In Conversation with Lucy Moffatt

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honour of sitting down for an interview with Lucy Moffatt, author of Some Days. Over a cup of coffee, she delved into the process, emotion and the power of female friendship in her memoir. Written as a last conversation with her best friend, Chelsea, who she lost to cancer in 2016, Moffatt explores their friendship, immortalising Chelsea and finding a way to heal from such a devastating loss.

You describe your memoir as “one last long, winding chat with the memory of your best friend.” What was the catalyst for writing it this way?

I initially wrote my first manuscript in the traditional memoir style and it was okay, and I think I could have made something pretty good out of it. I can’t really remember how the idea came to me and at one stage I thought ‘what if I change this?’. Instead of talking about Chelsea, I addressed her directly. About the same time, I felt that I’d like to include her writing in the story. Once I started rewriting it that way, it was like the heart of the story suddenly came to life. I’d been struggling a lot with feeling like ‘oh this is so self-indulgent,’ writing a memoir. Like who cares?

Reframing it as a last conversation with her really brought out what I wanted the book to be. That’s what our friendship was. Especially those last few years when she was really sick, it was just sitting in her bed, with the T.V. on in the background and just chatting all day. It felt really good once I started to evoke that.

Two big concepts that came up in Some Days were regret and vulnerability. Could you talk about that a little bit?

For me vulnerability came first. There was this really clear idea that I could go one of two ways. I could try to run away from the things I was feeling and try to conceal it. Or I could take a deep breath and turn around and face it. And the way I thought I could do that was to try and be vulnerable and be publicly vulnerable. To ask for help and to talk about how I was feeling and more and more I started to feel like that could be the source of my strength. I could make something beautiful out of what I’ve been through.

The regret thing took a lot longer. It took a long time for me to feel like it was okay to say I made a mistake and I regret that. It’s so taboo and even now people are like: ‘oh no, no don’t say that you did what you had to do’, but the outcome was really awful. That was my call, and I made the wrong call and I have to own up to that. That was a chapter I wrote quite late, I don’t think it was until the third draft that I even wrote about regret because it was such a massive hard thing to tackle.

It’s the first time in my life that I could say I was in the wrong, but also be kind to myself about that not haranguing myself about it, not punishing myself for it.

You say in the epilogue that you put “our” story down, and you did this through Chelsea’s blog posts. How important was it for you, to have Chelsea’s own voice in your book?

As soon as I had the idea, [her words] were the thing that made it all hang in the balance. If I couldn’t include Chelsea’s words, then there was no point in writing the memoir.

She was a good writer, it wasn’t that she wanted to be a writer. I like her voice and I know she would have loved to be in print that way. Part of it was being a loyal friend. I also knew it gave an edge and a strength to the book.

You also touch on some very personal yet common issues such as mental health, the struggle to fit in, and sexuality. How important was it for you to record these difficulties you had growing up?

Initially, when I started writing it, I wasn’t going to write about anything separate from Chelsea. As I was writing I was realising how these other things fed into the grief I was feeling and into my friendship with Chelsea. One of the reasons our trust and our love and our friendship ran so deep was because being with her was like being apart from some of the things I faced growing up. We just accepted one another.

This experience of losing my friend is fairly specific, some people experience this loss, but these other things are quite universal. Lots of people don’t fit in. Lots of people struggle with who they are. Lots of people have difficulty accepting themselves. And if I’m writing about something so vulnerable, that I want to share, why not be vulnerable and use my voice?

You talk about positive female friendship and that it wasn’t until you got into your twenties that you were able to understand and grasp that. How important do you think it is to have these representations of positive female friendship?

Art can represent life as it is and represent life in a way that it can be. I’m speaking for myself here, but I have a tendency to emulate what I saw on screen, or what I read in books. If I was watching Gossip Girl my friendships were very different to what they were supposed to be. I love that quote: you can’t be what you can’t see. I really believe in role models and I really believe in representations of all kinds. Particularly with positive female friendships.

What was the personal transformation you feel you underwent while writing this book?

I think, what really shone out for me once I got towards finishing the book, was that I always wanted to be a writer, and I’d had some quite good ideas over the years but never followed through on them. I thought that was some kind of personal failing on my part like ‘oh you can’t focus’ or ‘you don’t have what it takes’. I think all it was, was that I had all growing up to do. I needed to work out what I have to say and how I want to say it. And to reach a point of self-acceptance where I can comfortably believe that what I have to say is valid and valuable. I think that was the biggest thing, learning how to put [my doubts] to the side and believe in what I’m doing.

Because it’s a memoir, I got to know myself a lot better. There were lots of things I wasn’t going to write about until I realised they’re all interconnected and that was really freeing. All of these things impact me and have impacted me. They are just a part of my journey and that’s important.

Do you have any events coming up that people reading should, know about?

I’m getting to do a podcast, called Just Make the Thing. We’ll be talking books, but really the podcast is about creativity and doing the work. We’re going to talk about how creativity can be a way to cope with grief.

If you could say anything to someone who was about to pick up your book what would you like the say to them?

Firstly, most of the feedback has been to keep tissues handy, because it’s sad. But I don’t just think it’s sad but kind of funny and some parts are neutral.

My big message is really to allow yourself to be vulnerable and allow yourself to be connected to people. Those two things are wells of strength that are far too often overlooked. That we’re stronger together than alone. Don’t be afraid of those big, scary feelings because they’re a part of it, they’re a part of all of us. It can be a source of strength if you allow it to be.

I want to say to anyone who is terminally ill, or who loves someone who is sick or who has just lost a loved one, or to those people who are struggling with mental health or self-acceptance, that whatever you are feeling is okay! Even the big, terrible emotions are fine and normal, and they do pass. And you are loved! There are so many people who want only to see you happy and at peace. Again, vulnerability and connection give us power and strength.


Words by Georgina Banfield

‘Having dispatched me’- by David Faber

Having dispatched me

to Ultima Thule,

she came to see

me off at the

airport, promising

to visit soon, and

I quoted to her

in pain: from the

moment I could

talk I was ordered

to listen. Now there’s

a way, and I know

that I have to go.

For ostracism was

ever ordained

for thought crimes,

and I was upstanding,

sounding the alarm,

like a frightened

drummer boy.


Words by David Faber

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Some Days

Some Days
Lucy Moffatt


 

Some Days is the debut memoir of Lucy Moffatt, which focuses on the friendship between her and Chelsea. It is a part coming-of-age story, an attempt to come to terms with grief, third wave feminist manifesto, and an exploration of the human heart. This book was a comfort to read, to have experiences which were so close to my own on the page: the struggle to fit in, grappling with mental health, and the assurance that being fifteen was a bad time for everyone.

Moffat’s “one last long, winding chat with the memory of her best friend,” Chelsea, entreats us to the private memories, personal feelings and her process of piecing herself back together after the devastating loss of her best friend. Entwining Chelsea’s blog posts throughout the memoir transforms it from being purely Lucy’s story into both Chelsea and Lucy’s story, spanning from their first meeting as five-year-olds to their last conversation.

Gut-wrenching and uplifting at the same time Some Days reminds the reader that tragedy can strike at any moment. While there may never be that picture-perfect sense of closure we long for, Moffatt is a shining example that the human heart is stronger than we think.

The book was sometimes a struggle to read due to the depth of emotion, as with non-ficiton there is no ability to remind myself that this didn’t actually happen, that no one is feeling this amount of anger, depression and sadness. However, Some Days is an important read. It is not just a book about death but about growing up and finding your identity amidst a world which portrays female friendship as either gossiping over cocktails or fighting for male attention, rather than the complex relationships that they are. Moffatt makes it clear that she seeks to break those stereotypes and highlight the positive impacts of female friendship through her memoir.

While I occasionally struggled to get a clear picture of Chelsea in my head, I saw the strength of their friendship, through the beautifully written recollections of memories. Reading it, I knew that I had access to the most vulnerable side of the author and an intimate view into her heart at a time of extreme grief.

This memoir speaks to the universal experiences of love, loss, and growing up. It is a must read for everyone, written by a local author who truly encapsulates what the Adelaide arts have to offer.

 

4.5 Stars


Words by Georgina Banfield

‘The Silent Door’- By Dan Cardoza

After grandmother passed away, grandfather, a very stern and dignified gentleman, would routinely join us for our late afternoon supper. Mother would make sure he was not disappointed. The last meal I recall was a braised rabbit, fresh from the butcher shop, complete with a special wine sauce, fennel seed, and a sprig of rosemary, followed by a memorable dessert.

Rarely was there an occasion that demanded the use of the massive brass lion’s head door knocker ––a piece of classic Art Deco elegance. Most guests at our home simply knocked in a staccato, contemporary fashion, more suited for twenty-first-century knuckles. Grandfather, who would not have it any other way, cherished any event that he thought demanded a grand entrance. His hallmark knock became almost legendary.

Every Sunday around 1:00 P.M., we would fox our ears in anticipation of his two heavy-handed thwacks. His knocks upon the lacquered chestnut entrance door resonated in the woody bellow and melody of a stately gavel, complete with a formal Sound Block. We fancied our home in Lombard, a Chicago suburban castle.

We loved his company, his long visits. He was a fascinating man. He would hide envelopes in the family room, while mother and I did dishes in the cramped kitchen. Behind mother’s needlepoint pillows, under the large armed comfy sofa, behind the ornate Vienna Stuchy clock set atop the chunky redwood mantle, just about anywhere, and everywhere. Of course, mother and I never acknowledged that we were aware of his secret gifts until granddad left following super. As soon as the front door closed behind him, I would search for the envelopes as if they were painted spring surprises. The gifts of kindness frequently included fifty dollars, one hundred, it varied. Mother would religiously call him once he returned home to thank him for his graciousness, with her best surprised-daughter voice, and sincere appreciation. The following Sunday would always relent to another troupe encore. But this time, there would be no following, Sunday.

Three, maybe four years after grandmother passed, we noticed that the deep knocker tone faltered. We imagined the sound more abrupt, maybe a little harsh. Mother and I found humor in the transformation, saying grandfather was just impatient to enjoy his pre-dinner coffee and cognac.

Following super, grandfather would begin to shoot questions toward mother, an easy target. This evening would be no different.

The questions I found hurtful, even the ones that seemed to miss the mark. Have you heard from Jim? Maybe there is a reason he left? Why don’t you move closer to the city for improved work opportunities? Mother never answered quickly, sometimes not at all.

During the times of our frequent visits, grandfather invariably picked up dessert, which he would serve himself, usually after finishing his after-dinner coffee concoction. Dessert would be the evening’s crowning event. The last one would be no different. Grandfather’s choices varied. On any occasion, he might present a freshly made key-lime pie, with a hint of bitterness. Once he even brought blood orange grapefruit serving it with a ghost of sugar, never sweet enough for our taste. Following the last shared meal, grandfather brought a sour cream peach pie. He was the only one to savor an extra slice.

It’s been some time since grandfather passed. Mother misses him sometimes.

I will never forget one late winter evening. In the grip an infamous Chicago snowstorm, mother asked if I would do her a favour. Put on my warm parka, go outside and rap the lion’s head knocker, two times in succession, and if I would please do this intermittently for a short while. I never thought to question her.

I enjoyed the snow, under any circumstance, but after a while, my arm grew tired. It was then that I slowly opened the door, and peeked through the glowing crack. Mother’s face was shining brightly in a wash of yellow light thrown by the tall family room lamp. She was fast asleep in her favorite corduroy high back chair, wearing a shallow smile.


Words by Dan Cardoza

Photo by Dương Trần Quốc 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.

‘Warm Skin, Cold Skin’- By Sarah Ingham

In that moment, the memory of when she discovered she was pregnant pushed itself into her mind. She had been in awe, amazed that her body could incubate and bring forth another human being. Underneath her warm skin was another, smaller heartbeat. This new life was her responsibility now: a big responsibility and hers alone.

He had grown up as a happy child, full of life’s zest. A sprinkling of stubbornness and his temptation towards the unknown had always kept her on her toes, but he was forever her boy. Scraped knees were healed with a kiss, hungry tummies always fed, and that’s as complicated as life got. She would wake up to his warm skin beside hers on cold nights. His cheeky grin and dirty face underneath all that bouncy, curly hair was the reason she got up every morning to face the day. It was just the two of them, and that was all she needed.

__

As he grew older, he started distancing himself and seeing her less and less. The two bedroom apartment was small enough that it was hard to hide, but he did. He began communicating purely in short grunts, like some kind of cave-man. She told herself that this was just a phase, that all teenagers did it. She herself had stopped being a daughter many years ago. She convinced herself that she could be there for him, for the moment he decided to return to her.

She let him have his privacy; she knew that was important to him. She began smelling the distinct smell of marijuana smoke around the house, seeping in from underneath doors and out windows. She closed her eyes, gathering strength. What should she do? Would this continue? Should she act now or let her boy figure it out himself? She had no-one to ask. She felt helpless.

He began becoming more aggressive, refusing to help out around the house and yelling at her about the smallest things. He would play loud, angry-sounding music late at night and she cringed, knowing that the entire building could hear it, thanks to the paper-thin walls. She grew afraid of him, this life she had created. He had grown in her womb, small and happy, but now he towered over her, shouting and smelling acridly of cigarettes.

He continued growing, physically up and mentally down. He locked himself in his room and refused to come out for anything but food or more mind-numbing drugs. Existing with him made her anxious and confused. He was far from her little boy now. She tried to love him unconditionally, but loving him became harder and harder each day.

Desperate to get away from her, he moved out at the first possible opportunity. She cried for days, her heart aching. Not for the monstrous Neanderthal that had left her, but for the small boy whose tiny body had snuggled close to hers when he felt frightened. Now she was alone.

__

Years went by, and she missed her boy every day. Every day she prayed to God to protect and shelter him. Her small child was out in the world with no-one there to help him. He was lost and she couldn’t find the bright little boy he used to be. Grey crept into her hair and her eyes grew dull. Worry aged her.

She received a short message from her son in the early hours one morning, containing an address and a few words about wanting to meet. Her heart leapt into her throat. Was this true? Was her son returning to her? She rejoiced!

__

She pushed the door open with great difficulty. Beer cans and empty spirit bottles littered the floor, and the rancid stench of alcohol wafted from them. The posters on the wall were torn and slowly beginning their descent to the grubby floor. Chip packets crunched under her feet and tin cans clattered as she moved slowly across the room. The mattress haphazardly thrown in the corner of the room was stained and the small, thin blanket barely covered the corner. He sat, slumped in the darkest corner of the dingy room with his chin on his chest. His soiled, oversized clothes hung limply on his skeletal frame. He looked like a child sitting there. Like the lost child he was. This was her boy. She had found him, and he hadn’t aged a day.

His matted hair still showed small signs of curl around the edges but most was stuck to his face and scalp – with blood or sweat she didn’t know. His limp arm was dotted with his needle-marks, more than she could count. As she drew closer she could see that his mouth was slightly open and his face was pale. She knelt next to him in shock. His once baby-blue eyes were bloodshot and glazed. Rips in the knees of his faded jeans revealed scrapes with dried blood crusted over them. No kiss could fix this. She reached and clutched his bony arm. His skin was as cold as ice. This was no Prodigal Son. He was dead.

As she sat amongst the filth, she began to shake. Her eyes filled with tears at the loss of this part of herself. She struggled to lift her arm up to rub her face, her arm was heavy. As she pulled her arm away, now caked with the makeup she had so excitedly applied only a few hours before, she spied something lying underneath his foot. It was a picture of her, smiling and holding him tight. Her heart broke into a million pieces, and she let out a guttural cry. Her small boy, she had failed him. In that moment, the memory of when she found out she was pregnant pushed itself into her mind.


Words by Sarah Ingham

sarahI’m Sarah Ingham, and I’m completing my first year of a Bachelor of Professional Writing and Communication. I have folders of unfinished writing, and I am so glad that I can put my ramblings to use! Being a part of Tulpa Magazine has made me feel like I can release my full artistic voice, and I love it dearly. I hope that I can continue to write my way into a writer, editor or publisher position after finishing my degree. Until then, I hope that you enjoy my imaginings.