‘Youth’

March 29, 2010

Written in response to inspiration provided by Louise (call for inspiration 3):

The bird circles high above, its silhouette moving over the flat orange rock and sending ripples of agitation and concern rushing through the two young blue tongues who have stopped to sun themselves.

Not far past reaching maturity, their scales have been hardened as far as time out of the egg would harden them. They had yet to be tested, and the young cold bloods, though they could not articulate it, knew this instinctively. They curve in towards each other, as far as their inflexible bodies allow, their armour stopping them from forming a proper half circle each. But between them they circle the wagons as best they can, and settle in with reptilian patience.

The rock beneath them bleeds heat upwards into their soft bellies and the blue tongues feel themselves pulled downwards lethargically. Their heads droop. The sun is singing to them. Eyes squint.

The shadow passes, bigger now, draining the heat. The blue tongues raise their heads and offer up their disjointed madmen smiles and stained tongues.

***

The steel skeleton stretches skyward. Concrete creeping slowly up the structure, fixes it in place. It is both impressive and entirely boring. The grey creep of concrete raised in religious fervour; the beautiful play equipment wrapped in a shroud.

One day soon it would house office space; the men who were building the thing had been told that much. But it was hard for them to imagine that men – other men, men in suits – would lock themselves in the sky in such a way. The workers of course, felt that they were entitled to the sky. After all, they climbed it with courage, accepted it on its own terms, dancing over the structure like acrobats, running along exposed beams and adjusting for the shifting winds while balancing their lunchboxes.

They were young and clever. They would never die.

***

He sits with his back to the wall, sand trickling down from above. He brushed it off his shoulder, took his helmet off and reached for the thin bundle of creased paper held in place with tape. Tearing it away gently, he folded the tape carefully so it didn’t catch. The letter, freed of the tape, began to unfurl. The paper was still stubbornly trying to return to its natural shape, it hadn’t yet had its folds pressed into permanence. It had only arrived yesterday.

He reads the gently sloping script within; the schoolgirl pride still evident in his young wife’s hand. He wondered if she imagined that the neat, ordered handwriting would please him. It did, he realised.

He placed the letter beside him and stared at the photo she had included. She seemed exactly as he remembered her, the news she had shared with him not evident yet. Was that a secretive smile on her face? He couldn’t be sure.

Three of his mates pushed past him, muttering about going over the trenches in the morning. He looked up. The sky was still dark. He still had time. He picked up the letter once more.

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‘Ulooka’

March 29, 2010

Written in response to inspiration provided by Phill (call for inspiration 3):

Their universe had begun with an um. He had spotted her at the pub down at the Marina on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The beer was boutique, flavoured so that everything seemed to taste just a little bit like honey. The breeze – when it could find its way past the rocks of the marina, through the buildings and into the small entrance that opened into the pub space – pushed frangipani leaves gently around. His band had a drummer with whisks, an acoustic guitarist, a double bass player and he, as lead singer, mellowed out the beseeching lyrics with bongo drums.

He could see a streak of black hair draped over a round cane recliner; he was surprised that someone would sit so deliberately in the opposite direction to a band. What was she hiding? He turned away from her, concentrated on the song he was singing – Black by Pearl Jam. He forgot about her momentarily until he was deep in the haunting too doo doo too, too doo doo part of the song, and she turned around.

As the song ended and he passed into silence her swept back eyes stared out at him through a black slash of fringe. Her cinnamon skin drank in the afternoon sun; she radiated a deep light like a crystal cave.

He got up, ignored the confused protestations of his band members. Walked toward her.

Um, he said.

Hello little owl.

Owl?

You sounded like an owl, just then.

When?

When you sang hoo hoo hoo.

That was too doo doo too.

Ah. She smiled. Are you sure?

He imagined snaking his tongue into the crevice of her smile.

What’s your name?

Lakshmi, she replied.

Do you want to know my name?

I know it. Ulooka.

He was about to reply that his name wasn’t Ulooka, he was Alex. But the words stuck in his throat. He could be, would be Ulooka to this goddess. He’d do it if it meant seeing this light from within her, if it meant kissing those lips, if it meant she’d sit there, facing him, while he played his songs for her.

I love you, he said.

Play for me then, Ulooka.

He walked up to the stage, sat down in front of his drums.

“What the fuck was that about?”

His guitarist looked genuinely bemused. The others looked angry.

He brought a hand down hard on a drum, then the other. Then again, and again, and then he was beating out a rhythm that his band couldn’t help but catch up to. He beat the drums until the sound of thunder threatened the sun drenched pub and he had visions of Lakshmi in a light rain, the sunshine streaming down over her sinewy body, and he far above her circling, his powerful wing strokes beating at the air about him, promising to drag her across the heavens.


Call for inspiration 3

March 25, 2010

Okay, calling for my next lot of inspiration:

Please post:

  1. A place you have always wanted to visit.
  2. A moment in history you’d like to see firsthand.
  3. An animal (other than the domesticated, “normal” pets we’ve all had) that you would like to own at some point in your life.

If someone has beaten you to replying, don’t be afraid to add yours too! I’m happy to do several pieces for each call for inspiration.

Thanks folks! (yes, I’m starting to believe their may be more than one person reading this)


‘Communication Gap’

March 25, 2010

Written in response to inspiration provided by Phill (call for inspiration 2):

My heart was broken. I kept telling myself to stop. I just wanted you.

But you kept fucking him?

Yes.

***

One minute I’m listening to Ziyad, our twelve o’clock shadowed tour guide droning on about anything but the pyramids in his enthralling, hard edged English that has us all listening because it sounds like a song being barked through a megaphone.

The next minute, well.

***

Julie had wanted to come to the airport. I said no. She asked if I was still angry with her, and I said no, I was fine. Was it true? No, probably not. She’d left me with too many questions. The worst kind of questions too, the ones that you don’t actually want answers to.

***

It worked, you know? Ziyad’s angry English, the clove infused smoke he leaves in his wake. It just felt like Egypt. At least the Egypt I pictured when I was growing up in Geraldton. But there are other smells here too. If I had to paint you a picture, I’d say this shoulder high tunnel smells of one part old person, one part old person’s urine and one part sickly sweet wine. In other words, like every underpass you’ve ever walked through. Zayed’s tobacco covered the stench only fleetingly.

But I was used to the smell by now; my fantasy Egypt could live amidst old person’s piss, no problem. What it couldn’t take though was Geraldton. Specifically, Geraldton as represented by Sharon Mills and Tracey Stott, the owners of the four legs in front of me.

***

What happened was this:

I had been listening to Ziyad graphically examine the many moral shortcomings of the mother of Egypt’s president when I heard from the front of the group, “He’s a fucking dog.”

“Yeah,” agreed another shrill, nasal voice, “Grey-fucking-Johnson. World class wanker.”

Recognising the name, I lifted my head sharply, crunching the top of my skull hard into the limestone roof and yelling out. When the pain receded, the group had moved on, I was on my arse, and there were four legs in front of me, with Sharon and Tracey attached to a pair each.

“Phil fucking Thompson,” said Tracey.

“Trace,” I acknowledged. “Sharon.”

“What are you doin’ here?”

I didn’t want to answer. Fly half way around the world just to hear about Geraldton from a couple of girls from my high school days? No thank you. But how do you suggest to someone that we just pretend we don’t know each other?

“Nothing,” I reply.

Tracey misses the sarcasm. “Hear about your mate Grey?” Even in the muted light, I could see the almost macabre satisfaction on her face.

“Nuh.”

“Surely you heard? He’s your best mate.”

“I’m in a bloody pyramid. Not sure that it was designed with an internet café in mind.”

“But he’s fucking Julie. Didn’t you know?”

I hadn’t known. Well not who anyway. “I knew it.”

“What are ya gunna do?”

“I had planned to find a big pile of rocks and crawl under it. Not working though, apparently.”

I know the internet and blogs and chat-whatever and twitter and Youtube and all that shit make local a relative term, but I’m in a pyramid for fucksake. I should be immune from local news.

I look up at the rock. I wonder how hard I’d have to ram my head to knock myself out.

Sharon smiles. “Poor thing, you’re so upset, aren’t ya? Want to come back to our hostel for drinks after this?”

***

No, I didn’t. I still don’t. Which is why I’m so surprised I’m back here with them. Sharon has messily poured three shots of a liquid from the petroleum family from a stained second hand bottle. Tracey is clearing away the mugs that once held what she dubiously referred to as beer.

Sharon knocks back her shot and immediately leans over and hurls up the semi-digested vegetables and flatbread we had wolfed down earlier. She falls back on the cushion, vomit patch spreading on her tank top.

“Who chundered?” calls Tracey.

“Me.” A slurred reply rises from the cushion.

“Silly bitch.”

“Shut up,” Sharon says when Tracey walks back in.

“Whew, it reeks in here.” She is right too. The air was ripe enough before the acidic bile was added to the mix.

My brain is ordering me to leave. I didn’t trust the alcohol, I didn’t want the company, and I had had my fill of reminiscing. I get up to go.

Tracey grabs my arm, “Where you going Phil?”

Home, I try to say.

“Um,” I actually say.

Tracey pulls my face down to hers. Over her shoulder I see Sharon pull off her vomit stained top revealing a bulging black bra, nipples straining through the thin material. Get going Phil, screams the jelly in my skull, this isn’t a good idea.

***

Communication has gotten easier hasn’t it? Humans can get to each other like never before. I can find out my best friend in Australia was fucking my girlfriend in Australia from a couple of Australian birds while touring an Egyptian pyramid.

If only the organs of our body communicated half as well. But my brain doesn’t stand a chance. The gulf between it and the organ it needs to speak to is a great southern land wide.


‘strawberries’

March 23, 2010

Written in an exercise for Mark Welker’s blog, the inspiration for this piece was a picture of a punnet of strawberries:

They were packed into the carriage like strawberries at a grocer’s. The wooden walls of the enclosure were sodden but somehow still managed to hold the teeming mass in, molding around their shivering forms. As the carriage rattled along the tracks flakes of paint floated down until the air was thick and choking. Mothers huddled children against their naked skin, bruises flowing from parent to child as though they were living organisms.

Those unlucky enough to be on the edges were speared by splinters from the walls, thin slivers of pain that stole purposefully beneath the skin of the prisoners arms, legs, back or buttocks. They were crying less than the others though; their pain was immediate and physical and much easier to steal yourself against.

In the precise centre of this punnet of human misery stood a fifteen year old boy. He was tall for his age though, so that he stood over everyone else in the carriage. He was looking upwards, his eyes immune to the flaking paint, the tears that he had been crying for days now serving him well. He was looking at the vague split that ran along the centre of the roof; the rusted hinges that adorned each side.

He imagined the claw that would come down through the roof; saw its rusted metal edges, the unyielding steel that would scrape at the tender flesh, opening up angry red cuts. And he knew that, inevitably, he would be the first one chosen. He wished he could crouch down, wished he was as bruised and beat up as some of the others. But he was not. He was, in fact, almost perfect, at least to look at. He could have just walked out of his shower back at his grandmother’s house. The sweat in his hair made it glisten as though he had just shampooed and conditioned it; his emaciated body looked toned and fit.

He wasn’t afraid of dying. He doubted anyone here was; those tears, the ones for their lost lives, had dried long ago. The tears that he couldn’t stop from running in fat rivulets down his cheeks were not for himself, but for the vacuum in his life where his notion of humanity once had nestled.


Call for inspiration 2

March 19, 2010

Okay folks – back again for another crack. Another random bookline I think, while I’m cutting my teeth on the concept.

If somebody could grab their favourite book, and give me the fifth last line, I’d greatly appreciate it.

And of course, reciprocate with prose!


‘Two-fin Sisters’

March 17, 2010

Written in response to inspiration provided by Mark (call for inspiration 1):

She breaches and the air welcomes her like an ancient grandmother. The brief moment stretches back, a razor play of mirrors, and Mara breathes in oxygen until it tastes of land and running with small rocks caught – trapped beneath her hoofs and she lets out a barking laugh of excitement. She chases her prey across the viscous mudflat, her cubs lagging behind her. She isn’t thinking of them now, the hunter’s instinct so strong she can taste the blood dripping past her jaws as it drowns her maternal nature. She closes on the pack of darting rodents, opens her mouth, eyes roll back and

the water wraps the cool present back around her again and she shakes the vision away. The dream would not seduce her today. She descends and the smell of land dissipates as inconsequentially as the effervescence shivering from her skin. She rolls and watches as the track of bubbles show her path downwards.

It isn’t long before she reaches the bottom and the weed down here is pale and insignificant, bitter cousins of the lush forests found in shallower water. She can taste her two-fin sister here; Chay’s clicks torpedo through the water, catching on the weed briefly, sound angrily against intruders. Mara sifts the aggressive clicks and catches, just faintly below it, another voice. A scared plea. A desperate mewling.

Her daughter is still alive.

The pod had expected something like this to occur. A two-fin sisterhood – where female whales share both parents – was rare and the pod’s stories of the close bond shared by two-fins were inevitably tragic. Mara’s relationships with her one-fin sisters were like this suffocating, half-dead weed compared to the deep green slick forest that was her relationship with Chay.

Mara hears a shadow-sound thrashing ahead of her, clicks of anguish flying out like krill, and she propels herself through the water. She comes up out of a valley and onto a flat plain of stirred up sand. She tastes blood in her mouth and for a moment she thinks the dream has taken her again, but then she tastes family in the blood, and more than that she tastes her daughter.

Chay floats there, the baby whale convulsing beneath her on the seabed. Mara eyes her sister, looks down at her child, back at Chay. Chay’s eyes are glassed over but her clicks calm at the sight of Mara, they emanate out, willing her to see, demanding understanding. The dream, she clicks, the dream is here.

The dream? Mara looks at her sister. Beneath Chay’s considerable bulk her fins have elongated into a series of ridges that press razor sharp against the membrane, threatening to tear through.

Her daughter’s body gives a death soaked shudder. Mara tastes the finality in the act and turns to the surface, propelling herself upwards, away from the pain. She feels the warmer water stream past newly sharpened incisors in her jaws. Her two-fin catches up to her. Mara sees the threshold of the world approaching; braces herself for the breach. The present strips away and she feels a howl of approval in her guts, the hunter once more drowning out the mother.

Air, and the dream, rush in.