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Read, Write, Love

Dream Trip

By | Read, Write, Love

By Megan Buxton

Tess hopes she has packed everything they’ll need in the new caravan. Bob was at the club last night, saying goodbye to his mates. By the time he came home he could hardly stand let alone make decisions about packing.
    Now he’s hitching the van to the new four-wheel drive. Tess looks at the car, squat and pugnacious, and misses her little hatch-back.
    ‘Silly to keep it love,’ Bob said. ‘It’ll be sitting in the garage for six months doing nothing. May as well sell it and use the money on the trip. And we’ll only need one car when we get back – now we’re retired.’
    Tess shudders at the thought. Bob looks up from the couplings and glares.
    ‘Nice for some,’ he says. ‘Started the holiday already I see.
    She climbs into the car, lips thinned. The door slams and the seatbelt is yanked across, the tongue jammed into the buckle.
    ‘Steady on Tess, old girl. Treat the car with a bit of respect, eh, love.’
    Tess takes a deep breath.
    ‘Well. Here we go, eh love. Trip of a life time. All our dreams coming true.
    Tess thinks of Paris, Rome, the wonders of Europe. Someone’s dreams are coming true at any rate.
    An hour later they slow down, along with all the other northbound traffic. Tess looks ahead and sees dozens of vans in the line, inching along like giant silver snails.
    ‘A caravan of caravans,’ she mutters.
    ‘Eh, what, love?’ says Bob. ‘I thought this new bypass was supposed to speed things up. By the way, did you pack my hand surfer?’
    ‘Jesus, Tess. I’ve been looking forward to using it. I love that thing.’
    Yep, thinks Tess. He loves it so much he hasn’t touched it for five years.
    Silence in the cabin. Tess gazes ahead at the white lines dissolving in the liquid shimmer of the road.
    She thinks of the aluminium siding of the van, sucking in the heat, storing it up to torment her throughout the long night. They didn’t get the air-conditioning.
    ‘No need for that, love. We’ll be sitting in the annexe, enjoying the sea breeze.’
    Bob begins to whistle. He calls it whistling anyway; forcing air between the gaps in his teeth, the tunes unrecognisable. The sound slices through her like a paper cut.
    ‘What are we having for tea, love?’
    Tess groans at the thought of cooking in the hot box on wheels.
    ‘I thought we might go out,’ she says. ‘By the time we arrive and set up it’ll be late.’
    He looks crestfallen. ‘Oh, no love. First night in the new van. We’ve got to christen the new equipment.’
    What’s with the ‘we’ she thinks. You’ll pour a beer and relax while I cook. Same shit as home, just a different location – and more difficult.
    They pull into a petrol station.
    ‘Stop, revive, survive,’ parrots Bob, returning to the car with an ice-cream and a packet of chips. ‘Didn’t get you anything, love. I know you’ve gotta watch your weight,’ he beams at her as the fast-melting ice-cream drips onto his paunch.
    He crunches on the chips as they drive, slurping the salt off his fingers after each one.
    Tess thinks about the journey ahead.
    Six months of caravanning. Six months of caravan parks. Six months of amenities blocks with tinea –infested shower stalls and using toilets after someone with terminal digestive problems. Six months of Bob at close quarters.
    In a couple of hours they’ll be in Port Macquarie. Tess gets out her phone. Google tells her there’s an airport there. With a few clicks she could book a flight home and another to France. She’d be packed and on her way before Bob gets back from fishing. She hopes her passport is still valid.
    Bob reaches across and pats her knee.
    ‘This is going to be so good,’ he says. ‘And there’s no-one I’d rather be travelling with. You know that, love?’
    Tess sighs, puts away her phone and stares through the windscreen at the long road ahead.

In life, As in Death

By | Read, Write, Love

By Robert Edmonds

Behind the crematorium
they toss unwanted wreaths.
As local kids we piled them up,
and liked to play beneath.

In Loving Memory became
a place where girls would hide,
hanging their hair with flowers
that had only just arrived.

In Peace became a fortress
that I once attacked
with Always tied around my neck,
Forever on my back.

I like to think God Broke My Heart
was the scene of my first kiss.
But it might have been Remembered,
or even Deeply Missed.

We dug a pit and covered it
with Waiting For Me There.
We waited there to ambush those
In His Eternal Care.
Gone But Not Forgotten
was a cubby at the rear.
But they were close to compared to So
Far Away and Yet So Near.

The toughest kids I ever fought
were from Cherished and Adored.
They were bold and fearless and
Forever In Our Thoughts.

Our allies used to run away.
They fancied they were clever.
They’d go and hide in Sadly Missed
or in With Us Forever.

Sleeping Now were all defeated.
Those playing dead did not survive.
And so I swore I’d never
Stay At Rest while still alive.

And when I find I’m Free Now,
I’m In Heaven drawing breath.
Make me a part of everything
In Life (yes) As In Death.


My Brother Ross

By | Read, Write, Love

By Bronwyn MacRitchie

An accident, they said. By his own hand, they said.
    My brother Ross was twenty seven years old when he died. He had been working alone on a mine near Hermidale in NSW and I hadn’t seen him for several months.
    We are in the basement carpark lift at the Sydney RSL on the the way to his wake when the lift stops. It is stuck between floors with twelve passengers. Except for my sister, everyone else is a stranger to us, but not to my brother. They have travelled from the Central West to attend his funeral. Having shouted, banged and pushed every button, we introduce ourselves and reminisce on Ross’ exploits while waiting for rescue.
    He was crazy, inventive and loved to push the boundaries. When our older brother came home to Dubbo on school holidays he and Ross would go down to the shunting yards and roll between the train wheels. Ross was five. He built a rocket when he was eight, climbed up a tall tree and launched it from there. Instead of shooting into outer space, the tree caught fire instead. He tried skiing on the dam with a piece of corrugated tin pulled around by the jeep. Time and again it sank or hit the fence that went through the middle. When he worked in Cobar he built an airconditioner from an aeroplane propellar and inserted it in the wall of his bedroom. It was too powerful to use. Having a pilots licence brought out more mischief. We were travelling from Orange to Mount Hope in a small Cessna when he decided to herd a mob of wild goats. I didn’t find it amusing as he dipped and turned. I held my breath and gripped the seat. Crop dusting had been good practice, he said. In New Guinea he was flying goods to isolated areas. The plane became stranded and he was surrounded by cannibals. He managed to convince them he would not be a tasty meal and offered them a bottle of whisky as a substitute. It became one of his regular runs. He could fix anything mechanical and was fastidious in servicing the aeroplane and car.
     The lift begins to move upward. We will be half an hour late but that doesn’t matter because Ross loves a good party. He will be honoured with tales from those who’d encountered his quirky humour and brilliant mind.
    But no-one knew him the way I did. The boy who comforted me when my backside hurt from the strap or one night when my nightdress caught fire when he burnt his hands putting out the flames. They didn’t know he punched Johnny Paterson in the face for calling me an stupid idiot or when he took the blame for my wrongdoing and got the strap. They didn’t know he had driven me to the station after a fight with Dad and cried when I left. He wept when our animals died and insisted on a full burial each time. We had small crosses all over the back yard. He was fiercely protective always. He hated being in the city, even for a short time but he did it to spend time with me. They didn’t know his tender heart was bruised many times by a cruel step-mother and manipulative father.
    ​ The rope was round his neck, they said.

The Utterances of a Child

By | Read, Write, Love

By Cassandra O’Loughlin
                       for my granddaughter Claire

Surely the song-larks on the Hay plains heard your call
on the landline, and the birds in the atolls of light
on the Murray. The bright-eyed quolls would have stopped
to listen in the mountain’s deep-scented shade.
Certainly the koel in the fig would know it was you,
and the restless boobook that twirls curlicues in the fog.
Your voice sends out light from every syllable, every vowel
and consonant . . . there is no one who can explain this.
Rain falls on my face, on my hands, as I wait for your next call.
The household words gathered in your four years are sweet
raspberries at my breakfast table, wrens on my pillow. 

A letter From The Land of Alone

By | Read, Write, Love

By Megan Buxton
Awarded the National Association of Loss and Grief Award 2014

​Dear You,
      I’m standing in your room. If I breathe deep enough I can smell the cinnamon scent of you. If I’m still enough I can feel a tiny tremor of your essence. If I’m quiet I can hear you, but you’re as faint as the echo of bird call in a canyon. And you’re fading.
      I put your things away today in cardboard boxes. Six of them. How can they, so flimsy in substance and so small in number, hold all the love and the dreams and the hope that I’ve packed away inside them. 
      There they squat, like toadstools on the bedroom floor. And I don’t know what to do with them now they’re full. How can I give away the things you touched, the clothes that once touched you? I’m scared that, if I let them go, there’ll be nothing left to remind me of you.
      Death took you and as he left, he poked holes in me so the heart of me leaked out. I zombie-shuffle through my days dressed in black. You hated black, but colours are for the living; they hurt my grieving eyes.
      It’s funny – in a sad, strange way. You died and I’m like a corpse. 
      And here I am in the land of alone. And it’s hard here.
      People talk about my ‘late’ daughter. How I wish that were true and any moment you would burst through the door, scattering your belongings like confetti. How I wish that death was just a lack of punctuality.
      ‘Try to think about the good times,’ they tell me.
       I wonder how that’s supposed to help.
       Thinking of the good times is vinegar on raw flesh and opens up the wound to bleed memories of arguments and petty jealousies, pointless anger, bitterness. All thrown so carelessly back then when I thought I had forever. Never retracted, never recanted. Lost chances and disappointments.
       I feel the awful loneliness of regret.
       ‘Give it time,’ they say.
       But grief is a ravenous beast. I’ve been feeding him time and all he wants is more. More time, more pain, more of me. He takes and takes and gives nothing in return.
       I’ve said those same words to others in the past. They sound the same here in the land of alone but their meanings shimmer like mirages and I don’t seem to have a dictionary.
       And the words don’t tell me what to call myself. I’m not an orphan; I still have parents. I’m not a widow; it’s not a husband I’ve lost. No-one has a word for the mother who’s lost a child. So what have I become? What am I without you?
       ‘This will pass,’ they tell me. I know they’re wrong.
       Anger ends. Happiness and laughter end. Why, then, does grief go on and on?

When the Sun Goes Down

By | Read, Write, Love

By Maree Gallop

Fuzz Noise

By | Read, Write, Love

(for Annabelle)
By Anne Walsh

she eats a banana
big hush of peel
in her cow onesie
her cud: my attention
I cannot write
anything except
her mooing
her banana peel
her eating my attention
peeling it
never was there a noisier silent consumption
of anything
than of my attention
her chewing
my writing 
her chewing

What my mother did when I went to school

By | Read, Write, Love

By Rosemary Bunker

My mother barely noticed when, not yet three, I took off for the one-teacher school next door. She had cooked breakfast and, depending on the day of the week, would then light the copper for washing, dampen the clothes for ironing, mop and polish the floors.  All this done, my mother too took off for school. She was her husband’s teacher’s aide.
             The family lynch pin, my mother was, before her marriage, a renaissance woman: a science graduate, a pianist, a trained soprano, student of drawing. She knew the social niceties – the correct table setting, the approved introduction rituals, the value of religion. She knew her place and that was by her husband’s side.
             So it was, my mother left the house for part of the day to teach eighteen children from farms, fettler and road work gangs.
             ‘Like this’ she’d say, holding up a blue crayon, then a yellow. ‘Blue and green don’t go.’ And we’d draw on plain paper. She made each child’s drawing a recognisable flower, a daisy or a bird. We’d stand by her side as she demonstrated a run and fell seam, then help our awkward fingers to manage scissors or thread a needle. Knitting and crochet were slow processes of handing over the work and picking up the stitch. She guided the boys’ hands folding blue and orange paper to create an origami bird. Sheets of newspaper became pirates’ hats. When it was time for music out came the tuning fork and we sang ‘doh’ after her. Then, reading the words written large on the blackboard, we sang ‘Hush little baby’ until we knew the tune and the words. She listened to us reciting ballads we learnt by heart. Making up our own plays, putting on a red shawl or a sword was to give unruly boys too much licence! Control was man’s work. In that, my father, cane sitting across the table, was supreme. Mother and I were sent home for father’s control sessions.
             I returned home often through the day to help skim the milk and beat the cream by hand to make yellow butter. Bought butter was a treat I longed for. We staked the tomatoes, cut newspaper with pinking shears for the lavatory, a deep hole with two wooden seats, or plucked a fowl. The smell of hot, wet feathers was unbearable. Because we were poor and idleness was a sin, mum made everything we wore and used. She turned her talents to making pot holders and peg bags of hessian, hemmed flour bags for tea towels and aprons on the treadle Singer sewing machine. Best dresses for Sunday, aprons, tough cesarine pinafores, knitted dresses with hats, gloves and bags for best or town sprang from her hands with pyjamas, nighties and bedsox. Once mother made a georgette dress for herself, dark wine in colour, in case we were invited out. She wore it once when, by invitation, women were invited to provide supper for the Lodge men. As mother worked at home, so did I, I learnt to make scones, plan and cook a baked rabbit dinner, make a mandatory sponge cake for the minister’s pastoral visit,  preserve eggs with keypeg for the winter, stack the pantry shelves with bottles of dark red tomato sauce, fill jars with melon and lemon jam and sterilise Fowler jars for fruit – plums and peaches. How I longed for ice cream instead of boring fruit every night. Now and then mum played the piano and made me practise Czerny exercises or a Chopin Prelude. Home or school did not matter – mother could not stop working or teaching.
           The war changed her life. We moved to the city. A teaching appointment meant paid work outside the home. Her domestic duties became mine after school. Looking back, I see a rational woman who embraced what she knew was best for her. I wonder if she regretted her choice. Did she marry at twenty-nine to escape spinsterhood with, she told me once, ‘a good man’ two years younger? Did my father, with a weak heart, one eye and minimal training, marry her to survive? That they melded is all I know now.

Brothers in arms

By | Read, Write, Love

– those mist covered mountains –
By Ellen Shelley

I followed our friendship over mountains.
Navigating girlhood
exploring our dreams.

I followed our friendship into the unknown.
Our first taste of liquor
the first taste of love.

I followed our friendship through the fog.
Stumbling into adulthood
the death of your father.

I followed our friendship to the summit.
The warm glow of loyalty
the birth of our children.

I followed our friendship into a crossroad.
A division in our choices
an unspoken disharmony.

I limped after our friendship.
Scavenging for a connection
to bind our lives together.

I poked carefully around our friendship.
Avoiding awkward exchanges
nothing left to say.

I relinquished our friendship,
and am left asking the question:
am I where I am now because of you
or me?

3-sentence short story

By | Read, Write, Love

At the recent Scone Writing Workshop attendees were invited to write a 3-sentence short story to see how sentence length can make your writing more engaging. Here is a members’s piece using a long, medium and short sentence:

By Eryl Carter

It was bound to happen sooner or later, of course, as things had become sufficiently unstuck over the previous five years that they each secretly knew that the end was inevitable. So, when he shouted at her and threw a glass of wine over her, they both knew. This was it.