REPORT A PROBLEM
The Hope was launched on a fine day in January. The arrival of The Hope was looked upon with a little fear, being put together as it was without planning or forethought. An old blueprint followed by default. The Hope surprised everyone by arriving on time and intact. The day was beautiful. The clouds were as yet only on the horizon.
As The Hope sailed through the years and clouds ever gathered overhead, the name seemed sad and ironic. Irony was by then well in fashion, not that that was of any consolation.
The Hope was scrapped in the end.
She lifted her arms and let the dress fall over her head. The knit fabric fell heavily into place as she twirled to look in the mirror. The bias cut sat well on her figure and black was always a good choice. Her perfume was reminiscent of a strawberry-scented essence favoured by her sixteen-year-old self. This was oddly jarring, but due to her habit of choosing her perfume before dressing she was stuck with it.
played somewhere. She chuckled and thought it should be some seventies AM radio favourite by Barry Manilow or Rod Stewart or Andy Gibb.
Black, black, black is the colour of my true love’s hair. Does that mean I love myself if I die my hair black? Of course not. Idiot. Today I died my hair myself! I used to always die my hair black and it is too harsh for me but I forgot and so have died it black again. It looks black but in the right light it is purple. It is pretty radical and I am not looking forward to going in to work with purple hair. I got hair dye everywhere and did a slack-arse job of cleaning up.
Tusse thundered about in anger for three days, clubbing things at random with big fists that reached almost to the ground. The troll could not keep still but flung his bulk around, seeming to be everywhere at once. He would crash into a dining hall and grab a handful before lunging out again. He would visit each dining hall in turn. The people became extremely nervous when they saw his stupid but menacing grin. The people were careful to keep out of his way as he was not to be trusted, and he was clever at hiding to overhear secrets.
There is much happiness around and if you are lucky you will bump into it. If you are carrying a lump of sadness inside happiness will become evasive. Don’t you love those emails that come saying everything is fine with the kids and hubby and the house and the job and the freakin’ cat? Not one single fly in the ointment. You know that is crap and any bad shit is left out. What are those communiqués designed to do? Make everyone feel inadequate? I guess not. They are designed to share the joy and happiness in one fell swoop.
As I followed the woman in the shapeless grey dress, I appreciated the cute little row of houses that ended at the foot of a stretch of built-up railway line; and the quaint element of danger in the road that cut underneath and had no pedestrian access.
The woman evidently lived in one of the houses. She stopped, and I noticed a big dirty stain on either side of the dress, level with her hands. She wore a housecoat held together with a peg. She did not turn as I passed and I couldn’t catch her eye to say hello.
Being the first to arrive doesn’t bother me. I can choose where to sit, order a glass of wine, and read or write while I wait. Be the first to arrive at a table set for twenty and you feel like a bit of a dick. It’s a matter of choosing the place to sit where you feel least like a dick. I choose, then move, and later when pouring another glass of wine forget I put the top back on the bottle when I moved. Plunk goes the lid in the wine glass. Ha ha ha, still a dick.
One foot out of bed, another foot, that’s it. Up. One foot in front of the other, leave the bedroom. Travel the same time-worn path out the door and up the drive and down the street. If all those footsteps were visible if they never went away what would it look like? What colour would they be? Change colour like a mood ring perhaps. Become thick. Turn to vapour and float up and away in a rainbow mist. Or, does each footstep push a little deeper than the last, weighed down heavier, an uneven uneasy terrain. It feels like it.
What is it with shop assistants who don’t understand it is their job to know more than you? So you don’t know the name of that whatsit. Hell, that’s what they are there for! Not to impatiently say “you mean a blah blah blah (now let me get back to my
).” And what about those who make you feel it is your fault if something is wrong…
you seem very annoyed with me about this booking you can’t find, the booking for which I have the reference number, right here
. I’m being mean. Everyone can have a bad day.
There was still a lot of heat in the late afternoon sun. Jamie turned a corner into the shade and a cool breeze. It was welcome after the long run. She jogged down the hill enjoying the feel of the wind on her face.
Jamie always thought of home at this time of year, at the first hint of autumn. It had always been her favourite season, and here it was not as long or as pure or as pretty as at home. She slowed to a walk and thought about buying a ticket. It was time for a visit.
The weekend was wonderful and Monday morning fresh and beautiful, the sky crystal clear after days of rain. Fresh smells of earth and dew. A world of bird life – rosellas chattering in bottlebrush, seagulls pattering in the shallows and ducks diving under, splashing up to the top and spinning off like little motor boats. Why then the need to attach to an alcohol drip at the end of the day? Who said he drinks to forget… something has to give and to move so far from the earth to the shit and how to not take the one step back
Not having had the opportunity to talk openly and at length about his experience meant it always weighed heavily on his mind. He had difficulty concentrating on conversations when meeting people as he felt compelled to tell his story and only waited for an opportunity to do so. When he did it was often inappropriately timed and not well-received.
Some thirty years later, when he had finally lost the compulsion – had given up on an adequate response – he told someone new who said “that must have been really hard for you”.
“Yes, it was,” he said. And there was healing.
I had an inspirational teacher in Year 5 called Mrs Bales. I don’t know if it was because I was of the age when discovery seems wonderful – those few years between early childhood and adolescence – when ideas shine bright and jump out and envelop you. I don’t know if it was the teacher. She was a wonderful woman who showed us a history of Aboriginal Australia that was not inferior or condescending, just as it was. I could see the dignity and beauty. She boosted our self-esteem and every aspect of the day involved learning. Not a second was wasted.
The daily agony of beginning again takes its toll. From the first waking breath, the first look around the room, the first thought that there must be something better. The arm flung across the empty half of the bed. The years stretching back. The yawning gape of a future unknown and the terrible dread it will be an echo of what has been. More of the same, failure to reach a satisfactory life goal, every day over and over, again and again. Filling gaps and wasting time. A meaningless drudge on a quest for happiness before it is all over.
The little red hen scurried around hither and thither kicking up a lot of dust but not really doing much at all. The duck, the cat and the dog found the chicken annoying and made themselves scarce. The little red hen did not notice. She ignored them most of the time anyway. She sat while the dust settled, and pecked diligently for a while and made some progress. She thought about the duck, the cat and the dog and wondered what they were doing and felt a little lonely. This did not last for long and she resumed her pecking.
A ten cent piece spider lives in the wash tub. Make a paper ladder in case it is stuck. It stays on the paper but does not climb out. Red stripe spider tucked under the wheelie bin, safe until turned upside down on the compost heap, mown grass in the wrong bin. Orb spiders disappearing now, washed out. Daddy long legs spider drowned and scalded, lies like a little clawed hand, fingertips together on the side of the bath. Glad I didn’t flush it away after the rescue. It resurrects... legs move, sways to stand, walks up the shower curtain.
Soft feather bed, hard futon. Animal skins on floor of ice. Tatami. Dusty blanket by fire hunkered down small for the night. Tall bed. Low bed. Long bed. Wide bed. Cradle, bunk, cot. Sleigh bed and racing car bed, four-poster bed. Bart’s clown bed, Homer’s imaginary bed. A hammock.
One pillow or two or no. Frills, laces, doilies, ribbons, piping, stripes, florals, plain, white, grey, patched, darned, threadbare, holes and L-shaped tears. Timber, hemp, straw, bolts, screws and knots.
Curl up under the desk, foetal-like. Eyes closed, cosy little secret, and disappear into the dark. Pass the time ‘til bed.
The arm rose, hammer in hand, a dull glint of metal flashing in the weakening light. It hit home with a metallic clang, the hand-forged nail sealing the door of the cellar. The man sent another heavy blow to the crudely formed nail, sending the four-sided spike deeper into the timber.
Six nails in all were rent home and as the hammer rose and fell the red stains of violence were not discernible in the feeble light.
The man dressed in the dark-brown cassock rose and climbed the steps, his face, flushed from exertion, shining in the moonlight from above.
Warmth radiated out from the core of her being. She knew there may be a poison spot silently spreading within, but that did not yet pose an impediment to her happiness. She accepted it and in a way welcomed the challenge. She saw no choice. The omens were not good; the Tower appeared in every spread. Death, what would it be like?
She accepted the inevitability of news of a malignancy. After all, if it turns out to be nothing, if the omens are wrong, the only way is up. It has been a long time, and it is time.
It was 1942. Her hands rested, poised over the keys. She stared ahead seeing nothing as her right hand drifted to the high notes. She began a simple repetition of two notes… a thin, lonely sound, high and pure in the still cottage. Her left hand began the accompaniment, and the melody became more complicated. She played louder and faster, and the cottage filled up with music. Dancers whirled and drinks were poured and there were cheers and there was laughter. She tired and the music slowed and stopped and when the last note faded she turned to the telegram.
Following the lead of the big guy had become a habit. It was easier to go along with his self-assured cockiness, to let him do the work. I hung back and waited for him to react.
He walked to the car and glanced over his shoulder, “C’mon dickhead, lets go”. His lack of respect wasn’t a problem, I knew he was right. I needed to get the fuck out of there and find something I could care about.
I opened the door and slid into the passenger seat, flicking a Macka’s wrapper onto the floor. “You’re a fucking pig, mate”.
The rolling hills stretched as far as the eye could see. The sun had set, but there was still colour in the green slopes and red rooves dotting the valleys. The trees atop the hills cast long shadows, down to where thin wisps of smoke curled up white through the gloom.
Bill did not want to leave. He could see her stoking the fire to ward off the chill that came so quickly after night fall.
As he drove he saw the hills as they soon would be, covered in snow. He wondered if he would ever see snow again.
Frightened he was. Hid under the bed. Dusty and nasty things under there. Hard-edged boxes and likely spiders. Go away mean thing. Hates it under there but more frightened of mean thing. Is dark. Is cold. Is quiet.
He crawls out, slow. He hears nothing. He very relieved. Brush off nasty dust.
Oh no! Mean thing it sees him. Slobbers, shaggy hair, clip clip clip of nails it runs to him. He dives under the bed again. Mean thing head low eyeing him and slurp slurp it tries to eats him!
He has heard them call it “dog”. Mean thing.
You remember the pipe cleaners we had when we were kids? I saw a pack at the supermarket today. Those vivid colours. Pink, yellow, green – especially the purple. I loved those things. I almost bought a pack for old time’s sake. What did we do with them? Make stick figures? And where did they all end up? Not like plasticine that always ended a dull grey once all the colours had blended. Shocked to discover how cheap that stuff was, but it was a rare commodity then. Nothing extra ever. Nothing unless for birthdays or Christmas. No one spoiled then.
There is a box with four sides and a ceiling and a floor. Stretch out and touch the sides. Reach up and touch the ceiling, palms flat. It is a beige colour with soft light through the walls like egg shell. There is an outside. How did it get here and where is it going? Outside is there a bigger box inside a bigger box like a set of Russian dolls. Where does the light come from? It must be very bright outside. How to see with no door or window. Simply stand and wait. Time passes like a turtle.
Anyone who drinks was once a person who did not drink. This cross over may occur openly and in a controlled fashion such as a half glass with mum and dad in the family home. It may be forbidden fruit at parties.
Whatever the case, the bottle most likely comes out of the bag. Does the teenage illicit drinker leave the bottle in the bag? They’d want to show off, hey look at me I am so cool.
When does a person who drinks first decide to
leave the bottle in the bag
? Stops it slipping out of your hand.
I’m talking about your average wino. I’ve left the bag on the bottle on only one occasion (in public anyway).
We had a bottle each for some reason. With two enormous bottles of beer, we sat in the park (most likely illegal, which was a reason for leaving the bags on), and the bags insulated our hands against the cold.
It was a good idea at the time, sitting there against the graffiti wall enjoying a beer in the weak winter sun, until it took too long to get home and to the loo and we almost burst our bladders.
Dr James answered the phone on the first ring. He pushed the handpiece into the tray of frozen lasagne he’d just taken out of the microwave. He went to the drawer and took out the scissors.
Next week he would be in Alaska. He snipped the cord.
At night wolves howled. His guide told him they were rarely seen but it had been a hard, cold winter and they came in search of food. One day a wolf crossed the trail with a low, easy lope. She turned and stared at him and he shivered as she was so beautiful.
The walk to the top of the hill was always uncomfortable in the late afternoon heat, the sun an unbearable poke in the eye low on the horizon; until this summer when the heater had not been swapped for the fan from the garage, and carrying an umbrella became essential.
It was quite cold even though it was not yet March. At the top of the hill, as she hugged her coat closer and walked on the flat high street toward home, she saw, in this neighbourhood of cats and dogs, a cloud that looked exactly like a running dog.
The Tip Jar