Page 1

2011 Adult Writing Competition


Gold Coast Writers’ Association 2011 Adult Writing Competition It is my pleasure to present the winning entries from the GCWA 2011 Adult’s Writing competition. Congratulations to our winners and thank you to all the people who submitted an entry and to our judges Bev Ryan – non-fiction; Edwin Wilson – poetry; Lee McGowan – short story; and Lyn Linnning – writing for children.

Julie Boyd President Gold Coast Writers‟ Association

Contents NON-FICTION ............................................................................................................................. 2 FIRST PLACE – LIGHTNING STRIKING TWICE BY ELAINE HARRIS .................................................. 2 SECOND PLACE – DÉJÀ VU – THIS CYCLIC LIFE BY JULIE BOYD .................................................. 8 THIRD PLACE – LEND A HAND – MAKE A DIFFERENECE BY THE KOROI ...................................... 13 POETRY................................................................................................................................... 17 FIRST PLACE – ON CALLAN RESERVE BY JANE LAUGHARNE ..................................................... 17 SECOND PLACE – DEJA VU BY JAN PRICE ............................................................................... 19 THIRD PLACE – DEJAU VU BY CAROLINE GLEN ........................................................................ 21 HIGHLY COMMENDED – STOPPED AT THE LIGHT BY ALAN TURNER ............................................ 23 SHORT STORY ......................................................................................................................... 24 FIRST PLACE – THE MERMAID BY VANESSA MCKINLEY ............................................................ 24 SECOND PLACE – ONE OF THEM? BY CATALINA HERRERA ....................................................... 29 THIRD PLACE – THE HEART REMEMBERS BY LYNDA GRANT ..................................................... 37 WRITING FOR CHILDREN ........................................................................................................... 44 FIRST PLACE – COMING HOME BY JEMMA VAN DE NES ............................................................. 44 SECOND PLACE – RUBY ORANGE AND THE YOWIE BY ZOYA NOJIN............................................ 49 THIRD PLACE – SHOPPING AT MR ZEN’S BY DIANNE MORRIS .................................................... 57

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

1


Non-fiction First Place – Lightning Striking Twice by Elaine Harris Accurately, redress, leucocyte, credible, vaunting, sartorial, nomenclature, periphrastic. A list of disparate words sharing only one tenuous link: I can actually remember where, when and why I learned them. Only one came to hold any significance in later years and that after my mother‟s diagnosis of leukaemia. Interestingly, those words that carry the greatest weight for us often slip into the vocabulary all but unnoticed. I do not recall if I had even heard the word epilepsy until commencing my corrugated Grammar School career at the tender age of twelve, and encountered it then only because one student, several years ahead of me, was rumoured to suffer from it. Oh, we had all heard the word “fits” tossed around with gay abandon – the more politically correct “seizures” not being common parlance then – but most of us had not the faintest idea what they were, at least not in their realistic medical sense. Fast forward thirteen years to my first job in broadcasting. My first Guide Dog, Kati, and I had begun full-time work together two years earlier, though I had already cut my teeth as a freelance interviewer before we met. 1982 was a landmark year for us. Can anyone have several epochs in one year? After a breathtaking, whirlwind, trans-world romance, we had made national British and Australian headlines with my Yorkshire-born, Australia-dwelling husband-to-be in late April: not because we were particularly famous but rather than all the world loves a romance, especially in war-time. The distant Falklands‟ war was raging and good news was in short supply. A month or so later I was denied immigration access to the Antipodes. I still wear with pride those labels of “Medically unacceptable” and “a prohibitable category.” This, too, made headlines in Australia causing the decision to be reversed a few months later, flavoured with a hearty pinch of paternalism. The same week that I received the phone call from the Australian High Commission, (my birthday week if I recall correctly), I was also astonished to learn that my wedding-dress would

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

2


be a present from the small company that made it. I had written to them asking if it could be bought in Melbourne and the gloriously generous gift was their reply. Thank you, Welsh Bride. “Life is something that happens while you‟re busy making other plans”, said John Lennon. He was right. Preparing to move half a world away from everything and almost everyone you know is daunting at the best of times, even when you are blazingly, irrevocably in love. When your precious Guide Dog demonstrates one morning that she, too, has a role to play, all such plans are suspended. It was a quiet, uneventful morning in the office of the radio station Talks‟ Department. Suddenly, the peace was shattered by Kati hurling herself uncontrollably across the room. She growled menacingly, paws pedalling wildly and, heaven help me, even frothed at the mouth. It was terrifying and all utterly beyond her control. All I heard thereafter was my boss ringing the nearest vet and yelling at a colleague, “Get Elaine out of here.” Half an hour later saw three of us at the surgery. We walked into the consulting-room where I picked Kate up, placing her on the table. My colleague described the attack and the vet‟s bluff dismissal, “Oh, this dog will never work again” repeated endlessly in my brain for days. Myriad phone calls and a week or so later the same two colleagues and I drove to Cambridge in a company car – I had a wonderful boss – taking Kati to the renowned animal hospital there, the appointment having been made by the Guide Dogs‟ Association. Again the graphic descriptions before we left my left arm in their capable care. (A Guide Dog almost invariably works on the left side and even now, if I go out without the current incumbent, I am unsure what to do with my dogless hand.) When we returned several hours later the diagnosis was confirmed. Epilepsy. The specialist was straightforward though sympathetic. Medications were prescribed and we made our way home. The only other recollection from that day is sitting on the steps of King‟s College to eat ice-cream. I had always held King‟s in high esteem and still do; their carol-services so often the high point of Christmas Eve, yet so far the only time I have visited it is associated with pain and despair. The illness of a Guide Dog creates an emotional minefield. First you worry about your dog, in my case always Labradors. Then you begin to concern yourself with your restricted mobility, wondering how long the illness may last and what the flow-on effects may be. This is followed

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

3


smartly by soul-piercing guilt for stooping to such selfish considerations, before you return to fretting about the health of your dog. Circular, destructive and inescapable. The crucial details of Kate‟s epilepsy were surprisingly reassuring, despite that unequivocal declaration: “This dog will never work again.” First, she had a pretty high threshold; in other words, it took a great deal of stress or environmental pressure to trigger an attack. The deciding factor though was timing. The most likely occurrence of an attack would be during that drifting stage between sleeping and waking; ergo, never when she was literally working. Did this put an end to all worry? Of course not but it certainly helped. It was also comforting to know that Kati was totally unaware during a seizure. We knew what was happening to her body, if she soiled herself or bit someone who came too close, but she did not. She always awoke confused and ravenous. The treatment for epileptic dogs in 1982 was to prescribe a combination of Sodium Valproate, brand name Epilim, and barbiturates. The latter we discontinued in early 1983 on veterinary advice, while Kati was still serving her three months in quarantine. The week after she emerged the Commonwealth authorities reduced the mandatory stay to two months but we have nothing but praise for the care she received. It would be wonderful to be able to report that Kate enjoyed a seizure-free existence thereafter but this was not to be. Attacks were not numerous and she endured very few full-on episodes. We also became adept at halting an attack in its very early stages. You could hear the onset of one simply by listening to the breathing which became stressed and ragged. Once detected, you simply took her in your arms, talking quietly and reassuringly, waking her as smoothly and gently as you could. Nine times out of ten our system worked. We were also careful to eliminate loud noises or flashing lights and keep a cap on our own anger or emotional outbursts, all of which can precipitate a seizure. Then there were the bones. Every small animal specialist we have consulted insists that eating bones could never have precipitated a seizure; in theory they are unquestionably right. All we know is what we witnessed. Any time Kati so much as gnawed on a large marrow-bone for even a few minutes, an attack would surely follow. Naturally, we banned bones but at a price. Kate also inherited bad teeth and gums prone to infection; she endured serial dental operations and we took to cleaning her teeth for her. Perhaps out of fear we have maintained the ban with other

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

4


dogs but without such distressing side-effects. We buy substitute chews and everyone is happy. Kati‟s working life was long and productive. During my tenure as a radio presenter and publicspeaker in Canberra she earned widespread fame and popularity. Indeed, to quote one friend, the day the Canberra Times carried front page news of her retirement, “There were tears at the breakfast table” across the city. At the age of fourteen Kati could outrun my husband on the beach if she wanted to avoid being caught and put back on the lead. One practitioner told us that the Sodium Valproate assisted here, one of its side-effects being to maintain the conductivity of nerves and strength of muscles, thereby prolonging life. I am in no position to verify the accuracy of this opinion but Kati lived until she was sixteen-and-ahalf. Some Guide Dogs apparently relish retirement. Kati hated it and would cry piteously whenever I left the house with Dori, the new holder of the title. Saying goodbye to Kate was as horrendous for us as it is for any loving pet owner but we also celebrated her life by retelling the many stories about it. Yawning or enjoying squeaky dreams during live broadcasts; stealing frilly underwear from my overnight bag in a crowded open office, and almost tripping up the Duke of Edinburgh on the only occasion their paths crossed. Dori was with us for almost ten years, arriving as a frightened, insecure muddle and soon learning to become as protecting and maternal towards me as I was to her. She saw us through various house moves and job changes, the rehearsing and performing of a onewoman cabaret, and the acquiring of our beloved German Shepherd after a burglary. She was a stalwart worker and fiercely loyal, being lucky to escape a broken leg when we were attacked by another dog on a cold, dark winter evening. She also guarded me fiercely during my numerous hospital stays and offered comfort through the sundry illnesses by which I was beset a few years after her arrival. Her chief bugbears were fireworks, squeaky toys and thunderstorms, though she could ignore the worst storms completely when working. Untended cups of tea or coffee were never safe and she helped herself to anything edible if she could get away with it, including raspberries and tomatoes from the garden, except when working. Her death was sudden, painful and devastating.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

5


An overcast June Friday morning brought Roselle into our lives just seven weeks after Dori left us. A shiny black bombshell who soon demonstrated her distrust of beards and hats, along with her passion for play involving anything and everything, especially Allie, the aforementioned German Shepherd. As I have written elsewhere, I needed Rosi but emotionally was far from ready for her, grief over Dori‟s loss being too raw; nothing daunted, it took her no time at all to deal with that minor hurdle. She was clever, independent, funny and inquisitive, while in desperate need of love and security. She had aroused my protective instincts by the end of day four; by the close of the first week my capitulation was complete. I was hopelessly in love and firmly under her paw, celebrating the fact with a weep into that gorgeous coat. We have never looked back. Kati‟s epilepsy arrived close to her fourth birthday; Rosi had just about turned three when she showed the first signs, though mercifully with less high drama. My husband Chris was awakened one night and found her vague and trembling in the hall beside my study; he had his suspicions but kept them to himself for the time being. By late January 2006 there was no longer any doubt. The house had been in turmoil for a week or so while new bookcases were built, installed and varnished; disruption and epilepsy are poor companions. It was over dinner that Sunday evening, when all was restored to normal, that Rosi‟s anxiety boiled over. There was the distinctive ragged breathing and some rapid, unpredictable movement of the limbs but this was different. She could be held safely and was still conscious; most unusual of all, she could hear you coaxing her out of the attack, reassuring her back to reality. The attack was brief and she was not nearly so disorientated when she emerged. How did I feel? Shocked, numb, knocked for six! As the song says with deliberate tautology, “Déjà Vu All Over Again”. I was horrified when one friend, missing the mark by a mile, made the comment, “But it doesn‟t mean you don‟t love her.” In truth, I was like a tigress, fiercely protective and wanting only the best for her. The treatment for epilepsy in dogs has changed in the intervening years. Now the prescription is a small, daily dose of barbiturates. We were sceptical but need not have feared. We were also warned that Rosi may take a week or so to adjust and be slow and sleepy at first. Never a text-book case, she didn‟t miss a beat, except to demand her nightly blob of fresh peanut butter, not caring that it concealed a tiny pill.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

6


The attitude of some leading veterinary consultants, however, had not changed. When the then Chief Instructor of Guide Dogs‟ Tasmania reported that there was a dog with this rare form of epilepsy, the immediate response was “Withdraw it”. Being rather more compassionate and to his eternal credit, Dan English took a gentler “Let‟s wait and see” approach. Before he left I was able to wring two major concessions from him: if Rosi must retire, she would remain with us; if she needed to go to Sydney for further investigation, then I would accompany her. Five years later and Roselle is still going strong. Her work is nothing short of brilliant, her play just as enthusiastic and her characteristic Labrador hunger remains unassuaged. Yes, we are aware of triggers and seek to avoid them, keeping stress to a minimum, but she has been free of any episodes since the treatment became official. The marmalade jar in the fridge is kept filled with dog chocs in case any escalating situation needs calming or useful distraction is required. We feel today as we did in 2006. If this was going to happen, and it obviously was, then thank goodness she came to us who had some prior understanding of the condition and the proven ability to deal with it. Would we have taken Rosi on had we known in advance? Undoubtedly. You might as well ask my parents if they would have rejected me had they known Retinoblastoma was lurking in the wings. The shock is profound but the reality not nearly so daunting once you adjust. Would we do it a third time? Without question, "Que Sera, Sera”. It is not something you can predict and nature is no fool by allowing you to become firmly attached before lightning strikes. Kati was a wonderful dog and we do not regret one minute we shared with her. Rosi is the adored fourth member of our team, “The Firm” as George VI would say, and is wholly herself neither in spite of nor because of her condition. She still shadows me everywhere once I am dressing, in the hope that we are going out; she needs me as much as I need her and she has never lost that innate ability to make us laugh. Long may it continue.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

7


Second Place – Déjà vu – This Cyclic Life by Julie Boyd Living at a timber mill in a tiny country town and needing to supply all our own services, ensured all kinds of weird noises in the night, including the clanging of boilers being fed in the building next door. I‟d grown used to them, so they weren‟t frightening any more. Lying in my tiny room in my little old weatherboard house, I must have been asleep, but I‟m sure it wasn‟t a dream. I was seven years old and the memory is as clear as if it were yesterday. I often couldn‟t wait to go to bed so I could escape. When my body was totally relaxed, a part of me could leave, could fly away like Peter Pan into all sorts of adventures. There were no boundaries – shooting straight up into space to look down at a blue, green and brown globe, then back again through clouds, dancing around lightning before spearing into the ocean. I saw amazing people wearing colourful clothes, and houses and landscapes. They were nothing like the residents or surrounds of my tiny town, so I knew, then, that there was a big world to explore, and that‟s what I needed to do. To land anywhere I simply shaped my arms into wings, angled out from shoulders to form a triangle, and came down on my feet as gently as a feather, occasionally crash-landing on my stomach. This particular night I flew out the window, put my hands above my head to fly missile style, and took a quick flip around the power lines beside our main road, soaring up and over and spinning around. I could slow down and hover, or reach exhilarating speeds. I could see through windows, and sometimes even walls. Mr and Mrs Shelton were having a late dinner, and speaking very loudly. They didn‟t sound too happy so I didn‟t stay- this was what I wanted to get away from. Following the river, I checked the spot where my friend Leon had dived in last week, hitting his head on a rock and breaking his neck. After we‟d pulled him to safety, Johnny had to run back home to call an ambulance which was two hours away. There was no such thing as a mobile phone back then. I kept flying. The land changed. Hills became higher and paddocks greener, rivers flowed more strongly and I could see the earth moving. Not just because I was speeding, it pulsed as if a heart was pumping blood just below the surface.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

8


A house appeared below me, looking like it was made from brown gingerbread, with shiny mirrors on the roof. There were chooks, and cows, vegetable gardens, and fruit trees. Part of the farm was natural bush. There was a koala grunting, kangaroos leaping along, and a massive wombat crashing through the undergrowth. The trees were home to crimson rosellas, and two kookaburras flew down to the veranda looking for food. Inside, a big open fire was roaring, with two scruffy, happy dogs lying on the rug. I could smell bread baking, and see baskets full of oranges and lemons sitting on the wooden table just inside a window. I didn‟t see any adults, but there was a baby lying on a lambskin with a toddler building a wall of cushions around her. It felt wonderful, warm and welcoming, and I wanted to stay. But a hand on my shoulder shook my body, I heard a voice say „time to get up, you have softball today,‟ and instantly I was home again in my bed. *** Twenty five years later several major events occurred. The first was the birth of my beautiful daughter, my son‟s much loved little sister. The second was the launch of the first space shuttle, at that time a masterpiece of engineering and aesthetics, opening space to humans in a way previously unknown. The third was the beginning of construction of my friends‟ homes. I‟d just started a new job, at a country high school. We were all pretty much in the same boat at the time - young professionals, with few resources, just starting out on the next stage of our lives after the madness and mayhem of university, weddings, and a couple of divorces. We quickly became close friends. The students at the school had decided they wanted a Debutante Ball, a country tradition that had all but died out. None of them could dance, so one of my new friends, Russell and I took it upon ourselves to teach them. Viennese waltzing and cha cha-ing around the floor of the school gym, some of the exhilaration of my childhood flying came back to me. After one session Russell‟s wife ran into the hall. „Quick‟ she called, „we have to give them an answer tonight or we might lose it. We‟ve been looking at a block of land to buy, and have found exactly what we want. If we get it, you‟ll have to come out at the weekend and take a look.‟ Over dinner and a few drinks one evening several months before, a few of us had decided that we would work together and help put a roof over each of our heads, once we‟d found our place.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

9


„Ok you go, I‟ll finish up with the kids‟ I said, grabbing a strapping young man as my replacement partner. They got it. The old man who owned the place had liked them enough to trust them with looking after his land, so at the weekend a group of us drove out to take a look. As we passed rolling green hills I began to have a very strange feeling. I knew what was around the next corner, yet I‟d never been there before. There was a tiny village with an old shop on the left hand side, and a small white town hall directly opposite. Three houses on the same side as the shop, then the road wound steeply up a hill and around a corner. On we drove, and sure enough things were exactly as I knew they‟d be. I didn‟t say a word. The turn into the farm wasn‟t obvious, but I was able to say „turn here.‟ Wattle trees in bloom flanked the muddy driveway as we slipped and slurped our way along the track. Kookaburras and rosellas flew in front of us, then perched in the trees to watch. I made a bet to myself that at the end of the track was an open area, with a chook-pen to the left, bush to the right and a few fruit trees in the paddock. It was the farm of my seven year old adventure. And so it began. Weekends filled with planting fruit and nut orchards, pulling down old churches, schools and houses to recycle timber, bricks, furniture and anything else that could be salvaged. Shared research into different types of housing to decide what was best – mudbricks, straw bales, cement bricks, or timber. Sue started first. She was a single mum with a 12 year old daughter. Child support was not a feature of our lives back then and she was doing it solo. She bought an old Melbourne tram, and drove the truck herself to transport it to the country. Converting that into a liveable space, complete with bathroom, was our first project. The frame and roof went up with reasonable success, but our first attempts at mudbricks for her were a little disastrous. They crumbled for various reasons, but eventually we created a system which involved carpeting under the roof, tipping clay onto the carpet, then one of us would aim the hose, another would push a cultivator back and forward, while others filled the moulds. A minor miscalculation with brick size and roof height meant there was a gap at the top of the walls. That was easily solved by sending Sue‟s Dad off to learn stained glass making. The result- a stunning kaleidoscope of colours every day as the sun shone through.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

10


The brick-making process was then used at Russell and Petra‟s place. The blokes did the heavy lifting as we women removed nails from timber, made more mud-bricks, planted a garden, extended the orchard and cleaned used house bricks for chimneys and paths. In the midst of all this building, my own marriage came to a violent end. The mud-brick house and the love of friends provided a haven while we recovered and rebuilt our lives. The baby on the lambskin in my astral travelling was my daughter, and the cushion-wall building toddler, her brother creating what he called „mouse-houses‟ to keep her safe. As the years passed Sue moved away, I renovated, then sold, my own place for a profit and shifted to Tasmania. My kids grew into wonderful adults. I travelled the world in my work, and was rapt to be working in Florida at the right time to not only attend a shuttle launch, but to also meet some of the astronauts – a wild and gutsy bunch of fascinating human beings. The juxtaposition of the shuttle as a backdrop to a swamp filled with pre-historic alligators and armadillos was unforgettable. Watching the shuttle being wheeled out onto the tarmac from the fifty-storey hangars that housed them brought back memories of my own secret trips into space. I hoped the astronauts would be just as stunned as I remembered being by the beauty of earth from up there. *** Early this year Petra called and asked if I would house-sit while they took a trip for a couple of months. They had just taken in some rescue dogs and didn‟t want to put them in kennels. I jumped at the chance. As I drove into the area, the past enveloped me like a warm blanket. So much hasn‟t changed, the rolling green hills, the people, the little towns, me. The bricks I made still show my mark, the trees I helped plant are now heavy with luscious fruit or early blossoms, the solar panels still provide power via sky mirrors, even during a recent earthquake. And the giant earthworms which live in this area still make the ground tremble. The gingerbread-style house of my childhood turns me into paddock-to-plate homemaker when I‟m here. I‟ve rediscovered the joy of cooking and am taking so much pleasure in picking fruit from trees that I planted all those years ago, to make into marmalade, jam and pickled lemons for future tagines.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

11


Thirty years on, my sense of dĂŠjĂ vu recurs. My daughter has just celebrated a milestone birthday with her friends who are now engrossed in getting married and divorced, starting families, building careers, and working out how best to support each other. My granddaughter is the one playing on the lambskin rug. The final shuttle has successfully launched and landed, and my professional life has gone full circle. Once again, I am blissfully ensconsed in front of an open fire, glass of magnificent home-produced pinot in hand, fresh bread baking, and just-picked veggies roasting in the oven, while rain and wind rage around us. The snores, jumps and twitches of contented puppies beside me on the ancient sofa as they fly off on their own cosmic adventures confirms that they, too, are secure in knowing what really is important in this cyclic life.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

12


Third Place – Lend a Hand – Make a Differenece by The Koroi I reach up, carefully taking the album from the shelf, gently brushing away the dust already gathered on the cover. I wonder again how I managed to overcome the enormous challenge I had set myself. Memories of the frustrating, complicated tasks that had led to these photographs, now came flooding back. My first adventure to the country I had been dreaming of visiting since childhood! At last I was able to take the long trip to Zimbabwe. I was excited at the thought of visiting the little school, away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist resorts. I set out that morning with great anticipation, I tried to imagine what the school would look like. I recall my heart sinking as I entered the classroom, that sweltering morning in the small village. I tried concealing my feelings of anguish as the little girls with their tight black curls and large sparkling eyes took my hands while proudly showing me to their desks. The walls of the room were bare, except for an old scratched, faded blackboard. Most of the chairs were broken, some teetering on 3 legs. On ancient splintering desks I noticed pencil stubs and sheets of paper, torn in half, to be shared around. Notebooks were obviously scarce. It amazed me to find the children looking so crisp and neat in their clean uniforms when poverty was so apparent here. They had very little yet all looked smart and displayed happy pearly white smiles. The headmaster had welcomed me with an even wider, albeit toothless grin, quickly arranging the group of youngsters to sing and dance for me. One little boy had stood out as he provided the rhythm on his small cowhide drum. His flawless ebony skin glowed in the scorching African sun. The white of his huge dark eyes reminded me of pure snow and his long lashes would be the envy of any woman. His face was serious, the drumming required every ounce of concentration but when the dance was finished he broke into a charming, mischievous grin. My Western upbringing obliged me to give him something material for his effort but this was an African child and I could see that my smile and a hug clearly meant as much to him as any gift I could have offered. GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

13


As the children wandered away, I couldnâ€&#x;t help but notice the way they interacted with each other. For quite some time I had stood and watched as, unlike in our world, there seemed to be no squabbling or arguing. They played hand clapping games while chanting African ditties, skipped rope and rolled nuts, seeds or stones as skillfully as if they were shiny round marbles. A small group of boys were using a stick to swing at a rolled up ball of grass. There seemed to be no need for balls or baseball bats. It was clear that the children were oblivious to the real short comings of the school. As I had been watching them at play, the headmaster suddenly broke my concentration, telling me in his broken English, how drastically they needed donations to fix the walls and roof that leaked so badly. The building was in an appalling state due to recent strong winds blowing down a large area of the tin roof. Although I donated as much as I could spare in Zimbabwe dollars, I still felt a need to assist in more ways and decided then, that I would do something special for this school. As I relaxed on my flight home, in the comfortable seat, with all the luxuries of the western world around me, I reflected on the poverty I had seen in the village and the dire needs of the children. Perhaps I could assist by gathering some pencils from my kitchen drawers and sending them to the school. On arriving home I immediately began scouting around the house and found an abundance of barely used pencils and pens that my own children had discarded during their growing up years. I decided then if I was able to gather this much by rummaging through my own drawers, it may be worth approaching family and friends to see if they too could find some spare items. I had already started to build up quite a collection when a minor newspaper hearing of my attempts printed an article suggesting the local community contact me if they had anything they would like to donate. At first, a little stationery began to trickle in, but before long I had a garage full of not only pencils and rulers but notebooks, writing pads, even childrenâ€&#x;s reading books. Some items had been used but there were many new that had been bought specifically for the cause. I had enough to fill 6 large boxes but was then faced with the dilemma of devising a plan to get GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

14


these to the children in Zimbabwe, something to which I had given absolutely no prior thought! I contacted several charity agencies to seek advice on how I should start the process of transporting the goods across the ocean to such a remote village. To my great joy a friend mentioned that the local Rotary Club may be able to assist. I made a phone call and fortunately they were able to put me in touch with Reta, the clubâ€&#x;s contact in Bulawayo, the closest large town to the school. All contact with Reta was by email, at times it had been frustrating waiting for replies as she set to work at her end. After many weeks, I was asked to arrange freighting the load to Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe, from where Reta could organize to transport the load to the school. With the boxes all packed, inventoried and labeled I borrowed a station sedan and with some effort stacked the 6 boxes in the back to take them to the airline, 300kms away. From there they were freighted a few days later to Harare where Reta planned to retrieve them as soon as they arrived. Enthusiastically I again made contact with her to say they were on their way. Six weeks went by, I had not received any news so I called the airline to ascertain the whereabouts of the boxes. I was advised they had duly arrived in Harare so I once again contacted Reta by email. Next day I received a reply saying that the boxes were there but Customs officers were not willing to release them without special authority, however they could not elaborate on where authority was to come from or indeed why any kind of authority was needed. Unsure where to turn next, I made contact with the relevant embassies, both here in Australia and in Zimbabwe. Through these channels the boxes were released at long last. It had been almost 9 months since I had visited the school and made the decision to collect a small parcel of stationery! Nothing ever goes smoothly and I received word that I would first have to pay for storage for the 6 weeks that the boxes were held with Customs. Again I was forced to contact the embassy officials who stepped in and after some communication back and forth, the Customs officers conceded defeat and agreed to waive the storage fees. GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

15


I was now able to contact Reta with good news and she happily made the 430km trip in her old battered truck from Bulawayo to Harare to pick up the now infamous boxes. She took them back to Bulawayo where she transferred them into a jeep and delivered them to the school. Breathlessly I waited for an email to say that the boxes had arrived. At last it came. Reta told how she had personally unloaded the jeep and delighted in watching the children dancing around the 6 boxes. As they were opened and the goods were handed around, Reta took photos of the joyful occasion. She said that my name was written in large letters on the old scratched blackboard and the children expressed their appreciation to “the white lady� who visited and had taken the trouble to bring such excitement into their lives. I knew that this was not a long term aid for the school but it surely gave the children something to be excited about. I was confident that 60kgs of stationery would have given them great joy for at least a short time. Looking back now, it was indeed a horrendous task, an almost unachievable challenge but seeing the photos again, the smiling faces somehow made all the drama and headaches of those 9 months, when the idea was first born, to the day the delivery was made, fade into oblivion. As I replace the photo album on the shelf, I smile, feeling that in my own small way I helped that one small school and I know that there are still many more ways we can all reach out, lend a hand and make a difference.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

16


Poetry First Place – On Callan Reserve by Jane Laugharne They found her first in a ditch of damp leaves. She did not retreat as the dogs, damp-nosed, leads straining Lurched towards her in idiotic enthusiasm. She was unwell, unusual, unkempt, One ear roundly snipped by bite or by design. There was no sign of blood, Just worn bones in a bag of skin left limp with age. Later I returned to her alone, Although my presence made her nervous. She twitched and flickered and out stared me Defied me to summon the rangerâ€&#x;s bullet. I gave her oats instead, She took them as her due. It rained that night and washed the ditch clean. Again it was the dogs that sought her out, They licked her as she lay, days later, Soft nose to soft petal of starry liverwort A headstone of hardy granite, grown eons before the gums. It was winter, the carnivorous ants sealed tight inside their ochre mounds Had let her be. I touched her as I had not done in life, Stroked down her rabitty head, her ridiculous legs her death bloated belly, And startled as the life in it kicked back So he, unusual for his kind was birthed in blood, With carving knife to pillow case, Cut from the imprisoning pouch

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

17


He squealed, as all new babies must, And looked at me with indignation, He had his motherâ€&#x;s eyes.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

18


Second Place – Deja vu by Jan Price Paths damp with yellow clover wilting after winter meet and leave as old friends and bees hum above honest daisies jealous brambles chaperone roses round this old house that snoozes eyes shuttered in the sun settled like a scrap-knitted tea cosy. The heavy key turns and the owner ambles me in. Papered walls soothe cream and cinnamon; a sun-shaft slants a circle muslin white on a chocolate floor. Beyond uncertain shadows linger wordless like a close family content to watch appreciation. Wispy horse-hair beards protrude from pattern-freed chairs here and there. And when had time last chimed from that kitchen mantle clock perhaps on a carefree afternoon when no one watched? Do I smell lavender candle wax springtime peppercorns and rosemary scenting sunshine in another room? Sun-ghosts dancing through lace at the window wash-stand commode frills round the pillows white cotton spread

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

19


on an iron-ended bed blue mats on the lino! Tears blur the room… She’s here pulling up covers placing geraniums bright red opening a shutter curtains flutter grey-haired smiling singing the woman who fed me schooled me tooled me for life when my mother didn‟t want me… my Grandmother! The owner returns to chat I swerve should my tears be seen; make social comment I don‟t really mean. The hours grow cold as we leave ghosts in moments like clocks on mantels in afternoon houses where memories resemble and flowers bloom unattended…

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

20


Third Place – Dejau vu by Caroline Glen I clamber the hill. I make my own path amongst daises and shrub, and rest with fallen lemons, drinking their trees' freedom. I thread through clustered transgressions of cacti. Their barbs rip my shirt, bleed my hands. Is it blood trickling from the Pickelhaube, their spikes poised on black-leathered helmets, its gilded brass blinding us? Black cacti; winds flicking the hems of German coats as they rush, black death; planted, released to rip out our hearts. This battle will do it, finish us ....... It is warm, the end of day. I must reach the hill's crest,| lie there in modus vivendi. The maven sun, the vagaries of wind, will peel all hypocrisies from my upturned, accepting face. The bridesmaid, moon, waits behind, with the time I wish for, but am not allowed. I will discard the robes of my life's endeavours, my failures. I will ask for compassion from my maker, and from nature,my master. GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

21


Judgment by others, no longer concerns me. The bells from my eighty years ring softer, gentler.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

22


Highly Commended – Stopped at the Light by Alan Turner Was it The curve or the cheek, The ramp of the nose, The tilt of the head, The shape of the ear, The tone of the skin, Or the sideways glance That arrested me, Put me in jail Of deja-vu?

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

23


Short Story First Place – The Mermaid by Vanessa McKinley „Pack your stuff,‟ she whispered as I drifted back into sleep. I dreamt I was swimming in a blue-green rock pool. I could feel the breeze lifting the hairs on my arms with each stroke. The rocks surrounding the pool were covered with moss that swayed when the waves splashed over the edge. I could hear the sound of the surf washing in and out like someone breathing, soothing my body with its rhythm. „C‟mon, it‟s time to head south.‟ More insistent now as the dream faded and my mother‟s face lunged at me. I could smell the nutty tang of her breath. I continued treading the waters of recent sleep. „Get up, Lily!‟ Anger glinted in her voice. I watched her thin back, the tie dyed cotton dress already clinging to her spine in the heat as she stalked from my room. There were soft thuds as she tossed things into her fraying floral pull along bag. Threads hung limply from the pastel flowers and one of the wheels fell off a few years ago. I could hear her swearing at the cantankerous zipper. I threw off the covers and walked to the bathroom feeling grit from the floorboards on the soles of my feet. I splashed my face with water and gazed at my reflection in the spotted mirror. The pillow had scored my cheek, leaving furrows like tidemarks in the sand. Someone older and sadder stared back. I‟d known it was coming. I could read the signs now. Mum hadn‟t slept the last few nights. I could sense her in the room next to mine. Her disquiet jangled through the walls, demanding my attention. I imagined tears streaking her pale skin. I lay awake and watched the translucent fingernail of moon through greying muslin curtains, longing for morning. Life was unexpected with Mum. There was a terrible, dizzying sense of freedom. School was my consolation. I felt safe in the routine and order of the classroom and was surprised at children who complained about being there. My favourite place was the library. I found solace in books, escaping from reality in pages of adventure where the conclusion was complete and satisfying. Real life was never as tidy. On the few occasions I was invited to play after school, I tried not to act like an observer in the pale peach living rooms and the bedrooms with beds piled with stuffed toys. I worshipped Annabelle Carter, mostly because of her mother. She invited me to play when no-one else was available. Mrs. Carter smelled of fresh makeup and served fairy GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

24


bread on pink plates. „So, you‟re from down south, are you Lily?‟ She made it sound exotic. I nodded and reached for another slice of bread. Away from Mrs. Carter, Annabelle wanted to know about my father. I told her he was the captain of a submarine hit by enemy torpedoes. The men‟s skeletons still drifted about the sunken ship at the bottom of the ocean. It was too deep for them to ever retrieve the bodies. Her mouth made a pink „o‟ as she dressed her dolls while she listened. She plucked tiny clothes from a box and wrenched plastic limbs into wedding dresses or miniskirts and crop tops with high heeled boots, holding them out occasionally for me to admire the outfits. She pondered handbags and miniature earrings with fierce concentration. Annabelle‟s bedroom was the pink of anatomical drawings in books we read furtively at the back of the library. Even her jewellery box was organ pink. I slipped a silver necklace into my pocket. A tiny mermaid hung from the chain and I fingered it compulsively until it was time to leave. I knew it wouldn‟t be missed from the tangle of pendants and charms. Annabelle didn‟t look up when I left, engrossed in a doll wedding which involved most of her toys. Mrs. Carter walked me home when Mum didn‟t turn up to collect me. At the mutinous front gate which had to be jiggled and cajoled into opening, her eyes widened as she took in the riotous garden, the verandah festooned with cobwebs. I ran up the steps, calling, „Bye, thanks for having me!‟ before Mum came out. I glimpsed my mother through the living room window, her cigarette trailing streamers of smoke as she rearranged the bracelets on one white wrist, oblivious to Mrs. Carter‟s agitated presence at the front gate. Mum didn‟t like the girls from school or their bossy mothers. „You don‟t need them. You‟ve got me,‟ she announced, phoning the school to tell them I wouldn‟t be coming back. „But I like school. I want to go to school,‟ I tried. „I‟ll home school you,‟ she said. I heard the principal, Mrs. Clarke‟s voice, tinny though the receiver, „It‟s the law, you know. Lily must attend school,‟ before Mum put the phone down with a bright smile. „No wonder you hated it, Lil,‟ she said. I watched the cartoons until six then woke Mum and made toast for dinner. Bill was away a lot now. I missed the classroom with its smells of mandarin and pencil shavings. I knew there was no going back when I woke to the sound of Mum and Bill shouting when he came back from his trip. „Why do you hate me?‟ her voice was thin and high like the sound from a single violin.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

25


„I don‟t hate you Maeve! I just can‟t live with you anymore. Nothing‟s ever right, you‟re never satisfied. And the drinking…‟ The words chimed through me as I lay holding my breath in the narrow bed. „You have to get your act together Maeve. Go south where you have family to help you. For the kid‟s sake, you have to …‟ „Don‟t bring Lil into it. She‟s nothing to do with you!‟ „I‟m going to stay at a mate‟s for a few days. I want you out of my house when I get back.‟ His voice sounded flat. He left, closing the screen door quietly, as if he didn‟t want to wake me. I didn‟t mind Bill. He was nicer than Nick, who slapped Mum when he‟d had a few drinks. I learned to hide under the bed on Friday nights when we lived with Nick. Before Nick it was John. I don‟t remember much about him. Bill‟s face was tanned and leathery except for his pale, vulnerable forehead. Some weekends, he took us out in his dinghy and Mum sat up the front, trailing her hand through the water, her fingers like white fish. She smiled a funny, crooked smile from under her faded straw hat and gazed out at the houses lining the bay. „I wonder what you have to do to live in one of those?‟ she murmured. „Marry a millionaire, I „spect,‟ Bill answered shortly. I gazed down into the water, watching for the flash of whiting darting in and out of the weed. I was itchy with sweat and longed to dive into the water. I don‟t remember my father. He drowned in a rock fishing accident when I was a baby. I sometimes dream he‟s washed up on the beach. He‟s covered in seaweed and barnacles, crabs crawling from his empty eye sockets. His skin is blue white. Mum sits on my bed and strokes my hair to put me back to sleep when I cry in the night. She talked about him all the time when I was little. „Your father had these dark blue eyes. Almost navy,‟ she said, „the colour of stormy water, I used to tell him.‟ He collected heart shaped stones for her when he went fishing. Mostly grey, the rocks were worn smooth from being tumbled in the ocean. For years she kept a plastic tub of little rock hearts in the bottom of her bag. I don‟t think she has them anymore. Mum threw the bags into the back of the van as the sun cracked over the red roofs and slid across the pavement. I knew better than to ask where we were going. I might have prayed if

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

26


my prayers had been more successful in the past. I would have prayed for a miracle so we could stay here in this white house with its trimmings of blistered green. I saw our neighbour Theresa in her faded chenille dressing gown taking a bag of rubbish to the bin and waved. She grew tomatoes and beans and sometimes passed me fresh veggies over the fence. Theresa cooked huge lunches when her grown up children visited. They sat on plastic chairs in the garden for hours, eating and talking. Sometimes I lay on the patchy grass in the backyard so I could listen to the banter of her family until the mosquitoes started biting and they went home in a flurry of hugs and kisses. Theresa glanced at the van and, sensing gossip, came over to see what was happening. „You two off then?‟ she asked Mum, her face guarded, as if my mother was someone with whom conversations must be cautiously navigated. „Yes, heading south again!‟ Mum fluted. Theresa looked at me, concern creasing her face. „That‟s a shame, you seem so settled, love.‟ „I‟ll be right, Theresa. See ya!‟ The sympathy in her face made my heart pinch. Theresa fiddled with the handle of the shopping bag and stood too far away, uncertain if she should say more. She brushed perspiration from where her moustache would have been and said doubtfully, „All the best then love.‟ The engine spluttered into life as I climbed in next to Mum. I waved again to Theresa as we pulled out. A few minutes and we crossed the Harbour Bridge, the waters slightly shirred by the light breeze. The white sails of the Opera House reminded me of clean washing strung out against a blue sky. „We‟ll go and stay with Nan and Pops for a while,‟ Mum announced as if she‟d only just decided what to do. I watched her hands at the wheel, the nails yellow and bitten short. I didn‟t mind staying with Nan and Pops at their unit in Bateman‟s Bay. Sometimes they took me fishing off the wharf. We‟d throw in hand lines, stunned by the heat and squinting in the glare off the water. I would sniff the plankton smell of the mud and stare out at the bay until everything dazzled and disappeared in the light. We never caught anything so we bought fish and chips on the way home, burning our fingers as we pulled the hot chips through holes torn in the paper. I knew we wouldn‟t stay for long. Mum hated the unspoken criticism, hanging in the air like dust motes. Last time we slept in the foldout lounge and Mum flung her arm across me in the night. I lay awake listening to Pops snoring from the next room. The days were punctuated by meals and cups of strong Bushell‟s tea. A week of this and Mum offered to drive to town and pick up some shopping, appearing at the door pale and red eyed the next afternoon, smelling of stale beer. GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

27


My ears popped as we wound down towards Wollongong. Mum veered into the left lane, readjusting a thigh as she changed gears, her leg making a sound like a band aid being torn off as her flesh stuck to the warm vinyl seat. „Change of plan,‟ Mum‟s voice was girlish, „we‟ll pop in and visit Rob at Stanwell Tops. I haven‟t seen him since high school. I heard he was divorced last year.‟ She nodded to herself and seemed to have forgotten I was there. „He probably needs cheering up. Be glad to see an old flame.‟ „Rob Hartwell,‟ she raised her head and pursed her lips, as though tasting the name. I looked out the window at the fractured cliffs and felt the pointed tail of the silver mermaid in my pocket.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

28


Second Place – One of Them? by Catalina Herrera I sat back in my high back leather chair and watched the city as it was enveloped in silvery dusk being transformed into a sea of lights. I wove a pencil back and forward between my fingers like a miniature baton. I swivelled around to look at the name plate on my desk, “Gavin Watts, Head of Narcotics”. It sounded more formidable than I felt. It had been thirty-six hours since I had attended a crime scene, gathered evidence and had a suspect in custody. Why wasn‟t I feeling euphoric? “Hey, you still here?” I looked up to see Detective Aaron Paisley, tall and burley leaning up against the door frame and chewing on a toothpick. The toothpick was now an ever present appendage since he had given up smoking. “I can‟t help thinking ...” I started but Aaron shook his head, walked over, grabbed my coat and held it open. I reluctantly slipped into it. “That‟s your problem. Just chill out and go home to the wife and kids.” “You‟re right, probably just over thinking it.” I looked at my watch. “It‟s after seven. What are you still doing here?” I challenged. “Hey boss I‟m on the case. Catching up on all that paperwork you‟ve been chasing my tail over.” Then, in a mock plea for sympathy asked, “No way of getting any leniency?” “None,” I said curtly. It had been six months since my promotion and I missed being Aaron‟s partner. Aaron had accused me of becoming “too drunk with power” when I had taken him to task over his ever growing pile of unfinished paperwork but it was the “sickies” he had been taking too many of lately that was getting my goat. Walking out of my office I looked over at Aaron hunched over at his desk and wished I could be as blazé. Nothing seemed to phase him. He lived alone and didn‟t have anyone else to worry about but himself so I supposed he could afford himself some self centeredness and dispensing guilt-free permission to chill out was not a foreign concept to him.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

29


Driving home I caught the end of the half-hour news update. The details about the discovery of the body were already doing the rounds. Detective Brett Campion, Aaron‟s new partner, had rung me a little too excitedly saying, “We have a body!” I had to remind myself how, as a new detective, that rush of adrenalin would give me an instant high but for me the years had replaced it with instant dread. To the uninitiated this type of enthusiasm could be viewed as crass or insensitive but a detective without a crime to solve is like a soldier without a war to fight. A team had already gathered at the scene cordoned off by police tape. The victim looked in her late thirties. The body was found under an oak tree just off the main highway where it rounded a bend. She would have gone unnoticed if not for a passing motorist who couldn‟t wait for the nearest rest stop to relieve himself. A haphazard attempt to conceal it with the surrounding foliage could explain one thing. Had they disturbed the killer? The marks on her neck were consistent with strangulation. The dressing gown over her night dress was still neatly tied around her waist. The slippers remained on both feet. I checked for scuff stains to prove a struggle but it seemed she had offered little resistance, at least there. It was plausible that she had been killed elsewhere and, given the state of the body, only within the last 24 hours. The only clue was a set of tyre tracks matching a 4WD a metre from where she was found. Is that where the anonymous caller had parked their car? Without his identity it was would be a guessing game. The other set were Brett‟s when he arrived on the scene with Aaron. Suddenly Brett called out, “I know who it is!” Pointing at the woman‟s left wrist was a tattoo in the shape of a bow and arrow. “Yeah Maryanne Caller, one of Gillespie‟s girls.” Aaron nodded in agreement. They had raided Gillespie‟s house the day before and found a kilo of heroin under his mattress. Brett seemed pleased with himself and said, “I think we‟ve got our man.” That afternoon Aaron and Brett arrested Gillespie at his parent‟s home and brought him in. After three hours Aaron reported back that Gillespie wasn‟t giving them anything on the murder but were holding him on drug charges. It seemed unusual that Aaron didn‟t seem at all defeated. Usually he was like a dog with a bone.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

30


The following morning Brett met me at the steps of the police station. He was a little wound up, agitated. “What‟s up?” I asked blowing into my hands trying to warm them up. “When we raided Gillespie‟s house he ordered me to search outside while he searched inside. When I came back in I heard Aaron talking and thumps coming from the bedroom but when I tried to look into the room he blocked my view and handed me a kilo of heroine saying, “All done son.” “What are you trying to say?” Brett was about to answer when he stopped short. Looking over my shoulder and then nervously back at me he said in a slow whisper, “We‟ll talk later,” and walked away. “Hey, Gavin!” I turned to see Aaron walking briskly towards me carrying two takeaway coffees. He pushed one into my hand. “He‟s in a bit of a hurry?” Aaron said watching Brett disappear into the building. I shrugged, pretending not to notice Brett‟s abrupt departure. I gratefully took a sip of the hot coffee. Brett was not bogged down with old formulas and rituals that detectives can sometimes become slaves to. A new pair of eyes and ears wasn‟t a bad thing. What had he really heard and seen? Aaron‟s voice brought me back from deep thought. “Sorry for the short notice but I need a week off,” it was a statement rather than a request. “What for?” “My brother Jack called me on the way in. Goin‟ through a rough patch.” “No drama,” I replied It would give me a chance to find out what Brett was alluding to without Aaron hanging around. Once in my office I set down my briefcase and, as I hung my coat, saw Brett navigating the numerous glass partitions as he headed in my direction. I was now both curious and amused

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

31


with the way in which his intense body language bordered on the “cloak and dagger”. He looked spooked and it sent my anxiety level up a notch. I motioned him to the chair and closed the door. “OK, what‟s this about?” “When I was cuffing Gillespie he said „So that‟s the thanks I get? Is this my severance pay after all...?‟ But Aaon shut him down and talked over the top of him reading him his rights.” “That‟s standard procedure,” I said hoping to downplay my growing unease. “I had it under control but Aaron took over the cuffing and led him away. When I asked him what Gillespie was on about he gave me some dumb lecture about not paying too much mind to garbage talking garbage”. “And...?” “Look, I thought it was odd at the time and after finding the body, I‟m just saying...” “Saying what?” I interrupted. “Just saying that Aaron was making sure I wasn‟t privy to what was going down, like he wanted to stop Gillespie talking. At one point in the interview Aaron gave him this weird stare, like kind of an unspoken threat.” An urgent call came in which I was thankful for and I dismissed Brett with a promise to look into it. I scratched the back of my head. Given the absence of hair since I shaved it completely it seemed a little redundant but it was one of the many nervous responses I had begun to acquire since my new appointment. I had to have a chat with Gillespie. Gillespie shifted his weight uneasily in the plastic standard issue interview chair offering up the usual attitude of a criminal used to interrogation. He denied having had anything to do with the murder and didn‟t have an alibi. “Where‟s the 4WD Gillespie?” Gillespie smiled patronisingly, “I don‟t own a 4WD. “

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

32


“I haven‟t got time to play games Gillespie.” “That‟s a shame. Paisley knows how to play nice,” he said sarcastically. “Maryanne Caller is dead. Did she refuse to play?” “You surprise me. You‟re an intelligent man. I‟d be looking at my own.” “Cop out Gillespie – you‟ll have to come up with something better than that.” Gillespie slammed his fist down on the Formica desk and leaned forward. “You know Paisley is more crooked than a crooked mile and I know you suspect him too.” “Enlighten me,” I said trying to sound disinterested. “He‟s trying to frame me! ” He sat back defiant and rigid in his chair and then pointing his finger at me added, “I might be many things but I‟m not a murderer.” “Every kid you get hooked is as good as murdered!” I yelled as I stood up sending my chair flying up against the wall. I was now I was standing over him heaving. I was so wound up I was sure the pounding in my chest was visible through my shirt. “Paisley‟s higher than a kite and yeah I‟m the one who supplied him,” Gillespie volunteered. “Lately he‟s been acting real crazy and just takin‟ and not payin‟ and that‟s as good as bitin‟ the hand that feeds ya. Pretty sure he was using himself or keeping some snitch quiet. So when I cut supply, he stitches me up!” I was reeling. Now one of our own and one of them were saying the same thing. How could I ignore it? I needed to see Aaron face to face. I took the chance he might be home, a chance he would convince me that Gillespie was off his tree. When I pulled up the garage door was open and a silver 4WD was parked inside. When did he get a 4WD? What else didn‟t I know? Then I saw him walk out carrying luggage so I reversed back out of view but enough to see him packing it into the boot.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

33


In his hand was what looked like a passport and plane ticket. I had no choice I calle for back up. Fifteen minutes later Brett pulled up behind me and handed me a bullet-proof vest. Then four other cars pulled up. I said small prayer. Aaron was his usual smiling, arrogant and unapologetic self in the interview room. This was no longer “them against us” but “us against us”. “You don‟t seriously believe I did it?” Aaron said shaking his head. “You‟ve been doing a lot weird shit lately,” I replied “and it isn‟t the first time you‟ve wrapped things up so neatly. “What?” Aaron said obviously offended. “That bust we made a couple of years ago with the Marchants? The one where you conveniently come up with all of evidence? Were they your fix then too? “Are you serious?” asked Aaron. “Are you looking for a modus operandi? Husband gets jealous, kills wife, runs, gets cornered, panics and kills himself. Hardly the same.” “You‟re an addict, why should I believe you? “Me? An addict? For god‟s sake Gavin, I gave up smoking! “Why did you gag Gillespie when Brett was arresting him? Aaron looked exhausted and stared at me for the longest time and then placed his hands over his face. “My brother‟s been doing heroine and he wouldn‟t give up his supplier but I suspected Gillespie. I had been pretending to be a user so I could get access and then I set him up with the heroine under the mattress. I didn‟t expect to be there so I told her to beat it.“ “Or killed her?” “Look, Gillespie knew I‟d set him up but I let Maryanne go because she was the only one I trusted to look out for Jack. Maybe he thought she had been it on it. Who knows.”

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

34


I circled the room. He had provided an answer for everything so far. I took a deep breath. “Then how do you explain your 4WD tyre tracks at the crime scene, the hair from the victim and the belt used to strangle her in the boot of your car? ” Aaron looked me straight in the eye and turning dark shade of crimson said, “I can‟t.” Aaron was sentenced to life without parole and my unit was placed under the highest level of scrutiny. A year later I got a call from Gillespie asking me to come and see him in prison. My stomach turned. “I don‟t like to be conned any more than you do,” he started, “but I have some info that‟s going to blow your mind.” “Go ahead,” I said trying to sound disinterested. “Turns out your man Brett Campion has been mouthing off in my old patch. He threatened one of my girls with the same fate as Maryanne. She also told me Jack is Paisley‟s brother.” He waited from my reaction. I didn‟t react. “I swear I didn‟t know that,” Gillespie said. Again I scratched the back of my head. “How do you think accusing another cop for the same murder is going to help your credibility?” “Look, Maryanne was a piece of work I‟ll admit, and a little ditzy, but she didn‟t deserve to die like that. Jack believes Campion did it and not happy his brother has taken the rap for it. Last I heard he was going to get Campion.” “I don‟t get it. What‟s in it for you? ”I don‟t know why but Maryanne had a soft spot for Jack. Be a shame to end up like his brother, that‟s all.” I needed time to think. I could talk to Aaron but I didn‟t want to alarm him, not just yet. I needed to find out more about Jack. I put in a search in the system and after almost an hour I finally got a match. Jack had a few demeanours but nothing too serious. Searching further I found the name of his mother. I felt the blood drain from my face. Her name was Maryanne GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

35


Caller Paisley. Both his brother and mother were drug addicts. I sat back feeling I had just run a marathon. Then it dawned on me. He wasn‟t blaze. He was just busy trying to save his family. The sudden shrill of the phone startled me. I looked down at the screen and almost dropped it. A chill ran down my spine. It was Brett. “We have a body,” he said excitedly. I froze. It sounded oddly familiar. Then he added, “I know who it is.”

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

36


Third Place – The Heart Remembers by Lynda Grant Prologue The soldier lay slumped, his hair bloodied. Each breath burned like flames down his throat. Yet, he struggled on, dragging his limp body inch-by-inch, desperate to reach the safety of his compound. Gunfire echoed through the scorching heat. The battle raged on. Fatigue envelops her, squeezing the air from her lungs. The weight of his pain is too much to bear. She can‟t breathe. Burning sand is all around her. She struggles to focus - her vision blurred - a sea of red. Then nothing. ________________________ The twisted doona clamped between her thighs and a thin sheen of sweat on her brow was the only evidence of Grace‟s nightmare. The soldier‟s pain was gone. She pulled the doona up to her chin, rolled over and waited for her breathing to return to normal. Since moving from Moura to the Gold Coast three weeks before, Grace had been troubled by a recurring nightmare. But who was the soldier whose death she felt night after night? Unable to see his face. Unable to reach out and hold him. Why did she feel that their lives were inexplicably linked? __________________________ Grace Alden lingered at the school gate trying desperately to calm the erratic beating of her heart. Her deep breathing did nothing to ease the gnawing in the pit of her stomach as she thought about her first day at a new school, in a new city. Not ideal to change schools in year twelve, let alone mid-year! But hey, she didn‟t really have a choice in the matter.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

37


“Hajimemashita Grace-san,” her new Japanese class greeted her in unison. She blushed and smiled awkwardly, casting her eyes around for an empty seat. And then she saw him. A familiar face in a classroom full of strangers. Grace had no idea who he was or where she‟d seen him before but she was drawn to him. The boy looked so alone, seated on the far side of the room, an empty chair beside him. Without hesitation, she made her way over and sat straight down. Tait Bell smiled distractedly at his new classmate. “Where have I seen her before?” he thought, experiencing a strong sense of déjà vu. As the teacher directed the class in their Japanese oral practice, giving them the topic of career aspirations, Tait registered that the new girl was saying something to him. “Yep sure, I don‟t mind speaking first,” he replied. Her new classmate introduced himself in halting Japanese, stumbling over some difficult phrases. Grace smiled encouragingly, helping him along when needed. A mass of flaxen curls danced around his face as he spoke. His long fringe concealed an eyebrow, and bobbed up and down like a spring. Honestly, you‟d think he‟d stepped straight out of the pages of a Greek myth. Not even Cupid himself could boast such adorable, cherubic features, she thought. And she‟d certainly never seen his peaches and cream complexion on any face past infancy let alone on a boy so obviously in the process of becoming a man. In the space of five minutes Grace had felt such a connection to Tait Bell that it was like she‟d known him forever. It was only when Tait spoke about his plans to become a soldier in the Australian army that Grace‟s smile disappeared and her stomach twisted. Soldier! She absorbed his words, panic rising inside her. Is he the soldier in my dreams? _____________________ Stepping into a hot shower had always been a welcome part of Grace‟s day and tonight was no exception. She leaned against the tiled wall and let her mouth fall open to catch the water as her mind processed the day‟s events. Warm streams cascaded down her face. Images of her new school, the teachers and of course, Tait Bell, tumbled through her mind like bingo balls, each one surfacing time and again. Am I dreaming of his future? Of his death? Am I GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

38


here to save him? She wondered; leaning further into the water until her whole body was awash. This is the place where Grace felt most at peace, cocooned in a blanket of water. It may seem strange to others, she knew, but most of the time Grace felt too alive - too sensitive to the world around her. Truth be known, Grace had always been aware that she was „different‟. From an early age she‟d „known‟ things about others. She‟d sensed their moods by merely „feeling‟ the air around them and she‟d experienced prophetic dreams. Seeing the town‟s only hairdresser, Chloe Loch, melt and die before her eyes was one of the worst. The dream had started quite innocently. She was eight years old, sitting in the hairdresser‟s chair getting her customary bob complete with short, blunt fringe. When she was done, Chloe showed Grace her handy work in the mirror before giving her a lollipop. Grace turned to thank the hairdresser and her heart seemed to stop. Chloe‟s body had morphed into a waxen candle. Her long blonde curls dissolved right before Grace‟s eyes, her whole body melting. Chloe was dead within a month of Grace‟s nightmare. Of course, Grace was extremely confused and upset. Her mother tried to explain that Chloe had terminal cancer and she had only been given a short time to live so Grace‟s dream was just her imagination, but Grace knew differently. She never told her mother about the visit she received from Chloe after her death - or about the message of love Chloe asked Grace to pass on to her husband, to give him some comfort in his time of grief. Grace didn‟t understand these strange occurrences herself, so how could she expect her mother to? Her mother‟s gentle knock on the bathroom door signalled that her ten minutes of peaceful solitude was up. With a sigh Grace turned off the taps. She stepped from the shower recess, grabbed her towel and looked into the bathroom mirror. Her warm body seemed to glow in the heat of the atmosphere. She turned on the exhaust fan and studied her reflection. Her mousy-brown bob hung in a dripping mess – a far cry from its usual pixie-like, textured style. As she looked into her eyes and drew closer to the mirror, Grace noticed movement in her peripheral vision. The humid air of the bathroom swirled all around as she stared deeply into each hazel iris. At that moment, an intense pain swept across Grace‟s forehead, pulsing rapidly between her brows. Rhythmic waves bombarded every pore of her skin until her whole body was throbbing GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

39


in cadent vibration. The pain faded and the sensation that remained was not unpleasant. She felt almost weightless, detached from the burden of her body. A calm peace surrounded her. And that was when she first saw him. His wide, dark eyes were compelling. They studied Grace intently, gauging her reaction. His features were minutely visible, yet were not confined to the limits of a skull. A perfect corporeal face amid a haze of vapour. She hurried to absorb every aspect of the spectre knowing he could disappear any moment: wavy, golden hair, tanned; yet translucent skin and lips just like soft ruby pillows. Grace's heartbeat quickened, "he's gorgeous!" she thought. The spirit smiled warmly. He looked, to Grace, to be about thirty years of age and he looked … achingly familiar. And then, he was gone. She blinked. Her trance-like state was broken. The weight of her body snapped back like a rubber band stretched too far. She clutched the bathroom counter for support. Had she forgotten to breathe? Her heart sputtered then accelerated rapidly. No matter how much air she gasped it wasn‟t enough. Close to hyperventilation, she turned from the mirror and sank to her knees. “Honey, are you all right in there?” Her mother‟s worried voice was barely audible above the sound of the exhaust fan and the drumming of her heart. She shivered and heaved her naked body off the bathroom floor. “I‟m fine Mum… I‟ll be out soon,” she replied, as evenly as she could. Wrapping herself tightly in her towel, Grace stood before the mirror once again and tried to slow down her breathing. With each deep breath, the pounding in her head eased until all that remained was the longing in her heart. _________________________

In bed that night, Grace reached for her iPod and slipped on the earphones. She hit play and turned it up loud in an attempt to drown out all of the questions flitting through her mind.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

40


Why do I see these things? Why am I here? It all feels so familiar yet foreign at the same time - like having a word on the tip of your tongue but never quite finding it. Determined to concentrate on the music and only the music, Grace finally began to relax. As she drifted nearer to sleep, two final questions bubbled into consciousness… Who was the spirit in my bathroom and why did it hurt so much to see him disappear? A pungent spiced aroma assaulted Grace‟s senses and she roused to find herself in a small, cluttered room. Plumes of burning incense rose from a stick on the table before her. Rainbow coloured scarves covered the walls like wallpaper. She relaxed back into her chair, appreciating the fragrance surrounding her. Soon, the haze of incense thinned and she noticed the exotic woman seated before her. Eyes like shimmering pools of ebony gazed back at Grace from across the table. Her caramel skin glowed in ethereal beauty though her lips were pursed in a kind of half smile. The soft band of silk that framed the woman‟s face went some way to taming the wild black curls beneath it and despite her striking appearance she was ultimately a picture of serenity. Grace looked deeper into the woman‟s face, her instincts demanding she search beyond the gypsy‟s façade. Looking into those round, knowing eyes all awareness of time and matter dissolved. She felt weightless. Suspended in a dark abyss though logically she knew she hadn‟t moved a muscle from the chair. Beyond the darkness Grace could sense warmth and light. Instantly she felt totally aware, like the moment of epiphany when confusion is replaced by understanding. She could only later reflect on that feeling as love. The love and protection a baby would feel, wrapped in its mother‟s arms. The unconditional purity of a love that spans the length and breadth of the universe, yet ultimately knows no bounds. Grace stretched out her arm, reaching for the light, eager to remain in this blanket of peaceful love. At once, the light disappeared returning her new found illumination to darkness. And again, all Grace could feel was the omniscient gaze of the exotic woman. “You know me Grace,” urged the woman. “We have shared many lifetimes together. You have learned much yet have further still to understand. Fear not. Have faith. I will always be here to guide you.”

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

41


Anxiety crept its way through Grace‟s calm like spreading vines of ivy. She could feel her heartbeat gain momentum, the wings of a hummingbird flapping furiously in her chest. Despite her words, the intensity of the woman‟s gaze frightened Grace. She tried to look away, to break the stare. “I don‟t understand,” she uttered slowly, dropping her chin and shaking her head in confusion. “I don‟t understand!” she said, louder now searching the woman‟s face beseechingly for answers. Grace leaned forward, angered now by the woman‟s unaffected serenity. She gripped the table and screamed at her – shattering the eerie silence of her dreamscape. “I don‟t UNDERSTAND.” Jolted into consciousness, shivers ran up and down the length of Grace‟s spine. “Don‟t be afraid,” whispered a gentle voice. Grace‟s tension dissolved in an instant, calmed by his soothing tone. She turned her head toward the loving energy that lingered in the air and found a grown man, in uniform, crouching beside her bed, his face a mere breath from her own, his body suspended in vapour. It registered at once – the face in the bathroom - “It‟s you!” she gasped. Her eyes examined every inch of him, wanting desperately to burn his image into memory. The spectre smiled shyly under Grace‟s scrutiny, understanding her thoughts. He stood beside her bed, straightened his shoulders and placed his right palm over his heart, then spoke. “Close your eyes, my love. You carry me in your heart not in your mind. Though I know you see the future, fear not, for in your dreams you have remembered the past - a lifetime past in the many we have shared. I left you then and must leave you now, but I promise we will meet again and you will know me then.” Grace watched the spectre‟s hand fall to his side. Resignation masked his beauty. He turned away as if someone in the distance had called his name, yet Grace did not hear nor see anyone else. And in an instant, he was gone. GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

42


A peaceful calm washed over her, gently sinking her body further into the mattress. Despite the ever-increasing questions invading her mind, the sudden fatigue she felt pushed them all away. As she pulled up the doona and closed her eyes for the last time that night, the veil of darkness lifted and at last, she saw his face. The soldier stood beyond the white picket fence. He was willing to give his life for his country. Willing to fight the Germans. But looking back at the small wooden home he shared with his beautiful wife and son, he knew he had so much to lose. His young wife stood on the verandah, stemming her tears with a lace handkerchief. She saw the fear and the pain in his eyes. And she knew how hard it was for him to leave her. She tucked the long fringe of her mousy-brown bob gently behind her ear, and found the strength to smile. The soldier placed his right palm over his heart. Her smile widened as she mirrored the gesture. And on her hip the toddler sat, flaxen curls bobbing up and down like springs, as he waved his father off to war.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

43


Writing for Children First Place – Coming Home by Jemma van de Nes On the morning of Vin‟s 13th birthday, his mum slept in and the rubbish truck didn‟t come. Bad things always happen in threes and he wondered what could possibly be next. At the bus stop, Dan greeted him with a smile but no mention of his birthday. “There she is.” Dan nudged him. Vin counted to ten before he turned to look. But when he did, she was gone. “Next time,” Dan consoled him. “Maybe next birthday,” he joked. “Oh, so you do remember,” Vin huffed. His left eye twitched and inside his head he could hear the echo of his brother‟s gravelly voice singing, “I‟ll be home for your next birthday.” Dan feigned shock and hurt. “Me? Forget your birthday? The best day to –“ “Hey, move up.” An older student from their school pushed them to the doors of the bus. Vin stumbled up the steps, into a wall of sweat, deodorant and bubblegum. Dan bumped into him and they fell into a seat at the front. Vin quickly stepped back into the aisle to let Dan – a fan of the window seat on all modes of transport – scramble past. The older boy looked at them as he sauntered up the aisle and shook his head, laughing. Dan stared out the window, absently brushing hair out of his eyes, so Vin rummaged in his bag for his tattered copy of The Lonely Planet Guide. It was an old version; the photos showing a bright, vibrant city and sunsets of pink and orange hues peeking through peaceful mountain passes. Not the desolate brown landscape that he‟d read about in the emails that no longer arrived in his inbox. The bus arrived long before the bell, but Vin and Dan had a pre-class routine. Dan had other friends he sat with near the gym where they talked about football and soccer. Vin preferred the quiet foyer of the music room and art studios. One wall was lined with lockers for the senior students and the other was covered in large framed photos of students from theatre, GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

44


dance, comedy and music performances. Vin stood silently before a photo that was ten years old, a pink mohawk screaming at him from behind the drum kit. And those eyes – dark and wild, lost in a rhythm, consumed by a beat so intense Vin could almost hear it from where he stood now. Then the bell rang. His first lesson was Japanese. They sat on cushions on the floor because the teacher had shortened the legs of the desks with an angle grinder. Today she wore a lime green kimono and told the students sitting at her feet that they were going to learn how to write their names in the squiggly script that made everyone feel clever. Well, that‟s what Vin thought she‟d said, being that she spoke in Japanese and the class talked right over her as if she was just an ancient Japanese doll decorating the front of the room. She warned them that most of their names would be pronounced differently because some sounds in English aren‟t used in Japanese and the class was eager to hear whose name would be the funniest. It turned out to be Vin‟s. There‟s no “V” sound in Japanese and it is replaced with a “B”. Everyone giggled, but Vin thought it was perfect. It was the first good thing to happen on his birthday. Next was science with Dan. Vin lined up his pens and pencils and scissors and glue and ruler along the top of his desk. When the teacher brushed past and Vin‟s row of stationery fell to the floor, Dan scrambled to pick everything up. Vin could hear the voices creeping into his head and he didn‟t know which one would come out aloud. Would it be his dad‟s yell, his brother‟s whisper, his mum‟s cry or even that counsellor‟s nasally drone? Vin‟s breathing quickened and his skin felt sticky and steamy, like he‟d stepped out of a hot shower into an even hotter room. Thankfully Dan lined everything up just right at the top of Vin‟s desk and the voices were silenced. In home economics, Vin sat at one of the Brother sewing machines and listened to the friendly fire of needles bobbing in and out of fabric from the machines around him. “How many pencils are you planning on putting in that?” asked the teacher, comparing his project with others in the class. “It‟s not a pencil case,” he mumbled as he threaded the last of the cord through to make the draw string. GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

45


“And they‟re not your initials on the front either,” stated the teacher. “No, they‟re not,” said Vin, admiring his finished project. After school, Dan met him at the bus stop. “Let‟s walk,” he said. Vin hesitated, rooted to the spot, as if his feet were stuck in wet concrete. His dad‟s voice startled him from inside his own brain and shouts of “You step out of this house, you step out of our lives!” punctured the silence that had been there just a moment ago. “What‟s waiting for you at home anyway?” “Uh, my mum?” said Vin. “Who will be sleeping. Again” “She had night shift, Dan.” “And your dad‟s at work,” Dan said, looking sideways at Vin. “Yeah, work,” Vin said, swinging his backpack over his shoulders. “So, let‟s go.” Vin ran with Dan through a park and across a bridge into a familiar street where they skidded to a stop. The empty green wheelie bins were lined up like soldiers standing to attention. Their lids were banging in the breeze, the same sporadic beat as the unsteady pounding in Vin‟s chest. “I saw them from the bus this morning.” Dan smiled. “I knew your bin day had changed and that today was …” Dan looked at the ground. He dropped his bag onto the grass. “And in science, I saw the girl -” “You mean -” “Yeah, her. I saw her pencil case. It‟s one of those little bin things. Remember them, from ages ago?”

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

46


“Kind of.” But Vin had no idea what Dan was talking about and who would want a toy bin for a pencil case anyway? Bins were good for one thing and one thing only. His hands twitched. “Not many people home.” Dan looked around at the empty driveways and closed curtains. This was the second good thing to happen on his birthday. Vin shrugged his backpack off and whipped out the drumsticks from the newly made black denim “pencil case”. They were his older brother‟s sticks. His brother the punk rock drummer who‟d shaved off his pink mohawk and one day – this day, a year ago – had followed orders and marched to the beat of someone else‟s drum to a place from where he did not return. Ricocheting between his ears was his mother‟s cry of “Why? Why? Why?” and his skin prickled. A heady mix of salty, tear-stained memories, stale garbage and the sweet smell of his brother‟s drumsticks stirred Vin into action. He struck one bin and then the next, jumping from lawn to lawn, bin to bin. He belted out a rhythm on each bin that was sure to wake his mum in the next suburb. Long strands of hair were plastered to his forehead and his limbs were everywhere at once. He was like a captured animal finally released from its chains. Vin could feel Dan watching him from someone‟s front lawn and he let go, becoming the crazy person he knew he was, which was different to the crazy person everyone said he was. Finally Vin turned and looked up from a bin as a girl – the girl – appeared from her house behind Dan. Vin saw caution flare in Dan‟s eyes, and he could sense Dan willing him to stop flinging himself all over the place. Exhausted, Vin stopped drumming and wandered over, taking it all in his stride, like he‟d seen his brother do. As if this was normal. As if he was normal. As if. “I wondered what the racket was,” she smiled. “We go to the same school, right?” Dan and Vin nodded. “What‟s the occasion?” she asked, smiling at Vin. He smiled back. This was the third good thing to happen on his birthday. He‟d tempted fate, he‟d stood at the crossroads and good had prevailed. Maybe things could fall into place for him. Maybe he could fall into place. Without his brother. Despite his father. For his mother.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

47


“It‟s his birthday,” Dan answered. “The best day … to march to the beat of your own drum,” Vin said, taking a deep breath and using the deep, scratchy voice his brother had used when he‟d last said those words. She laughed. “May I?” she asked, reaching for the drumsticks. Vin and Dan stood shoulder to shoulder, watching the girl as she marched and saluted with the drum sticks. She struck the bins with force and the beat was uplifting and powerful. Then, instead of the girl, Vin saw his brother marching to this beat in his crisp dress uniform before a crowd of family and friends. And Vin was there, on the sidelines, cheering him on beside their proud mother. When the girl looked up and winked, it was his brother‟s eyes he saw and it was his brother who he felt tugging at his heart, pulling him close, taking him back to that day when Vin had stood on the periphery, like he did with everything, and had watched his brother‟s back, tall and rigid, strong and invincible … as he walked away. Something bumped his side. Until that day, his brother had always kept him close, letting him know he was nearby with a punch to the arm or a ruffle of his tangled hair. Vin held his breath, hoping, praying, wishing. Could he be …? “You okay?” Dan whispered, nudging Vin‟s shoulder. Vin blinked and shook his head. The girl was heading back towards them, skipping and laughing. A streak of pink in her braid caught Vin‟s eye. Vin remembered that last night with his brother, in his usual wrinkled shirt and jeans, sneaking out with Vin after dinner, dancing in the shadows of the streetlights as they counted down to zero and struck their first bin. He heard the crack that shattered the silence and the laughter that followed. He was reminded of what he‟d had and what he‟d lost. Today, for his birthday, his brother came home.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

48


Second Place – Ruby Orange and the Yowie by Zoya Nojin „Hey Fruity!‟ Ruby groaned and cursed her name again. Orange for a last name and orange coloured hair didn‟t get you many friends in this town. She‟d been lazing in the shade by the river, her fingers trailing in the cool water on this summery morning. Gazing up Old Man Mountain, she‟d watched the woolly clouds hugging the green slope and the wedge-tailed eagles soaring majestically underneath. How annoying to be interrupted by Snoz and his gang! „Trying to spot the yowie‟s den up Old Man are ya?‟ Snoz sniggered and pulled her crinkly hair as she jumped up. Ruby clenched her fists and then her teeth for extra measure. „My dad says the big hairy beast will stuff ya under a rock „til he‟s ready to crunch up yer bones!‟ Snoz sneered at her as his friends laughed. „You wouldn‟t dare go up there would ya, Fruitloop?‟ Ruby bit her tongue. „You‟re chicken!‟ he hissed. „I bet ya wouldn‟t go. You‟re not a fruit, Orange, you‟re a chicken!‟ Then he clucked and flapped his arms in her face. And Ruby burned with rage, her scalp prickling to the roots of her flaming hair. How she hated Snoz! But her grandmother was tired of Ruby coming home with ripped shirts and black eyes. She said young ladies didn‟t fight, they bit their tongue. So Ruby had accepted Snoz‟s challenge through clenched teeth, but only to avoid her grandmother‟s sad sighs and tsk-ing tongue. „So now I‟m climbing a flipping mountain, when I should have just bopped Snoz in his big nose.‟ Ruby sighed as she began her ascent up the enormous peak.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

49


Step, slog, plod, wipe the sweat. Stomp, stamp, tramp, move her hair. Ruby scrambled over dry gum leaves and brown tussock grass, disrupting the chant of nearby cicadas as she clambered and climbed. Eucalyptus, mixed with the sour smell of wallaby dung, clung in the humid air as she weaved around giant sandy termite mounds and creamy-barked kurrajong trees. „I‟m not tired yet,‟ she said to a large bull ant scurrying out of the way of her sneakers, though her legs were beginning to ache just a little. But she was determined to go on. She was going to be the first kid in school to climb Old Man Mountain and come down with a black wedgetailed eagle feather. That was the bet. Puffing and panting, Ruby pushed herself up the steep slope. Snoz had said she must find a wedgie feather to prove she‟d been up the mountain. But as the sweat trickled down her neck and her chest heaved harder, she began to wonder if any old black feather would do. Did the eagles even come down this far? She must be halfway up Old Man by now. She stopped and looked back through trees to the valley far below. She could just make out the red roofs of her small country town, the people like black dots, the river a snaking silver string. Then she squinted out to the swerve and dip of distant hills dimming to blue-green in the haze. Yep! Pretty high now! Her throat was dry and she decided to have a rest and a drink. She found a smooth flat stone jutting out of the hill next to the bare roots of a tall scribbly gum. Just beyond the trunk was the gaping yawn of the biggest wombat hole she‟d ever seen. It stared darkly at her, but she shrugged and sat anyway. She swung the strap of her metal water bottle around and took a swig of warm water. Not very satisfying, but still wet. For a while she examined the orange squiggles branding the pale bark of the scribbly gum, marking the worn trail of an insect. Then a rustle in the bushes down the slope drew her eye. A black-furred wallaby stood watching her, its soft brown eyes unblinking as it stood, statue still.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

50


Ruby had a weird feeling that she‟d seen that wallaby before, standing in exactly that spot, between the scraggly stems of a mint bush and a kurrajong, that brown tussock in front, just so. The afternoon sun had shone through the dappled leaves like that, moving about the wallaby‟s face and she had been sitting on this very stone, watching the scene play out in front of her. But how could that be? She‟d never even climbed this mountain before! The wallaby suddenly bounded off down the mountain, it‟s dark tail bobbing wildly as it crashed through the undergrowth, dodging this way and that. Ruby squinted after it, trying to capture the moment again in her head. Where had she seen that image before? It wasn‟t as if it was an extraordinary scene to make her remember it, if it had happened before. The wallaby didn‟t have red shoes on or a clown nose. Why would she bother to remember it then? Ruby shook her head. She‟d heard of déjà vu, the feeling you‟ve seen the exact same thing before, and put it down to that. „Tricky,‟ she muttered. „Tricky, tricky, tricky,‟ echoed down into the wombat hole. Ruby gulped and wished she hadn‟t spoken out loud. It was a bad habit of hers, being an only child and all. She heard the eerie creak of old bark falling off distant gumtrees and decided it was time to go. She put the lid back on the water bottle and stood up. That‟s when she felt something was watching her. She swung around and gasped at the large furry beast sitting on the stone where‟d she‟d been only moments before. Enormous green eyes blinked at her through its eucalyptcoloured hair, the perfect camouflage for the bush. „Are…are you a yowie?‟ she stammered. „Yowie.‟ It nodded. „Yowie thirsty.‟ It eyed her water bottle hanging by her side. Ruby was about to give him a drink when she thought of something.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

51


„Have you seen a wedge-tailed eagle feather?‟ The yowie pointed up the hill. „Feathers up high.‟ He held out his large hand for a drink. Ruby narrowed her eyes, holding her bottle close. „You don‟t eat children do you?‟ The yowie‟s face contorted in disgust. „No! I eats gumtree bark and gumtree sap.‟ He opened his mouth wide and Ruby saw square teeth ground down to pale stumps, much like a cow‟s. „Hmm. Well I need a wedgie feather. How about I give you a drink if you get me a feather first?‟ The yowie looked pained. „Throat so dry!‟ But Ruby was adamant. „Feather, then drink.‟ After all, how did she know the yowie would stick around after she gave it some water? The yowie stared at her for a bit. Then it jabbed a furry finger at the wombat hole. „Short cut up mountain. Come.‟ Ruby backed away from the horrible dark hole surrounded by spider webs. She shook her orange head. „I can‟t. A wombat will scratch my eyes out! There could be a cave-in! I could suffocate!‟ „No wombats here. Only short cut.‟ He knelt down at the hole and poked his head in. „See? I go first.‟ „Yowie, I can‟t!‟ Ruby wailed. „It‟s too dark!‟ The yowie got up and patted her arm, its soft fur tickling her bare skin. „Yowie‟s eyes light way.‟ Ruby frowned. Could it be true? But then, could a yowie be true? She nodded cautiously. Well, an Orange was always brave, that‟s what her grandmother said. The yowie knelt down at the wombat hole and Ruby followed. Bare knees on stony dirt was not going to be fun, she thought, as Yowie‟s furry bottom blocked the hole for a moment. Ruby grabbed one of his feet. She was not going to lose him and be stuck in the dark forever. GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

52


The yowie turned at her touch and Ruby gasped. His eyes did glow, like dim green light bulbs sweeping the narrow black tunnel. Ruby kept her hand lightly on the yowie‟s foot as they continued to crawl up a steep slope. A dank underground smell went up her nose along with her hanging ticklish hair. She sneezed in the dust and shivered. It was getting cooler, the deeper they went. I hope we‟re not going to crawl the whole way! If it wasn‟t for the furry foot in her hand, Ruby thought she might just be in a nightmare. After what could have been five minutes or maybe five hours, Ruby wasn‟t sure, the yowie‟s foot slipped out of her hand as he stood up. A vast cave had opened up under the mountain, the high ceiling glinting in the eerie glow of green eyes. Ruby stood too, her eyes adjusted to the dark and she gasped in amazement. Beautiful sparkly white crystals hung from the ceiling and cascaded down the walls. Sharp crystal spires poked their glittery fingers up through the cave floor and swirled in stunning patterns wherever she looked. „So pretty! A crystal cave under Old Man Mountain!‟ „Pretty?‟ Yowie humphed. „Come, look.‟ He dragged her between the shimmering stalagmites to a dark rocky shelf. „Treasures!‟ he stated proudly. „Pretty!‟ Ruby squinted at the odd assortment of things on the shelf, dull in the pale glow. A bottle cap, an empty tin of baked beans, a rusty bike bell and a broken belt buckle. „Er, very nice,‟ she said, not wanting to offend him and wondering if it was just a coincidence everything started with „B‟ or if he just like metal things. He picked up the bell and pressed the lever. A tired ring gurgled out and echoed through the cave. The yowie closed his eyes happily and Ruby was plunged into darkness. „Yowie! The feather, remember!‟ She didn‟t like the icy dark.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

53


The yowie opened his eyes and put the bell back on the shelf. He nodded and lumbered up a slope at the back of the cave. Higher and steeper they climbed, and the walls began to close in around them again. Not more tunnels! Ruby‟s head began to scrape the rocky ceiling and she bent into a crouch. Just when she thought they would have to begin crawling, she saw a patch of daylight. She would have run forward if the yowie hadn‟t held her back. „Eagles get scared.‟ „But we want them to be scared away. I just want a feather dropped from around their nest.‟ But the yowie shook his head. „Scared birds attack. Go slowly.‟ Ruby bit her tongue and nodded, though she had to dig her fingers into her hands as well. Young ladies went slowly, she reminded herself. As they crept towards the light, Ruby could make out large dark flapping shapes near the exit. The wedgies were huge! She forgot that they often hunted large possums and even wallabies to eat. Would they attack her? As they neared the wide exit, Ruby decided to stay back in the shadow of the tunnel and let Yowie get the feather. She peered out and saw two enormous black birds standing watching the valley spreading below. And it was completely unrecognisable. They must be on the other side of the mountain! Valleys and hills moulded themselves around an enormous lake, shining in the glare of summertime. The yowie quietly stepped out and the two birds turned to look at him, their curved white beaks looking very sharp under their piercing hazel eyes. Ruby stared at their sleek black feathers folded neatly, finishing in a wedge-shaped tail and running down their legs like wispy black pants. There seemed to be no feathers on the ground around them. What were they to do?

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

54


Yowie bowed and explained his need for a feather. The birds looked in the cave and saw her standing there, before Yowie beckoned her out. Slowly she stepped out of the tunnel and watched the wedgies‟ eyes widen in astonishment. She couldn‟t have known that her bright orange hair shone like a burning flame in the brilliant midday sun. One of the birds whistled. „Hair for feather,‟ Yowie translated. Ruby frowned. „My hair is stuck to my head!‟ „Feather stuck too. Hair make soft nest for chick.‟ Ruby sighed, then began tugging at her hair. She cried out as Yowie yanked a large clump of frizz out by the roots. „Yowie!‟ Her eyes watered as she rubbed the sore spot. Yowie shrugged and passed her hair to one of the eagles. The other bird bowed its head and plucked a feather from its chest. Pluck for pluck, Ruby thought, as Yowie bowed to the birds and went back inside the cave. Ruby bowed too and followed him. When would she get her feather? The low tunnel began to widen as they moved back inside and Ruby shivered again in the cold. They reached the wide cavern soon enough, but Yowie kept going, heading towards the way they had come in. Ruby followed the green glow past the glittering crystals and into the narrow tunnel again. Just before they had to begin crawling and Ruby could see the distant white light of day, Yowie stopped. „Feather for water,‟ he said, holding out his hand with the long black feather. Ruby took the feather and passed him her water bottle, noticing the gleam in his eyes at its metal casing. „You can keep the bottle, Yowie,‟ she said. It would be nice for his metallic „B‟ collection. „Keep bottle?‟ Yowie smiled and grabbed her.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

55


Oh no, he‟s going to eat me now! But the yowie just squeezed her in a tight bear hug. Ruby sighed into his leafy-smelling fur. Must be lonely, she thought. Yowie let her go and waved a big hand in farewell. „Aren‟t you coming out?‟ she asked. „No, too hot. Sleep now.‟ Ruby waved then too and crawled in a hurry towards the daylight, clutching the feather in her hand. She finally scrambled out and dragged herself up onto the big rock, panting and pushing her hair off her face. Then she heard a rustle down the slope. A black-furred wallaby stood watching her, its soft brown eyes unblinking as it stood, statue still. Dappled shade played over its face as it paused between the scraggly stems of a mint bush and a kurrajong, a large brown tussock in front. Ruby frowned. Hadn‟t she seen that scene before? Was she going mad? She searched for something different, about the scene or herself. I know! Scraped knees, sore head, missing bottle and a sleek black wedgie feather! She held up the inky plume and smiled, just as the wallaby bounded off down the hill. „Weird!‟ she said. Weird, weird, weird, echoed down the wombat hole. Oh no, not that again! And with that, she jumped up and ran as fast as she could down the rugged slope, chasing the bobbing tail of the wallaby. Déjà vu might be stuck up on Old Man Mountain, but Ruby Orange wasn‟t, young lady or not!

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

56


Third Place – Shopping at Mr Zen’s by Dianne Morris Callie and her Mum were in the fruit and vegetable shop owned by Mr. Zen. „I‟m glad I have you to help,‟ said Mum to Callie. „You are very good at choosing. It‟s a bit hard for me with your brother.‟ Joe was nearly one, and his hands were everywhere. Callie didn‟t mind. She loved all the fruit and vegetables because they looked and smelt so good. She had a secret world in Mr. Zen‟s shop. When Mum said „I need six washed potatoes‟, Callie chose the smoothest, shiniest moonstones. She followed the trail through a dark forest and out again. When Mum asked for four oranges Callie picked four golden suns. She floated in the sky with their soft, warm glow. When Mum wanted two bunches of red grapes, Callie held up the emperor‟s jewels. She made a precious necklace for his princess daughter. When she was asked to choose a bunch of celery, Callie brought back a tall green crystal mountain after she had climbed it. She saw choirs of strawberries with their red robes and green collars. She saw tightly wooded green mountainsides of broccoli. She looked at pumpkin armchairs and carrot rafts; tomato cushions and sweet potato logs. She looked at lettuce dresses, pear ladies, apple balls, coconut dogs with spiky coats and red watermelon lakes with clusters of black fish swimming in them. One day at Mr. Zen‟s fruit and vegetable shop, Joe escaped from his push-chair. Mum became more and more worried as they searched the aisles, calling his name. „He crawls fast and has started to walk‟, she told the people in the shop. „He could be anywhere.‟

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

57


Callie heard the wobble in her mother‟s voice, and saw the empty push-chair. She thought about Joe. Joe loved dirt and stones. He played in the dirt and threw the stones. There was no dirt and no stones in Mr. Zen‟s shop. Joe liked tractors and dogs. There was a wire haired terrier next door called Rusty. Joe liked to pat him when he came to the fence. There were no tractors in here, and no dogs. No dogs. Callie looked up to Mr. Zen. „Excuse me, do you have more coconuts here?‟ „Yes‟, said Mr. Zen. His beaming face looked worried. „Over there.‟ He pointed to a big box on the floor in the corner of his shop. Callie let go her mother‟s hand and rushed over to it. Joe was lying at the bottom cuddling a coconut and patting it hard. He laughed when she called his name. Mum raced up. Her eyes looked teary. She picked him up and gave him a big cuddle. But Joe twisted round and pointed to the box of coconuts. He started to cry. Mr. Zen bent down and picked one up. He gave it to Joe. „Celebration,‟ he said. „No charge‟. Joe stopped crying and patted the coconut. And only Callie knew why. And she knew what to do next time they came to Mr. Zen‟s shop.

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition

www.goldcoastwriters.org.au

58

GCWA 2011 Adult Writing Competition  

Winning Entries Compilation

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you