What throws your characters off their game? For example, if she’s a shameless flirt, what makes her awkward and shy?
This is the scene I've been dying to write the whole of NaNo, but written at possibly the lowest point of NaNo I'm not sure how it came off. The new character is in the VERY early stages of development and it turned out completely differently to how I intended it to be played out. Those dratted characters doing their do without my consent yet again :o)
The (main street) of Newtown was bustling with the late Saturday morning coffee crowd. Laughter and conversation drifted on a warm summer breeze, that cut through the humidity that compressed the city back in on itself. Walking slowly, he felt as though his head would explode. Another late night, another round of meaningless conversation and drinking had come on the heels of yet another difficult week. He knew he looked rough – rougher than usual. His dark hair should have been concealed under a cap, but as usual he couldn’t find it. He ran a hand casually through the mess, but didn’t bother too much. If he was concerned he would have made a pit stop at the mirror on the way out. He tied the checkered shirt around his waist. The morning was far warmer than he’d thought.
He crossed again the traffic lights, moving with an unusual agility. Every cell in his body screamed out for coffee. He had the Moose Expresso bar in his sights. A group of rowdy uni students gathered around a small table on the footpath. A tassel haired blonde, shook her mane as she laughed hoarsely, then inhaled in a whine reminiscent of Sybil Fawlty. He shook his head and died a miserable social death for the girl – who seemed oblivious of her grating social disability.
Despite his pounding, restricted head, he made an effort to keep from making eye contact with anyone. This morning he felt the need for anonymity more than usual.
“Hello hello hello Jamie,” boisterously greeted Tara, the buxom and cheerful waitress. “And how are we this morning darling boy?”
Jamie just shook his head and knew she’d tone it done.
“It’s like that is it. Double long black to go then.”
“Yea. Cheers Tara.”
He looked around the tiny inside of the expresso bar and the collection of shabby retro furniture. The small tables running down the left hand wall looked like the kitchen table his grandparents had had in their small unit when he was a kid. And the great saggy grey vinyl couch in the front was a deadringer for the divan that they had had in their caravan annex.
He was lost reminiscing about the couch and easy, lazy days of surfing and reading as a teenage boy and it didn’t immediately register that someone was sitting on the couch. There was something familiar about the woman who was awkwardly crouched over the table, furiously writing in a battered spiral bound book.
Handing over the five dollar note, he attempted to get a better look at her, though she had her back to him. With his large coffee in hand, he walked slowly to the door.
The woman wore crumpled sage green fisherman pants. One bare foot was casually tucked under her bottom – a pair of well worn Burkenstocks were kicked untidyily under the table. A very fine white cheese cloth shirt covered a skimpy white singlet. A pair of sunglasses caught and pushed her henna rich hair back from her forehead. It was only then that he recognised exactly who she was and at that same moment she looked up, staring him straight in the eye.
It took a moment for the recognition to register and then the colour drained from her tanned face. Feeling as though he had been caught out centre stage, butt naked infront of a hostile audience he shifted his weight from one foot to another trying to find something non offensive to say to her.
“There’s no cameras,” he finally blurted out. “Do you come here often?”
She continued to stare at him, but a sense of bemusement began to creep into her features and finally she smiled. He noticed the difference in her smile, it was calm and relaxed – natural?
“No, this is my first time,” she replied eventually, taking a small amount of cruel enjoyment in his obvious discomfort. It was in such contrast to his onscreen alter ego that she found it almost endearing.
“Can I buy you a coffee?”
“You could buy me dinner down the road at the African restaurant tonight – if you’re free,” she added, taken aback by her forwardness. Was she flirting?
“I’m pre coffee,” he apologised, holding up the virgin coffee.
“I understand. How do you go with the cross word pre coffee?”
“I’m prepared to give it a go, as I drink my coffee.”
He motioned for him to take a set opposite her.
“I’m hoping you don’t have rabbies,” she joked, closing up the spiral bound book.
“I’ve been accused of being many things, but having rabbies is definitely a new one.”
He sat down on the stool opposite her.
He was completely unprepared to be sitting opposite her, minus her trade mark red and purple suits. It was as though he had stumbled over her twin sister – though which one was the evil one, he was yet to find out.
“I expected a tongue lashing from you.”
“We’re out of school aren’t we,” she replied breezily. “I’d be a prime candidate for a heart attack if I carried around my Canberra personae every day of the week. Though what you guys did was pretty low.”
“It wasn’t my idea,” he defended, realising that he sounded ridiculously like a seven year old boy who’d just been found out.
“My six year old does it far more convincingly.”
“He probably doesn’t get about on a Saturday morning with a god awful hangover.”
“No sympathy – obviously self inflicted.”
“No sympathy required, some asprin wouldn’t go astray.”
“Best I can offer is lavender oil, however you don’t quite look the type. I haven’t had painkillers since before Wil was born.”
“So you really are a hippy at heart,”
She gave herself a once over and laughed.
“Alternate I believe is the politically correct terminology – unless you are my sister and then I’m just feral. Even though I’m now an upstanding member of Parliament.”
He gave a quiet chuckle.
“I have to be somewhere, but I was serious about tonight. I guess that if you were willing to buy me a coffee it must be your shout for dinner.”
“Sure,” he agreed. “Though I’m sure you could always bill it to the taxpayer.”
“And have my travel rout splashed about on the TV Wednesday night. I think I’ll pass. There’s been enough scandal and innuendo on my part for a while I think.”
She picked up her notebook and pen, and dropped them into a small canvas satchel.
“I prefer a late booking,” she stated, standing up.
“Shall I drop over to get you.”
“That’s cute. I might want to keep my enemies close, but I’m not handing out my silent number.”
She winked at him and walked out.
Once out in the street she stopped to look back at him sitting there at the droopy uncomfortable couch sipping his take out coffee. Inside she was screaming ‘FUCK!” but somehow on the outside she had remained cool, calm and flirtaeous.
Grabbing her phone out of her pocket as she strode up the street, she deftly punched out a quick text message to her soul sister in Cairns.
I’ve just chased the Chaser. Two to one xxx
Her reaction to Jamie’s presence had not only surprised, it had knocked her for a six. A month ago when the scandal with Hux finally broke, the he had been there, with one of his mates at Canberra airport waiting for her as she flew in from Brisbane. She was harried and had been anything but a good sport about it. The 30 seconds on the Chaser were the highlight of the torrid week, which had included a press conference calling for the Director of Public Prosecutions in Queensland to look into the relationship and decide if there were charges to answer. The broadsheets had been less kind – but she had cut and pasted each of the editorials damning her and her appropriateness for public office into her growing collection of scrap books.
Cal like the stoic and emotionally blank wives of the British sex scandals had stood by her. He had said nothing until they were offered a joint interview with Womans Weekly to tell their story. She hadn’t wanted to talk to one of the airbrushed journalists from Womans Weekly but they decided as a couple that it would allow the greatest exposure of the truth. The money they were paid went straight to the Midwive’s Community Legal Fund.
And now, having just ridden the tempest and landed relatively unscathed back on the beach she was creating a whole new scandal by going out to dinner with him. The weekend in Sydney was about some time out, away from the scrutiny of the media and some chill out time alone. She shook her head, unable to understand herself at times and walked further up the street realising she’d need a new dress to wear if she was going out to dinner. She hadn’t packed for company.
Friday, November 30, 2007
It is with mixed blessings that I fell (and that how it literally felt this morning after five hours sleep!) over the finish line of NaNo earlier today. Earlier on in the week Dave had a heart attack scare and spent Monday night in the local hospital under observation. It was enough to set us all back as a family. My problem was that it came a day after some huge realisations about how I worthy myself as a woman and a person ... which unearthed a whole heap of dark and pretty unwelcomed 'stuff'. It also meant that to be with and work through all the subterranean stuff, I have had to begin evaluating and making some tough decisions about how and what I base my self worth on.
With all this going on, I've felt as though I've barely come up for breathe this week. All with 8000 words to go with NaNo. I believe this is probably as bad as it gets for blocking yourself creatively. I stopped sleeping well as I stayed up late, working desperately against and ever increasing block to make it over the winners line. Then my anxiety raised its grim head again, spurred on by the influx of phone calls we received (read: were sent through to the answering machine) as friends were checking in to see how Dave was faring. I stopped eating well and started living again on chocolate and juice. For the last few days I've actually felt horribly nauseous. It all became pretty nasty. Last night with a mere 2553 words to go, I simply couldn't do it. I tapped out a wooden and terrible 1000 words and then fell into the oblivion of a computer game. This only served to further block me.
I was devastated as this was the scene I had been carrying around in my head since before the start of NaNo - this is a pivoutal moment in my novel ... and it was written probably at the lowest point of the whole month. Perhaps it wont be so bad when I go back to re read it and then, *grimace*, go and post it up on the write stuff page for Fiction Friday.
This morning after writing my morning pages - I relented and pull up an old short story that had been part of my exploration of the characters prior to NaNo (and mucho has changed since then) but it was a good spring board .... and I wrote ... and wrote .... and wrote well. Then up came the magic *WINNER* page just after 10am this morning. Phew!
Having written all this I dont quite feel so bad. It's one of those moments where a problem shared is halved - but seeings it shared in cyber space it must have been busted into a million tiny byte sized particules floating about in the ether ....
Now to get the house in order once more (yes it definitely mirrors my static encrusted mental functions) and then sitting down to make some tough decisions. But not only do I think I can ... I know I can.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
It really was an odd place to gather - the bar was attached to the fine dining restaurant of a presitgious hotel chain. It was the sort of place you went to for your silver wedding anniversary. Yet for a few short hours on a Friday afternoon, fading into the weekend, it belonged to us ... the motley crew that we often were straight from work.
Often we would wander up the road to play pool for the free hour that one of the pubs had, other times we'd just go home. For a very long time, it was the warm up to what would be a home bender for Lisa and I, as we drank rum and coke, watched movies, talked about everything under the sun, dabbled in some photography and modelling and during summer, took midnight dips. Later on, it was my only social outting for the week, such was my budget at uni as a mature aged student. It was however always the highlight of my week - especially when our lives diverged.
What is it in your life that you miss as a result of a huge change in life circumstances?
Friday, November 23, 2007
It's election night and Abby is about to realise that trusting in the Universe brings things to fruition in a way in which you would never believe ...
In the moonlight she stripped off her long purple strapless batik dress and threw it over one of the wooden outdoor chairs. Quietly opening and closing the gate she stood for a moment on the edge of the deep end before diving confidently in the water. The moon was full and luminescent above her. Instead of swimming mindless from end to end, she floated on her back and stared up at the moon, marvelling at the depth of originality in its surface and how it seemed to morph and change the more she stared at it. The Chinese believed that it wasn’t a man in the moon, but a rabbit. She could see the Rabbit, she could see the man and she could even see what she thought was the Sea of Tranquillity.
“The arms of Orion that's where I wanna be
Since you’ve been gone
I've been searching for a lover
In the Sea of Tranquility
I'm drowning without you here, my dear”
Her eyes stung with the first prickling of tears. It had been years since she’d last heard that Prince song. Immediately she is transported back to a queen sized bed, in a room that smelt like a combination of Kouros after shave and stale sweat from the king gee workclothes scattered across the floor. Above her the thin lace curtains billowed out over her head, as a warm breeze gusted inwards. It was the start of summer and the first storm of the season. The room was lit in weird dark umber and tangerine tones, of the storm smudged dusk. Thunder cracked over head, getting closer each few minutes. Lightning illuminated the room and the two naked bodies on the bed, in brief flashes. On the stereo Prince played as the cataract of sexual tension built, like the storm outside and cascaded through them as they become one in a sweaty heaving mass.
The clink of the gate broke her out of her nostalgia. Diving under the water she swum to the end and broke the surface at the steps expecting to see Cal sitting there. Seeing no one she wondered if she really had heard the gate, or if it were the new next door neighbours indulging in a night swim as well. In the wake of the memory, the water felt ice cold against her hot skin. Looking up at the moon one last time, she climbed slowly out of the pool and walked the few steps over to the pool gate before she realised that the towels that usually hung over the pool fence, were neatly folded by Cal that afternoon and put away in the laundry.
Thankful that the night was warm, she opened the gate and walked under the canvas pergola hoping that the laundry door was still unlocked. Looking about in the hope that someone had left a stray towel behind she saw him sitting there staring at her.
“Nice butt,” he commented in a sarcastic tone. “Too bad I don’t have my camera with me this time.”
Like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, she froze in her naked vulnerability before him.
“Tits a bit on the saggy side.”
She instinctively raised her hands to cup and hide her bare breasts, without taking her eyes off him as the shock of his presence wore off.
“How dare you come into my house,” she finally managed, grabbing the discarded dress from the back of the chair and awkwardly yanking it over her wet body.
“Truth be known it’s actually your back yard. Technically I’m no’ in your house.”
“Don’t be a shit Harrington, just leave or I’ll call my husband down here to get rid of you.”
He laughed in a horrible guffawing manner, that set her skin on edge.
“And he’s no’ going to ask what I’m doin’ here.”
“What are you doing here Harrington?”
“I came to celebrate with you. After all I’m guessin’ that the whole team was here tonight. The delicious Violet Cunningham and all those hippy braless, hair armpitted bitches you call you mates.”
“Just leave Jeff,” smouldered Abby, in a barely contained fashion. “This is my home and I wont have you slagging off at my friend here. OUT!”
“Woooah A-bby” he drawled, relaxing further back into the chair he was sitting in. “As I said I came to celebrate with the team.”
“You’re not part of the team, even in that deluded mind of yours you can’t honestly believe that you in any way contributed to the success of this campaign.”
“Re-ally A-bby. Well lady, that’s where you are wrong.”
“It’s really late at night Jeff, its been a long day and I just want you to leave please.”
“Where’s your hospitality.”
“It fucked off about the same time you let yourself in here uninvited,” she swore, standing with her hands on her hips.
“Well I’m not going until you at the very least offer me a beer and give me a chance to tell you a little story.”
“We’re all out of beer,” lied Abby. “So I guess you’ll just have to be on your way and maybe you can ring for an appointment and we can chat then – like the old mates that we are.”
He reached down beside his seat and lifted one of Cal’s Belgium beers onto the table.
“Don’t suppose you’ve got a bottle opener down here?”
Abby reeled at the sight of the beer and the inherent message that it carried – he’d been inside her home. She reached across the table to the waiters friend that had been left downstairs earlier on in the evening and passed it across to him.
“My thanks to the lady of the house,” he mocked, tipping his finger to his eyebrow just as he’d done the night of the debate.
Abby quickly disappeared into the laundry and found a discarded pair of jeans and top to change into, throwing the wet dress into the washing machine. She knew that Harrington was not going to leave until he’d dispensed with whatever story he’d come to tell. She couldn’t risk creating a raucous and bringing Cal down here. Sitting down opposite him, she wrapped her hands around her glass of mineral water.
“Now you’ve got a beer and my undivided attention, please…” she invited, gesturing a welcome with her hands.
“How about we slip on over into the deck chairs. You remember the Addams Family? I always loved Morticia and her moon baking. You reminded me of her floating naked in the pool earlier on.”
“She was my favourite character too,” admited Abby uncomfortably, more than a little disturbed that she had something in common with this person who she detested so intensely.
Laying in the deck chairs under the full moon, Abby remembered what her Mum said about the moon and how the psych-ward was always chock-a-block on a full moon. She was almost certain now that Harrington was mentally unstable – he was not his moody, passive aggressive self though she wasn’t about to be lulled into a false sense of security by his magnanimous disposition. Minutes passed as hours, as they lay there, Abby waiting for Harrington to say something.
“I really pissed my Boss off with you, did you know that Abby,” began Harrington, taking a long swig of beer from the bottle. “You should be greetin’ me with open arms lady. I saved you from inevitable political destruction by taking your money and keepin’ my mouth shut about your little affair with pretty boy footballer.”
“Are you suggesting someone paid you to dig dirt on me.”
“Why didn’t you sell it?”
“I could make more money blackmailing. A steady stream of income.”
“Why do you hate me so badly Jeff?” she asked. “I’m pretty sure that I never once did anything to hurt you.”
“It’s not personal A-bby,” he replied, setting the beer down on the paving and staring up at the sky. “I decided a long time ago that I was going to grow up to be the biggest mysoginistic bastard that I could.”
“To be the antithesis of everything that you’re mother wrote and promoted.”
“You know nothing about my mother,” he snapped, sitting up to glare at her.
“You’re mother was Ava Louise. How did she die Jeff?”
“I made her life such a living hell that she didn’t want to be around any longer. I bought up a whole heap of pills, left them lying around in the kitchen and one day she was dead in a pool of her own vomit and shit. Pretty nifty huh?”
“Chas told you about me didn’t he.”
“Now that was pure gold,” he laughed manically, draining the bottle of beer. “I’ll just help myself to another.”
When he came back, he settled back into the deck chair and spent a long time drinking before he said anything.
“I knew about you long before you were anyone. Every weekend durin’ football season Chas would sit there off his tree, and bang on how he was friends with pretty boy footballer. Then he’d bang on about the teacher they had at school with the tight white pants, how they’d all spent three days in detention in your room. How they all wanted to get into your pants and how they all said that you fucked one of them, but no one ever knew who it was.
“He recognised your photo lying on the table. Told me that you were the Miss Paisley.”
“Serendipity,” commented Abby almost believing in some warped fashion that the universe intended for it to be played out this way.
[Fiction] Friday Challenge for November, 23 2007:
Reveal something about your character by telling about one of their Thanksgivings–it can be present, past, or even backstory (if your setting doesn’t include Thanksgiving, make it a similar family-oriented holiday).
In this extract Abby has taken her 5 year old son to the mountains for a quick break while the counting of votes continues. The vote has gone to preferences, absentee and postal votes for the seat to be definitively decided. Opting out of the waiting game in Brisbane and without the blessings of her husband, Abby has retreated to the mountains ...
The stillness of the mountains soothed her tired and aching soul. Each morning Wil made a simple breakfast of toast and vegemite for them, then they walked down into the temperate rainforest. They explored every dimension of the rainforest – the smells, the textures, the sounds and picture that each small and large section presented. With his own pair of tiny binoculars around his neck, he looked like a mini version of his Dad. The binoculars were a gift for Christmas - the last time that they were in the mountains. Together playing happy families, thought Abby with a terrible twist of irony striking at her heart.
They consulted the bird book regularly as Wil worked towards marking off more birds in his book. Abby knew that he missed his Dad. While she was interested, the real passion for bird watching was Cal’s. He had the patience with Wil to correctly identify each bird and then carefully scribe the place and date into the bird book for Wil, who refused to put his large untidy script into his prized ‘birdie bible’.
In the afternoons they relaxed at the chalet. Abby read, did yoga or meditated, while Wil explored the small pocket of bush behind their temporary home, flushing out bush turkeys and wallabies along his adventures. Mid afternoon they sat on the large deck and waited for all the birds to come in. First of the birds, was the squadron of the brilliantly coloured King Parrots, that swooped in to sit on the railing. Wil had been beside himself with excitement the first year he had seen the brightly coloured green and red parrots descend. Each afternoon there were at least six parrots that came to visit and they picked which ones were the males and which were the females. After that came the satin bower birds and on their first afternon there they spotted a rifle bird – simmering with irredsecent green from the feeder in the branch above them. Wil had been really excited about that.
As the sun went down, they drove to the summit, with the collection of radio towers and sat in the long dry grass, watching the sun go down. They told stories as they waited for it to get dark and return to their chalet to cook a simple dinner. Before dinner they played snakes and ladders, snap or just lay around reading books together.
On the second day they hiked along the ridge to Cherry Plains lookout. It was a warm day and they spent a long time looking through the binoculars at the valley below, drinking water from their bottles and enjoying the stonefruit that they had picked up at Gatton on their way through the day before. Abby was in a particularly good mood on the walk, taking the time to breathe deeply in a hypnotic fashion. Her body felt alive for the first time in weeks, perhaps even months. The constant stream of thoughts that disturbed her mental equilibrium had ceased.
She had dreamt that morning that she was meeting Hux in a library – a library that was in an airport terminal lounge. Looking through each of the isles for him, she’d started to panic because she couldn’t locate him – he was meant to be there, they had arranged to meet there.
She went out into the bright, sterile concourse, with people busily bustling past her. She pulled her phone out to send him a text message to ask him where he was. The next thing she knew he was walking out of the library and over to her.
“Where were you?” she asked.
“I was always here,” he’d replied smiling at her. “I never went anywhere.”
Like some self imposed purgatory she purposely didn’t search out the news reports in the print or the electronic media to find out what had happened to Hux after she’d left his apartment that afternoon. She had oscillated in the final two weeks of the election campaign between utter despair at the thought that he was dead and that it was all her fault, and a sense of innate ease that told her that he was not dead. He was gone, but he was in safe and healing hands. Now with the dream, she was certain that he was OK. When they returned home to Brisbane she intended to find out exactly what had happened.
“Mum do you think they planted Cherry trees down there and that’s why they called it Cherry Plains?” asked the ever inquiring Wil, looking down on the abstract patchwork of the valley below.
“I don’t know darling. Perhaps that was the surname of the family that first settled there.”
“That’s a funny name,” he remarked with a giggle.
“I’m sure that Mr and Mrs Cherry don’t think that it’s a funny name.”
“But it’s a fruit Mum. It’s like calling someone Mr and Mrs Banana – that’s just silly.”
Abby giggled with him at his reasoning.
“I knew a girl once called Cherry. She was a friend of your Auntie’s when we were kids, going to the beach in Victoria.”
“Did she have red hair?”
“No, why do you ask?”
“Well it would be a sensible name for someone if their hair was red – red like a cherry.”
“I guess it would,” nodded Abby, amazed at the reasoning that came out of his mouth. “Actually she was blonde.”
After a time of just sitting and being in the peace on the ridge, the warm refreshing smell of eucalyptus washing over them, Abby stood up and stretch – first her legs and then her arms, with hands clinched, pushing out above her head.
“Shall we keep on walking?”
“OK,” he agreed. “Do you think we’ll find bark to paint on, like we did last time we were here?”
“I’m sure we’ll find something along here that will be an interesting thing to paint on.”
Bouyed by her mood and the crisp mountain air they walked until the sun was high in the sky and they were both tired. Along the way they came across some smaller pieces of flat strong bark that they put in the backpack to paint on when they got back to the chalet. It had become a tradition each time they came up to the mountain, to search out some bark and paint on it. There was a small wall in their home dedicated to the masterpieces they created on the mountain from bark and coloured art glue.
They stopped to eat the rough sandwiches that they had put together in the tiny kitchen of their cottage, after they had washed up the breakfast dishes. While Abby was lost in her thoughts and absently chewing her sandwiches, Wil rifled through the backpack to find the small yellow disposable camera that his mother had bought for him on the trip up to the mountains.
He sat near her on a warm rock and quietly snapped a picture of her. He loved the way she looked off in the distance, her chin on her hand, her elbow on her knee. She had her purple top tied around her waist, her cap on backwards and sunglasses pushed up onto her head. From the past, he knew her eyes were fixed on something, but that she wasn’t really looking at. She somehow seemed to be serious, but happy at the same time. Sort of lost in a way too.
His Dad joked that she was off in Abby’s world and when he’d asked where Abby’s world was, was it like Todd’s world where everyone was different colours his Dad had laughed. He told Wil he wasn’t sure what was in Abby’s world, but it was probably beautiful because it belonged to his Mum. For the longest time he wanted to go to Abby’s world until his Mum told him that in his head he had Wil’s world and he could go there whenever he wanted and it was probably better than Abby’s world because it was his. He didn’t get what they meant, and still didn’t. Grown ups were strange and confusing sometimes. In that moment, on the side of the ridge, looking through the little view finder of the camera, he knew he loved his Mum and loved the fact that she went to Abby’s world sometimes, even if he couldn’t find the way to go there with her.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Housework - its something I struggle with. I rage against it, I sulk from it, I walk around in denial of it and then finally I give in to it.
I've never been a neat person, per se. I'm a horizontal filer and there has always been organisation in that chaos for me. At high school I had about 4 metres (possibly more) of desk and cradenza space in my bedroom. There was also a bed, a dressing table and a piano squashed in there. Any flat surface was covered in at least a three deep pile of something. In those days it was text books, papers - its amazing how much clutter one single teenage girl can accumulate.
My father would always joke that there was an entire football team hiding - possibly lost, in my room. That was very much a Sagittarian exaggeration, as a few years later we discovered that trying to hide two * male friends from the pub* in that untidied cluttered room was actually quite impossible. We had the wrath of my mother for days to prove the point. But I digress ...
My self worth has never been tied to my ability to keep things clean and tidy. I've always been a busy person, meaning housework has rated on the bottom of my list of priorities. There is a flash point that I reach, and there is a frenzy of tidying and cleaning. And things then slide again.
Then I became a mother. Somehow the ability for one to keep a house clean and tidy is intrinsically tied in others perceptions, of your mothering skills. If you've got a hoover immaculate house then obviously your a fantastic mother, and everyone smiles. If not, well you'd better watch out. Just think back to the terrible toilet cleaner add where the woman with a new baby, is mobbed at the door by her friends all come to visit. She has a terrible realisation about her toilet, when someone asks if she can use her loo .. but all is fine .. she's used the terrible blue goo to clean the toilet that morning.
I'm sorry, but with a tiny new baby - the last thing that should be on your mind is whether or not you've cleaned our toilet that morning - much less worried about what people will think if your toilet is not clean. In a proper version of this scenario, the new Mum would be snuggled in bed, breastfeeding her new babe, while one of her friends cleans the toilet (also puts on a load of washing, puts all the casseroles etc that the friends have bought over), while another makes a cup of tea for them all and puts away some clothes that someone washed for the new Mum the day before. You get my point.
The state of my home has always been a point of contention in my family. My sister house is always, and has always been immaculate. She puts special time aside each week to just do her housework. I gave her a yoga pass while she was pregnant the first time to enjoy, but it clashed with cleaning her house on a Saturday morning ... so she never used it.
While I said earlier that my self worth is not tied to my ability to be an uber Sadie, I have been made to feel less of a person because I can't keep my house like my sister can. I used to scream inside of myself - 'Who cares' but after a time, you get sick of the snide side comments about your never ending messy house. I realised though that at some point I'd taken up the mantle of being purposely different - having an untidy home just so I wouldnt' be anything like my sister. Realising this, it was time to grow up and do something about it.
I've been guilty of taking particular notice of others toilets, hand basins, pile of dishes on the sink, mountains of unfolded washing etc - but it hasn't been as a judgements, it because its poked my tender housekeeping spots and made me realise that this is probably what others see when they come to visit me. Then that horrible moment of wondering 'Do they judge me for it.'
Before I became a mother I NEVER apologised for the state of my home. But now every time I open the door I feel compelled to place a caveat on my friends entry 'Oh you'll have to excuse the house ..' To be honest, none of my friends give a toss what my house looks like, but something inside me feels like I have to make excuses for it - am I worried that they will think me a lesser woman, or worse, a lesser mother because I can't keep my own home tidy and clean. Where this association comes from, any of us can wonder? Did all those repressed pissed off 50's women keep their houses spotless because it was the only vent for their frustrations and somehow we incorporated that into our collective unconsciousness, instrinsically and fatally linking mothering and housework.
A lovely friend lent me a book called 'Mothers behaving badly' by Maggie Groff. In it she lists all the duties that are directly related to the care of her family, and all those other peripheral duties that are not mothering and should be shared by all. As she pointed out, it doesn't really make a difference to the health, happiness and wellbeing of her family if the floor hasn't been swept that day. However, if no one gets breakfast or dinner that day - that's an issue, or if no one has clothes to wear to work or school.
It was a good slap in the face for me to realise that keeping my floors swept, the dust off the shelf and a ridiculous standard of tidiness did not make me a good mother. The time and investment I made in my son, in being with him, playing, breastfeeding him etc were important statements to myself about my abilities and worth as a mother, than my housekeeping.
In January this year though, I caved in. My house was a run away disaster, which in all honesty, was reflecting the chaos in my own head. Every time I tripped on something, stood on a broken piece of biscuit, couldn't find a bill or a piece of clothing, looked at the piles of crap, that were growing on earlier piles of crap I could feel the aggrevation rising in me. I had a huge emotional collapse and somewhere in the midst of crawling out I found Fly Lady.
I started with shining my sink and perhaps high on the metho fumes, I started tidying and cleaning like a devil woman. Over the course of two weeks I cleared away all the clutter from my kitchen, the lounge room, the dining room, the kitchen and our bedrooms. And a strange thing happened, my home became lighter - I mean there was more light in my home. I realised that all clutter is a light vampire - its sux the light from the room and puts a pall over it. My partner came home from work each day unsure just what the house would look like and kept up his daily inspection of the back of my neck to see where the aliens had put their probe in.
My home became something special to me. FLY is an acronym - Finally Loving Yourself. Well I dont love myself just because my home is kind of tidy now, but I dont have an undercurrent of passive aggression towards it or myself. I learnt that what is important is what YOU believe is important for you and your family - not what others think. It's important to remember that it is you and your family who have to live their day in and day out, everyone else is just passing through.
In this space, I understand that it is important to my sister to have her home sparkling and that its OK for me to come part of the way towards sparkling - as long as we're all happy, that's all that matters. While a swish and swipe in the morning makes me good, everyone doesn't have to do it - our priorities are all different, our happiness thresholds are all unique. And that's the crux of it. We're not a homogenised group of people. When we judge we are simply resisting the surrender needed to accept everyone as beautiful and unique. In judging we deny ourselves the opporunity to nurture and grow as individuals. Difference is what makes us great; and creates an amazing, complex and challenging world in which to journey through.
This post is dedicated to my very dear old mate Julie xxxx
When I was a kid I did dancing and as a flow on from that, I got to perform in a couple of pantomimes. One of the girls that was in my dance class, and also my class at school had a Mum who was really pushy about the advancement of her daughter's talents. If you thought Soccer Mums were bad - you've never come across a Dancing Mum. They are a breed unto their own.
I remember going over to play at her house one afternoon and she told me, very matter of factly, that she was going to be an actress, but that wasn't her first choice. She'd wanted to be a princess. Her mother however had told her that was probably impossible, because she would have to find a prince to marry first. So my friend then decided that she would grow up to be an actress instead. At this age I hadn't thought to my future much beyond what I wanted to do the next weekend, or whether I'd have tonsillitis again the following week.
There was a hell of a lot of investment in my friends future career even at that stage - even though we were only in Grade 3 or 4 and must have been all of 7 or 8 at this time. Dancing, singing and acting classes that took up just about every afternoon of the school week. I remember this because I'd gone with her and her Mum, in their little blue Herbie bug on a Saturday afternoon to play at her place.
This sticks in my head, because for all the investment that went in, my friend was pretty much talentless. As a kid of 7 or 8 and really without the evils of ego, I could look at her and know she sucked badly. She was an average dancer at best - there in the front row with us because that's where her Mum wanted her to be, but always looking sideways to check she was doing the right moves, more often than not she was out of time with the rest of us. Her singing was even worse than her dancing and then there was her acting.
At the last end of year dancing concert I did, before we moved to the country, she had danced and sung a solo. This was a very rare thing on our concert night and was usually reserved for the older girls at the dance school, who were truly talented and gifted dancers. And you guessed it, she was terrible, sang off key and fluffled her dance moves (alone out there on stage, there is no one to copy!) and it was humilitating. She 'starred' in Little Red Riding Hood the holidays after we'd done Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. We went along to see it and I was embarrassed at how bad she was. I wasn't jealous of her 'big breaks', as I said there really wasn't any ego, I was just seeing the world as it was. But what I simply didn't get was why no one told her she sucked badly and perhaps should pursue a dream off the stage.
Years later, at uni we were sitting around early on a Saturday night watching the revived 'New Faces'. A young woman, with dark hair was massacring a song. It was so bad, that we agreed to change the channel for three minutes and then slip back for the scathing comments that were bound to emerge. To my delight and horror, the name came up on the bottom of the screen and it was my dancing friend from all those years ago. At age 18 she was still out there, banging away believing that she was great.
I never really thought much about the impact of her on myself as an artist over the years. I realise now that I have come to be ever so suspicious of the feedback and comments that I get. While no onw likes to get criticism, constructive or otherwise ... I've always been loathe to accept compliments. Something misaligned early on in my life, by my experiences watching my friend, that have lead me to not revel in the compliments or acknowledgements that I received. I was always too afraid that they were not really encouraging or supporting my artistic endeavours - they were just sounds bites or snippets of words that veiled the truth.
It's taken working through the Artists Way (I'm now in Week 10) uncovering this small but powerful revelation and then working through it, that has lead me to a place where I'm OK at accepting compliments (and who knows - perhaps I may even begin to accept them in my every day life also - stranger things have happened!)
I was always afraid that I had no real talent, and that I would be deluded by others that I did actually have talent. In this delusion and collusion I would confidently stride forth with my artistic endeavours, when like my friend, all I was doing was humiliating myself. Now the self doubts are quite to vocal and its almost impossible not to look them in the eye and see them for what they really are - vapid shimmering blocks of creativity, nothing concrete or real.
I believe there is *something* there in my box of talents and its something that not only I enjoy creating, but others genuinely enjoying partaking in also. Besides I just can't imagine now ever not writing ... and I'm wondering how I ever got through all those years not writing.
Now when I look back - well perhaps it would have been closer to my friend's truth to have been encouraged and supported by her Mum and others around her to groom herself as a would-be- Princess. Little girls grow out of that dream don't they?
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
.... to explain. My darling friend Annie and I have had a long standing joke for many years now. Whenever something really gets our goat, and when we're sharing whatever is p*ssing us off, we always joke (because comic relief never goes astray when your about to blow a gasket!), with a little play acting and go 'tic tic tic' - with the obvious subtle head jerks to accompany. It's only when something is really bad do we welcome the 'tic tic tic'. It's that moment where your body is giving you the 'whoa she's going blow' warning - you all know what I mean.
So I have created 'The Tuesday Tic' as a place to come a purge whatever has been getting on your goat in the last week (and does anyone know where the colloquialism 'getting on your goat' comes from? So welcome ... and may your purge bring you peace and harmony ... or if all else fails, a snarky middle finger to whomever or whatever has been giving you grief.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Last week I remembered something long forgotten. I remembered that when I was a teenager I used to play my music loud, really loud, while I was in the shower.
I'm taken back to Cairns, to our Kewarra Beach home and I'm 15 years old ... just a few weeks shy of my sweet 16th birthday (but that's another story in itself!) Each morning, I would get up about 7am and stumble the short distance from my bedroom to the bathroom.
The bathroom was decked out in black slate, with wooden and white enamel fixtures, and gold (not the real deal though) fittings. The shower was black slate, as was the bath beneath it. Unfortunately for my mother, the grout was white (which is a real pain in the bum when you live in the tropics and mould grows in the blink of an eye!).
As the water warmed up, I'd make sure my tape was rewound, cranked up and in I would get. I would listen to Jenny Morris's "She Got to Be Loved." Normally I'd get to listen to it twice - with a wet interlude where I would have to get out and rewind the tape. It was my 15 almost 16 anthem. I'd hammer it out, in my slightly flat voice, thankful that both the water and the volume of my tape recorder drowned (literally) out the racket.
"She got to be loved
She got to be loved, got to be loved .."
I'd often have my sister walk in grumpy and turn down the music - she was yet to hit the teenage years (and it was ACDC from memory that came blasting out of the different bathroom then.)
So last week, armed with our little CD player, I put my new favourite album in (because I'm old enough to remember that music used to come on vinyl and be called an 'album'). With the groovy beats and tunes of The Cat Empire pumping I enjoyed my 4 minute shower (because we're on level 5 water restrictions here in Brisbane - 140l of water per person per day!), rocking out under the water. It was a huge thrill and I felt 15 all over again (just with new baggage now!) It's also been great for getting into the feel of what is coming up in my NaNoWriMo novel.
Give it a try - play your favourite music LOUD in the shower for a morning ... if not, remember something really simple that you enjoyed doing as a teenager and just do it. Don't think of any reasons, let alone all the reasons, why you couldn't possibly do it. Then come back and share ...
Sunday, November 18, 2007
In the last few months I've had some moments where I've got to be a virgin ... you know, got to do something for the very first time.
Back in about June, I think it was, I bought my first every take out coffee. One wonders how I got to 33 without every having done take out coffee. I guess its always something, when I did drink it (now its only special occassions or when in dire need of staying awake!) it was always like a luxury gourmet item, best had in with friends. The other things was, I worked for a long time in hospitality and was able to make my own short black as I arrived for work in the morning - about the only perk of the job. When I had my two take out coffees, my short black and my friends latte, there seemed to be a spring in my step. Was it that I thought I looked supercool with my holder and two coffees (I hope not!) or was it the thrill of doing something for the very first time (I hope so!)
- What have you done recently for the very first time?
- As we got older do the opportunities expand or contract to do things for the first time?
- What is something you desperately want to do before you turn 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 - or whatever your next big milestone birthday is.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Hauling her suitcase out of the car, Vi was still engaged in an animated phone call with The Enemy, as she was calling them. Abby liked to joke of them being the Spawn of the Devil, just because it appealed to her warped sense of humour, to call the pre-eminent religious political party the antithesis of what they believed themselves to be. So much, she thought for religion and politics be separated in this day and age.
On the second trip to the car, for the pile of newspapers they had been collecting along the way, Vi finally ended the phone call.
“So, what’s the verdict from the God Squad.”
“Really Abby,” chastised Vi. “You shouldn’t say that. Especially in ear shot of anyone who could use it against you.”
“It a carpark in the middle of the country. I think we’re pretty safe. So, is it on?”
“Yep. They agreed and they’ve booked the Town Hall.”
Abby did a little victory dance, with the newspapers in her arms, shuffling around in the gravel.
“Two weekends time, which will give us another two weeks afterwards to repair any of the damage done.”
“Well that’s so much for the vote of confidence,” quipped Abby. “I like my Christians best served up raw with a side serve of humble pie.”
Abby shrugged in her best nonchalant manner and rolled her eyes.
“I made bookings for dinner at the French Restaurant for tonight. A late booking of 8:00pm if that’s OK. I have some scrap booking to do before bed tonight. So I thought I’d do it now.”
“Sure, I think I might go for a walk. I don’t get to the mountains much.”
“Better go quick, it’ll be dark soon.”
“Unlike you Abby, I’m not scared of the dark.”
“And who told you that!”
“Who do you think.”
“Wil I guess … he’s always my knight in shining armour if we have to go downstairs in the dark. He can’t understand why I’d be scared of the dark.”
“I thought that it was something you grew out of.”
“Apparently not in my case.”
“I hear they halls of the Great House are always lit – they must have known that you’d be making it there someday.”
Abby smiled warmly.
Back in her room, with Mia Dyson playing on the small stereo that she had bought with her, she had a quick shower. As much as she yearned for a long hot, aromatic salt bath, her conscious wouldn’t allow it when there were level five water restrictions. With her hair wrapped in the white Sheridan towel, her favourite grey tracksuit pants and red singlet on, she sat cross legged on the bed. Plugging her mobile in to use it as a modem, she dialled into her savings account and transferred the money over to Harrington; her first payment for his silence. So far he had been true to his word. For a moment, she thought about how she always maintained that she got whatever it was she wanted – yet this time she had paid handsomely for it, both in money lost and time stolen. There was nothing from Hux. No email, no text or phone messages since the weekend.
The strong, single-minded, and selfish part of her was glad that he had obviously finally got the message and disappeared. She had told him at the outset of the campaign that their time together had to stop, though she wasn’t sure if it was a temporary pause or whether it was a proper end. She wasn’t sure though what a proper end meant for their relationship. There had been the naked hiccup the afternoon after her meeting with Harrington, but it had been a moment of weakness on her behalf. She’d been upset and thrown off centre – terrified that her carefully constructed plan would be felled with one foul paragraph from Harrington in any newspaper.
But that was behind them now and she was sticking to the resolution that she’d made in the beginning. Hux was a no go zone during this election campaign. The softer, sentimental, needy part of her missed him with a cavernous ache that threatened to engulf her, if not kept well checked and pigeon holed.
With the secret financial housekeeping done, she turned her attention to the newspapers, to keep herself from dwelling on Hux. For years now she’d been collecting newspaper cuttings from the birth activism that she had been involved in. She found the search, then cut and paste meditative in a way she couldn’t explain - even to Cal who tried hard to understand all of her idiosyncracies. Wil had chosen a new book for the Election. It had a checkered formula one race car on it. She’d suggested the one with fairies but he was insistent on racing car, and the Blu Glue, which was the latest thing he was enthralled with. He asked over and over again how it could be blue when it went on and disappeared when it dried. The wonders of modern science, she’d said and tried to get him to leave it at.
With Mia playing away she switched off to her world and began the slow and methodical process of finding, removing, collecting and then recreating the political landscape again in her book. But it was a landscape of her choosing. She worked from the back to the front of the newspaper, a habit formed from years of following Hux’s career. It had begun back in the days of cutting out the round up from the weekend’s games, when he scored enough goals to rate a mention. She’d followed it as best she could when she was overseas, but the need to cut and paste the growing momentum of his career had gone. Now the focus was on her. For the first time in her adult life she was doing what she wanted to do, and she had her scrap book to prove it.
On the blank pages of the scrap book she pasted the good, having separated it from the bad and the ugly. There were a few references to What Women Want, and her name was mentioned once but nothing more than that. Hux had told her to be careful for what she wished for, and the Harrington incident had told her that. When sending out her affirmations and wishes to the universe, they were framed far more carefully than they used to be.
There was a knock on the door as she pasted the final article in.
“Abby I found the Sunday Mail in the back – thought you might want it. I’ll see you in ten for dinner.”
She tossed the newspaper down on the bed and walked out.
Dressing quickly for dinner, she sat down to flick through the Sunday Mail. She loathed the publication and it had been banned from their home, along with all the commercial TV stations and FM radio. Anything that set the barometer to the lowest common denominator and passed off newstainment for serious journalism deserved boycotting in her books. Vi had told her to get over herself and her high moral ground, because it was publications such as the Sunday Mail that they would exploit to position themselves well in the mainstream population. It felt like selling out to her. Again, Vi had told her to get over herself.
Expecting there to be nothing of any interest, she flicked quickly from the back, stopping briefly at the horoscopes and continued through to the front page. Then it hit her. The headline and the photo … and it was a long time after, through lenses of tears that she forced herself to read the article.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Her female mind would find a way of trapping
Though as gentle as a lamb , Sam the elevator man
So she could spend the night by TV napping
Vi hummed unconsciously the tune to Sadie the Cleaning Lady, as she walked back to her room. With her stomach growling and the promise of French cuisine gone, Vi thought back to the name her high school girlfriends had given her. ‘Sadie’ they had called her.
It began after they watched Pulp Fiction for the first time. Vi had commented that her favourite character in the movie had been the efficient and unflappable Victor the Cleaner. When the situation got out of control, they called in the Cleaner. Someone commented that it wasn’t surprising that Vi had an affinity with the Harvey Keitel character. Vi was forever stepping into the fray in the hormone charged high school years to clean up the mess that others made, whether it be in their relationships, their homes, their school work – you name it and Sadie was able to fix it.
She kept her head and her distance as many buckets were offered, relationships were broken up or started, unobtainable extensions were granted, spare rooms were offered when a parental meltdowns loomed and appointments were needed at the family planning clinic. There had definitely been no skull fragments pulled from the back seat or roof of the family car though.
And now Sadie was back at work again, but in a much bigger fish pond and they were playing for keeps. She hoped that there would be no brain or bone fragments this time either, as she worked to remove Abby’s high profile, but secret lover from the country, before he became a huge and unfixable campaign liability.
“Efficient and unflappable,” she reminded herself, “ just like Victor the Cleaner, and it will be all OK.”
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
.... to explain. My darling friend Annie and I have had a long standing joke for many years now. Whenever something really gets our goat, and when we're sharing whatever is p*ssing us off, we always joke (because comic relief never goes astray when your about to blow a gasket!), with a little play acting and go 'tic tic tic' - with the obvious subtle head jerks to accompany. It's only when something is really bad do we welcome the 'tic tic tic'. It's that moment where your body is giving you the 'whoa she's going blow' warning - you all know what I mean.
Maybe its my PMT, maybe its the weather, but I've got enough pent up stuff to blow up an entire small Pacific Island at the moment. Many different cultures and paths, expouse 'speaking our truth' ... but very few of us do it ... even fewer of us constructively purge or utilise the anger and annoyance that inevitably builds in us. So I have created 'The Tuesday Tic' as a place to come a purge whatever has been getting on your goat in the last week (and does anyone know where the colloquialism 'getting on your goat' comes from?
So welcome ... and may your purge bring you peace and harmony ... or if all else fails, a snarky middle finger to whomever or whatever ... and please spread the word among friends and colleagues ..
Monday, November 12, 2007
They sat surrounded by large pieces of butchers paper, crayons, textas, red wine bottles and half full glasses. It was Friday night and they’d pushed back the furniture and were sitting on the large brightly coloured IKEA cushions from the couch. After the first week of campaigning they were revisiting the pedantically planned campaign, at Abby’s insistence.
“I still don’t think darling that honesty is the best course of action,” Cal rebutted. It was the same argument that he had used the entire evening, and for the last two days.
“Well I do. It’s my campaign and I think we need to do it differently. We need to make our mark,” she disagreed with an insistence that was almost pathological.
“You mean, you need to make your mark,” countered Vi.
Abby ignored the ego shot and rubbed the side of her nose with her pointer finger.
“Honesty is one of foundations of the social integrity platform. I’m not walking my talk.”
“My concern and it’s the same as Cal’s, is that you’re going to alienate more people, than you a bring into the fold doing this.”
“How do you think all the women who have ever chosen abortion feel when Garth gets up there sprouting his anti-abortion rhetoric, compliments of the Family First Party and the God squad?”
“He’s an extreme right element,” Vi reminded.
“How do all the women who have had Caesarean’s feel when you’re up engaged in a one woman dialogue on the greatness of natural birth and how anything else is destroying us a race?” threw in Cal, enjoying for a moment his role as Devil’s advocate.
“This isn’t about me,” defended Abby, shooting her husband a cold and defiant look.
“Actually darling this is all about you. What if your insistence on being honest is really just divide and conquer tactics, and what if it backfires on you and you’re the one that is toppled.”
“Oh fuck off Cal,” spat Abby, slipping quickly into an argumentative and moody frame of mind.
“Bogan!” quipped Cal, offering Abby more red wine.
“I want people to realise I’m just a normal woman doing something that should not be an extraordinary thing. It shouldn’t be such a big thing for a Mum to be running for Parliament.”
“But it is darling.”
“I want to go head to head with Garth in a debate,” declared Abby, after a few minutes silence. It was one of her trade mark nonsequitor that always came from no where in particular.
“You what!” Vi and Cal exclaimed in stereo.
“You heard me. Can you make it happen Vi – next weekend perhaps?”
“I can ring his campaign manager and ask – but hell Abby, he’ll eat you alive.”
“He’s one of God’s soldier’s not one of his parhanas Vi,” joked Abby, but with a definite edge of seriousness to it. “We’re both targeting the family vote, the community vote … I think we need to stand side by side and debate the issues.”
“In those terms it’s not a terrible idea,” agreed Cal cautiously. “But my concern is for you darling. Winning the junior school debating in Year 10 is one thing, but standing before a media pack and going head to head with a man who’s really savvy….”
“I’ve got you to coach me - both of you.”
“Let’s sleep on it,” suggested Vi, she intended to put it to her conscious to decide. She’d write on a piece of paper ‘Is it a good idea for Abby to publicly debate Garth?’, put it under her pillow and wait for her dreams to answer it. It wasn’t a terribly scientifically rigorous method for making decisions, but in the past she’d had about a 90% success rate. The other 10% belonged to the dreams that she didn’t remember.
Abby paced around, her long slender feet padding softly on the polished floor boards and carefully among the brainstorming sheets. She stood in as bastardised version of the pose of the tree. With her foot flexing into and out of a point beside her left ankle as she read, absorbed, critiqued and replanned. Cal knew her inability to stay still, mirrored her overactive mind that was grappling to incorporate everything into a logical sequence in her mind.
“We need to confirm that we do have our scrutinisers and people to hand out how to vote cards in all locations on polling day,” stated Abby throwing the conversation off onto another tangent. “I know we discussed this before the election but I want to have a list of everyone, plus their numbers emails address etc.”
“We need to bring on someone who can just do that,” suggested Cal, seeing that they had already dumped an extra burden of organisation on Vi over the course of the evening.
While she was young, tenacious and ambitious, she also had limits. He knew that she’d put her whole life, including her studies on hold for this and he didn’t want her to burn out before the six weeks were up. He was also aware that he’d bought her into this and felt a degree of responsibility of ensuring this was a good outcome for her, even if Abby wasn’t elected..
“Any ideas who?” Abby mumbled, as she continued to pace slowly around the pieces of paper, taking in what they had written.
Vi shrugged her shoulders.
“Let’s write up a ‘to do list’, to bring all this other guff together,” suggested Abby more as an order than a casual suggestion. “And I want a clear and concise point form overview of what a platform of social integrity means in practise, not simply in theory. This is what will topple the Family First Party’s agenda. I want this to be the language that all families understand and feel an innate pull towards.”
Wil wandered out more asleep than awake around 1:00am as they were still ploughing through the essential tweaks of the election campaign.
“Hello goobah,” she said quietly, taking the sleepy boy into her lap and cuddling him close.
He snuggled in and immediately went back to sleep.
“I still think honesty is the key,” Abby concluded. “It links this, this, this, this … and this, just for a beginning,” she illustrated, awkwardly pointing her foot to the different pieces of paper that had replaced the original ones. “It’s the absolute fundamental … and I don’t need your blessings to do this. This is how I want to, and how I am going to play this game. Because it is a game after all … and this is the only way I envisage getting myself into the Senate.”
Cal and Vi were both exhausted.
“I don’t need your blessings to do this,” she repeated.
“No, but you want them,” Vi commented honestly, rubbing her eyes that were tired, dry and itchy.
She half sat Wil up against her, and then carefully picked up his long limp body.
“I’m going to bed. The spare room is made up Vi, you’re welcome to stay over if you want. We have pancakes on a Saturday morning, Wil would be thrilled to see you here. I need sleep if I’m going to be on the ball down at Bunnings in the morning.”
Saturday, November 10, 2007
A nice short one that will help you see how this is all tied in (I hope). I've just realised I can cut and paste the story around for best suspenseful (hahahaha!) impact. Jeff is a creepy, unethical journalist who had been charged by a 'voice over the phone' boss to find out info about Abby Malone - something that will end her political career before it starts. But sleeze Jeff is about to turn the tables on everyone - including himself .... but I digress .....
“Hux, I need you to meet me now,” she demanded into her mobile. “I don’t care if you are busy. I need to see you now. I have a very big problem. I’m in Anzac Square. I’m getting a cab over to your apartment now. This can’t wait.”
Jeff smiled, overhearing the conversation from a shady crevice in the wall, near where she was standing. He’d punted on her being so rattled that she wouldn’t realise that he was following her. Not only that, but she was going to lead him right to the pay dirt. He patted the telescopic zoom lens that he had managed to borrow from a photojournalist colleague. It wasn’t digital, it was the old point and shoot, probably why he reluctantly agreed to the lend, rather than avidly resisting his pleas for help.
He changed out of his leather jacket, stuffing it in on top of the camera and the MP3 recorder, and pulled on a tattered long sleeved t-shirt. It made him less conspicuous wandering through the city. He just hoped that he could find a taxi easily to follow her.
She stopped in Adelaide Street for a taxi and he quickly hailed a cab to follow them. He was pumped by the chase, it was just like the movies. He was the hunter and she his prey. He sat stock still in the taxi though, watching intently the movements of the taxi ahead – he couldn’t lose her now. There was only one chance for this – one easy chance.
Her cab eased to the curb out the front of an apartment building in Wooloongabba. He recognised the building as one of the plethora of inner city apartment blocks, pristine white, with sensible grey contrast, double glazed windows that over looking the city. He excitedly realised that each apartment had a balcony. He quickly paid the cabby and crossed the road, pulling the camera from the bag as he did. She was on her phone again, waiting at the foyer doors. He guessed that there was security and was she waiting to be let in. Rather than the doors opening she remained downstairs, pacing backward and forwards. He took a couple of shots just to ensure that the equipment was working. About ten minutes later a yellow cab pulled up and a tall blonde haired man got out.
He watched it all through the zoom, so close that he felt he could hear every word, the bristle of anxious skin. They spoke animatedly for a moment, he snapped away. The man reached out to touch her arm and she violently shrugged it off. The conversation continued. Abby was upset, tears already pouring down her cheeks. The man reached out for her again and this time she allowed his touch, then his embrace. Click … click …. Click .. the rapid fire of the shutter, quickly and efficiently ending a blossoming political career before it began.
Then unbelieavably the mystery man turned and he immediately recognised him. Abby Malone was in a passionate embrace with Huxley Smith. Click … click … click. Jeff started humming Pink Floyd’s money. Abby and Huxley went in through the foyer doors and were gone.
Huxley Smith had beenin the same year Chas at school. They'd been mates apparently, but he thought that was unlikely, given his disabilities he found it hard to believe anyone would have been mates with Chas. He’d heard it every weekend, that he and Hux had been mates, when they sat down to watch the football. The drugs had further deadened Cha’s capacity for lucid thinking and he often told the same banal high school story over and over again. The story of the coke bottle bomb was his favourite and the teacher in the tight white pants.
Incredibly, his dead shit brother had finally made his existence on this planet worthwhile.
By popular request ... awww shucks ... thanks guys! And glad to know that I crawled 'correctly' into the psyche of a boy. It was a punt that boys and girls really weren't that different - boys just didn't put a romantic spin on it. I'll put a quick post after this, that will allow you all to see how it's tied in ... between the two characters (what we know of them to date!)
It was a frustrated six weeks of black crosses on the calendar, waiting for the final day of school. He’d be free, and she’d be free to keep her promise. “Wait until you graduate,” she’d said tormentedly. “I really want to kiss you now, but its not right. Wait until the 17th.” Occassionally he’d catch her in the library, sitting there with a bundle of absentee forms and a highlighter – in the process of catching truants. One time he was bold enough to actually walk up behind her, look over her shoulder and ask her what she was doing? Even though it was pretty damn obvious what she was doing.
Two weeks after the formal he fell off some rocks, while he and his nutty Dad were out fossicking in rock pools. His Dad, decked out in one of his endless supply of loud polyester Hawaiian, kept the video camera rolling the whole way through, including in the doctor’s surgery while the deep gash in his foot was being stitched up. A cryptic getwell card arrived in the post. He hoped it was Abby that sent it, but was pretty sure it was probably Melanie, who was still hanging on the periphery hoping for another shot with him. He wasn’t interested.
Damo and Nicky, Damo’s girlfriend, had gone in to see Abby on graduation day. Nicky had a silly book she was carrying around getting everyone to write something in. Damo had said that Abby and Nicky had been hanging out a bit – Abby had driven Nicky home a few times and even gone out for a coffee once. Damo also said that Abby screwed a PE Teacher from one of the highschools in town on the basketball courts one Friday night … but he decided that Damo just said it to bait him. Damo knew something was up with him.
He walked past Abby’s room with his Mum and Dad, on their way to the graduation ceremony. He wanted to go in and remind Abby that today was today, but he wasn’t sure what had gone on for her in the six weeks since the formal. He was again embarrassed to be with his parents. His Dad had hauled out a bird of Paradise shirt to wear to the graduation ceremony and was carrying an umbrella, despite the fact it wasn’t forecast to rain for the rest of the week. His Mum walked on the other side of him, a perpetual look of disappointment on her face. He hadn’t sat exams like his sister had two years ago. She had excelled in everything she tried, music, sport academia and the only thing he’d been good at was being lazy and narrowly avoiding failing everything he tried. He hoped that Abby wouldn’t see him with his folks.
That night, he’d given up of ever living his dream. He started smoking joints in the early afternoon. His parents were packing the last of their stuff up. There had been a sold sticker on the For Sale sign out the front of their house for the last month. His folks were sticking around waiting for him to graduate and now that the day had come, they were leaving. He didn’t know where he was going – not with his parents. Damo’s Mum had offered the spare room until he worked out what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go. He and Damo had talked all year about buying a kombie van and going fruit picking, getting second hand surf boards and leaning to ride a wave. But he wanted more, he wanted Abby and the exchange on the night of the formal told him that it was less a pipe dream than the kombie and the second hand surf boards.
It was about 9:00pm he thought and the streams kids were still pouring in. Although the official graduation party was tomorrow night, Damo’s Mum had said it would be OK for them to celebrate at their place. His Dad was away on business – probably picking up more dodgey porno while he was at it. He went into the kitchen and there was Abby with a Breezer in hand talking to Damo’s Mum. Damo and Nicky had invited her along, so they told him the next day.
There she was in one of her colourful halternecks and a pair of faded jeans. Her hair was newly dyed, an even more vivid red than usual. She saw him and smiled. Then she was on his knee as they sat in Damo’s room talking as a group, listening to music, with his trademark hat on her head. Someone suggested going for a swim, Abby disappeared to her car for her bikinis and in a blur of time they went from dive bombing to being alone in the pool, her warm muscular body, barely covered in the lime green string bikini, pressing against his, as they floated around in the water, the stars bright above and the air tropically warm.
Inside in Damo’s room, they got dried and dressed, then lay down together on Damo’s bed. Abby had got up to lock the door so no one would interrupt them. But they didn’t get naked. Instead she lay there in his arms, his head spinning and trying to integrate reality into the imaginary life he’d been playing out in his head for months. She told him how she’d been frustrated in the weeks between the formal and now. She admitted to sending him the card when he hurt his foot, of wanting to send him a note to meet her at the beach. But it didn’t matter now, they were here together and the summer holidays were on them.
Damo busted his door down, when he found it was locked and she jumped out of bed, grateful that she was fully dressed. Damo started mouthing off about the door being locked and what the fuck were they doing there. Damo had been drinking rum. Sometime in the dead of night he’d found her asleep on the floor, on a rough mattress that Damo’s Mum had dragged in from the garage. They quickly undressed and hurriedly had consummated the months of frustration - then he’d passed out.
In the morning she was gone and he wasn’t sure if it had really happened or if it had all been one long hallucination. Nursing a terrible hangover, like most Saturday mornings he’d ambivalently got dressed in his K-Mart uniform and ridden his bike the half a kilometre from Damo’s to the shopping centre. An hour before he finished she was there, in the fishing isle, looking tired and ill. She pushed into his hand a slip of paper and walked off.
The paper had her phone number and a short note … “My Dad is out of town for December and January and I’m baby sitting his beachfront apartment. Do you want to come and play for the summer? No strings attached? Complete freedom. I’ll be there from the 1st December.” At the bottom was the address.
He wondered what ever happened to Damo and to Nicky. Nicky was going off to join the Navy and would be at sea for a year. They had planned a long distance relationship. He wondered if Damo bought the Kombie and learnt to surf? He wondered if Damo’s Dad still bought back C-grade pornos from Asia? He wondered if Damo’s Mum still had those photos from the night of the formal. He wondered where his Mum and Dad had ended up. He realised that it was years since he spoke to them last.
Machine Gun Fellatio’s ‘Unsent Letter’ clicked onto the stereo. He’d purposely programmed it for random, so he wouldn’t consciously sit and wait for it. He lay back on the dark studded leather couch and put his hands over his eyes, and allowed the lyrics, and the emotions they resurrected wash over him.
I don't know if I lied
when I said we're not together
But I try to talk to you,
and some how you seem gone......
Each drum stroke, each tortured lyric reverberated through his sculptured football hardened body.
Before the song beat through the last of his fragile defences, Hux got up and cracked open a Corona – tossing the cap and opener onto the granite bench top. He sat drinking and snorting up copious amounts of the forbidden white powder, while Unsent Letter played over and over on the stereo and Abby played happy families less than 15 minutes drive away with the Grandaddy Pom.
Friday, November 9, 2007
He went straight to his extensive CD collection, all housed in a floor to ceiling wooden unit, custom built for the apartment. A feature wall with a difference, he joked at the house warming, attempting to sound sophisticated but instead coming across like a wanker. The ache inside him led him to three bands – Machine Gun Fellatio, the Violent Femmes and the Living End – the anthems of their love before it got complicated. More complicated, he corrected himself, because it had always been goddamn complicated.
Although the fridge was full of beer, the Tasmanian Oak bar well stocked and a number of small plastic envelopes of cocaine in his bedside drawer, he just stood there with the CDs in his hand. He wanted to feel the pain inside. It had been festering for years, under the safe shroud of chemical numbness, and now, after today he wanted to sit with it. He wanted a chance for a clear head and a burdened heart to remember back to when he was a boy, when he loved purely and simply. When he called love, lust and no one asked any questions.
He knew now that he really was a boy when he first saw her and wished that she were his. But every boy in the school thought that way, certainly all his mates. On a Friday night as they sat around drinking, smoking joints and watching pornos that Damo had stolen from under the tool bench in his Dad’s shed, they’d talk about what she had worn during the week. His favourite were the stretchy white three quarter pants and the floral halter necks. They debated over whether she wore a g-string or if she was naked under those white pants. No one ever seemed quite sure. He imaged her naked under them.
Damo preferred the short blue sun dress, the one with the thin straps and they all prayed that a wind gust would catch the short skirt and flipped it Marilyn Munroe style. Then they would have know without a shadow of a doubt what was under there. She wore what all the other teenage girls were wearing, only her clothes were on a five day rotation and she some how made them look classy. It was a bad week when the white pants didn’t come out.
Sometimes he’d purposely miss a class just to see her and it was worth the consequences should he be caught out wagging class. It was cruel anticipation, bunking off, usually from manual arts and the waiting, sometime days for the call up on the morning notices. There would be a list of names read out and each morning he’d wait expectantly for his name to be read out. When it didn’t eventuate he had to believe what Damo had said, that she didn’t check the lists everyday – that he’d seen her after school happily ditching a huge pile of absentee lists. He said the pile was so big one of the science teachers was helping her carrying it. Damo also said she cheered when it went in the bin, but Damo was a bit of a wanker back then. He liked to exaggerate things, though he liked the idea of her celebrating throwing all that stuff in the bin.
When she did catch his name, wrongfully absent from class and call him up, he would wait excitedly in the queue outside of her door, trying to decide on what to tell her. Did he just fess up and tell her that he wagged to come and see her. He was brash, well sometimes, but not brave. Damo had dared him to, even put a bottle of scotch on it, but he didn’t dare expose himself. Definitely not when there were a bunch of Year 9 turds waiting in line also.
He’d take his beaten black hat off when it was his turn to go in, and embarrassingly give his name. She’d then ask, looking up from her spreadsheet, if he had a legitimate reason for being absent from class. When she looked up her eyes were the craziest green colour. Someone said she wore coloured contact lenses, because no one had eyes that colour green. Damo reckoned head overheard her saying that to someone, that her eyes were fake. But ask Damo anything, and he always thought he knew the answer. Looking into those large green eyes, for a moment he’d forget he had a voice. He assumed that she thought he was stumbling over his excuse.
“In the library Miss,” he would eventually blurt out, hoping it didn’t sound like a fool. “Please don’t call me Miss,” she would ask. Everytime he went there, with his nerves jangled, he’d forget to call her by her name. “My name is Abby.”
She scribbled library down on her piece of paper and wrote his name on a late slip. He didn’t do it often enough to make it obvious and for questions to be asked.
One day a bunch of flowers arrived for her at the front office. One of the Year 9 boys asked her who they were from, if she had a boyfriend. She refused to answer. That Friday night they drank and smoked, watched more of Damo’s Dad’s bad Asian porn and offered up their thoughts on who her boyfriend was. There were no more flowers and no more talk of boyfriends … it was too cruel a thought for them to contemplate.
Then he met Melanie. In all honesty, he didn’t meet her, they worked together at K-Mart. One Saturday night they were at Damo’s house, drinking and smoking. He and Melanie ended up together, making out in the pool. Unlike the other girls their age, was wasn’t interested in taking it any further. This only increased his frustration. By the time decisions were being made about formal tickets, he and Melanie had parted company. His mates called her frigid behind her back, on those rare Friday nights that there wasn’t a party on and they were at Damo’s place doing the Friday night thing.
It all changed on the final day of Term Three. They had been experimenting blowing things up. Their dream was to find the right explosive mix and blow the car wreck down the cane paddock over the fence from the back oval. They had been surfing the internet trying to find what they needed. In the mean time they had taken to blowing up small things. Damo got it into his head that it would be funny to let off a dry ice bomb at the staffroom door of the Art building. They thought that both the male art teachers were gay and knew it would be a laugh to see them come flapping out the door of the staff room, scared shitless. T
hey were doing something with the dry ice in Science and Damo nicked a tiny bit in an empty coke bottle. Half way through lunch, he Damo and Chas put the tiny amount of water in the coke bottle, gave it a shake, put it at staffroom door and then hid a small way away. It sounded as though they’d let off a tonne of TNT. They were pissing themselves so hard that it was obvious who had done it and they were marched off to the Principal’s office, by a very shaken female art teacher who had been the only one in the staffroom.
First day back, the three of them ogled with wild appreciation as Abby walked through the foyer with a handful of morning notices in her hand. She smiled quickly at them and then disappeared down the sterile white corridor to the main staffroom. They all copped three days in-school detention – three days of being in Abby’s room, with lunch time and little lunch at alternate times to the rest of the school. It was like mana from heaven, though in reflection he was grateful it was a few years before 9/11. He was certain that the soft punishment they got then would not be doled out now.
He made sure he was up early enough every morning to have a shower – something he did rarely, because he sleep through his alarm more mornings than not. His mother would come in, screeching that the would be late, blah blah blah. He was always terrified she’d resort to reefing the sheet off him and he’d be caught by his mother in all his morning glory.
On the final day of their ‘detention’ she wore the white pants. They put Chas up to asking her if she had a g-string on. Chas had been hit by a car, crossing the highway on their first day of highschool. He was in a coma for almost two weeks and it was Year 9 before he made it back to school. In those days, the only sign of his accident when he was fully dressed, was the slight limp – until he opened is mouth. The experts called him ‘slow’, his mates called him a ‘miracle boy’. They didn’t care if he wasn’t too bright … especially when they could put him up to things, like asking ‘the’ question.
Just before lunch Chas piped up, before he got half way through his question, Abby had worked out what he was asking, flushed pink from her cleavage to her forehead and asked him to sit back down and do his work.
Abby and her friend who was the lab assistant in the science department turned up to their formal. Damo reckoned she had been working out or something – he guessed that she’d lost at least a couple of kilos since the start of the year. How Damo could tell was a mystery to him. She wore tight black leather look pants and a glittery gold top. She hung around their table, to all of their boyish embarrassment and when she asked him on the last song of the night if he wanted to dance, he emphatically said no. All the time while Damo and Chas were kicking him under the fancy smancy table cloth.
He’d wanted to, but he didn’t want to be singled out. He’d blown his one and only chance and that was it. So he had thought. An hour after the formal had finished and while they were organising their lifts to the after party, their mob, along with Damo’s Mum had run into Abby and her friend in the foyer of the Casino. Damo’s Mum, being Damo’s Mum invited them to sit down with them. She sat next to him on the two seater lounge and it was cosy. Damo’s Mum took photos – she just couldn’t help herself. He guessed that it was ammunition for her to use against them all in the months to come, after all that she’d heard overtly and covertly over the year.
Abby had gone to the ATM for money, repeating for the umpteenth time that it was illegal for her to buy them beers, or any other alcoholic beverage. She’d refrained from drinking infront of them. He’d headed off for the toilet and on the way back they converged under the huge chandelier in the very front of the foyer. They started to chat about nothing in particular, when she blurted out “I can’t do this.”
“Do what?” he asked innocently enough, wondering just what he’d missed. He’d been certain that he’d been following the conversation and not her cleavage.
“I can’t be here with you like this.”
“Because I want to drag you off into a dark corner and kiss you.”
He was sure that Damo and Chas would never have believed him, even if he had have fessed up to it, on their last beer, smoke and porno night of their school lives. Instead he’d kept to safe topics such as whether chicks actually could do that with ping pong balls and fetching the beer. The conversations about Abby seemed sleezy at best now and while he wanted to scream ecstatically to them both, “I’m going to do Abby when school finishes” he just drank beer.
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I have been blog tagged (a first for me!) with a 'fours' meme by my dear WriteStuff and NaNo friend http://fancifulmuse.blogspot.com/ (sorry for my inability to manipulate html to make it look neat and pretty!) As I'm joyously procrastinating from NaNo today and feeling a little flat and down in the dumps ... the perfect diversion!
4 jobs I have had:
- behaviour management officer in a high school
- cabin waitress on a cruise ship
- director of an afterschool and vacation care centre
- editor of a grassroots homebirth and parenting magazine (current unpaid adventure!)
4 movies I love to watch over and over
- Dirty Dancing
- Love Actually
- Almost Famous
- Albury - New South Wales
- Cairns - Queensland
- Milton Downs (a massive wheat property 26km x 32km in area!) New South Wales
- Ballarat - Victoria
4 TV shows I enjoy watching
- The Chasers War on Everything
- Spicks and Specks
- Dr Who
- Supernatural (as my commercial TV junk food fix every now and again!)
4 Places I have been
- Broken Hill
- Eureka Stockade
- Mount Mulligan
- The Great Barrier Reef
4 Websites I visit daily
- Mystic Medusa
- Write Stuff
- Cluster of Artists
4 Favourite Foods
- Cheese - in all its gourmet guises
- Hot buttered vegemite toast
4 Places I would rather be
- In bed
- In Morocco
- Sitting in a women's sacred circle
- Alone on a winter's beach
4 blogs I tag