V/Line Vignette 7

Digging 11.06.19

George was on his way home from an interview with a construction firm. It was the first interview he’d had in over 37 years and he had to admit, he was rusty. What did diversity and inclusion have to do with laying reo and pouring concrete? He’d been given ‘voluntary’ redundancy following the merger of LH Kirby & Sons with a conglomerate that was buying up all the work along the northern sprawl out of the city and unsurprisingly, squeezing all resources to maximise profits. He didn’t need the money, but after 18 months spent excavating then backfilling his backyard, he decided it was time to return to the workforce.

To remain ‘in the game’ as he put it, he woke at 04:35 each weekday, donned his work gear, fed Henry his green parrot and meandered to the shed where he kept a bar fridge full of supplies for work lunches and smokos. Cranking the pie warmer on the bench was his first task for the morning, then he’d walk the length of the drive to the front lawn where the rolled-up paper lay waiting in its blue plastic sheath. To make up for the lack of banter, he’d turn on 3WAWA and listen to Robbo and Jonno talk about the traffic, sport, weather and the latest political and or celebrity scandal.

As soon as the sun rose, with the first light piercing through the eastern shed window, he’d sigh, stretch, say ‘another day another dolla’, pop a pie in the pre-heated warmer and step out of his shed, or site office as he called it, to start work for the day. Without a crew to manage, he only had himself to blame when shit hit the fan, like that time he cracked a pipe running from the outdoor dunny to the main sewer, but the upside was, he could  take all the credit when things went right, like all the other times he’d dug without hitting an underground service.

Shovel in hand, he’d carved out progress each day on the hole that was encroaching the colour bonded perimeter on two sides, the third spared because of Bernice’s roses. What started as a search for the rumoured buried lotto win of the man who’d previously owned the house but died with nothing but the house to his name turned into a much larger task— it gave George a reason to wake up each morning. A month into the dig, he’d resigned himself to the rumour being unfounded, but what the hell was he going to do with his time otherwise? And so, he dug. He dug Monday to Friday and occasionally worked overtime for half a day on a Saturday, dipping a little more into his savings for ‘payment’ when he did so, and treated himself to a Sunday roast at the Royal. Evenings were quiet. Henry’d get a feed and George would scrape together a meal for himself from at least 3 different tins for variety –chopped tomato, champignons and butter beans into which he’d throw in slices of fried sausage. That’d be it for the night, bowl of dinner in front of the telly until the next workday.

George’s project took an unexpected turn on an otherwise unremarkable day 15 months into his dig. Henry had been fed, his pie was in the warmer, Robbo and Jonno had bantered, and George had been digging nonstop since morning smoko when his last scoop before lunch made the clinking sound of steel on concrete that reminded him of the sound just before he was sprayed with sewage the one time he’d uncovered anything other than broken bricks, dirt or tree root. He stepped back to avoid a mess and was pleasantly surprised when nothing happened. Closer inspection of what he’d hit revealed the metal edge of something, and so for the rest of that day, he continued to dig with a renewed commitment to the project which now had a glimmer of its initial purpose. His digging got closer to the edge of the no-go zone, and still, despite the meter or so of the metal visible, there was no end yet in sight. George was faced with a choice that became increasingly urgent— the more he uncovered, the greater his discomfort and the clearer the answer; he began scooping up spadefuls of dirt into his gaping hole. He estimated it would take months to backfill, but there was no fortune large enough to make him disrupt the neat row of roses where he’d scattered Bernice’s ashes.

 

 

Missing Person

Watercolour image of objects in outer space- a milk carton, twinkling stars, a satellite and a gold medal, illustrating a short story serial

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

Terminal

Photo of ferry terminal at twighlight used as prompt for a flash fiction story
Photo by Charlie Hang

And so I have done it again, ignoring the glaring neon warning as he ferried me across decades to the losses that anchor me to vacant spaces; the chain pulling taut with less and less give as flotsam and jetsam gather and entangle in its rusty links.

On shore, telegraph poles line up like dominos before the fall, the dialogue between my ghosts echoing down the wire; different faces, same conversation.

I bid farewell to thee and seek refuge on my island, for I am the lighthouse keeper.

 

Inspired by Sonya’s Three Line Tale Week Twenty Three.

Transit

Photo of a rainy view through a train window- prompt for a flash fiction story three line tale
Photo by Wilson Lau

The carriage was full, travelers standing with shoulders, backpacks and elbows pressed, a carnival of scarves and beanies as the game-attending crowd created jostling hues of their allegiances.

With the approach of their stop, the ebb and flow of chatter reached a crescendo of deafening laughter and chanting, morphing the game crowd into a single organism, leaving Elise feeling even more alone on what was for her a milestone journey.

Replaying the moment in nightmares and obsessive thoughts of waking hours, she hadn’t imagined the station being a welcome sight, but with the crowd’s departure, there was momentary relief in tears no longer forced back by a levee of laughing eyes, blurring the tracks and trees like rain streaking the window, her sobbing gasps filling the void they’d left as the train crawled past the spot marked by cellophane and ribbons of a bouquet long gone.

 

Inspired by Sonya’s Three Line Tales, Week 18

Timeline

image for travel through the tumble weed week 10 featuring a story titled 'timeline' a short story based on a writing 101 promptSo here we are at week 10, the series finale. It has been lovely having you along for the ride, and getting to know some of my readers in the comments section of  posts which had been largely barren until we traversed the tumbleweed to rescue them from the cyber dust they’d been hidden under.

This week’s edition is a story which got a little traction in the comments when originally posted, with a few readers asking to read more. It never seemed the right time to explore the story further, and for a long time, I felt I’d exhausted all inspiration for the story line with the final punctuation mark. However, reading the funny and engaging Dalston Noir series on the blog Tomorrow, Definitely, I’ve been inspired to create a serial of sorts with this week’s travel through the tumbleweed post (thanks Dagmar!). There will be 5 to 10 installments coming up, of approximately 400 words each (theoretically, one a week*). Why 5 to 10? Well, aside from the next post I have lined up, I have no idea where the story will go, so who knows at what point:

  1. The story will come to a natural end; or
  2. I’ll get bored of it, in which case I wouldn’t want to bore you with it; and
  3. More than 10 is really pushing it (and my short attention sp..

Click on the image to take the final voyage through the tumbleweed. Mind the gap, and keep a look out for missing persons and objects you might stumble upon!

If you’d like to read  other posts from this series, check out menu item ‘travel through the tumbleweed.’

*installments, not words