We stopped at Novosibirsk and waited on the platform; as with all other stops, there were locals selling soda, peanuts, pickled fish, two-minute noodles, and the powdered mash potato that had been my staple; I’d get hot water from the surly samovar attendant and with a little stirring, giving me that sense of having cooked a meal, I turned out a delicious starchy mush that paired nicely with whatever vodka was going. Continue reading
Read Part 3: The Droste Effect
Read Part 4: The Order of Things
Chaos: When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future. Edward Lorenz
Every news channel was streaming the very little details of the case that were known, each trying to get a more ‘exclusive’ angle than their competitors.
Channel Z8 was running an interview with a local grocery store owner.
‘I’ll never forget when that girl disappeared. What was it seventeen, eighteen years ago? Whole life ahead of her, and boom, suddenly gone, just like that. I’d been watching the cricket when one of my customers mentioned her remains had been found. What I want to know is- how the hell did she end up in Siberia of all places? Long way from schoolies week on the Gold Coast…’
The journalist probed for as much anecdotal fluff for the news piece as he could get ‘You say you knew Eckles? Can you describe him Albert? Can I call you Al?’
‘Yeah, call me Al. He was just like everyone else in the neighbourhood- nothing unusual in his purchases, milk, eggs, bread, fruit, knew enough about sport to keep up a conversation. But he did have a strange tendency to disappear for long periods of time…’
Fiona rolled her eyes at the familiar face getting his 15 minutes of fame. He was milking it, and the journalist was relishing this ‘exclusive insight’. Switching the channel, she saw news item after news item on the same rolling coverage of the case that was set to change the world. Continue reading
Read Part 3: The Droste Effect
Read Part 4: The Order of Things
My last terrestrial memory is that of zooming plains through the dirt-speckled windows of the cabin we shared. Crossing the mass of land, and multiple time zones, it was my unwitting farewell to life on firm, solid ground, although I didn’t know it at the time.
I had gone along with Liam’s suggestion to take the trip, guided by a strong sense that everything I would be doing was destined to unfold, that I only needed to go with the flow, so to speak. We shared our second-class quarters with a soldier on his way home from a posting in Moscow, and a grieving widow heading to Irkutsk to collect the body of her fisherman husband who’d met his end while navigating the cruel seas. In that confined space, I’d learnt a lot about my Russian cabin mates, with crude sentences pieced together from the weathered Lonely Planet, and the outpouring of human emotion born of rowdy card games and shots of vodka. Liam however, remained a mystery. Continue reading
The Order of Things
Read Part 3: The Droste Effect
The bell rang for recess and the children bustled out of the classroom, leaving me with some peace and quiet, and a mess of watercolours, textas, and butchers paper to tidy. It was then that an otherwise ordinary day was made extraordinary by her arrival.
‘Hi, my name is Sue, Sue Blackmore. We need to talk.’
I couldn’t do much more than nod, my nervous excitement making my eyes fix in a stare, a blink too much to muster in the moment, with all my energy consumed by trembling hands and the array of thoughts her visit sprung on me. Continue reading
Pre-Iron Age Chef
Today in the kitchen stadium, the challenger has plated up a char grilled Adaptosaurus on a bed of mashed sweet potato with a side of shredded brussel sprouts stir-fried with the secret ingredient: full-moon-bathed silvered almonds.
If you want to recreate this gastronomic wonder at home, the first step of course is to hunt down your creature, good luck with that—we picked one up at British Museum deli—they’re hard to come by, so if you’re stuck, use chicken and adjust the cooking time accordingly. Carefully debone your protein with a sharpened stone, lather with crushed garlic and coconut oil, and pop it on the grill for an age—paleolithic magic!
Inspired by Sonya’s Three Line Tales, Week 82
The Final March
The golden days of summer picnics with sweetly scented jam, crusty bread, cold slices and chilled fruit platters live only in our memories – a clear line in our collective consciousness separating time before and after the incident we refer to as The Final March.
The chemical weaponry disoriented many of us, sending the synchronised beat of our hearts off kilter, heady toxins muting all our sensory navigational cues. Only some made it back to the nest where we now reminisce about the old days and remind our young to give the big house a wide berth as we continue what our ancestors have done for millenia.
We hush and tread softly when within sight of the place of carnage, paying our respects to generations wiped out at the callous hands of the then new owner. Marching in single file, we lift far more than our weight.
“No such thing as a free lunch” he’d huffed, but the cost of that meal was an exorbitant act of insecticide.
This story has lived in my phone’s memo app for months. It was time to release it. I may add an illustration at a later date.
First published July 19, 2017. Illustration added August 8, 2017.
Game, Set, Match
As much as she hated needles, Lynne was game for another dose, high spirited for 9 in the morning because Frank was home doing the vacuuming and once their respective chores were complete, they’d join the Senior Spartans on their monthly lunch outing. With the cold infusion slow dripping like a hipster’s coffee- into the orifice forged by the nurse’s ‘… little sting’- there was nothing to do but look around the room, make small talk with the nurse and other patient, or- as was mainly the case- look down at her gnarled hands, driftwood garnished with the ring Frank had given her 55 years earlier- hands that had changed Noel and Fiona’s nappies, held a glass to toast each child’s wedding, cooked countless shepherd’s pies- now too set in their ways to do as Lynne instructs. No way they’d hold the arm of the hoover much less a tennis racket these days, at least not long enough to raise much dust. Continue reading
The Droste Effect
Garnishing a Blood Mary with the stick of celery I’d bought at Al’s Corner Produce, I had no idea where I was, or where the hummus or Forrest were for that matter. Swallowed in the dark nothingness, once I’d lost my grip on Forrest, I was alone for what felt like hours. Time enough to regret my meddling that had caused all this. ‘It’ was what I wanted, but now that I was in It, feeling like the same person, but dressed differently, and from all appearances, working at a bar, I wasn’t sure what kind of mess I had created. Continue reading
Henfield was a small enough town that it didn’t take much digging to know who was with whom, where so-and-so worked, and whatever happened to that kid, you know- the one who lived two doors down from the Sanderson’s.
six degrees or less
a whispered cartography
strangers’ life path’s mapped
Forrest was back in town after finishing up his boarding days at Dunnstown Grammar. Trailing him discreetly, it seemed he spent much of his time either at the skate park or making a beeline, without any sense of urgency, between Al’s Corner Produce and his parents’ home. I knew his 18th birthday was approaching, so if my hunch was correct, whatever would happen was due to transpire in only a matter of weeks. I had to stay close without raising suspicion. Continue reading
It was with a heavy heart that I worked my way through the Sandersons that had spent the better part of their youth at Henfield Primary School. There was a whole brood of them- some related, others just sharing a relatively common name. James, Felicity, Veronica, Sandra, Jack, Noel, a lot of Kates, and many Peters. Finally. Cynthia. Occasionally I received a phone call from an ex-student or the parent of an ex-student, usually with an inspired idea for a 21st or wedding. Otherwise, the time capsules were returned to the ex-students themselves at the 20 year reunion- enough time would pass by then for there to be an appreciation of the insight into what their 10 or 11 year old selves could give them.
Cynthia’s mother had called grasping for something, anything, of her daughter. I knew who she was immediately when Mrs. Sanderson told me her daughter’s name. For the past year, her face, smiling with a hand proudly holding a medal that hung around her neck, had been plastered around railway stations, at local convenience stores and occasionally on the news in what has been shorter and shorter segments as time moves on and other missing persons, wars, government budgets and natural catastrophes compete for screen time. Not for Mrs. Sanderson though. Her grieving voice told me that the world and all its news had stopped for her and her husband the day Cynthia went missing. 17 years old, at another milestone in her life, having just finished high school and celebrating on the Gold Coast during Schoolies Week. No one knows what happened to her, or at least no one has come forward with what they know. All her mother wanted was one more piece of her little girl. Continue reading