‘A Twist of the Wrist’- By Denise Picton

 

In the very last carriage, there were just about enough bottoms to match the number of seats. After rattling its way toward the Welsh border for an hour, the train suddenly screeched to a halt. A disembodied, rather bored voice advised that the police were chasing someone on the tracks, and the train driver was not permitted to move until given the all clear. It was not, apparently, the Great Western Railway’s fault.

A mother was trying to calm twin babies who were crying in stereo. She was making the kind of mother noises that rhyme with “goo” and aim to soothe, but the desperation in her tone only added fuel to their fury.

A young man with bleached pale skin, a five o’clock shadow, fine features, sky blue eyes and full pouty lips began to blow up a balloon he’d withdrawn from his suit jacket pocket.

He fashioned it with swift twists of the wrists. It became a blue bird, and he floated it over the heads of the crying babies two seats down. He nodded at the balloon as it dipped and dived over the infants, making them laugh.

‘How did he do that?’ asked the woman who had been knitting a long, cabled scarf in the seat behind the babies.

A boy in a too-small jumper that rode up his chest, almost empire line, called out, ‘I’d like one please.’

The pasty-faced man inflated another balloon that became a cockatoo and sent it to the boy.

‘Well,’ Click. ‘I,’ Clack. ‘Never,’ said the knitting woman.

‘What else can you make?’ asked a red-faced man in front of the knitting woman, and soon three more birds were floating above the seats. They began to fly in formation, a white dove in the lead. As the young man continued to inflate more balloons, the passengers cheered and made ooh and ahh noises. The men exchanged theories about how he did it. The knitting woman asked if he was from the circus.

A large, brooding man sat in the last seat in the carriage. He was the only person fortunate enough to have an empty seat next to him, largely because of the ferocious look he put on his face if anyone made to sit next to him. He watched the birds and called out:

‘Rubbish.’

For some reason, the balloons annoyed him. He lifted his meaty arm to push them away when the flock came near him.

‘Keep those bloody things to yourself,’ he cried out.

This caused the flock to swoop at him. Jumper Boy laughed.

Beefy Man snatched at the balloon birds, but they dodged him, artfully.

‘I’m not taking this shit,’ he said.

He stood up and stepped to the carriage door to leave, but the door was locked shut. After a minute, he felt silly trying to open it and sat down again.

‘Keep those bloody things away from me,’ he said.

Several people booed Beefy Man in response.

The balloon man was now creating floating flowers for a delighted crowd: bluebells and tulips, daffodils and roses. Everyone except the Beefy Man cheered and cheered.

A daisy floated near Beefy Man’s head and he reached up and snatched it. He tried to burst it with his nails but it wouldn’t succumb. Angry, he opened his mouth wide. His teeth looked like a broken grey jetty. He bit into the green stalk and the balloon went bang.

The daisy balloon screamed as the air slowly left it, its leaves waving like panicked hands.

The people in the carriage called out in alarm and disgust. Jumper Boy cried out, ‘You killed it.’

The pale balloon man crooked his finger and the wounded, deflating daisy floated back to him and when it was small and limp enough, tucked itself inside his jacket. The screaming reduced to a whimper, and then to silence.

The balloon man looked at the Beefy Man for a moment, his head cocked to one side. Then he started to blow a new balloon. He blew and blew. It grew larger and larger.

‘It’s a gorilla,’ cried Jumper Boy.

The balloon gorilla grew into a huge head, shoulders and arms. Soon it was four feet tall and four feet wide. The gorilla left the balloon man and floated above the passengers. It filled the space above their heads as it passed. Most people gave it a friendly tap as it passed. It continued on its way until it was above Beefy Man.

‘Get that thing away from me,’ said Beefy Man, ‘or I’ll burst this one too.’

The gorilla pushed its way into the space between Beefy Man and the seat in front of him. The huge balloon arms reached around the man’s head and slowly engulfed him.

‘The gorilla is giving him a hug,’ cried a little girl with a grubby frock and pigtails held up by two plastic ladybirds.

Beefy Man made a muffled kind of groan, and then he was very quiet.

Jumper Boy watched the balloon man through the space between the seats. First, he moved so he could see just one side of the balloon man’s face. They he turned his head to he could see just the other side.

The two halves don’t match, he thought. He’s made up of two pieces. But which piece wears a suit, and which piece makes magic?

The balloon man caught him staring through the space between the seats and winked and nodded.

Finally, the train moved, and everyone cheered. As they pulled into the station everyone heard a large click as the carriage doors opened.

They all filed out, talking and laughing and taking with them the balloon man’s creations.

Only Beefy Man remained in his seat, wrapped in the arms of the gorilla that continued to stare into his sightless eyes.


Words by Denise Picton

‘Nightmares’- By Amber Wurst

I remember the time when nightmares used to be monsters not people,

when I feared the creatures in the dark, not the ones hiding in plain sight.

Snarling teeth and sharp claws sent shivers down my spine,

now it’s unhinged smirks and wandering hands that make me uptight.

No is no longer a demand but a suggestion and they preach that my best bet is to cover up as prevention.

Chances are they will be let off for their transgression,

so I know there is no such thing as redemption.

Now it is no longer a matter of life or death but a bitter memory I try to suppress,

until it becomes a scar I’m too scared to address.

Instead I would rather digress and silently fight my mental distress.

Then it becomes just another secret that I possess.

Something I will never confess, because it’s safer to just repress the memory and shame.

Especially when all they do is victim blame and I know no one would ever look at me the same.

So now he is just a name I can never erase, and a face I will never displace.

I try to find a way to go on knowing that he is out there living someplace.

Meanwhile my world has become tainted and my sleep is contaminated

With dreams of being manipulated, and the ways in which I was adulterated.

Fighting is no longer for my life but for my sanity,

and fighting for the right to have control over my entity.

All the while wishing for serenity.


Words by Amber Wurst

Amber is a student at Flinders University. She has been writing for years but only recently began publishing her work on Instagram under a.wurst_poetry.

‘The Ripple Effect’- By Ash Leonard

 

I think we need a new start.’

The words were spoken so quietly Liana thought she may have dreamt them. Her body was screaming for sleep, her eyes gritty, but she made herself roll over, so she could see her husband.

Darkness rested below his eyes, almost like bruises, but Liana knew he was as tired as she was. It was only when the last of the light had vanished from the sky that they had decided to call it a day. Stinking of lanolin and stagnant mud, they’d trekked back to the homestead for a simple dinner of cheese toasties, eaten on the veranda in the coolness of the night air. Once, she would have seen the romance in that, but not tonight. She was too damn tired.

‘What do you mean?’ she asked, turning her face into her pillow to stifle a yawn.

‘I don’t know how to make this work.’ Matt’s voice was a half whisper in the darkness.

‘Yes, you do. Your father wouldn’t have left this place to you if he didn’t think you could keep up with it.’

Liana rested a hand on his chest, taking a moment to feel his heart thumping beneath her palm, the smoothness of his skin against hers.

‘It’s just going to take a bit of time.’

Matt gently pushed her hand off his chest, and rolled over, so his back was facing her.

‘Goodnight, Liana,’ he muttered.

She couldn’t quite pinpoint where she’d gone wrong, but she was used to his withdrawal now. Pulling the cotton sheet over her shoulder, she rolled to her other side, staring at the neon numbers on her digital alarm clock until the heaviness in her body took over.

*

Liana waved a six pack of beer towards Matt in what she hoped was an inviting way. She was dressed in a pristine white sundress, foundation hiding the ever-multiplying freckles across the bridge of her nose.

‘You’re sure you won’t come?’

She’d hoped he would take the beer and grab her hand to lead her towards the car. They could forget about sheep, drought and dust. Dull the memory with a six pack. Maybe a glass or two of wine.

Instead, half an hour later, Liana was fumbling with the keys to the ute as she grasped a homemade hummingbird cake in one hand and tried to lock the ute door with the other. The heat was already making the icing slide from the cake in great globs, running onto the glass plate.

Beth stomped out onto the porch, waving a bottle of wine in her left hand.

‘Come on, Li, the barbie’s fired up already, love!’ she called.

Despite the dust that was swirling in the afternoon heat, Beth’s ranch style house still looked immaculate, the windows sparkling in the sunlight. Beth lived on the same long, winding road as Liana did. Technically, they were neighbours, even though they were twenty minutes apart. Beth pulled Liana close and dropped a kiss on her cheek, before ushering her along the side of the house to the back veranda.

Coarse chatter filled the air, punctuated now and then by bursts of laughter. Beth pushed a glass of wine into Liana’s hand and gestured for her to take a seat as she started to busy herself with the barbecue, flipping sausages and steaks.

‘Look, I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do with the thing. My daughter dropped it off, said to feed it twice a day and she’ll pick it up when she’s got herself settled in the city. Well it’s been living with me for two months now. I don’t think she’s coming back!’

‘Oh, come on, Col, it’s just a little dog! How hard can it be to look after it?’ laughed Beth, shaking her head.

‘Mate, she dropped it off with a bow in its hair,’ Col replied, emphasising the last four words with a sneer. ‘It’s useless, and I can’t get rid of the bloody thing! It follows me around like a bad smell, into the cattle yards, the dairy, you name it.’

‘That means she likes you!’

‘You don’t want a dog, do you Liana?’ Col asked gruffly, raising his beer bottle towards her. ‘Not much good with cattle, might be alright for chasing after sheep. Less chance of getting trampled on. Not that I’ve tried to stop the thing from getting squashed.’

‘Nope, all yours, I’m afraid,’ Liana smiled.

‘Maybe I’ll be able to convince Matty. Where is he, anyway?’

Liana stiffened and took a quick sip from her glass. When she’d started dating Matt, he had been in his element amongst his friends and neighbours. Confident. Sure of his place in their community. He was the one who first introduced her to Beth. It had been ages since he’d last met with anyone, even just for a beer. Still, Col always asked where he was without fail.

‘There’s a fence down in the side paddock, so he was working on that today.’

She was careful to keep her smile frozen in place but tried to make it obvious she wasn’t going to enter into a discussion about this. Col didn’t get the hint.

‘We could have given a hand with that after lunch!’

Liana eyed the three empty beer bottles that were sitting on the ground beside his chair doubtfully.

‘It’s okay, better to get it done sooner than later.’

‘I heard those sheep are giving you a bit of grief, Liana,’ said Jason, one of the younger farmers sitting next to Col.

An urge to smack him in his open, friendly face took Liana by surprise. He’s just making conversation, she reminded herself. He doesn’t know.

He hadn’t seen the rift between her and Matt growing, leaving an absence of love where there once had been abundance. They barely talked anymore. She’d tried ignoring Matt until their house filled, room by room, with stale, suffocating silence and she couldn’t handle it any longer. She’d tried talking to him, pulling him aside after he’d finished working and sitting him down with a cup of coffee, explaining it was okay to talk about his feelings, like she was some sort of counsellor. She’d taken off, got in the beaten-up sedan she owned and driven until dirt roads turned to asphalt, and she was on her way to the city. Far away from worries about droughts and the mortality rate of livestock. Liana had been twenty kilometres away from the CBD, not intending to come back, when she realised her wallet was still on the kitchen table. If Matt had noticed she was gone, he didn’t mention anything. She sunk back into their predictable rhythm, waiting for a change in him, pushing aside the feelings of frustration that made her want to run.

Things started turning to shit when some of the sheep started showing signs of fly-strike, after a hard winter of blistering cold where many lambs died. Seemed to Liana the only thing sheep were good at doing was dying. Small misfortunes they once could have easily dealt with led to bigger issues, continuously expanding like ripples on a pond. Maybe they were cursed.

‘I can duck around if you like? Give him a hand?’

They were staring at her, waiting for an answer. She shook her head, telling Col to concentrate on the mutt that seemed to have an attachment to him. It did the trick. The eyes were off her, the knowing glances stopped being exchanged between her neighbours and they went back to laying into Col, who was doing his best to pretend he hated the attention.

*

She got home later than she meant to. The air was still warm, and the sky was fading to a dusky blue, with pink streaks of cloud spread across. She turned into the carport and turned the ute off, listening to the engine ticking as it cooled.

As she opened the door, a crack echoed, bouncing off the tin roof of the carport and the brick walls of the house, surrounding her, closing her in. Liana pulled the key out of the ignition slowly and stepped out, feet unsteady as they hit the gravel. She frantically glanced at her mobile phone on the passenger seat. She could ring Beth, ask her to bring the spare key. She would try to keep the shake from her voice and insist her house key must have fallen off the keyring at some point. She couldn’t go in by herself. Liana would let Beth go into the house first.

Another gunshot sounded, and a mix of relief and embarrassment flooded through her. She was just tired and strung out. She was sick of fielding questions all afternoon by herself, trying to gloss over the worst. Most of all, she was desperate for a cup of tea, and maybe some water. Beth had definitely been too generous with the red wine.

Matt met her at the front door, rifle in his hands. He gave her a perfunctory kiss, but neither asked the other how their day had been. They didn’t do that anymore.

‘I dealt with the sheep. It had to be done,’ he said, his voice quivering slightly as he scrubbed at a spot on the rifle.

‘What?’

‘It’s done. Could use the meat for the dogs, I suppose. Col might want some.’

‘Matt, you can’t be serious. Don’t we have contracts? We’ll be stuffed!’

‘Couldn’t do it anyway. Not with sick sheep.’

‘The vet might have…’

‘Liana, it’s done.’

Matt squeezed her arm and headed inside. Liana followed him into the silent house, wiping the beads of sweat from her upper lip. She answered Matt’s small talk, as if it were just a normal night, but she couldn’t stop eyeing the rifle. She kept the keys for the ute tightly gripped in her hand, steeling herself for the next ripple.


Words by Ash Leonard

Ash Leonard is a writer and editor from Bannockburn, Victoria. She holds a degree in Professional and Creative Writing from Deakin University, and has been published in various journals and blogs, including WORDLY magazine, Backstory Journal and two anthologies produced by the Ballarat Writers Association. You can find her on Instagram: @sundrenchedpage, or at her blog: www.sundrenchedpage.com.

Photo by Bin Thiều on Unsplash

 

 

‘Bob’s Truth’ By Emmica Lore

Bob was a goldfish. He lived in a fancy house with all the fancy trimmings – coloured pebbles, a deep-sea diver blowing bubbles and an ocean view. Bob was happy. Until he was not. Staring into the world beyond had Bob thinking about the meaning of life. Enter existential crisis.

He had always admired pelicans – they were imposing yet graceful (well that might be a stretch) and had the freedom to discover new lands and wistfully watch the creatures below.

It was morning, or maybe afternoon (how the hell would Bob know? He’s a goldfish) when an idea arrived. An epiphany. A light-bulb moment. An irrational thought from inhaling too many oxygen filled bubbles. Are bubbles filled with oxygen? Whatever science, who made you the boss of everything?

It was in that moment that Bob hatched a daring plan.

He was quite a fit-fish and it didn’t take long for him to achieve his goal. Plop! Bob had thrust himself out of the tank and was now lying belly-side on the carpet. He flapped about instinctively.

“Hmmm…well this sucks”.

As his last breath was drawn, the flapping stopped.

Bob’s soul rose from his tiny neon body and floated outside above a sandy shore. He could see a sleeping bird, no, a dead bird. Then, Bob had another epiphany. Wiggling his tail and using all of his fit-fish-soul muscles he drove downwards and into the chest of the stiff creature. Opening his eyes, the world seemed sharper and brighter. The smell of salt filled his nostrils and tickled his tongue.

Bob was now a pelican.

He stretched out his wings, pressed his webbed feet into the sand and savoured his breath as he inhaled real air for the very first time.

Bob flew from the beach to the jetty. From the jetty to the river. He discovered new lands and wistfully watched the creatures below. Bob was happy. Until he was not.

You see Bob was now a pelican and what do pelicans eat? He just couldn’t bring himself to dine on his fishy friends and so eventually Bob died of starvation.

And that is why you should never leave your fish bowl.

Or maybe it’s be happy with who you are?? Yeah, let’s go with that.

 


Words by Emmica Lore.

red skirtEmmica Lore is a creative person. She is a writer, poet and avid op-shopper who also makes art from time to time. Emmica is interested in sustainable style, philosophy, politics, art, feminism, whimsy and nature. You can find her on Instagram @emmicalorecreative

‘Bob’s Truth’ has also appeared on Lore’s website https://www.emmicalore.com/ and was previously featured in an exhibition.

 

Photo by Julieann Ragojo on Unsplash.

‘The Photographer’- By Callum J. Jones

Part One: The Death of Harmony

The funeral of well-known Australian photographer Harmony Carter was held on a cold day in the middle of July, in a little funeral home in the outer suburbs of Adelaide. About fifty people were in attendance, mostly close friends and family. More people would’ve come, but Harmony’s drug habit drove them too far away to care.

Julian Reese was one of the people who did come. He and Harmony were lifelong best friends. Her death struck him a hard, devastating blow.

On the day Harmony died, Julian had been couped up in his office at the law firm at which he worked, going over documents in preparation for an upcoming court case. He then got a call on his personal mobile from Harmony’s brother, Brennon.

“Julian,” Brennen said, his voice breaking. “Harmony’s dead. From a heroin overdose.”

Julian’s heart started beating wildly, and his lungs, it seemed, began refusing oxygen. Harmony, one of the most well-known landscape photographers in Australia, was dead. He managed to pass his condolences to Brennon and the rest of the Carter family. But as soon as the call ended, Julian let out a cry of anguish. He leaned back in his chair, peeled off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes, as though trying to stop tears escaping.

He and Harmony met each other on the first day of high school, when the teacher assigned class seats. They bonded straight away. They shared common interests in books, movies, art – the list goes on! They told each other everything.

Well, almost everything.

There was something Julian never told Harmony, and it was that he loved her.

He planned to tell her, but before he had enough confidence to do so, she came out to her close friends and family as gay.

Telling her he loved her was pointless, and he eventually moved on. He went on to have a string of partners before marrying, but his wife divorced him because he was a workaholic. But he and Harmony remained close.

*

The funeral was one of the saddest Julian had ever been to. He wasn’t sure if that was because he’d lost a close friend, or because the service and burial was gloomy.

Maybe it was a combination of both.

All he knew was that he felt immense grief. He knew Harmony’s family, as well as her partner, Keira (who also attended the funeral), felt the same way.

He got home late after the funeral, still feeling numb. He wanted – needed – a distraction, so he took out his phone and checked his emails.

He refreshed the inbox, and a new email popped up.


From: Amy Smith <a.smith@gmail.com>

To: Julian Reese <julianreese@gmail.com>

Date: 30th June, 2018

Subject: An Interview?

Hi Julian,

I’m sorry to hear about Harmony.

I’m just wondering if you’d be comfortable with me interviewing you for an article about Harmony. I understand if you don’t want to do it. Just let me know.

All the best,

Amy


Amy was an old friend he’d met at university. She was studying journalism while he was studying law. They met each other through the university magazine, to which they both contributed articles. She was now a journalist with The Advertiser.

He honestly didn’t know if he could manage being interviewed about Harmony. He could start sobbing mid-sentence, become lost for words and fall silent for minutes, he just didn’t know. And he didn’t want to embarrass himself.

But he’d probably get closure from doing it. To avoid embarrassing himself, he could spend some time preparing for it, like he usually did for court.

He typed and sent a response to Amy’s email.


From: Julian Reese <julianreese@gmail.com>

To: Amy Smith <a.smith@gmail.com>

Date: 30th June, 2018

Subject: Re: An Interview?

Hi Amy,

Nice to hear from you! Hope all’s well.

Yes, you can interview me. Just let me know where and when.

Cheers,

Julian.


From: Amy Smith <a.smith@gmail.com>

To: Julian Reese <julianreese@gmail.com>

Date: 30th June, 2018

Subject: Re: An Interview?

Thanks so much!

How about noon tomorrow at the Exiles Club?


Part Two: The Interview

As planned, Julian and Amy met the next day at the Exiles Club, one of Julian’s favourite coffee shops. Located in a building that was constructed in the 1930s, the coffee shop was elegantly furnished with an abundance of varnished wooden surfaces and furniture. It had French doors at its entrance, which today had been opened up all the way to let in fresh air. The staff always made great coffee, and you could get excellent homemade sandwiches and cheesecake. Newspapers were always on wooden racks, ready to be picked up and read.

Julian and Amy reminisced about their time at university as they ordered their coffees. But the interview began as soon as they sat down at a table for two, located in front of a window that looked out onto the street.

Amy held up her iPhone and asked, “Is it okay if I record the interview?”

“Go ahead,” Julian replied.

“Thanks.”

Amy opened up the voice recorder app, pressed record, and placed the phone on the table between them.

She then took a piece of folded paper out of her jacket pocket. As she unfolded it, Julian caught a glimpse of handwritten questions on it.

“Okay, so,” Amy began, glancing at the first question on the piece of paper. “How would you describe Harmony as a person?”

Julian looked down for a moment as he thought about his answer.

“I’d describe her as outgoing and observant. She was the sort of person to think two steps ahead. She didn’t like to take risks unless she saw a likeable outcome.”

“What were her strengths?”

“She always stood her ground, and was confident to voice her own opinions. She never followed the crowd in regards to interests, hobbies, and opinions.”

“What do you think her weaknesses were?”

“She was always over-thinking situations. She was also too honest for her own good.”

“What made her happy?”

“Seeing her friends and family. Spending time with her loved ones on a personal and intrinsic level always made her happy.”

As he said this, memories flashed across his mind of Harmony, happily talking and laughing with him and her other friends at high school.

But she told me once that it was really hard for her to feel happiness when the people you care for most in life are unhappy or miserable. She also loved summer nights, chocolate, coffee, and the beach. Also leopard-print clothing.”

She always wore leopard-print clothing. She also owned leopard-print blankets and pillows. Leopards were her favourite animal. Not only did she like their coat patterns, she was deeply interested in their evolution and behaviour, and was also had an extreme dislike for people who hunted them illegally. She once travelled to Africa and went on a safari venture to shoot photos of leopards in their natural habitat. She had a handful of her photos printed and hung them in frames around her house.

“What pissed her off the most?

“Dishonesty, and people who take advantage of others in order to make themselves feel superior or to assert superiority. She believed everyone is equal and has the right to be heard, seen, and to simply be the fullest and most natural form of themselves. She also didn’t like it when people feel pressured to conform to something they are not because others have deemed them as different, unusual, or not preferred.”

Another memory flashed across Julian’s mind, one he remembers fondly. A couple of years ago, Harmony called him up and asked him to come over to her place and help her sort through her clothes. She wanted to donate some to Vinnies. She hated the fact that people were living in poverty.

Amy glanced at her next question and took a deep breath. The next question, Julian thought, was going to be more heavy and serious. He’d better be careful in his answer.

“There’s been rumours about Harmony’s sexuality during her entire career,” Amy said. “Did she ever talk to you about her sexuality? Are you able to confirm it?”

It’s true that rumours existed about Harmony’s sexuality. She never spoke about it publicly. The reason for this interesting choice was that she regarded her sexual orientation an aspect of her private life. Having said this, she’d been seen more than once at high-end restaurants with another woman (Keira). This obviously led to speculation that she was a lesbian. Only her friends and family knew this was true. Harmony asked those who knew, including Julian, to stay silent about it. They all obliged, and Julian was not about to break his silence now.

“No, she never spoke about it to me.”

“Surely she did. You were her best friend.”

“Doesn’t mean she told me everything.”

Well, she did.

Amy got the impression Julian wasn’t going to budge, so she moved onto the next question.

“Harmony died of a heroin overdose,” she said. “Did she have a drug problem?”

She did, ever since she left college. She’d struggled with depression and anxiety all her life, and she suffered a mental breakdown after she left college. She dealt with this breakdown by snorting and then injecting heroin. She continued doing so for the rest of her life until, one day, she overdosed. She’d also smoked up to two packs of cigarettes a day and drank a lot of alcohol. Whenever she temporarily ran out of alcohol, she drank copious amounts of coffee. She obviously didn’t take good care of her health. Those close to her, Julian included, tried persuading her to go sober; they once even held an intervention for her. But she never listened, and continued living her unhealthy lifestyle. Julian hated it, and Keira and her family did too, but there was only so much they could do.

But there was no way in hell Julian was going to say all this. Harmony’s drug and alcohol problem was another thing she didn’t want strangers knowing about.

“She didn’t have a problem with drugs as far as I know,” he lied.

“Okay,” Amy replied, giving a nod. “How would you describe her career?”

“She was one of the most talented photographers I knew,” Julian replied. “Her photos were majestic. No other Australian photographer has come close to matching her talent, in my opinion. I think she’s the finest photographer Australia’s ever produced.”

Her photos were, indeed, majestic. She’d capture so much emotion and meaning in scenes that would appear ordinary to other people. One of her landscape shots depicted an old, abandoned wooden shed sitting in the middle of a flat field of grass, with mountainous hills beyond it. The shed and the field sat next to a road in rural Tasmania, and people would’ve driven past without even glancing at them. But the photo made you aware of the fact that nature ultimately prevails over manmade structures, because the shed (the centrepiece of the shot) was falling apart due to wind, rain, heat, and coldness. It still haunted Julian to this day.

“Well, I think I understand Harmony a bit better now,” Amy said. “Thanks for answering my questions so candidly.

“Not a problem.”

Amy picked up her phone and ended the recording.

*

Julian got home later feeling exhausted. It had taken a lot of energy to not get emotional while talking about Harmony with Amy.

He walked into his office, turned on his computer, and checked his emails. There was a new one from Amy.


From: Amy Smith <a.smith@gmail.com>

To: Julian Reese <julianreese@gmail.com>

Date: 6th July, 2018

Subject: Thank You

Hi Julian,

Thanks for letting me interview you today. I’m going to write the tribute tonight. It’s scheduled to be published in tomorrow’s edition of The Advertiser.

Cheers,

Amy.


Julian didn’t reply; he didn’t have the energy.

He shut the computer down and walked out of the office to watch TV. He fell onto the couch after turning on the TV and thought about whether he’d read Amy’s article about Harmony tomorrow. Wasn’t sure he could bring himself to read it. He hadn’t read any of Harmony’s obituaries; he’d avoided the death notices section of the classifieds since her death.

He decided he’d wait till the morning, to see how he felt.

Part Three: A Tribute to Harmony

The next day’s edition of The Advertiser landed on his doorstep in the morning, rolled up in plastic.

Julian brought it inside, unwrapped it, and laid it in front of him on his dining table to read while he drank his morning coffee.

He wasn’t sure why, but he was feeling much more positive today and he felt he’d be comfortable reading Amy’s tribute to Harmony. If he started reading it, he thought, and found it too much, he’d just stop reading.

He flicked through the paper until he got to the tribute.

Harmony Carter: Australia’s Finest Photographer

Amy Smith

Renowned Australian landscape photographer Harmony Carter died of a drug overdose last week, aged 40.

Having grown up in the suburbs of Adelaide, Harmony achieved national fame when she won numerous national photography awards for her first exhibition, titled “The Circle of Life”.

She went on to win more awards and prizes for her landscape photographs, which are widely regarded as the best in Australia.

She had a great commitment to her work. She frequently worked 18- to 20-hour days without any breaks, and did not seem to have any leisure activities.

Though hundreds of thousands of Australians have seen at least one of her photographs, Harmony herself is hardly known at all. She stood against all aspects of celebrity. She made her biographer leave out all personal details. Even her close friends and family refuse to reveal personal details.

Her best friend, local barrister Julian Reese, is one of them. He refused to comment on Harmony’s sexuality, her rumoured drug addiction, or any other aspect of her personal life.

But he did talk extensively to me about Harmony as a person.

He described her as outgoing and observant.

Something suddenly struck him: Harmony was observant, yet she never picked up that he had feelings for her. Even though he never had the confidence to tell her, he felt sure that his feelings must’ve shown through his actions and behaviour when he was around her. But she was completely oblivious; or maybe she twigged on to it but didn’t bring it up with him.

He looked up from the article for a moment, feeling as though he should’ve told her how he felt, just to save himself from silently pushing his feelings aside and forcing himself to move on.

But she was dead now. Unless time travel was invented before his own death (which he thought was unlikely), there was no way Julian could let her know that he once loved her.

After sighing heavily, he continued reading.

She was the sort of person to think two steps ahead. She didn’t like to take risks unless she saw a likeable outcome.”

He said she always stood her ground and was not afraid to voice her opinions.

She never followed the crowd in regards to interests, hobbies, and opinions,” he said.

She savoured the time she spent with her friends and family.

She also loved summer nights, chocolate, coffee, and the beach.”

She loved coffee a little too much, Julian thought.

According to Mr. Reese, a few of her weaknesses were over-thinking, and that she was always too honest for her own good.

She hated dishonesty, and people who take advantage of others in order to make themselves feel superior or to assert superiority,” Mr. Reese said.

Another thing struck Julian at this point. Harmony hated – hated – lying and dishonesty. Yet she lied about her sexuality and other aspects of her personal life when asked by journalists. He understood her reasoning to keep personal stuff private: he didn’t want other people to know the details of his divorce, so he never mentioned any it to anyone.

She believed everyone is equal and has the right to be heard, seen, and to simply be the fullest and most natural form of themselves.”

Mr. Reese added that Harmony also disliked it when people feel pressured to conform to something they are not because others have deemed them as different, unusual, or not preferred.

Another contradiction that Julian understood. Harmony consistently portrayed herself as a heterosexual woman who didn’t have any problems whatsoever. Though she never felt pressured to conform to this portrayal, she felt it was necessary to hide her true lifestyle to protect her privacy.

Mr. Reese believes Harmony is the finest photographer Australia’s ever produced.

Her photos were majestic,” he said.

No other Australian photographer has come close to matching her talent, in my opinion.”

Julian finished the article feeling satisfied. Amy had done a good job with the tribute. The piece provided Julian with a sense of closure.

But should he have told Amy the truth about Harmony? No, he decided. That would’ve been a betrayal to her, even though she wasn’t around anymore.

Harmony was gone. He couldn’t bring her back. He didn’t believe in the afterlife, so there was no point thinking he’d see her again.

He’d always remember her, but he must go forward into the future, not get bogged down in the past.


Words by Callum J. Jones

Image by Mia Domenico on Unsplash

IMG_0080Creative, honest, and reliable, Callum J. Jones loves writing fiction and non-fiction. In his spare time, he likes to read, watch movies and TV shows, and go on walks.

You can follow him on Facebook (@callum.j.jones.writer) and Twitter

‘Swallowing Oceans’- By Maalika Jacobs

When the Great Crabs come frothing from the ocean- angry and spitting- it’s Meeko who leaps upon them, shoving them into the rusted tin bucket.

He’s young though. Unpractised.

The Crabs seem to know this, and their claws flash in the early morning light to tear at the fingers that grip their wet bodies. One of them nips triumphantly at a bit of his skin, drawing blood, and Meeko swears throwing the thing into the bucket. He wishes there was someone to see him. They’d think he was nearly a man; what, with the easy swearing and the heavy bucket of wriggling Great Crabs.

Meeko adjusts the bucket, wincing as the metal handle digs into his palm. He swears again, just to see how it sounds out there on the desolate beach. Then he’s up, padding along the grey shoreline all the way to the bush trail that leads home.

Meeko ploughs up the trail, dragging his feet so that the sand clings to the browned soles of his feet. Above him, the flowering colours of the sun’s rising face licks across the sky; an eggy mess of pink and yellow and orange. Meeko loves that sky. But Mamma thinks it’s too tricky- always changing colours, always changing faces. A bruising storm one day, a yawning pale belly the next. Meeko reaches out a hand to the sky anyway, pretends to peel those orange streaks right off it, and places them on his tongue. He smiles at the taste, at the syrupy warmness sliding down his throat.

Real food would be good though. Meeko frowns peering at the bucket of Great Crabs. But the cooking of the Crabs, the tearing off the armour to get to the soft gleaming meat inside, that’s Pappa’s job. Meeko will only make a mess.

He sticks his tongue out at the seething mass of Crabs then carries them over to the side of the house. It’s a weather-beaten thing, tall and ancient, standing alone on the top of the cliff like some forgotten saint.

Meeko glances inside but the white-washed walls only greet him with silence. He shifts uncomfortably, thinking how long it’s been. Probably days, but it feels like years. When will they be back?

Soon, soon,’ he sings to himself. He wanders over to the edge of the cliff since there’s no one around to stop him. The ocean crashes below in a mess of grey, blue, and white, hurtling against the base of the cliff like it wants to topple it. But Meeko raises his hands above his head, stretches high so that the sky is his crown and spits off of the cliff into the water, reminding the ocean who the real king is around here.

But king or not, he’s alone. With the Crab catching and spitting done, Meeko realises there’s nothing left to do but wait. He sits so that his legs dangle off into the endless air. He pulls his thin jumper tighter across his chest and taps his right hand once, twice against his lips for luck and counts and counts the minutes that crawl by.

Waiting

               Waiting

His eyes squeeze shut for a long time and he’s lost in the strange, dark shapes that swirl behind his lids.

When he finally opens his eyes, the gulls are swooping in circles and the ocean is roaring even higher and there- like an apparition along the shore- there they are.

Meeko’s on his feet in a second, running past the house and the bucket of Crabs, skidding dangerously down the crooked path. There’s a small boulder right at the end of the trail and he tries to leap it over it but misjudges his timing and stumbles over it bashing his knees hard against the rough sand. But he doesn’t care he doesn’t care, he picks himself up and sprints down the damp beach towards those figures.

The Crabs scuttle quickly out of the way. Not even the ocean tries to slow him down with its foaming wet tongue.

Mamma!’ he yells, lifting his arms, waving them like wings. ‘Pappa!’

His parents are moving slowly, barely touching each other, their heads bent low against the salty wind.

Meeko’s close enough now to see their faces. He skids to a stop, trying to calm himself.

Mamma?’

Mamma looks up, but her eyes are glazed, dead stars. She says nothing.

I caught the Crabs this morning,’ Meeko says.

She doesn’t curve her lips into one of her soft smiles like he thought she might or ruffle her hand through his mess of dark hair. She brushes past him, as if he’s not even there, and continues down the beach. Pappa watches her go, his jaw set like stone, and for the first time Meeko notices something. It’s pressed against his chest, hidden in the folds of the oversized jacket and bundled up in a grey blanket.

Is that . . .? Can I see?’ Meeko reaches up to touch the small thing but Pappa recoils and Meeko’s hand falls away holding nothing but air.

Sorry. I’m sorry. I- You scared me. Here. Take her.’ Pappa lifts the small thing from his jacket, tucking it gently into Meeko’s arms. ‘Don’t move, do you hear? Don’t move, Meeko. I need to get something. I’ll be right back.’

Pappa trudges past too. He’s quicker than Mamma though. He scuffs right past her, going up the trail and leaving her behind.

Meeko shifts his arms to hold the small thing more securely, confusion choking his mind like smoke. What’s wrong with his parents? He thought they’d be happy to be back, happy to show the small thing to Meeko.

Meeko peeks curiously at the mound of flesh in his arms, using a finger to lift the blanket away from her face. He smiles, sunshine spilling in his chest. She’s asleep, eyes squeezed shut and little hands clasped together. No hair. But her ears are exquisite- tiny sea shells tinged the palest of pinks.

Sister.’ The word rushes from his lips like a quiet ocean wave. He leans down, kissing the tip of her nose. She’s not at all warm and squishy like he thought. A bit pale too. He lifts the blanket over her again, thinking it’s probably just the cold air.

But then something- fear– flickers in the dark corners of his mind and he lifts the blanket up again to see her face. Pale, still. So still. He turns his head, bringing his ear down to her mouth to listen for her breath but all he can hear is the drowning pounding of his own blood roaring in his ears. Pulse. There must be a pulse, right? He finds her hand, feels her stiff fingers, doesn’t even know where he’s supposed to feel for a pulse. Sister. Sister?

Meeko.’

Pappa’s walking towards him. There’s a box in his hand and a small wooden bowl of salt.

Meeko sees the things, knows what they’re for but he doesn’t quite understand.

Pappa?’

I’m sorry Meeko, I’m sorry.’ Pappa’s words are rushed, pouring out too quickly for Meeko to grab onto. ‘These things happen. The Healer did his best but sometimes these things just happen.’

What things?’

It wasn’t meant to happen.’

What things!?’

Meeko.’ Pappa shakes his head, tears sliding down into his beard. Meeko can’t help it, he sobs. Only once. A hard, racking cry that makes the dead bundle in his arms shudder.

We brought her home,’ Pappa rasps. ‘We’ll send her off the right way. Be strong now, Meeko. You knew this might happen. We knew.’

Meeko watches his father drop to his knees, set the small box down on the sand and lift the lid. ‘Pass her here.’

But Meeko holds her tighter, his fingers digging into the rough fabric of the blanket.

Come now. This is the way. We have to send her off right,’ he says again.

Meeko sniffs, wiping at the burning in his eyes. He gets to his knees, ignoring Pappa’s outstretched hands, and softly sets his sister down into the box. She fits perfectly.

Pappa closes his eyes for a moment. An eternity. Then he reaches for the bowl, pinching up a few grains of salt and touching it to her frozen lips. Meeko does the same. He looks away when Pappa puts the lid back on.

What about Mamma?’ Meeko asks.

Pappa stands, turning to the ocean with the box clutched to his heart.

She doesn’t want to see. It’s just me and you.’ And he holds out a shaking hand.

Meeko takes it. Feeling Pappa shake makes him steady.

Together they wade out into the crashing waves, shivering involuntarily at the biting cold. They stop when the waves are far behind and the water gets to Meeko’s chest. They’re both shivering so bad they can barely speak. Pappa lets go of Meeko’s hand, taps the top of the box once, twice for luck and then places it on the seething surface of the sea.

They watch her go. Meeko wonders how long it will take for her to sink. The sinking’s inevitable, Pappa used to tell him. She’ll drift to the bottom, the weight of the water pressing down on her sea-shell ears. She’ll be swallowing oceans and oceans forever. Maybe the Crabs will find her. There’ll be no armour to stop them from nipping, biting, clawing.

The ocean swells around them, pushing at Meeko’s legs and trying to unmoor him. He wobbles, almost swept along with his sister by the strong current. But Pappa’s there, his hand gripped tight around Meeko’s wrist, anchoring him.

They watch the baby go,

the soft sound of her small soul

     drifting

                  drifting.


Words by Maalika Jacobs

Growing up, books were the worlds I lived in. Each book, each page, each word was where I not only where I met heroes and villains and all sorts of wild, wonderful people but where I met different versions of myself. The best and worst parts of my self- each scattered through the words of someone I’d never met.
So of course I began to write. I write in the hopes that one day I can create something important- that one day another person may stumble across my words and find a reflection of themselves etched in paper and ink.

‘Back To Californian Spring’- By Sydney F.W. Stout

 

 

I am scared of the dark and,

With every step yet more lost.

 

I know no path, yet fear my steps false,

Every one an investment in mistake,

A folly of naivety and hope.

 

I’ll reach for the flicker ‘n’ flame,

I dare to hope – a chance not lost.

Where I’ll be is gone; where I was,

Where I head, all forgot.

 

No, there’s a place for me,

For all us stumbling and reaching,

With no cause to hope 

Yet that is what we’ll do,

All with hope to fight despair.

 

Last I saw in light,

Was one green Californian spring.

And memories cheat me but before –

Before things went dark, before I feared

A devil’s footsteps trod truer than mine,

Yes, there was light and a line to walk.

 

And there, somehow, I shall find myself a way.

 


Words by Sydney F.W. Stout

Ordinary Objects: Percy the Puzzle Piece

Percy is the filler piece of the puzzle.

The plain blue patch of sky that gets popped aside while all the other more striking pieces get matched up. Forgotten as colourful patches of grass with glints of wildlife are pieced together and trees are built from the trunk up to the tips of their autumn leaves.

Lying patiently, Percy waits on a quiet corner of the table, eager to be placed amongst the other pieces. He is lost under coffee cups and couch cushions.

The puzzle is never completed, but “will have to do,” as Percy is nowhere to be found.

Years later, Percy is plucked from his spot wedged between two floorboards. The puzzle he belonged to has already been discarded. No one remembers where Percy came from, or where he’s meant to go.

Percy is discarded, never completing anything or reaching his potential as part of the bigger picture. Percy the patient puzzle piece.

 


Words and art by Lisa Vertudaches

14117837_1175055035900900_9161235252814084858_nLisa Vertudaches is an independent illustrator & animator, working from a studio in Adelaide, South Australia. Specialising in looping GIFs, Lisa really enjoys creating cute, silly and sometimes absurd animations and illustrations.

 

 

www.lisavertudaches.com

 

‘The Lovelies’- By Audrey J. Menz

Each of the three women bore a red heart-shaped tattoo on her shoulder with the phrase ‘The Lovelies’ in striking black calligraphy. Once, they had worried the tattoo might prove more permanent than the name. Now they hid their ink with the sleeves of frilly white chiffon shirts.

Standing beside the parking meter, ticket in hand, Amy watched the officer survey the three old women organizing themselves into the Mustang, his heavy brows furrowed. He took in their weathered brown skin and dark black bobs with roots of grey, shirts hemmed in frills, and pink lipstick staining off-white teeth. They had tottered over the cracked sidewalk in clacking satin heels, too tall for their fragile frames. They had worked quickly, the oldest of the trio pulling open her own door and lowering into the car, wrinkling hands gripping the doorframe, before she leant back to unlock the passenger side doors for her sisters.

From behind the wheel, Murielle Martins pulled on a pair of soft leather driving gloves and chunky black sunglasses. She blew the man a teasing kiss and behind her the women erupted in giggles. The officer was young and tall with a dimpled mouth dusted in 5 o’clock shadow. Amy’s mother loved a man in uniform. ‘You need a little danger when it comes to love, Love,’ she was fond of saying.

Amy watched the man glance back and forth from her to the women in their Mustang, silver rims glinting in hazy afternoon light. He knew something was off and she wanted nothing more than to melt away into the concrete.

Why don’t you talk to the officer,’ Murielle had winked dramatically and called from beside the car. ‘I’m going to sit and rest these old bones.’

Amy had fought to keep her jaw from dropping, ‘really Mum?’

Murielle hadn’t replied. Amy’s aunts grinned at her like Cheshire cats.

Amy turned to the man and brushed down her frilly white chiffon dress, drawing his eyes. She had grimaced internally as the car clicked open behind her, ‘I can explain.’

The parking officer folded his arms. A small smile played on his thin lips, but his voice was firm, ‘Miss, this is a two-hour parking zone. You’ve been here well over that time.’

She sighed, turning to gesture with the parking ticket she’d plucked from the windshield to the women in the car. From the driver’s seat Murielle smiled sweetly with off-white teeth. ‘Officer,’ Amy pleaded, ‘you have to understand how long it takes me to get them anywhere. Yes, we’ve been here over two hours. But we would have been back well before the two hours,’ she raised her voice slightly, side-eyeing the trio, ‘had we not stopped at every hat store in the state.’ Her aunts in the backseat of the car visibly bristled in their new feathered bonnets. Amy met the man’s gaze once more and found him smiling. Something in her chest leapt slightly and she continued, ‘we were supposed to be going to the post office.’ She waved the unstamped letter she still held in her other hand, ‘we didn’t even make it halfway down the mall.’

Behind them, the youngest of the trio flourished a large paper bag from the backseat of the car, ‘Ames, the scones will go cold.’

Amy leant towards the man somewhat conspiratorially, ‘somehow we still made it to the bakery.’

The officer let out a huff of laughter and Amy felt a corner of her mouth turn up. In the distance the open mall was alive with voices and music. A busker’s acoustic guitar strummed gently.

The officer moved to lean against the parking meter. ‘Mr. Anand does make the best scones,’ he conceded. He ran a hand through slick black curls before propping it on his hip. ‘I suppose-’ he stopped, sniffing the air. Amy smelt it too. She felt herself cringe into her chiffon monstrosity of a dress.

The officer’s head jerked towards the Mustang where trails of smoke drew up into the air. ‘Are they smoking weed?’ His brows had risen into his hairline.

Talk to the man indeed, Amy sighed.

The women lent out the car windows dragging from a hand-rolled joint they passed cheerfully between them. Muriel met their eyes and waved them away. ‘Nevermind us,’ she mouthed, leaning further out of the car when the officer continued to stare, pulling away from the parking meter and propping his hands onto his holster. Business once more.

Cigarette hanging daintily from one corner of her mouth she called, ‘it’s for my hips.’ Satisfied, she drew back into the car to fiddle first with her driver’s seat, then under the dashboard, smoke trail darting.

It was the officer’s turn to sigh, long and low. He met Amy’s pleading eyes. ‘I can explain,’ she started.

He held up a hand to stop her.

Please, Officer, I’m the one who has to drive home with them now.’ She tried for levity, ‘have some mercy.’

He shook his head, ‘believe it or not my Ma’s the same. Nothing the meds can do for her, and nothing new the doctors can prescribe.’ His smile was small now. ‘I’ve learnt to turn a blind eye where I think it’s important.’

Amy felt herself relax a little.

But,’ he continued, ‘this is a two-hour parking zone and you have been here well over that time.’ He shrugged, voice smug, ‘that results in a fine.’ Distantly, the trio started laughing over again. Amy pocketed the ticket and the officer glanced her over. Quickly he added, ‘some friends and I drink at Benny’s on Fridays. ‘Round Eight.’

Amy blushed, pulling at the frills of her dress, ‘right.’

He made to shake her hand then thought better of it, propping it on his holster. ‘Right then,’ he echoed. ‘As you were.’ He turned, then, ‘It’s Evans,’ he said.

Amy.’ A final nod, and she watched him keenly as he walked away down the quiet street.

Amy approached the Mustang. Her mother and aunts grinned at her with hot pink mouths.

‘You’re going to make a wonderful Lovelie,’ Muriel said. They’d finished hot-wiring the Mustang. The women rolled up the sleeves of their frilly white shirts. Amy knew they found their ink just as permanent as their name. ‘Now let’s see about getting you that tattoo.’

 


Audrey J. Menz HeadshotAudrey J. Menz is currently studying a Bachelor of Creative Writing at the prestigious Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. Her studies focus upon the representation of gender and women in contemporary media and arts. When she’s not stalking her favourite YA authors online she’s writing fantasy with LGBTQ themes or shouting into the void. This is her first publication.

‘The Bus Stop of Innumerable Displeasures’- By Piri Eddy

Crust Bucket sits on the bus stop bench under a 10cents sky

fat with impending rain

as wind whips warm with hints of bin juice.

Some kids have knocked over the trash receptacle

nearby.

Crust Bucket pegs his nose with dirt caked fingers

to avoid the stench.

Miss Down on Her Luck clops like a plastic horse.

Late again,

but so is the bus.

Deep sigh of relief, of exhaustion.

Life =\= the picture books.

A flash

as her mirror

catches the dull light of morning.

Lipstick squiggled across pursed lips.

It’s gone off-road.

Scrub here, rub there.

Perfect.

Miss Down on Her Luck clicks away

her face and spots Crust Bucket

looking like a crumpled bin bag left out in a hurricane.

Crust Bucket scrapes across the seat

to make room.

What. Ah. Gentleman.

Miss Down on Her Luck would rather not,

sorry.

Another gust of hot stink.

Banana peel? Mouldy sandwich?

Disillusionment?

Council workers don’t get up before 9am.

Obviously.

Shaggy Dog emerges from the bushes.

Bristled fur smeared with excrement.

Trots like it’s his birthday

to the upturned bin.

Hang Dog, slighter of frame and bow-legged,

scurries close behind.

The pair stick wet noses into wet,

sloppy trash and their hurried gnashing seems

perverse on that dour morning.

Crust Bucket grins that baby grand mouth,

missing a D# and an F.

Miss Down on Her Luck busies herself with an errant thread

on the cuff of her shirt.

To block it all out.

The bus is still

MIA.

A triumphant woof!

Shaggy Dog has something.

A rat hangs limp from the mutt’s mouth like

a tired, old sock-puppet.

Crust Bucket hoots.

Hang Dog

nips at the loose end of the rat

and then both dogs have it.

Stretch and twist.

Twist and stretch.

Miss Down on Her Luck forgets her errant thread

and watches the scene:

the dogs as they grunt and growl,

Crust Bucket slapping his knee with pleasure,

the upturned bin.

It begins to rain.

And then:

The sock puppet reaches

the absolute limits of stretchability –

tears in two –

squirts blood and guts and stinking juices,

like fat toes through punctured fabric.

A gleeful Crust Bucket.

The dogs lose much of the good stuff.

If they were anything other than dogs,

they might have been more

diplomatic.

Miss Down on Her Luck watches those

dogs eating their measly fill.

Legs cock to mark the bin as:

Property of Dog”

before trundling off into the bushes.

Miss Down on Her Luck peers down.

A red splattering of rat on the end of her boot.

Face sags.

Today is

a bad day.

The hot morning rain falls like

piss off a balcony.

Miss Down on Her Luck waits

for a bus that might never come

as Crust Bucket rolls a cigarette

and smokes it to the nub.

 


Words by Piri Eddy

Photo by David Clarke on Unsplash