They were modest old ladies, maiden sisters who had always lived together in their Papa’s old house. Neither married, although there was a whisper of gossip about the younger and prettier sister. Their long dresses were buttoned at the neck and covered many petticoats. They were the epitome of Victorian proper manners.
I had tea with them every four months from when I was first able to hold a tea cup. From the demurely dressed teapot to the lace covered plates and saucers, everything was hidden. Even the tables had voluminous pantaloons peeping demurely from beneath long ruffled tablecloths. The conversation omitted mention of male – men, boys, stallions, bulls, stags and rams were banned from the discussion – difficult in a country area.
Their deaths meant little to me, until I was told I had inherited their house. I threw open the drapes that kept the rooms in deathly dimness. I took the furnishings down to be washed, a needed spring clean.
Is it possible to be shocked by table legs? They were pornographically carved, phallic structures standing proud and showing signs of much use.
How they must have laughed at their visitors – so prim and proper – with penises under the tablecloth.
Category Archives: Derin Attwood
Ques and Dahnya, aliens from the Tadpole Galaxy, had travelled for thousands of light years to get to a memory from a long dead traveller. Ques had sifted his dead memories and now demanded the same banquet experiences.
Dahnya, with menu in hand, knew the impossibility of his feast. At the top of the list was The Taste of Sound. Impossible! She listened to the sounds of the earth. All good, but how could they be a taste? As she flew from country to country, she had an idea. From a lonely shore, she collected two large conch shells and took them to Ques, sitting high above the earth.
“When you hear the sound, breath through the shell,” she said.
She blew through the conch shell. The deep mournful sound washed over the alien, he put the shell to his mouth and breathed in deeply. The essence of the sea, mingled with some sand and a large crab, invaded his mouth with such force, Ques was knocked off his spacely perch. The crab grabbed Ques’s uvula just before being swept down his throat. He swung out through Ques’s mouth and reclaimed his shell as it fell towards the sea.
Ques was so horrified at the pain of earthly eating, he slid into his spaceship and left the universe for good, which was a relief for Dahnya. The next thing on Ques’s list was The Taste of Pain.
|she found it as we blew dandelion seeds to the wind|
|get rid of it|
|she talked about it like an old friend|
|we were friends first|
|she nurtured it|
|why did you treat it as special|
|she planted flowers|
|it grew and took over|
|it killed something beautiful|
|it drained her vitality|
|she said even weeds deserve life|
|you did too|
|“It gave me the password to heaven.”|
|it left me in hell.|
|she smiled as she died|
|I died too I didn’t smile|
|she wanted flowers on her grave|
|I planted dandelions and blew the seeds to the winds|
They say that in space no-one can hear you scream. Does that make space the noisiest place in the universe? It could be, but of course would any-one know?
Darius decided to find out so he sprouted wings and flew to the moon. When he got there, there was nothing to scream about and no-one to scream to. But as he flew around looking for inspiration, he saw a thought as it entered his head. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
He raced back to earth to find a falling tree to listen to. But all he found were those still standing and those already fallen, and as much as he asked, no-one and nothing could or would tell him if there had been noise. After a long search, he returned to the moon.
On the way he looked back and saw a tree falling, but he was in space and he didn’t know if the tree made no sound, or if its scream hadn’t made it into space.
Darius was so annoyed he had missed it he screamed, but he didn’t hear the scream and he didn’t know if it was because he was in space or if he had suddenly become deaf.
Then he had a horrible thought. If no one sees you, are you really there? And he wondered if the reason he hadn’t heard his scream was because he didn’t really exist.
If I stop at the top of the hill and look around, I can see right out to the horizon. I see the trees, lakes, fields and sky. Close in, it’s green and yellow, the water cold blue. In the distance, countryside is blue and grey. The sky is vast, a myriad of blues, greys, lavenders and whites. In some parts, the sky and lake merge and the horizon disappears. Of course, if I come tomorrow, it’ll be different, the colours will have changed and I can see the horizon again.
From the bottom of the hill, looking up, I see trees, the hill and sky – white clouds on blue. The world is smaller, the horizon nearer. The lake in the distance has disappeared – the colours are louder. From here everything appears bigger. Am I smaller, I wonder.
The trees and the hill tower above me. But on top of the hill, the distance alters perception and I feel insignificant – but huge. The sky is massive, but I stand above everything. The mountains can sit on my hand – the trees are mere twigs on the ground. The colours are different. Grass has many shades of green, flowers glow like jewels.
Of course, generally I just trudge up the hill and down the hill, and I don’t look at anything. It’s there, but I don’t see because it’s always there. Or is it? Would I notice if it disappeared?
Duncan was a strange kid. Weird, the neighbours called him. He collected things. He had a flat pet collection, the dried remains of things he’d picked up off the road after they’d been run over. He had a dried dung collection, a dead insect collection and a wingless butterfly collection. In the country everyone left him alone, and he collected to his heart’s content, keeping them in an old chook house. They were pleased when he moved to the city.
Dunc was a strange guy. He collected dead things, encased them in resin and displayed them in a gallery. The magazines described him as eccentric and called his collections eclectic. It was terribly chic to attend his openings, and everyone wanted to buy his ‘art’.
But then they realised it was just dead stuff and poop encased in plastic. But they still bought it and pretended it was good.
She moaned all day and half the night. She’s such a drama queen! Two goddamn inches. That’s all they took off, and that is what she asked for. “Straighten it,” she said. That’s what she wanted and that’s what she got.
I mean, she can pretty well tuck it into her panties – if she wore them. Spoilt as. It’s always a major tantrum where she’s concerned.
Her hair is long and thick, blond – of course – the perfect shade. So adaptable, she wears it up, down, curled, straight, plaited, crimped … well, any way she wants really. And she looks spectacular. She doesn’t need to throw a tantrum to make everyone look at her.
Everything about her seems perfect – on the outside. Perfect look, perfect house, perfect bedroom, large room … big as mirror. She sits in front of it pouting and preening, then flounces out to answer the door.
So I sit in her perfect bedroom, beside the perfect luxurious bed and look into that huge, perfect mirror.
There’s no mirror in my room. None in my house either. It’s a long time since I saw me. I look pale, gaunt actually. The blue scarf is too dark for me. I take it off –
It’s not shocking. I thought it would be.
I’d love the chance to get a bad haircut. Chemo-therapy is such a bitch.
Saturday’s word was Richter as in Richter scale and the number was 7.1. The Richter scale is an exponential scale, 2 is ten times bigger than 1 and 3 is ten times bigger than 2. 7.1 is a big number, a scary number. Electricity and water have been cut off, no-one can flush their toilets.
Sunday’s number was 0. No-one was killed and blessings were counted, but the ground still shook. The word for Sunday was ‘liquefaction’. Liquefaction is when solid land is shaken to mush, but the net result is roads and gardens covered with fine thick sand, many feet deep. That’s a lot of digging to be done, and the sand is heavy. Spade bendingly heavy.
Monday’s word was hero. Not the superman type, but the people of Christchurch who, still scared, just got on with it. Shops opened and people helped their neighbours and strangers. Buildings were assessed, some were demolished. Others were passed as safe, but then there’d be an aftershock and they’d have to be reassessed.
Aftershock became a big word on Tuesday. They kept happening. On Wednesday the number was 289. That was the number of aftershocks Christchurch had had. 289 was soon overshadowed by 5.1. the next biggest since 7.1. In some ways 5.1 was a relief. It was different, a biggy during the day. They’d been told to expect a shock nearly as big as the first. Maybe this was it.
Thursday’s 4billion was dollars to clean up. Tomorrow’s word is hope.
Mrs Marshall was a monster. She should never have been a school librarian. She had set ideas of what children should read. She consistently underestimated their abilities, handing them books she chose, rather than helping them explore new worlds.
The first book Amberly was intrigued with was War and Peace. She was six years old and delighted with the pictures the words drew in her mind. Of course she didn’t understand it all, she was six for goodness sake, but she understood enough to want to read more.
It was taken off her, and she was handed a Janet and John book. Five words per book. Boring. She carefully put J&J back on the shelf and picked up the heavy tome.
Mrs Marshall swooped, grabbed it, put it on a high shelf and banned her from the library … for two long years.
Amberly was bereft. When reading time came, she had to read her exercise book. She wrote stories in one and read them.
When Mrs Marshall found out, she took that off her and made her read her maths book. So Amberly dreamed, dreamed of the stories she would write.
She asked her Mum to buy War and Peace, so she could read it at home. In her wisdom, Mum did.
When Amberly was ten, she left the school. Before going, she said goodbye to W&P checking to see who had borrowed it. There were no names on the card. It was the loneliest book in the library.
Twenty six little letters. Effortless, often I use fewer. The right combination? Not so easy, and often daunting. Most of it, because well, sometimes it works, but often it doesn’t. Then it’s a rewrite, an occasional ‘eureka’ moment or boring, tedious, horrifying.
That’s my work. Every day, seven days a week, and sometimes ten hours a day. In my office at nine o’clock (or ten if it’s one of those mornings). A quick check on emails, and then research and writing.
My horizon is littered with deadlines. I could miss one or two. There is no rule that says I have to make this one or that. Well, only the rule in my head. So who will know? Possibly no-one … except me. That’s the niggle in my mind … what good is a deadline if I don’t make it? So on Sunday evenings, I’ll work later, and it’s the same with the other deadlines. I’ve got to do it, and I will.
And I do.
Six long days and six long nights. I’m so tired. Every sound burrows into my head. It vibrates and ricochet’s through my brain. My head aches. I keep losing my train of …
It’s light outside and I want to sleep.
Of course it’s light. It’s daytime, fool. Sleep? You can’t sleep during the day.
Seven long days and seven nights. I’m tired. I have a headache. I don’t sleep when it’s light and I don’t sleep at night. I can’t keep it up.”
Maybe whiskey will help. Or vodka. Gin or rum.
I’ve run out. It didn’t help. I’m still awake. WIDE AWAKE with a hangover. Sounds get louder and louder and louder.
Eight long days and nights. My head aches. I keep losing …
The invitation lay on the table, opened, despite being addressed to me. For dinner tonight.
Definitely no! Other dinners with Anne and Bill were tedious, bitchy and back stabbing. I don’t want that. Anyway, any invitation this late in the day requires a phone call.
I flick open my laptop, best answer immediately.
Ping! “You have mail.”
John has been playing with my computer again. I’ll read him the riot act, yet again, later. It may let me know instantly that a message is waiting, but it’s distracting when I have a client.
Click ‘open’. dear soose opened the mail accepted tonights itll be fun i know you can rearrange see you there doll ..**()()**.. john
Grrr, He is beginning to irritate me intensely. I hate bad punctuation as much as no punctuation. What the hell is wrong with looking at spell check? And my name is Sue or Susan. This can go no further.
Thank you for accepting the invitation to Bill and Ann’s. I shall meet you there.
Thank you for the invitation to tonight’s dinner. Unfortunately, I can’t make it. John and I broke up this afternoon. As you and he are such good friends, I know he will want to be there, and I wouldn’t want to make him uncomfortable. Do have a lovely evening.
Bcc to Bill.
NOTE IN DIARY … ring janitor … change the lock on front door.
Space, spaces, spaced out, out of space, spacey, breathing space, free space,
space travel, space ship, deep space, my space, your space,
our space, space probe, space cadet,
campout, camping, encampment, death camp,
concentration camp, camping ground, summer camp, holiday camp,
camping site, camp out, outdoors, out of doors, camp songs, base camp, Camp
My eyes are red and hot, my nose is stuffed. My tongue is beginning to swell. I’m acutely aware of my lungs. They feel spongy and sore. My lips feel massive. My head feels thick. My eyes feel very heavy.
I know if I look in the mirror, I’ll be slightly flushed, but I’m not looking for a mirror. I am wondering if I have put my tablets into this handbag.
I’m generally so careful before leaving home. I have a mantra. Check lippy, grab sunnies. Find keys, house remote (to get past the security system), licence, cell phone, money and pill box (shake to hear the tablet). All into my handbag and off I go.
It’s so simple. Till today.
Do I call an ambulance or go home fast. If I call an ambulance and I don’t react badly this time (and that has happened), I’ll feel stupid. I’ll be angry at myself for wasting St John’s time.
With cell phone in hand, heart in mouth, finger on emergency, I walk to the car.
There’s a tablet in the glove box. Thank goodness I have a backup system.
I lay back, give it time to work.
Twenty minutes pass, half an hour.
Pulse is normal. Eyes are focused, breathing isn’t too laboured.
I can drive.
I’m safe. I’m alive. I can breathe without thinking of every breath. I’m scared again.
I’ve decided not to like you. I’m going to kick you to the curb. It’s not personal, not really. Truth to tell, it’s got less and less personal over the months. I mean, I find you great to look at. Eye candy? Are men eye candy? I enjoyed having you escort me, fuss over me, except that’s happened less and less. My girlfriends are jealous. They’ll think I’m an idiot throwing you over. Some of them will assume you’ve given me the flick. Maybe I need to do it in front of them. Do I have the courage?
I don’t want this to continue. It’s taken me a while to accept it. You’re a totally inward looking, selfish, opinionated, stupid prig. We’ve dated for eight months. I know all about you. I know you hate your boss and your father. I know you are envious of your brother, a little too fond of your sister. You’re idiosyncratic. Actually you’re an idiot. Sweet? Not really. You think you’re the most important thing in my life. I’ve got news for you buddy. I know you love yourself. So, now you can have you – all to yourself.
Yes, I’m bloody irate. After eight months, you know nothing about me. I mean the restaurant tonight. A steak bar. Nice but their menu stated with pride, ‘Nothing Green to Eat- All YOU get is Meat! Meat! Meat. Badly scanned and punctuated, but hell, hadn’t you noticed? I’m a vegetarian!
“I can’t give you my blessing,” she said gently. “It will never work. I’m sure she is lovely, and she has the most beautiful eyes. They are so big, I can see why you’re mesmerised. You are the same colour, but there are so many other differences between you.
“Her nose is a little obvious, it’d always cause comment in our circles, and is that fair to her? We have long noses in our family, Uncle Bill’s for instance, but hers is positively serpentine. Surely it would get in the way of every quiet moment you had. Her ears are a little excessive. Lovely that she would hear you, but with ears like that, she’d hear you change your mind.
“Have you really noted her legs? Solid yes, but such chunky ankles. Nothing like the elegant leg our family is so proud of.
“Her parents won’t agree, you know. Better have a broken heart now, my dear. A few tears and then look closer to home. You know, there has always been a problem between our families. Elephants are scared of mice.”
I first noticed her skin, fine porcelain white, beautiful beyond belief. Her eyes were deep, her lashes thick and long. Her pale skin was offset by red lipstick and matching nail polish. Her dark hair was sleek, touching her shoulders and curling slightly. She had presence.
She sat nonchalantly drumming her elegant fingers on the steering wheel of the car. Maybe it was a trick of the late afternoon sun, but she seemed wreathed in mist, delicate, an angelic effect. There was something about her.
I had a desire to look again, to drink in the scene, to capture it forever. A picture is worth a thousand words, and this was the picture. I felt it would take every one of them to describe the scene before me. It was overwhelming except … in a harsh reality, the scene changed.
In a casual flick of her fingers, a cigarette butt flew out of the window to land in the gravel by the front wheel. Smoke dribbled from her nose and mouth.
It gave the effect of a bull I had seen one frosty morning, snorting in the icy air. Ugly – its anger growing exponentially, seemingly irritated by the steam from his nose, as unsightly from him as it was from her.
He was big. Massive.
He dressed to show it off. Badly tanned skins wrapped around his body and limbs, thrown casually over his shoulder as a cloak. He didn’t speak, just growled. Snarled till he got whatever he wanted.
He played on it. Made others cower, intimidated by his presence and demands. He’d point, grunt and if the response wasn’t quick, he’d growl from deep in his throat getting louder and louder, till it was a roar and he’d step forward, towering over his victim.
He got what he wanted. Always with no thanks of course. He’d slap his victim across the head instead.
Cupped between pudgy hands, her treasure held close to her chest, she edged away denying him, refusing to submit to his demands.
The growl built up, his fists clenched. A snarl, teeth bared. He roared, his face inches from hers.
He enjoyed the fear in her eyes, the small hands slowly opening, extending toward him.
He leaned forward, ready to grab.
An intake of breath, he backed away. Frozen, shocked by his own fear he fell against the wall, eyes filled with terror, grunting in his attempt to escape.
Downed by a little girl … and a spider.
Why did I decide on black slate for the kitchen floor? It looked good when I redecorated, matched the shinning black bench, the stainless steel appliances.
That was then. Now, well the light drift of flour on the floor was the first thing I saw. Further in was a pile of salt, a puddle of milk and two broken eggs. Smudgy hand prints on everything.
Against the bench, two powdery wraiths floated into view. A big toothless smile from one as the other dripped milk from her hair onto the globulous mess she knelt in.
“We’re making a world,” she said.
“Mapth and thingth,” her sister corrected. “Daddy thaid we can help him cook dinner.”
“We started without him.”
His words floated past me.
“They’re precious, the light of my life, my whole world.”
I sat in the car and heaved a sigh of relief. It was my night out.