[FGC #3] Demonio Coda

This week’s F&GC challenge: write an OULIPO styled poem

DEMONIO CODA*

demon string quartet plucking epilogues smothering benevolence
dread banjos playing haunting serenades broadcasting destruction

*Demonio Coda is constructed using the OULIPO “snowball principal” where each word in the line has an increasing number of letters. And as an aside (by pure coincidence) the title has 11 letters inclusive.

– – –

STALL TO HEDGEROW

There’s a laggard who’s sure all that glitters is gondolier
And she’s buying the stall to hedgerow.
When she gets there she knows, if the storms are all closed
With a workhouse she can get what she came for.
Ooh, ooh, and she’s buying the stall to hedgerow.

There’s a signpost on the wallpaper but she wants to be sure
‘Cause you know sometimes workhouses have two mechanics.
In a trend by the brother-in-law, there’s a sorcerer who sings,
Sometimes all of our thrills are misgiven.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it makes me wonder.

There’s a felon I get when I look to the wharf,
And my spleen is crying for leaving.
In my thrills I have seen rioters of smother through the trends,
And the volleys of those who stand looking.
Ooh, it makes me wonder,
Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

And it’s whispered that soon if we all call the turd
Then the pistol will lead us to rebound.
And a new deadbeat will deaconess for those who stand long
And the forgeries will ecosystem with law.

If there’s a butter in your heirloom, don’t be alarmed now,
It’s just a sprinter cleavage for the May queue.
Yes, there are two patisseries you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still timpanist to change the roam you’re on.
And it makes me wonder.

Your headlamp is humming and it won’t go, in casino you don’t know,
The pistol’s calling you to join him,
Debauch laggard, can you hear the window-dresser blow, and did you know
Your stall lies on the whispering window-dresser.

And as we wind on down the roam
Our shallows taller than our south.
There walks a laggard we all know
Who shines white limb and wants to show
How everything still turns to gondolier.
And if you listen very hard
The turd will come to you at last.
When all are one and one is all
To be a rogue and not to roll.

And she’s buying the stall to hedgerow.

Stall to Hedgerow is constructed with the helpful assistance of Spoobill’s N+7 machine. Apologies to Page and Plant who never intended for their beautiful “Stairway to Heaven” to include the words ‘laggard”, ‘turd’ or ‘gondolier’.

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One Month Down, Twelve To Go

So we come to the end of another month. For those who are running off to check their calendars, I’m talking about the lunar month. This morning the moon clicked over into a new lunar month–the month of watery, dreamy Pisces.

Looking back, I remember the trepidation I felt waiting for the new year to start a month ago. I was afraid for so many reasons, the biggest one by far: would I fall apart again? I did a hell of a lot of soul searching, deconstructing what was left of myself before the year began, thus  started with a better understand of how the wheels fell off last year and knew what to avoid at all costs. Walk the middle path between imbalance and depression.

Unconsciously I made a commitment to be gentler with myself–to stop forcing demanding deadlines on myself. In light of this, I organised with Paul to have a part-time re-entry to work. And while the first week was pretty messy and hectic, with the imminent roll out of two new writing initiative at Write Anything, and I did work stupid hours, including well into the night, once February clocked in, I took it slower.

The Writing Round Up

In the last month I’ve written more than I have since November of any year in the last five:

  • completing a vignette entitled Intersected and submitted to Vine Leaves Literary Journal. Fingers crossed my first sub for the year is a successful one.
  • completing two brand new short stories for the Form and Genre Challenge: the crime short What I Left to Forget and a contemporary romance Thirty-Eight Degrees South. Thanks again to Laura Meyer and Stacey Larner, as well as Adam Byatt who bought the virtual pom poms.
  • writing two articles for Write Anything–The Secret Project/BirthPunk Mashie which details the two writing projects I am working on in the first six months of the year and Get Me to the Page on Time which is my search to find the best time to write, and how a routine can actually free you.
  • adding two new installments to #thesecretproject with Adam Byatt. This project is pushing all kinds of boundaries with me. I don’t think I have ever been this up close and personal with a character. The nature of the project means I can’t stand back and observe from a far–it is intense and has an immediacy which isn’t apparent (or expected) because of the structural framework, which includes delayed gratification between each installment. I’m so grateful to Adam for saying yes and believing in the project. At this point we have five installments and still have a tentative launch date for Easter.
  • re-wroting my author page and giving the blog the first of several make overs –the most important of which is a new name, 1000 Pieces of Sky, reflecting where I am in life now.
  • completing the first six days (of 30) for the First Draft in 30 Days book. Writing shorts took over and distracted me from the research I’d set myself up to do.
  • writing at least one haiku every day since the start of February for the haiku challenge with Tiggy.
  • completing the first article in a multi-part series on beta reading. The articles  will form the basis of an online course at some point in the not too distant future.

Many thanks to Chris Chartrand, Laura Meyer, Adam Byatt and Tiggy Johnson who have all beta read for me (some multiple times) in the past month. And a special thank you to Stacey Larner who did the final line edit and proof read for me on Intersected and Thirty-Eight Degrees South.

The Reading Round Up

My reading list was a short, just two books (and a half-read Poe novella).

  • Jessica Bell’s beautiful and brutal debut novel The String Bridge (which I devoured over a week in the shelter of a dodgy tent awning as it poured rain) and it’s equally haunting soundtrack.
  • M.J Hyland’s This is How which moved and disturbed me in equal measures.

The Movie Round Up

My watched list is a healthy one for the first time in a very long while:

  • District 9
  • Oceans 11
  • Abduction
  • Ghost Writer
  • Hanna
  • The English Patient
  • Crazy, Stupid Love
  • The Good German
  • The Descendent
  • The Texas Killing Fields

Devin Watson  publicly launched Literary Mix Tapes: The Movie Project today so it’s go. There will be movies from LMT/eMergent and a bunch of emerging filmmakers this year. Very exciting.

Hello/Good-Bye

In addition to that, we bid good-bye to [fiction] Friday and launched my two babies, The Form and Genre Challenge (2012) and PROPMTed at Write Anything. The Form and Genre Challenge is helping to rebuild the community of writers which once existed  via [fiction] Friday and has driven a lot of the old writing crowd out of their  funk and back into their stride, including myself. Chris Chartrand’s help administering the first week of the Form and Genre Challenge Judging helped to put it all into administrative order and meant I got to hang out with him twice in a week on skype.

Sadly, my workshop for the QWC didn’t reach minimum enrollments and I received word lunchtime Monday that it was cancelled. I’d lie if I said it wasn’t a blow but the timing was spot on. My energy bottomed out yesterday and with the stress of the pending workshop removed, I took a slower and gentler approach to this week.

New Writing Partnerships

Teaming up with new writing partners Laura Meyer and Adam Byatt is doing wonders to kick start my story writing again. I feel utterly at home in their creative confidence and not surprisingly, it’s having a flow on to my own confidence. Laura penned the heart-tugger Son Esprit Noir for the 3rd Person Challenge and Adam The Photographer’s Concerto, a prequel to my What I Left to Forget.

A Return to Editing

Last week I completed my first week of editing since last October and managed to edit and write with little problem. The only real trouble was dragging myself away from writing to concentrate on editing Deck the Halls. One story is day is a very doable amount. The hard work in releasing my old thought processes and welcoming new ones in, has wrorked wonders. I’m still on track to have all the editing done in time for Easter, at a pace which accommodates all aspects of life.

In Summation

All in all, the month fleshed out better than I could have hoped; the pieces slowly, but surely, finding a good fit and life in turn, continues to develops a resonating rhythm. I’m looking forward to being able to say the same (or better) this time next month.

Thirty-Eight Degrees South [FGC#2]


VOTING  OPEN UNTIL FRIDAY MORNING

This week’s challenge: write a contemporary romance, open form, maximum of 2500 words.

Heidi stopped at the caravan door, looked at the pile of showering paraphernalia in her arms and sighed. Why bother? Solace wouldn’t be found in a caravan park shower block, the first week in January, with a whinging five-year-old in tow. It had taken the first real sleep-in for six months to see the stupidity of forcing her home routine here. Besides, it was after 10.00am. If they hurried they might still beat JayDee and the girls to the beach.

“How about we skip a shower?” she said, heading back into the caravan and dumping everything on their unmade bed.

“No shower. Woo hoo!” Joel hooted, breaking into an impromptu victory dance.

“Yeah love, no shower. Reckon you could handle going straight to the beach?”

She laughed at his exaggerated air punch and “Yesssss!”

“How ‘bout you get our swimmers off the line and I’ll pack some lunch.”

“Sure Mum.” He whistled, bouncing down the stairs of the caravan, the semi-musical hiss stopping as he negotiated the plastic strips hanging in the door, moving from happy bard to stealth operative in a heartbeat.

Not for the first time, she wished she could be more like Joel, less like herself: go from one thing to another with little thought to what was left behind. Baggage made you look back and it came with responsibility, with being an adult. And now there was just her. She didn’t know how to balance responsibility with fun the way JayDee did it. But she was trying.

“Mu-um. JayDee’s here.”

“Crap!” She grabbed a robe and tied it over her pjs. “Hi,” she said, poking her head into the annex, affecting nonchalance she didn’t feel. He stood in the annex door, sunglasses pushed up above a faded cap, a smile on his tanned face. So at ease in the world—so different to Elliot.

“You left this last night,” JayDee said, holding up her cake plate. “The girls ate the rest before we got up. Best breakfast ever they said.”

“Wish I could eat mud cake for breakfast,” she said, her face relaxing into the smile she’d come to associate with JayDee.

“Hey JayDee, we’re going to the beach without a shower,” Joel said, his eyes full of excitement, and Heidi didn’t know if it was missing a shower or the unexpected appearance of JayDee.

“You have a shower before going to the beach?”

“Not anymore,” Heidi said, reaching down for the swimmers and towels in Joel’s arms. “Where are the girls?”

“My parents took them to Lorne for a picnic. I thought, perhaps I could take you and Joel out for brunch?”

“Brunch?” She couldn’t remember the last time anyone asked them out for a meal. Now two in the space of 24 hours.

“If you’re busy—”

“No. No we’re not busy. It’s just—”

“Why don’t I take Joel up to the bouncing cushion and let you have a shower in peace?”

Heidi laughed and ran a hand through her tangled hair. “You don’t know just how good? that sounds.”

“Maybe while you’re gone, you’ll think about coming with me to the surf club? They’ve got a live band tonight.”

“Out, I—”

“My folks offered to have Joel. The old man would love to have him over again. I’m a bit of a disappointment, you know, producing three daughters.”

“Can I Mum? Pah-lease. I wanna go.  Pah-lease? Granddad Keith rocks.”

“I don’t know if I can ask them to do that.”

“Mum can I?”

“You didn’t ask—they offered.”

“But—”

“MUM?”

“Joel, please, just give me a moment.”

“Hey Junior—what do you think? Would you like to hang with Granddad Keith while I take your Mum out?”

“Sure. You should go Mum. Just no… kissing.”

Heidi blushed and looked away.

“Only dancing,” JayDee said, “scouts honour, mate.”

Heidi caught a new spark in JayDee’s eye, and the guilt demons stirred. They could stir all they wanted. For one night she’d do what she wanted.

A mild breeze blew across the river, tangling the bits of hair Heidi had strategically left loose around her face. They walked past the surf shop, the general store, the Melaleuca Gallery and on to a strip of new holiday apartments.

“This used to be old Californian bungalows and vacant paddocks,” Heidi said. “You ever get the feeling of dislocation… when somewhere you used to know really well is all changed when you go back? And you feel lost.”

“It felt like that when Ruth died,” JayDee said. “That’s why I sold the house. Every time she didn’t walk out to meet me when I got home, I lost her all over again.”

Heidi nodded silently looking up the path to a strip of fancy shops and more holiday apartments. “That used to be The Three Kings milk-bar and takeaway. I remember being tiny and bouncing on the trampolines next to it. Twenty cents a go. Then it was a hardware store and now it’s more holiday apartments.” Heidi sighed. “I’m talking too much. I’m sorry. I’m so starved of uninterrupted adult conversation.”

“I know the feeling.” JayDee took her hand and squeezed it.

Heidi waited for him to let go. Instead his fingers snaked through hers, the sensation of being the smaller hand in the grasp foreign. But good. Right. He smiled at her and for the first time since leaving she gave herself permission to fall into the moment and forget everything else. She squeezed his hand back.

They walked on in silence until they came to the bend in the Great Ocean Road and the music from the Surf Club filtered down from the dunes.

“You know what. I don’t even care if the band’s shit and I don’t know the songs,” Heidi said. “For a few hours I can just pretend this is all there is. Not that I wish… oh shit. I mean, excuse my language. I—”

“It’s okay Heidi. I know what you mean. C’mon.”

* * *

The band worked its way through the usual 80’s hits: “I Ran”, “Karma Chameleon”, “Modern Love” and “You Spin me Round”. Heidi grinned as she drank her beer, dancing on the spot until the opening bars of “Footloose” spurred her into action.

“We’re dancing. Let’s go.”

She took the stubby from his hand and half-danced half-dragged him onto the dance-floor. Heidi lost herself, becoming one with the music and the bouncing, sweating mass surrounding her. JayDee danced closer with each inward press as more people jammed onto the dance-floor. Closer and closer, his body shadowing hers.

When the lead singer screamed, “Everybody cut loose,” JayDee grabbed her hand, spinning her around and around. At the end of the song he deftly dipped her backward, the two of them breathing hard. The band broke into their final song of the set and JayDee pulled her back to her feet, holding her close.

The band crooned a pared back “Hold Me Now” and Heidi put a hand on JayDee’s muscular shoulder, letting him take her other hand in his. They danced slowly, the strict dancing position collapsing until Heidi lay her head against his shoulder, eyes closed.

Her lips mimed the lyrics, “Hold me now. Warm my heart. Stay with me. Let loving start.” Her body moved in tune with his, until the speakers filled with music she didn’t recognise, the live set over.

JayDee relaxed his embrace and slid his arm around her waist. “Another beer?”

Heidi nodded. “I’ll meet you on the balcony.”

She looked into the pitted mirror over the basins in the washroom, splashing water on her face and scraping the damp hair back from her face. The guilt demons stirred in the pit of her stomach.

Not tonight. I give you 364 nights. This one is mine. All mine.

The guilt demons temporarily immobilised, she smiled at her reflection and went to find JayDee.

He sat at a table nearest the railing, two beers in the centre of the table frosted with condensation. Heidi took the chair sitting opposite and pulled it around, sitting close to him.

“I haven’t had this much fun in… I don’t know how long,” she said, taking a long drink from the stubby, drowning the last hisses of the guilt demons. “I knew you’d be good for me. I knew the first day I saw you on the beach, how you managed to be both parent and friend to your girls. You seemed to have it all together. Made me realise how fucked up I am. But…” she put her hand up to stop him interrupting her. “You gave me hope, when I thought it was all gone.”

“You’re not fucked up Heidi. You’re beautiful and brave and you’re doing an incredible job with Joel, just how he needs you to be.”

He caressed her cheek. “When I saw you on the beach that day, for the first time in years I felt… something. Something I thought died with Ruth.” He leaned closer. “And every time I see you, every day we spend together, when we say goodbye I fear you’ll walk away and I won’t see you again.”

Her heart thumped. “I see you and it’s like…” she paused, her heart thumping. “You’re so full of life. I just want to…”

She leaned in and kissed him before she lost her nerve. His lips yielded to hers, the feeling of his hand rested on the back of her neck, so natural. As they pulled apart, guilt tore free—a whiplash of competing emotions.

“I’m sorry,” she said, regret sucking the oxygen from the air.

“For what?”

Heidi pitched her seat backward and ran off the balcony, fighting her way through the crowd at the bar. Panic, the guilt’s hellhound, seized her. She stumbled through the crowd, looking for the exit. Lost. Decimated by panic and guilt, a freak show of hysterical laughter and leering faces pressing in on her, she sought the nearest corner and folded herself into it.

You’ll just ruin him like you did Elliot.

“Heidi?” His hand rested on her arm and she recoiled.

“No.” She fought against his touch

“What did I do wrong?”

“Nothing,” she sobbed. “It’s me.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I lied to you.”

“About what? Hey, sweetheart.” He tried to push the hair out of her face. “Stop crying.”

Heidi caught sight of the exit through her tears and pushing past JayDee she ran, only stopping when she reached the footpath.

“Heidi, stop! Talk to me! HEIDI!” He caught her arm and stopped her from crossing the road. “I’m sorry if I came on too fast.”

“I thought I could do this. I wanted to so badly, but I can’t.” She couldn’t even look at him, staring instead at the initials drawn in the concrete. “I need to go get Joel.” She shook his hand free. “Alone.”

“But—”

“You need to forget me, JayDee. Don’t come to the van. Don’t come to us at the beach.”

“Heidi! ” He ran across the road after her. “Stop, please!”

She turned. “I lied to you JayDee. I’m still married.”

“But I thought—”

“I know. And I let you.”

She walked away, tears blurring the way ahead, wishing someone other than JayDee’s parents were caring for Joel.

* * *

Heidi dropped the bags beside the annex door and went back inside for her keys and the esky.

“Why do you need keys?”

“We’re going to a different beach today,” she said. “Point Roadknight. Awesome boats and rock pools. It’s Poppy’s favourite beach.”

“Will JayDee be there too?”

She passed him the keys. “How about you pop the boot and put the bags in?”

“Sure, Mum.” It felt like a stab, the way he said ‘sure’. So like JayDee.

Heidi heard voices at the car and went out.

“Look Mum, it’s JayDee and Granddad Keith,” Joel said, his face bright and excited.

“He’s not your Granddad,” Heidi said, walking between Joel and JayDee, keeping her back to Joel and lowering her voice. “I thought I made it pretty clear last night I didn’t want to see you again.”

Joel looked up at her, confused. “Mum?”

“C’mon sport. JayDee tells me you’re pretty good on the bouncing cushion,” said Keith.  “Wanna show me?”

Joel looked to her and she looked to Keith and nodded. She’d do anything to save Joel from a bitter scene.

JayDee waited until they walked out of earshot before he spoke. “Joel told the old man his Dad was sad and got sick and had to live in a hospital.” His eyes bored into hers. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Heidi swallowed hard, wanting to keep her composure. There was no recrimination in JayDee’s voice, but the idea of talking about Elliot undid her. She’d already cried an ocean of tears for Elliot, for Joel, for everything lost.

“Elliot’s been in a coma for six months. He couldn’t even get killing himself right.” The venom in the words surprised her. More chow for the guilt demons.

“I’m sorry Heidi. So sorry.”

“So am I.”

She walked back into the annex and sat in the doorway of the caravan.

“The Doctors have given me until the end of January. Then they’re turning off his life support. But they can’t do it without my signature. My parents suggested Joel and I come away, have a break before we had to go through… what’s next.” She put her head in her hands. “I just want to be released. But I don’t want to kill him.”

JayDee knelt on the ground in front of her and she looked up.

“I kissed him goodbye that morning, so relieved he looked focused and together for the first time in months. So bloody happy he’d finally got his act together.”

Heidi started crying. “A security guard found him unconscious in the carpark of the local shopping centre. He’d diverted the exhaust inside. I told him once, when I wasn’t coping, if he was going to kill himself, not to do it at home. Oh God…”

She cried until her chest seized and the air caught at the base her throat, and she thought asphyxiation would take her too.

“Breathe,” JayDee said, holding her tight, rubbing her back. “You’re not going to choke. Breathe.”

When Heidi calmed, JayDee boiled the jug and they sat at the tiny table staring at an open packet of Mint Slices and the floral mugs. He reached across and took her trembling hand.

“I don’t want anything from you Heidi, that you’re not willing to give. And I’ve got your back for however long you need me there.” He squeezed her hand. “I’m not going anywhere. I’ve been going nowhere since Ruth died,” he cleared his throat. “And if you decide, that you don’t want us to be friends, well, we’ll always have Anglesea. And I’ll always be grateful for that.” (2489 words)

THE READERS’ CHOICE VOTING OPENS MONDAY MORNING 10AM (AEST)

– – –
Thanks go to my the writing partner who wields the sharpest editing blade in the South, Ms Laura Meyer. Tip of the hat to Adam Byatt who came along with his virtual pom poms and the one-handed, multi-tasking, proof reading-extraordinaire, Stacey Larner, who weeded out the last of the mistakes.

What I Left to Forget

Charlotte Mackay thumped a sweaty fist against the steering wheel and swore loud enough for the elderly woman in the nearby Morris Minor to hear. She ignored the raised eyebrows. Mouthing ‘fuck you’ as she turned back to glare at the temperature gauge and cut the engine. Ahead, the traffic jam stretched into the melting horizon.

She wanted to escape. Sit on the veranda with a cold beer pressed against the back of her neck, the bitter taste cooling the inside of her parched mouth. Most of all she wanted to ring Jake—to hell with Grayson’s threat.

What the fuck did Grayson expect her to do? She couldn’t trawl the live music scene and remain unattached indefinitely. At some point she needed to hook up to fit in. People talked and she needed to be invisible. Would he have cared so much if she’d got a girlfriend?

“Your relationship with de Brito compromises your position,” Grayon had bellowed at her, small missiles of spit spraying from his mouth.

Why couldn’t Grayson see the benefits of a high profile lover:  a whole new level of access to people, places and sources for her. Doors opened for Jake de Brito and she stepped through them.

She rifled through the detritus on the passenger seat, throwing gig fliers, empty film canisters and assorted tapes into the footwell until she found Jake’s mix tape.  The cassette slid into the tape player and she turned the ignition on and the sound up. Closed her eyes and tried to figure out what to do.

The opening synth bars crackled through the ancient speakers. Four bars in, the cello’s notes, full of longing, took up the melody.

She sighed. The song reminded her of the cello sitting in the corner of Jake’s bedroom. It wasn’t what she expected… a grunge god trained as a classical cellist.  Or for him to seduce her with it: pulling her into his lap and positioning the cello between her thighs, his hand beneath hers, fingers moving over the strings. Even now she could feel the slow back and forth motion of the bow.

A horn blast from behind ejected her from Jake’s musty room, away from his naked tattooed body, back into the metal columns, melting in the combined heat mirage of the exhaust fumes and sun.

She blinked against the light and turned the Datsun 180’s engine over, eased the clutch out, coasted forward a car length and cut the engine again. She didn’t want to listen to the tape. She was having enough trouble thinking straight and the tape took her back to the night Jack pressed it into her hand back stage… and the raw memory of a young man she once made a different type of music with.

“Don’t, like, judge me for the first song,” Jake had said to her that night. “It was on the radio the first time I saw you. You were watching us through your camera. To me it’s, you know… our song. Not very rock and roll, eh?”

She had stared at the track listing.

I Just Died In Your Arms? sounds like a death wish,” she’d said. Thinking: it’s a warning.

He burst out laughing, throwing his head back. “This is why I love ya Charlotte.” When he reached for her, she went rigid. “I’m sorry. I’m coming on a bit much, aren’t I?”

She should’ve got the hell away from him then. Run. A. Mile. But she didn’t! The temptation overwhelming. He was overwhelming.

But Jake de Brito, the Jake de Brito had said he loved her?

And she’d struggled to remain focused. Detatched. Professional.

“It’s been a while,” she finally said to him and kissed him lightly on the cheek, flattered by his attention and appalled by how it made her feel. How it changed things.

She hadn’t known being with Jake would make her feel so lonely. Why didn’t someone let her know the trajectory of loneliness went from benign to malignant when you lay naked near someone, feeling the rise and fall of their chest, breath whistling in and out. All the hours spent alone welled up with the inhalation,  dissipating with the exhalation. But she feared without him the loneliness would swallow her whole.

Fuck. She had to focus. Had to stop Grayson breathing down her neck.

“He is a person of interest.” That’s what it all came down to in Grayson’s books. “If it’s a fuck you need Mackay, get a prostitute.”

“And I’d be able to claim a male hooker as a legitimate business expense, sir?”

“Understand this, Mackay.” He leaned so far forward the sweat on his forehead caught her reflection. “You have 24 hours to end your relationship with de Brito, or I will do it for you. You came here promising much, Mackay. Focus or else you’ll leave here scraping up what’s left of your reputation.”

Fuck Grayson. He would never again question her commitment.

The time for fence-sitting was over. She might not know if she loved Jake or not, but it wasn’t her who needed to make a decision tonight. Time had run out for them. Tonight, it was business. She’d make Jake understand one way or the other. Cold. Logical. They’d get it straight and then they’d move on. Start again.

She gunned the engine, mounting the footpath and turning into the next laneway, driving too fast, her impatience barely in check. Three blocks on she found a park, grabbed her bag and stopped at the first payphone, the coins dropping when the answering machine picked up.

“Hey babe. I’m running late. Traffic! We need to talk—serious—when I get to your place. I’ll be there soon.”

There. He had ample warning.

She caught the next tram back into the city, changed at Swanston for Brunswick and ran the last four blocks to his house in the fading heat, her white sundress dark with fresh sweat.

The front door stood ajar and she caught her breath before poking her head in, calling out. His ambivalence toward security meant he couldn’t be bothered to shut the front door, much less lock it and she often found groupies in the lounge room, Jake oblivious to their presence.

“Jake?”

She pushed the door open. The smell of bolognaise sauce simmering in the kitchen made her stomach rumble.

“Babe?”

When he didn’t answer and no one giggled in the lounge room, she slipped into the bedroom, taking in the cello in the corner, the left-over tangle of bed clothes in the centre of old iron framed bed, her clothes scattered on the floor. Familiar. Comforting.

She knelt on the floor and pulled a pair of red gloves from her bag, the soft leather sticking to her hands when she pulled them on.  Reaching into the dusty space, she found the brief case and dragged it out. She aligned the dials on the lock and flicked open the top. A small pistol caught the fading light slicing down through the venetian blinds. She left the silencer, took the pistol and the four bags of cocaine, closed and slid the case back under the bed.

“Babe?”

She walked down the hallway and into the huge, stuffy lounge room. His guitar lay abandoned on the couch, an overflowing ashtray holding down one corner of a scrap of paper, random lyrics and chords scribbled in pencil. A warm glass of coke sat next to it. Under the closed window the answering machine flashed. She cleared the messages and ejected the tape, slipping it into her bag.

“Jake?”

Continuing on to the kitchen, she expected to see him at the stove humming to music only he could hear, but the kitchen was empty. She extinguished the gas under the bolognaise and flicked the safety off the pistol.

“Babe?” The gun felt heavy in her hand.

She dumped the bag on the kitchen table, remembering how his cheek felt against hers the first night they’d met. Her heart stuttered, just like it did when she leaned in to tell him how she’d come back to Australia because a fire gutted her Nashville apartment, destroying all her photos, the lie rolling easily off her tongue. He nodded and looked at her, when they pulled away, like he too knew what it meant to lose something big, something important.

What you have to forget to move on.

She moved slowly toward the bathroom.

Drip-Drip. Drip. The tap kept beat in the silence.

“Babe?” She prayed he was just asleep in the bath again.

The pistol steady in her right hand, she twisted the knob with her left. Slowly. Gently. The door groaned and she raised the gun as the space between the door and jamb opened.

Jake lay gazing at the mildewed ceiling, earphones in. Three bullet holes, in a triangle, dead of his chest.

Charlotte slid down the doorframe, cradling the pistol in her lap, staring into the congealing claret of the bathwater. Numbness settled over her, deepening with the realisation, without the traffic jam, she’d be dead too.

READ ON: Adam Byatt’s The Photographer’s Concerto is a further exploration of the relationship of Charlotte and Jake (a seriously sensuous and beautiful piece of flash fiction).

Many thanks to my stellar beta readers Chris Chartrand, Andrew Girle, Icy Sedgwick and my impeccably picky writing partner-in-crime Laura Meyer.

“What I Left to Forget” was written in response to the Form and Genre Challenge 2012’s first pitch: pen a 1500 word 3rd person POV story – open genre. It was the first original short story I penned after emerging from a long period depression and burn out in 2011.

21 Tips for Writers of all Persuasions

In May 2010, the Emerging Writers Festival’s five ambassadors Guy Blackman, Natasha Campo, Jill Jones, Sean Riley and Julian Shaw were invited to share their best tips for writing. At the end of the session, what struck me most was–writing is writing– whether you’re a song writer, a journalist, an academic, a poet, a film maker or a novelist. All modalities have more in common as a creative creative process than you might think.

Following are 21 tips distilled from the 35 given during the panel session.

  • Arrive late and leave early: get straight to the heart of the narrative.
  • Defend your work and keep your creative dignity: learn to say no/no way/go f*ck yourself – because no one else will stand up for your work – and remember you cannot write someone else’s vision.
  • Don’t show your work to family and friends: you will erroneously become attached to what they think is brilliant – which in fact is likely to be absolute crap.
  • Go out and live your life: do not allow yourself to become stuck in a hole of your own creativity – especially when you’re creatively blocked – being in the real world is the best antidote.
  • Make up the rules for what you want to produce: in a global market there are an infinite number of possible niches with people willing to pay for your work.
  • Build an audience online: utilise a website or a blog to connect with readers – capture them through a mailing list – don’t be afraid to give away free stuff.
  • Back yourself: don’t ask others for permission to do what you want to do.
  • Know you can do it yourself: you do not need the backing of major publishing houses/production companies – the rules are changing – look for those you know, who want to work with you, and your idea.
  • Persevere: your yell is someone else’s whisper and whispers are pervasive, it will get heard – work on several projects – this keeps you energised and working creatively even when one project isn’t firing.
  • Utilise a multi-media approach: there are audio books, podcasts, youtube as well as thinking further afield such as combining/selling photos and music with writing. (Jessica Bell’s String Bridge–novel and soundtrack–is an excellent example of this)
  • Embrace festivals: nothing is ever to small to be part of.
  • Look after yourself: writing will ruin your health – so take care – consider writing standing up (apparently Hemmingway did this) and making use of pen and paper rather than chaining yourself to a computer.
  • Get to know your process: work out when and where you work best and do it your own way – try to write every day, even if just for a few minutes and carry a note book with you so ideas don’t escape you.
  • Trust the intuition of your readers to know where something doesn’t work: but don’t trust their advice on how to change/fix it.
  • Don’t write to a presumed audience: there is no point in second guessing your niche market – just write!
  • Promote yourself in public: but allow space to doubt yourself in private.
  • Write simply and vividly: specifics paint the best pictures on the page.
  • Don’t hold back and don’t protect yourself: say things no one else has said before – turn off the inner critic/editor
  • Collaborate: work with new people and don’t be afraid to change circles of friends – there are always new opportunities out there.
  • Be professional: submit on time, to the required word length, to the brief agreed on – editors like writers who they can rely on.
  • Cultivate a community of writers: writing can be a lonely enterprise, but it doesn’t need to be – other writers understand where you are, what you’re thinking and feeling.

Which piece of advice strikes a chord with you? Why do you think this is the case? How can you incorporate it into your writing life?

Article based on a column written for Write Anything on 31st May, 2010. Image via via http://www.stepheneinhorn.co.uk.