How To Make A Basic Twine Game

Are you new to Twine? Have you just opened up the program and don’t know where to begin? Well, fear no more! I have eight simple steps on creating your very first game with Twine. Today we will be making a basic game that requires very little programming.

1

Here is the opening menu of the engine. As you can see, I’ve made a couple of games on here already. You have three formats to choose from, which you can find in the “formats” tab. However, for this, we’ll stick with the default Twine 2.0 setting (Harlowe 1.2.2). Begin by clicking the green button that says “+Story”. Name your story and press “+Add”.

2

This is the storyboard blueprints. This is where you will create your game. This is zoomed in, but you can zoom out by clicking the boxes on the tab in the bottom right. You can click the green “+Passage” button to create a new passage, but this will be unconnected so don’t do that. Instead, double-click the “Untitled Passage” box in the middle of the screen.

3

What you have here now is the passage. It is here that you can write your story and build your game. As you can see, I have already begun writing. The [[Begin Learning]] is the most basic form of programming in the engine. This is your button function, which gets you from one passage to the next. Go ahead and write anything in and when done, click the close button in the “Untitled Passage” line. We will ignore the “+tags” function for now as that is for later reference when your game is more complex.

4

As you can see on your blueprints page, you now have a second passage that has appeared. You will also notice a line between them. This means you have successfully linked the two pages, meaning you can go from page one to two now. To continue, double-click this newly made passage.

5

Repeat the same process as you did in Step Three. You don’t have to enter the exact story I have but do a similar one as it will make this easier to follow. This time, add two button functions instead of one. Once you do so, exit the passage.

A note to remember: Twine is very sensitive when it comes to passage names. Always use unique names as a passage can always be linked with the wrong one. I’ve made this mistake many times in my time with the engine.

6

Do you see two passages extending off the one now? If so, you have successfully created a branching narrative. This is where you can make your story with multiple endings. Continue the repeat the processes you did in Step Three and Five.

7

Now we come up to an interesting part of this: linking back to previous pages. As you can see here, I have a vampire in front of the castle. You may want to give your players a choice, either approach them or return to the fork in the road. To return to the fork, simply make a passage called [[Return to the Fork]]. From there, go to this new passage and then simply type the title of the passage (mine is [[Begin Learning]]). It should automatically show up when you begin typing, making it easier.

8

If your storyboard looks like mine then you have successfully created a nonlinear story that gives players choice. If you are happy with this, click either the TEST or PLAY buttons on the bottom right hand corner. You have successfully created a game, congratulations!

*As you can see on your game you have the automatic choice to go back, rendering the [[RETURN TO THE FORK]] function useless. However, keep it in as this will not be present in formats like SugarCube (port of Twine 1 engine).

9

BONUS: Publish

You can share your creation with your friends and family by clicking on your story name below. Go to the PUBLISH TO FILE function. Select your save spot and name it whatever you want. Save it as a HTML document. From there, find your file and your game will appear up in your browser of choice. You now have a game up and running. Well done! You can now either decide to work on this story more or explore the program more and create more complex one once you have gotten the hang of it.


Words by Cameron Lowe

‘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.

‘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.

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.

‘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.

Miss Marryat’s Circle

Miss Marryat’s Circle

Cheryl Williss

Wakefield Press


Miss Marryat’s Circle is a comprehensive and well-researched exploration of the role of women in South Australian history. Focusing on the influential Marryat family, Williss chronologically details the contributions of the Marryats from their 1836 arrival to Miss Mabel Marryat’s death in 1949.

 

Williss attempts to tell the story of the first 110 years of South Australian women’s history in one 300-page non-fiction book, under the guise of focusing on one woman. Walking through the buildings of North Terrace and the rest of the city, the reader is entreated to the history of such landmarks as Trinity Church, Adelaide University, and West Terrace Cemetery, explaining their creation and their role in influential Adelaide women’s legacies. Further highlighting the role of the Marryats, Williss has selected newspaper clippings, letters, and diaries of South Australians to recreate the atmosphere of a small settlement trying to find its feet and bloom into a functioning society.

 

Miss Mabel Marryat’s role during both World War I and II revolutionised South Australian women’s role in society, with their collective aim to provide support to Australian troops overseas. Her involvement in the Red Cross, at Keswick Hospital, and League of Loyal Women in various leadership roles, cemented her position in history as a pioneer and social philanthropist, only for her to then be denigrated as someone who simply partook in “home duties” on her death certificate.

 

It is important to record women’s role in our history as it has been dismissed in our national narrative. However, Williss seems to have bitten off more than she could chew in writing this supposed biography. It read like a history textbook with dates and names thrown at the reader with no explanation of why they were important to the life story of Miss Marryat and her dedication to her “diggers”.

 

In order to set the scene, it took Williss 100 pages to introduce and focus on the titular woman. She recounted a brief and superficial history of Adelaide, rather than providing the reader with a deep, focused biography on the aptly named “fairy godmother” of Australian soldiers. It often took paragraphs – if not chapters – of trawling through dates, names and quotes to reach the point that Williss wanted to make, resulting in a book that drags along slowly.

 

Overall, Williss has provided an extensive history of South Australia and some of the women who have been forgotten, allowing them a play a role in our state and national narrative. However, to do Miss Marryat justice, a more focused study should have undertaken to truly tell her story.

2/5 Stars

Miss Marryat’s Circle is available for purchase through Wakefield Press here.


Words by Georgina Banfield

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Georgina Banfield is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English at Flinders University. When she’s not reading, writing or listening to podcasts she can be found looking at conspiracy theories and true crime. She loves anything to do with history, literature and unsolved mysteries.

‘Grandpa’s Last Story’- By Muhammad Nasrullah Khan

 

Alone in my dreams, the world around me was dazzling and my mood was wondrous but sad.

The next morning, I caught a bus to my village and watched the cities disappearing into a blur of grey. I got off the bus and stopped beside the river. Rays of sunset light shimmered on the water, reminding me of impressionist paintings that captured nature’s moods in dots of colours.

Everything was changed except the river. I could hardly believe so much time had passed since my last visit. I didn’t recognize anything. I turned around and walked the dimly lit streets that were lined with small stone cottages on either side. There were times that the alleys became so narrow I couldn’t progress without my bag or elbow suffering a scrape. Nevertheless, I persevered. I stumbled around in the darkness, hoping to find the village square where I might at least orient myself or encounter a villager. I grew weary, so I went to knock on the red door of a random cottage. As my fist rose, I saw a man entering the village with a herd of goats and cows. Even though it had started to drizzle, I could feel the peace and leisure with which he walked as he approached. As he drew closer, I recognized that he was my grandfather. After retiring from teaching, he spent most of his time taking care of his animals.

Soon, the baa’s of his flock overwhelmed every other sound. A few minutes later, we were face to face. I breathed the life in the air as he drew closer; the bells around the animals’ necks grew louder. My heart warmed as his grey beard danced in the wind. I relaxed into his embrace.

‘You’re finally here, I see,’ he said.

‘Yes ,Grandpa, The trip took its toll on me.’ I fell into step alongside him.

‘How is your life in the city? I read your article in the paper last week. I love your words. I found them amusing.’

‘Fine, Grandpa. My life is fast paced. It’s hard to keep up with at times, but I think the tradeoff is fair. I make good money and don’t want for anything.’

He wrapped one arm around my shoulders as we made our way to his home. His heavy shawl protected me from the rain.

‘Do you still like this weather?’ I asked.

‘If I love anything in the world, it’s the rain. Even now, when I’m too old and it’s too cold, I still answer its call. There’s sweetness in its scent and an energy that infects me. A sense of consciousness washes over me; time slows down. I feel it coursing through my veins. Sometimes I wonder if I only like the rain so as to be different from all the people who hate it.’

He shrugged his shoulders as his eyebrows lifted toward his hairline.

‘Maybe I’m just out of my mind. I love the sound of the thunder rolling through the house. I also know my garden is getting a good watering.’

The drizzle grew to a steady downpour, so we quickened our pace.

__

I found myself in a cramped but tidy room. A log burned in the fire place. Grandpa led me to a chair as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, grumbling to let me know that it was previously his. Upon sitting, I found that I didn’t want to turn my head because the warmth of the fire offset the chill air. As I stared into the flames, a pleasant grogginess came over me.

‘Grandpa, when was the last time you went to the city?’

‘Fifteen years ago. Your father took me. No more than a week passed before I determined that I was not able to live there. Nature called to me every morning. I had to come home.’

‘What did Nature say to convince you to come back?’ I asked as I inhaled the steam from the bowl he set in front of me.

‘She told me she missed me,’ he chuckled.

The chair across from me creaked as he lowered himself into it.

‘Do you remember when you were a child and how much you loved being outdoors?’

I winced as he shoveled a spoonful of the hot stew into his mouth.

‘When you were a child, you fell in love with summer, mostly because you didn’t like wearing shoes. When it rained, you played as if there was no tomorrow, not caring that you were getting your shorts wet. I remember you telling me how good the mud felt between your toes. Your grandma would always get mad at me because she had to clean up your little footprints every day.’

The memories were a springboard for others that ran through my mind. I remembered being fascinated with the chickens he kept in the back yard. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to catch one, though he made it look easy. My grandmother, who was just as handy as he was, had built the coop. I would follow grandpa inside, the hens clucking and twittering. I remembered the warmth and softness of their feathers on my palms. I would pet them while he reached underneath to retrieve the freshly laid eggs. They always provided a nice breakfast for us. The man sitting across from me was no longer the man in those memories.

‘What do you think about coming to live with me in the city? You’re getting older and you need someone to help take care of you. I’m just concerned about you being alone, Grandpa.’

‘Oh, but I’m not. I am with the Earth.’ The edge of the cup hid his face as he drank what remained of his stew. He leaned back in his chair and rubbed his belly, a smile spreading across his lips. ‘I think we should sleep now.’

He left me in silence. As he walked away, the shadow the fire cast on the wall made him appear twice his size.

__

The next morning, I woke up to Grandpa’s usual complaints about me sleeping too late. Breakfast was waiting when I entered the kitchen. It was my favorite: fresh butter on whole-wheat toasted biscuits that were, of course, homemade. After breakfast, we traveled to the pasture. I was amazed that his horses and cattle moved to the fields without any guidance. From the oak tree we sat under, it looked as if they were following the wind. The smell of freshly cut grass wafted into my nose. I stretched my legs over the soft grass.

‘I guess I am getting old, if you consider eighty old,’ Grandfather said. ‘You know we measure human life by the number of years remaining. Even though that may be true, I still love the feeling of the Earth on my skin. We have switched places, now I’m the one who loves feeling the mud between my toes. I like the rough texture of tree bark on my hands and the way the grass wraps around my feet when I’m walking. I always find myself spreading out when I lay on the ground. I want every part of me to connect with the Earth. Life is simple. Beauty is simple. It’s all around us. We make things complicated. We spread greed, lust, jealousy onto the Earth, disrupting its natural balances. If only people knew that it gives us everything we need.’

As I laid next to him, it wasn’t hard to understand why his feelings for the Earth were as passionate as they were. It had been his muse since the beginning of his life. I relaxed more with each breath, the ground molding to the shape of my body.

‘It feels good being in touch with the Earth like this, Grandpa.’

‘You are feeling its love. It is my belief that we are meant to be in tune with this Earth. We are made from this.’ He opened his hands to reveal a glob of moist dirt. ‘The same love the Creator has for the Earth, he has for us, because we are one and the same. This –’ he placed the mound in my hands ‘– is where we come from and we must always remember that.’

‘How does the Earth work Grandpa?’

‘Do you know about the poles? How they are oppositely charged?’

I nodded.

‘It is my belief that the Earth is positive and people are negative. In order for us to remain balanced, we must ground ourselves to the Earth’s charge. In order to realize our true power, we have to be connected to the source.’

Silence invaded the gap between us. For a moment, I thought he was waiting for me to respond. I remained quiet, not wanting to disrupt the rhythm of his wisdom. Several minutes passed. I rolled over to see him with his eyes closed, no signs of movement to show that he was still alive.

Grandpa.’

His eyes peeled open. He motioned for me to stay where I was.

There is no Earth in the city, or rather not enough to suit me,’ he said. ‘People work day and night only to return home with little more than they had. They live in magnificent buildings and drive fancy cars, yet they can’t sleep at night. They are living an illusion of happiness.’

He asked me if I knew why my father died. I didn’t answer, not wanting to seem foolish.

Your father, the oldest of my children, started his life as a child of the Earth. He was much like you. He loved playing in the garden, making tracks and roads for his toy vehicles. He was a recluse, staying to himself most of the time. His downfall began when he moved to the city. It wasn’t long after that he lost his connection with the Earth. That is the reason your father, my son, died so young.’

I retreated into my mind as I remembered how lonely my dad had been. He spent the majority of his last days alone in his room. My mother and I found him dead in his chair. He lived and died in silence. It made sense that he died for not living his truth.

I want to know more about your connection to the Earth, Grandpa, as well as your childhood.’

I’ll tell you about my favorite tree. When I was a boy, it was my escape from the world.’ He adjusted his position and cleared his throat. ‘It was reaching the heat of the day, the air stale, and the temperature smoldering. The grass, brown from lack of water, crunched under my feet with each step. Despite the heat dulling my senses, I could still hear a song in the breeze. The shaking leaves acted as a tambourine, the crickets resembled a quartet of strings. The humming wind brought it all together, creating the perfect symphony.’

Grandpa’s nose whistled as he inhaled. When his chest expanded as far as it could, he slowly released the air through the small gap between his lips. His shoulders dropped a bit more with each breath, his spine becoming straighter. I closed my eyes and matched his breath; the rhythm soon matched the rhythm of the music in the air. Once he was completely relaxed, he continued his story.

Some of the days were so hot it felt as if the heat was sticking to my skin. It was no use to dry my hands on my pants because they too were drenched in sweat. My hair stuck to my head, though I was thankful it kept the back of my neck from burning.

I found refuge under the shade of an old pine tree. I used to climb into it, resting on the branches. Though I was small, I was strong, but I was bolder than I was strong. The neighbors called me a wild child. I never quite figured out why, though it could have been because I dared to cross the scorching gravel driveways with my bare feet.’

He chuckled. ‘The soles of my feet were so thick I couldn’t feel anything.’

And here I thought you were a good boy,’ I teased.

I was a good boy…most of the time.’

I bet Great Grandpa would have something to say about that.’

So would the trees I climbed,’ he laughed. He told me how he thought of climbing trees as a challenge, hearing the branches taunting him about not being tall enough to reach them. ‘Ah, I remember the apple tree as if it were yesterday. It had a central trunk that split itself into three parts. I would wedge my foot into each crevice before rising on the tips of my toes to reach the next level. The tree was sturdy and its branches flexed, letting me know they were more than strong enough to hold my weight. I reached the middle, where the most shade was, and found a long branch to relax on. The best part about the tree was that I was alone and no one could find and bother me. The flecks of sunlight danced on my skin as the leaves above me shook in the breeze. I felt like I was a star on a platform, the spotlight on me. On the days I didn’t have the energy to climb, I would dance in circles, the animals my audience, and the shade my stage.’

I looked in his direction, unable to stop the smile from creeping across my face as I watched his fingers wave in the air. He twirled his toes in circles, his eyes darting back and forth under his eyelids as he relived his youth.

Though his memory was foggy on the rest of his childhood, the tree and his adventures with it were vivid. To him, it was more than a tree. It was his life.

Evening was encroaching when Grandpa called his dog to him. A few minutes later, a cloud of dust come from the other side of the hill, his animals appearing shortly thereafter. The dog’s deep barks intermingled with the herd’s steps, adding to the day’s song.

Look at the setting sun,’ grandpa instructed.

I flashed my gaze in the direction he pointed. I wasn’t paying much attention, my mind lost in my own vision of flying.

Look again. If you only take a quick look, you won’t see everything that is there. Most people never learn how to see with their heart. The eyes only allow one to see what is on the surface. True sight takes practice. It starts with trusting your inner feelings.’

That night was the last night I would spend with Grandpa before returning to the city.

I spent the next years living the disconnected existence Grandpa described, though I didn’t have trouble sleeping. Every so often, I would find myself thinking about that day and about his love for the Earth. Five years to the day, he would return to it. With his passing, I no longer had a reason to be in the country, so I left. Shortly after, my own children would venture on their own journeys.

I am a grandpa now, and even though I have stories to share, I have no one to share them with. My grandchildren are too far away. I left my country in hope of finding a better life; my children took their children and did the same. Both my kids and I have found the better life we sought, but we have forgotten to reconnect with the Earth. It wasn’t until then that I recognized Grandpa’s lesson. We are the Earth and to connect with our true power and to be able to share our power, we must stay connected with each other.


Words by Muhammad Nasrullah Khan

Art by Rhianna Carr

nasrullahMuhammad Nasrullah Khan is a fiction writer from Pakistan, currently living in Saudi Arabia where he is a lecturer in English at Taif University. He is known for weaving Asian culture into creative evocative settings and memorable characters. In a profile of Nasrullah’s work titled ‘A Man Who Was Donkey’, The Gawanus Book called it ‘stunning’. This short story was selected among the Notable Online Short Stories of 2003. His short story ‘In Search of God’ was included in Silverfish Book’s Twenty-Two New Asian Short Stories, published in 2016. He has been published in Evergreen Review, Indiana Voice Journal, Newtopia Magazine, Gowanus Books, Offcourse literary Journal, The Raven Chronicles, and many others. His debut story collection, ‘In Search of God’ can be found here:

https://www.feedaread.com/books/In-Search-of-God-9781786979704.aspx

https://issuu.com/nasrullahkhan2/docs/selected_short_stories

 

‘Parradice Lost’- By Nadia King

River Parradice was the wrong side of forty. Once in a while, his sandy blonde hair flopped over one eye and he pretended to be a very young Robert Redford. Tiff laughed at his impersonation and called him her ‘slice of paradise’. Later though, her laugh was hollow with a few fractious notes.

Such cracks first made an appearance in the Parradice household around Easter. The insidious fissures couldn’t be repaired by a casual swipe of Selleys Spakfilla; they needed professional work. River tentatively raised the question of marriage counselling. Tiff gave him one of her cold, impenetrable stares and her cobalt eyes held his gaze until he dropped his head. He stammered about work stress and could have sworn that Tiff’s shoulders eased at his words.

Chad, River’s best mate, hadn’t been any help. They’d sat in the beer garden of The Queens. Humidity hung over them in swathes of moisture, and sweat pooled between River’s toes. Girls flitted by in bright sundresses, catching Chad’s eye more than once. River wanted to grab hold of Chad’s hand and tell him how important this was, but he didn’t want to come across as needy. Chad downed the last of his Guinness in a swift gulp and slapped his hand on the table. River jumped at the palm-slapping, and upon reflection started to believe his own white lie that ‘work was getting to him’. Chad rolled his eyes and snorted.

You and Tiff? Having troubles? All in ya head, mate, all in ya head.’

River wondered if it was all in his head and if couples counselling was overkill. Maybe he just needed his own weekly therapy. Then he remembered Tiff’s odd new showering habits: the way she hid her nakedness as she stepped into the bedroom and how, a long time ago, she used to give him head once a day.

Sometimes after work, he couldn’t remember what his own wife looked like – like he suffered from marriage amnesia. What had it been like when Tiff had loved him? The memory was like a long-ago holiday that was so good that in hindsight you wondered if it was even real.

Once, River spotted Tiff and Chad in a smart city bar. His meeting in the city had finished late and he was making his way in the direction of the train station when he was compelled to walk along the river boardwalk instead. Chad manfully sucked on a ciggie and Tiff busily applied her signature red lippy. They weren’t touching but there was something in the way their bodies leaned close that made River pull back into the shadows. He was jostled by incoming patrons when his phone pinged. It was Tiff. She was stuck in one of those bloody sales meetings. River stopped, just for a moment. Tiff was lying. She’d always been a good liar. She studied a book about body language and trained herself in front of the mirror; eradicating every tiny tell-tale sign and gesture. It was important, she’d said. In sales, an honest-looking face would be an asset.

Later, River didn’t mention the bar and Tiff banged on about the meeting. She said they would be a regular thing; her boss was a control freak, she’d be home late every Friday. Chad was absent on Fridays, too. He said he stopped in to see his Auntie Fran one Friday, the next week it was a nephew’s birthday, and after a while River stopped asking. Chad couldn’t lie convincingly if his life depended on it, and River didn’t like watching him try.

On Fridays, River picked up fish and chips. He fed Henry (their blue-eyed white Persian cat) half a serve of snapper, and they watched Sanctuary together. They sat on the navy sofa that Tiff had picked out. Henry left his fur all over a dusty pink velvet cushion that Tiff just had to have.

One Friday, Tiff rang to ask River what he was doing. He described Henry purring like an idling lawnmower and declared that the fish and chips had never tasted so good. He said he had to go: Sanctuary was starting.

Weekends were always a blur of activities. Sometimes, there was a faculty dinner. Tiff never accompanied him. River was well-liked by his colleagues so he didn’t mind flying solo. Tiff’s family was large and most weekends there was a family BBQ. The men kept each other company around the Weber, and women scurried in and out of the kitchen with bowls of salad and potatoes. Kids wound their way through people’s legs, and screamed and shouted until someone put on a movie.

On a couple of weekends, Tiff had conferences on the Gold Coast. River stayed home with Henry. He didn’t call Chad for a beer; he thought he’d probably be busy.

River settled into his new routine and Tiff occasionally showed up for their marriage. He stopped meeting Chad. He was quiet at family BBQs and slept in the spare room with Henry. Work became his escape. He thought he could be on to something with his research into ontogenetic changes and variations in the anthropogenic activities of Eudyptes Chrysocome, Rockhopper Penguins.

An opportunity arose within the Australian Antarctic Division of the Department of Environment, and River submitted his application without telling Tiff. He was surprised when he got the job but happily handed in his notice. He had a nice little send-off. His colleagues had chipped in and presented him with a fine china statue of his favourite penguin species.

He came home and made immediate arrangements. He would catch the same flight as Henry. They would leave the comfy sofa and dusty pink velvet cushion. They would leave Tiff, Chad, and the frequent family BBQs. They’d still have fish and chips on a Friday and there were three series of Sanctuary to watch. River knew that sometime in the future, he would miss Tiff, but he also knew he would shrug off the feeling like one does adolescent mistakes. His focus would be his research, Henry, and his new life. Parradice might be lost, but there was always another adventure.


Words by Nadia King

Photo by Mattias Diesel via Unsplash

DSC_7612 copyN.L. King was born in Dublin, Ireland and now calls Australia home. Nadia is an author, blogger, and presenter.

Her debut book, Jenna’s Truth, is a novella for young adults and is published by boutique small press, Serenity Press.

Nadia enjoys writing contemporary young adult fiction and short fiction, and lives in Western Australia with her family.

 

 

 

LINKS:

NadiaLKing.com

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