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Feeling Pumped

A clash of loyalty to family and friends and the brutal consequences of ill-advised actions. A pleasant day at the beach interrupted by the unexpected.

Feeling Pumped.

JIMMY

My eyes scream with pain. Everything is blurred. Syd pulls against me, as I yank on his collar and struggle over the dunes. Bloody dog! He’ll get a right kicking if he doesn’t start behaving, and my so-called mates, deserve the bash too, running off like a pair of sissy’s.
As for that fat cow and her lethal spray, I’ll get her when she’s least expecting it. No-one shames Jimmy Rankin, and gets away with it.
As I reach the roadside, Syd jerks free from my grasp and bounds across the road.
Outside the dairy, the two sissy’s kneel down and pet Syd. “You dumb-arse dog,” I shout, rubbing my eyes furiously.
“Thanks for the support, you pair of weasel-arsed sissy’s,” I shout as I stomp across the road.
“Yeah, sorry mate. That cow meant business and I didn’t fancy getting sprayed.” Jono mumbled.
“You ain’t no mate,” I snarl. “Maybe you fancy this,” and I pop Jono right on his hooter. He clutches his face as the blood spurts out.
“Wow! Jimmy, steady on. It wasn’t Jono’s fault.” Stevie says.
“You want one too?” I sneer, clenching my fist. He holds up his hands and backs away.
“Nah, sorry Jimmy,” then he points to a water-tap on the side-wall of the dairy. “Splash some water into your eyes. It’ll take the sting away.”
I squat down, turn on the tap and splash water into my eyes. The pain eases.
“My nose, I think it’s broken.” Jono groans.
“Shut it or I’ll whack you again.”
Springing to my feet, I pull out Syds lead from my pocket and clip it onto his collar. “Tie Syd to that post,” I say to Stevie, pointing to a lamp-post a hundred metres away. “You and I are gonna do over the dairy. Bozo here,” I jab a finger at Jono, “Can stand guard.”
“Jimmy, that ain’t a good idea, not in broad daylight.”
“Do it!”
Stevie takes the lead and drags the dog, snarling and growling, to the lamp-post. Tied to the post, Syd Vicious goes into a barking frenzy. Bloody dog, he sure is gonna get one hell-of-a-kicking, later.
“And you, you useless bag of shit, when we’re inside the dairy, bang on the door if anyone comes along. You got that, pea-brain?”
“Yeah, I got it.” Jono mumbles, spitting a gob of bloody snot onto the pavement.
Stevie returns and I fling my arm around his shoulder, “Let’s do this!” Visualising the smack seeping into my veins, I feel pumped as we enter the dairy.

TAMMY

Soaking in the rays of the hot summer sun, at the far end of the beach, away from the Sunday beach crowd, Bethany and I listen to the latest drama in Carla’s life.
“I woke to a noise coming from downstairs. I crept down the stairs and along the hallway to the kitchen. The door was half open, and I could see a figure beside the bench. I couldn’t see his face properly, because he was wearing a hoodie. He was searching through the messy drawer, the one where everything gets dumped, including dad’s wallet when he’s not got it on him.”
“Weren’t you frightened?”
“I was absolutely petrified. I stood frozen to the spot, too frightened to move. The back door was open, and the porch light glowed into the kitchen. I could see the meat cleaver on the bench.”
“Oh my God!” Bethany shrieks. “What happened?”
“I must have made a sound because the intruder grabbed the cleaver, and spun round, facing me. I got such a shock when I saw the face inside the hoodie. Sunken eyes, hollow cheeks and red-raw scabs around his mouth. It was my brother, Jimmy.” Carla pauses, her eyes watering. Bethany, reaching for Carla’s hand, squeezes it. “I haven’t seen him since dad and he had that big blow-up when dad caught him burgling the house. Dad threatened blue-murder if he ever dared to come back.”
“Did he say anything?” I ask.
“No, but I did. I was shaking all over and my voice sounded weird, not like my voice at all. None of it felt real. It was like I was on the outside, watching someone else. I told him to leave before he woke mum and dad.”
“And did he?”
“No. He took a step towards me and raised the cleaver over his head. I screamed like I’ve never screamed before, and shouted, ‘get out, get the fuck out’. That’s when the car pulled into the driveway. Mum and dad had come home. He dropped the cleaver and took off out the back door.”
“So your parents weren’t even in the house?” Bethany says.
“No.”
“What did they say when you told them he’d been there?” I asked.
“I didn’t tell them. I just said that I got up to check if I’d locked the back door.”
“Carla, are you crazy? You should have told them.”
“He may be a loser, but he’s still my brother.”
“He’s a psycho, Carla. What would have happened if your parents hadn’t come home when they did?”
“But they did come home and nothing happened and no matter what he’s done, he’s my brother and I care about him.”
“Will you still care about him, when he’s wedged a meat cleaver into your skull?”
Carla’s body stiffens, and her eyes burn with anger. “I’m going for a swim.”
She scrambles to her feet, sprints to the water and dives under the waves.
“Wow, that was a bit brutal, Tammy. He wouldn’t have hurt her. He’s her brother.”
“Don’t be naive, Bethany. He’s an addict, desperate for a fix with a meat cleaver in his hand. It wouldn’t matter to him who it was standing there. She should have told her parents.”
“ ‘Spose,” Bethany shrugs.
“You want some crisps?” I offer, taking two packets from my tote bag.
“Thanks.”
A fat bulldog, coming from the sand dunes bounds towards us and rushes straight to Bethany’s open crisp bag, gobbling the crisps. Drool dribbles from his meaty mouth. Bethany squeals. Three yobs appear from the dunes, laughing at the dog’s antics.
“No need to be afraid of Syd Vicious, girls. He just wants to be your friend,” says the skinny dude, dressed in black jeans and hoodie, with chains hanging from his belt.
Holy shit, it’s Clara’s brother, Jimmy! I look towards the waves, trying to make out which swimmer is Clara. The dog, circling us, growling and snarling, is eyeing up my bag of crisps.
Jimmy approaches. “What juicy little flesh-pots have you found for us, Syd?” he smirks, crouching beside Bethany, who has huddled herself into a tight ball.
“I’ll have this one,” he says rubbing her leg. “I’ll do her in the sand-dunes and then I’ll do her again. You two can fight over fatty there!”
Grabbing my tote-bag and jumping to my feet, I screech, “Get lost, Jimmy Rankin, and take your low-life mates and your smelly dog with you.” I swing my bag wildly at him.
“You gonna make me, fatty?” Jimmy, on his feet, steps towards me. Stepping back, I nearly trip on my towel. His mates laugh.
“You tell her, Jimmy,” one says.
Bethany whimpers. Holding my bag to my chest, I frantically search for the small, cylindrical tube. Finding it, I aim my hand and squirt Jimmy Rankin in both eyes.
He screams an anguished cry, “You sadistic cow!”
Rubbing his eyes, he splutters, “Get the bitch!”
The other two look towards me. I point the cylinder in their direction and take a step towards them. They turn and run back over the sand dunes. With one hand rubbing his eyes, Jimmy grabs the collar of the dog with his other hand and stumbles over the sand dunes.
“Wow, that was amazing Tammy,” Bethany hugs me. “I was so scared.”
“What was amazing?” Clara returned from her swim, dabs her hair dry.
“Nothing, it was nothing.”
“It wasn’t nothing, Tammy,” Bethany continues. “These three yobs and a savage dog came out of the sand dunes and were saying vulgar stuff. Tammy yelled at one of them and sprayed him with pepper spray.”
“And they left?”
“Yep. They ran off. You knew him, didn’t you?” she says to me.
“Yeah, no, not really,” I stutter. “Anyone want a coke? I’m going to pop over to the dairy.”
“No thanks,” they chorus. I tie my sarong around my hips and pull on my T-shirt. As I scramble up the first dune, my heart thudding against my rib-cage, I clench the cylinder in my hand, fearful they’ll be lying in wait. Reaching the roadside, I see the dog, Syd Vicious, tied to a power pole, barking madly. Outside the dairy, one of the yobs is standing beside the door, blood streaming down his face. The door flies open and a black figure, half turned, yelling something over his shoulder, dashes out onto the road. A car comes speeding down the hill towards the dairy. Brakes screech.
WHAM!

One Would Be Enough

Karma. Destiny or fate. Most of us would have heard or spoken the phrase: That’s Karma for you. This phrase came to mind when my Dad, an avid fisherman, told me a fishing story, many years ago.
Fishing, a calm and passive past-time, right? Not always.

One Would Be Enough.

One big fat salmon would be enough. Vincent manoeuvres his chair along the zigzag track. One salmon would keep Doris happy. He reaches his favourite position, a flat platform of ground above the canal below, wide enough for his chair. He yanks hard on the brake and begins to prepare his rod.
The early morning sun warms his face as he gazes into the calm water of the canal. Will today be the day he’ll catch a salmon and break the drought? He replayed the early morning conversation he’d had with his fretful wife.
“I can’t help but worry. What if your brake failed and you went hurtling into the canal, trapped beneath your wheelchair? What then?”
“That won’t happen, Doris. The brake is sturdy and Harold is there with me if anything should happen.”
“Even Harold would struggle to pull you out of the canal if… .”
“Stop worrying, woman. It’s not going to happen. Every week we have the same conversation and every week, I come back safe, don’t I?”
“You haven’t caught any salmon for weeks. All you’ve caught is that nasty sniffle. You’re just a foolish, stubborn old man.”
The catch on the gate clicked open.
“Morning Doris, morning Vincent,” Harold, striding up the path, waved.
“Morning Harold.” Doris bent and tugged at Vincent’s woollen scarf. “Promise you’ll keep this on. I don’t want that sniffle spreading to your chest.”
“I promise, sweetheart,” and he pecked his wife of fifty-four years on her cheek.
As he prepares his rod, Vincent wonders if Doris is right. Perhaps he is losing his touch. Perhaps his fishing days are over.
He cast his rod, the sinker plops into the water. He wedges the rod firmly in the side of his chair, praying for the knowing jerk.
Melodic whistling drifts from the top of the embankment. Howard is making a brew.
Howard doesn’t fish, he sketches and paints vivid landscapes. An odd pursuit for such a big, rugged fellow, Vincent ponders.

***
As the kettle sings its wheezy tune, Howard contemplates the spiral of steam curling into the air. A warm tingle seeps through his body. Perched on the easel in his garden studio at home, is the half-finished portrait of his dead wife, Olivia. Her slightly crinkling lips and glistening blue eyes, captured in bold brush-strokes. As he paints, Howard hears Olivia’s laughter, imagines she is with him once again. He sees her gentle smile dances in the vapour.
His reverie is broken by voices coming from the canal bank. He fills the metal mugs. The voices grow louder.

***

Stuart Agnew is steaming mad when he arrives at the canal to find his favourite spot taken by some old codger in a wheel-chair, halfway up the bank. That morning, he finished his night-watchman job at the depot, late. Donaldson, the foreman, had caught him napping, and made him do another round.
“Yer paid to patrol not sleep, you lazy sod.” Donaldson roughly kicked Agnew’s boot, waking him.
“I wasn’t sleeping. Just resting my eyes for a bit.” As he stumbled to his feet, the near-empty whisky bottle clanged to the ground.
“And what have I told yer ‘bout drinking on the job?”
Agnew shrugged. “I just had a nip to keep the cold from my bones.”
“You’d keep warm patrolling the yard as you’re paid to. Do another round and take that bloody bottle with you.”
Then he had a confrontation with the missus when he got home, thrusting him into a worse mood.
“If you think you’re going fishing today, think again.” She met him at the door, her arms folded across her ample bosom.
“Oh jeez, mother of God,” he attempted to push past her. She, a solid woman, stepped deftly to the side and blocked his passage.
“Don’t blaspheme, Stuart Agnew”
“Give a man some peace, woman. I’ve been up all night.”
“Sleeping it off, more like.” she sniffed. “You’ll get all the peace you want once them lawns are mowed and that damn gate’s fixed.” She snorted, turned and closed the door in his face.
Defeated, Agnew went to fetch the mower from the cluttered shed. His beloved rod, leaning against the back wall, beaconed him.. Why the hell not? He sprung into action. Bait, chilly bin, fold-up stool, then his rod. Furtively, he strode to his car. He could see the missus in the rear vision mirror as he drove away, waving a spatula, shouting. He couldn’t hear what she said and cared even less.

***

Vincent watches the short pug-faced bloke walking along the canal’s edge below him. In one hand, he’s carrying a beat-up chilly bin and fold-away stool and in the other, an impressive large rod.
The bloke sits his stocky body on the stool, snaps open the chilly bin and prepares his rod.
“Hey mate, could you move along a bit?”
“Nah, this is my spot and I ain’t moving.”
“But my lines already in,” Vincent wriggles his line.
“But my lines already in” Pug-face mimics back.
“Come on mate. Be reasonable, just move along.”
“What, you gonna come down and bash me with that wheel-chair of yours?” Pug-face laughs and lights a cigarette.
“Nah, he ain’t but I will,” swivelling on the stool, Agnew looks up as Howard steps from behind the car.
“But I always fish here, this is my spot.”
“Not today it ain’t. Now move along or I’ll come down and help you.”
Agnew scowls and gathers his gear. He tucks the fold-away stool under his arm, and clutching the chilly bin in one hand and his rod in the other, he glares at Vincent and Howard.
Vincent’s line jerks. “You beauty!” He begins to wind his rod.
A large, silvery salmon emerges through the water surface, thrashing at the end of the line. Agnew draws deeply on his cigarette, drops the chilly bin, and grabs the taut line. He holds the cigarette against the fine nylon. The salmon plummets into the canal.
“You rotten swine,” Howard strides down the embankment.
Agnew picks up the chilly bin and hurries along the wet, grassy track in the direction he came, chuckling. His foot slips. He trips over his rod. The rod rolls into the canal. He kneels, plunges his upper body into the water. His arms flail desperately.
Vincent, forgetting the salmon, rocks with laughter.
Howard hears Olivia’s laughter. She is with him once again.

Pulling Up Daisies

There was a knock at the door. An unexpected knock at the door offers countless possibilities as to who and what awaits on the other side.

Pulling Up Daisies

There was a knock at the door…
Under the bougainvillaea on the front verandah in light coloured chinos, stood a stranger wearing thick-rimmed glasses.
“Yes?” I asked tersely, annoyed that my morning crossword had been disturbed.
“Mr Harris?”
“Yes? Can I help you?”
The fellow introduced himself. “I’m from Olson and Carter in the city and we have been contracted by our client to make you an offer on your property for… .”
“There’s been a mistake. We’re not selling,” I interrupted, attempting to close the door, his extended foot preventing me.
“There is no mistake, Mr Harris,” the chap continued earnestly. “My clients are willing to offer…” quoting a substantial figure.
“What? How much?” I stammered.
Repeating the amount, he assured me that his clients were genuine and it was a cash offer.
About to lose my composure, I barked, “As I told you, we’re not selling.”
He held up his hand and looked me steadfastly in the eye. “Take time to consider, Mr Harris. I’m staying at The Holiday Inn.” He flourished a fancy, gold-embossed card. “Call round in the morning. I believe there is room for negotiation… .” he trailed off.
“I’ll think about it,” I wanted this fellow gone before Evelyn returned from her morning walk.
The chap nodded and left.
I returned to my crossword dismissing the idea of selling our home of sixty years for any outrageously crazy amount of money. My concentration lost, I discarded the crossword.

When Evelyn hadn’t returned from her walk by her usual time, I went looking. On many occasions, I’ve searched the streets in the village for my wandering wife. That morning, I found her in Mrs Greys garden, pulling out daisies. “Daisies are lovely but they do tend to take over,” she said when I walked up the path.
Amongst the discarded daisies, I got to thinking. Perhaps the fellow was right. Perhaps I should consider the offer. I called on Mr Earnest of Olsen and Carter, the next morning.

A month later and the deal is done. We leave the island on the ferry tomorrow. We leave forever, though Evelyn doesn’t know it’s forever.
“I hate that smelly old ferry,” she grumbles, wiping the bench in angry strokes. “And I don’t want to go to the city.”
I embrace my agitated wife. “Do it for our girl, Caroline. It means a lot to her.”
“I didn’t ask for this, in fact, I specifically said I didn’t want a fuss. Caroline’s got no right.” Clinging to my chest, her body quivers. Tears will follow.
Had I done the right thing?
“Sweetheart, sixty years married, is a milestone few people reach,” I say, looking into her moist eyes. “We’ve got to celebrate. It’ll be a small gathering of family and close friends at Caroline’s house. No fuss, I promise.”
She sniffs loudly.
“I’ve an idea. Let’s wander down to the beach and ca-noodle in the sand dunes, just like the old days?” I suggest.
“You old rascal, you,” playfully punching my chest.
“I’ll slap some sammies together, you make a Thermos of tea, what do you say?”

At the end of the path, I place Evelyn’s faded denim hat on her head. “There, got to look after that peaches and cream complexion of yours. Can’t have my beautiful lady burning in this hot sun.”
“You silly old romantic, take another look,” she answers. “A wrinkled prune is what this face is, just as our granddaughter Samantha says.”
“It’ll always be peaches and cream to me, like the first day I met you on this very beach. You racing into the surf, jumping the waves, swimming so far out I thought I’d lost you even before I found you,” adjusting her hat. “You were reckless that day, and fearless.”
She chuckles, “That was a long time ago. I’m not that person any more, just as you are not that gangly, awkward youth, standing on the beach, scanning the surf. I knew you were there when I rushed into the waves. I wanted you to be watching, waiting.”

Snuggled in the sand dunes with the toe-toe standing sentry, raucous seagulls dipping and diving on the breeze, I watch the waves lapping the sand, swirling then retreating rhythmically.
Swirling like my thoughts. Have I done the right thing?
“It’ll be better for everyone, dad,” Caroline assured me a week ago when I confessed my doubts.
Caroline has scoured the city for a suitable retirement village. Sunset Gardens promises assisted living, facilities for the active, weekly outings, pleasant manicured gardens and best of all, it’s within walking distance of a beach.
“A penny for them,” Evelyn tugs my arm.
“What?”
“A penny for your thoughts. You were miles away.”
“I was remembering the times we brought our young ones here. Throwing them into the waves and them shrieking but always coming back for more.”
“And the sandcastles we built with moats and turrets and the waves rolling in and sucking our castle into the sea.”
“Crab hunting in the rock pools.”
“Collecting driftwood, making a fire to cook sausages.”
“Remember the time Ben got caught in the rip, the day of Tom’s birthday? The day we’d walked to the point?” Evelyn points to the distant sliver of land.
I nod. “Like it were yesterday.”
That day, nigh on fifty years ago, we’d ventured to the spit on Tom’s insistence. It was his tenth birthday. Tom raced ahead, with Ben, two years younger close behind. No amount of shouting would slow them down. The boys galloped into the churning waves, diving under and coming up again to dive some more. Then only one head popped to the surface. The small body turned, turned again thrashing at the waves, yelling. Dropping the chilly bin, I sprinted into the waves.
“Yep, we nearly lost Ben that day. A sobering lesson for all of us,” I shudder.
“What was it you said to the boys? Never underestimate the force of mother nature?”
I grin. “Yeah and how often did the pair of them quote that back to me over the years?”
“The big wind of eighty-six when the hen house got lifted and spirited down to the beach, the chicken’s left behind, bewildered, clucking wildly in their cages.” Evelyn smiles.
Yep, can’t underestimate the force of mother nature, eh Dad? The boys had chorused that day.
“Time for a sandwich and a cuppa?”
“Better not be too long, Julia’s coming home today on the afternoon ferry, remember.” I jolt at the mention of our dead daughter.
“She’ll have so much to tell us about her adventure, you know how she’ll be, talking non-stop twenty to the dozen. Her first Girl Guide camp and, she’ll be hungry. I’ll make Shepherd’s Pie for tea, her favourite.” Evelyn begins to pour the tea.
“Julia’s not coming home today, sweetheart.” I sigh. “Julia is never coming home again.”
Her arm shook, spilling some tea on the rug. “Of course she’s coming home today, Frank. It’s the twenty-seventh. I’ve marked it on the calendar. And it’s on her postcard.” She passes me a cup. “How could you forget today’s the day she’s coming home?”
“Julia’s not with us any more, sweetheart. She died last year. Her heart problem, we were lucky to have her as long as we did.” I wipe a tear from my cheek.
“Oh, silly you! That was Aunt Doris. Old Aunt Doris died last year and not from a heart problem. Simply old age. She had a good inning.” Evelyn sips her tea.
Putting down my cup, I embrace my wife. “Aunt Doris died many years ago and her Albert, a year later.”
“Sure do miss her scones though. Nobody could make date scones like your Aunt Doris.” Evelyn looks pensively to the swirling waves. “Wonder what will become of Uncle Albert? He’s a bit lost without her.”
Its me who is lost now, as lost as Evelyn’s memories.
Diminished capacity, the doctor called it. It’d gotten steadily worse since Julia’s death. A severe shock can have that effect, the doctor said.
“That’s it, Frank.” Evelyn broke from her reverie. “That brochure, that one that came last week in the post about the retirement village only they didn’t call it that.”
She continued eagerly, “What did they call it?”
“Assisted living.”
“Yes that’s it, Sunset Gardens. That’s what your Uncle Albert needs. When he gets back from visiting his girls down south you could talk to him, Frank.” She patted my leg triumphantly.
“Sure, I’ll have a word with him.”

Uncle Albert lived with us after Doris died. I recall the old, shrunken man sitting on our verandah, as I strolled up the path after a day on the fishing trawler. I’d ask, “How are you, Albert?”
“Just fine, waiting for my Doris,” he’d reply. “We’ll get our teas when she comes back.”
I never corrected him.

Evelyn suddenly scrambles to her feet. “There’s the ferry. Time to go. Got to get home and get that Shepherd’s Pie made.”

Kill Your Darlings, Literally

As with any craft, there is an abundance of advice out there for writers. And, as with any advice, writers are free to either follow that advice to the letter, (ha, ha), discard it completely or bend it to suit their purpose. One piece of well-known advice, for which the great William Faulkner has been credited and has always fascinated me, is: kill your darlings.
The following story explores bending this advice. A writer often becomes attached to a character, after-all they are his or her creation and the writer is reluctant to cut them from the story. This can cause actual pain. At the same time, for the sake of authenticity, the writer must adhere to the specifics of the genre in which they are writing.

Kill Your Darlings, Literally.

“How do you feel?”
“How do you think I feel? I’ve been fatally shot. Dead!”
“Yeah, sorry about that.”
“You should be sorry. Why?”
“Why were you shot? Because that’s the storyline. This is the climax and I need you gone for the story to move on and for Laura to move on.”
“But Laura and I were working through our issues. How did you put it? ‘Connecting, rebuilding our lives, our relationship becoming stronger than before the betrayal’. Why did I have to be shot?”
“As you may recall, you selflessly confronted the burglar and he shot you and now Laura is faced with the ordeal of life without you.”
“I get that, but why fatally shot? Why not just injure me? I could be in the hospital on life support with Laura by my side day and night, etcetera.”
“Ah buddy, I understand how you feel, I really do but this isn’t a romance novel, is it? It’s chiller-thriller. The narrative has to shock the reader. Your sudden death is the pinnacle point in the narrative and the turning point for Laura. She’ll miss you, she’ll long for you. You’ll be in her thoughts daily. Don’t worry, you haven’t been completely erased.”
“How about this, I’m seriously wounded, I’m on life support for days or weeks, and when I pull through, I return home a helpless invalid. Laura, in her loving, womanly ways restores me, kinda like our relationship. It’d be like a parallel theme. You see that in books loads of times.”
“Yeah, Nah, that wouldn’t work.”
“Why not?”
“For one, your version leans towards soppy-sappy romance. It’s missing the hard edge grit of chiller-thriller. And two, Laura wouldn’t be free to meet and fall for Dastardly Dan, would she?”
“What, she’s going to meet someone else and me not yet cold in my grave?”
“Oh, I’ll give it a few months, say six months max and allow her to go through the whole grief process – the loss, the anger and everything.”
“But she could grieve as I lie helpless on my invalid bed. After all, having an invalided husband, there’d be a degree of loss and anger for her and for me and what’s to stop her meeting this other unsuitable chap. Having administered my medications, she could easily slip away from my bedside to pursue a clandestine relationship. In my opinion, my version is much more chiller-thriller, plus another layer would be added; the secrecy and guilt Laura has to carry.”
“Absolutely not! No! Laura’s not that sort of woman, is she? For all her beauty and the attention she attracts from the opposite sex with that voluptuous body of hers, she’s pure and true and honest. Remember how badly she was affected by your betrayal? You should know Laura’s purity and strong principles better than anyone, after all you were married to her for eleven years. I’m shocked you even suggest it.”
“Okay, I take your point but with this brutal act you haven’t considered the three fatherless children in this narrative, have you? Take the eldest, poor, unfortunate Harvey. With all his social awkwardness he’ll need fathers guiding hand as he heads into adolescence. And chubby little Maggie will need a strong adoring male – in the form of her father – to reassure her that she is lovable just the way she is and as for Leonard, well he’s still young but there’s bound to be something. He is showing some autistic traits, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, maybe. Autistic traits could provide an interesting element. Perhaps the death of his father triggers the autism into manifestation. Note to self: research autism. Certainly worth pursuing, thanks buddy but as for your death, I can’t change that. I’m sorry but it really has to be this way.”
“Yeah, right, you’re sorry? With the stroke of a pen or in your case, the tap-tap-tap on a keyboard you can wipe me out just like that. How do you think I feel lying here in this pool of sticky, congealing blood, hah?”
“Congealing blood, that’s good. Mind if I use that? You know, in another life, you could be a writer, too.”
“Whatever. How you can so easily caste aside this character, me, whom you’ve created, whom your reader audience strongly empathise with, I struggle to understand.”
“There comes a point with any creative literary works that one must kill-off their darlings.”
“Ah-ha, so now you’re quoting the advice of the great William Faulkner, only you’ve got it wrong. It’s kill your darlings, not kill-off your darlings, you imbecile!”
“Steady on there, Buddy. No need to get so worked over some incidental technical point and this outburst are totally out of character for you. Remember, you’re the chilled dude, the laid back dude, not the guy who explodes irrationally.”
“I’ve every right to explode. I’ve been shot, fatally!”
“Of course I know Faulkner didn’t literally mean, ‘kill your characters’ but… .”
“No buts about it. His advice referred to extraneous plot lines, pointless prose, excessive backstory, and unnecessary scenes. Seriously, have you even completed a basic 1-0-1 creative writing course?”
“Neither is sarcasm one of your character traits and yes, I have completed an online course. I fully understand and agree with the intent of Faulkners’ advice and once my draft is completed, I intend to follow it.”
“You’ve invested so much in me and hence so have your readers. You’ve created this likeable, very handsome rogue with a few rough edges, but he’s not irredeemable, whom female readers swoon over and male readers long to be. They are hooked on me. I congratulate you on this achievement. But by killing me off, they will feel the loss, deeply.”
“Exactly! When you die, the readers will feel the loss, your death will shock them and they will be bereft, hence, as J.K. says, killing the main character will deepen the reader’s emotional investment.”
“Oh, so now we turn to the great J.K. and if J.K. says its okay to kill off your main character, then that’s what you’re going to do?”
“It’s not personal buddy. Believe me, your death hurts me as much as it hurts you, in fact, it probably hurts more, after all, you are my creation.”
“If I’d known your cruel plan, there’s no way I would have come along for the ride.”
“Hmmm, well I can only apologise once again and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your invaluable participation thus far but you have to go, I do have to kill you.”
“Heartless! Totally heartless, that’s what you are.”
“Shush. Laura is swiftly, quietly, descending the stairs. She’ll be by your side in a moment, cradling your splattered head, kneeling in the congealed blood pooling on the floor, weeping and wailing. You’ll gaze into her eyes, your eyes will momentarily lock, then your eyes will cloud over, your eyelids flutter, and your mouth open as to speak but the only sound will be agonised throat gurgle as your life is extinguished.”

Mum Hid In the Pantry

How does that annoying song go for that long-running Aussie soap go? Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours? But do we? And how each of us defines ‘good’, is sure to differ. Most people will have a well-meaning Mrs Buchanan character in their lives, neighbour or not. And most will have devised a way to deal with such characters, with varying degrees of success.

Mum Hid In the Pantry

Mrs Buchanan stood on the doorstep, her hand raised preparing to pound on the door once more. Mum peeped through the thin lace curtain, unseen. Oh no, not Mrs Buchanan. I cannot face a visit from her today, Mum’s internal thoughts raced. Hide, pretend to not be home. She sunk to the floor and wiggled her body along the lounge carpet, along the wooden hallway and across the kitchen lino. The impatient knocking of her neighbour continued, growing ever louder, ever faster. Mum edged open the flimsy swing door of the pantry and slithered in. She’d forgotten the crate of beer Joseph had shoved into the pantry and bashed her elbow on the sharp corner. Suppressing a scream, she drew her body into a crouch and duck-waddled into the furthermost corner. Her head knocked the lowest shelf, upturning the open bag of flour. The flour cascaded through her hair and over her body. There came rapping at the kitchen window followed by shouting. ‘Janey, are you home?’
‘No, I am not at home’, Mum spluttered through the flour. ‘Go away.’ With a creak, the knob of the back door turned, followed by the door squeaking as it opened.
‘Janey?’ Footsteps on the lino floor.
Mum pinched her nose, fighting a sneeze.
The swing door flung open, smashing into the crate.
‘Janey! What on earth?’
Janey raised a finger to her lips. ‘Ssssh, hide and seek. I’m hiding from the children,’ she croaked through her mask of flour.
‘The children? It’s a school day, Janey. The children are at school.’
The bulk of Mrs Buchanan lent forward and hauled mum to her feet, leading her to the kitchen.
‘Really? You mean the children aren’t here?’ Mum dusted the flour from her face, from her body.
‘Sit down, my dear. I’ll put the kettle on.’
Mum slumped into a chair.
‘You know I had an aunt who had similar episodes.’
‘Huh?’
‘Yes, episodes similar to what you’ve just experienced, imagining scenarios. Her behaviour became increasingly alarming, poor dear. Eventually, we had to admit her for her own safety.’ Mrs Buchanan filled the kettle and plugged it in. She dropped tea bags into the teapot and took two cups from the side cabinet.
‘But that won’t happen with you.’ She turned from the bench and patted Mum’s hand. ‘No, we won’t allow it. A suppressed trauma has triggered this.’ Mrs Buchanan waved her arm airily. ‘We’ve caught it in time and with counselling sessions, we can beat this.’
Puffs of flour floated to the table as Mum nodded her head.
Mrs Buchanan poured the boiled water into the teapot.
‘And I’ll come by every day.’
‘Oh Mrs Buchanan, that’s very kind but I wouldn’t want to impose.’
‘Nonsense. It’s the least I can do.’ Mrs Buchanan chuckled. You are quite a sight, Janey. Imagine if your children had found you crouched, hiding in the pantry covered in flour.’
She poured the tea into the cups.
‘It’s fortuitous that I came by today and found you. I’ll visit every day and together, we’ll get through this.’

Bossy Bird, Sally Red-beak.

Who knew that seagulls are native birds. Not I. And apparently they are in decline. Considered by most of us beachgoers are annoying scavengers, they play an important role in the food chain. That said, do they have to behave so aggressively?

Bossy Bird, Sally Red-beak.
She’s at it again, dive bombing, her favourite sport. Bossy bird Sally Red-Beak swirls from up high, dips her wing and swoops into a dive directly above her prey. At the sound of her menacing squawk, the two-legged creatures glance up, alarm and fear etching their faces. Ducking, one of the Two-Leg’s waves her hat wildly as Sally skims above their heads. Unrepentant, flying in a large arc, she prepares for a second dive. In she comes, lower, lower she skims above them. With her out-stretched claws, she snatches the hat and dumps it in the surf. With a final loud Aarck she farewells the Two-Legs, her shrieking victims huddle together and scramble for the bush line.
Sally glides sedately to the water’s edge. With her head held high and her breast pumped out, she struts triumphantly amongst us other red-beaks gathered in a circle. None of us acknowledges her.
“Did you see that? Did you see me give those Two-Legs a right fright they’ll not forget in a hurry? Ah, the thrill to see them scurry away. They’ll learn who owns this beach,” she trumpeted.
Our backs turned, dabbing the sand with our beaks, we continue to ignore her.
“Oh, come on. You’ve got to agree, that second dive was mighty impressive. Did you see their faces?”
“But why? Why do you do it?” Bertie stutters, breaking our code of silence. He turns to face Sally. Reluctantly, so do the rest of us.
“Why? The fact that you even ask that question Bertie, shows you’ve lost it, old man. You’ve lost the thrill of the chase. Same as the rest of you.” She eye-balls us with her beady eyes. “You’ve gone soft, the lot of you. Gone all liberal, all that live-in-harmony rubbish. This is our beach, not theirs and we’ve got to fight for it. Besides, they’ve got their own places.” She flapped her wings impatiently.
“But the Two-Legs do have their uses,” Cynthia chipped in.
“Uses? Please enlighten me, oh learned one.” Sally sneers out of the corner of her beak, puffing her chest some more.
“The morsels of nourishment they drop as they meander along.”
“Hah, morsels, you’ve got that right. Mere morsels. What does that make us? Scavengers, thankful for tit-bits left behind by the mighty Two-Legs?”
“Well, yes actually. We are scavengers, that is in our nature, like our parents before us and their parents before them, we are scavengers. It’s in our DNA. There’s no shame in that.”
Sally’s feathers ruffled. “No, I refuse to accept that label.”
“The best pickings to be had,” Granddad Harold squawked dreamily, “is when they gather in groups on the grass verges and they bring out baskets loaded with offerings.”
“Or better still, they fire-up that contraption and cook them elongated meaty things and encase them in a moist, white cover doused in that thick red liquid and the littler two-legs drop chunks as they wander around,” Casey interrupted.
I was fair dribbling at the beak listening to the pair of them, envisioning such delights. If Sally persists in her dive bombing antic’s, she’ll spoil it for us all and eliminate our source of a-la-carte dining.
There comes at a time when one must stand up to bully’s like Sally Red-Beak. I gaze sternly at Sally, holding my gaze for all of five seconds before relenting under her hypnotic return-glare and look down at my feet. I open my beak then immediately close it without emitting a sound.
“You wish to comment, Timid Timothy? Do share your views with us.” Sally theatrically flings a wing-wide in my direction. The other red beaks gather around.
Solemnly, I cross my wings across my chest and nod my head a few times allowing the words to form in my head. “I suggest we not use the word scavenge. The word scavenge has connotation’s of us seagulls being garbage disposers, of salvaging anything and everything one can find in order to survive. It is a demeaning and out-dated term. We, my friends, are environmental activists.” I stride around the circle, nodding at each fellow red-beak. “All of us, each and every one of us is an environmental activist, cleaning up after the Two-Legs, ensuring this pristine beach of ours – and it is ours as Sally quite rightly stated – is preserved for our children and our children’s children.’
Some fellow red-beaks nod and squawk in agreement. Sally stays mute.
“The sea, once our main source of nourishment is depleted and can no longer sustain our needs. We need to move with the changing tides, embrace our important role in the environmental spectrum whilst providing for our loved ones.”
My companions flap their wings, nod their heads and Aarck-aarck in a show of support.
Clyde joins the conversation. “You make a fine point, Timothy, and if I may, I’d like to expand on your sentiments.”
“Ah, here we go, another pseudo-intellectual with pretty words.” Sally bustles into the centre of the circle.
Undaunted, Clyde continues. “For too long our reputation has been tarnished by this scavenger label and anti-social antics such as dive-bombing the Two-Legs reinforces this image. However, if we tamed our aggressive behaviour,” Clyde looks pointedly at Sally, “and simply waddled alongside the Two-Legs, they’re likely to view us as curious and cute birds. It would be advantageous to both our reputations and our pickings to portray a more amicable attitude.”
“Hear, hear!” My companions hold their heads high, shrieking their applause.
Not Sally. “Huh! What a load of codswallop! Environmental activists, amicable, cute and curious birds? That’s not us! We ain’t starring in some sickly-sweet Disney movie, are we?” Her loud protestations fall on deaf ears.
As a large group of Two-Legs approach, our circle disbands and we waddle towards the group. We nod and waggle our heads as we fall in beside them. We croon harmonious melodies from deep within our throats. The Two-Legs notice us and chuckle. Then one of them pauses, crouches and holds out a hand to pet little Sara. Another reaches into his back-pack and proceeds to drop generous chunks of tasty offerings upon the sand. With decorum, us red-beaks step towards these offerings, and forgoing our usual style of snatch, grab and gobble, we elegantly consume this welcome nourishment, all the while nodding in unison.