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.
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 →
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 →
It seemed the most fun in the fairground was in the small kitchen where Aaron and I worked over the summer; preparing batter and churning out waffle after waffle, talking about our dreams, confiding our fears and laughing the laugh of two people on the same wavelength, a side glance enough to set off a shared, unspoken joke and a fit of giggles. When it quietened down, he’d create masterpieces – a kitten with waffle whiskers, a hot air balloon, and bravely, a telephone- I’d noticed the nerves when he asked for my number as I bit its curly waffle cord, the memory a welcome distraction, my mind wandering, pondering how dull that telephone would look if he were to make it now- imagining straight crisp edges, chocolate sauce dabbed in dimples for battery life, and maple syrup drips of reception silenced my inner critic’s commentary on broadened hips, silver streaks, and traces of life’s lines on my face as I approached the man sitting across the room. Continue reading →
Not for the first time, I approached the table that had been set for eleven, my mother’s best plates out for the occasion and a sense of abundance and joie de vivre conjoured on the surface by a decadent floral burst and fruit too waxy to tempt a bite. I stood at the head of the table, guests paused in a still life for my perusal, waiting for their cue. I noted they were all there- my three brothers, mother, father; their faces, clothes, expressions and mannerisms reflected by their mirrored selves across the table; my role as hostess was to select the ‘right’ version of each family member to take a seat, at which point I’d wake to the clammy anxiety of the pre-emptive consequence of getting it wrong, leaving the cold bone china plates empty, my appetite suppressed.