a room first and then…”
“Ella, it’s me. There’s a spare room here…”
“Enough said then,” she answered quietly.
“Enough said,” he answered back, and then she heard him hang up the phone.
She replaced the receiver with both hands, leaning her head hard against them as she processed what had just happened. She wondered how ten years could pass and yet have it feel like no more than a week. She let go of the phone, and folded the letter, and tucked it back in her jacket pocket. She picked up her helmet and pulled open the door, relieved to be out of the tight confined space. In the twilight, she crossed the car park, pulled on her helmet, straddled her bike and cranked it to life. With the cover of darkness slung gently about her, she rode out of the car park and headed back onto the road that would lead her to him.
‘our surf club’, she reminded herself as she rode.
Like a lovesick teen, she could feel the distinctive flutter beating its wings inside her. In less than ten minutes she had pulled into his drive. The outside light burned like a beacon guiding her home.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2008
Riding Blind 4
The sun was resting on the horizon by the time she reached the turnoff. She headed along the coast road until she came to the surfclub and then veered into the carpark where she stopped the bike. The cool afternoon air swum through her hair as she eased the helmet from her head. She sat straddling the bike, staring out over the ocean, her arm hugging her helmet against her hip the way you might nurse a small child.
The ocean was almost as she remembered it. The clubhouse was much the same, less paint but more space where they’d added a few meters on to the upper deck. She looked up at the small crowd huddled behind the new perspex shield that ran the perimeter of the deck. Harmonious laughter rang out from a table followed by the discordant sound of chinking glass. Just being this close to the club had memories drowning her logic.
She reached inside her jacket and pulled out the letter, checking the address once again. The letter was written four months ago and was now worn and battered from her constantly folding and unfolding, trying to make up her mind what to do. It had arrived so suddenly. Was so unexpected and she had carried it with her every day since. She wondered how long it took him to find her after so many years. Some days the weight of it all was almost too much to bear.
She checked the house number again and tried to imagine the place. He’d moved since she left. She recognized the road where he now lived. It was as close to the beach as you could get without actually swimming in bed. At least one of them had followed their heart. She climbed from the bike, fishing for change in her pocket. She strode through the car park, her boots squeaking all the way to the phone booth where she stopped.
She pulled open the door and nestled herself inside, leaning back against the glass as she picked up the receiver and started to dial. It was only manners to call first. She turned to the sea as the ring tone buzzed in her ear, and she watched the last of the sun slip beneath the horizon, the sky now bruised with purples and pinks. The phone rang four times before a click and a voice.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2008
Riding Blind 3
She unzips her jacket and fumbles for something inside. She pulls out a letter and tosses it on the table and then shrugs the jacket from her shoulders. The letter is worn and has been folded and unfolded so many times it had almost worn through. She unfolds it again and begins to read.
Her brow creases slightly as she takes in the words, though she almost knows them by heart. They have been written by a man she hasn’t seen for the last ten years. She’s not even sure if he’s living or dead. She’s willing to gamble against the odds. The news is old and worn and knows if she’s honest, the point of this exercise is moot. The chances of finding him are perhaps as remote as sharing a table with elderly folk in a small cafe, south of Bunbury.Danger is present in both possibilities, and for all parties concerned, depending on whose view you take.
She reads the letter again.
Ella…it begins, and it ends with forever yours, Jack….
He’s the only one who has ever called her by name. She drinks her latte and glances at her watch. She will need to make time if she is to get there before dark. She downs the coffee and pulls on her jacket, tucks the letter back inside. She picks up her helmet and makes her way to the counter and slides a ten dollar note to the boy. He takes the money, eyes downcast and then glances out the front window to the street.
“Nice bike,” he says, flashing her a quick look.
“Thanks,” she throws him an enormous grin that waters the harshness from her face. Her teeth are still good, despite her years of wild living. She is proud to have managed to steer herself back on course. Her savage days are long over. He succumbs to the infectiousness of her smile and grins back at her.
“Have a good day,” she says, leaving the change on the counter.
She walks out onto the pavement and presses her head into the empty dark space of her helmet as the empty dark spaces inside her head begin to fill once again with the vivid memory of Jack Alamus.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2008
Riding Blind 2
The cafe has been newly renovated and stinks of linoleum glue. Above, a ceiling fan chops through the thick summer air. She sits under it, at a table for two, resting her helmet on the spare chair. The waiter approaches,
“What would you like?” he asks.
“Soy latte,” she says, and can see the immediate surprise on the young boy’s face. Perhaps she looks more like she should be slamming down rums. The boy wanders away with his note pad still blank.
She watches an elderly couple walk in the door and linger beside the cake cabinet, inspecting the contents. The old lady signs to the man with a nod and they turn and survey the tables behind them. The hold hands like they’ve never once been apart. The old man spies the room cautiously. He takes one look at her in her black leather gear, eyes her slowly from hair to boots and then leads his elderly bride to the other side of the room.
Her latte arrives with extra froth. It is just how she likes it.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2008
She straddles the bike in her black leathers. Her helmet obscures a face once pretty; the booze and the drugs having etched their various brands in her skin. She cranks the throttle, revs a few times just to piss off the neighbours then pulls out of the drive. She hits the motorway and settles in for the long ride down the coast. The weather looks ominous with a storm banking out to the west. There’s no going back. No point going back at all. Life here is done and has been for a while.
The bike thrums between her legs, and offers a false sense of bravado. On wheels, she feels invincible. The space in her head fills as she rides. She knows where she’s headed but isn’t sure if its where she belongs. It’s been nearly ten years since she visited the place and can only imagine much has changed in that time. For her, an entire life has been lived and for the most part, lost as well since then.
She rides for nearly three hours before she spies the old weathered sign advertising the small town up ahead. She motors into the town, aware of the turning heads as she pulls up outside a small cafe. The bike’s engine dies, introducing a welcome silence. She swings her leg over the seat and stands, unfastening the helmet, pulling it from her head. A swirl of dark hair unravels as she shakes her head. She hooks the helmet over her fingers and then saunters inside for a drink.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 25, 2008
Just Another Day
Ho Ho Ho!
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 24, 2008
Christmas Cheer Part 2
The old man reclined in his chair and lifted his feet onto the poof that he shared with the cat. He popped open a can of Lemon Fizz and slurped loudly from the can before setting it down on the small table beside him. He adjusted his robes, brushing away the dust that had gathered over the afternoon. He looked at the cat. The cat looked bored, having grown tired of grooming itself near to death. It startled at the fizz of the can being opened, its eyes all dark and slitty and its tail switching about in the evening air.
“Where’s mine?” the cat asked.
“Your thumbs painted on?” the old wizard asked. The cat had been born with opposable thumbs. Many thought it a peculiar and unusual thing for a cat to have working thumbs. Strangely, no one thought much of his ability to speak. The cat lifted itself from the chair and stretched itself into an arc before leaping from the poof, in search of a drink.
“So where’d you put them?” he asked, glancing over his shoulder toward the wizard.
“The blue esky, and make sure you shut it properly tonight. I woke up to find slush in the thing this morning…” he chastised the cat. The cat leaned back on it haunches and wrestled with the lid of the esky, eventually freeing it from its locks. He drew out a can of Orange Tang and as instructed to do so, he replaced the lid and secured it firmly. He lay the can on its side and proceeded to roll it back to the poof.
“It will fizz everywhere, you know that,” the wizard informed the cat.
“What’s up your robes tonight, old man?” the cat asked. It was true. The old man had been grumpy since lunchtime.
“Nothing much, thanks for asking,” he said, watching the cat tilt the can upright to crack it open with his infamous thumb.
“This is me you’re talking to,” the cat retorted, jumping back up onto the poof.
“There’s nothing up my robes, I’m fine, really…,”
“Yeah, right…talk to the paw,” the cat replied, holding his paw toward the wizard whilst deliberately looking the other way.
The cat dropped its paw and swung its head back toward him, staring at him with its large china blue eyes.
“Wanna talk about it?” he asked.
The old man drew a deep breath and wriggled about in his chair.
“You remember the tablet we dropped on the Earth…the one with the pinch of goodwill and all that?”
“Yep – October 21 – .8:26 pm. I told you it wouldn’t work, remember?” The cat took a long swig from his can and then belched.
“Yes. I remember. And you were right. It hasn’t made a scrap of difference it seems. I just thought that maybe this year it might…” his voice trailed away.
“You’re not going to give up, are you? Just because you made a bad batch?” the cat asked.
“It’s Christmas Eve. Its too late to do anything now,” the old man sighed. “Tomorrow they’re going to get drunk and fight with their relatives and half of them wont remember the day and I guess I just wanted it all to be just that little bit different for once,” the old man lamented. “You know, make them see beyond all the catalogues and bottle shop sales.” he added.
“Well, its not all bad. Why don’t we rustle up a cracker of a sunrise instead? That wont take long to mix up and toss over the edge.”
The old man’s face softened a little as he considered the cat’s proposal.
“You wouldn’t mind helping. Really? I just want to do something that I know has made some little difference…”
“Come on…’ said the cat, jumping down from the poof.
Together they toddled off to the wizard’s chamber and in record time had concocted a perfectly set Christmas Sunrise in tablet form. They rolled the tablet from the room, down the narrow hall and out the back passage toward the edge of their world.
“Same deal..on three..”said the cat.
“On three,” agreed the old man.
“One…two..three…” they shoved the tablet over the edge and peered after it, watching it spin through space and time.
“How will we know?” the cat asked.
“We’ll have to watch tomorrow’s weather, I suspect,”
“You wanna know what I would have got you if we did presents?”
“Sure – what would you have got me?”
“Socks and Jocks,”
“Oh. Thanks. That would have been good. Want to know what I would have got you?”
“Gloves. With thumbs.”
“You’re welcome. Merry Christmas then,”
“Yes. Merry Christmas.”
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2008
Tea Time 4
A week goes by in this strange land and the basics of living here are explained to us new comers.It feels more like a pact for survival at first. We form of group of about twenty, from all over the globe, employed to do all sorts of jobs from nursing and medicine to security and putting out fires. The compound sits behind walls and to venture outside, I must be covered from head to toe.
During the week the girls have been taken”down town” to make one of our very first purchases. The abaya – a signatory black cloak that becomes my closest and dirtiest friend. It allows me to blend, though my long blonde hair stands out in a crowd. I cover my hair with the obligatory scarf and am grateful that rarely will I ever have to iron what I’m wearing beneath my abaya. Nor will I ever have to fashionably match. There will be many a time that I duck to the shop in my PJ’s, with my trusty abaya, disguising my nocturnal wears.’
MONDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2008
Tea Time 3
I’m up at some ridiculous time the next morning and decide to venture out of the apartment. I get up, shower and change and then grab the key and head out of the door. I’m not really sure if I’m dressed right but most of my bits are well covered so figure I’ll probably be OK. I poke my head out of the corridor which looks identical in either direction. I look at the number on the door. Its in arabic but to my relief it is signed in english numerals on the other side of the door. I commit it to memory and head off down a long brown corridor toward the lifts.
The lifts spit me out in a foyer that is more marble than glass. I weave my way out toward daylight and push my way through the glass door. The temperature outside smacks me fair in the face and I feel myself wilt as I wade into the heat. It burns to inhale. I have arrived on a Friday, the holy day of the week. Nothing is open and I have no idea where to go anyway. Later on I get a tour of the hospital grounds but it is days before I am game to venture beyond the walls of the compound.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2008
Tea Time 2
It’s after 2 am when the driver pulls into the compound. My eyes sting and I feel the deep pitted nausea that comes with a long haul flight. My body hasn’t a clue what it wants, having had its clock truly shafted in-flight. I clamber out of the car and I follow the big bulky man who plucked me from the airport. He is my work representative sent to deliver me safely to my new dwelling. Now he has done so, he leaves me with the key and a small pile of luggage that is now the total sum of my life. I stare at the back of head as he walks out the door.
“Now what?’ I poke around in the tiny apartment, beginning with a search for the stairs. There must be an upstairs…surely. The only feasible space for a staircase turns out to be full of shelves and spare linen. One would be pressed to swing half a cat in here.
On the kitchen bench is a “new arrival” basket, stocked with various foreign foods that I promise myself immediately I will never touch. Not ever. I am tired and yet hyped by the realisation that I have indeed arrived in the middle east. There is a window in the small lounge-room and I open the slats of the blinds, and stare out into the night. To my right, I can see a crescent moon atop of a mosque, silhouetted against the arabic sky. I feel I have landed on some other planet. I carry my things into my room, and without changing, I collapse on the bed and fall into a dream filled, fitful sleep.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2008
It’s one in the morning and I gaze from my taxicab window. Outside, a world in shadow rushes by, as I speed down the highway that would eventually deliver me to Mecca. The journey is slowed as we hit the traffic of Riyadh, and find ourselves crawling along at a snail’s pace. I look from my window again and notice a car parked off to the side of the highway, its doors swung open.
Pulsing from inside is the powerful beat of an Arabic song; eurhythmic clamor that competes with the noise of the passing cars. On the ground next to the car, a rug is sprawled, and on it lays several young Arab men, raising small teacups to their lips. The sight is foreign to me and replaces the vision of young boys at home swilling stubbies and cans and the like. The arab boys encircle an old tea flask, raising their cups amidst laughter and song, enjoying an age-old tradition.
We make our way toward what is now to be my new home, edging along the highway, where more cars have pulled over to the side of the road. I see children playing under the Mid-Eastern moon as their families’ huddle around teapots and baskets brimming with Arabic delights. They, too, sip at tiny cups brimming with tea and I begin to ask “Where on earth have I landed?” As I drive into the thick of it all, I am too mesmerised to realise that my life has begun to change forever.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2008
A Dark Place
I push myself up between the last of the boulders. I squeeze through the narrow space, my pack snagging on the edge of a rock and from here, I can already see the mouth of the cave. It yawns its usual mystery toward me, inviting me in. The sun is down and a chill has descended upon us. Us. She doesn’t know I am here. Has no idea that I’ve come.
I move closer, skirting around the rocks. I don’t want her to know I am here until I have clambered inside when it is too late then for her to retreat even further. I edge to the mouth and I can hear a faint whimper, like an animal that is lying in pain. I listen closely and realise it is her. She is crying again. I stare into the darkness, my eyes useless, still affected by light. I pick out vague shadows and something moving along the back wall.
“Mica?” I call. No answer. I move into the blackness, using the roughened wall as my guide. The whimpering stops and now all I hear is a strange combination of two people breathing, the rhythm all out of synch. I stand in the dark and I wait. She answers after a while.
“Why are you here?” the words push up through her dry gritty throat.
“Mica, it’s time to come home…” I say. My words echo a little inside the cave and I wait for her to crawl out of the blackness and into my arms. But she doesn’t. She keeps herself pressed against the back wall and the whimpering starts over again.
She refuses my help. I am powerless, and all this is pointless. I shrug off the pack and let it drop to the ground. There’s enough food and water to last her a couple of days. I turn and I leave and wonder when this will all come to an end.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 18, 2008
A Train of Thought
There is this train that steams by at the oddest hours. Not a normal every day train. This train you can’t see but I know it is there. It passes by often and is crammed full of fabulous things. It has open carriages, which are painted bright red. Open so that you can see in them easily and pick out what it is that you want.
The train chugged by my bed last night, and stopped just on the far side of my pillow. I was nearly asleep but I heard it pull up, all hissing steam and squealing brakes. I could see through the dark it was crammed full of fabulous lines that would fit perfectly into the part of my book I am working on. These fabulous thoughts just sat in their blazing red carriages, and begged me to stir; to sit up and take note.
“Flick on the light and write us down,” they implored. “If you don’t, we’ll just go and find somebody else…”
“I’ll remember you all – fear not…” I say to them.
“You are far too fabulous to forget,” I add, clamping my eyes shut, reciting the fabulous lines in my head over and over again.
I hover beneath a fine blanket of sleep, and can hear the train chug away into the night; into that ethereal land of creative abundance from where it first came. Even this far away I can hear it change tracks and I know its journey is far from over. It searching for someone who will turn on the light and relieve it of its valuable cargo.
I wake in the morning – empty headed and full of regret.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2008
I see it happen in slow motion. In front of me a car backs from a car space into a car doing the same. The smash and gnashing of metal can be heard a street away. Expletives fly from windows and abuse charges up the rear, ready to slay and defile. I slink off into the shopping centre, grateful it wasn’t me.
Inside, I saunter down the first aisle. Time is a friend today – no pressing engagements. I busy myself in the vegetables, picking and choosing, dodging elbows and trolleys of those who are fighting the clock. A trolley wedges itself in my kidneys. No apologies from the driver – just a rolling of eyes and sucking of teeth as she extracts the metal from my flanks and moves on.
I gather my things, nothing special – some things for the dogs, as well as some dinner for me. I stand in the queue as a man lets rip at the check out attendant. He quibbles over a yoghurt that should be on sale but isn’t and he’s not backing down, no matter what, and who cares that the line is now snaking back down the aisle I have just come from. My line is suddenly defunct over dairy produce, and I question myself as to why I must pick the line with the greatest potential for snags.
The man with the yoghurt is winning the war. He’s beating them down for the thirty cent gap. The attendant applies that embarrassed fake smile that pretends that the customer always is right. I offer to pay Scrooge the thirty cent gap just to get him the hell out of the line.
“Pigs arse you will…it’s all about principle,” he snaps at me. I want to tell him its all about ‘use bys’ too, and could he please hurry up before my dinner expires, along with my patience. But I don’t. I wait quietly, listening to the whispered complaints of my fellow shoppers behind me. It seems everyone is tired and cranky and in need of an afternoon nap. He struts away with a look of victory plastered over his miserly face.
Outside, the abuse is still flying as the car wrecks untangle themselves, hurling blame and obscenities into the air as tow trucks hover like vultures waiting to strike. I pay for my things, glad to be heading home. I pass by a fat man wearing a suit the colour of cherries. He is swinging a bell and passing out sweets to pedestrians. He looks hot, tired and grumpy and also in need of a nap. Seems everyone’s cranky. And so this is Christmas…
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2008
There is a soft fog dwelling about you,
Amid the greys and haze, I glimpse your truest colours,
Through saline water blues in a deeper sea of green,
Saddest eyes I’ve ever seen
Look to you, settled in the garden you have planted.
Your Eden, your Hades, your state of mind dictates the season,
Mother wit, an unknown reason given
just to chide you in a basting fashion,
As you sow the seeds of knowledge with such passion.
Sequestered from the common species,
Searching for a place to rest your head
as the subtle autumn changes confine you to your garden’s bed,
So tenderly you slide a searching hand,
Deep beneath the fold that blankets my eternal soul,
I wonder could you find such comfort there?
As we couple in the chamber that I proffer,
How I long for your caress, that silken touch that you may offer.
Could you sweep beneath the canopy of everything I long to be,
And relegate my idleness and such?
As I watch the weather turning in your garden here before me,
You roll yourself into an orb and hurl yourself at my direction,
Rolling, roaring, thunderous,
So passionate without exception,
Erupting from the knowledge you embrace,
Like sudden cloudburst raining down,
To fall so clearly on my face.
Washing out the sorrow in my eyes,
Filling crystal goblets with the knowledge that my heart desires,
Grateful for the chance to spend my days,
Sharing in your garden, here amid the haze.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2008
The Kissing Convention
Padua-Italy: A kissing convention,
Speaking in tongues, ever seeking attention,
And there in the corner, clad under robe,
Judas Iscariot pleated his thobe.
In old leather thongs, he cut through the throng,
As troubadours lauded in spirited song,
Discerning another’s familiar face,
Judas fronted the woman and stated his case.
“Pardon me, Madam,” he said to the shrew,
As she eyed him with malice and spitefulness, too,
While dogding her venom and obvious hate,
Judas offered a hand and said, “You must be Kate’,
She slapped him aside in ignorant bliss,
Returning her thoughts to those she might kiss,
And as if by some magical twisting of fate,
Judas leant and he whispered, “Come, kiss me Kate.”
He whispered it softly, with honest intention,
What else was to do at a kissing convention?
Ignoring his plea while keeping her cool,
Kate turned to acknowledge a transient fool.
Renowned for her talented torturous tongue,
She lashed at the fool as the troubadours sung,
And though it appeared quite bitter and cruel,
Helpless, she begged, “Kiss me you fool.”
The fool felt a dupe but with standing ovation,
Kate stole the show with her fine osculation,
Failing to tame her outlandish display,
Judas retreated and scuttled away.
He left her to service the lips of a fool,
A talent she’d learned in the yard, after school,
Alarmed and abraded, her target withdrawn,
She banished the fool with her womanly scorn.
As Romeo passed, providing distraction,
Kate noticed Juliet missing in action,
“Juliet fine? How is she…do tell?”
“She has glandular fever. She hasn’t been well,”
“The kissing disease? How tragically sad,”
“She’ll be fine in a while…she’s not got it bad,”
And lurking behind, resisting temptation,
Judas discovered a long lost relation,
A kissable cousin, delivered by fate
saw Judas forgetting all about Kate.
Now standing alone at the kissing convention,
Kate spied Iscariot’s wandering intention,
In front of her there,in the arms of another,
Judas betrayed her, kissing the other.
Scorning, contemptuous, pitiful, too,
No one came close to taming this shrew,
And filled with despair and deep – seated contention,
Kate pulled the plug on the kissing convention.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2008
It is morning and fingers of light shine down on the river, piercing their way through the cloud that has bulked to fill one side of the sky. Ripples crinkle the water as an asian boy crouches in the end of a small fishing boat, awkwardly steering his vessel with a thin stalk of bamboo. The bow of his boat points toward where a huge ball of yellow white sun has finally outwitted the clouds and risen beyond their cumulus ways. He is alone in this magical realm, cradling the peace and the quiet as though it has been entrusted to him for the day. He paddles on through the water. By the time the sun is high in the sky he will have reached the market. This peace and quiet will be a thing of his past. He begins to miss it even before it has gone.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2008
There is something tapping on the window…tap..tap..taptaptaptap…tap. I vaguely remember the rhythm, but dismiss my suspicions as I am forty flights up in the air, where no one can reach me. It is late and I am annoyed at the intrusion, for the night has been spent quietly reading alone in my bed. I have been robbed of my bliss.
I tune out the noise, or try to, as my hand plunges into the gaping neck of a large bag of chips. I was suitably sated until the tapper turned up. I hear it drumming its fingers against the glass, in between taps. I flick back the sheet and my chip crumbs fly south, and I slam down my book. I move to the window and fling back the curtain and there I see it, hovering in space, its head framed by a star-studded sky. It smiles at me from its spongy round head and I see it is wearing a ridiculous hat that is covered in cobalt blue feathers. Its tiny round figure bounces in space. I can only surmise it has been drinking again for it is actually wearing the pig’s wings I gave it last year. It hovers outside the window, the wings flapping madly, upholding its weight. It seems impressed with its antics and grins like a fool. It knocks even harder, now I have seen it.
“Pleeeeaazzzeee,” it whines to me. I give in to its foolishness, cranking the bolt and then throwing the window wide open.
“What do you want?”
“I need to come in. I have something to tell you,” it pleads.
I try to think of a dozen reasons to slap it and send it away. But I can’t think of a single one. The truth is, I have missed it and never expected to see it again. I move out of the way and watch as it flies into my room and settles on top of the bed. Without asking, it helps itself to a chip.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2008
I walk in on you both, in the back store room – in that little space that is brimming with perfect spots to conceal many things. You have made it your personal hovel. You both shift away from each other, and stare at me like deer caught in lights and it is me who feels suddenly guilty. I have hampered your infidelity. I blurt out some lame excuse as to what I am wanting and we all cough and sniff and avoid making eye contact. Later you ask if there’s anything I am wanting to say, and I consider you there before me, your wife tucked away in a job that she hates while you gambol about in dark places with women you’ve only just met. I look at you and say nothing and hope you can read my contempt. I wish you away.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2008
There is little light left in the sky and she is huddled inside, on top of the sheet, her sleeping body coiled like a comma. The room has grown dim and the dusk breeze catches the curtain. The scent of the street rolls inside uninvited, carrying with it the increasing din of the evening as the quiet of the day rushes away. The girl is scantily clad, her legs long and bare. The room is modestly furnished, its walls old and grey. Like the girl, it is tired and rundown and abused.
Outside a truck’s engine complains in passing, the hiss of its breaks piercing the air as it pauses to stop at the lights. The girl on the bed stirs from the noise, and rolls on her back and assumes the position of a capital “T”. She lies like somebody crucified. Her eyelids flick open, her eyes dart left and then right. She struggles up from the bed to study the room.
She winces from pain and reaches a hand toward the throb in her head, and discovers a split that runs over one eye. Her fingers come away sticky with blood. She adjusts a spaghetti string strap that has slipped down her arm, and she swings her legs over the edge of the bed. She has no idea where she is or how she got here. No hints lie strewn, to help solve what has happened.
In the dwindling light, fear settles beside her, keeping her company, making her fret. She is foggy from drug induced sleep and she fingers a bracelet that hugs at her wrist. She stares down at her arm and in the light of a car’s sweeping headlights, she reads the inscription on the plate of her bracelet.
Her name is Jasmine. This is all that she knows.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2008
He digs about in the filth, the stench of people’s past lives rising up through the air. He knows it is in here somewhere, and is sure he probably tossed it along with the old television. He shoves an old computer screen out of the way, watches it topple onto another pile, then he digs with his foot through the remaining mountains of crap. He remembers what it looked like, back in the days when life seemed just a little less frantic. And if he is fortunate enough to find it today, he swears he’ll take better care. He just wants it back.
Between the mountain of designer like labels and technical gadgets, he glimpses the soft milky glow through the darkness. His heart skips a beat at the sight of it. He knows it despite it still being covered in junk. He parts the garbage, thrusting his arms in up to his elbows, like a midwife ready to work. He moves in on it, gently wrestling it free and cradling it inside his warm fleshy palms. He carries it away from the pile, tucks it into the pocket of his coat and then hops on an old bicycle that he found. The bike works fine. Its amazing what people will throw.
He rides to the ocean, down to the place that is water and salts – just like his own physical self. He sits on the shoreline and sees a bleak wintry day, and slips his feet into the sand, anchoring himself to the earth. He takes the thing from his pocket and examines its small dome-like shape. It pulses gently there in his hands. In his chest he feels the space that has grown – a great hollowness that he has tried so hard to fill with this life. But the answer he feels is right in his hands – a return to his former self, a passage back to the simpler way of life that he lost so long ago.
He rolls the egg in his hands and sees the red waxy seal is intact where the two halves of the thing have been joined. He knows then that the contents have been kept safe and sound. He picks at the seal, and instantly feels the fear slowly leech from his doubt. It trickles into the big hollow space in his chest, filling him full of freshly baked dread. He closes his eyes and wraps his hands around the dome. Hugging the fragile egg to his heart. The fear in his chest shrivels and dies. It is then with his greatest intentions set in his mind that he opens his hands, cupping the glowing thing in his palms.
He pinches the tip of the seal between finger and thumb and then peels it away, separating the halves. The egg splits open and a radiant warmth expands from inside. It is breathtakingly beautiful and he winces a little from the brightness. He stares in awe for a short while and then slowly leans forward toward it, closes his eyes and breaths in the light – great deep and deliberate breaths that reach down into spaces he’d long forgotten. He opens his eyes and the world has changed. The sea is now indigo blue and the egg in his hands still faithfully glows. He gently closes the lid, encasing the light and slips the egg back in his jacket. He stands and notices the emptiness gone – the empty space in his chest has diminished. He takes a deep breath and begins the long journey home.
Bored to Death
The snowy white tablecloth looked out of place, its edges flapping against a warm breeze that swam around our arms and legs. Sweat trickled down my spine, and stopped at the band of my funereal pants, and I silently chastised myself for not wearing a little black dress. The table before me was laden with food – an oasis amid the arid and tiny backyard where we gathered. Flies buzzed about with great expectation and people made polite conversation. Impossible not to, given we were standing shoulder to shoulder before a sinking Pilbara sun. I shifted my weight, my heels sinking into the dirt as I glanced around the tiny yard. The grass that dared to grow ran in a feeble strip along the back fence – fed by the neighbours run off. The rest of the lawn was sadly deceased and trodden to gritty red earth.
I moved toward the table, my glass sweating profusely in my hand. The evening was becoming equally oppressive, just as the afternoon had been and I wondered when would be the appropriate time to feign the start of a migraine. I thought of Big Len and couldn’t help thinking that if these were the best of his mates, then he probably died of boredom. The polite conversation continued as I flipped back an errant corner of cloth and wiped at a creamy blob where the corner had landed in a container of French onion dip.
My movement toward the food snapped an invisible force-field that pulsed silently around the table, safe keeping the food from human gluttony. As my hand retreated with the blob on my thumb, the crowd descended along with the flies, manners now gone with the searing heat of the afternoon sun. All conversation died as lip service took on a new form. Sounds of dipping and chipping and sipping took over, complemented by the gagging splutters of an old bloke inhaling a corn chip with salsa. I stood back and observed the bizarre and unusual scene. This was strangest wake I had ever attended.
Coming from inside the house, the sounds of Herb Alpert and his Tijuana brass grew to an embarrassing level of loudness. I slipped my drink through the tangle of arms that reached for the table, and set the glass down. I stood back and rubbed furiously at my temples for effect, and begged Big Len’s forgiveness, wishing him a long and happy Nirvana. It was time to go home.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2008
On the edge of eastern Australia a young girl wakes with a start. Thunder rumbles over her house and despite the late hour, she quickly crawls from the warmth of her bed. Her flaxen hair is knotted from tossing and turning. She rubs at her eyes, tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and then kneels down to the floor. She faces the bed, closes her eyes, brings her palms together in prayer, and then lowers her head, her lips mouthing her thanks and begging forgiveness for falling asleep. She prays that God will keep her mother and father alive. She forgets to ask the same of her brother. His tormenting ways expel him from her nightly requests.
Her form is tiny, hunched there on the floor. She is barely nine years old yet her list of concerns is far reaching for one so young. She prays for the dogs and cats of the world, that they be kept safe and out of the rain. She prays to come first in the class this year for she knows that if God were to lend a hand with her grades, she would not have to ask him for a new bike. Her parents have promised her that already.
In the midst of her appeal, her eyes open and she stares up at the moon that is framed by the window above her bed. Her mind wanders from prayer, to a scene that she caught on the T.V last night. The image of a small African boy fills her head; his ribs so pronounced you could strum them like strings on her father’s guitar. She recalls the swell of the boy’s belly and the flies that crawled in and out of his mouth- into that dark empty space that rarely gets filled.
She shakes the image away but in the darkness as she prays by her bed, his eyes return like a die-cast image of anguish moulded to haunt her. Those almond shaped holes burn into her thoughts. She has stared at the boy’s ravenous eyes long enough to never forget. They imprint for a lifetime to come.
She saw the pain in his face, then his image was gone, and the screen became crammed with big burly blokes chasing a ball down a field; their faces filled with a pain that would never compare. With the flick of a switch by her father’s hand, their life had resumed its usual course – dinner in front of the tele with a side of ignorant bliss. She wonders if her family saw what she saw in the little boy’s eyes –if they heard the screams in her head that were snagged on the barbs of his pain.
She closes her eyes and returns to her list, adding the boy with the almond shaped eyes. She prays that wherever he is, God will keep him alive. She hears the rain spatter against the roof and she crawls back into her bed. She lies in the dark and stares up at the moon. It is a long time before she is able to sleep.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2008
Stillness befalls the darkened house and Jonah slips from the warmth of his bed, the cold night air encircling his tiny frame. In a well-rehearsed ritual, he silently pads from his room to the landing at the top of the stairs. He trails an old shawl of his mother’s behind him. It has been colder these past few nights. He carefully negotiates the top stair, avoiding the spot that creaks and complains when placed under pressure. He slowly descends and then squats, feeling the stubbly prickle of the carpeted step through the thinness of his cotton pyjamas. They are hand-me-downs but from whom, he is not sure. He has no brothers or sisters.
Through the slats of the banister, he stares down into the lounge room, where he sees the fireplace glowing. Its warmth fails to reach him. He is oddly comforted by the dark, preferring not to be seen. He watches his father hunched in a chair, cradling a near empty bottle of booze like it might be a loved one. He toys with the notion that one-day soon, he will edge down these stairs and instead of a bottle it will be him in his father’s arms, sharing the remains of the day. His father’s face is lit with the dancing reflection of orange flames. Despite the flickering glow, his eyes fail to register light of any description. He appears as a dead man sitting.
Jonah shivers. He swaddles himself with the shawl, cuddles his knees into his body to ward off his sorrow. It has been like this for months-since the death of his mother. The clock on the mantle strikes one, and the clang of the bell sees his father roused from his stupor. He watches his father raise the bottle and drain the remains. Jonah clutches the shawl and scrambles silently back up the stairs. He slides into the tepid warmth of his bed, and then turns on his side, away from the sound of his father crying.
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 souls 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.
“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 opened the door 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 – though more weathered, perhaps. Beth watched him climb from the car and smile the way he always did, 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.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2008
Pollen litters the surface of the bench top. She sees it the minute she walks through the door into the kitchen. She drops her bag, grabs the sponge and wipes the tiny yellow pinheads away. She stares at the vase on the bench. It is brimming with last week’s dying white lilies. The cycle of death returns once again. She rinses the sponge and places it perfectly straight against the edge of the sink, and then dries her hands on a snow-white hand towel. She surveys the rest of the kitchen. Everything is spotless and tells her that her daughter, Lisa, isn’t home yet.
Lifting her bags from the floor, she unpacks them on the bench she has just cleaned. The items cluster together one last time before they are separated into their respective homes. There are lentils, beans, some fresh broccoli and cauliflower. The habit of veganism lingers. She leaves the lentils to one side, mentally making soup for dinner for the two of them. The weather has turned in the past week and she can feel the promise of winter wrapped in these early autumn days. The chill in the air reminds her of her husband and the approaching anniversary of his death. She brushes the memory away as though it were frost on her shoulders.
Placing the vegetables into the fridge, she sees the note Lisa has attached to the fridge door with a magnet her father brought home from the States years ago. It is a smiling pink pig.
“Mum…I’ll grab something while I’m out – don’t wait up…Lisa.”
She plucks the note from the pigs mouth as the image of homemade lentil soup is quickly replaced by toast and green tea in front of the television. A long heavy sigh slips through her lips as she contemplates a night home alone.
She gathers the dying lilies from the vase on the bench and upends them in the trash, along with the note. With the kitchen in order, she then moves through the house. It is still a house more than a home with its straight lines and perfect curves. The place is near new, bought with money from her late husband’s estate. It’s like walking through an architectural blizzard – everything white and smooth – the walls, the furniture, even the prints on the walls are pale and insipid.It seems like all colour has washed from her life though the memories remain as vivid as ever.
She sees the dining table strewn with paper – mostly brochures and travel itinerary. She can feel the knot begin to wind in her gut again. Irritation pinches her mouth to a grimace as she moves to the table edge and with one finger, opens the front flap of a brochure. Azure blue water sparkles up at her as sailboats bob along, seemingly without a care in the world. Their decks are sprinkled with overly beautiful women and men sailing toward the edge of the paper. She closes the brochure and notices the airline ticket amid the mess. Its one-way status glaring back at her. In a weeks time her daughter will be one of those overly beautiful people having the time of her life. She searches her mind for excuses to make her stay and has managed to stall her a couple of times but it seems time has run out. Her boat has reached the edge of her paper where their journey ends, where her daughter will sail on into uncharted waters. She fights the compulsion to tidy the mess; to straighten and control her external surrounds. Moments pass and she moves from the table, aware that her life line is slipping slowly away from her. Her daughter is leaving, seemingly without a care in the world.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2008
The dispatcher’s voice comes in staccato bursts interrupting the radio static. Noah snatches up the radio handset. He speaks softly into the small device, like he is sharing a secret. His partner drives and they’ve just started work. It’s typically quiet for a Monday. The rain has fallen all morning and the remains of a jam filled bun sit balled in plastic wrap on the dash, oozing a sticky river of red.
Noah detects the concern in the dispatcher’s voice and flicks on the siren. The ambulance surges to life, weaving and wailing its way with astonishing speed. They respond to a call for assistance – a multiple vehicle MVA-fatalities already established on site. He braces himself for the worst he can possibly think of. Regardless, these wretched imaginings rarely protect him. What starts as a small taut knot in his gut, winds itself into the churning sensation of fear. Every time.
They pull up at the scene and he is out of the car, assessing the mayhem, battling his way through the hordes that adhere to the edge of disaster; they are like globules of fat that cling to the edge of a pan – useless and idle, fulfilling no purpose other then to feed their own tedious life’s ravenous need for excitement. They enrage him and he barges through like they barely exist.
He spots the first wreckage – it is unrecognisable and he figures the occupants probably match. The rain is beginning to soak through his clothes and the taste of that sweet sticky bun starts to sour in his mouth. Through a cluster of onlookers, he sees an officer hunched over a body, and he watches him rock back and forth in that slow rhythmic life saving motion. It is futile; the victim is already a corpse.
As Noah moves closer, his most wretched imaginings pale in comparison to what he can now fully see. The corpse is his wife and beside her lays Jonah, his motionless son. The rain steadily falls, and the blood that spills from their wounds forms an oozing river that runs to the tip of his shoes. Noah folds like a paper doll and the last thing he sees is that river of red rushing by.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2008
I fling open the door and bat my way through balloons. I’m late and my arms ache with the weight of Freddie’s gift I have lugged from next door. I hear the others screaming and cheering in the backyard and that hollow sound of a bat smacking a ball tells me the game has begun.
I carry Freddie’s present into the kitchen where Granny Bea hunches over the open oven. The sticky sweet smell of Freddie’s ninth birthday cake settles under my nose.
“Games started,” Granny Bea winks at me, nodding toward the back door.
“You might get a bit of a hit before the cakes ready,” she says.
I dump the present on one end of the table. The other end is covered in party pies, dips, and silly pink cupcakes, obviously just for the girls. I snatch up a couple of party pies, and stuffing one in my mouth, I greet my friends outside.
Freddie crash tackles me to the ground, and my party pie squelches into my hand.
“Where’ve ya been?” he asks, releasing his grip.
I get up, lick the pie from my hand and wipe the remains down the leg of my shorts. The usual crowd has turned up, plus a couple of ring-ins. Cousins, probably. I feel nervous as I take everyone in. Where is he, I wonder? He said he’d be here. We play for a bit; all the while I’m checking the gate, waiting for him to arrive.
Freddie flicks a six stitcher at a ring-in.
“Let’s see what yer made of,” he screams. He sounds just like his dad.
The guys take up fielding positions, while the girls take themselves inside to the table and the woosie pink cupcakes. I put myself right outfield. I know how hard Freddie hits. The ring-in cranks his arm, runs and delivers the ball. It connects with the bat. An alarming crack shakes through the yard as the ball sails over our heads, landing in the old shed near the back fence.
I run after the ball, buffalo grass crunching under my feet. As I near the shed, I hear Granny Bea calling us in – the cake is ready. Nudging the shed door right open with the rubbery tip of my sneaker, I see the ball rocking to a standstill.
I swoop, pick it up and as I stand, there he is, right in front of me, smiling, sitting cross-legged on the table inside. There are brightly coloured plant pots stacked either side of him. I recognise the long dark ringlets that hang from his bandana and those piercing blue eyes that splay me apart like they know my inner most secrets. He wears the same baggy trousers; harlequin patterned that tuck into bright yellow boots that curl up at the toes. A shimmering emerald, in the shape of a tear, falls from a ring in his ear. And despite the gloom of the shed, the stone sparkles as if it were living.
“I didn’t think you’d come,” I say, catching my breath. He adjusts a long ivory horn that is slung from his body, and raises it to his lips and blows. An eerie, spooky sound slips from the mouth of the horn on a whispery violet haze. I feel suddenly giddy and the ball drops from my hand.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2008
She feels numb as she travels the road and begins to question why she came. Her eyes fix upon the form of the Twelve Apostles before her. To her right lies the calm of earth; to her left is a sea of confusion. Wilted floral arrangements by the side of the road where she parks acknowledge a recent event that part of her still denies. The scent of rotting lilies wafts through the window. The stench reaffirms why she is there.
She pulls her gaze from the rocks below, opens the car door and walks around to stare down at the dying flowers. The day is drenched in sunshine yet she is so consumed by misery; this scene beside her thwarts any previous happiness.
A small crucifix rises through the decaying lilies. Upon it, someone has etched her son’s name. Despite the distance that separated them over the years, it remains surreal, to come here and acknowledge his passing. She opens the car door and leans toward the passenger foot well to retrieve a ceramic urn. She steps from the car and with eyes clenched tight against a rising wind, she unscrews the lid and releases her only child’s ashes.
His remains fly about in the sky and then head for the ocean. There is something deeply spiritual in the way Mother Nature carries him away, and the sea calms as if welcoming him home. She carries the emptied urn back to the car, gets in and drives. There are no last minute glances, no lingering looks in the rear vision mirror. It is time to move forward.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2008
In the corner of the room, a lantern throws a feeble light. A moth flits chaotically above it, casting an erratic shadow dance onto the wall. A large window is heavily armed with drapes that reach from ceiling to floor. By day, they are closed. By night they are like an eyelid that opens, allowing a view of the external nocturnal world.
A small boy tugs at the drapes, dividing them. A splash of moonlight spills into the room, basking him in a milky film that puddles around his feet. His face is angelic and pale; his eyes, red-rimmed and the same colour blue that appears between clouds on a summer’s day. Tight rust coloured curls border his delicate features.
Outside, a rugby match plays on a neighbouring field. He watches the boys, who are all older than him, run up and down with the wind in their hair.
“Do you want to go down and watch?” his mother asks. She sits on his bed, repeatedly smoothing his sheets.
“No,” he answers.
She studies his frame; takes in his delicate features as her sadness takes over in general. Life is unfair. She waits for his question-the same one he asks every night.
“Will I always be allergic to sun?” he asks.
“Yes, James,” she answers. “It’s very rare,” she adds.
“Because I’m special…”
“Yes, because you are special. Very special,” she answers.
He tugs again at the curtains, closes the eye of his nocturnal world and retreats to his bed and his ongoing world of darkness.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2008
I don’t think about the next hour. I just think about your next breath and I coil myself up in the moment, my arms all around you as best I can. Your hand, so small and pale curls softly around my thumb. Like a fragile leaf that clings to a tree, you could flutter away in the next breath of air and I know that my darkest hour is yet to come.
The leads and the tubes tangle and twine like accustomed old lovers reacquainted again; a mending braid that connects you to life – to me. A battle scar travels the length of your chest and the warriors have stifled your cries. I hear the gentle purr of machines, those robotic angels that watch over you, and never give up.
I trace the beats of your heart as blimps on a screen. It is my lifeline of hope bobbing about on the dark sea of a monitor screen; your chaotic rhythm of life that will not be calmed by science or prayer. I watch you draw breath and I cling to hope, to you, to whatever it is that keeps me present in the moments we have.
Just before dawn, in those seconds before the warmth of that God coloured part of the day unfolds, and the world kicks slowly to life – you shudder, like your soul is waving goodbye. Quietly, without fanfare or fuss, you flutter away, your tiny hand still curled around my thumb. My arms all around you as best I can. My bleakest hour. My little one. How I miss you already.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2008
A smouldering cauldron bubbled and spat in the corner of the room. Beside it, an old man in long robes clutched a long handled spoon. He stirred and stabbed at the gurgling pot. Outstretched on a nearby table lay a cat, ugly and grey, its skin crinkled and creased. It had china blue eyes that peered through small slits in its head, and strangely enough, had two opposable thumbs, allowing it access to a world unexperienced by regular cats. It haphazardly batted the remains of a mouse, occasionally picking it up for closer inspection.
Shelves over the table held various jars.
“Hand me that one,” said the old man. The cat reached up and took down a jar labelled ‘Humanity’, and handed it over. “You’re wasting your time on them, you know that,” said the cat, stretching itself into a perfect arch.
“Don’t be so dreary. Besides, its only once a year…” the man said, pouring a liberal sprinkling of humanity into the pot.
“How are we off for ‘Compassion’ this year, he added. The cat lifted a near empty jar from the shelf and inspected it closely.
“There’s a dram or two left. You want it?”
“Please,” added the old man – taking the jar from the cat’s outstretched paw.
“You better add some good will and cheer,” sneered the cat.
“Already in, thanks all the same,” the old man replied, detecting the note of sarcasm in his feline apprentice’s voice.
“S’pose you are the alchemist, not me. I just get to wash up. So, when are you pouring this puppy?” the cat asked.
“Nearly done. Should be set in about seven minutes. You want to help me?”
“Oh, I suppose so. You only want me for my thumbs,”
Together, they poured the mix into a large tablet shaped mould, and watched it set instantaneously. Flipping the giant pill from the mould, they rolled it outside. They stopped just short of a ledge, and curling their respective toes over the edge of their world, they peered down at Planet Earth.
“Ready?” the old man asked.
“Merry Christmas,” the old man cheered as he rolled the pill over the edge.
The tablet spun through space, and on impact, exploded into a cloud of white dust.
“Hmm, your aim’s improving. You think it will work this year?” the cat asked, genuinely concerned.
“Probably not… can’t knock a fellow for trying, though…”
“S’pose not. I’ll wash if you wipe?” the cat offered.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2008
Snow settled on my shoulders as I walked the short distance to the church. The building looked out of place, stuck out in the middle of a snowy expanse like a cheap decoration perched on a cake. An old man, severely hunched, leaned against the frame of the church door. He looked like a capital “C” standing there, his cane tapping impatiently against the frozen ground. As I neared, I could hear keys jangle in his trouser pocket, his hand buried deep against the cold. I wondered for a moment what I might be keeping him from. Death came to mind – at least I had given the poor soul something to venture out for.
Snow crunched beneath my boots, alerting him to my arrival. His cane ceased its monotonous tapping and he lifted his head toward me. A smile creased one side of his mouth and from within the folds of his crumpling face, I saw he had eyes the same colour as mine. He straightened a little, as much as age and arthritis might allow, and he pulled from his pocket a large ring of keys, carefully selecting the one he required. With the key clamped firmly in his fist, he guided it into the lock on the door, leaning his cane against the stone wall, and using both hands to turn. The door gave a little cough as the lock disengaged. The man pulled back the key and then taking his cane once again, he stabbed at the door.
The door creaked in protest at the intrusion as it yawned its way open. The man mumbled to me in his native tongue and waved me forward through the opening, his hand pausing, palm upward, in a gesture that would cinch our deal. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the dollars I knew would be needed. He accepted them, his eyes twinkling gratitude.
I stepped inside, my boots echoing against the stone floor. Birds fluttered from the rafters, seeking refuge elsewhere beneath the vaulted roof. I looked around at the ruins, at the colourless walls that bled into the faded mosaic floor. I wondered how long it had taken to bleach the life from the place. Opposite where I stood, two towering windows beckoned the light from outside and filled the church with a starkness that emphasised the bitter cold. Before me the congregation once sat, the pews long since rotted and the devout now nothing but dust returned to the earth.
I walked toward the windows, into the frozen light that bathed the only remaining feature. Steps led up to a stone tablet supported each end by ash coloured blocks. The tablet was covered in dust and splattered with bird shit. It was here that the old priest had touted his word to the throngs. I fumbled through my pack, feeling for the small votive candle and matches I had packed for the journey. I pulled them from my bag and I climbed the three steps to the pulpit and I set down the candle. I lay down my bag, and with both hands, I worked a match from the box, my fingers nearly numb from the cold.
I closed my eyes before striking the match and I conjured his image. I opened my eyes and I stabbed the match head hard against the flint of the box, catching the fleeting sensation of warmth against my fingers and face as the match flared. With trembling hands, I held the flame to the wick and waited for the blue orange glow to begin. The flame grew, dancing in anticipation at the task it had been called to perform.
I blew out the match knelt before the tablet, and then closed my eyes and bowed my head and prayed to the Saints and the Gods and to any other deity that might consider what I was about to attempt. I let the words of the mantra form in my mind and then slowly spill from my lips, gathering speed and volume and power enough to let me go. I felt the first sign as a tremor in my legs and then the familiar sensation of tumbling backward began.
When I opened my eyes, the walls were no longer the colour of bleached bone. The warm ochre hue had returned and the church pews stood in lines before me, empty but fully restored. I stood and brushed the dust from my robes and blew gently to extinguish the flame of my candle. I grabbed the candle and dropped it into my pocket, noticing that the matches had once again refused to cross to a time where they were yet to be invented. I would need to find something to light my way back. I ran down the steps and through the church and stopped just by the door.”He is waiting but don’t be long,” said an old man with a cane.
“I won’t…I promise, I wont,” I said.
I pushed through the doors, into a sunlit field that was brimming with early spring flowers. In the distance, I could hear a bell tolling and I feared I might miss him. I hitched up my robe, and from the church, through the field, toward the place I knew he’d be waiting, I ran. I had so much to tell him.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2008
With trepidation, she extended a leg, pointing her toe toward the reflection of sky that filled the lake. They had told her that once the seal breaks, there is no going back. Her toe slid through the surface, painless at first but quickly followed by biting cold that reminded her that all things have consequence. She chewed at her lip – just a little. Just enough to confuse her brain into thinking that this was the right thing to do. Without knowledge of depth, she leaned into the water, willing to trust in this worldwide abyss. As she descended into the deep, she prayed for a safe and fortuitous passage…
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