“This is exhausting.”
I’d been locked up for over a year when the vaccine set me free. So many vacations and visits to reschedule! Mahjong lessons are free at the senior center. The concert series in the park resumes in August. Sign me up for that writing class. The library is finally reopened so Ravenous Readers Book Club begins tomorrow. Reservations are made for Thursday night all-you-can-eat baby backs. Finally, we’re back to in-person church. It feels so nice to see our friends again. It’s already Bingo night and my turn to drive!
“This is exhausting.”
It wasn’t until the sand, the linear movement of the waves, and a row of uniform pastel-coloured beach huts to her right, that the realization came.
Clues her mother had lined up, she picked up on only now, after 20 years. They were for safeguarding her future and trading them in for a security she couldn’t have anticipated, for her and the children.
“You’ve provided for your grandchildren,” Sarah mouthed into the sea breeze, “you clever lady. Thank you”.
This is the point at which the two generations intersect. Something about new for old, something on the horizon.
Leo’s week at work had been rough. He'd been extremely busy dealing with unexpected items, and he'd had little time to focus on his own work. He enjoyed his job, but he was starting to fall into a rut.
Additionally, he had made little progress writing his novel. He'd been drafting it for months and had solid ideas about his future chapters and sections, but actual writing had been difficult. The words just weren't sounding perfect or coming together.
Then Leo decided to emulate Nike while writing: Just Do It. The draft flowed, and his head cleared. Achievement at last.
“Can you help me clear the court Mom?”
Looking outside, I grabbed my hat and jacket. “Sure. Keep your coat on. We’ll do it together.”
In the bitter breeze, I dug gloves from my pockets and began brushing the snow from the shed door. A foot and a half had fallen overnight blanketing the path to the basketball hoop and the ground beneath. We were going to need shovels.
An hour later, smiling in front of the sunset, he asked, “How about a quick game of Around The World?” “In a minute Sweetie, “ I replied, collapsing into the snow chair.
Not long ago, on a day so humid your clothes stuck to your skin like gum to a shoe, a billionaire and some guests took a trip into space in a rocket ship designed and built just for him. He thought it would be fun to experience weightlessness and see the world from a different perspective. That ten minute journey to outer space cost millions upon millions of dollars and was organized at the whim of this billionaire. And why not? It’s a free country and he could afford it.
On that same day, twenty-five million people died of hunger.
After a bout at the Frog ‘n’ Toad, he launches liquid stomach waste into the middle of an ancient road, then collapses.
Opposite, stands the Chapel of Churchian Kindness wherein the congregants would sooner aid those with more acceptable afflictions.
A priest arrives. Bold lettering “CCK” emblazons his cassock. He observes the unruly obstruction’s wiggling toes. Relieved he need not remove a corpse; he passes by.
A man appears straight after and offers help. The afflicted man’s eyes open wide. “I might not quit, Lord, but I have hope in you.”
“You’re both equal however, one shall enter my kingdom.”
During all this time watching you lying there, I have started to muse on the many different ways of human expression.
When you think about it, it is amazing the variety of subtle ways we communicate with each other - a glance of enquiry, a nod of recognition, a smile to convey acceptance, a single word to provide encouragement. Even a blink might convey a whole array of affections.
Yesterday you chose to simply curl a finger around mine.
Although it was an imperceptible movement, it seemed to be a definite attempt by you to say ‘Hello again!’
Marcus stared at the newly slammed door; had the flowers been a mistake? How could he have got it so wrong?
He thought he had found his soul mate, a beautiful divorcee with three children. He loved kids; he'd chosen gifts especially for them.
But as Marnie answered the door her smile had faded, leaving him in no doubt that he had misread the clues.
Placing the flowers on the step he turned dejectedly to go, but was halted by her soft voice through the door.
"Marcus darling, you know I can't let you in without a mask."
She tried to ignore the igniting spark, turning her back on its smoky tendrils unfurling towards her.
The bourgeoning ember flickered into life; a flame began to scorch its way across the room.
As the escalating fire approached the heat began to singe her flesh and she turned…fireproof, impervious and icy…to confront the conflagration.
“May I buy you a drink, beautiful lady?” His smoldering black eyes blazed with desire; exotic accent seduced, taut body tantalized her senses.
The ice melted and she was consumed by an inferno of passion, a fire that only this man could douse.
The admonishment had an ominous tone, "Don't go there...go back!." But almost immediately I heard a friendly sounding encouragement, "Proceed. Answer your call for adventure." What followed was overpowering silence except for the drumming of my heart echoing throughout my body. The stygian hallway seemed endless. Only a faint ember appeared in the far distance.
"It's an illusion...it's an abyss."
"You know what's behind you...go on...see what lies ahead."
Confused, frightened, uncertain. My heart raced wildly and then...
The alarm in the smoke filled hallway woke me up.
The aroma of the apple pie cooling on the sill wafted across her yard and through her neighbour’s open window.
She settled with a book in her comfortable armchair to wait.
Halfway through the first chapter her phone rang.
“Jenny? It’s Greg next door. I wondered if you’d like to come over for coffee?”
“Be there in five,” she replied, smiling.
She checked the mirror, picked up the pie and went next door.
She’d tried flirting, short skirts and exotic perfume to no avail.
Then remembered her mother’s words, ‘The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!’
Delayed! No, no, no! Can’t they do anything right? Is taking off on time too much to ask? Arrrggh! All right, all right, calm down, people are looking. You have to relax, it’s just a half hour delay. Not so bad. Go to the café, have one of their over-priced coffees. You’ll be on board before you know it. In a week’s time I’ll be sunning myself on a beach, looking back at this moment and laughing. It’s only half an hour. It doesn’t make a difference.
They won’t find the body in that time…
It’s going to be a personal best, possibly a record. I’ve never tried this before – not this many, not to this height. It’ll take all my resolution, all the strength I can muster, in mind and body.
Psyched, focus, visualize: faster, higher, stronger. I can be this… I can strive, push myself to the limit.
I pick up my tray. Cakes, biscuits, sandwiches, chocolate piled higher than ever. A pot of tea, made stronger than ever – 4 bags! I’m no faster.
Tokyo: One more fortnight, one more push. I can eat this.
Grace had lived most of her life with her son John. Now that he married me, she was not feeling comfortable. Not that she blamed anyone.
“Let me move to an old age facility with the likes of me. Better than leaving later in a cloud. Just want to be independent.”
Money was no problem; she had enough.
Months later, she fell ill. Needed hospitalisation. And blood transfusion.
“Let me donate some of my blood,” I pleaded with John. “We are of the same group. Who knows, my genes may make her love me.”
My machete-wielding boss sent me chunks of rusted machinery to weld, rewire and reprogram, expecting fast results.
I had little to go on apart from aged blue-prints stolen from a Government agency and faded memories.
As the contraption finally juddered into life, I had a way out.
I clambered in just as my angry boss and his men sprinted towards me.
The machine took me back years: a fresh start beckoned.
I prized the device apart with a crow-bar and threw the mangled remains into the sea.
Nearby, a kid, vaguely familiar, stood on a rocky outcrop, staring at me.
The bus arrives, eventually. Nine minutes late.
The queue shuffles forward. One by one folks climb the steps, each nodding to the driver and showing a small plastic card. Laminated photos of their best side.
The driver nods back an acknowledgement. His clicker clicks. Once for each passenger entering his precious vehicle. Clean and pristine, in honour of these temporary guests.
The journey is short, twelve minutes. They arrive, and queue again, this time in the aisle. Then shuffle off. To seek treasure, in supermarkets and hardware stores.
A free bus to paradise! Such is the reward, when turning sixty.
He moved in last year. “For only a month.”
He’s furry, overweight, and can't carry a conversation. He looks like he rolls around in the dirt, except that would take too much effort. When asked to take out the garbage or mow the lawn he replies, “Yeah.” Then someone trips over the garbage or we can't find the baby in the tall grass. When we suggest he get a job, he’ll hide in the eucalyptus tree all day.
“Can you help pay the food bill?” I pleaded.
“Food? Steak? Ribs? Sure, what time?”
I thought sloths were herbivores. Sadly not.
Jane gagged. Couldn’t help it. Lying there she wished she was dead.
“You’re doing very well,” he said holding the impression with his rubber fingers.
Behind the dark scratched glasses, she looked towards the monitor on the ceiling. Unable to hear because of rising heartbeats in her ears, she watched as someone was gesticulating.
This was a proper battle. In her head and against the roof of her mouth.
“Remember, cross your feet and uncross your feet,” he said.
“Breathe through your nose.”
With a reaction that no one saw coming, she punched him straight in the face.
He carefully collected the kitty litter. Pee clumps went in a garbage bag and poop went in a bucket. Waiting for nightfall until all the houselights went out, he flung the cat poo around his neighbours' lawns and driveways. In the morning, he hid in the alcove of his patio as each neighbour came out to the surprise. There was swearing, bewilderment, hand gestures. He heard accusations flying without evidence about neighbours’ dogs roaming freely and how they picked up after their pets only when someone was watching. He hoped this would end noisy block parties forever. “Peace”, he sighed.
To me tulips are memorable, but not in the floral sense.
Initially their glossy flower heads, so shapely and defined, sit atop slender stems, exuding confidence and strength despite an unknown future.
Passing from youthful vigour to mature elegance, striking upright and full of life, their calm presence cannot be ignored.
Over time straight becomes curved, displaying a graceful style.
With age petals lose their strength, opening wide to reveal inner secrets before they wrinkle, fade then fall. Age finally takes its toll.
They may have gone but live on in the next generation
They remind me of Mum.
From his reclining wide-window seat in the Blue Origin spaceship, five miles above the earth, American Jeff Bezos saw something whizzed past. Surprised, he stretched fully, uttering “Maybe a comet?” Meanwhile, the object decelerated to be in parallel with Bezos’ craft. Bezos fumed “That’s Sir Richard Branson inside his own spacecraft Virgin Galactic.
Soon, the sound system inside Blue Origin picked up Branson’s sarcastic comments: “Hey Bezos, we English might have lost to Italians in Euro football last Sunday, but you didn’t think a Yankee like you can beat me in this space race.”
Bezos lowered his head in disgrace.
The manservant said to his Master "It's all in your head Sir. Once you tell yourself it's got to be done, you'll do it." He said this because his Master had the weight of the world on his shoulders. He had started something, something big, the biggest thing in the world, in fact, and he was now doubting himself.
The manservant's words echoed in his Master's mind and when he finally conquered the biggest thing in the world, the words were there, waiting for him. The Master repeated them, altering them slightly, "It's not the mountain we conquer but ourselves."
Your students are having a funny little conversation about independence today. Chests puffed up, Daniel and Ava bragging about how mature they are. You laugh bitterly, swirling the dregs of your dark coffee. Independence seems so glamorous until you’re shoved into the harsh spotlight, your cane in life ripped away as you wobble, confidence and perseverance gone into the grave along with the heart you used to call yours. You give the tiniest shake of your head at the kids as they giggle, romanticizing what finally broke you. They’d see. Someday. Emotionless, you take a slow sip of boiling coffee.
It was the day after a story of mine appeared in the papers, in which one character, Mr. Puri, who seemed a picture of innocence, turned out to be a crook. As I was taking my morning walk, I was accosted by a Mr. Das, who said, “Tell me frankly, Mr. Puri’s based on me, isn’t he?”
My jaw dropped at the wildness of the allegation.
“What makes you think so?” I asked.
“You shouldn’t have done it,” he insisted angrily, and walked away.
I read between the lines and chuckled to myself.
He hasn’t spoken to me since.
Ten minutes on your front, ten minutes on your back, that’s what they said, to begin with, the first time. She set the timer on her phone, then lay back and closed her eyes. Ten minutes never seemed so long.
Sweat trickling, skin prickling, red mist behind the eyes, so thirsty – no she couldn’t stand it. She sat up, head throbbing, and turned over.
“Just ten minutes,” said the radiographer, disappearing behind the screen. The moles were on her tummy. She lay back, and the machine whirred and hummed. Could she stand it? Ten minutes never seemed so long.