Archive for the 'Fiction' Category

Animal in the road

Animal stand in the middle of the road.  Animal growl.  Animal sense.  Animal smell.  Hardroad.  Hard to get out.
Animal feel eyes on him; them, they.  They in cars, either side, both directions, all looking at he.  He, animal, trapped here, no way out.  Hackles rise.  Teeth show.  Claws extend, but nowhere to go.
They look and gawk; he stare.  Sees the sky.  Feels the pull.  Wildcall – from one who knows his name.  
Still rushingwhooshing they go.  Past him.  Looking but not seeing.  Them in machines.  Machine – he knows machine.  Feels to be one.  Some days.
Again heat, again pull, again sky.  Whichway?  He asks.  Wherego?  Either side, same danger.  But freedom.  Possibility of freedom.
Mustchoose.  Muscles gather.  Hair prickles.  Choice made.  Leap into nomore.  Gone – but taking them with me.
Animal end.

February ’07

Under The Rain

She stood in the garden, her eyes blazing as she stared at me.  I couldn’t see what she was so empassioned about.  It was hidden in that proud, tossing head.  She was eating plums – ripe, red plums, imperfect, blemished, but full of giddying juices.

She was giddying.

Barefoot.  Oversized green satin nightshirt.  Wild green eyes and long, random hair.  Standing under the rain, pouring itself onto her head, dripping off her nose, painting her makeshift dress darker, where it was not already stained with ink and plum.  I’d never seen weather so silver and gold.  The rain sang off every leaf and branch and stone, trickled in streams from the edges of the roof, the sun spilling its answer of liquid gold across the paths, dancing through the foliage, melting over the pine bark on the ground.  We stood in the garden and I watched her live among it all.  Watched with love the way she shone.  She sucked at the plum between her teeth with her tongue and stepped her way towards the house.  She walked a dance.  She spoke in songs.  Not singing now; only acknowledging my existence by her generosity in not disappearing into the shining air in a shower of droplets, as I knew she wanted to, and most probably could.

I was grateful to see.

February ’07

Utah and Ani – Part One

“Laws.  The good people don’t need em and the bad people don’t follow em, so what are they good for?”

There’s a certain feeling downtown today, like something’s going to change.  Everyone’s trying to act normal, trying to talk at a normal pace, but failing miserably, or rather, failing excitably.  Their voices either come across as slightly hushed under all that pressure, or overly loud, sort of enthusiastically calm.  This is a small town, with a big pot boiling in the back room.  A really fucking big pot.

“swingin’ their scrotums through the underbrushes”

…the pressure is nearly too much, as they walk side by side through the supermarket.  The air-conditioned environment is slightly chilled, but between them the air sparks with heat, electricity, the almost tangible feelings of desire.  It’s nearly too much – but not quite.  They both know it – he’s almost afraid the people around them can smell it in the air.  They stand in the line.  She rubs her breasts lightly against his arm as she turns around, and smiles a small smile.

“You love this country.  You know you love this country.”

Sweat makes its way over lines, dirt and stubble as he leans into the sunlight.  It’s hard, it’s hot, but this way is the only way.  He won’t walk any other way.  He curses the flies, flicking at them with a hand that’s seen more rocks than washbasins, but even they make up the integrated story that is this journey, his life, his whole dirty, sweat-stained past.  If words were actions he’d have blasted and fucked just about everything in the landscape, but that’s how much he loves it.  Despite the swearing.  Or because of.

“anarchy”

This kid spends his time scraping his nails gently over his palms.  This kid watches the glint of the other boys’ marbles as they crash off each other and send dirt into the air.  This kid is thinking something over, thinking hard.  This kid wants to know, not who to tell, but how?  And why?  This kid feels that both inaction and action would be the wrong choice.  This kid may not understand as much as your average grown-ups, but he knows a bit more.  Just a little bit more.

“drummin’ ”

Hips sway to the bass beats, green skirt jumps and twirls around bare legs.  She’s got this smile, eyes closed, like her and the music share this joke that no one else can know.  Like she’s got a promise made to her that can never be broken, a promise of whatever it is she’s wanted most all her sweet little life.  Towards her come grins and compliments, offers of beer and pot and hands to dance with.  She denies two for fear of danger, accepts the most dangerous anyway.  Today she wishes she had the promise of forgetting.  

“You know that name?”

They look at each other with surprise and then back to the toothless grin occupying the face of the man on the corner, offering his philosophies from an oddly clean hand that spends its time carrying around plastic bags.  She opens her mouth hesitantly to try and force some politeness through the surprise, but her husband’s feet are still moving and hers follow, always taught by example to just move on, avert whatever eyes you might be fortunate enough to have.  The old man has none of her surprise.  On the occasion that a pure-minded teenager listened, offered a fleeting friendship, the old man spat and swore and shouted, seeing the sympathy he so hated instead of the open heart he unknowingly sealed up with shock.  He forgot that day and believes himself friendly, and will do so until the next time someone dares to give a shit.

“You know what I’m talkin’ about?”

They call it living a lie, sometimes; but this one is a living lie.  Following music he doesn’t understand, living in a house he thinks he built with his own hands, but he bought it off the builders barely two years ago.  He even has the blueprints.  The music echoes up the clean-ish stairs to the empty bed.  He sits downstairs in the leather couch with a glass of red, reading a book.  He realises somehow over a slow period of four seconds that he’s only looking at the reflection of the lamp on the shiny page.  He blinks and looks up – Elvis is standing there in blue jeans and a plain black shirt.  “I’m not dead,” he says.  “You need to stop pretending now.”  Then he’s gone.

“No matter how New Age you get, old age gonna kick your ass!”

January ’07
Written based on the quotes – from “The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere” by Ani DiFranco and Utah Phillips

Story

Had he been able to distinguish a normal person from a nutcase, and a nutcase from a REAL nutcase, he would’ve run a mile when he saw me.
     But he didn’t.  He sat himself down beside me and offered me a cigarette, from a new packet out of the pocket of a not-so-new long leather jacket.  I accepted silently, gratefully, and allowed him to light it with a small orange lighter from a different pocket.
     “It’s bad for you, you know,” he mentioned as I inhaled deeply and the pack and lighter disappeared back within the jacket.  I raised my eyebrows at the street in general.  The street continued to grind on its grey way, and he merely leaned back in the seat and crossed his legs.
     “Don’t you smoke?” I queried after a moment.  There was no interest in the question, but when you have no life you talk and smoke, that’s the way it goes.  And I’d done neither yet that day.
     He shook his head, almost as if to shake his long hair out of his eyes.  “Not what you’re smoking.”
      “Then why the pack?”
     “Old family heirloom?”
     I barked out a short, dead laugh.  The street shuddered.
      “Why are you angry?”
There was no basis for the question.  I almost didn’t understand him, like he was speaking a different language.  When I gave him a question-mark look, he nodded and rose to his feet.
     “Will you help me buy matches?” he requested, holding out a hand.  He was beginning to seem a little odd, but I told myself I was too far gone to care, and let myself be pulled up and along the repetitive street.
     “So where are we going?” I asked between smoky breaths, after we’d crossed two streets.  He smiled at me, a sweet sort of smile, stirring in me the feeling of dark rooms and guitars.  “To buy matches.”  He stopped to press a traffic-light button, and we crossed.  “I smoke cigars, and I always light them with matches.”
     “Why?”  My hand was still in his as we came to a slow halt in front of a white brick building.  Presumably it was a shop, because he left me, and returned with matches.  In a matchbox.  Funnily enough.  
     He continued the conversation as though he’d never gone anywhere.  “Lighters are cold flame.  Dead.  Mechanical.  Once you get past the first part of a match, it’s real fire.  Burning wood.  Do you dance?”
     I jumped.  “Me?  No. No, never.”  As I stared at him, nonchalantly lighting up a cigar, I thought to myself that he was a bit of a pretentious wanker, with all this “cold flame” shit.  What am I doing with this guy? I stared down the street, trying to look through the blankness in my mind to some excuse for going home.

Unfinished.  Begun November ’06

Porcelain Animals

I’d named my porcelain animals.  Tree names.  Mangrove, Willow, Oak, Cherryblossom, Eucalypt, Birch.  Horse, cat, owl, rabbit, giraffe, robin.  I love the names of trees… they’re like poetry.  Or a song, even.  Yes, definitely a song.  How can I show you?

I would sing to my porcelain animals as I skipped to school in my red stockings, imagining they were skipping with me.  “Mangrove, Willow, Oak, Cherryblossom, Eucalypt, Oak…” over and over with the colours dancing in my head, the tastes and textures each word conjured.  My magic words, my tree animals.

It is difficult to remember a childhood you never had, which is why some lying is difficult.  It is also sometimes difficult to remember a childhood you did have.  I don’t know whether it’s harder to recall something you subconsciously don’t want to, or at the time didn’t want the future you to remember.  In any case, I never can recall much of classes, nor of piano lessons, nor of my parents at home.  My father had kind hands, but cold eyes.  I remember how his beard felt, but not what colour it was.  My mother was sweet and smiling, smelt of flour, flowers, and biscuits.  She wore her hair in a bun.  He wore black gumboots.  They were not cruel to me, nor did they fight.  But I remember them better when we weren’t at home… the business-voice my father used when speaking to his peers, the twinkling in mama’s eye when she watched me playing with other children in the play-park near the school.  The hard, bitter lollies he bought me at the store.  The apricots she and I picked as we walked, their fine fur and sweetness inside.

But it was my Nana that gave me the porcelain animals.

I hardly remember Nana at all, but that’s only because she was magic.  She believed memory was wasteful.  Why think when we can feel? So she magicked away my memories of her, and died young enough to not become decrepit, which she told me should be a joyful occasion.  I smiled sweetly at her funeral, and disturbed the priest.  He gave me a small stone crucifix to have as my own, but when no one was looking, I left it on Nana’s grave.  I knew she’d like it; it was such a nice stone, cool, grey, smooth.

Corrections are made and redone as we grow older but they never erased my tree animals, my porcelain magic.  Mangrove, Willow, Oak, Cherryblossom, Eucalypt, Birch.

April ’06

Bapak

It was a dim, shabby place, not much spoken of in the centre of the village, if ever.  Placed up on the side of the hill, on the way up to all the restaurants where tourists could get a cheap meal, photos of the volcano, and food poisoning.  The sort of place that people did not aspire to go to, nor did they avoid it.  Just another dusty group of streets, woven together like an old woman’s basket in such a way that they looked as though they had grown up out of the grass naturally, not been beaten into the grass with sticks or hot feet with everywhere to go, no time to lose, and yet understanding every perfect stone beneath them.
     This street in particular was quite unremarkable.  If you were to ask me which street in this group of streets it was,  I could not tell you more than I think it was the southernmost street, or perhaps the one two up from that, or it could indeed have been the middle or the northernmost.  They were all much the same, really, apart from the small, insignificant fact that none of the other streets had a box.
     It was neither suspicious nor particularly interesting, just a Hessian-covered box in the middle of the street.  It had always been there, and nobody questioned it.  They drove their motorcycles and their becaks and their taxis and their scooters around it.  It was so comfy and settled-looking in its place that even the tourists, loud Americans, confused Europeans, curious Japanese and laughing Australians glanced at it without the thought even registering in their minds that it might, in another place or time, be strange for a box to be sitting in the middle of the road.  It just emanated the feeling of rightness, as though there was nowhere else in all this universe or indeed any other that would be more right for this box to be.  It was happy, and, because it was so happy, no one really bothered about it.  Who can be bothered with someone who is happy?  We have worries and daily lives to attend to.

      Hari Minggu came around.  Usually in stories, a lazy Sunday afternoon is when something happens.  But nothing happened on the Sunday in this story.

     The people in this story had to wait for the next Hari Jumat. Of course, they didn’t know they were waiting, apart from Putu.  Putu knew she was waiting. She had been waiting for over fifteen minutes, and she was tired of waiting.  It was hot, and as much as she loved watching fat tourists climb the hill in tiny cars, today really wasn’t the day for it.  Her little brother Nyoman was supposed to meet her here after school, and he was late.  He wasn’t usually late, but she supposed he was playing in the dirt with his grotty little friends as usual, and had forgotten about meeting her to go to Bu Pat’s house.  Or maybe he “forgot”… extra Math wasn’t really his idea of fun.
     Either way, Putu’s legs were tired and she wanted to go home.  She told herself she would way five more minutes and then leave.

     At this point in a story, something strange or different usually occurs to change the direction of what we have come to see as the “everyday” plot into something intriguing, or at least interesting enough to keep us reading, and throw the characters out of their comfort zones.  Not so in this story.  In this story, the strange and different occurrence has already happened.
     In this story, the strange and different thing had happened last time Putu had walked through that wholly unremarkable street.  Something had changed that hadn’t changed for a long time.  Perhaps someone kicked a certain pebble further or faster than it had ever been kicked before.  Perhaps a small child dropped a leaf in a shadow which was a different shape to any shadow the leaf had ever been dropped in before.  Nobody knows, but the result of this mysterious and entirely unimportant happening was that an image of the street stood up, shook itself a little, and curled up asleep in Putu’s mind.  She had been through that street many times; it was identical to the other streets, all woven together like an old woman’s basket.  She would never have remembered it before.  But on that day this most contrary image which had never been in anyone’s mind before, suddenly decided (due to the mysterious and entirely unimportant happening) that it wished to find a mind to sit upon.  And so it did, and so it was that Putu unconsciously passed the image, duplicated due to incubation in her mind, onto her brother, and randomly chose it as their meeting place for that Friday.  In doing so she also changed the street and everything in it, including the box, in some minute and unnoticeable way, which made it in some minute way more noticeable.

I digress.

     This odd but not entirely unmarked sequence of events led to this tired and fed-up Putu noticing the never-before noticed box in the middle of the street.  Her legs were aching, and there was nowhere else to sit, so she wandered over to it and sat down on it.  It felt as though it were a hollow crate made of wood.  She ran her thin fingers over the dusty brown Hessian, and a stray (but not untimely) breeze blew her long brown hair over her face, causing her to become irritated and toss her head.
     There was only one other person in the street at that point, and his name was Wayan.  He was about a year younger than Putu (give or take a few months,) and he had been watching her standing restlessly in the dust waiting as he had wandered up the street. He had noticed, as boys his age do, the shape and curve of her legs, arms, stomach, breasts, chin, and lips.  But now, as he walked past her, he noticed her face.  (To tell you the truth it would have been difficult not to, the way she was flicking her hair around.)

     To make this story less drawn-out and more pleasant to read, I shall say simply that he fell in love with her, heels-over-head, tip-over-arse, whatever you may feel inclined to call it.  Her brother arrived, they left, Wayan just stood there gaping like something that gapes a lot, and watched her go.  (If you were wondering, she did notice him, mainly because she met him once when they were both ten and he was a complete idiot.  He didn’t remember, so maybe he was still a complete idiot.)  He went home.  He daydreamt about her. That night he lay awake and dreamt about her.  Then he fell asleep and dreamt about her.  He woke up and dreamt about her some more, and was scolded by his mother for dawdling.  But he didn’t care.  Hari Sabtu was Market Day, and he knew she would be walking down the same street.  (Don’t ask how he knew, it helps the story if you don’t.)  So of course he hurried to get there before she did.
     He failed miserably, but the next day he went there again, and had only moments to wait before Putu wandered down the street.  He held his breath, as people do in the tense parts of stories like this.  She walked.  He held his breath, with two hands if possible.  She walked.  And as he stepped forward to say hello to her, she turned away from him to look at the box in the middle of the street. Something drew her to it – perhaps it was the lack of its previous rightness, I don’t know, and I’m sure she didn’t, but drawn she was, like water from a well.  And when she touched the faded sacking that covered it, she disappeared.
     No one noticed apart from Wayan, of course, because that’s the way things go in these stories.  He let out a little cry of shock, and in two strides stood in the spot where Putu had been moments before.

     The box exhaled, as much as a box can, and settled again.  It returned to its contentedness, its rightness, and it and the street became once again as inconspicuous as it had always been.  But of course something was there to thwart that, and his name was Wayan.  He had noticed, he had seen Putu disappear, and within half a second of the rightness returning it was gone again, because an image of Putu’s disappearance was burnt into Wayan’s mind.  This prevented the unremarkable from being so.  Wayan grabbed the box with both hands and searched its surface.  He found what he knew had not been there before.  The word “bapak” was etched into the wood under a small hole in the Hessian.
     Wayan didn’t even consider turning the box over, or searching any more.  What remained of the rightness prevented him.  He simply clutched at his temple in despair and confusion, and made his way home.  The rightness had only been removed by the smallest amount, and yet that street was never the same again.  Someone tripped over the box.  More people began to notice the box and the strange, dim little street it lived on.  And of course, much to the distaste of the fast-dwindling rightness, the more people noticed it, the more noticeable and suspicious it became, until the street was regarded as “mysterious and strange” and was avoided.  

     The street and the box became the place in which hundreds – thousands, even – of stories were made, because it was “mysterious and strange”, and stories are drawn to places like that.  But nobody ever questions how these places become like that.  Well, now you know a story – well, half a story – of how thousands of stories were made.

      I do hope Nyoman didn’t fail Maths.

 July ’05


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This blog is the collection of my poetry and prose, in chronological order from most recent to oldest.

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