Excerpt # 2 from The End: Anthology.

This is an excerpt from the precursor of the climax in a short story called Gabriel Sohlers. It is not majorly relevant to the key messages of the plot, in fact it is just an ending development of the main character. It is so random that it wont reveal anything relative to the narrative’s twists. This one is more grittier than the others, even more so than Two Homes. (I’ve worked very hard on the ending scene for that one). Gabriel Sohlers is about a child care operator who deals with a perplexing ethical issue involving two fathers that compromises her legal obligations as a child care worker and her own moral compass as a mother. I would imagine this would be the heaviest to read. The fourth story has been begun but it is my flimsiest yet so that will take longer. The title is imperative to one of the key messages in the plot. Ultimately it is a portrait of the inadequacies of the law and compliance in modern society. Well the one that I know at least. The story takes place over eight years. The excerpt is below.

I strolled like it was a normal reasonable day to the car and tapped his window. His head harpoons to me like a quick parrot. As this happened I had tried the door handle but it was locked. ‘What d!-‘ He saw who I was and it was in that moment of understanding, drawing on the look of revenge on my face, he thought it safe to turn on the ignition and drive away from where I stood outside his glass barrier of protection. I couldn’t let that happen. For me, at that moment, it was as if that the generational angst scourged by this man could not move on to its home forgiven. That’s right fucker, look surprised, you’re going to feel something fresh and new extremely shortly. Deftly lifting the steel can of peaches from the plastic bag with my right hand, it took three smashes to break through the glass. Something had taken over me. When the local community ‘pillar’ punched me in the breast with his right hand whilst his left hand was on the steering wheel, Todd opened the passenger door and scrambled out of the vehicle. ‘GET BACK IN HERE SON!’ He took his foot off the pedal and turned his head, sprinkled with glass fragments, trying to intimidate me with that repulsive and absolutely arrogant and deadly glare. I was looking at him the whole time. At least I don’t try and act like someone I am not. His perverse punch had hurt but I wasn’t backing down. It took more punches to my face, slicing my arm a bit on the smashed window, but I gripped the door handle and dragged the stupid thing painfully open. Gabriel leaped out like a leopard and pounced on top of my slow turning frame. I didn’t see where Todd went. The father on top of me punched me in the face, my head shooting to the side like a rolling bowling ball. For five seconds I was seeing little meteors like white droplets glittering in all directions across my ageing sight. By the time it returned to normal, I pushed my aching self-up from the spattered asphalt below me and saw him again, dragging his son into the car on the other side. He saw me and threw his son into the passenger side. Few seconds before he would be on me again, trying to get away from the scene. I emptied all of the contents out of my bag except the glass wine bottle and I flexed my fingers around the thin handles behind my back. I pretended to back off when he rounded maliciously the corner of his car with his fingers spindled flamingly on the bonnet. I had really ticked off the man. I counted down. He was preparing to hurt me again. One. As he drew his fist back fleetingly from his side as he was one foot away from me, I tried to be quicker with my right hand, pivoting the left side of my body for momentum. Two. Fuck it. He’s doing it too early.

He was the victim for the first time in the eight years I knew him. A purple coloured circle with a smudge of red was evident in his left temple, it was there immediately after we both heard the sound of glass breaking and shards tearing. His eye closest to the canyon-like abrasion was locked shut and grimacing and tightly. It was right then and there that I laid into him.

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Praise for Ben Langdon

Five days ago I began to read a book that was given to me by a local author. Ben Langdon. Ben, I am very thankful you gave ‘The Miranda Contract’ to me! I hope this novel was internationally recognised and well received by our country. A must read for fans of the Percy Jackson books .

The concepts of superhuman and adolescent lives are combined frequently in literature (I mean all types of literature), so at first glance; the cover of the boy opening his jacket to reveal his ‘battery’ powers is relative to Clarke Kent or Peter Parker unbuttoning their work shirts to leave their monotonous lives and engage with epic battles with epitomised super villains. However, this book is very unique because it is set in Australia, rarely do we get a piece of writing focusing on a developing protagonist which takes on the superhero genre in a city such as ‘Melbourne’. Ben doesn’t go out of his way to portray the protagonist’s life as difficult and ‘boring’ like most teenagers feel towards their lifestyles, in fact it is quiet clear that Danny, the hero of the text (so far) can find the humour in the normal settings and typical life of a seventeen year old boy. This feature blends very fluently with his dynamic character. Ben does not define him by his power. He gives him other qualities that breathe depth into him. I think that Ben is setting me up to grow attached to him. I hope nothing bad happens to him!

The fact that Dan’s maniacal grandfather and the pop star character from the title serve as catalysts for a plot that uses stigmas and pressures bestowed from society to investigate the psychological profiles of Dan and Miranda, is so far one of the most clever techniques Ben employs to pedal the reader’s engagement with the plot. The method in which the author does it in my opinion, draws sympathy for us when we look at Dan and Miranda and how they interact under their own disguises with their regular worlds. In effect, it taps into themes of modern mythology and urban anti-heroism. This makes for an interesting comparison with ‘American Gods’ by Neil Gaiman, except Ben is targeting a younger audience. Well, that has been my impression so far. I can gladly say it has not affected my enthusiasm for reading his text because of my age. What makes this book not grip the reader but stand out as a whole is how it pursues an obscure chain of events that evokes a universal metropolitan landscape that we know. This is called mystical realism. However this story is too strange to pervade the laws of science, in effect Ben has challenged the ‘expectations’ of a genre and contributed to another lesser renowned subject: speculative fiction.

With a confident voice and identifiable traits emerging from original characters in a rapidly growing movement of ‘urban heroes’, Ben Langdon’s ‘The Miranda Contract’ is a humble augmentation of a territory he has made his own. I also sense that in importance to the meaning of the text-it is a subtle commentary on the effect of characterisation in vulnerable youth (particularly those from minorities) through messages projected to us by cultural media outlets and mediums. Lesser important than the story’s originality but just as unique.

Rating: (Wont be given until I have fully read the book)

The significance of the soviet anchor symbol from the cover, I assume will be explained by Dan's grandfather in the story as I continue to read it.

The significance of the soviet anchor symbol from the cover, I assume will be explained by Dan’s grandfather in the story as I continue to read it.

Excerpt 1: Two Homes.

Two Homes is the current title for an upcoming story from The End: Anthology.

It is a drama and coming of age text, possibly might be finished as a novella. When I finish the final draft, I will give more background information about the context of the story. I have roughly 24 stories to complete before I can consider publishing the anthology as hand held copies. I plan to end the collection with The End: Part Two. Part One and Port Fairy can be read on this blog if you haven’t read them already.

Two Homes

2009

The full gulf of orangeness and redness will swallow us if we don’t leave. ‘Look at me Jake!’ My husband, stunned by a falling piece of debris from the ceiling, is dazing at me under the searing heat. ‘JAKE-we must get Lily-Abby and get out, get up JAKE!’ Our wall shakes with a rumble in a split second and explodes into our direction with the fist of the bushfire behind it. We are so close to dying. ‘JAKE GET THE FUCK UP!!’.

Two Months before

A boy at Warrick Primary yesterday said in community circle that school is like our work place. We, the neatly uniformed fifth graders arrive studiously at nine in the morning and leave at three twenty in the afternoon-eager for a new day of learning after our appropriately achieved amount of sleep. In and out. That’s how I look at it. A boring thing of how you move back and forth to one thing for six years. This though, this was far from boring. An adventure beyond the mysteries of childhood and marvel at the natural world. An adventure that landed me in the principal’s office, the principal whom is looking like as if he is trying to change the colour of his skin to that of a red apple with strange snakes under the skin of his forehead and forearms-even his neck. It really was an incident rather than an adventure, but Tolkien discovered endeavour in the oddest of things. ‘What happened and don’t give me any smart crap, tell the truth.’ ‘Grace pushed me, I was talking to Anthony and she pushed me. She pushed me Mr Trolt, FALICITY PUSHED ME. DO YOU HEAR ME? I WAS BULLIED AND SHE PUSHED ME, SHE CALLED ME A VERY MEAN WORD. I WANT-…’ Bethany is not my enemy. I see enemies as people worth paying attention to. She is comparable to a flea with no legs. Just as easy to ignore because of her useless contributions to class discussions with Mr Marc and just as lazy in team work classes with Mrs Calanser because of her inability to simply help. What a stupid, repugnant an incredibly judgemental girl. I believe that she will not be of aid society when she grows up. She is just an annoying little brat, like an ear lobe, just wobbling and not functioning for its purpose: to catch sound convex soundwaves and gather them in the ear. I feel her trying to burn me with her dirty looks when I use big words in English classes. I am not trying to sound smart! I get it. It makes me sound different and like a know it all. But you wanna know something Bethany, you moronic daft thing? It is not my fault that you don’t study the dictionary and sentence structure booklets after school because you don’t care about Highschool right now. But I want to be the best. That is my goal and my problem and Bethany just has a knack for expressing opinionated ideas about other people’s aspirations and tiresome missions. Anthony on careers day said he wanted to be a scientist when he grew up and Bethany said that he should learn to speak properly or else ‘scientist guys and boss people’ would think he is ‘retarded’ and that ‘they’ wouldn’t ‘hire’ him. The moronic mouthy human being obviously hasn’t heard of Albert Einstein who had a stutter, or Stephen Hawking. Me and Bethany-Bethany and I, are the same age but for crying out loud: have an open mind you arrogant smartless moron. Your mother intended to give birth to a rational human being, not a narrow minded snail who is practically asking to be squashed. I keep these thoughts to myself, but why? Why can’t Bethany just accept different people and not act weird around them. Arrrggh.

The incident happened at halfway through lunch time. The boy’s name is Anthony something, I don’t quite understand his last name because it’s too hard to understand. Too lengthy. He is the one who said school is like work. As mentioned before, he has a passion for science. David Attenborough specials, encyclopaedias on space things and stuff, he’s onto it. In the grade of adventurous prep-he was the first classmate I spoke too. Remembering what my mother said: ‘be kind and accepting, be yourself too but don’t let yourself put down others because of their difference’, I persisted in speaking to him in recess and playing brandy with him at lunch times. It grew more and more overbearing to interact with him however. He had some sort of ‘’disability’’, as the other classmates put it, he couldn’t use the sound ‘r’ or ‘s’ or even ‘th’ when he opened his mouth. ‘Where is the wake?’ he would ask when we had to clean up the bicycle shed where the floor is the bottom of an ocean of leaves which break off from the black-cotter trees along the edge dirty boundary of the school grounds-leaves that float through holes in the roof, large enough for us to crawl up and out into a higher platform of the world if we had a ladder or something. ‘Hey Ceve, can you help me carry this?’ Steve had no choice but to happily become ‘’Ceve’’. ‘Fair is a naked man running wild on the oval Mr Trolt.’ ‘WHAT!?’ Yes. It is true. Last year a man with some mental problem, paranoid schizophrenia or something, climbed over the back gate and ran onto the oval and just yelled at us. ‘I AM THE DIRT MAN!!’ Wearing nothing but his pasty skin. We all charged into the class rooms, locked the doors and emptied the scissors from the armoury of our pencil cases for battle. It all ended quickly after Anthony had immediately informed Mr Trolt and the police were called. ‘That man is naked, ew’. Really Bethany? I thought he was wearing a wetsuit that had a naked format. At first I had screamed and cried, who wouldn’t? It was a bloody terrifying and traumatic experience, but I felt better when I was huddled with my class mates in the classroom. All the teachers were having lunch at the Café Lazatte so thank our innocence that the principal was working in his office at the front of the school when the self-proclaimed ‘dirt man’ charged onto the school grounds. Five sessions later with the school psychologist and semi nurse, I stopped having panic attacks spurred by anything. Greg and Andrew were laughing in Science when they whispered that the ‘crazy guy’ was ‘fucked high as tree’ on ‘pingers’. Whatever drugs they are. Several months later, today, Bethany was nosy enough to dig up that the temporarily insane individual that was to be charged on indecent exposure to minors and adults, was in truth Anthony’s older brother who is intellectually disabled. Anthony wasn’t scared of him. I guess it must be because he has probably seen his misunderstood sibling heaps of times in that state. Sadly that was enough for Bethany to verbally and abusively conclude that because of the blood relation between Anthony and his ill-talked about hidden brother, that somehow Anthony’s stutter is an extension of the intellectual disability in Simon. I think his name is Simon. Anyway, I called her a ‘rude bitch’ and that she should ‘walk away’, she thought she was the nastier one by retorting that my Grandfather is dead. Simply put: ‘Yeah…well-you’re grandfathers dead, have fun cr’- before the next moment could arrive, I had half hit-half pushed the swiny big knob into the jutted concrete of the basketball court. Next thing Anthony and I knew was that we were soon to face against a family of swiny big knobbish apes for standing up to their single over-appreciated brat. It was like I could hear the storyteller, sitting on my shoulder, a sensible alter ego of myself saying: Meet Mr and Mrs Donolotto, very shortly to be the cathartic makers of your further frustration with ignorance and rudeness in the next forty eight hours. Well, it was more like I was meeting them and Anthony was silently hushed out of the equation. Didn’t want to involve his lawyer parents I guess. Because I got involved, that had given Bethany’s parents the perfect reason to not interrogate their lovely child and be awkwardly forced into a parental position of telling their daughter that she is responsible. I wish it could pan out that way, oh the amazing miracle it would be if Bethany experienced what it was like to truly understand that she is at fault. She is the snotty parasite from the sunny honeycomb that ruined the day. No. I hurt her. So they, Bethany’s parents, will aim their verbal guns of mortification and anger at me. The girl who defended Anthony. The boy who no student really cares about.

As the middle aged appearing man stands up in the ‘letting out and go’ room to share his experience or give a speech, I think about my daughter and what she is doing now. What is she thinking about? Is it good? Whatever it is I somehow know that it doesn’t have to do with me. Some mothers have that intuition. At first I thought it was uncanny but the conservations with my daughter have revealed that my wonders, while they are not accurate, they haven’t been far from the truth neither. Dyson calls it ‘cold reading’. Can he call me knowing that I had a bone bound idea that somehow at school, Felicity had burnt herself ‘cold reading? I uncovered quickly that she had scolded her hand with a fallen pot of hot water. Taylor and Lucy think it’s a ‘mother thing’ like all mothers naturally possess a quality for insight into the wellbeing of their children, a ‘universal’ characteristic. ‘Dr Seko’ my therapist, calls it ‘concentration of neurological activity in my prefrontal cortex and parietal lobes’. ‘Areas of the brain as you know Sarah, are involved with empathy, anxiety and social interaction. Anxiety and Social interaction Sarah. Anxiety and Social interaction.’ ‘How much am I paying you Dr Seko?’ During my welfare officer years, I met mothers who knew their children like they were just kids and not actually their children. Why are we different? What’s the effect of struggling on the perception of people close to you? Well one of them had a proper excuse because she had Korsakoffs.

The speaker brings my thought back to the surface. He speaks straight to the point of why he’s here.

That’s it. Please give feedback, any comments on my other posts as well would be awesome and very appreciated. Thankyou for reading.

Literature creative response (Draft)

The Hunter on the Crossing

A Border Short Story: All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (creative response)

 There are awful spacing mistakes in this short story. When I edit it and refine it with a brief reflective commentary, these mistakes will be gone. The lack of talking marks is an obvious connections. It will be hard to track who is speaking in this story. When the final draft is presented, the sentence structure should clearly indicate who is talking. For now, just try and enjoy the story for the pile of words that it is. There are definitely mistakes about historical accuracy in this creation. I will improve on that when I further condense this response. Also watch out for contradictions, they bloody pepper this story so I need to closely repair those errors soon.

I wish this author was immortal. His books have affected me so much. His prose has a Faulknerian rhythm.

I wish this author was immortal. His books have affected me so much. His prose has a Faulknerian rhythm.

Our version of the novel my class are studying.

Our version of the novel my class are studying.

I

 

The rectangular poster was stuck with tack to the mudbrick wall of the shop and with a sort of picaresque depiction of the criminal it weighed upon. It declared a twenty thousand pesos bounty or a two thousand dollar award for whoever captured and delivered or captured and killed the green looking fella whose features suggested a Texan origin with Germanic ancestry. The observer for no reason noted that the corner of the wanted poster was stained with coffee and spit and it made him wonder about how men of vanity openly demand and request justice and condemn sinful men-yet righteously at the same time do not go out of their way to initiate justice. From the colour of the coffee the drinker must have spilt the same coffee the observer was slowly savouring the taste of with his tongue.

Without ignoring them, the observer looked upon the other twelve posters which encircled the curious one of the American.                                                                                                                             When he was just a little pup he would often ride his bike out of town to the crop fields after a sand storm and looked at the skulls of wolf heads that had been blown bare from their dusty cavities in the ground by the strong winds from the east where storm fronts collided with tornadoes around Chickasaw county and Colorado. One day he saw the several clean skulls of men, women and children and when you looked down at the ones that were tilted upwards you would find just like the observer did that the blackness in their eyes were like cylinders in the earth in which they burnt a charred hole when they died. The observer looked into their eyes for hours one day and went home thinking if you could see so much darkness in a man when he was alive. The tops of the skulls were like pillars strong enough to stand on and the observer had trained himself when he ran away from home-which men were worth digging into the ground with your feet and he also discovered he had a talent for pinpointing where the most shameful and unwanted weakness was in any man. Right now looking at these men, he would step on some of their graves but not all of them. Call him judgemental but he deduced what they were charged for without reading their crime. The boy was illiterate.

Evaluating the way in which the painter scratched their faces with a degree of anger into the material was easy for the youth. It determined how he or she deemed the severity of the crime and it was a useful trick to use. The abundance of posters in such a small area also indicated that there was a large share of blood money to be forged in an intensive and profitable period of time.                   From the looks of the town though, the observer was the first fella to take interest in the killing of these human beings. The coffee the observer was drinking from the iron cup tasted of dirt and the taste was compensated for with mint leaves and condensed milk. He looked again at the selection of lives designated for burial below the earth. A Stagecoach robber, A Rapist, A Fraud in the field of medicine, A Black magic cannibal, another revolutionary borne out of Don Evaristo. The others were wives and mothers who had shot or cut down their husbands and had taken their children to Northern Mexico from Honduras and the details in their face were not as angry looking as the men which suggested that the sympathetic painter got orders from the husband’s families to create the posters.                                                                                                                                                        Standing up with the posture of an agile creature-the observer walked to the ecru and amber coloured wall and memorised the shape of the American’s nose and the colour of his eyes and the presentation of his hat and hair style. The observer processed the sharpness of his cheekbones and the duality between his eyebrows and width of his jaw. He speculated on the colour of his eyes from the shade of the charcoal coated with ink and he determined the tone of his skin from the shade and ruggedness in his face and what those years of living under a sun that beats down on you would have an effect on his face. He was definitely Texan. He finally noted that in the picture he resembled those rogue heroes his father would read to him about out of those long gone pulp fiction comics and penny dreadfuls.                                                                                                                                                         Today he thought heroes referred to God or men like god. He wanted to think that heroes are real and but initially it was thoughts like that that what drove him outta the States. His goddamned father.                                                                                                                                                                     The convicted greenie may look polite in this photo but right now he is probably haulin a string of stolen horses’ outta Devil-knows-where after deciding god doesn’t want to judge him yet. He wouldn’t be picaresque now. Right now, the observer wondered, he would be raw boned and edgy as a gang of buffalo. Someone didn’t like Texas the observer thought.

The observer ripped the piece of vellum from the structure and folded it deftly and walked diagonally to the desk in the shop. The shopkeeper asked the youth if he wanted to pay half price for a coco-cola and the observer responded in telling him that he would be better off selling stagnant water.                                                                                                                                                                                       M´as cafe´ despue´s?                                                                                                                                         The observer replied that he wouldn’t like more coffee. He told him in his immaculate Spanish:                      I would like more if it was for free.

ii

The bounty hunter walked outside and he strolled to the end of the main street in the tiny village and stood with his feet squarely spaced apart-facing the irreducible refuse of tin shacks and wooden bungalows. If he were an eagle he would compare this cluster of civilisation to the rest of the country and not give a damn about it. The hunter had a forlorn one point perspective from this spot and he admired the haunting beauty of the dysphoric landscape before him. The sandy road he stood upon sliced a solitary track into the rest of the chalky and cadaverous wilderness like a white creamy needle and he had learned very quickly upon his arrival that the word barren was unheard of in this place. Only in America did people know of barrenness. They read it in books and watch cowboys roam lands where the mountains are there just because it’s the only location they can use like the Rocky Mountains or Yellowstone.

In Mexico, barren was the regular way to grow crops or practise nomadism. The hunter imagined as he assessed the Sierra Madre-that the savage and malignant mountains here were a part of a skeletal force- a formation of highland communities that squabbled in heartless survival on their own, watched over by that consumptive force that related all men’s thoughts to money, women, drink and pride. Not the hunter.                                                                                                                          He sure was incompetent at riding horses but he knew how to sustain himself off the tiniest pathetic remains of dust and rotten animals. He had a stomach that his childhood friends couldn’t match when they took dares gulfing down raw rabbit guts and fox livers, they did it when the snow fell because that was when the meat was at its best safe to bite into. Thawed and chewy. In summers they switched to the neighbourhood cats or wild boar. Agility came into play when that happened.

The hunter turned away from the mountain range and looked ahead and he noticed where the further terminals of the sky were reducing to little ashen clouds from a previous thunderstorm. How the thunderstorm created clumps of smoke floating in the sky he didn’t understand but somewhere he knew-an oasis was burning to the ground and that meant no fruit, water or fish for a community until an oil company from the North took interest in exploiting this land.                                                The storm had rendered a proportion of the higher dimension of the atmosphere with a permanent hue of alabaster and the sun was trying to shine through that milky smoke but it failed by only breaking through with an overhanging dark vermillion. His grandfather had requested his coffin to be built from the blood red burgundy of his native forest from the isolated Topeka reserve but this was darker than that.                                                                                                                                          This colorant snaked in drizzles across the sky-kilometres back to the point above where the hunter stood and the formation of this phenomenon reminded him of the look of wax dripping in gluggy thin strips from the wick of a candle. He walked around normal town for a while, looking into shops and finding nothing useful except apple cider and firewood and cigarettes.                                                     He came to the local well which was down yonder the hill behind the tuckshop and he stood looking into it like he had come to the end of something. At least those empty eye sockets in the skulls, the ones he stared into when he was a little lad-he looked into them knowing that nearby, there was a home with a roof where he could pour himself a cup of milk without fighting for it. Out here, rooves are underrated but more importantly; a man’s actions become one of many narratives, a snippet of history. That history that is among thousands of other similar files of history is never recorded.                                                  They are just forgotten and buried by nature or the devil.                                                                         No one cares.                                                                                                                                                          In contrast America is privileged for having its graveyards and wakes where families and friends can refresh and solidify their memories of the dead. South tells a different story though.                            And it isn’t sentimental remembrance and looking back on the good ol days.

***

If you want a roof, give and take blood.                                                                                                       That’s what an acquaintance by the name of Quentin Cope had told him, nineteen, a black man he was riding with out of Wyoming from a group of angry rangers and white men and his cousin’s clan because they killed a bear with a trap in 41, before he ditched the country after Roosevelt claimed:                   we cannot build the future for our youth but we can build our youth for the future.

The trap was a small circle of duck liver with an invisible spring in the middle that brought together two handmade semicircles of tin and lead spikes and ductile daggers that were camaflouged by the bloody duck liver. Five days after sitting in a pine tree with their buckshot rifles –squinting through their scopes that were misty from the wind chill typical of the snowy winters in colossal Wyoming, using strong lengthy American agapanthus leaves strung together to strap themselves to the middle of the towering tree-they watched their snare work.                                                                                          Quentin wagered that a moose or lone buck would stagger into the trap and the boy hunter opposed that herbivorous mammals wouldn’t hurt themselves for meat. They used cigarettes and two packets of mullet and barley sugar drops to forge the wager and the hunter won six cigarettes and the food when a big and heavy sow on the fifth day at dawn-leaned into the trap with her front paw. Her cubs watched on as the bear roared and that sound echoed through the Jackson Hole Valley and all across the Great Green Plains to Cheyenne.                                                                                                                 The cubs were crying and they didn’t know why or what happened to their mother and Quentin joked about shooting some of the weeping children in the head to urge the tougher ones who were weeping little to feel sick at their hearts. As the hunter looked through his scope the mother looked at him and the boy looked at the mother and he made a choice about her family’s fate. He put his hand on Quentin’s gun and lowered it and told him that the children won’t die.                                                They will die without their mother.                                                                                                                   You will grow used to killing young things out of joy and you will become close to killing young children if you find it easy.                                                                                                                                         We need the money or else we starve-cub furs sell for heaps around here, children need them for growin up in these parts.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Yeah well those children can learn to deal with the cold and cuddle their mommy and daddy if they need to.                                                                                                                                                                    Quentin looked at him.                                                                                                                                                  If you want a roof, give blood and take blood. We need the money. This is America, and in America we are on our own.                                                                                                                                               Killin kid’s aint apart of the dream.                                                                                                                                   And workin flat fuck out at a sawmill for snotty cereal isn’t what the dream told us neither.                           Have mercy for the cubs. The mother is enough. C’mon.                                                                                                                                      No eatin for a week and you aren’t eager to kill a bunch of em.                                                                       We have food though.                                                                                                                                      Yeah but you’ve won the bet though.                                                                                                                       Well quit sulkin, that’s the part the dream don’t like to talk about you gambling fool.                                                                                                                                                     Fuck you then. America’s not stoppin me. If that’s the way it is.                                                                       …The bitch by itself is enough to last us a couple days. Quentin. Don’t.

Meanwhile the mother had started biting through her lower leg to remove herself from the cold teeth of the trap to get to her children in the final chapter of her history and the poor cubs weeped more tears for their mother as gushes of blood spread towards them and the tough mother just groaned and swore in her own language to extinguish the pain.                                                                    The hunter was saddened that the cub’s history would be integrated with a parent who was dying for them just to reach them and touch them before the bear bleed out. Through her roars and grunts, the hunter decided she was telling them that they will be alright, deep down knowing that one day they will probably face similar obstacles because it is a cycle of life as the hunter saw it in all its possibility of being examined in its most truthful light.                                                                          The moment held more knowledge for the ways of the world than a book by Faulkner could explain to him in the most clear and comprehensible way. He listened to a voice say that the past is never dead. It’s not even past. History that day saw an illusion of another of those wrongful maiming’s of creatures whose numbers are just beginning to faintly dwindle and the beginning of the repetition of death loaded with consequences that rings through the decades.                                                               Faulkner wouldn’t recognise however that it matters how the killer walks away from their crime and that the conclusions can’t be just as simple as death and it was a truth that the boy didn’t know how to read in the eyes of the pleading mother. All that could be nurtured out of the outskirts of what truth he felt when he shot the bear was that the rest of his future history was going to be guided by that intense moment.                                                                                                                                               It happened before Quentin could do shoot a breathing thing, for the hunter had raised his own 303. Stanford Carbine and he drew in his breath and held it, and he made eye contact with the mother and she looked him in the eye again and she knew what was coming. She knew that he was about to do her a favour. There was some sort of understanding here passed on from the bear to the boy that she was losing too much blood for her to complete her bloody task and reach her children in time and that it will be better for her to be put down. Almost asking for it and hating that it should happen.

Two seconds after he drew in his breath and the mother’s tearful eyes closed-he shot down the bear and it slumped like a boulder in its deepening lake of blood and gushing feces. Snow started to fall and snowflakes were melting on the boy’s face, crumbling flecks of ice rolling and cold droplets pouring down his cheeks but the feeling of what just happened and his part in it was in no way any different to the feelings coursing in the orphaned children who now screamed for their mother. His mother when he was very young had read to him Lord of The Rings and he felt like he had begun an event just as sad as when Boromir was killed after the fall of Gandalf. Looking down dumbly on an orchestra of loss and pain.                                                                                                                                         It was too late.                                                                                                                                                           Ajago was sitting in the bushes next to the gigantic tree, the leaves crisp from the beginning ice of the American winter. The whole time-watching.                                                                                           Five minutes later the placid wolf howled and no brothers or sisters answered his call. So that’s the way it is. A friend called loneliness, an agent of euthanasia that has pedalled extinction…and I. The ways of the world are unintentionally barbaric and it seems that there was no preventing what’s coming in the future, for if the boy felt that it was ideal to shoot a mother with six mouths of rare sun bears to feed, what good will harness the future children of humanity. It looks like if you aren’t with a side, you’re left to defend yourself in the middle.

Why did you do that?                                                                                                                                        The mother was killing her children too by killing herself in front of them Quentin. It’s better if she’s down and out of her misery. The park rangers will take em in.                                                                     Fine, have it your way happy dreamer, the cubs will probably be put to sleep or skinned anyway.                                                                                                                       The hunter believed in his argument because that was what breeded a loss of a part of oneself in human beings. That night he cried into Ajago’s fur and the wolf knew why he was hurting. The hunter vowed to never hurt anyone younger than him from then on out by hurting their guardians and protectors. Even if it meant no roof and a pouring and rainy sky. He never discovered the fate of those cubs but he knew if god let him put down their only parent than the laws of nature was as clear as how death row inmates say they killed their children because they stashed away their booze. Which meant that the cubs would have to become their own the next day or never.

After running away from Wyoming to Utah and sneaking away from the police who had locked up Quentin not for killing the bear but for being black, the boy set upon a ghost town called Logan and it was deserted because a water pipe that ran to the town broke and the government didn’t have enough to fix it with the war on. He met a homeless man called Joseph Brady and he stayed with him for a couple months to get fed and hydrated and healthy again.                                                                  The seventy year old something talked about what it takes to break bread below the border. Below that so called haven he swaggered like a foolish son of a gun in. He talked to the youth about the First World War and death and sadness and how a war has always been raging in the Spanish land and the presence of death and sadness that he breathed in during his hellish chapter in France-has been embedded into the generations and future generations of boys and girls of the ignored nation of almighty Mexico.                                                                                                                                                If he really was ambitious enough to take his young boots where not many men walk he would have to learn to sharpen his wild within and use it in harmony with the outer wilderness. So he trained in ways that advertised war heroes don’t sensationalise and talk about because the audiences at home would vomit.

***

After making his conclusion about the previous idea, he climbed up the hill and sat on the crummy slate wall that acted as a fence for the tuckshop against the neighbouring butcher where outside rotting coyote carcasses hanging upside down from a deer truss out the back and they were swarmed by blowflies. The hunter crossed his legs on the horizontal uneven shape of the top of the waist high wall. He waited for the heavens to change its miserable appearance before setting out but they didn’t. The hunter decided to make use of his small spare time then and there to see the oracle at the barbers shop.                                                                                                                                            The oracle was a painter who sold his talent for locating people without seeing them. Twenty minutes later after paying the last three bullets from his Springfield sniper rifle to the oracle for his services-he knew where to walk to find the wanted boy. The melancholic state of the symmetry between the land and the sky had not changed during that time except for beginning to turn crimson gold at the epicentre of where the thunderstorm had occurred. To the hunter, the colourisation told him that night was coming and that he should start making distance.                                                                   It was now late in the evening and the observer concluded that the mystical force he contemplated about in Mexico was planning to conduct one of those typical violent evenings of redness. The oracle had marked on the hunter’s map the trail to the wanted boy for the hunter’s last ammo. If he didn’t find the boy one year older than him, he vowed to travel back and take back the bullets with the magician’s eyes for claiming to see false things.                                                                                                The truth teller, as he named himself- implored the hunter to watch out for a boy who was reorganised by the force of Mexico into a raging bull and that the bull was riding upon a grand black Arabic horse that carried an extension of the bull’s soul. He told the hunter that the bull was heading north for San Angelo and that the bounty would be unjustified for tracking down beyond the border. The hunter chose this bounty because his was the lowest and getting paid highly meant attracting thugs and other savages like himself that were less refined and the hunter didn’t want to kill men out of a dispute over money. But that didn’t mean the bounty wasn’t high. It was just the least attractive.                                                                                                                                                                         The hunter walked further back out of town and came across the gallows and he leaned against one of rotten wood poles that supported the execution platform and after ripping a piece of the vellum from the wanted poster, he pinched some tobacco and hash from his small leather pouch and lit up the cigarette. There was an open crate next to him where the hangman would chuck the heads of criminals into the basket if decapitation was there sentence instead hanging from the neck until dead. He tapped the cigarette with his forefinger to sprinkle the excess ash and embers into the crate and those small fragments of fire and discs of heat made some of the eyes from the fresher heads glow with emotion. Malice and Desperation.                                                                                      Well you get the world you deserve and the world you got stuck you there looking at me with no arms and legs to teach me some respect.

After finishing the cigarette he rolled down his sleeves and he started walking further out of that grotesque area of town, north at a brisk pace. The slowly descending grey clouds in the sky had disappeared now and that inflamed sunlight had gone a little dull and it shined on the few remaining flamingo flowers dotted around the expansive desert and it made them look like sparkling stars or opals against the oncoming darkness. As he walked, you could see by looking at him face on that the final remaining sunlight was curling around the back of his body and it was protruding outwards like spikes. That appearance quickly vanished as the sun went below this area on the dais of the earth. The hunter recalled how he had told the barber that he couldn’t read and would need to be told the conditions on which the boy was to be treated upon capture and the oracle had done this clearly. He left happy, feeling that he wasn’t judged.

III

The killer whistled for Ajago to run to him and the Alaskan wolf did so and they walked together. They walked north and the killer pulled up his black ghadi cloth that he had fashioned into a bandana. He disassembled the sniper rifle-pondering if he could sell the parts along the way for a good price. He piled the parts into his bag which he had carved out of the hide of an alligator some time ago. Around the diagonal of his chest was a waxy string which kept a dragon-smoke and mahogany longbow to his back above the bag. He had used nothing but a knife purchased from a castillero-made from the bone of a man’s bicep, to define the tool out of the tree trunk in Vas Diego which is a municipality next to a walled off zone out of Mexico City.                                                                   He was impressed by the idea of a weapon being created out of a human skeleton and he had asked for the creator of the weapon and the smuggler had replied that she was serving a sentence inside Mexico’s most dangerous place and this impressed him even more.                                                        Swinging from his hip was a quiver filled with eleven arrows. The quiver was made from sap he galvanised from a maple tree so it became rubber and the arrows were wooden with the fangs of rattlesnakes sharpened into points at the end of the arrows. And yes, he studiously went to sleepless lengths to make sure that each fang still had long-lasting drop of venom in their needle eye cavities. The sheaths were cut from the brim of piranha and angler fish he had killed with a slingshot at a river in the Sierra Madre valley and a Matera had confiscated the nifty little thing from him some months ago. These sharp and spiky fins were shoved into the grooves of arrows and they worked better than the nine pesos arrows from the antique shops.                                                                               On Ajago’s intimidating back was a small wooden saddle that looked like the seating area for an open carriage. In it was food and water-insects and bugs for those times when food may as well be sand and in the roped down pack was fur clothes and mountain goat skins which he shot with his bow when he was living with a nomadic group in the Trans Mexican Volcanic Belt for a week or two. The oracle had asked after he was paid why he would give away his last ammunition.                                                           I have my bow. I can command my brother to defend me and spill blood for me.                                            Your brother?                                                                                                                                                                     Yes, a wolf from the ice.                                                                                                                                         The oracle had looked at him as if he was crazier than himself.

The killer’s grandfather had made a living assassinating head-hunters in California. His father walked down the south of America. His estranged father had wandered down the South of America to Texas and inevitably battled against men from Mississippi who dressed like every day was Halloween and wore pointy hats and he raged against them because they tried to rape his wife when she was delivering fruit to an army camp as her day job via truck. They tried but the wife did something in retaliation that was more forbidden by the bible than the molestation.                                                                    The killer was born in San Antonio, Texas and he grew up with his Daddy and shortly he told the old man that was becoming more of an old timer that he didn’t like it so he went away like a stray dog and his father was the understanding owner.                                                                                                                 After all his experiences in the States-he was twelve by the time he reached and walked across the border and the next day he may as well just have turned twenty.

The Killer’s name was Osyka Tadita and he made a living brutally putting brutal men in the ground before they knew that their crime actually was a crime. America had put a handsome bounty over his head on his eleventh birthday because of the bear and his relation to his father and that because he was the son of a good man that started to smuggle drugs and hash after his son’s assent to as far north as Alaska-it was that he knew something and had a lot to do with it.                                                       Also two years earlier, the little tike had stolen a lawyer’s two thousand dollar suit because he thought that his father would be given money so he could pay for his son to go to school if he wore the same clothes as rich men but he didn’t understand who would give him money and that rich clothes demanded a rich background and his daddy’s genealogy was like a mongrel borne out of hidden tribes of people in the country.                                                                                                                         The father, unfortunately got ideas from this and two years later those ideas were carried out and the law shined its guns and warrants at him.

Soon the surroundings were shadowed by the absence of the moon and coldness encased the outside world. Those flamingo flowers were no longer shining because the moon was behind a herd of slow traveling bulks of water that shortly levitated off the holy grounf. Osyka started to run and aimed to outrun the dark clouds vaguely deducible.                                                                                             As the night grew hypothermic, his adroit and powerful muscles grew warmer. Ajago ran in pace with his companion and the pair ran close together through the darkness like blind disciples to the dawn to come, both guardians to each other now.                                                                                              Not just the wolf helping the boy’s once confused and sometimes scared version of himself-during his experiences of Alaska, Wyoming, Texas and the trail up to Logan. He had changed severely, but no organism saw that he was the same as the boy he intended to tie up and haul to jail. By now, Osyka and Ajago were carrying hearts that were as warm as heated copper.                                                      By the next end of the dreary fortnight, the lonesome runner came upon the wanted’s sorry ass.

IV

Howdy.                                                                                                                                                                      A downtrodden version pf John Grady Cole looked at him from his miserable plateau of flat sand mixing under the thickness of the blood of the deer. Across his lap was a Remington 23. with a hawk scope. All they needed now was a North Dakotan forest, a bear, and there wouldn’t be much distance between shock and Osyka. Cole never saw him walk down the slope of the faraway mesa with an arrow knocked onto his bow.                                                                                                                                           Whattaya want sunboy?                                                                                                                                                                                      Oyska tightened his fingers around the string, as if the already thick skin there didn’t need more irritation.                                                                                                                                                                                                             Your life.                                                                                                                                                                                                         Hm. Well alrighto.                                                                                                                                                       The boy looked like he was as ready as a dog with a punctured lung. It wasn’t normal. The normal thing to do was beg and whine. This boy was acting differently.                                                                                                         Where’d you get the gun, where are the horses thief?                                                                                                                    The gittin place.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Very funny wacko. Are you acting like you don’t care or have you changed?                                                                                                                       The question isn’t whether I’ve changed, it’s why I didn’t realise it sooner.                                                                                       Realised what? No playin now funnyball, this has venom that will make you wish you never had balls.                                            Venom that would make me wish I never had testicles?                                                                                                                     That’s right American.                                                                                                                                                                                        Huh. He chuckled sardonically. Well aint that somethin. One minute I’m snottin over a deer and a dead daddy, and the thought of pain makes me laugh and smile. Hehe. You’re the devil?                                                                               Nope. Just a boy who wanted money like you.                                                                                                                                          You should have talked to my dad, he knew or thing or two about money.                                                                                         Oyska let the arrow and fly and he knocked another arrow under two seconds flat.                                                                        I don’t care who died or what your daddy knew. Only one person knows one thing that is certain.                                            God?…That is the almighty behemoth your mentionin right?…hehe that aint original kid. That’s like saying God ignored the people before you so he could have something to say about what’s happenin right now and let me goddamn make you believe that what you want to do to me now is something that God doesn’t care about. Hell he may not even know. So if you want to talk about God and draw him into the speech that justifies you putting my ass down than go ahead, but know that holding his hand to make you feel better when you let go of that string will make you a devil.                                                                                    Well what the fuck you know white?                                                                                                                                                                  I know that were both Americans. We still are…if we still love people back there.                                                                                                                                    …Well shit.                                                                                                                                                               Oyska unslung his weapon and sat cross legged on the ground a little away from John, who was kneeling in the bloody sand with diamonds shining darkness in his eyes. Looking through the deer carcass and into the earth’s core, like he was reduced to that and that was where a possible answer for his downfall laid. For him to do that, Oyska contemplated, the world above must have not treated him like rainbows and sunshine.                                                                                                                                                What you doin?                                                                                                                                                        John still looked still into the world. He told him everything. The death of Jimmy he wondered was intended to be a significant moment in John’s change into the bull idolised by the oracle but he decided it was not that. To John, it was an event of exposing the unfairness and inefficiencies of humanity’s potential to look through the darkness pulled over the lightness and ambition of survival. To Oyska, though he was looking at himself in a mirror. Both of them crossed a line that changed the way they dangled in existence internally and externally. They crashed against the world below the South like the way you splash into a backyard pool or pond. Both lingered for the country’s caress of success and nature’s plush whisper of approval. They preferred the world where you had to kill a part of yourself to better yourself. John failed where Oyska hadn’t: he found a girl.                                                                                 Daylight was pushed down with the sun still trying to hold it up like a fist below a heavy blanket. The dawn was dying with Osyka’s determination to fulfil the task he set out to do. He had not made an attempt to free Quentin from the bondage like John at least tried and talked about to do.                                                                                                         So that’s all of it then?                                                                                                                                                                                 Yeah.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Where’s your saddle, your horse?                                                                                                                                                             A quarter mile below the Vega behind me, at the meadow.                                                                                                               …On my way here I sent a telegram to Grant County that I was huntin you and that I would ignore you if you made it above the border.                                                                                                                                                                You sent a telegram.                                                                                                                                                                                      I sent a telegram.                                                                                                                                                                                                 And now you find me here below the line that puts me with you.                                                                                                         Even if we are both Americans.                                                                                                                                                                I get it. Go ahead. Take everything. Just make sure you take the Big Bay to Connecticut. Jimmy’s foster parents might take it.                                                                                                                                                                      Like you took Alejandra. Just because she was there.                                                                                                                                   You talk like that with me and you’ll find yourself at the end of a road with me putting walls on both sides at the way out. Don’t push me, even if you have the weapon here.                                                                                               You have that gun. That’s a weapon.                                                                                                                                                       A weapon for huntin now. Not killin. If I were to kill you I would toss sand up into your face, stun you, and wrap my fingers round your throat until I don’t need to. They saw what type of gun I was using. I can’t afford to leave any trace.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    He thought about everything again. For a very long time. John was waiting.                                                                                                                                                          Go.                                                                                                                                                                                                                      John looked at him. His eyes tealish like they were beautiful coloured windows surrounded by the rest of his features scraped by the violent caves of the world.                                                                                                                                                                                       Go. Before I change my mind. Before I decide that I should limit your life. I won’t follow you. Quit sulkin and take some of the deer if you want. The rest is the price of your life.                                                                                   That’s a big price.                                                                                                                                                                                        It is. Because of who we are and that we are in Mexico. You should talk to a judge when you get up there, make sure you cancel that telegram.                                                                                                                                               See you in heaven then.                                                                                                                                                                      Only if god thinks what I’m doing now is right. Go.                                                                                                                                  John chopped the deer in half and walked away. Oyska sat looking at the other half of the deer. Like it was the only certain way of the world for change and that improvement couldn’t be done through building on one’s self. He looked up to the once stagnant orange sky that now was moving over a reef of clouds. He set a fire and looked into the open flames, marvelling at the power there and the conflict within everything it touches and the conflict passed on by the afflicted and when they adapt to it they are one of many rocks in the world. Able to be designed into creatures of destruction or creatures of help. The next day the sky was the exact teal of John’s eyes and he wondered if he had finally made it above the border. Ajago ran over the opposite high ridge of the valley and ran all the way to the middle of the plain and sat in front of him. The wolf looked back and forth between his companion and the half of the deer burnt back to its healthy bones.                                                                                                                                                     I’ve been having this dream Ajago. I am older than I am and I am in America, somewhere in Minnesota or where it snows. Alaska even. We have a bag of money that we are carrying to a charity down south. He has the lantern to share the only light between us on our windy path. We both are on horses and mine is as healthy as that deer in the fire and his is scrawny as himself. He has his head wrapped in a blanket to keep his head warm. We ride for days and nights until we get to the meridian of whatever this world is. I stay back for a couple days to take care of my horse because she injured herself so my Dad carries the money with the Lantern ahead. I look up and see the strong outline walls around me I see that America all along was a valley and we started at the entrance. I see them because the outlines are blacker than the rest of everything I see. I get scared in the darkness and somehow I get the girl to get up and go again. We ride and I thought I would find him at the end of the valley where there would be a light smashing all the way through the barriers of darkness but I found him a quarter way forward. He was at a campfire, burning the money to keep himself warm. He tells me that he had made it to the end of America but all there was is nothing. He came back to try and find me and had to keep himself warm because he came close to dying. The blanket had gotten wet and stopped keeping him warm. He asked me how I didn’t die without much layers and I said that I didn’t feel cold in and that maybe we can live in the darkness because it saves us from seeing what the world inhabits. He gave me money he hadn’t burnt which he intended to give for charity but it was useless because he somehow knew with the wisdom he had that the nothing he perceived there was something that didn’t give dreams for money and effort. I think he realised that the land gave back your dreams through blood and different ways of letting it go from blue to red. He didn’t want to say to me that the burning money was running out of its power of comfort and that he would quickly die after it ran out. We looked at each other for a long time and I cried. And that’s all there was. Me crying at my father at the bottom of America. Crying like I had become a dumb and lawless heretic and it was going to have awful consequences laid upon me. By who or what I don’t know. Then I wake up. And I am left pondering the question why did he turn back at the end of the valley. I get it confused with the question of what is at the end of the valley.

Ajago looked at him with his nose tilted down with his eyes revealing their true size with their hazel irises beaming at him with emotion and pity. She whined softly.                                                                                                                                                              I know. I know. I shouldn’t sulk. It’s just…I have a strong suspicion that there is a prophet who exercises damnation and absolution. An archaic soul giving birth to generations of tyrants, preachers of merciless treatment of their neighbours. Lovers of death in their hands. Over us, around us, to our left right, to our front and behind. Not everywhere but it’s concentrated in the Promised Land. And that plague has just slowly dripped its sweat and grime down south. Like the candle in the lantern. God and the Devil. And the south has let that fluid fill a cup for it to drink and it’s become something different. I feel they are both the same and that we are seeing them with our eyes the wrong way. That’s what the dream and my life means to me Ajago. Anyway. We should go.                                                                                                                      When they left, night was beginning to set, and the two creatures went out of the valley, determined to exit the darkness, believing that it must have its limits. It must have a weakness. There must be true light somewhere Oyska thought with Ajago. Goodness grown by the temperance of humanity and not influenced by organisations. Their optimism fought against the brutal tone of their terrain and downtrodden climate like a mother soothing and calming a cowing baby.

Short Stories

The End: Part One

May 2014

The Foot long meatball rolls from Subway are five dollars on Monday. All the salads, lots of pepper and ranch sauce. I asked the sandwich artist to load the loaf with more mozzarella cheese, this excited me because I woke up late this morning and didn’t get to have breakfast. Yes, I believe you when you insist that the bread is ‘Italian’. Lots of mozzarella cheese. The thought simply plants a feeling of longing in my stomach which I know will make the taste of the food better before I say ‘fuck yeah this is what you want.’ Wait, I didn’t ask for capsicum, and old English cheese…I could walk back to the shop in fifteen minutes but that would mean losing lunch time and probably having to smuggle the aroma expelling item past the damning gaze of Mrs Fawthrop. On top of that was the elongated cue that poured out of the establishment and past the pharmacy next door where soon-to-be-eating delicious piles of mush people just wouldn’t be able to help themselves but read the awareness posters about Kidney Disease and Liver Failure. Like randomly selected pieces of newspaper clippings that are used to fill the black spaces in collages, I accidentally spotted minor posters about the difference between HIV and AIDs behind the glass display windows. They looked more like wallpaper in combination with the pictures of teddy bears with speech bubbles, offering fun facts for avid learners. Honestly, no one in this town gives a shit, they read it and later after work they go home. The posters have no more effect than that. Sure. They’re intended to warn people but that subject has been blown up in the country’s face so much that I don’t think this particular community cares for it. Not that I see anyway. People in this place tend to drag their untapped attention and imaginative capacity to new or less talked about stuff. Not sex, drugs or alcohol. That stuff is a normal topic. Though it’s not like people here set out to seek the most unacceptable thing-but I look at my town and their attitude towards safe sex campaigns and it makes me wonder what warning would grip their attention. Flyers on the dangers of the boat people? Hm. Yeah that would actually grip their attention. It’s quiet unsettling actually.

During my departure from the take-away shop, my exit past the impatient throng of men, women and children, I had heard one boy child with a foreign accent ask his guardian; ‘What’s HIV papa?’ ‘It’s a disease Michael.’ The father’s accent was harsher. Russian? The rather awkward parent and son moment of teaching was lost from earshot when a car on the main street had sidled past. From the vehicle was the disgusting blare of electronic crap and rap. What happened to Bruce Springsteen? I wondered if the child had heard the lyric amplified by the sound system in the car; ‘…bitch you lied to me, you shot me with the gay disease, now my whole family is in dis-ease.’ Their public disturbance had stained the beauty of the still and wistful willow trees lined on the brick pedestrian counterpart in the centre of the colourful street. When the sun shines in this part of the country, everything seems a little happier. I had noted the cops across the x junction and I chuckled at how they are going to have a fun time with the silly hooligan promoting a stigma.

The walk back to high school is uneventful and I think about nothing, knowing though that my brain is still functioning intensely with its neural circuits despite my thoughtless brain patterns. I walk around a corner and step towards the entrance next to the blue stone wall. There is an interval of thinking though when the same car from the vexatious incident of before drifts in an unstable screeching manner around the corner. Good on you for speeding. I am impressed and rather turned on by your daring and masculine use of a vehicle that kills more people in your age bracket than people die from snake bites. The police car soon races behind and for a moment and for some irrelevant reason; the idea of my life crashing into something of stark difference to its banality breaks into my brain without prompting. I don’t need to worry about it because it is adrift by the time I turn to the entrance of the school. Giving high-speed chase for profane music. In front of kids. Is that necessary? I ready my mind for new thoughts about the themes of a novel to populate and overwhelm my thinking. The subway loaf all of a sudden became one of many unhealthy lunch rolls to me and not the appealing and fulfilling giant one.

It is one twenty three in the grey afternoon when I sit at the table. The assembly before lunch introduced to us, we the ‘Christian, grounded young adults’ about goals for future careers. This subject slowly nurtures itself under the topic of our conversation which is environmental science and how it’s meant to be one of the most lucrative fields in work at the moment. I call it ‘work’ and Greg call it science. What’s the difference? Ten minutes into my fragmented interaction with Greg-for I am profusely munching and savouring the mix of that meatball sauce and cheese, the juicy bitterness of olives in the background, ignoring tat bland capsicum and a surprising taste of jalapenos. Greg asks me ‘what are you gonna do when you graduate?’ I recount to him how my grandfather revealed to me before the start of first term that I will inherit the mechanic shop and I’ll start an apprenticeship when I leave school next year. Greg looks at me like I don’t know what the world is like. ‘No one’s going to take you on, don’t be stupid and get your year twelve certificate. At least…look you should really think about doing VCE.’ ‘Ever heard of VET?’ My retort is a futile effort. Ever since Mr Jaffo has started indoctrinating our grade about the fruitful benefits of VCE as compared to VCAL, Greg has taken it upon himself to talk long minutes with Jaffo about his goals in VCE. I think he does it to gain a ‘meritorious referee’ on his resume who coaches the girl’s netball, basketball teams and runs the annual mouth to mouth marathon. More outstandingly he does it obviously without him intending it to be because he likes recognition and the feeling of being liked by nearly everyone. Academia is not my forte but according to the ‘smartest’ dickheads in our form; VCAL is for ‘trolley pushers’ and ‘you can complete a semester’s worth of work for VCAL in a couple hours’. And aren’t tradespeople in higher demand than university graduates? I am not keen to argue with him that there are different reasons that land people in situations that invite them to work long and hard hours at the local Woolworths because he is too ignorant to understand that you gotta do what you gotta do. If you don’t accept the invite, you are either relying on money to be given to you or live like a sloth with a gradually building layer of lethargy. Greg…this ignorant and insensitive Prick. I know he aint lying about the second statement though. Which is why my folk aint payin for another twenty grand next year for me to sit in a class and do jack-shit except watching immature boys and girls throw plastic chairs at each-other. Well okay, let’s get this straight. It is generally the male boisterous toddlers who do this whilst the girls tend to bitch about their boyfriends and what a ‘slut’ Danika is for sucking off Bill in a car in front of Greg. I have overheard intelligent and rational conversations between them but not on a daily basis. When I reflect on the work ethic ineptitudes of both genders in VCAL, I often wonder what is worth more to a teacher who wants to change the way it runs, a firsthand account with the ‘colloquial’ language of a sixteen year old. Or a ‘report’ that the unqualified ‘personal development’ teacher would over load with adjectives and fancy words that have no fucking use in the context. The truth laid clear-the boys and girls are not giving a shit about the work because their task to be the ‘architects’ for a new garden was completed two hours ago. After that, fifty percent of the study syllabus is done. What next? Good question Mr Jaffo, why don’t you walk into the classroom and see why they don’t have anything to do next.

So to a degree it is not Greg’s fault for having his strong opinions of VCAL, because they support the opinion with their juvenile behaviour. However Greg wouldn’t want to listen to someone say that it is partially not their fault. Living in a town that is not the city narrows what you don’t want to accept. It doesn’t cut you off, it just reduces the exposure you get to a large variety of people and types of living. And a lot of people are not exactly eager to accept that a hard working mechanic or experienced plumber is worth more than twenty five psychologists. Greg in front of me doesn’t know that my grandfather runs a chain of mechanic shops in the South West region, but why do I need to boast when I know that there are too many science, teaching and childcare graduates being produced by this country and not enough tradies. And people wonder why we are taking in tradies from overseas. I want to tell him to compare the number of people in TAFE to a university but he is the sort of guy who wouldn’t listen to the more rational opinion that is not his own. One of my friends who attends an all-girls school in Gavindell has very similar views to me and puts it down to ‘uneducated moronic bogans.’ It makes me wonder if the term is not ‘only’ reserved for the lower class as stereotypes allude it to be and who Jessica refers to by the word ‘uneducated’. The literally uneducated or those who grow up with an education that flows in one ear and out the other.

Later I am sitting in one of those chairs battered by boys who give their ‘Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning’ an infantile reputation. The teacher is explaining too enthusiastically about the meaning behind the element of sensory input incorporated in the language by the author of a coming of age novel about a boy who is kidnapped from northern Italy in the years of lead and is hidden in an insulated community with very little inhabitants in rugged Puglia. I liked reading the novel because of its atmospheric story-telling and the swift progression of the primary narrative. Not too big like the stories where the authors over appreciate the show of their writing. No way could I read Cloudstreet again. The problem with Ms Fawthrop’s unique interpretation though is that I feel the wind from the sea and the heat of the sun most days and that don’t make the times when I come home on the bus more climatic than watching a helicopter shine its searching, creeping and angelic light down on you in the night. So I zone out, stop taking the notes about the teacher’s irrelevant chatter and I listen to some of the students who think life is in their control because they want to do VCE next year. The guys and girls I hone in on with my large oval pinna shaped ears are whispering. I hear that James who went to become a carpenter’s apprentice in year ten is ‘as dumb’ as Wendy who left school in year eight after ‘she got two percent out of one hundred in-on a maths test which was on the subject of numerical algebra and complex abstract fractions’. Jesus Christ. You sound more stupid than the prime minister. Of course they don’t know that Wendy now works at that hair dressing salon in Warrick and is quiet content and confident with her talent. But to these kids they think education defines your post school life prospects and I’m not eager to feed their snobbery. I force myself to stop listening and go back to the doodling I began at the start of the lesson. At one point we watch some scenes from the film adapted from the novel, one scene stands out to me and it’s of a mother pleading in Italian for her child’s captors to treat him like they are his parents and that he has done nothing wrong for himself to be victimised brutally. She cries knowing that her son has already being maimed and she cries even more because all she sees right now is every inability to save her son.

When I get home, my older brother is in the kitchen cooking tonight’s tasty grub. I have to tell ya it smells amazing. ‘What you’re making?’ My older and industrious brother replies with a tinge in his voice that I have absolutely concreted comes from his enlightenment in domestic house work. ‘Beef stroganoff, garlic bread’s in the oven.’ Yep, speaks it like a father who says he’s going to mow the lawn. ‘Sweet, you wanna come shootin before it get’s dark?’ James tilts his head up at me from the bubbling stew in the pan. His given name belongs to the person my classmates were slandering about today. He failed VCAL because the administration at our school had given him a copy of the study design from 2005 and not 2012. So in summary our parents paid twenty grand for him to work very hard and get A pluses or B pluses on nearly every assignment and be told: ‘Sorry, there was a mistake, please read this letter and we will organise a certificate under specific conditions.’ And the VCAL co-ordinator walked away. So my brother had completed the wrong bulk of work in the most vital year in Highschool. The ‘letter’ really was an apology where I assumed the teacher and administration was what the writer referred to as ‘they’ and ‘they’ worded their mistake in giving James the wrong syllabus as if it was a technological fault or a miscommunication from the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority. It was a disguised way of saying, we fucked up but we cannot offer special consideration by letting you repeat year twelve for free. We are going to try make ourselves feel better by looking at our successful students and pretending what we did to your son (which we won’t actually admit, just imply it in the subtlest way possible) is not related to us. That day my father and mother had waltzed into principal’s office with a bag of fury and their own reply to the letter which they outrageously voiced to Mrs Tallow. I imagine they asked questions in a chain of yells such as ‘How on earth could you give him the wrong work and not know anything about it when other students are producing different work!?’ ‘What excuse is there for being an irresponsible dim-witted leader of a ‘’prestigious’’ educational institution!?’ And yes. I think the latter was the question that rocketed from my dad’s frustrated mouth. My brother’s misfortune is a major reason why I am distrusting of my ‘best school’ in the ‘Normanby region’, as boasted about in the annual report in the national newspaper.

‘Alright.’ James says to my offer for the hunt. So we do it. Two hours before six we spend the afternoon sprawled on the beaten down vegetation behind a log at the edge of the wheat fields that make up the wide grainy and gristy belt of yellow around our house. The outer circle belongs to the bush and the greener and reposeful national park is four of five kilometres to the South which is behind a calm flat plain that extends to the thin outlines of beaches on the coast. Our father promised the previous owner of the property that he wouldn’t cut down trees to allow greater space for the cattle and sheep. There’s no wind so everything is silent as we lay with our chests abroad the smooth incline of compact dirt against the side of the log with our elbows dug into the weak bark on top. Any crickets, passing utes and trucks back yonder, trickling water in the creek that opens into a dam are approximately fifty or more meters behind us and the little animals are hushed up like as if we are actors on a stage before an array of living incoherent things. That thought is muddled by a flock of cockatoos that float over us and reach the bush but one of them turns around after they glide into the canopy where the lowering sun doesn’t reach and the moving pure white cloud follows the retreater and they all fly far away east. They didn’t make a sound. Thinking about how the birds looked like banana topped ice creams flying absurdly against the descending rays of the sun made my stomach grumble and grind, I wouldn’t utter a complaint or feel scared if a golden gay time or musso ice cream fell onto the ground next to me. The temperature has dropped a little and I can see my smoky breath which disappears into the stomata of the log. Also my vision has become clouded with mist like those mornings when the dew steams under the sun or when the windscreen of a car becomes foggy with condensation. It’s actually very cold now. Not too cold but chilly enough that Greg would go back inside if he was here with me. I am looking at the world through foggy goggles but my eyes are uncovered. ‘Your eyes getting sore?’ ‘Pretty itchy’ I reply. ‘You?’ ‘Nah.’ James doesn’t have his gun propped up like me, he is leaning with his back pressed into a smooth clove in the log, looking back behind me at the darkening big sky and the dim farm below it.

He speaks again; ‘Before you were born and I was three, dad was driving trucks up to Mossman and it was just me and mum at home. I found what I thought was a real pistol but what was actually an air one. I was walking in my nappy out here-‘I laugh at the absurdity. ‘Oi mate just listen-‘Oh my god James, you’re a lunatic.’ ‘Alright sorry continue.’ James resumes the anecdote; ‘so I walked all the way here and I climbed into the log…with the gun, thought I was playing a game of cops and abbos with myself…’ ‘Well…what happened?’ ‘A brown snake bit me dick.’ ‘….HAAhaha!!-‘I spend the next minute or minute and a half laughing like a ludicrous guttural high pitched rat. ‘HOOoooly shit, what the fuck?’ ‘Yep. I think I tried to shoot it but I must have missed because nothing happened. If I didn’t scream like I was feeling a knob piercing for the first time, mum never would have found me. Which was straight away. The snake still had its mouth around-well you know. So she pulled me out and grabbed its neck and held the head still between her head and forefinger and she plucked out its eyes to make it let go.’ ‘Fuckin motherfuckin hell!’ My bitter jovial manner doesn’t seem to be registered by James. ‘Yeah…well she threw the blind thing away as soon as that was that and then I passed out. She took me to the clinic and I must have got anti venom because I’m here.….’ ’how the hell do you remember that?’ I ask. ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s right, it’s how you remember it. Brother, on the eighteenth of December I was a silly duffa and walked out and got attacked on the penis by a venomous snake that causes more deaths than shark attacks. Our mother was quick thinking and brains was more useful that day than the air pistol and it would have been more useful than an actual gun. That’s why I remember it, because of mum.’ A resonating pause passes through. ’What a legend.’ I proclaim. I look at him with the typical sly and boyish facial expression. ‘So, so does it hurt?’ James just looks at me. ‘What the fuck do you think?’ I laugh some more. ‘Oh screw you.’ I see him grin a little too though, god you gotta love him. He stands up and faces the country contemplatively in the same direction as he was before. His gun leaning against the log with the barrel pointing to the sky. He brings out a cigarette and lights up, the little flame from his fire giving his face an orange glow against the intense surroundings. He puffs once and says this after tapping the embers into a small muddy puddle on the ground next to him; ‘do you wanna wait for a shot and get in trouble with Dad or go back and set the table.’ ‘Let’s walk back.’

It takes thirty five minutes and by the time we are at the gate I look back and raise my gun and glass the length of the edge of that area and through the scope I see a kangaroo. ‘They knew we were there, the smart son’s o bitches’ James says this like he thinks what I am seeing is an animal that knows how to play a game of I-come-with-a-gun and you hide. Evading the hunter before showing itself when he gives up. The distance is maybe too far and the bloody prickly cold would work against the path of the bullet. Couple hundred meters at best. A couple small hills rise between us and the mammal but it’s possible. ‘It’s bloody freezing mate.’ James mutters to me as much as to nothing with his rifle in his right hand with the cigarette still burning in the left hand. I say ‘Wait.’ I climb over the gate and walk to the closest wooden pole in the ground and I seat the gun in the back of my hand which is on the pole and the barrel slides between my ring and forefinger. So the gun moulds into my hand like it’s the weapon’s own contemporary stand. I’ve seen it on movies like ‘The Hunter’ where Dafoe holds the sniper rifle with one arm with the guns belly on his forearm against a tree. I am trying to imitate a similar position and the best I can get is looking like a bloke about to go for his shot at a game of pool. The kangaroo has its back to me when it falls forward with the sound of killing reverberating over the outer grassy rings of the country. ‘You go back and tell dad and mom I’ll be back by sevenish.’ James nods and walks away. ‘Alright mate, don’t take too long or we’ll get the shits.’ ‘Don’t worry. I won’t.’ I laugh again at the thought of James quirky story. I start walking back to the edge of home.

‘Fuck.’ The bullet had gone through its spine and took the life of its child that I never knew was there. There is a cylinder now profusely clogging with blood with strands of flesh around the hole violently forced back by the blow. The path as I make it out enters the mother’s back and out through its baby’s chest. ‘Oh well. Nobody’s complaining.’ I separate the mother and child and I carry the big roo in my arms and with the joey flipped over my shoulder with the rifle bumping against my shoulder blades on its sling. I trod my dirty way to my brick home with its insulating walls and where I want to welcome a natural fire in the fireplace. The sky is cerulean by the time I take to skinning the animals on the wooden desk out back of the house. It’s only five minutes into it when dad comes out and the wind that died early this morning lives up to a hair billowing breeze. It would have been better to talk to him without the wind because it wouldn’t be irritable as much. ‘James said you shot something.’ ‘We can have it for tomorrow and Thursday night.’ ‘James what did you shoot?’ ‘Just some kangaroos.’ ‘Be honest or you aren’t having dinner. Did you shoot a joey?’ ‘…Yeah…but it’s alright Dad…there were no rangers around.’ ‘Because you didn’t see em you nutter…don’t try to be an idiot again. For that you aren’t going out for the whole week.’. ‘C’mon dad…yeah I get it, we could get a two thousand dollar fine. But no-one saw me.’ ‘No you can’t, what you are on about, you can’t get fined.’ James says this in his surprised voice as he leans out the door behind dad and I can’t read his outline because of the shadow dad casts back over him. ‘If you shoot a mother, you kill the joey in the pouch.’ ‘Didn’t you know that?’ My helpful brother googles it on his phone that he saved money for himself and shows our dad. ‘Well fuckin oath sons, the rangers have been buggerin me around for a long time. I’m going to write a complaint.’ Our dad walks back into the yellow glow of the house with the movement of man on a mission. James just folds his arms and leans against the side of the door. ‘You got it bro?’ ‘Yeah.’ As I wrench the knife through the abdomen our dog barks. Probably another koala. ‘Did he say you weren’t allowed to go out for the rest of the week?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Doesn’t matter, me and Ben are going to Sawpit on the weekend. Listen I need help tomorrow with mum’s present, you have an hour to spare?’ ‘Yep.’ Their warm blood had gone a little cold during my walk back. The joey was curled in a foetal position with the mother curling around it like it was hugging its child when the boy pulled the trigger. ‘Cool, hurry up, dinner’s ready.’ ‘Okay.’

I finish fifteen minutes later by putting the meat in an eski with ice thickly coating its interior and I walk to a round table that now has one of two still warm plates of that saucy stroganoff. To the side is cauliflower that is not as white as the eyes of the mother kangaroo was when I turned over its body. Chloe is still eating. ‘Hi.’ ‘Hey.’ ‘Can you help me with maths homework when were done.’ ‘Sure.’ I don’t want to really. ‘I can’t wait for tomorrow.’ ‘What’s going on tomorrow?’ She looks at me as if I’m stupid. ‘I’m going to get my books.’

I end the night on an addictive note by having a beat to a nameless woman online-going at it hardcore with a man she met an hour before she agreed to do the film. The man I learn the name of at the very start and before I fall into the sleep that is partially induced on me by the experience, I feel ashamed that I just noticed for the first time that you never are told their names. That they are referred to as the ‘wet girl’ who is ‘ready’ for a ‘pounding’ and other degrading things. At the same time I feel guilty about not doing the study I was supposed to do and the fees my parents are paying for me to be as slack as what I condemn other lazy blokes at school for. Some opting for VCE and VCAL. And then like how no-one could have ever seen the speed in which death left my gun and touched another family…. The only trace of reality that falls into sleep with me is the sound of the song of ‘Yellow’ by ‘Coldplay’, coming from the TV in the lounge room. The lyric ‘You know I love you so’ stays with me. Dreams of touch and wanting warmth and shameful secrets begin from that lyric, like a springboard, splashing into a new emotion. That is the clearest description of what happens to me in the first moment of crossing into sleep. Everything else is gone in the narrowest nanosecond. Today was a warning. And I had ignored the solution.

One of many properties in Heathmere. The location I visualise the major story arc to happen in.

One of many properties in Heathmere. The location I visualise the major story arc to happen in.

Short Story

The End: Part One

May 2014

The Foot long meatball rolls from Subway are five dollars on Monday. All the salads, lots of pepper and ranch sauce. I asked the sandwich artist to load the loaf with more mozzarella cheese, this excited me because I woke up late this morning and didn’t get to have breakfast. Yes, I believe you when you insist that the bread is ‘Italian’. Lots of mozzarella cheese. The thought simply plants a feeling of longing in my stomach which I know will make the taste of the food better before I say ‘fuck yeah this is what you want.’ Wait, I didn’t ask for capsicum, and old English cheese…I could walk back to the shop in fifteen minutes but that would mean losing lunch time and probably having to smuggle the aroma expelling item past the damning gaze of Mrs Fawthrop. On top of that was the elongated cue that poured out of the establishment and past the pharmacy next door where soon-to-be-eating delicious piles of mush people just wouldn’t be able to help themselves but read the awareness posters about Kidney Disease and Liver Failure. Like randomly selected pieces of newspaper clippings that are used to fill the black spaces in collages, I accidentally spotted minor posters about the difference between HIV and AIDs behind the glass display windows. They looked more like wallpaper in combination with the pictures of teddy bears with speech bubbles, offering fun facts for avid learners. Honestly, no one in this town gives a shit, they read it and later after work they go home. The posters have no more effect than that. Sure. They’re intended to warn people but that subject has been blown up in the country’s face so much that I don’t think this particular community cares for it. Not that I see anyway. People in this place tend to drag their untapped attention and imaginative capacity to new or less talked about stuff. Not sex, drugs or alcohol. That stuff is a normal topic. Though it’s not like people here set out to seek the most unacceptable thing-but I look at my town and their attitude towards safe sex campaigns and it makes me wonder what warning would grip their attention. Flyers on the dangers of the boat people? Hm. Yeah that would actually grip their attention. It’s quiet unsettling actually.

During my departure from the take-away shop, my exit past the impatient throng of men, women and children, I had heard one boy child with a foreign accent ask his guardian; ‘What’s HIV papa?’ ‘It’s a disease Michael.’ The father’s accent was harsher. Russian? The rather awkward parent and son moment of teaching was lost from earshot when a car on the main street had sidled past. From the vehicle was the disgusting blare of electronic crap and rap. What happened to Bruce Springsteen? I wondered if the child had heard the lyric amplified by the sound system in the car; ‘…bitch you lied to me, you shot me with the gay disease, now my whole family is in dis-ease.’ Their public disturbance had stained the beauty of the still and wistful willow trees lined on the brick pedestrian counterpart in the centre of the colourful street. When the sun shines in this part of the country, everything seems a little happier. I had noted the cops across the x junction and I chuckled at how they are going to have a fun time with the silly hooligan promoting a stigma.

The walk back to high school is uneventful and I think about nothing, knowing though that my brain is still functioning intensely with its neural circuits despite my thoughtless brain patterns. I walk around a corner and step towards the entrance next to the blue stone wall. There is an interval of thinking though when the same car from the vexatious incident of before drifts in an unstable screeching manner around the corner. Good on you for speeding. I am impressed and rather turned on by your daring and masculine use of a vehicle that kills more people in your age bracket than people die from snake bites. The police car soon races behind and for a moment and for some irrelevant reason; the idea of my life crashing into something of stark difference to its banality breaks into my brain without prompting. I don’t need to worry about it because it is adrift by the time I turn to the entrance of the school. Giving high-speed chase for profane music. In front of kids. Is that necessary? I ready my mind for new thoughts about the themes of a novel to populate and overwhelm my thinking. The subway loaf all of a sudden became one of many unhealthy lunch rolls to me and not the appealing and fulfilling giant one.

It is one twenty three in the grey afternoon when I sit at the table. The assembly before lunch introduced to us, we the ‘Christian, grounded young adults’ about goals for future careers. This subject slowly nurtures itself under the topic of our conversation which is environmental science and how it’s meant to be one of the most lucrative fields in work at the moment. I call it ‘work’ and Greg call it science. What’s the difference? Ten minutes into my fragmented interaction with Greg-for I am profusely munching and savouring the mix of that meatball sauce and cheese, the juicy bitterness of olives in the background, ignoring tat bland capsicum and a surprising taste of jalapenos. Greg asks me ‘what are you gonna do when you graduate?’ I recount to him how my grandfather revealed to me before the start of first term that I will inherit the mechanic shop and I’ll start an apprenticeship when I leave school next year. Greg looks at me like I don’t know what the world is like. ‘No one’s going to take you on, don’t be stupid and get your year twelve certificate. At least…look you should really think about doing VCE.’ ‘Ever heard of VET?’ My retort is a futile effort. Ever since Mr Jaffo has started indoctrinating our grade about the fruitful benefits of VCE as compared to VCAL, Greg has taken it upon himself to talk long minutes with Jaffo about his goals in VCE. I think he does it to gain a ‘meritorious referee’ on his resume who coaches the girl’s netball, basketball teams and runs the annual mouth to mouth marathon. More outstandingly he does it obviously without him intending it to be because he likes recognition and the feeling of being liked by nearly everyone. Academia is not my forte but according to the ‘smartest’ dickheads in our form; VCAL is for ‘trolley pushers’ and ‘you can complete a semester’s worth of work for VCAL in a couple hours’. And aren’t tradespeople in higher demand than university graduates? I am not keen to argue with him that there are different reasons that land people in situations that invite them to work long and hard hours at the local Woolworths because he is too ignorant to understand that you gotta do what you gotta do. If you don’t accept the invite, you are either relying on money to be given to you or live like a sloth with a gradually building layer of lethargy. Greg…this ignorant and insensitive Prick. I know he aint lying about the second statement though. Which is why my folk aint payin for another twenty grand next year for me to sit in a class and do jack-shit except watching immature boys and girls throw plastic chairs at each-other. Well okay, let’s get this straight. It is generally the male boisterous toddlers who do this whilst the girls tend to bitch about their boyfriends and what a ‘slut’ Danika is for sucking off Bill in a car in front of Greg. I have overheard intelligent and rational conversations between them but not on a daily basis. When I reflect on the work ethic ineptitudes of both genders in VCAL, I often wonder what is worth more to a teacher who wants to change the way it runs, a firsthand account with the ‘colloquial’ language of a sixteen year old. Or a ‘report’ that the unqualified ‘personal development’ teacher would over load with adjectives and fancy words that have no fucking use in the context. The truth laid clear-the boys and girls are not giving a shit about the work because their task to be the ‘architects’ for a new garden was completed two hours ago. After that, fifty percent of the study syllabus is done. What next? Good question Mr Jaffo, why don’t you walk into the classroom and see why they don’t have anything to do next.

So to a degree it is not Greg’s fault for having his strong opinions of VCAL, because they support the opinion with their juvenile behaviour. However Greg wouldn’t want to listen to someone say that it is partially not their fault. Living in a town that is not the city narrows what you don’t want to accept. It doesn’t cut you off, it just reduces the exposure you get to a large variety of people and types of living. And a lot of people are not exactly eager to accept that a hard working mechanic or experienced plumber is worth more than twenty five psychologists. Greg in front of me doesn’t know that my grandfather runs a chain of mechanic shops in the South West region, but why do I need to boast when I know that there are too many science, teaching and childcare graduates being produced by this country and not enough tradies. And people wonder why we are taking in tradies from overseas. I want to tell him to compare the number of people in TAFE to a university but he is the sort of guy who wouldn’t listen to the more rational opinion that is not his own. One of my friends who attends an all-girls school in Gavindell has very similar views to me and puts it down to ‘uneducated moronic bogans.’ It makes me wonder if the term is not ‘only’ reserved for the lower class as stereotypes allude it to be and who Jessica refers to by the word ‘uneducated’. The literally uneducated or those who grow up with an education that flows in one ear and out the other.

Later I am sitting in one of those chairs battered by boys who give their ‘Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning’ an infantile reputation. The teacher is explaining too enthusiastically about the meaning behind the element of sensory input incorporated in the language by the author of a coming of age novel about a boy who is kidnapped from northern Italy in the years of lead and is hidden in an insulated community with very little inhabitants in rugged Puglia. I liked reading the novel because of its atmospheric story-telling and the swift progression of the primary narrative. Not too big like the stories where the authors over appreciate the show of their writing. No way could I read Cloudstreet again. The problem with Ms Fawthrop’s unique interpretation though is that I feel the wind from the sea and the heat of the sun most days and that don’t make the times when I come home on the bus more climatic than watching a helicopter shine its searching, creeping and angelic light down on you in the night. So I zone out, stop taking the notes about the teacher’s irrelevant chatter and I listen to some of the students who think life is in their control because they want to do VCE next year. The guys and girls I hone in on with my large oval pinna shaped ears are whispering. I hear that James who went to become a carpenter’s apprentice in year ten is ‘as dumb’ as Wendy who left school in year eight after ‘she got two percent out of one hundred in-on a maths test which was on the subject of numerical algebra and complex abstract fractions’. Jesus Christ. You sound more stupid than the prime minister. Of course they don’t know that Wendy now works at that hair dressing salon in Warrick and is quiet content and confident with her talent. But to these kids they think education defines your post school life prospects and I’m not eager to feed their snobbery. I force myself to stop listening and go back to the doodling I began at the start of the lesson. At one point we watch some scenes from the film adapted from the novel, one scene stands out to me and it’s of a mother pleading in Italian for her child’s captors to treat him like they are his parents and that he has done nothing wrong for himself to be victimised brutally. She cries knowing that her son has already being maimed and she cries even more because all she sees right now is every inability to save her son.

When I get home, my older brother is in the kitchen cooking tonight’s tasty grub. I have to tell ya it smells amazing. ‘What you’re making?’ My older and industrious brother replies with a tinge in his voice that I have absolutely concreted comes from his enlightenment in domestic house work. ‘Beef stroganoff, garlic bread’s in the oven.’ Yep, speaks it like a father who says he’s going to mow the lawn. ‘Sweet, you wanna come shootin before it get’s dark?’ James tilts his head up at me from the bubbling stew in the pan. His given name belongs to the person my classmates were slandering about today. He failed VCAL because the administration at our school had given him a copy of the study design from 2005 and not 2012. So in summary our parents paid twenty grand for him to work very hard and get A pluses or B pluses on nearly every assignment and be told: ‘Sorry, there was a mistake, please read this letter and we will organise a certificate under specific conditions.’ And the VCAL co-ordinator walked away. So my brother had completed the wrong bulk of work in the most vital year in Highschool. The ‘letter’ really was an apology where I assumed the teacher and administration was what the writer referred to as ‘they’ and ‘they’ worded their mistake in giving James the wrong syllabus as if it was a technological fault or a miscommunication from the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority. It was a disguised way of saying, we fucked up but we cannot offer special consideration by letting you repeat year twelve for free. We are going to try make ourselves feel better by looking at our successful students and pretending what we did to your son (which we won’t actually admit, just imply it in the subtlest way possible) is not related to us. That day my father and mother had waltzed into principal’s office with a bag of fury and their own reply to the letter which they outrageously voiced to Mrs Tallow. I imagine they asked questions in a chain of yells such as ‘How on earth could you give him the wrong work and not know anything about it when other students are producing different work!?’ ‘What excuse is there for being an irresponsible dim-witted leader of a ‘’prestigious’’ educational institution!?’ And yes. I think the latter was the question that rocketed from my dad’s frustrated mouth. My brother’s misfortune is a major reason why I am distrusting of my ‘best school’ in the ‘Normanby region’, as boasted about in the annual report in the national newspaper.

‘Alright.’ James says to my offer for the hunt. So we do it. Two hours before six we spend the afternoon sprawled on the beaten down vegetation behind a log at the edge of the wheat fields that make up the wide grainy and gristy belt of yellow around our house. The outer circle belongs to the bush and the greener and reposeful national park is four of five kilometres to the South which is behind a calm flat plain that extends to the thin outlines of beaches on the coast. Our father promised the previous owner of the property that he wouldn’t cut down trees to allow greater space for the cattle and sheep. There’s no wind so everything is silent as we lay with our chests abroad the smooth incline of compact dirt against the side of the log with our elbows dug into the weak bark on top. Any crickets, passing utes and trucks back yonder, trickling water in the creek that opens into a dam are approximately fifty or more meters behind us and the little animals are hushed up like as if we are actors on a stage before an array of living incoherent things. That thought is muddled by a flock of cockatoos that float over us and reach the bush but one of them turns around after they glide into the canopy where the lowering sun doesn’t reach and the moving pure white cloud follows the retreater and they all fly far away east. They didn’t make a sound. Thinking about how the birds looked like banana topped ice creams flying absurdly against the descending rays of the sun made my stomach grumble and grind, I wouldn’t utter a complaint or feel scared if a golden gay time or musso ice cream fell onto the ground next to me. The temperature has dropped a little and I can see my smoky breath which disappears into the stomata of the log. Also my vision has become clouded with mist like those mornings when the dew steams under the sun or when the windscreen of a car becomes foggy with condensation. It’s actually very cold now. Not too cold but chilly enough that Greg would go back inside if he was here with me. I am looking at the world through foggy goggles but my eyes are uncovered. ‘Your eyes getting sore?’ ‘Pretty itchy’ I reply. ‘You?’ ‘Nah.’ James doesn’t have his gun propped up like me, he is leaning with his back pressed into a smooth clove in the log, looking back behind me at the darkening big sky and the dim farm below it.

He speaks again; ‘Before you were born and I was three, dad was driving trucks up to Mossman and it was just me and mum at home. I found what I thought was a real pistol but what was actually an air one. I was walking in my nappy out here-‘I laugh at the absurdity. ‘Oi mate just listen-‘Oh my god James, you’re a lunatic.’ ‘Alright sorry continue.’ James resumes the anecdote; ‘so I walked all the way here and I climbed into the log…with the gun, thought I was playing a game of cops and abbos with myself…’ ‘Well…what happened?’ ‘A brown snake bit me dick.’ ‘….HAAhaha!!-‘I spend the next minute or minute and a half laughing like a ludicrous guttural high pitched rat. ‘HOOoooly shit, what the fuck?’ ‘Yep. I think I tried to shoot it but I must have missed because nothing happened. If I didn’t scream like I was feeling a knob piercing for the first time, mum never would have found me. Which was straight away. The snake still had its mouth around-well you know. So she pulled me out and grabbed its neck and held the head still between her head and forefinger and she plucked out its eyes to make it let go.’ ‘Fuckin motherfuckin hell!’ My bitter jovial manner doesn’t seem to be registered by James. ‘Yeah…well she threw the blind thing away as soon as that was that and then I passed out. She took me to the clinic and I must have got anti venom because I’m here.….’ ’how the hell do you remember that?’ I ask. ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s right, it’s how you remember it. Brother, on the eighteenth of December I was a silly duffa and walked out and got attacked on the penis by a venomous snake that causes more deaths than shark attacks. Our mother was quick thinking and brains was more useful that day than the air pistol and it would have been more useful than an actual gun. That’s why I remember it, because of mum.’ A resonating pause passes through. ’What a legend.’ I proclaim. I look at him with the typical sly and boyish facial expression. ‘So, so does it hurt?’ James just looks at me. ‘What the fuck do you think?’ I laugh some more. ‘Oh screw you.’ I see him grin a little too though, god you gotta love him. He stands up and faces the country contemplatively in the same direction as he was before. His gun leaning against the log with the barrel pointing to the sky. He brings out a cigarette and lights up, the little flame from his fire giving his face an orange glow against the intense surroundings. He puffs once and says this after tapping the embers into a small muddy puddle on the ground next to him; ‘do you wanna wait for a shot and get in trouble with Dad or go back and set the table.’ ‘Let’s walk back.’

It takes thirty five minutes and by the time we are at the gate I look back and raise my gun and glass the length of the edge of that area and through the scope I see a kangaroo. ‘They knew we were there, the smart son’s o bitches’ James says this like he thinks what I am seeing is an animal that knows how to play a game of I-come-with-a-gun and you hide. Evading the hunter before showing itself when he gives up. The distance is maybe too far and the bloody prickly cold would work against the path of the bullet. Couple hundred meters at best. A couple small hills rise between us and the mammal but it’s possible. ‘It’s bloody freezing mate.’ James mutters to me as much as to nothing with his rifle in his right hand with the cigarette still burning in the left hand. I say ‘Wait.’ I climb over the gate and walk to the closest wooden pole in the ground and I seat the gun in the back of my hand which is on the pole and the barrel slides between my ring and forefinger. So the gun moulds into my hand like it’s the weapon’s own contemporary stand. I’ve seen it on movies like ‘The Hunter’ where Dafoe holds the sniper rifle with one arm with the guns belly on his forearm against a tree. I am trying to imitate a similar position and the best I can get is looking like a bloke about to go for his shot at a game of pool. The kangaroo has its back to me when it falls forward with the sound of killing reverberating over the outer grassy rings of the country. ‘You go back and tell dad and mom I’ll be back by sevenish.’ James nods and walks away. ‘Alright mate, don’t take too long or we’ll get the shits.’ ‘Don’t worry. I won’t.’ I laugh again at the thought of James quirky story. I start walking back to the edge of home.

‘Fuck.’ The bullet had gone through its spine and took the life of its child that I never knew was there. There is a cylinder now profusely clogging with blood with strands of flesh around the hole violently forced back by the blow. The path as I make it out enters the mother’s back and out through its baby’s chest. ‘Oh well. Nobody’s complaining.’ I separate the mother and child and I carry the big roo in my arms and with the joey flipped over my shoulder with the rifle bumping against my shoulder blades on its sling. I trod my dirty way to my brick home with its insulating walls and where I want to welcome a natural fire in the fireplace. The sky is cerulean by the time I take to skinning the animals on the wooden desk out back of the house. It’s only five minutes into it when dad comes out and the wind that died early this morning lives up to a hair billowing breeze. It would have been better to talk to him without the wind because it wouldn’t be irritable as much. ‘James said you shot something.’ ‘We can have it for tomorrow and Thursday night.’ ‘James what did you shoot?’ ‘Just some kangaroos.’ ‘Be honest or you aren’t having dinner. Did you shoot a joey?’ ‘…Yeah…but it’s alright Dad…there were no rangers around.’ ‘Because you didn’t see em you nutter…don’t try to be an idiot again. For that you aren’t going out for the whole week.’. ‘C’mon dad…yeah I get it, we could get a two thousand dollar fine. But no-one saw me.’ ‘No you can’t, what you are on about, you can’t get fined.’ James says this in his surprised voice as he leans out the door behind dad and I can’t read his outline because of the shadow dad casts back over him. ‘If you shoot a mother, you kill the joey in the pouch.’ ‘Didn’t you know that?’ My helpful brother googles it on his phone that he saved money for himself and shows our dad. ‘Well fuckin oath sons, the rangers have been buggerin me around for a long time. I’m going to write a complaint.’ Our dad walks back into the yellow glow of the house with the movement of man on a mission. James just folds his arms and leans against the side of the door. ‘You got it bro?’ ‘Yeah.’ As I wrench the knife through the abdomen our dog barks. Probably another koala. ‘Did he say you weren’t allowed to go out for the rest of the week?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Doesn’t matter, me and Ben are going to Sawpit on the weekend. Listen I need help tomorrow with mum’s present, you have an hour to spare?’ ‘Yep.’ Their warm blood had gone a little cold during my walk back. The joey was curled in a foetal position with the mother curling around it like it was hugging its child when the boy pulled the trigger. ‘Cool, hurry up, dinner’s ready.’ ‘Okay.’

I finish fifteen minutes later by putting the meat in an eski with ice thickly coating its interior and I walk to a round table that now has one of two still warm plates of that saucy stroganoff. To the side is cauliflower that is not as white as the eyes of the mother kangaroo was when I turned over its body. Chloe is still eating. ‘Hi.’ ‘Hey.’ ‘Can you help me with maths homework when were done.’ ‘Sure.’ I don’t want to really. ‘I can’t wait for tomorrow.’ ‘What’s going on tomorrow?’ She looks at me as if I’m stupid. ‘I’m going to get my books.’

I end the night on an addictive note by having a beat to a nameless woman online-going at it hardcore with a man she met an hour before she agreed to do the film. The man I learn the name of at the very start and before I fall into the sleep that is partially induced on me by the experience, I feel ashamed that I just noticed for the first time that you never are told their names. That they are referred to as the ‘wet girl’ who is ‘ready’ for a ‘pounding’ and other degrading things. At the same time I feel guilty about not doing the study I was supposed to do and the fees my parents are paying for me to be as slack as what I condemn other lazy blokes at school for. Some opting for VCE and VCAL. And then like how no-one could have ever seen the speed in which death left my gun and touched another family…. The only trace of reality that falls into sleep with me is the sound of the song of ‘Yellow’ by ‘Coldplay’, coming from the TV in the lounge room. The lyric ‘You know I love you so’ stays with me. Dreams of touch and wanting warmth and shameful secrets begin from that lyric, like a springboard, splashing into a new emotion. That is the clearest description of what happens to me in the first moment of crossing into sleep. Everything else is gone in the narrowest nanosecond. Today was a warning. And I had ignored the solution.

One of many properties in Heathmere. The location I visualise the major story arc to happen in.

One of many properties in Heathmere. The location I visualise the major story arc to happen in.

Essays

People looking into and imitating other’s lifestyles in Carver’s Short Stories: Will you please be quiet, please?

‘’It’s funny’’ ‘she said’ ‘’you know-to in someone’s apartment like that’’, this common notion of tapping into other people’s lives is illustrated by Arlene Miller in Neighbours. The concept of comparing one’s life to that of others is a fundamental validation process basic to the maintenance of an individual’s self-esteem. Many of Carver’s protagonists desire to live vicariously through the second-hand experiences of other’s lifestyles in an effort to re-invigour their lives. It is a disillusionment with the outcomes of their efforts-that finds many of the characters of Raymond Carver’s plainly intricately designed anthology Will you please be quiet, please?, in a position of menace and hopelessness. As Carver compassionately articulates their quiet withering existence on the fringes of economic sparsity, the audience is able to empathize with their struggles. Ultimately, they share the gritty characteristic of being bystanders, instead of reaping the fortunes of the cultural and almost mythic ‘American Dream’. Some characters come to the point of realisation that their dreams of materialistic, career orientated and familial success are destroyed due to their own inadequacies. Carver’s bleak vignettes play out simultaneously paint individuals who are about to have an epiphany concerning where their dreams failed. But lack of awareness sees them unable to change course.

The opening sentence of Neighbours portrays its leading characters as a ‘happy couple’, however it is imminently clear through Carver’s implicative language such as the way they ‘talk about’ life passing them by ‘sometimes’. They both feed their longing for their personal successes through their lonesome explorations of the apartment of Jim and Harriet Stone. Ordinary tasks such as ‘feeding kitty’ and watering the plants brings emotional fulfilment to both partners – Carver’s indication about how the monotony of their lives has distanced them from enjoying and taking pleasure in simple tasks. It is Bill who firsts conceptualises Carver’s view on disillusionment when the arousal he gets from trying on Harriet’s ‘bra’ and ‘dress’, it motivates him to intimately connect to his wife afterwards. Bill’s suggestion of ‘making love’ is not necessarily reciprocated by Arlene, indicating that Bill is really indulging in his sexual gratification. Their disconnection branches into their dinner times as well, which allows Carver to contrast how they communicate over their food with their eager attention to the ‘Stone’s food’. ‘He was not hungry. She did not eat much either’. Unfortunately, Carver seems to imply that the Miller’s destiny for living their lives struggling to sustain their marriage as the author conveys to the reader through the metaphor of the ‘wind’ dragging against them as they ‘held each other’. This carries the idea that as long as they do not accept that they are not suitable for each other, there will always be a pervasive sense dispassion and little mutual understanding in their marriage.

The couple depicted after the Millers give another layer to Carver’s worry over sexual inactivity through the result of their proximity with neighbours. In contrast to the previous narrative, Carver offers insight for the reader through first person narration of the nameless wife of ‘Vern’. We see that the couple, abashed and ‘embarrassed’ about themselves as they are, both find excitement, sexual and emotional, though watching the ‘neighbour’ ‘across the street’. Carver draws further comparison where the Miller’s experience their momentary crisis of perceiving their circumstances where as the narrator has a vague epiphany alone. More importantly Carver utilizes these little descriptions to fabricate what their existence has been reduced down to. The spouse’s line; ‘It makes us both jumpy’ exposes how unhappy and yearning they are for each other’s sexual affection and touch.

Progressively Carver inserts The Idea into his compilation directly after Neighbours to show how prolonged and even obsessive their voyeurism has become through their knowledge that ‘the event’ occurs every second or third night. In Neighbours, the depicted couple were experiencing their marital dysfunction described by Carver over a course of weeks where there was the potential for them both to confront their disharmony. The Idea comparatively contains absolutist language given by Carver to the nameless narrator to build her identity to the reader through her attitudes about her husband’s habits; ‘Vern was always smoking’. Another possible interpretation through this narrative placement is that Carver is predicting the consequences of investing attention into other human beings other than their spouses whom they only turn to for sexual satisfaction, over a long course of their relationship. Carver shows how damaged their ability to talk to each other is through how they like to eat food ‘at this time of night’ when it is the only outlets of direct attentive communication they yield. Furthermore, the title majorly reflects the narrator’s own disgraced fascination with the neighbours who in comparison to them, invest time and effort into reiterating the passion of their sexual relationship where all the narrator can do is wonder about telling her husband ‘about the ants’.

Collectors captures and reinforces a unique and powerful thematic thread Carver weaves into these particular tales that inflates his colourless landscapes. The narrator opens the exposition with ‘waiting’ and ‘looking out’ of his ‘window’ on the ‘second storey’ for a ‘job’. The reader can gather from this-as is intended by Carver, that he is representing the cases of discontent with coveting of other people’s advantages and spirits through different members of the American middle class hierarchy. The aforementioned stories share concepts of envy, self-regulated confinement and lack of commutative expression. Carver diverges them by establishing the Millers as isolated from each other within the brick walls of their second floor apartment, Vern and his wife in the single story flat in a supposed suburban area, and ‘Mr Slater’ in the ‘weather board’ two storey house of his region. As a result Carver is proving that the unescapable foreboding of a major life affecting bond submerged in peril is a ‘dis-ease’ crawling through bourgeois sectors of the American middle under and upper classes, which the author himself assimilated with and lived in. It is central to Carver’s ‘obsessions’ with why the ignored and ‘unseen’ creatures from his era passively took interest in what is actively happening outside their ‘sanctuaries’ than rather engaging and participating in life with the exterior world. In addition, Carver may intend to build his character’s identities through how their feelings about their homes ingrates in their desolate views of the country they live in.

Central protagonist Henry Robinson from the chatty narrative, What do you do in San Francisco? insists that the disintegration of the Marston’s marriage ‘has nothing to do with him’. This epitomizes the key points of Carver’s suggested views about the envy developed from the undisturbed growth of Voyeuristic tendencies in one sentence. An example that explores the tragedy inflicted on human beings by this process is reproduced in the restaurant vignette of Carver’s montage; Signals. In retrospect to Carver’s early portrayals crumbling communions and marriages, Wayne and Caroline recognise and acknowledge is under detrimental stress. The typical disillusionment however Carver identifies in their attempt to revive the spark of their relationship on the Eve of Caroline’s birthday is Wayne’s desire to seat with his wife at an expensive and exclusive French restaurant. The flaw of their brutal separation from each other and how miniscule their interaction is-is clarified implicitly when Wayne suddenly outbursts ‘well you don’t like that with your friends’. The accusative tone of his statement regarding Caroline’s knowledge of Aldo and French combined with the personal pronoun ‘’your’’, shows how removed from setting and inept Wayne is to interact with upper class social circles and accept the disparity between him and his wife. The plot is resolved in the sense that Caroline confronts Wayne’s ineptitude to fit in with her social sphere when she says to Aldo ‘I may’ come back to the restaurant ‘as much as I like’. Carver is revealing in with in-depth employment of the basic lexical choice ‘I’ to paint to the reader that Caroline knows that where they attempted to enjoy their night is a part of her world that ‘has nothing to do with’ Wayne.

Restricting the subject focus to universal themes steeped in the function of human interaction, Carver’s studies of the experiences of American men, women and children acknowledge that these profiles of people exist. He is beckoning us to define the process or event that triggers the deconstruction of relationships we see every day. Topical of Carver in the way the way he investigates this theme is his exact understanding of how the economic pressures of60s and 70s America-negatively impact on socially endorsed customs, especially fatherhood. Consequently his accessible language and representations through characters encompass the wider world of readers to remind us how of the fragility of relationships if not attended to, we are nothing but powerless to emotional and social tragedies out of our control.

His relationship with his editor Gordon Lish became very tense. Mainly and assumably due to the fact that he would aim write twenty drafts for every story he created. Imagine meticulously working on a 1200 word piece, only for two hundred words to be left intact for the publishing.

His relationship with his editor Gordon Lish became very tense. Mainly and assumably due to the fact that he would aim to write twenty drafts for every story he created. Imagine meticulously working on a 1200 word piece, only for two hundred words to be left intact for the publishing.