Category Archives: Short fiction pieces

When the past walks in your front door

It has been a dramatic few months. It is a cliché to say that we can never truly escape the past, but you don’t expect it to enter your house. Literally. This is what happened to me.

This is not a confessional, gut-spill post, not my style, however I can tell you it was a shock and it got a lot worse in the following days and weeks and I was obliged to face memories and issues long buried [deliberately or simply the passage of time]. Mainly good old repression…

Let’s move to the good news. The situation is resolved and digging up and discussing memories and emotions has been ‘good for me’ as they say. No, seriously, it has been good for me – not like dad giving me a smack around the ear being ‘good for me’. It has shifted a truck load of crap.

And so to my novel writing with apologies for my long silence on this blog – did you miss me? Correct answer is ‘yes’.

So, I pitched to 3 publishers and duly submitted 3 chapters as requested. I have heard nothing from the 2 big publishers = rejection I presume, whereas a small local publisher expressed interest and wanted to see the complete manuscript. This was good news and I went back to my ms and read it AND HATED IT. I had not written for 2+ months [other matters more pressing], nor looked at it. Like my PhD long ago; when I submitted I thought it was the best I could do. Six months later I thought it was rubbish.

I decided not to submit my ms to the publisher because I know I can do much better and this is the point where the past hitting me in the face [like a clown throwing a pie] met the present and opened up new possibilities.

A few days ago I began a total re-write. Not a re-draft, completely new. Writing in the first person, which I have not done before, to give more impact and immediacy. I feel that my writing is freer, stronger, less restrained and going into places where previously I had not dared and for which I lacked the skill.

Yes, confronting what I thought was ‘all in the past’ – as if – has been good for me and I’m optimistic it will be good for my writing.

Ever onwards and upwards!

Her spirit returned last night

She came to my house last night, uninvited, unwanted, unseen. Fifteen years gone. The moment I opened the front door, I sensed her presence as the faintest trace of perfume of a long ago lover. Graveyard chilled yet unable to turn away, I entered and followed her trail up the stairs, the marks a phosphorescent glow in the dark where she had stopped and run her hand along the bannister, touched her photos on the landing and hesitated by the painting. Our painting, that day at the beach.
The air tingled, vibrating like a high voltage power line as I followed her scent into my study, the buzzing deafening where she had opened my latest book and dropped it at mention of Anna, fleeing from my new life. The trail vanished at my bedroom door, as though she had not dared to enter what was no longer hers.

An unquiet soul on unfinished business.

I walked back downstairs, scared, cold, hair bristling and at the same time, entranced as I had been for so long by her. In another place, in another life. I turned on the lamp from the old house, lit the oil burner with her favourite, sat and waited. Listened to our music.
She had loved me, hated me, loved me, died.
The journey to forgiveness is long and hard.
The journey to self-forgiveness is without end.

Rosie has left the house and is missed

Yes, Rosie the dog has moved to greener pastures after six weeks of fostering with us in which she learned to walk on a lead, became socialised with dogs and humans and completed her vaccinations etc after being rescued from the lost dogs home, where her end was nigh. She will stay for a short time with people with other dogs and then be adopted by a couple who live near a beach which allows dogs to run free.

It is a great development for Rosie and we, my daughter and I, knew that caring for dogs for a short period of time is the essence of fostering, but we miss her very much indeed.

I do not miss the chewing of doors and windows, the eating of the TV antenna cord, the destruction of the Blu-ray player, the stealing of laundry or the demolition of various pot plants. Nor will I miss her trying to eat any book I’m reading. We do miss the 20 kilograms of muscle and 100% love delivered with the exuberance only a puppy can offer and I’ll miss the walks along the river. I miss the torpedo hurling itself into my arms when I open the front door and my daughter misses her couch buddy.

So, the doors will be repaired, we’ll take a breather and then foster another mutt, this time aiming for a smaller and older dog better suited to inner suburban living.

Have a great life, Rosie! This is your second chance after being rescued by Forever Friends, a group of people devoted to rescuing animals.

love and power on a Melbourne tram

I was on the tram a week ago and a couple in their fifties sat opposite me, she better dressed and presented than he and both a tad flustered. My instinct tells me they are on their second marriage and it is ‘early days’. They appear to be seriously interested in each other and that’s nice. Let us call them Amy and Bill for no reason except for the fact they never used their names and I have to call them something. It occurs to me as I write that they used no endearments either and this is surprising. Perhaps they have been together for many moons?

Amy stops fiddling with her handbag and Bill squints at his phone in the way all us older folk do.

A conversation ensues on where they should leave the tram.

Amy. ‘Where do we get off?’

Bill. ‘Swanston Street.’ This is not a clever answer. It is a long street.

Amy. ‘But where?

Bill Googles. ‘Bourke Street.’

Amy. ‘Where did we get off Thursday?’

Bill. ‘Bourke.’

Amy. ‘Collins is better.’

Bill. ‘Okay.’

Amy looks out the window. ‘No, it’s fine.’

Bill. ‘Well, Collins then.’

Amy glances at me and looks out the tram window again. ‘That’s a nice building’.

It actually is not, however, it succeeds in throwing Bill off course.

Bill takes her hand, she lets him. ‘Where?’ He peers out.

Amy. ‘Bourke. It’s fine.’

Bill. ‘Collins is good.’

I am trying not to smile, this is like an amateur Pinter play where the silences and deviations mean more than the literal words.

Amy relents, looks at him, smiles. ‘Did you book?’

Bill. ‘No need.’

Amy. ‘It was busy Thursday night.’

Bill. ‘I’ll ring.’

Amy stiffens ever so slightly and looks out the window again. ‘It’s fine.’

I really want to applaud the way she’s playing him.

Bill. ‘You have a smudge here.’ He touches her face with love. A caress.

Amy rubs it off. ‘I’ve said to you before about that mirror.’

Ah, I think, so she was in his house last night and ‘wants a few changes’.

She glances at me again, I stay poker-faced and decide this will be great for my dialogue exercise with Writers Victoria in two weeks.

And so it goes. She is not being horrible and seems truly to like him and he adores her, though possibly is not up to the task.

Amy. ‘Which stop is it?

Bill. ‘After this one.’

Amy. ‘Here is good’.

She stands and he follows, she takes his hand and as they leave the tram, she looks back at me with the faintest of smiles and I allow myself a smile in return.

Bill was oblivious of my presence. For Amy, I was an audience and I understood that the little to and fro I witnessed had been for my benefit as much as an exchange between two lovers.
As I am ambled away at the next stop, I recalled my therapist saying years ago ‘David, all relationships are a struggle for power, at least in the beginning.’
BTW, Rosie the dog has been passed as ‘dog and child friendly’ and is up for adoption. She needs a more suitable home than we can give her, but she will be missed…

when love dies

When love dies, where does it go?

Is it the dust on the book we never finished reading?

Is it the star dust, the black matter which is invisible and may be no more than a brilliant possibility, yet moves and binds us all, from atoms to galaxies?

Is it the layer of fat enclosing our hearts and arteries, congealing and hardening a little more each time?

Or does it simply disappear, unremarked and unremarkable?

A figure half-glimpsed or imagined across the street, umbrella-shadowed, hurrying elsewhere?

A shard of memory at two in the morning.

No, I do not want to be your ‘friend’

Last week you sent me a ‘friend’ request on Facebook. Seriously? After five years?
We were lovers in your little apartment, sex and alcohol our rocket fuel. Perhaps we were in love a little for a time and then we weren’t and I flew home.
You sent me a ‘fuck you’ email six months later saying you were married; was that number 3 or 4? I forget.
I did not answer, there was nothing to say.
I moved on, as they say.
Now you want to ‘friend’ me? We were never ‘friends’; I loved you, not sure I ever liked you.
Click ‘decline’.

My life and death in boxes

First the socks. Black ones bundled together next to the pink in the top drawer. Knickers in the next; everyday white here, black there, special occasion lacy separate. Not that I will need them again unless they bury me in them.  Damn, a blue pair muddled, bloody eyesight worse.

 Where are the wooden hangers for my shirts? So hard to reach, pain tearing my soul.

A place for everything and everything in its place. Once you start tossing your clothes any which way, ironed and unironed together, where does it all end? Like life, keep the bits separate, keep the parts contained. Compartments. Boxes. Control. Survival.

 I’m so bloody tired these days it would be easy not to bother, but what then? What would it say, to have lived my life in boxes and to fall apart at the end? 

 We don’t talk about the cancer. No point, doesn’t change anything. It eats my bones, eats my eyes, nothing to be done, nothing to stop it except time and that will be soon enough. Nothing left to say whereas once I couldn’t be stopped; a fountain of words and with Mark the words and sex binding us like honey. But I was married, still am and still to the wrong man and now I’m dying. You have to laugh. Or cry. Neither of us cried. Rob did, he was always the weakest. 

Damn, my good slacks are still marked, can’t wear them like this, have to wash them again – ah, bending down! That hurts, shouldn’t have done it. Shit!

Don’t leave a mess for others.

Don’t cry.

 Nearly finished, pullovers each folded in their plastic bags and laid in the wardrobe in their proper place, in their snug little homes.

Finished. All in order. Everything in its place.

Knives, forks, spoons, nobody throws them together them in one pile. Clothes the same. Life the same. Boxes each containing their secrets got me through Daddy, helped me survive Mark and it will get me through this. 

He’ll be home soon and I have to be finished.

Well, I was smart enough to keep quiet, not like telling about Daddy.

 We don’t talk about anything much, Rob and me and that suits me; silence fitted me like a glove when I stopped feeling after Mark. My navy blue silk dress and jacket became my armour. The ‘ice queen’ they all wanted to fuck.

He’ll be home soon, there’s leftovers and salad, that’ll do, he’ll be fine. I guess he won’t be hungry anyway.
Just a moment, rest for a moment, so bloody tired.

I learned my lesson and kept it in boxes: big or small, shiny or dull, old or new. Knickers, socks or love, it works the same way. Shove it in a box, push it under the bed where the monsters live and pretend. Simply pretend.

Ikea boxes are perfect. 

 He stopped loving me. Mark, I mean.

A life of boxes and compartments and one final box to unlock before he comes home and starts watching me with those doggy eyes. ‘What do you want of me?’ he asks. ‘I want you to be him!’ I scream silently. ‘Lives of quiet desperation’, who said that? I would have known once or Mark would have, finishing each other’s sentences, ricochet words of love and hate in our own world. 

 One final box, a pretty one. Open the lid, swallow the pills, close the lid and rest. Clean sheets, smoothed pillows. middle class manners to the end. So many words wasted on Mark and so many hours wasted waiting at the phone and now to rest in my box where nobody can touch me. I choose my last box and it is done.