Tuesday 24 September 2013

Loving Violence...?

Marianne drew herself to her full height (5 feet and half an inch) and inhaled deeply before slamming her fist into her husband’s nose. “You, sir, are a schmuck!” she declared in her least gentle tone as she shook her fist. Kevin’s nose began to bleed, red rivulets running down his moustache into his mouth and beard, he looked beautiful and angry. “Thank you darling, you are doing a fine job of acting the shrew this morning. And may I say, you hit like a girl and you look like a lame octopus on crystal meth.” Marianne began to smile and curtailed the expression turning it abruptly into an angry frown at the last minute. “Well it is very kind of you to say so Kev, I have been working on it and I am glad that you noticed.” “Oh, yes” her husband replied “I noticed when you woke up and shoved your elbow into my ribs; you’re doing any excellent job love, honestly, you nearly cracked a rib!” Marianne frowned lovingly at her husband, “Oh I’m glad. I really have to get going dearest, have a horrible day.” she said before turning on her heel and heading out the door, hoisting her handbag over her shoulder as she went.

Kevin watched as his wife headed out the door and off to work. He couldn’t have felt more grateful to have met her, he was certain he was the luckiest man alive.  When they had met Marianne had been a timid little creature, she told him she’d never even slapped anyone in her life, let alone punched someone, he’d been utterly charmed by her. Kevin headed to the bathroom and held a flannel under the tap and waited as the cold water soaked into it, then he gently dabbed the blood out of his beard, smiling to himself as he went about his business. What a lucky fellow he was, to have a wife who would lovingly beat him in the morning, he knew that his friends envied him. He had seen Bob at the supermarket the previous day, Bob had remarked on how purple his eye was. Poor Bob, his wife hadn’t hit him in months, and Kevin knew he was starting to suspect that her heart had gone elsewhere. Apparently, Bob’s wife had even started saying nice things to him; she even tried to kiss him! Kevin shook his head in silent pity for his friend, poor devil; she clearly didn’t love him anymore.

Note: This piece is an inversion of behavioral expectations in a healthy relationship. That is, I have inverted the power dynamic in the marriage relationship, I have switched all 'loving' interactions for violence, and I have changed the behavioral expectations accordingly. The idea that hitting, or beating, a spouse is acceptable, for their own good, or in any way loving is absurd, and as such I would describe this as an absurdist micro-story. In reality this is a social comment, because my augmentation of relational expectation is the reality for some relationships, excepting the acceptance of the 'acted upon' spouse. The purpose of this micro-story is to encourage critical consideration of domestic violence in society. 

I do not condone, in any way, violence and violent acts in a domestic household or any other context. 

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Red & Orange: A Traffic Cone Love Story

 I was brought up in a home where we anthropomorphised just about everything…because it was funny, enough of your questions! So I have a habit of seeing objects that are a bit rusted, or have a dent or have wilted, or bowed or have been abused by humanity, and I end up feeling sorry for them. Although sometimes instead of feeling sorry for them, I’ll make up a story about them, wherein the object is the protagonist. Sometimes by the end of the story they are better off, and sometimes they turn out to be the villain of the piece, and sometimes, by the end of the story, they can end up being as lonely and dejected as I had imagined they were in the first place (which is why I own four broken egg beaters, half a bike and an old metal tea pot with a dent in it).

Red & Orange

The Story of How Two Lonely Traffic Cones Fell in Love

As I was enduring my eight kilometre walk today (I know 8 kilometres! But some mug asked me to marry him and now I have to get skinny)…where was I… Oh right… as I was enduring my walk and wondering about the world, specifically wondering  how famous writers get famous, and how famous writers get published, and how famous writers actually get around to writing stuff, I came across a couple of traffic cones. The first traffic cone was red, it was old, its red plastic body was chipped in places but generally it was in good shape. The red cone wasn’t severely bent like most old traffic cones (the fact that they age so similarly to old men seems to encourage anthropomorphisation), I actually felt like he was in really good shape, until I came across the next cone about three metres later.

She was gorgeous, as far as traffic cones go. She was in perfect shape, not a chip or dent to be seen. She was new (ish), you could tell because she was orange and had a reasonably unscathed reflector panel across her middle, and she had a heavy black rubber base so she wouldn’t blow over in a breeze. She clearly wasn’t like those snooty sidewalk traffic cones you see without a scratch on them or a speck of mud. She had mud splashed all around the black rubber base, you could tell that she wasn’t the type to shirk from hard work, but she was in such good shape, you had to admire her for retaining her femininity in such a male-dominant work environment.

Anyway seeing Orange, I was surprised because having noticed Red initially I had expected the cones to be uniform, but they were completely different. I stopped (having made all of the above observations in just a few strides… okay it was the home stretch of the walk so the strides were pretty slow by then) and turned to look back on the two cones. I realised very quickly that Red was pining for Orange, trust me as an independent observer I am absolutely correct, and if you had been there you would have seen it too.
Red was situated mere metres from Orange, how devastating, how heart-wrenching to be so often near your beloved, and unable to touch her, or even talk to her (I have it on good authority that traffic cones speak in such low tones that they have to be right next to each other to have any conversation… otherwise humans would hear them… they’re a very suspicious and shifty group of individuals).

I deduced pretty swiftly that Red had never expressed his love to Orange. At the same time though I wasn’t entirely certain Orange would respond positively to Red, what with her being the only lady-cone in a work place full of rowdy male-cones. I quickly reassured myself with the knowledge that Red would be so polite and gentlemanly, yet strong and rugged, that he would be able to woo Orange without expecting her to compromise her strong individuality, or sacrifice her long term career goals.

I came to admire those traffic cones so much and I was so moved by their plight of unfulfilled love and romance that I thought, nay I felt deep within my soul, that I needed to do something about it. I strode over and picked up Orange by the top part and closed the three metre gap to Red and placed her down next to him and said “Red this is Orange, Orange meet Red. I hope you cherish each other forever.”

And the lived happily ever after.

Meanwhile a large navy blue sedan had driven through the driveway that Orange had previously been blocking and ended up in a very deep sand pit, that was being prepared for its future as a housing development.

The man in the car was very unhappy indeed.

Thursday 2 May 2013

The Day After Rain

There’s something special about the day after rain. The world seems clearer, clean, after the downpour has washed away the bits and pieces of scum that modernity leaves hanging in the air. The sky is brighter and the leaves are greener and the birds sing sweetly. Although it is possible that this is just how daylight feels after a month of nocturnalism. I’ve been cloistered for the last couple of months, Honours has taken its toll. Daylight provides too many opportunities, distractions, picnics, long walks, the things that remind us of life, companionship, humanity. I haven’t been indulging in ‘real life’ recently, for fear that I’ll like it too much and opt to actually spend time with people instead of writing the dissertation that is due in twenty-eight days, which, to my mind, would invalidate the last year of my life.

Living nocturnally makes it easier to avoid the distractions of life. I write when everyone else sleeps, and then I sleep when everyone else lives. The inevitable consequence is that the world starts getting smaller, and eventually the entire world is small enough so that an Honours dissertation, and all of its related anxieties, can fill it entirely. My world has gotten very small indeed.

So when I stepped outside this morning, to sit in the backyard and drink coffee, I was struck by the brightness of daylight reality. I listened to the birds chortling to each other and thought ‘I wonder when I last heard birds singing.’ Only to realise that I’ve probably heard them often enough, but my world has become so small that I couldn’t fit them into it, so I forgot the sound immediately as I heard it.

I wanted to write about the birds and how the world feels the day after rain, but it occurred to me that if I am going to write something I should write the next portion of my dissertation, after all I’d probably feel guilty if I didn’t. And then another realisation hit me, one even more disheartening than the smallness of my world, I haven’t written a single piece of creative work in months. My imagination has been entirely repressed by research papers, articles on malpractice and a bunch of decidedly nasty psychiatrists. Which actually sounds like quite a decent crime novel, it isn’t.

I let my world get so small, that I can’t even imagine the normal largeness of ‘real life’ let alone the infinity of imaginary worlds, beasts, creatures, emotions and the limitlessness of what my imagination was before. I keep comforting myself with the knowledge that June will come, and all this Honours nonsense will end, then I will be back to my old self. That is what I hope. But, I’m not  completely convinced. 

Thursday 21 February 2013

A Bird Sized Coffin

The bird was tiny, even to six year old me, it must have been a baby bird. I don’t know how it came to be in our rose garden, lying there with its neck bent the wrong way entirely. Maybe it had fallen out of its nest while its mother was away looking for worms. Or, maybe a cat had found it and had run off with it, and someone must have seen the cat and yelled at it and chased it off, but by then the cat would have already broken the poor thing’s neck. Or, maybe the baby bird’s mother had been killed somehow and it was an orphan and it wandered off and had come to some unknown strife. It was tiny and mostly brown with some blue feathers, still fluffy as only baby bird’s feathers are. I don’t really remember now why I did what I did next, and up until recently I had forgotten that I did it at all.

I took the tiny corpse in my chubby six year old hands, cradling it gently; I took the bird to my dad’s shed in our back yard. He was at work, only my mum was home and she was busy inside so she wouldn’t have noticed me slipping into my dad’s shed, even though it was right opposite the kitchen window. I laid the little body down on my dad’s work bench and opened his tool box. I rustled around in it for a minute, taking various tools out, examining their potential usefulness and replacing them, until I found a small chisel and some pointy nosed pliers. I placed them on the bench next to the bird and then I thought very hard. I was reasoning with myself, even then at six I knew that it was a good idea to weigh my desires against the possible consequences of acquiring the object of my desire. Although I doubt the process would have been quite as eloquent as the words I now use to describe it. Probably it followed the lines of: How hard will it be? Will mum and dad be angry? Well the bird is already dead…

With that process out of the way I steeled myself and took the chisel in my left hand, it had a yellow resin handle, and even though it wasn’t a big chisel it still seemed huge in my six year old hands, and even bigger compared to the tiny bird on the bench. I took the pliers in my other hand, realised that they were a bit stiff from lack of recent usage and too difficult to open and close with just one little hand. So I placed the chisel down and used both hands to pry open the pliers, I angled them against the bird’s head, until the pointy ends rested at either side of the bird’s tiny beak, and I squeezed the pliers shut. I held the pliers tight in my right hand, and once again picked up the chisel with my left. I positioned the chisel at the place where the tiny creature’s beak met its head. I lowered the chisel and pushed down hard on that place.

I realised quickly that the process would be gorier than I had initially expected, and more than once I considered stopping, but I wanted that tiny beak. I think at the time I expected that it would come away simply and cleanly and I would string it onto a necklace or something, I hadn’t taken the time to consider the second part of the process. When I had almost severed the beak from the bird’s head I put the chisel down and took the bird’s limp body in my left hand, while still holding the beak with the pliers in my right. I wiggled the pliers around and pulled gently with my left, the last sinews holding the bird’s beak to its face broke.

I had the beak, and I was disappointed. I found there were pieces of feather and muscle still attached to it; I had neither the finesse nor the tools to clean it as I had hoped. It didn’t look the same as it had on the bird, it had looked marvelous to me, like a little jewel, and that is why I wanted it. But now it was flawed, it was scored with chisel marks and bloodied by the mutilation I had rendered it. It was ruined and I understood then that I had ruined it.

I was only six when this happened. I don’t think I told my parents, in fact I don’t think I told anyone, I was ashamed. I went into the house and washed my hands. My mum called out to me “Bubby, what are you doing?” “Just playing, mum.” I went to my room and found the little wooden box that I kept my doll’s shoes in. It was a little wooden thing with a sliding lid, I didn’t know much about coffins except what I had seen in cartoons; if I had, I would have been able to better appreciate the appropriateness of that box. I tucked it under my jumper, in case my mum saw me with it and asked what it was for, and returned to dad’s shed. I put the tiny mutilated body into the box and nestled its beak next to its face and closed the box. I picked up the shovel, which always lent against the shed wall just inside the door, and went around to the derelict flower bed on the side of the house where no one ever went.

 There was about a metre and a half between the house and the high white wall that separated it from the road beyond. I put down the little coffin, and handled the overly-large shovel with both hands. Afraid of discovery, I dug the shallow grave as quickly as I could. When I was satisfied I lent the shovel against the white wall and knelt in front of the hole I’d dug. I picked up the little coffin and placed it reverently in the grave. I knew that people said things at funerals and prayed for the dead person, and I wanted to do it right. So I said “Dear God, thank you for this bird, it was very pretty, and I am sorry I tried to take its beak.” I covered the grave and replaced the soil. I return the shovel to the shed and cleaned the mess off dad’s bench with a bucket of water and a rag, which I threw in the street bin afterward. I think I left a stain on the bench, but my dad never asked me about it. I went back into the house and washed my hands and my arms all the way up to my shoulders, I changed out of my dirty clothes. I sat on my bed and I cried. And after a while I forgot.

Monday 11 February 2013

The Tumble Poem

You had to break two of my ribs just to move my heart
But that is what the chest compressions require.
Your mouth on mine then you break my chest to pieces
I was in the hospital for weeks and out of kindness
You came to visit me. You saw the machine and the lines
Plugged into my veins, the red snake on the monitor
Proof of my heart, a broken heart, but it’s close enough
A box with sections keeping me sane
A nurse with charts declaring me lame
A doctor with hands pressing my neck
A couple of ribs stealing my breath
You gave me a heart attack but I was aware 
There are risks involved with any sport, I’m old
My knees don’t move like they used to and my eyes
Don’t see you no more. A song for you and it’s ruined my voice
It’s ruined my eyes and wasted my choice it’s the most
predictable story told in with the new out with the old.
You’re a cowboy without a horse or a gun or a reason
You’ve broken the law with murder,  theft, treason
You’re running now through windless deserts
Telling truths and stealing dreams
You left your horse with me, tethered
to an empty water trough by a tree
In an abandoned town with tumble weed
And whisky instead of water


Friday 8 February 2013

We think sad thoughts

Up high and falling off
                             picking up, standing up, shooting up and gripping hard.
                                                                                                             Really hard

 Release, a purpose and glass
                                          Watching it drop, slowly; fall… and break.

Night time and headlights
                                 A tree, silhouetted, menacing, beckoning.

Pull the lever and brace
                                  Heads, shoulders, knees and toes

Top floor and flying
                            The city and the moon, the grey and pavement.

Feet Steady and falling
                              Lips, ears, eyes and face. A hand, gripping hard…
                                                                                                        Really hard. 

Monday 7 January 2013

The Deep Pool in the Dry

The water was clearly not for drinking, fetid and greening around the edges, the pool must have been stagnant for months. The main river couldn’t have reached this far for at least three or four weeks, and this pool must have been isolated from the main body of it long before that. The pool itself was deep, more like a well, but it’s source wasn’t beneath it. It was located on the lip of the river bank, a perfectly round, deep hole. It was about four metres across; it filled when the river was in flood, and managed to remain long after that changeable creature disappeared from this region in the dry. Since then, I've heard that it has never dried up completely, as long as history can remember at least.

The pool, and I will continue to insist on calling it a pool if only for lack of a better word, was the only water in evidence for miles and yet there were no animals near it. That isn’t to say there were no animals nearby, but on a hot day in the dry you would expect to find at least a few desperate creatures to be lurking in the shade of the trees next to the pool. But there were none, not even blow flies or any other insects, there were no animals within, at least, two hundred metres of the pool. I suppose that should have tipped me off but, I was thirsty.

I quickly gathered a collection of stones and made a small rock circle and made a neat pile of little twigs in the centre of the circle, I piled a handful of dried grass and leaves on top of the twigs and pulled out my flint. I was thirsty, not stupid. I’m well aware that untreated water could carry disease and all sorts of nasty bugs that could have me retching my insides outward for weeks, or worse. When my little fire was strong enough I unhooked my billy from the side of my pack, wandered over to the pool and dipped it in, pulling up enough water to fill my water bottle. It took years to boil, at least it seemed that way to me.

I had finished the last of the water I brought with me the morning before; twenty four hours without water in the dry season is about as long as you can go before your body starts to slowly shut down. Another twenty four and it abandons the slow shutdown procedure and by the end of the third day you become lunch for birds. Some don’t last so long. A very few last longer. My vision had already started to get wobbly earlier that day and I wasn’t exactly keen to go another day without water, so I waited for the water to boil. Then I poured it into my water flask and fetched some more water from the pool while I waited for the first batch to cool enough for me to drink. Warm water is never ideal in thirty-eight degree heat, but dehydration in the desert is deadly.

Why was I in the desert in the first place? That is both a long and an extremely short story in itself. The long version involves a dissertation on historical references (some by surprisingly credible sources) to the Kianpraty, a large swamp (or river, or waterhole) dwelling, mythical monster from Aboriginal legend. In short, I was hunting a bunyip.
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