Magnificent questions our relationship to people, identity and place by connecting extraordinary actions and everyday lives. Published fourmonthly in Tasmania, Australia, each edition of Magnificent celebrates the local, is FREE to subscribers. With a screwed up identity – part magazine, part documentary, part novel, Magnificent presents a unique twist on the Nineteenth-Century novella – short tales of country life brought to, and orated in the city. True to historical form, each edition will turn around a single incident or significant issue. Issue one / Acknowledgements and support The community of King Island, Tasmania. Country Women’s Association, King Island Beef, King Island Cultural Centre, King Island District High School, Senior Citizens Association, Joy Afflick, Nigel and Mavis Burgess, Craig Constable, Robyn Eades, Elba and Bob Jordan, Sally Marsden, Val and Arthur Marshall, Duncan McFie, Les Mitchell, Jim Murphy, James Newitt, June Payne and Pixie, Sylvia Ransley, Don and Greta Robertson, Shirley Stebbings, Wilf and Cynthia Stellmaker, Aaryn Wardlaw, Margaret Woodward.
This project was assisted by Arts Tasmania by the Minister for Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without prior permission from the artist Justy Phillips. If you seek permission to reproduce any part of this publication, please contact the artist directly — firstname.lastname@example.org. Hi-resolution images and/or digital files may be made available to you on request. The views expressed by contributors/ participants are not necessarily those of Justy Phillips or Related Projects. All content © Justy Phillips 2009.
I cleared this garden before the outbreak of the War. John, being the elder, he enlisted you see. He’s buried in El Alamain, in the sand there. It’s not good is it. Dad was sick in the first world war, John went down in the second over there. He was a on a Bren Gun Carrier and they struck a land-mine and blew it up. Apparently, we heard that John helped pull the rest of his mates out, the loss of blood, in hospital, he didn’t make it. Simple as that. That’s war. (Arthur)
When you listen to Cundall on the TV, they have the different mixtures that helps with a garden, and the composting and the water goes such a long way, and I think the more composting you do, you’re working the soil and loosening up the soil and it makes it much easier for growing things. And I think that is one of the main secrets of working your soil. And another thing, you’re letting air into it, and that’s a good thing isn’t it. (Val, interrupts)
June, 82 I’ve always had the philosophy—it’s no good fretting about this. Some people go into nervous breakdowns, and things like that. But you just...you can’t upset the whole home because of one incident. And er…we all got over it as quickly as possible. It was much better, I think, than mother falling into a heap and children fretting and er... (pause) crying. Scott, the baby that was born here. He was the first one. He was about four and we were starting to think about getting him to school. I never let him out of my sight usually. He used to nick off if you let him out of your sight, so I always kept him with me so the others didn’t have the responsibility. And this day, Diane said he wanted to go—she was going up to the horses and the shearing shed. He wanted to go and I said, ‘Oh, I think you’d better stay with me’, and he was just about ready to stop and she said ‘Oh, he can come’. So I let him go. I didn’t even think to remind her to watch him, you know.
him. That’s the only thing we could think of, but of course it was too late by the time… everyone went running looking for him in every direction. There used to be big green frogs in there, and the dogs used to run around the top barking at (interrupts), Herb usually had it covered with tin, but he’d taken it off to get it ready to clean the dip out, to get it ready for dipping the sheep afterwards. So this is where Michael found him. He tried...he had done some first aid with the ambulance or something, and er…he tried to resuscitate him, but it was too late. And then of course we just took him to town as fast as we could, but there was nothing they could do. And er…we just got on with it. I went back home and told the others that we couldn’t save him, you know, and they were alright then, they sort of settled down. It never came up again—Diane never asked, never ever mentioned, ‘Was it my fault?’ or anything like that. She was the one I was worried about. But er…they seemed to settle down and get over it. It’s just part of life you know, and er…that was that. People were very good. You never get over it. Really.
So he went on and I’m thinking about him all the time. Had I used my instinct and gone and looked...but still... Then they all turned up for lunch, which would have been a good hour later I should imagine and I Whether Herb thought that I thought that said ‘Where’s Scott?’, and oh, everybody’s he should have been looking after him looking around, ‘Where’s Scott?’, and I —but I didn’t. Didn’t even enter my head said ‘You’re supposed to be looking after you know. And then afterwards I thought, him’(sighs deeply). Afterwards I could have maybe he’s a bit annoyed with me for not bitten my tongue out, but it was too late looking after him properly, but I never (welling up). ever mentioned it. We never ever talked about that. It’s just one of those things that So he evidently didn’t go into the shed happened and you just have to get on with and he’s found the dip and the dog. The your life don’t you. Well, I believe you do. dip—we had a plunge dip, a big round tank You’ve got to think of the others that are and he must have been playing there with still here. I’d hate them to grow up with that the dog and the dog must have bumped guilt—that it was their fault. You know. So,
it’s just one of those things. It’s not fair to let one child (pause) really (pause), suffer the guilt of this accident. It was just plain accident. And then there was the oldest boy John. He loved the nautilus shells. It would have been about this time of year I’d say. He’d just bought himself one of those Land Cruiser things. He went up past the sea in between the Sea Elephant River and Naracoopa, at that big beach. He was driving back and he must have been trying all the low gears and things—this is what we’ve worked out. He was probably going a bit fast along the beach, where I suppose he was thinking it would be a safe place to try all these things, and he must have hit a submerged rock and the wheel buckled and tossed him right over, right on the edge of the tide. The tide was out. He was looking for nautilus of course. So, that was where they found him, and the tide had evidently been up and that worried me to think that he might have been caught there and drowned. But when I was talking to the policeman the next day, and I said ‘Did he die instantly or could he have drowned when the tide came in?’ he said ‘No Mrs. Frame, he died instantly’. So, that put my mind more at rest—I couldn’t bare to think that he’d be lying there for help with no one to help him. But, it didn’t happen that way. That was poor old John. He was a nice sort of a boy (pause) very quiet boy and er…everybody liked him. In fact, everybody loved my children (laughing).
I SWIM A HUNDRED MILES BENEATH YOUR SKIN
LICKING SALT FROM ENEMY LINES
Shirley, 66 I’ve been collecting the fairies for about twenty years. To me, fairies—they’re a symbol of believing. And I just think they’re lovely, graceful. I get them from places I visit. I always come back with a fairy. I’m a dreamer. I love wizards and witches and anything like that, anything to do with dungeons and dragons. They represent the good, but when you read about fairies, there’s also bad fairies. So, it’s about good and evil too. It’s about believing in something that could possibly be there. To me life’s like that. My motto is, when you’re down and out and you believe in something—and I always think with the fairies, you’ve got no proof that they’re not there—you’ve always got to stop and think that there’s a silver lining on every cloud if you look for it. I’ve lived here for sixty-five years. You’re privileged to find out my age. It’s harder here now on King Island than it used to be. We lived on a farm out Fraser Road and we moved from there because we got burnt out. We come to town one day and my house burnt down. We managed that farm—it was a big soldier-settler place, it was a lovely house, yeah. I lost everything. Everything. Well, they seem to think it started—we used to have the old diesel motors in those days and I’d turned them over to do some ironing. They seem to think it smoldered in a control box on an electric blanket on the bed. I’d shut the door and it started in the middle bedroom, blew the wall out—the heat —and then come down the house and burnt it. If it had have happened of a night time, I would have lost my two girls because it was in their bedroom.
We were in town when word came through that my house had been burnt down and it was just like a death. It was the most horrible feeling—to be burnt out. When we got back there, all that was left was the stove—an old combustion stove and two kettles. What we were standing in was the only things we had left. It was shock. The policeman was there to meet me. There was nothing left. No walls. Nothing. I don’t know how long it took to burn down—we were off the road so people didn’t see it until it was too late. I don’t think it would have taken very long to go down though. My two cats got out, but I lost pet mice and fish. It was our family home. There were hot coals where the house used to be. The first thing I said was, ‘Oh my pegs are still there’ (laughing). I remember so distinctly, steam was coming out of the kettle, and I said, ‘Well, the kettle’s boiling’ (laughing). It was when they got me away from it, that it really hit home, that we had nothing left. Then they wanted me to go and let the kids see it—it was the emotional thing the kids went through. Out the front I had pet kangaroos, and I wasn’t home to feed them and they were frantic. We cut the fence and let them go. It was just horrible. We just cuddled each other as these Roos were hopping away. And the man who actually bought the farm—because we didn’t take it, he would not let shooting around there for a long, long time because of these pet kangaroos, but after a while they’d breed and he’d have to shoot them wouldn’t he? After that, we could have bought the farm from these people but my husband wanted to move into town. And he wouldn’t buy it.
My husband was a lot older then me and I really wanted to stay there. I loved it. We could have lived in the shearing shed and the caravan because we still had the power. But he wouldn’t. And we moved into Jaycee Avenue into a Commission home and I hated it. Never hated anything as much in all my life. I was a country girl. I just loved cattle. We come to town and well, my marriage broke down. He was a lot older then me and he worked…he worked for Telecom and I worked the farm and it was a passion because I loved it. And our marriage was a never a brilliant one because of that age difference. He was brought up—a woman should be seen and not heard and do as she’s told. So out there, I had something to do. It kept me occupied. I just loved the farm work, but when I moved to Currie, I lost all that and I took to drink. I used to drink quite heavy. Still a good mum, but I had burst something and er…I just didn’t want to be married anymore. It was just horrible and I went through it for a long, long time and I didn’t know at the time I was in depression. I packed up and left him and I went out and lived at the butter factory for a while in a little house. He was a very violent man, and leaving him—I think it was the best thing I ever did (pause). I still had the three kids. When the police got onto him he decided to leave the island and we moved back to the Commission home. But I loved it so much out of the town. One day, I decided that I needed help and I had to help myself. I went straight cold turkey. I never had any treatment for depression. I did it myself. When I think about it now, I just have such a vivid memory of those coloured pegs.
Sylvia, 87 They thought they were going away to see the world. As the war...when they lost Crete and started losing…it looked like Australia was going at one stage. But you had to keep working because the nation had to be fed. I had just turned eighteen in 1939 when the War had started and my brother and some of the other island boys decided they would enlist. They went away to Tasmania and from there they went to Brighton camp. Later on they were sent to a camp in NSW and from there they were, I can’t think of the word I want, but they went by sea on the Queen Mary to London. Apparently they were first going to the Middle East and then they were sent on to London, to England. From there, they were sent back to the Middle East and were in Tobruk. They were in Tobruk for a long time. And then the El Alamain battle started and they were sent there, and er…and John was in the Bren Carrier Platoon, and er…(welling up) and we got word to say—the postmaster came out that night to say—we were in the middle of having our tea…The Air Force were stationed on King Island at the time and we had a few Air Force boys out there having tea. There was a knock at the door and my brother went to the door and he came back and he said er…(welling up) ‘Mr Bourke wants to see you dad’, and er… dad went to the back door. We’d finished milking and everything. He seemed a long while coming in and when he came in he collapsed and we heard then what had happened and er…(crying) and I rang for the doctor, because I didn’t think... because he had a weak heart. I thought it was the finish of him. Anyway, he came round and
they took him up into the lounge room and had a talk up there. So it took us, yes…a long time to get over all of that. The papers were just full of casualties and the men dying. He wasn’t the only one. So you had to keep on for the sake of the war and for the sake of the country. You had to keep on going. And that’s all there was to it. You couldn’t not go. So that was John’s life, and he’s buried over there. All his grave is done up. So, er…yes, er…(welling up again) he’s not the only one, there’s lots and lots and lots. That was the beginning of it. That was early in forty-two, and a lot more happened after that with the War. I had a cousin taken prisoner of war and taken to Germany, but he did come back after the War via England. Some of those troops got out of Crete and were taken then back up to New Guinea to fight up there…yes…it wasn’t good times at all, but at least we still had our country in the end. John was just like all the other boys, just a family boy. He was working on the farm. He loved the farm. He never had the education to go on but he was very bright, John. He loved reading and had a very good memory and dates and things (reaching for her purse). I don’t know how long I’ve been carrying this photograph of John around, I suppose I’ve always had it (laughing). My mother never got over it. They don’t. You just have to keep on with life. You’ve just got to keep going. I joined the Red Cross, you see its going to be seventy years since the Red Cross started and I was one of the first members (smiling), and I’m still a member. I still go to the meetings.
My mother could never talk about John going. Never. You just didn’t talk about it. It would have been good for us—good for mum if she could have discussed it. That’s what I meant—we had a Welcome Home Big Ball in the town hall, I was in the Red Cross and we put the dance on. And all the boys that came back, all the prisoners of war, they were all back. People we hadn’t heard from all over the war. They all came back and we had this big do and you just had to get on with your lives. There were all the ones missing, the ones who didn’t survive. My mother and father were both very strong people. They had to be. They had to get over it. We all had to get over it. Dad suffered a lot with the first war—with the gas and everything. A lot of those men suffered terribly in the First World War. And to think they’ve never learnt a lesson yet. Have they? There was a man with a wooden stump, well if you asked what happened they’d just say, ‘He got it shot off in the war’. We had another neighbour who never had an arm, ‘What happened to his arm?’, ‘Oh, it got shot off in the War’. When we were going to school, they were building a bridge near the farm. They had tents over the other side of the creek and this old man—well, he wasn’t old, he wouldn’t have been back from the war that long—he used to come over home and wash his face and body from the rainwater tanks. He had a shield over his eye. I still remember—we kids were fascinated with this, because he’d take it off and he had no eye. I remember saying to mum, ‘What happened to his eye?’ ‘Oh, it was shot out in the war’.
I SHAPE MY HANDS LIKE FLINTED ARROWS
I take off my scarf and put on a white overcoat. I tuck the bottom of my jeans into the big boots. When I look up, she has one of those white hair net hats on and a pair of fluorescent earplugs hanging casually around her neck. My hair net hat is still crimped into a tight white block, like a tampon. I tease it apart and place it on my head. Through thick flaps of opaque plastic, we enter the chill rooms. This is the final stage of the process. A man dressed in our white uniform manoeuvres a trolley in our direction. He wears oversized thick gloves and a scarf covering his nose and mouth. He picks up a palette of boxes and drives them out to the container. Another man is organising the boxes in there, stacking them out of the cold.‘On their way to Japan’, says Deb. Although I can hardly hear her through my fluoro plugs. I just watch her lips make a slow simple shape for Jap-an, and nod. I’m not confronted by the brutality of it. Not yet. It’s all hard flesh. Cold and white. Fat and still. Deb motions me forward and we slide between a moving carcass and the door frame. ‘Are you ready to see the kill floor?’ The honesty of the words is shocking. When I was in primary school, some boys told me that a fart was a collection of tiny poo particles floating in the air. Actual pieces of poo and I believed it. That’s what I’m doing right now—trying not to breathe. Trying not to think of all this blood and fat and noise falling softly on the inside of my beautiful swimmers lungs. There must be sixty people in here. All dressed in white and red. There is blood everywhere. There are body parts everywhere. There are eyes and heads and skin and flesh and hooves and tails everywhere. And there are stunned animals falling into metal cradles, kicking their arms and legs skyward.
Before it stops moving, the animal is hooked and hung from its ankles and slides along the conveyor belt. The animals swing, still whole, high above us and are caught at various stations by men working from the mezzanine above. By now, blood is streaming from the animals head and pouring into a graded concrete floor with a small hole at its centre. I hope to God that there is no one working down there. I watch a man work on the animal directly in front of us. One after another, he is removing the arsehole and then the tail. Arsehole down a chute, and tail in a crate. Hooves are slit and removed. Pointing at the arsehole cutter, I ask her how long he’s been working this station, ‘Seventeen years’ she replies in a matter of fact way. ‘Seventeen years, doing arseholes and tails?’ I ask. ‘Yup’. We move around the room to the offal sorting area. The smell is pretty bad, and I’m still wary of the tiny animal particles touching the inside of my chest. I hope I am not turning pale in front of all these hard men and women, but I sense the blood slowly drawing down from my face. I watch a man hanging a perfect row of tongues. They are black on one side, which takes me by surprise. Six tongues hang directly in front of us in a kind of vertical tray you used to get in the science lab at school, with a sink at the bottom, to collect any draining fluid. A slight woman with grey teeth has her hands in a tray of offal. ‘What’s this one?’, Deb asks her, pointing towards the tray. The woman slips her hand into one of the blubbery shapes and picks it up with her fingers. ‘These are the lips’, she smiles as they slip between her fingers and she motions the speaking mouth towards us. I can see the hairs on the lips now and I feel the drain release inside my stomach.
We make a few steps to our left to get a better view of the hide pulling. There is a man working the beast from the upper floor. As the lift descends, with it he undresses the animal from head to toe. I think of pulling jumpers from small children. Like hungry sharks, men below are circling the beast as gallons of steaming water reveal its naked ankles. The hide is rolled onto another wheel and disappears, like everything else, down a chute in the concrete floor. I could stay here longer, but I sense Deb is keen to leave the kill floor and get back to work. She is talking now and then, but I can’t really hear her through my fluoro plugs. Her cheeks are flushed pink, and I notice for the first time her ginger hair peeping beneath the edges of her hair net hat. There are tiny droplets of perspiration hanging to the steep sides of her nose. And I’m suddenly very sorry, I mean deeply sorry for all of this. All of this loss. All of this mesmerising death. We turn though another plastic strip door and leave the kill floor. As we emerge from the concrete corridor and into the light, the smell knocks the wind out of me. I have to take a shallow breath. I’m gagging inside. ‘Fuck, wow, that’s pretty strong’ I say. ‘That’s the boiler room’ Deb replies, smiling. She shoots a nod in the direction of a ramshackle shed adjoining the place we just exited. There is a small door to our right. ‘We’re going in there’ she says. I think she’s joking with me, but she’s not. At this point, I suddenly think the whole thing has been a set up and I’m about to be turned into soap cakes in the basement. It’s part Dickensian, part farming shed…‘I’ll follow you then’, I say. There’s a sudden bang and a skinless cow head hits the platform, sliding motionless towards his open hands. Without a tongue or cheeks,
its eyes are intact but empty. A plastic bag slides down beside the head and I turn to ask what it’s doing there. ‘That’s the arsehole’, she replies, without as much as a smirk. ‘They have to bag it, so the shit doesn’t touch any of the meat or offal on the line’. So here it is. About to end it’s journey in a plastic bag. It doesn’t seem right somehow. Sweating in a bag beside a cheekless head. ‘Watch this’, Deb nudges me. The man receives the large mass of a stomach and manoeuvres it with his bare hands. He slits the stomach with one flick of the wrist and turns it inside out. It is jammed full with green grass. He uses a running hose of hot water to flush the contents out of the stomach bag, and almost with relief the blades of dry grass turn into the water and fall down the chute. ‘That’s for the paddock’ Deb says. ‘This stuff gets processed and returned to the paddocks. It’s sprayed on, as a kind of fertiliser’. We say goodbye and leave the man to work his line in silence. Back through the same door and down a few steps, we pass a massive vat of liquid. My eyes start to water. ‘That’s Tallow’ says Deb. ‘Used for soap and candles and all sorts of other things. Did you have roast dinners as a kid?’ She asks. I nod. ‘Well, that’s the fat—the processed fat’. I imagine her island roasts swimming for their lives in a vat of blind panic. We exit. The smell is harsher than anywhere inside. I take shallow grasps of breath again. ‘It’s the offal bins’, points Deb, ‘they’ll be shipped from that container.’ ‘Where to?’ I ask. ‘Overseas’ she replies, without looking up.
What happens this time of year is that all the pasture’s dry in the paddocks and you get condensation on the sealed roads at night, and the water runs off the edge of that and you get this green grassy verge. The wallabies come out and feed on that. A car comes whistling along and they run and—bang. The council do pick ups on state government roads but it’s not done on the council roads. They chuck em off and they count them. Once a week as a rule, unless they got a lot of them. The most I’ve got between here and Currie in one night—that’s picking them up— because I do them on this road as a matter of convenience —I’ve got eleven there in one run. I just flick them off the road and into the bush. I just chuck them off the road. I reckon there’d be roughly fifty a night, if you count all the main roads. Down south there, with the kelp carters going down there early in a morning, you’d get another seven or eight, and down towards Grassy, maybe another ten or so. (Nigel, Parks and Wildlife Ranger)
With 1080, they die fairly quickly and without any great distress other than that they canâ€™t breathe. Because when they die a hell of a lot of them get their head up about like that (motions his head upwards and to the side) through the bottom wires of fences. Whether it was as humane or as inhumane as it could be was a bit irrelevant as it kept the numbers down and you could sort of keep things to an equitable state. (Nigel, Parks and Wildlife Ranger)
There’s no difference between wallabies here and something like rabbits in another place. You can shoot wallabies on King Island twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year—anybody with a licence or a permit to control them. The problem is that most land owners aren’t doing that. A lot of them take the attitude ‘they’re your bloody wallabies, you do something about it’. That’s a common one. But the Act reads that if a wallaby’s on your place, whether he’s come out of crown land or not, he’s your wallaby. If you don’t like it you get a permit. They’re open. They’re free and shoot the bloody things. (Nigel, Parks and Wildlife Ranger)
WALK THE DOG
FEED THE CAT
I mostly make the cat hats. Iâ€™ve also covered coat hangers. I sort of taught myself to skin them. I had a few pointers and then worked out what shape I wanted after that. I always wanted to tan sheep skins and I found them a bit big, and the cats are just a nice size you know. Even the wallabies take quite a bit of working up at the endâ€”the last process. Of course my very first thing with wallabies was tanning the scrotum and making funny little purses and key rings and glasses cases and things. I just do what my machine is capable of doing. (Robyn, Hat maker)
The biggest one I’ve ever trapped would be a bit over six and a-half kilos. I’ve got three that size. I’ve got two that would have been bigger that I shot but it wasn’t convenient to do anything with them. I take about a hundred a year on a good year, but lately I haven’t been doing so well. After I’d done all the statistics on them, I used to gut them, take the stomach contents out and send them down to Hobart—send these little cat stomachs down in plastic purses to be analysed. A cat’s digestive juices are very aggressive. So if they’ve eaten a bird before I catch them, the feathers—there’s no colour in them. (Nigel, Parks and Wildlife Ranger)
I consider that I’m saving the outside of the animals for posterity you know —not wasting them. If I get the ones that have been trapped, they are frozen in the freezer in town—from all different people, because all different people put out traps. This is part of the cat cull exercise. They’re supposed to put a label on them saying where they found them or whatever and then I can bring them home at my leisure then. (Robyn, Hat maker)
REST MY LEGS
FOR THE NIGHT
I came home at twelve years to look after things—help my mother, and anyhow, she’d had him in bed for three months at one stage. Used to get a lot of pleurisy. Pleurisy is congestion of the lungs. And what they had in those days, they didn’t have any antibiotics or anything, so she’d have to put a poultice. She’d go and heat the poultice in the oven, put that on him. That was the only cure they had, the only way of helping him get over his complaint. I was driving four horses and a plough when I was only twelve. You had to have a lot of muscle for that. (Arthur)
/25 Limited Edition Alongside each issue of Magnificent, artist Justy Phillips is releasing a limited edition of /25 collector’s box-sets. These editions include: 1 x signed, dated and numbered handmade wooden box, 1 x signed copy of magnificent, 1 x related limited edition product/artwork/idea. Go online to view images and request availability and current price.
YOUR WEIGHT I CARRY
LIKE A SALTY ROCK
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ISSN 1836 – 7836 Type: Gotham and Archer, designed by Hoefler & Frere-Jones. Print: Generously supported by Focal Printing Pty, Tasmania. Paper: Generously supported by Spicers Paper 115g 9lives Satin, 250g 9lives Satin. Edition: Published in an edition of 800 copies by Related Projects, Australia.
YOUR WEIGHT I CARRY LIKE A SALTY ROCK
magnificent (a novella of nine actions) Volume 1, Number 1, April 2009 THIS ARTWORK/ NOVELLA/ MAGAZINE IS FREE TO SUBSCRIBE VISIT WWW.RELATEDPROJECTS.NET