Divides. A flash fiction.

This is a short fiction I wrote for a Uni subject I completed a while back. Enjoy!

Cheers

Steve 🙂 

Divides. By Stephen Thompson.

My mother is dusting. The feather duster she uses swishes lightly over the mementoes and photo frames on the shelf, cautiously tracing a path through our family history like a ship through a field of ice. I watch intently as motes of dust shimmer in the light, settling to the carpet, knowing this is only a short pause on their journey.

My father reclines in his chair, reading. The air is pungent with the thick fumes of an unfiltered camel cigarette. This is how I will remember him long after he is gone, like a silhouette left on a wall after a nuclear blast, its form as anonymous as the figure who left it.

My wife sits before me. Her eyes are electric drills and I am the timber. I’m staring at the table before us and my apologies fall to the floor along with our shared lives; wood shavings, waiting to be swept away.

My son is sitting on the lounge before his games console, the light from the TV playing over his intent features. I sit beside him, reading, occasionally glancing up to see the interaction of figures on screen. Between the lounge cushions is a yawning chasm.

My girlfriend sits across the table from me, sipping from her cup. My own mug sits before me untouched, the tan creamer an iceberg on a coffee sea. She smiles and I see our separate shadows painted darkly upon the wall behind her. Dust motes reflect the light as they dance prior to landing. The apologies to come are an abyss I must eventually cross.

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Finding My Voice

“In truth, I never consider the audience for whom I’m writing. I just write what I want to write.”

J.K Rowling.

“You have to follow your own voice. You have to be yourself when you write. In effect, you have to announce, ‘This is me, this is what I stand for, this is what you get when you read me. I’m doing the best I can—buy me or not—but this is who I am as a writer.’”

David Morrell

These quotes resonate with me because they sum up how I feel. I can only be honest with my writing: I can’t write what other people want to read, only what I want to.

At the moment I’m writing lots of poetry, Anvil, my semi-regular, unplanned science fiction series and a book of D&D one-page adventures, to be published at the end of the year. I have a novel underway, which has stalled—not due to writer’s block, but disinterest. I intend to start something else that will hold my abysmally short attention span for longer.

I’ve learned a lot about writing techniques over the last two years and this has helped me stylistically, but the feel of my writing is still mine. I may never make a decent living from prose, but I’m still enjoying myself.

And I seem to have found my voice, somewhere along the way.

Cheers

Steve 😊

The Great Australian Novel. A pondering.

So, what exactly happened with the writing of my great Australian novel (and I use the term ‘great’ very loosely)?

I don’t have writer’s block*. I know a lot of writers suffer from this, and I am always sympathetic (did I say sympathetic. Sorry, I meant uncaring and sociopathically lacking empathy), but not me. Actually, I tell a lie—twenty years ago, in my first novel, I wrote my protagonists into a corner I couldn’t get them out of. It took about ten years to resolve (hey, it was a very tight corner). So, George R R Martin, I get where you’re coming from. But finish bloody Winds of Winter, already!

I’m not suffering from a paucity of time, although I assure everyone who’ll listen that I am. Don’t you realise how difficult life can be for a lazy, sociopathically uncaring, student? This morning I noticed my toenails had grown out to about an inch. The nail clippers were sitting on the table just out of reach. You can guess how that story ended. I think from now on my preferred footwear will be thongs (flip flops, not g-strings), rather than shoes. No reason. Loose rubber slip ons are just very stylish.

I’m still motivated to write. Admittedly, I tend to write more poems then anything else. I haven’t actually written any of my novel for about a month. Let me point out that I do have a very short attention span. If I was to have a competition with a gnat, the gnat would win. But as insects go, gnats are THE most attentive insects in the animal kingdom. Of course I may have read that while I was sleep-deprived and brain-addled at 3:00am. Or maybe I just made it up.

The ideas still flow—sometimes they don’t stop, streaming forth like water from a broken pipe neglected by council workers checking their Facebook timelinesI recently had to (yes, HAD to) get myself a new iPhone 8, ostensibly for the bigger storage capacity (I use my phone to store ideas and write on the run. And on the toilet). Oh, alright, I just wanted a shiny new phone. Yes, now I’m more broke than I was before. But: shiny new phone! (“My precious,” he says, stroking it adoringly in a disturbingly Gollum-like voice.)

My commitment is still strong, despite my ongoing depression. Did I tell you I suffer from depression? “Only about a thousand times,” says regular reader with not much better to do, rolling your eyes. I guess I better tell you again, then. I’m like a roller coaster: manic high days and abyssal troughs. High days, I can’t stop talking. Low days, I’m a puddle. Today, I’m marginally angstified. (Yes, I just made up that totally and awesomely significant new word. I’m waiting for my new urban slang dictionary prize in the mail.)

I’ve been thinking about writing other stories. The torrid and passionate affair I’ve had with my novel still burns bright, but I find myself drawn to shinier, prettier things (and chocolate). Is it a victim of mid-life crisis, my ravenously short attention span, or my ongoing sociopathic egomania? Or all three? I may have answered that question already, but I’ve forgotten what I wrote previously. (Damn you, short attention span!)

If I start writing another novel I know I’ll neglect the other**. But maybe that’s what I need to do. Maybe my current novel isn’t any good. (My only slightly bruised and sociopathically egomaniacal ego refuses to believe that. It’s currently screaming at the wall: “you’re too good for this place!” I think it might be a bit deluded, as well. Now it’s rubbing ice cream all over its face…)

My excuses (uni, dating, music, reading, working out, movies, blogging, D&D, laying about avoiding cutting toenails, etc.) have become my crutches. I can barely move without them. (Perhaps I could invest in a better metaphor—a wheelchair, maybe. Then I could pretend to motivate myself to move a little faster.)

In the end, I guess I could have been writing my novel if I hadn’t written this post. Am I just delusional? Or is that my sociopathic egomania talking? I’ll ponder it while I eat some of this delicious ice cream that somehow got smeared on my face. Mmmmmmm….now, what was I talking about again?

Cheers

Steve 🙂

*Unlike many writers, I’ve rarely suffered from this. If writer’s block was a cold, I’d be interminably hot and sweaty most of the time. 

**Like my previous unfinished novels: they wait politely and patiently, trying to catch my eye. Unfortunately, they don’t realise that I’m very short sighted—literally, not just figuratively. 

The Real News. A short tale.

Here’s a post I did for a recent uni course. The course is over so I can post it now. The idea was to take a news story and extrapolate what it was about.  

IMG_0818

A man attacked a woman in a Victorian Shopping Centre. Although the news story was light on details, it was inferred in the report that the two may have known each other.

I am not a fan of these types of news stories, especially when there is no further information, meaning any further claims (i.e. via Twitter and Fb feeds, also mentioned in the article) are generally hearsay and conjecture. Having said that, this is a creative writing course, so I am going to make some wild and potentially bizarrely inaccurate conclusions.

I think the man (whom we shall refer to as Escobarn, to protect his identity) was a spurned lover, and he used an axe as he was a firefighter who trained with axes regularly at the axe throwing range. He was a neighbour of the woman (forevermore known as Juliannis), and they had known each other for years, secretly harbouring a passionate desire for one another and a shared love of axe wielding. Juliannis was saved by Escobarn when her backyard BBQ mysteriously caught fire while she was cooking one evening.

Little did Juiliannis know that Escobarn had rigged the BBQ to catch alight, thus setting his torrid plan in motion. After a very brief (3-minute) affair, Escobarn stole the six-foot marijuana plant Juliannis was growing in a patch of her backyard, hidden in a small grove of trees. Despite his short comings (yeah, that’s a pun), or perhaps because of them, Juliannis, suspected her short-term lover of the robbery. She was desperate to recover the tree as she had a huge gambling debt with Father Macc at the local Church Bingo.

Juliannis called on Father Macc for assistance. Father Macc utilised some of his geriatric bingo toughs to beat up Escobarn and return the plant. Unfortunately, the toughs all died of old age before they could complete the job. Escobarn, upset about the dead people on his lawn, took his trusty axe to Juliannis’ place of work. The rest is news history.

There are a number of crimes perpetrated here, some real, some wildly fictitious: Attempted Murder, Cultivating an illegal drug, Illegal BBQ tampering (carries a 20 year sentence in Australia. We’re very attached to our barbies), Illegal Gambling (depends on the type of bingo – this particular one was  body parts trading and money laundering), Geriatric Gang Violence, Public Littering (dead bodies on a lawn are an offence if not cleaned up).

There are many crimes committed in the big city. This is just one of them. Or ten.

Regards

Steve 😉

Sucker Punch. A short tale.

Here is another piece I wrote for a recent course that is now finished, so I’m free to post it.

Cheers

Steve 🙂

punch

I feel the fist as it hits me hard in the jaw. My head shakes violently; I hear the soft crack at my jawline and a seeping pain overwhelms my thoughts. I stumble sideways, my arms up, guarding my skull. His blows come in a flurry, faster now but imprecise, attempting to break through my defences. At times, he varies his attacks, all of them with self-righteous fury but a lack of finesse and no other purpose than to pummel me into submission.

I feel his knuckles crunch my nose, sharp pain smashing straight through and my skull snapping back and forth like a bobble head on a spring. It gives him an opening and he smacks the side of my head just below my brow, where a ring he is wearing cuts deep. Blood flows freely, down through my eye (sticky, stinging), down my face, along my neck and soaking into my shirt collar. I stumble, my vision blurring, arms still up and aching from bruises that seem to echo through my bones.

Time has slowed, and I sense others pulling him back as I fall to my knees. I’m lucky. At this point he could have taken me out, killed me if he wanted. My mind is adrift in a haze of shapes and motion and as darkness closes in I barely feel the pavement as it greets me with one last sucker punch.

The Spell. A short tale.

I saw you again today.

You hadn’t changed at all, but of course I shouldn’t have expected you too. After all, it had been but a few weeks, and nobody can be expected to change much in that time. Your beauty outshone everyone else in the room, like a lighthouse between hazardous reefs. I could only glance for a short while, lest I be blinded by your light; I was far too unworthy.

You didn’t acknowledge me at all, and although I was saddened by this apparent rebuke, I understood. You were so infinitely far away, and yet only a few steps lay between us. I was distracted by others, by casual, innocuous conversation, and by the time I looked back again, you were gone.

I smiled grimly as I left that place, knowing that you were a pipedream, an illusion beyond the power of choice. As my eyes moistened, I wondered if I would ever be free of the weave of your magic. Perhaps not.

But if never, then what a fine spell to be under.

Love in Vain copy

The Sale. Part 3. A short story.

The living room was immense, I almost needed binoculars to identify the furniture. This consisted of a few ornate and dusty lounges, chairs and a worn coffee table, all encircling a huge twenty-foot wide hearth, a fire burning briskly within. Exotic, cobweb-covered chandeliers shone dimly from the ceiling far above—the light they cast had very little impact on the dancing shadows cast by the flames. My previous confidence in a quick sale was evaporating, unlike the sweat forming on my brow from the heat in the room. The butler lurched to a stop by the door, out of breath.

Standing before the crackling fire was a short woman: young and thin, attractive, with shoulder length red hair, dressed in a twenties-style shimmering knee high cocktail dress that had seen better days. “So, you’re a cleaner?” Her voice was accented, something European, but not easily definable.

I smiled and held out my hand. “I’m John,” I said. “I’m here to clean one sofa or floor, obligation free. And all you have to do is watch a demonstration of the amazing Dirby Vacuum Cleaner.”

She shrank back in horror. Guess my pitch needed some work. Her face screwed up in a look of angry intensity, verging on rage. I was taken aback—it wasn’t like I was a Jehovah’s Witness or anything. As she spoke, she ground out each syllable through clenched teeth. “My-mother-was-killed-by-a-vacuum-cleaner.”

Well, that was unexpected.

To be continued…

(And my apologies to any Jehovah’s Witnesses reading this. I have nothing against you, it just sounded funny in context.)

The Sale. Part 2. A short story.

The rain was falling harder now. I raised my collar against the cold and turned to go, lifting the heavy vacuum kit awkwardly beside me.

The door slowly opened with a long creak (it was like it had its own theme song, the patter of rain the accompanying percussion). I turned and jumped.

The fellow in the doorway was huge, at least seven feet tall, with a face so wrinkled and jowls so pronounced it looked like it was melting. He was dressed in a butler’s coat and tails, and as he opened his mouth the harsh intake of breath that preceded his words sounded like a death rattle. “Yes?”

Don’t stare a gift horse in the mouth. Or at least, the chest. “Hi there.” A broad smile and hand outstretched, false confidence disguising nervousness. “I represent Dirby Vacuum Cleaners, and we’re offering an obligation-free clean. I’ll vacuum one sofa or the floor of one room within your house, to demonstrate how versatile and powerful the Dirby is. Best vacuum on the market.” I patted the top of the kit like it was a good dog.

He stared down at me without emotion and his aged voice seemed to mimic the creak of the door as he spoke. “I’ll have to ask the mistress of the house.” The door closed. I stood, tapping my foot anxiously. A few minutes later he returned. “The mistress will see you in the living room.”

The butler led me slowly through the entryway, every shuffling footstep at an agonising tortoise-like pace. My previous fears were evaporating quickly. I was keen to get the kit unpacked, clean the floor and demonstrate how good this vacuum was—butler and big mansion equalled money to waste, and this was an opportunity I couldn’t afford to miss…

To be continued…

The Sale. Part 1. A short series.

I’ve just started a new uni subject, and one of the threads on the discussion boards is about re-writing clichés. This is my first post from that thread (it’s not part of the marking process so I can post it here now, otherwise I would have to wait until the course was over).

I’m going to continue this series on a semi-regular basis.

 

It was a dark and stormy night.

Okay, it wasn’t really that dark. There were big street lights, like super A-grade halogens (the city council must have had a bigger budget in this town than my last). And I guess a light drizzle wasn’t really a storm, but I hated getting wet.

I wandered up to the old house, knocked on the door. Three knocks (always three knocks. I must have been a bit compulsive). Called out to see if anyone was home. Nobody answered. It was a grand old place, three stories, Tudor styling, three chimneys, nice iron fittings and railings. Stone gargoyles hanging somewhat out of place from the eaves. Your average suburban gothic chic. But I wasn’t going to let a creepy place and some damp weather stop me from making a sale. No way. I was going to sell a vacuum cleaner to these people if it killed me.

Famous last words…

To be continued…

 

The Wet Street Shuffle. A short tale.

The rain was hard that night, like little daggers on the back of my neck. I made it to the overhang, drenched, and shook out my hat like a wet dog. Traffic moved begrudgingly in the street, the occasional horn breaking the murmur of engines struggling against repression. Despite the rain’s ferocity, people rushed this way and that, like insects threatening to be washed away.

There were several strangers with me under the overhang. Pedestrians taking cover from the weather; faces cowed and muted in the damp dimness, almost like they were hiding from the reality of their own existence. I nodded ingenuously, an acknowledgement of our shared, wet fate. 

Within minutes the torrent had ceased, leaving the streets shiny in the moonlight. My short term compatriots went on their way, mysteries and enigmas better left unsolved.

Cat and Mouse. A short tale.

This story is the prequel to a poem I wrote on my blog a while back. You can find it here.

I wrote this brief story for Uni. Now that the course is over I can post it.

 

The cat sat on the mat. She preened and purred, purred and preened. She watched the mouse. The mouse sat across the room, just outside his hole-in-the-wall. He did not preen, or purr. He watched the cat.

The cat had never eaten a mouse before and wondered if he tasted good. If you’re not sure of these things, it’s always polite to ask.

“Are you tasty?” she said.

The mouse seemed confused. “Tasty?” he replied. “As in, ‘my, you are one hip, cool and funky mouse’?”

She smiled. “No. As in, are you good to eat?”

“I guess that depends on your perspective,” said the mouse. “I would say definitely not.”

The cat yawned, rolled on her side and pawed the carpet aimlessly. “Are you fast?”

The mouse’s eyes narrowed and he rubbed his tiny paws together. “Do you want to chase me and find out?”

“Not really,” said the cat, drifting off to sleep.

Date Night. A short tale.

The mirror image was unflattering.

She had been trying on dresses for the last hour. They always looked better on the rack and in the fitting rooms before she bought them. She knew there was something about the mirrors in stores. Like the ones at carnivals, but warping everything to look better (maybe she should get one installed…).

It looked like jeans and a blouse were a better option. Three changes later and she was satisfied. Black skinny jeans (almost a miracle needed to get them on; not quite the parting of the Red Sea, but almost) and a billowy white shirt, untucked (why did her ass and thighs look so big? Where was that carnival mirror…) over a black tank top (she was sure it was bigger, before. Had her boobs grown? Maybe the top shrunk in the wash. That’s okay, it emphasised her cleavage more, now. She would just leave a few extra buttons open to show ’em off. Face palm: that was so slutty.)

All this crap for a blind date. And what if he looked worse than she did? What if he was some loser, no job, aimless? She shook her head. Her best friend wouldn’t match her like that. All her fears and insecurities were rising to the surface. Best push them down, keep them buried, like they usually were. “Yeah, real healthy,” she said to the empty room (hmm. It was pretty empty. Maybe she needed to get a cat? Hold on a minute – that way lay long term spinster-dom and more cats…)

Makeup applied, not overdone, but not sparingly (less whorish, more Watergate cover up. Big sigh). Her phone alarm beeped. Time to face the music, she thought. She pouted to the mirror, mouthing silently “it’s so nice to meet you”. Tilted her head. Silent pretend laugh.

She rolled her eyes and headed for the door. One last glance back. Maybe she would get a cat…

 

What is this flash fiction stuff? I only started it recently (and maybe my short tales are a bit too long to be called flash fiction. I don’t know). This one is a bit clichéd, but that’s okay – nobody’s perfect.

Not even with the benefit of carnival mirrors.  

 

Awake. A short tale.

(I exit my room. The sun is shining through my open window, bright beams illuminating me from behind as I stretch and face the world. I imagine a choir announcing my return, like a second coming, of sorts.

“So, where have you been?” says Alpha Girl, sprawled on the lounge and not looking up from her magazine. My choir slurs and stops, like a wind up record player reaching its end.

“Yeah,” says Beta Max, not taking his eyes off the TV as he plays Xbox.

Scratching my unruly head, I yawn, waddle sleepily to the kitchen and pour cereal into a bowl. “I’ve been working on my blog,” I say. “And sleeping.”

“We haven’t seen you for a week,” says Alpha Girl. “Thought you’d moved out. Or died. A good outcome, either way.”

I stick out my tongue, but she doesn’t see it. “Did either of you think to knock on my door?” I say. “I suffer from depression, you know.”

Beta Max moans as his onscreen self is killed again. He looks over at me and grins. “If you died, we would have smelt it by now, dude.”

“It’s nice to know I’m surrounded by such caring, sharing people,” I respond, smiling and flipping him the bird.

Alpha Girl, still engrossed in her magazine, flicks her hair. “You told me you made a commitment to your family not to commit suicide,” she says. “And I know how responsible you are.” For the first time, she looks up and smirks. “Besides, whenever you isolate yourself like that, you put yourself through hell. And I love it when you torment yourself.” I can almost hear the sinister orchestration in the background. Thunder booms. Lightning flashes. A glint of predatory canines as she sneers.

Beta Max throws down the controller as he dies again. “I hate this game,” he says. Loping over to the fridge, he drinks orange juice straight from the bottle. Alpha Girl gives him a death stare. Suitably rebutted, he pours a glass of juice and meekly places the bottle back. “Dude, you know we’re always here for you,” he says.

I laugh. “I’ll remember that the next time I update my will,” I say.)

The Player. A short tale.

Steve picked up his guitar. It was an old acoustic: earthy, time worn and weather beaten, with thick gauge strings slightly out of tune. He plucked the neck harmonics and adjusted the tuning heads, listening intently as each tone wavered and steadied. When he finished, he strummed an open G chord, and, satisfied with his efforts, commenced  playing a song he had written long ago.

As usual it was a tale of woe and forgotten love. Blues, but not quite blues; some jazzy sevenths and ringing open strings brought a gentle dissonance to the melody.  Lyrics breathily whispered to the night.

Steve drifted lazily back to bars long since closed and audiences long since forgotten –  he could almost smell the drifting smoke in the room. Gently rocking, his left foot tapped out a rhythmic beat in time to his strumming.

Then it was over, as if it had never been.

 

This is a uni piece I wrote many months ago. Everyone had to write an introduction for themselves. The final assignment has been marked, so I can post it now.

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