Friday, April 30, 2010

120. Taking a back seat

Women have a reputation for being back seat drivers. Could this be because they frequently have to take a back seat? Interesting how our language is used to say one thing, while meaning something quite different.

A back-seat-driver is one with lots of firm opinions, but without the responsibility for implementing those opinions. In an inversion of the original, a back-seat-driver is someone who is heard but not seen. One can be a back-seat-driver from the passenger’s seat.

Women frequently find themselves consigned to the back seat. Someone else, who speaks louder, enters the room, and poof! Occasionally, one who is consigned to the back seat, takes on the role of back-seat-driver. Peter Costello and Paul Keating come to mind!

Our intrepid back-seat-drivers are contributing to the forward progress of their vehicle, which is more than can be said for one of the front-seat-drivers, wired for sound as she is.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

119. The Bottom of the Garden

They expected fairies down the bottom of this garden any moment. Fiona believed one would pop out from behind a bush, or buzz overhead – like a damselfly, only plumper. Diarmid kept the dream alive, delighting in the sheer freedom and joy that he experienced in her company. Measuring out the length of the low sandstone wall in dolly steps. Race you to the bubbler! Hah – water up your nostril.

The soft couch under the trees was like gossamer to his touch, but no comparison with the sensuality of lying on spiky buffalo grass out in the wide open, on the gentle slope above the main pond watching as the kids rolled down the slope, giggling their hearts out like a gaggle of gerties. Diarmid lay back watching the scatter of clouds drift across the blue, as small droplets formed on the minute hairs at the back of Fiona’s white neck.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

118. The history train

Draft 1 - Prose

History is a continuation, with neither beginnings nor endings, just way-stations on a journey. This is The Rocks. This is the western side of Sydney Cove. We are looking westwards up Argyle Street through the Argyle Cut. This is where the convicts and the soldiers lived in the early days of European settlement on this great southern land. Originally, it was a wall of rocks clambering up to a ridge, a ridge than ran down a promontory to the harbour’s edge. To the left and to the right, are the oldest inhabited areas of the city of Sydney. However, they look nothing like they did in 1787, nor like they did in 1802, nor 1822, nor 1841, nor 1911, nor 1926, nor 1932 nor any year since then. All that can be claimed for this historical area is that this is where x happened. X no longer is apparent. The history train has moved on.

Draft 2 - Verse

Waving to the western shore
Phillip consigned the convicts and
His company of marines
To the hell-hole called The Rocks.

Forty years on the history train transplants
The temporary hospital tents uptown
Reconfiguring dusty Main Way
To the elegance of George Street.

Striding over the dusty cobbles
With his jaunty cock hat fluttering
Macquarie declared this Argyle Street
In memory of his homeland.

Forty years on the history train cuts
Through the rocky escarpment
Enabling access to The Garrison
And The Lord Nelson.

Barney remodels the shoreline into
A stone-walled semi-circular quay
Enabling Campbell’s merchant ships
Access to wharfs and warehouses.

Forty years on the history train
Buries the source of fresh water
Constructing cheek by jowl terraces
To house workers for the burgeoning city.

Bradfield sets his theodolite
To work joining the two harbour shores
Demolishing elegant Princes Street while
Providing employment during the Depression.

History constructs and destructs.

Draft 3 - Ballad

The history train must move along
The convicts must be worked.

Phillip sailed into the Cove
And laid his cargo down.
Consigned his convicts to The Rocks
To carve out Sydney Town.

The history train must move along
The colony must progress.

Macquarie had a master plan
A grand vision in his head.
With Greenway as his architect
He laid out streets in grids.

The history train must move along
The merchants must grow strong.

Barney was an engineer
Building with sandstone blocks.
Square barracks up upon the hill
Circular wharves upon the shore.

The history train must move along
The politicians demand a say.

Bradfield dug beneath the town
To allow the trains to run.
Then flung girders from the rocky shore
And bridged the great divide.

The history train must move along
The people must have jobs.

The history train the past destroys
Then rises from the ruins.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

117. With an eye to the future

Draft 1 - Prose form

Cocooned in their own intensity, with a hovering aura of muted voices, their presence is not immediately apparent. The dappled sunlight plays within the greensward, as the springy grasses muffle the outside world and the shade plays relief to the still humid air of late summer. The ongoing murmuring provides evidence that this is no casual encounter. They have a job to do.

The lilting female voice is accompanied by sculpting gestures that slice the air, interrupted briefly by the gentle prompts of her amanuensis – a Regency dance replete with bonnet and waistcoat. They pay little head to the temporal space they occupy, nor to the passage of time. This pairing is not for hurrying. They are in a world of their own making, a cerebral world.

Recording the past for the future requires an exactitude that brooks no interruption. I beat a soft retreat back from whence I came.

Draft 2 - Verse form

A self-conscious hesitation halts my bold progress.

Cocooned in an intimate intensity
muted voices create a shimmering aura.
Sunlight dapples the carpet of lawn -
muffling reality’s encroaching cacophony.

The close breathed air of late summer
stills her delving into memory’s crevasse.
Their comfortable interaction of body and mind -
Evidences this is no chance encounter.

An inquisition of sculpting
Gestures slice the soupy air.
Interrupted briefly by gentle promptings –
an deftly choreographed allemande.

Time eludes them just as
They are blind to their surroundings.
Memory is not for hurrying -
Requiring respect, before gently unravelling.

As midwives in attendance at a birthing
These oral historians construct their framework
Assiduously, a brick at a time
From fragmented primary sources.

Documents and dross, detail and trivia
Neither ruled in nor ruled out,
When ploughing the monotone past
For intimations of immortality.

I beat a soft retreat back from whence I came.

Monday, April 26, 2010

116. The life of Riley?

The setting sun ricocheted briefly from the edge of the sandstone blocks of the southern pylon, shadow encasing Sydney in an evening cloak of scattered diamonds on midnight blue.

Snaking lines of silver carriages rattle to the north crowded with satisfied commuters returning to their cosy cottages on the leafy north shore. An army of private vehicles progresses southwards into the city with an evening crowd eager to be at their mid-town clubs and theatres.

A phalanx of green and gold approaches the quay loaded to the gunnels with Sydney-siders impatient to experience the first night of Murphy’s ‘Aida’ after a tipple at Opera Bar. Their raucous laughter echoes across the waters.

Vincent sits on the balcony of his cabin. He holds the latest draft of the financial report. He deemed the balcony inadequate for his requirements. A cabin upgrade is scheduled prior to departure at 2200 hours. He reads.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

115. With many a winding turn

Glen dipped his shoulder slightly, glancing at the way ahead, musing unflatteringly on goat tracks and country drivers. He tapped out a rhythm on the steering wheel with the index and middle finger of his right hand. He huffed to himself. Driving like this was pedestrian.

Earlier in the year, he had revelled in the ‘Top Gear - Live’ spectacular, where Clarkson and Hammond had enthralled the capacity crowd with their usual outrageous antics. Yet, here he was, not exactly bored rigid, but with little to engage the imagination or get the pulse rate up - probably just as well with the kids asleep on the back seat.

Only 250 kilometres left to cover. Traffic was medium. The weather was fine and calm. Although the sun was low in the western sky, visibility was acceptable. The way ahead was clear. He hesitated imperceptibly, depressed the indicator, and veered slightly right.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

114. Contemplating his navel

Clive was betwixt and confused.
He was merry of heart, he loved
his paltry life, he looked forward
to whatever, and more.

Just that
everything he touched
at the moment crumbled.
Became sand through an inane hour-glass.

He never knew if he was coming or going,
Arthur or Martha, Amos or Andy.
He would be pleased if
the spinning stopped, real soon now.

It wasn’t that he was sexually ambivalent.
He’d played the game every which way,
including up. Genderly he was –
parallel would describe it.

Thwack! No such bloody creature, he chastises.
Oh, but yes there is, comes the answer.
He realises that is the first sign of ... of what?
Can’t be progress, must be madness.

He squished the fag-end
into the splintered plank.
He needed the stub of a Faber-Castel
and the back of an envelope.

Sex matters. Gender doesn’t.
Nor does age. The answer isn’t 42.

A member of the Weekend Writer's Retreat

Friday, April 23, 2010

113. The Famous Five take the Reins

Timmy raced ahead, down the green slope, and slipped in the mud beside the bridge. He was a silly dog. George laughed at his funny antics. She was so pleased to be trotting on her brown pony.

‘Oh, do look at the queer little island, out there.’ exclaimed Anne pointing to the middle of the lake.

Julian could not hide his excitement. ‘I think we might have an exciting adventure out there later in the week. Come on, Dick, don’t be a slow coach’.

Dick was trying to make his slow pony cross the gravel pathway and go down the grassy slope. He was not sure he had a good pony, but he had been last to choose.

‘Hello, hello’ shouted Aunt Fanny from the picnic table in the park. The children were so pleased to see her. They were ready for sandwiches after their tiring ride in the park.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

112. The ravenous hordes

They had started early. The sky was a bleak shade of iceberg, when Monica and her friends – known to Monica’s children as ‘moochers’ – trudged their way up the steps at the railway station. As always, a couple of bulbs were blown and the process was fraught. Monica tried to block her ears without being obvious.

They had ‘gone bush’ every other Saturday for over fifteen years now, nothing over the top and difficult, more a ramble or even an amble. They kept the numbers at twelve, enabling each walker to have a month of organising and leading. The programme was produced season by season, always a season in advance, enabling them to fine-tune where necessary.

For many the highlight of the morning – did I mention that walks were capped at five hours - was the serenity of the early starts. For others, the coffee break could not come too soon.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

111. Mr Innocent Businessman

As the party turned in his direction, Bob stepped into the shadow of the palms. It had been a long morning and, his quarry being elusive, Bob’s confidence was waning. He was struggling to see how the exchange was going to be made. The instructions of the caller had been followed to the letter – family grouping including mother and remaining child, money in a black and blue back-pack.

This looked for all the world like a family grouping. The little tyke was doing a fantastic job. So was Gina, but Bob knew she would when he choose her from the Surry Hills station. Good female coppers are worth their weight in this sort of fluid investigation. He slapped his ankle where a lone midge was taking advantage.

It seemed to be only a split second, yet he had no idea where the Coffee Cart came from. All hell broke loose.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

110. The red sneakers

Isabella and Daddy were walking to the pond to feed the ducks.

Isabella rode her scooter. Daddy pushed Hugo in the stroller.

'Bella waited for Daddy before crossing the road. The cars waited for them. So did the bicycles, and the horses. They all waited for Isabella, and Hugo, and Daddy to cross the road.

Isabella reached the curved steps on her scooter. Isabella looked up and began to laugh. At the top of the curved steps was a tall fountain. Beside the tall fountain was a pair of red sneakers.

A boy with curly black hair was in the fountain. The boy with curly black hair was laughing and swinging his bare feet high. Water was splashing out of the fountain.

Daddy looked at ‘Bella.

‘Bella looked at Daddy. ‘Bella looked at the laughing boy with bare feet.

Isabella pushed her scooter all the way to the duck pond.

Monday, April 19, 2010

109. Stake-out

Slouched in the driver’s seat of his nondescript ’92 Swift, Harry kept an eye on the suspects, a smirk of disbelief flickering across his sallow face. Gingerly, he pressed the heel of his palm to his distended belly. That Chicko Roll for breakfast was playing merry hell with his internals. He wound the rear windows down an inch to relieve the stench, reaching into the glove-box for another antacid.

There was a doubt niggling him that was hard to shift, an aside from the client to his legman, Davey. Now, Davey was not the sharpest tool in the shed, and subtlety was foreign to him, so he often blew things out of all proportion. Harry harboured a suspicion that they were being set up. He cast his mind back to that initial interview, trying to free-associate with this likely looking bunch.

That was it. Why hadn’t he twigged before this!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

108. Tidings of great joy

Draft 1 (169 words)

Carried on the invisible forces of wind and tide, the salt sweeps up the dunes and across the battered Swamp Banksias and the wizened acacias. Swathes of sodden sand bare its glossy nakedness to the momentarily receding wave. Drier sand patches intersperse, strained through muslin until blanched. Periwinkles litter the slithery sand, waiting for the tumbling waves to return them to the protection of the seething breakers. Moment by moment, the waves become greedier and tentacles reach up the beach, hungrily devouring all in its path. Weed, stone, wood and shell alike are in the target zone.

Further up the beach, before the line of dune grasses, where the levelling tide does not reach, where the pounding waves do not tumble, the sand is light and dry, dented by myriad footmarks. The scalloped edge of foamy wave tosses a tangle of olive green, leathery sea-weed up the beach where it dries slowly in the sun, gradually releasing its hold on life.

A microcosm of time between life and death.

Draft 2

Carried on insistent, invisible forces of wind and tide,
salt air sweeps over a crescent of ancient coast
wizening further stumpy banksias and battered acacias.
Pockets of sodden sand bare a glossy nakedness
to the momentarily receding ocean’s anger.
Drier patches pant, strained through muslin,
a myriad bubbling nostrils.

Periwinkles litter the slithery sand,
beseeching searching waves to return them
to deeper, protective channels.
Momentarily, waves become greedier,
tentacles reach high up the smooth beach,
hungrily devouring all in their domain,
glass, grit, stone, wood and shell alike.

Further up the beach, before the line of dune grasses,
where the levelling tide does not reach,
where the pounding waves do not tumble,
the sand is light and dry, pocked by many footprints.
A scalloped edge of foam once tossed
Tangled sinews of olive, leathery sea-weed,
Which wither now, slowly, releasing all hold.

Straddling life, ancient coast relinquishes through time.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

107. At the foot of an old, old wharf

Draft 1

Belayed on four cleats, locked in place on each with a half hitch, ‘Toot’ is secure in the last pod of the safe haven, away from the buffeting swell whipped up by the imminent gales from the low over southern Queensland. The seaward side of the breakwater is no place for a vessel this size, under those conditions. Her skipper was taking no chances this time, the damage in the big blow of ’07 lodged permanently in his psyche.

All ‘round the marina, skippers are scurrying to secure vessels, adding ballast where necessary, to ride out the king tide expected in the early hours. A string of tinnies is being loaded into rack storage which provides a measure of wind break along the eastern margins of the marina, stretching from the warning beacon on Johnston Point to the dense string of Norfolk Pines that ring Horseshoe Bay.

All appeared ready.

Draft 2

‘Toot’ is secured in the last pod of the safe haven. She is belayed on four cleats, locked in place on each with a half hitch. Gales from the depression over southern Queensland are whipping up buffeting swells. The seaward side of the breakwater is no place for a vessel this size. She suffered massive damage in the big blow of ’07, and insurance won’t cover her a second time around.

Throughout the marina, vessels are being secured, ballast added where necessary, to ride out the king tide expected in the early hours. A flotilla of runabouts is loaded into rack storage. This massive dry berth provides a measure of wind break along the eastern margins of the marina. The state-of-the-art storage stretches from the warning beacon on Johnston Point to the dense string of Norfolk Pines that ring Horseshoe Bay.

All hatches are battened. They await the impending storm.

Draft 3

‘Toot’ is secured.

She is belayed on four cleats, each locked in place with a half hitch. She is moored in the backmost pod. The seaward side of the breakwater is no place for a vessel this size.

A severe depression lies over the southern coast of Queensland. Gales are whipping up buffeting swells. ‘Toot’ suffered massive damage in the big blow of ’07. Her insurance won’t be sufficient a second time around.

Throughout the marina, vessels are being secured. Ballast is added to ride out the king tide expected in the early hours. A flotilla of runabouts is loaded into rack storage.

This three storey dry berth provides a measure of wind break along the eastern margin of the harbour. The granite breakwater stretches from the warning beacon on Johnston Point to the dense string of Norfolk Pines that ring Horseshoe Bay.

All hatches are battened. Bring it on.

Thanks to Hardie Gramatky the writer of the 'Little Toot' Golden Book for the title of this Riff.

A member of the Weekend Writer's Retreat

Friday, April 16, 2010

106. Lost in thought

Having tramped all morning around the gardens, Ronald and Evelyn rested upon the bench until their buzzing soles quieted, and their energies were restored.

They first met in the gardens forty-six years ago, on the Band Lawn near the Venus fountain, a view that moves them to silence to this day. Back then, when the world was mostly monotone, a detachment of the Navy Fleet band honed its skills on Band Lawn every Sunday morning, and those Sydneysiders in the know, jockeyed for the perfect lounging position. Young Ronald trained in from Burwood every other Sunday, and one morning his eye sought out Evelyn listening beneath a rock overhang, reading something by Austen, or maybe one of the Brontes. He started attending weekly, until he summoned the courage to approach, and engage her in conversation.

Lost in reverie, Evelyn paid scant attention as the train clattered down the cobbled pathway.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

105. One foot after the other

The days were like this now, filled with an unnamed dread that weighed upon her shoulders, sowing black bile in the pit of her stomach. Grace struggled to comprehend the lack of control since the beginning of semester. She had learnt to pace her studies, to juggle balls as her brother put it.

Each evening, after her final class, she enjoyed the solitary walk to Central, watching the hordes of commuters as they bustled their way home, enjoying the mental unwind with each step, digesting the sounds and the smells of a city so very different from Shanghai. One more semester and she would return to her homeland, to the house of her grandparents, to the future the family had mapped out five years ago. An accountant in the family would provide stability for generations.

A smile swathed her face as she spied Andrew coming down the concourse toward her.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

104. A run of bricks

The raggle-taggle retriever bounds beside number 4a, then clatters down the adjacent lane, trailing lickings of affection, the disembodied voice of his handler echoing more distant still as she continues her late afternoon jog unperturbed. Presenting a firm, no nonsense face to the world, the door and wall together brook no intruders, their manicured appearance announcing that these premises are occupied. Not a brick is disjoint, not a hinge dare squeak.

The lime philodendron, made translucent by the angled rays of the sun, suckles over the adjacent trellis, tentatively reaching out in its endeavour to suckle onto the mortar between the runs, to drain the clay of any residual moisture after its century or more of sentry duty. Discarded leaves, aged and dry, flutter down onto the cobbles, mingling with the bottle tops and cigarette butts, and empty packets of Smith’s crisps.

The evening air quietly draws down the moisture.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

103. Laundry day

The atmosphere was thick enough to cut with a knife, intense and discomforting. Janus was disgruntled, Elena was sullen, and they washed their dirty laundry in public. Who is to know what the underlying issues are in relationships. All that becomes apparent is the series of straws. And yet, here we had what appeared to be a long-serving camel’s back.

There are domestics woven from deeply held passions, passions which under pressure erupt into fisticuffs, expletives and much frothing at the mouth. But the passion is apparent. Other domestics are a sad grinding down and wearing away of the very fabric of the union, and erosion like, all that remains is the fissure. Here, the beige silences were longer than the hisses through tightly pressed lips.

Eventually, a bus appeared upon the wavering horizon. Elena stepped off in the direction of David Jones and, without looking back, crossed the street.

Monday, April 12, 2010

102. A family concern

Standing opposite the railway station, this small store was erected in the year of Federation, a decade after the coming of the rail line. With the land subdivision fanning out from the station, a newsagency was an inspired choice. As Arts-and-Craft style houses arose rapidly on the undulating paddocks, in moved the doctors, and the lawyers, and the business men, all out to solidify family reputation.

In the early 20th century in Sydney, there were two morning papers, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph, and two afternoon papers, The Daily Mirror and the Sun. This was the major role of the newsagent – to sell newspapers. Together with his extended family, he worked long hours selling items with limited mark-up. To broaden his appeal, carried the first editions of the new ‘women’s’ magazines, The Women’s Weekly and Woman’s Day.

Domestic gambling was a scourge still to invade the suburbs.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

101. Saturday in the park with Pa

High pitched squeals resounded through the gardens well before the small bodies scuttled across the clearing to disappear among the bushes. Chloe lent back against Pa’s knees as he sat to catch his breath on the bench beside the footpath. She giggled as she followed the hive of activity unfold before her. First James, and then Angus would run toward her, hand out ready for a high five, before pivoting and dashing back the opposite way. The laughter reached a crescendo as the boys passed in the clearing. Pa shook his head at the joyousness of it all.

He reached over into his backpack and slid out the thermos of tea that Shelia had packed for him. She knew he would need a cuppa mid-morning. She hadn’t lived with him for forty years without knowing that he frequently bit off more than he could chew, especially with this lively lot.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

100. The El Rocco Room

Although he walked this way every day, Percy had trouble negotiating the incline down Brougham Lane. The handles of the plastic bags were cutting into his palms, but he was buggered if he could remember where he had stashed Vinnie’s hose pieces. Vinnie was okay, considering he was an ‘eye-tie’.

Percy clocked the two china men sitting on the steps shovelling in their foul food. He was wary every time he came this way. He stopped for a breather and to change hands. Those council buggers had not emptied the hotel wheelie bins properly and, although he gave the hotel bloke a piece of his mind, bins had not been hosed out either.

Geez, he wished that Beryl from number 197 would slow down. Then he could ask if she wanted to catch the early show at the El Rocco Room with him. A bloke still has needs, yer know.

A member of the Weekend Writer's Retreat

Friday, April 9, 2010

99. Above her station

As Denise twirled the diamond on her left hand, her hips rocked hypnotically from side to side, her face disssolving into a caricature of dissatisfaction. Keith knew that the first word from her mouth would be ‘skanky’. He scanned the menu over her shoulder, being assailed by Chanel’s ‘Allure’ which had been the must-have from the ground floor of David Jones’ Elizabeth Street store yesterday.

‘Aw, real skanky like. Nah, we deserve better.’

Keith’s enthusiasm plummeted and already he could do with an ice-cold beer even though they were hunting for a suitable joint for breakfast. He took a long soothing drag and, picking a stray glob of tobacco from his tongue, pointed to the Big Breakfast in the top right hand corner.

‘That looks okay. S’got beans and bacon as well as eggs. All me fav’rites.’

Denise raised herself to her full height.

‘No, thank you. We’ll keep looking.’

Thursday, April 8, 2010

98. Struggle street

Walking the two blocks to the IGA on the corner of Darlinghurst Road, had been a daily ritual for Doris since she fled to The Cross in the early ‘50s. She cared not whether the shingle said IGA, Permewans or Franklins, because the small grocery store was located next to the TAB. Doris had picked up a few minor vices over the years, the gee-gees, smoking and a good gossip.

She loved this walk through the grimy streets even though homeless men littered doorways and set up camps in bus shelters. Live and let live was her motto. She was well known in her neighbourhood after a life-time of walking the streets. She “retired” when she turned 65, got her Senior’s Card and her pension and the nice people down at the Housing Commission allowed her to stay in her one-bedder just off Ward Street.

For Doris, life was sweet.

A member of the Theme Thursday community

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

97. The fruits of your labours

Laura knew not to read too much into the body language, the cold shoulder, the absent-mindedness, the clipped responses. These were the stresses speaking. Given time, Clive would emerge from this trial the generous, loving human being that she believed him to be. Laura knew her own mother harrumphed at her steady faith, but mothers can be so black-and-white.

Clive came from a tight-knit family which had always been immersed in business, in noise and dust and engineering. He joined the factory on Botany Road at eighteen more to please his parents, than any personal commitment.

At the age of 48, he met Laura and life changed for him, overnight. She enabled him to see beyond the obvious, helped him to clarify and to respond. With her empathy, he started to hear other life songs. That is when he discovered the viola.

Then, in his fiftieth year, Alicia was born.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

96. Time flies

Her skin glowed in the mid-morning light as she listened to his opinion of the bracket of Gregorian chant. She had bumped into Isaac the evening before on the football oval as she put the finishing touches to the performance of the local junior SATB choir. They had not seen each other since their university days where Chloe was whizzing through a music education degree and Isaac was struggling with his journalism studies. Well, struggling to fit the academic requirements into a life already overflowing. Chloe chuckled at the memory. He was striking even then, just too unfocussed.

She watched the laughter lines that crinkled like crow’s feet from the corner of his eyes. She liked the way he laughed with his eyes – it transformed his face. Being clean shaven complemented the receding hair-line.

‘The bass baritone could have been used to fuller effect ...’

Chloe heard the waiting silence.

Monday, April 5, 2010

95. Dulce et decorum est

All three had appreciated the Memorial Service this time round, the words of Canon Winder echoing a truth that appeared consistent through the years since those horror days of Long Tan in ‘66. With the passage of time, the raw passion had eased being replaced with a dull acceptance. Their father had been blown to pieces. End of story. Let’s join together in song, with ‘Immortal Invisible’.

After the service each year, they adjourned to Le Grand CafĂ© within the Alliance Francaise in Clarence Street. This ritual commenced as a fitting way to comprehend the revelations of their father’s Viet-Franco children which they were told upon the death of their mother in early ’82.

They blinked as they returned into the glare of a Sydney summer. ‘Sweet and fitting’ would be a good description, one that each sibling could clasp, even over the great chasm between loss, discovery and remembrance.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

94. The sub-woofer duub-duub

He chose his own New York cut from the refrigeration unit, and piled a plate high with rock melon and mini-beets. He had never been a greens man, claiming that if that had been God’s will, he would have been given long ears and thumpers. He sliced the jacket potatoes, and layered the slash with sour cream, chives and mustard. English, of course.

As he turned the steak - ensuring grill marks on a medium-rare steak requires concentration and timing to ensure it retains juicy tenderness - his spare hand stuttered a rapid rattle, a ‘Dubstep’ 4:4 rhythm against his left hip, followed by a segue into ‘Breaks’ accompanied by a guttural duub-duub. In less time than it takes to spin one track of vinyl, he had the steak in the tongs and was heading back to the table with a broad grin on his face.

‘Let’s eat! I’m starving.’

Saturday, April 3, 2010

93. Till they was like to drop

Walking along George Street, Bill and Geraldine were all ears. They had trained down from ‘Bungaree’ on the stock-route between Merriwa and Cassilis, finding the YHA on Cumberland Street with much difficulty even though the streets in The Rocks were lit up like midday. So much for a small footprint; what was good enough for city slickers should be good enough for the bloomin’ yokels up Cassilis way.

Gerry was agog as she trod the cobblestoned laneways. She persevered after turning her ankle in Greenway Lane trying to avoid the ruts gouged by the steel-rims of the drays. She had been keen to climb the Argyle Steps to the deck of the bridge itself.

Bill had toddled along beside her, quite taken by her enthusiasm. Now, however, it was his turn to play tour guide and he was headed to ‘The Fortune of War’, Sydney’s oldest, continuously licensed public house.

With acknowledgement to A.B. Paterson’s ‘The Man from Ironbark’

Friday, April 2, 2010

92. The best job in the world

Jason chuckled as he thought of his mother’s ‘eyes in the back of her head’ expression. His spirits burbled along as he used those eyes to imagine the scene around him, all the while coiling the hoses used to flush out the bilges of the nine First Fleet class ferries and the two Lady class ferries. The day was as fine an autumn day as Sydney could turn on, with a light nor-easter heading in across the cove.

This was Jason’s fifth year working maintenance shift on the timber wharves jutting out from the Quay into Sydney Cove. Last month, after much harassment from his mother, he submitted an application for deckhand. Yesterday, word came down that he had an interview for Friday week. Only his second ever job interview, and already he could hardly breathe.

Deckhand on the green and gold First Fleeters. He grinned from ear to ear.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

91. The back alley

The stench of stale beer invaded her nostrils, as Michelle stood staring at the text on the screen. Her heart flip-flopped within her chest, and her hand shook as she tried to decode the poorly spelt message. She understood before she read it what it was going to say, and did not want to know further.

‘It’s over, Shel. The last two months have been hell. I won’t take the push-pull anymore.’

Five years brought to an end, just like that, with a 10c text message. An ironic grunt hissed the air from between her lips, her brain working ten to the dozen with schemes and excuses. Shel’s right eye ticked as the blood flow throbbed in the base of her brain. Shoving the mobile into her pocket, she ran her hand through her hair, trying to ease the panic welling within her.

She’d show him. She’d bloody show him.