Intermission: Kelvin

Kelvin didn’t believe his luck when three months earlier, at the Pine Creek Fair, Kathleen had danced with him. Frank was drunk, only getting drunker and probably for a dig at Kelvin, had asked Kathleen to dance with him. Kelvin didn’t mind – at least he got to be close to possibly the most beautiful woman in all of Pine Creek. Frank and Kelvin had gone through school together, and they had always been poles apart- studious to rebellious, quiet to raucous, law abiding to criminally inclined, responsible to spontaneous- the list goes on. It was at the dance that he’d first smelt Kathleen’s perfume, his nose close enough to the nape of her neck as they danced to Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”. He smelt hints of citrus and jasmine that gave him a heady, almost dizzy euphoria.

Much to Kelvin’s surprise, days after the fair, Kathleen approached him at the diner where he was seated alone, and slipped him a note written on a napkin. It read “Loved our dance, meet me Saturday 21:00 at the boathouse, near the oak tree”. And so their clandestine, non-consummated affair began. He’d counted down the minutes till that first rendezvous. In the three months, they hadn’t even shared a kiss, but it was hugely satisfying for Kelvin to be in the orbit of such a beauty, considering his last relationship, if it could be called that, was fourteen years earlier and had only lasted a handful of months. Kathleen had told him he’d reminded her of her father, but didn’t go into any further detail. He’d wondered what that meant was he the intellectual, quite type? He’d mused, while up late at night running their conversations through his mind over and over just to feel what he’d felt in her presence. Continue reading

Intermission: Frank

It was almost too easy, he thought. I disappear, assumed dead; Kathleen stays behind to sort out the paper work, sheds a tear or two; and then skips the border to join me with the proceeds of my life insurance.

Frank was lying on the single bed in the cheap motel where he’d been camped out for 2 weeks. His Spanish was good enough to order beer and the little food he could afford, so he was content. He fixed his gaze on the watermark on the ceiling. The damp, mouldy atmosphere wasn’t helping him to recover from the cold he’d had since the icy swim across the lake. The only regret he now had was giving up his boat to stage the accident. It had been his pride and joy, that is, his pride and joy second only to Kathleen. He smiled when he thought of her. They had met in LA where she was an aspiring actress and he was a bartender and part-time crook. She’d told him that he reminded her of her father but didn’t elaborate on what that meant. Was he a criminal? Did I look like him? He was never sure, but it didn’t matter.

Ever since they’d met, there wasn’t a day they had spent apart, until now. She had been close to breaking it in Hollywood, with an offer of a small part in a film by one of the major studios, when he’d asked her to marry him and convinced her to move to Pine Creek, where he’d grown up. He knew that since she was giving up her acting career to make the move with him, he needed to make up for the kind of lifestyle she had walked away from. He figured that he’d have to either move to more lucrative crimes or go legit and get a great paying job. The former was not possible as she’d agreed to marry him on the condition that he go clean, while the latter was not even worth entertaining- his only skills were breaking and entering, mixing a mean cocktail and car detailing, most times cars he’d acquired in unconventional ways. He had convinced her that faking his death wasn’t really a crime but a chance for a new beginning, a clean slate. His exact words had been “Our only chance at the goodlife, baby.” Continue reading

Found! Clues to the Buried Treasure of Island Number Twenty-Three

Breaking News: divers have found three figurines  off the coast of Samoa, in the South Pacific Ocean, giving weight to the legend of the buried treasure of Island Number Twenty-Three. It is said that many moons ago, under the decree of the Pacific King, whose kingdom spanned fifty-seven islands, a stonemason and his two apprentices were sent to the twenty-third island, which housed all the Kingdom’s treasures. There, they set about building and re-building the fortress around the island, much to the consternation of Whirlpool, the local wave god who felt all the treasures were his. Over many years, Whirlpool pushed with fury, the white froth of his anger slowly eroding the wall, but he made no headway as the stonemason and his two apprentices were meticulous in their repairs. One day, Tsunami, a visiting wave god from the Indian Ocean conspired with Whirlpool, joining forces to share in the spoils of Island Number Twenty-Three. Tsunami was tall enough to peer over the fortress, where he saw the stonemason and his apprentices at work. In his rage, he not only flooded the island, he cursed the stonemason and his two apprentices, turning them into stone figurines that could not hear, see, or speak, ensuring the whereabouts of the long since buried treasure remains a closely guarded secret.

 

Write approximately 200 words based on image of 3 stone figurines in the “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” pose. Prompt from Sunday Photo Fiction.

Bliss

Being true to my 30 day challenge

I am seated, preparing for entry nineteen

The contours of my chair are moulded to me ergonomically

A feature not shared by the too high wooden table

Upon which my arms rest, sleeves rolled up, bare skin cool against its surface

I hear the suckling and quick but barely audible breathing of my baby while he’s nursing

The perfume of his sweet baby-ness lingers

As I pause my typing

A quite stillness falls

My keyboard hushed

Reaching less than arms length, feeling my skin brush against the table’s grains

My hand is warmed by a cup of rooibos tea

Raising it to drink, its earthy, nutty, faintly vanilla scent embraces me

Footsteps across the room, the makeshift studio where my partner paints

The floor creaks against his weight

I imagine the sound I hear is a rag wiping against the coarse canvas

Then the thud of a frame being moved in preparation for the next

I feel the temperature drop

Winter is lingering

A reminder to start the fire for the evening

I anticipate the sound of crackling wood

The scent of red gum that pervades our clothes even when the fire is out

And the last of its embers radiate their heat

My partner gulps his tea and catches my gaze

I tell him what I’m doing, diligently compiling a list of all I hear, smell and taste

He asks “can you smell my earl grey?”

No, the floral notes of bergamot don’t travel well across the room

Or lose to the caramelly sweetness of carob rice cakes

Bite sized portions that lull me into gluttony

I hear the rustle of the packet as I dig around for the last remaining morsels

Followed by the crunch as I bite

The velvety smoothness of the carob melts, aided by the warmth of my tea

My heart recites poetry as I watch my baby, his eyes now closed

I’m content in the moment

Afternoon rolls slowly into evening

 

Write a list that transcends its orderly or numbered format (prompt from this DPchallenge, with list based on things I could smell, hear and taste at the time of writing).

Intermission: Kathleen

Intermission by Edward Hopper, 1963

 

Kathleen tried to keep her focus on the too-tight shoes she wore, specifically for the distraction they afforded. The clerk had asked her to be seated while he assessed her paper work- a whole cache of documents Frank had instructed her to take in. There had been one other customer ahead of her, but he made quite a scene, hurling expletives at the clerk and threatening to choke him by his tie through the small gap in the perspex that divided the waiting area and the clerk’s booth. The man was escorted into the side room through the door just to the left of Kathleen. She could still hear the man, though now in muffled tones that were hard to decipher.

Two weeks had passed since that foggy Sunday morning when Frank took his small boat with the two-stroke engine out on the lake for a spot of fishing. Kathleen raised the alarm when he wasn’t home by 7 pm that evening – unusual for him as the game was on, and tea was to be served. For the next 12 hours, until daybreak on the Monday, a search party was out looking for him. His boat wasn’t found, and it was safely assumed that he had died, leaving Kathleen a widow. She’d arranged the memorial service with Hanson & Sons Funerals, the same entrepreneurial family who operated the insurance company Hanson Merchant Insurance Co. where she now sat waiting for her claim of Frank’s life insurance to be processed. Ever since she’d moved to Pine Creek from L.A when she married Frank, it had bothered her that there weren’t enough degrees of separation in the town, but it was where Frank had spent his formative years, and he was keen to return to the sleepy fishing town. The chief constable of police who had led the search for Frank was also a Hanson. Continue reading

Scar Tissue

She looked into the mirror and mouthed, “I wasn’t a good mother.” She tried again but couldn’t make a sound, the words strangling her so as not to emerge. Tears pooled in her eyes and followed the noticeable lines, tributaries for the overspill. When did they get so deeply etched into my face? Time hadn’t healed the wounds, it only served to make the scar tissue a little smoother, or at least nondescript enough for Sara and her daughter to go for a few years at a time without mention of the past. But the past always inevitably came up.

By 21, Sara had already had two children, though not uncommon for the time. I left my homeland and everything I knew  for a country that was a world away. The language was foreign, the culture a deeply guarded secret that no one wanted to initiate her into. To the more liberal minded, she was an exotic specimen from a faraway place, making it acceptable to smile politely, speak slowly and loudly and reach out to touch her hair, the response always a giddy delight to feel her afro bouncing back after the uninvited hand was pulled away. The same differences that deemed her exotic made her a target of words she couldn’t understand, hurled at her in anger. That was the outer world. At home, where all should have been safe and familiar was just as hard, if not harder. A husband Sara hadn’t chosen, a marriage of convenience rather than one of love made her feel like an island, alone and stranded amidst unfamiliar waters. She told herself it was what was best for the children, leaving them with their grandmother in that faraway place where she’d become a stranger. It was easier that way, to keep the tears at bay, and Sara eventually believed it, believed in the idea of a family, a niggling thought at the back of her mind, the place where her hard earned money was wired. After 6 years, this idea was in her lounge room and she wasn’t equipped with mothering skills. Years rolled by as they do- two children who were strangers growing taller, becoming their own people, caught between two cultures, drifting further from the idea she’d held onto.

Now Sara’s daughter has a child of her own. I was hoping it would change things, a chance for a new beginning. She tries once again, but can still only mouth, “I wasn’t a good mother.” In her reflection, she sees the cruelty of time, she sees all that she could have been clouded over in her tear stained eyes. I wish that she loved me. Breaking the silence, her words erupt, spilling out quickly before she can change her mind, “I wasn’t a good mother” perhaps now if I tell her, it can be the beginning.

Me, Peaches & Sally

Jean-François_Millet_-_Gleaners_-_Google_Art_Project_2
The Gleaners, by Jean-François Millet, 1857

 

The supermarket backed onto an ally

Where I would meet Peaches and Sally

We’d forage for a meal

Damaged goods sans protective seal

What would Millet make of our glean?

Would he photograph the scene?

Upload it as gritty commentary

And go viral while remaining sedentary

It may cause uproar at the inequality

We’d have a hashtag titled #grittyreality

But the next big thing would come along

And interest in us would sing its swan song

 

Poetry inspired by Jean-François Millet’s The Gleaners

Writer’s Manifesto

Why do I write? That is a question I have asked myself at times when I am busy with any number of obstacles to writing, such as rearranging my desk for the seventeenth time in a week; ‘researching’ ideas before falling into a cyber rabbit hole; going for a walk to get ideas, only to replay conversations long over; or, just plain staring at a blank page, favourite writing pen in hand (no product placement here).

To loosely borrow from Descartes, I write therefore I am. When I write, I am confronted with the question “who am I?” In practicing the craft, I can’t escape: questioning the authenticity in my voice; the struggle between writing what I want and writing what I think I should write; wondering whether I sound smart, funny, interesting. In other words, when I write, I peel away the many layers to reveal myself. My writing practice parallels my life journey. When I give in to it and stop caring what others think, I am at my happiest. It is then that I am receptive to serendipitous offerings; “mistakes” unveil gifts; and, on reading an un-censored piece, I find a depth I hadn’t consciously intended.

Writing makes me feel alive- the act of creation that conquers the destructive force of my inner critic. I write to discover who I am, and I find myself in the characters, scenes, weaknesses, challenges and self-revelations that my writing unveils. And so I repeat, I write, therefore I am. To overcome my obstacles, I will remind myself of that over and over and over again with every stroke of my pen and tap of my keyboard.

 

Write a manifesto, making a forceful case for something (prompt from this DPchallenge, with inspiration from this post on writing a manifesto)

Art’s Spot

It had been a while since I’d taken a walk through Ashbury Necropolis, so I rugged up for the cool Autumn wind and headed out, hoping for some story ideas. I figured there must be new tenants since my last visit. There was always a feeling of reverence that came over me and left just as quickly when I walked through the imposing wrought iron gates decorated with angels blowing trumpets, entwined vines and other biblical imagery. The cemetery was laid out in a grid, with ample paths to walk between tombstones without inadvertently stepping on someone’s grave. I walked past the familiar sights- those who’d died old, those who’d died young, those that had left behind a wife, a mother, children, grandchildren, a husband, and those who died with too few words for someone like me to piece together the beginning of a story. The path I took was paved with autumnal beauty- crisp leaves that twisted this way and in their earthy shades. I continued to the largest oak tree, my favoured spot for sitting down with my notepad and pen. The neat lawn beside the tree was now carved up I noticed, and a new plot, a sizeable one at that, lay on what had been my resting spot.

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 9.26.37 PMI’m not the sentimental kind, but my first reaction on seeing a new plot is normally a tinge of sadness. In this case though, I couldn’t help but laugh at the comic sans font used for Mr Stanthorpe’s headstone, which seemed to also quote the man himself. Quite the sense of humour. I imagine he probably went by the nickname “Art” and didn’t take life too seriously, but how differently I would have taken it if say he’d gone with Arial Narrow, Times New Roman, or Century Gothic even, considering the circumstances. It could then have spoken of a man so in control that he couldn’t even trust the wording on his tombstone to those he’d left behind. I wondered too what he must have been buried in- perhaps costumes of the good life he’d allegedly lived- a scuba diving wet suit? A tuxedo that had been to a cocktail party or two? Rockclimbing gear complete with harness, rope and belay?

I liked the Art I was beginning to imagine, so I took a seat beside his plot and decided to ask him some questions. Lost in my imagined conversation, I was surprised by a shadow of a lone figure cast across Art’s spot. Turning around, I saw a woman, much shorter than her shadow, wearing a smile and a fuchsia ball gown. “Art used to see you sitting by that tree and said he’d like to be buried right here so he’d have some company.”

 

You are at a cemetery reading gravestones.  Write about one of the people you find (prompt from this site).

Flight

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We are experiencing turbulence and ask that you remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened.” AJ spoke the familiar words with practiced calm, but this time things were different. Flicking switches and adjusting controls on deck, he panicked when he noticed cabin pressure fluctuating, red lights flashing dire warnings. His heart rate quickened, echoing the knocks he could hear through the layers of steel. His hands unsteady as he made futile adjustments. Hyperventilating, his thoughts drifted to a regatta 30 years earlier, his hand in his dad’s, secure in their warmth and strength as he looked up to the dance of four planes, leaving a fleeting trail in their wake. They were coloured brightly, vivid blues, reds and yellows. He’d wanted to be a pilot since that day, vowing to make his father proud, to soar with invincibility through the sky, but he was always brought down to earth, reminded of his failings. A lifetime of regrets came into the focus of his mind’s eye with every tumble his plane took, hurtling toward its finale, without the grace and beauty of the stunt planes at the regatta.

 

Write approximately 200 words based on image of 4 planes doing stunts and maneuvers, leaving a trail of condensate through the sky. Prompt from Sunday Photo Fiction.