Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Every Begging Night


© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2016

Begging every night had always been very easy for Yvette Angelique Temps, but tonight she had worked up absolutely nothing, not even five cents. She had been at it for around an hour, by which time she should have had around twenty dollars. She had a very simple and productive system for begging up money, simply approaching passers-by and asking them for a dollar for train fare. Most of them said no but Yvette always managed to raise twenty dollars quickly enough. She raised it in the evenings and then had enough for a good dinner and a good breakfast to look forward to. She had become homeless a few years before after a former boyfriend, high on ice, went at her with a knife. This was the third boyfriend in a row that had done such, but she again escaped safely. She spent that night in a local abandoned house, Redferne, Sydney, and had come to love the house’s character. The then twenty year old Yvette was fascinated by the fact that the now derelict house had probably once raised many families, families that were happy and normal, the opposite of her love life and current destitution. She felt obligated to keep those happy family memories alive, a necessary counterpoint to the messes all of her romances ended in. Besides, maybe a radical change would radically change her dreadful love life? It was certainly worth the try. She then took to moving from squat to squat, and found the squatting life was also moderately easier, with all of her time her own, as well as more exciting than the shelf packing job at the Redferne Quinnswerth. She never really had had her heart in that job.
     Tonight was the first night that she had been so unsuccessful with her begging and after fruitlessly trying for another hour, she gave up. She did receive welfare but had only about five dollars of that left and she wasn’t due to be paid for another five days. She was in Newtown, inner city Sydney, and decided to call it a night and walk back to her squat in nearby Standmore. She walked home dejectedly, her head down, wondering if it wasn’t time to get off of the streets. It was with her head down that she saw the twenty dollar note, lying casually in the gutter at the corner of Enmore Road and King Street. Well, why leave the streets when they were throwing money at her! She approached the money and picked it up. Yep, it was real.
      Now, what was the absolutely best way to spend it? After all, she had enough with her begging. She’d just wait an hour or two and try again. She was bound to raise her nightly twenty dollars. She always had before. She’d think best what to do with the extra money when she got home.
     By the time she got home fifteen minutes later she had a plan. In the morning she would open an interest bearing account at a bank and add one hundred dollars to it each week, at twenty dollars per day. Pretty soon she’d be wealthy and her squatting life would be even better, more so with her additional regulation daily twenty and her unemployment welfare. It was perhaps because she was now bright with enthusiasm and anticipation of her rich future that she eventually, and soon, raised her twenty dollars that night, in under half the time than usual. Yep, things were again looking rosy.

*

Not only did the bright enthusiasm last until the next day, when she decided to get up early to beg her savings, but over the ensuing weeks. Eight weeks in fact. With such success that by the end of that time she had a little over a thousand dollars in her account. She also had her daily ration of twenty dollars, plus the dole, which was quite sufficient for her.
     But by the time her balance reached three thousand dollars it also became problematic. Had she, Yvette asked herself, in fact become a miser? Was her choice of the homeless life nothing more than her expression of greed, wanting to become rich without having to do anything serious to get the money? She probably was indeed becoming a miser since she went to sleep every night with the printout of that day’s bank balance in her hand. And it was the first thing she looked at when she awoke the next day.
     Yep, it certainly looked like she was heading down the miser’s path so the best thing to do would be to spend that three thousand dollars. She would spend all of it on herself though. But seeing as she really didn’t need anything, what could she buy? She didn’t need the money for movies, or clothes, so what could she spend it on?
     She decided to buy a car and travel the great Aus. She would probably need around another two thousand but that would be easy to get. Things were just getting better and better.

*

After she bought the car she still had five hundred dollars left over. It was an old Holden (the model of which she didn’t have a clue) and after filling up the tank she more or less headed out of Sydney straight away. She planned to drive all through Aus, begging her way across the country. She’d always have a place to sleep in her car, without fear of being moved on by the place, so, after collecting her few clothes into her duffel bag, she headed off north, up to Queensland.
     She picked up Gerard about twenty kilometres from the Queensland border. He was a talkative guy who was also travelling around Aus, doing odd jobs on the way.
     ‘I’m begging my way around,’ Yvette informed him.
     ‘Oh yeah? Isn’t that hard?’
     ‘Nah, I’ve never had any trouble with it. Except once and even then I made some good money.’
     ‘I couldn’t beg. I’d feel so ashamed.’
     ‘I’m used to it by now. What sort of odd jobs do you do?’
     ‘Pretty much anything. I’m a jack of all trades and master of none.’
     ‘You know, we should team up?’
     Gerard looked quizzical.
     ‘Well, we’d halve our costs if we worked together and bought things in bulk. We might even increase our profits,’ pointed out Yvette.
     ‘And we’d always have someone to talk with.’
     ‘Yeah, true, it does get lonely sometimes on your own.’
     So they soon agreed to team up and travel Aus in style. They parked near the Roma Street Railway station and agreed to meet there again at six that night, to pool their day’s income. Yvette went about her work with an enthusiasm that was starting to become endemic and the money seemed to be literally flowing into her begging hands. After three hours work she had a little over eighty dollars and decided to visit the University of Queensland and see what it was she had missed out on in a university education. She bought two shepherd’s pies from the cafeteria and spent the time until about five pm in reading the complete Sherlock Holmes. She was expecting even greater things when she headed back to the car.
     She was not expecting to see her duffel bag in place of the car, its few clothes spilling over its side. She looked desperately around. Yep, the car had been stolen. Gerard, the bastard, was not such a nice guy after all. Mind you, someone else may have stolen it but then why wasn’t Gerard here to meet her? She looked around again, feeling the notes in her pocket while she walked briefly up and down to make sure she wasn’t losing her mind. Yes indeed, the car had been stolen.
     She went back to the university formulating a plan after waiting a half hour for Gerard’s possible return, which didn’t happen. She used the internet in their library to find instructions on how to hot wire a car. Finding the information was easy, as was the actual hot wiring. Then she made her way across the university grounds looking for a car that she could safely steal. She found one easily enough, another old Holden, and headed off next door to the Northern Territory. Gerard once mentioned during their brief relationship that the NT was a great place to live. The people were even more relaxed than the average Aussie and finding work was easy. It was warm all year round so sleeping under the stars was usually never a problem, and was in fact an experience that the average Aussie simply ought not to miss.
     Halfway to the NT she was picked up by the Highway Patrol. The bastard of an owner must have quickly found his/her car stolen and reported it. Yvette’s luck might well now be on the downswing. With this seriously in mind Yvette faked having a mental illness while talking to the officer, intermittently talking to an imaginary ‘Agatha.’ The officer suspected she may be shamming it but had to do his duty nonetheless. He took her back to Brisbane and involuntarily admitted her into the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital for suspected schizophrenia.
     Yvette had no choice now, she had to keep up this schizophrenia sham. But not knowing any of the symptoms she was in a bit of a tricky position. No matter, she realised while getting into the hospital pyjamas, there’s probably some pamphlets around about schizophrenia, she’d learn from them.
     She learned well and when she came before the mental health tribunal she was committed to the hospital involuntarily for six weeks. Yvette was pleased with the outcome as it was nice having everything put on for her, food, clothing, shelter, companionship, without having to work for it. The police would also no doubt forget about her, neglecting to take her before the court again once she had ‘recovered’ from her psychotic episode.
     The police did not forget, however, and exactly six weeks after her committal the same police officer turned up at the hospital to have her once again committed, but to remand, until she had her day in court. She had her day of such and was fined two thousand dollars for the car theft and a conviction recorded. No problem, she thought on the way out of court, she’d beg the money very quickly. She headed into the Brisbane CBD with that in mind, planning to pay off the fine in a few weeks. She paid it off in four and a half weeks, and after again quickly begging up for another car, headed back to the NT. She would not pick up any hitchhikers this time.

~~~

If you have been enjoying Fitzpatrick's stories here you may also enjoy his short story collections, and other books, available online as both Kindle books and paperbacks (go to http://amzn.to/1NfodtN). Other ebook and paperback options are available at  http://bit.ly/1UsyvKD Fitzpatrick is also having a collection of short stories, Aberrant Selected, published by Waldorf Publishing on September 01, 2018. You can follow its journey at www.aberrantselected.blogspot.com
    
    

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Unknowns


© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2016

Rose-Anne and I first met years upon decades ago, at work, in the Surrey Hills, inner city Sydney, Quinnswerth delicatessen. Working there in the deli was always fun, staffed by a young crew who all enjoyed having a good time. The staff in Quinnswerth’s other departments all looked up to us deli members somewhat. In hindsight, I really don’t know why this was so obviously the case, but we were the best of friends with everyone else in the store. Maybe it was the singular, eclectic mix of people, artists, and university students.
     Rose started there soon after I did. She normally worked in bakery and had been randomly chosen to fill someone’s Saturday shift in the deli after that person had called in sick. I had recently transferred across from the groceries department. To be honest, I transferred because of the deli uniform - a studded front, white, short sleeve coat that made work more pleasurable, being well dressed.
     Rose was a second year Arts/Dip. Ed. student whereas I was a third year Arts student. I was at AuCU, Aus Central University, and Rose was at Macquarie. We also had similar subjects, though different Majors, and enjoyed talking about them with each other.
     Exactly how, from such a firm foundation, Rose and I developed an intense love-hate relationship over the next eight months or so is still beyond me. Maybe it was my untrusting, sarcastic streak that caused it, a leftover survival tactic from high school. Maybe I was subconsciously venting the fact that she did not appear to be the slightest bit interested in me romantically. Even though I was nineteen years of age at this time, I still had never had a girlfriend. Or maybe I was just childishly trying to allure her, like the young boy perpetually pulling the ponytail of a particular girl’s hair. Whatever the reason, we both learned to relish our mutual company, and to revile it. And we also both seemed content to let things lay the way they did between us, neither needing to justify our mutual joyous viciousness. Maybe, after all, it was just one of those things.
     Thus, I was very surprised when, one night at a birthday party of a Quinnie worker about eight months later, she confided, under the most complete strictures against revealing her secret, that she was a month pregnant. She knew of only two guys whom could be the father, but Rose didn’t fancy having either of them as a spouse to raise the child. In fact the guys were the opposite of reliable and level headed. That was why she unhesitatingly slept with them, over and over. Though fun in the sack they were definitely not father material, and Rose was in no manner going to let them know of the possibility.
     And if I still don’t know why Rose and I developed such an intense love-hate relationship, neither do I know why I said, once she had briefly told me of her straits,
     ‘Don’t worry, Rose, I’ll look after you. I’d love to marry you. Maybe the wedding will stops us biting each other.’
     ‘You can’t marry me, Tim. That’s absurd. Even if it would maybe end our constant bickering.’
     ‘C’mon, Rosey. Weigh up the pros and cons. You’ll find marrying me will be just what the doctor ordered.’
     ‘I’m not marrying you, Tim.’
     ‘How can you finish uni and raise a child too? I’ll have my degree fairly soon, by which time you’ll have your first daughter or son. I can look after the tyke while you finish off your degree.’
     Rose didn’t rejoinder, but just looked downwards, thoughtfully, chewing the right inside of the corner of her lips. She was still looking down when she said,
     ‘I think you have a point. It’s my biggest worry, never finishing uni, ending up very run-of-the-mill. I don’t want to hate the child for making me miss out on greater opportunities.’
     ‘And you need someone’s serious help fast if you really want to finish your studies. And only I can do that. Is there someone else that can step in?’
     She looked up,
     ‘Ok then, ask me.’
     ‘Will you marry me?’
     ‘Yes.’

*

Rose-Anne and I made a great pair, and our marriage - a de-facto marriage - on the whole was very peaceful. We never had any other children (bearing our only child, Jennifer-Anne, had almost proved too much for Rosey) and Jenny was told on the night of her sixteenth birthday that I was not her biological father, but her father nonetheless. We told her the truth out of simple courtesy to her, but she was not in any way upset by the news. She neither spoke of it in any form after she learned the truth, nor asked any questions. She just accepted the fact.
     That is, until she had returned home from her first day at university. She was attending AuCU in Strathfield, doing a Bachelor of Primary Education. She came home in raptures that day, all replete with the fact that she was now an adult, learning adult things. But the adult nature of her new environs had also backfired, the noble and genuine atmosphere of the university making her think of her biological father, of how very dishonourable he was. When she got off the train that day after her first lecture she decided to track him down, to make him explain his dereliction of duty. Uni could wait, but she felt she deserved her biological father’s apology as soon as possible. In fact, the noble beauty of university was only possible when after she had been in converse with the most important man in her life, whom had created her, and unwillingly shaped her.
     What could we do? Rosey and I tried to talk her out of the search, to go back to her textbooks and laptop, but she was adamant. So, Rosey told Jenny the full names of the two possible men, one of whom created her.
     She eventually found the two men, after looking in the electoral role. They easily agreed to have samples of their hair follicles tested for paternity of her. Now that Jennifer was obviously a grown woman, the men must have felt that she would not be in any way a drain upon them. And, besides, it’d probably be nice to know if they were a father, especially if it involved little to no work.
     The results were unwelcome. Her progenitor was Dimitri Maximich Gorky, the one she hoped did not prove to be her father. He was a hopeless pothead. All through Jennifer’s brief interview with him while collecting the hair sample, he had had a bong in his hand, occasionally filling it and smoking. He spoke very quietly, and looked to be half asleep. He was obviously never fully awake enough to properly look after his flat for the floor was littered with sundry food wrappers, stains, and debris. He was a mess, and dressed like a mess too. And he was her father.
     But he was a father she could reject, which she unwaveringly did, telling him that he was simply not worth troubling over, that she now knew she had a real father in me. Jenny said that Dimitri didn’t appear dejected at the news. Probably too stoned to fully know what was going on.
     Now you’d think that Jenny, having such a profligate for a father, would avoid a similar fate. But, indirectly, it lead to the same history repeating itself. Jenny took to white wine after leaving Dimitri to his fate, ostensibly to celebrate avoiding Dimitri’s stoned fatherhood. I never knew she was drinking, mostly in a local park, with some neighbours that she would invite. I only found out when she told me she was pregnant, father again unknown, and again one of a possible two, and both again nothing more than booze hounds.
     Luckily Jenny had a good boyfriend, Marcus Broadlee. H simply had to be told the truth, I told her. She didn’t want to, but she quickly saw that she would soon have no choice when she began showing. Abortion was not an option with her. Her mother and I felt that way as well.
     Marcus took the news better than expected, asking Jenny to marry him, swearing to raise the child completely as his own. He had a good, steady job with the New South Wales government and they spent a week in outlining a plan to bring the new baby into the world. You can imagine all of our surprise then when one day Marcus was not able to be found. It was his mother, in fact, who let us know that he had gone missing, not having come home the night before, and Marcus always careful to tell her when he came and went. Jenny and I tried all of Marcus’ friends to find out where he was now, even some of his work colleagues, but he had completely vanished. None of his belongings were taken from his home.
     Of course we duly notified the police who, to all of our surprise, located Marcus several days later in Western Australia. He gave Jenny a message through his searchers that he was not coming back to Sydney and that she was not welcome in WA. Marcus, having tried as hard as he could, was not in the slightest willing to become her infant’s father. Anyway, he would probably do a lousy job. No, by far and away the best thing to be done was to find another man for the job, a man far less selfish that Marcus admitted to being.
     So, not long after my forty-seventh birthday, it looks like I’ll be raising another child not at all of my own blood. The offspring of another child that I had similarly raised. If I was superstitious I’d say that I’ll also probably be a great grandfather in the same way. The fates are all obviously having a big lend of me. But that’s okay, I enjoyed raising Jenny and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved with her. She plans to resume university as soon as she can and we have assured her that she can still study well while we take the best of care with her child. She’ll be a qualified teacher sooner than she’ll realise and then she can afford to be more indulgent with her child.
     And whether or not it was due to my very willingly taking on my granddaughter’s upraising, as well as sharing Rosey’s initial burden, yesterday Rose-Anne asked me to marry her, to solemnise the vows that I have ‘already proven’ to her. Even to the point of taking on my surname, Finnegan. It would be nice, she told me, to proclaim me as a staunch husband for my efforts, and that required staunch, serious vows. She wanted a church wedding, which we had a month after she asked me to wed her. Jenny is back at university and I expect my wife’s and my slowly approaching senior years to be nothing but joyfulness, maintaining our youth through Jenny’s child. I’m looking forward to the challenge. Again.

~~~

If you have been enjoying Fitzpatrick's stories here you may also enjoy his short story collections, and other books, available online as both Kindle books and paperbacks (go to http://amzn.to/1NfodtN). Other ebook and paperback options are available at  http://bit.ly/1UsyvKD Fitzpatrick is also having a collection of short stories, Aberrant Selected, published by Waldorf Publishing on September 01, 2018. You can follow its journey at www.aberrantselected.blogspot.com
    
    
    

    

Friday, 1 June 2018

An Unseemly Business


© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2016

Johnathon Thomes-Speare had just been labelled a ‘merchant of death’, because of his well-seasoned free choice to pander in the many forms of tobacco, a substance which, really, is quite harmless if taken in moderation. However, detracting from the scathing invective, mildly delivered upon Johnathon, was the fact that it was declaimed by some filthy tweenie, whose malodour was an utter original in just how offensive some odours can be. Especially if left to rot on one’s shabby rags.
     ‘You stink, mate,’ replied John to this lad. ‘Take a bloody shower.’
     ‘If I can get a pack on tick I’ll find somewhere to wash straight away. I’ll smoke the first one on the way to the shower.’ The fact that this filthbag seemed assured that he could get some cigarettes on credit after having thus roundly abused Johnathon’s choice of trade is explained by the fact that this filthbag was obviously in a psychotic state. Not wildly grinning psychotic, but a very glazed appearance that says there really is no such thing as unambiguous meaning.
     ‘I don’t know you, mate. No, you can’t get tick.’
     ‘Aw, c’mon, man. I can give you collateral.’
     ‘Go beg up a few bucks and then come back.’
     ‘Ok, man.’ Then the tweenie loped off, thinking he was in for some discounted tobacco. The tweenie, though, also allured Johnathon, despite the lad’s desperate situation, and because of the freedom in the lad’s desperate situation. Sure, other deros had asked him for credit, complete strangers, but this one was so utterly putrid and rotten smelling, yet also looked so completely innocent. Unable to fend for himself. He was obviously living the only life available to his feeble mind, living utterly a wild life, accountable only to his simple self. This soon made the youth’s accusation - of Johnathon being merely a merchant of death, a pedlar in poison - sink deeper than expected. The lad, after all, spoke the truth as the lad was at the naked centre of everything, his wild seclusion close to untamed Nature probably able to show him all of our secret and hidden centres.
     Yes, indeed, the lad, after all, spoke the truth.
     In fact, this dark nature of his business had, he now realised, largely been at the bottom of his mind over the past few years, seeming to mock him, questioning his very reason for existence. Johnathon was also now distressingly aware that around fifty percent of his customers will die because of his wares. Morally, at least, Johnathon - usually while swimming awake - knew that he was a murderer. Johnathon, he further felt, needed to be very seriously disciplined. It was at this point that Johnathon became suddenly and fully awake, forgetting consciously that he was a paid murderer.
     He wasn’t far now from retiring from the workforce, two and a half years, so maybe he should get clean of this filthy business now, before he retired, bringing no trace of any poison filth into a calm retirement. Easy enough. In fact, it was all boon from Johnathon’s point of view. Yes, certainly, he had to indeed rid himself of this disgusting trade. If only for his own self esteem.
     But at the crucial moment of Johnathon selling his whole business, and in a meeting with an already primed, regular, long-standing customer, he only offered her a half ownership of his steady, safe business. He suddenly thought it might be best to keep a little of his assets, just in case. You never know.  The customer, Vera Louk, only agreed to the altered purchase when she was told that she would get the other half from his last will and testament. Vera was on the lookout for something quick to feather her retirement’s nest egg, without having to work very hard. She would, though, need to take out a business loan, but in fifteen or so years, according to her calculations, she should be able to travel throughout the world in fairly comfortable style. Both parties seemed glad to have signed the final contract.
     Vera and John worked well together, although Vera was a silent partner. She also pointed out, after Johnathon told her of that tweenie’s accusation, that the world, like it or not, is a kill-or-be-killed place. It’s simply an unpleasant truth. In fact, Vera further averred, her and Johnathon were simply doing the only sensible thing - maintaining the status quo, maintaining peace and order. They were, in fact, pillars of society. Johnathon practically adored Vera after this declaration.
     Johnathon was enjoying his work so much now, having someone to share it with, that he began idly to consider trying one of his cigarettes. Or maybe a cigar. Or a pipe. Either way he had always thought it looked so sophisticated to have a smouldering fire dangling from one’s fingers. It said so much about a person, about their style, their chic; it alone really could be used to judge someone’s character.
     He began talking to Vera about considering taking up the smoke, like her, at one of their weekly meetings.
     ‘Well, yeah,’ she said, ‘you gotta try one. It’s the only way you can really find out what it is we’re selling. And the more we know, the more we can sell.’
     ‘And I can get the packets wholesale.’
     ‘And the lighters.’
     ‘Which do you recommend, the tailor mades or the rollies?’
     ‘Personally I’m partial to the rollies but I smoke the tailors ‘cause they’re the more convenient.’
     ‘Can you spare a tailor, mate?’
     ‘Sure. Now or never, eh, Johnathon?’
     ‘Now or never, mate.’ And he lit up.
     And he loved it, despite the initial coughing. All of Reality seemed to align itself when he was smoking, everything made sense and he could clearly see its progression along a sure, certain, and safe path forward. And it was an impression that lasted even after he finished the smoke. It was simply too deep to be forgotten.
     Johnathon’s joy with smoking eventually began to subside, however, losing that ability to see life as moving along in a planned way. The joy that a plan for life did actually exist, however, and that there was a meaning to it, did get him out of bed early each morning. He invariably smiled broadly throughout the first cigarette of the day.
     He also smiled during the last cigarette of the day, in his pyjamas in bed, cross-legged, and reading. He, of course, knew, having seen the TV ads back in the seventies, that smoking in bed is very dangerous. What was worse, Johnathon sometimes dozed off with the burning cigarette in his hand, awaking when it had burned down to the filter and scorched his fingers. But, hey, his life was still good and getting better, so the normal rules can be relaxed a little.
     This was also how he died, being found burned to a crisp.
     Johnathon lived above the shop and the entire place was gutted. Vera found out the next day, on the way there to buy a pack of smokes. Vera rang the insurance company straight away upon seeing the remaining carnage. They would send an assessor out the next day.
     She was eventually allowed in to view the damage, when she showed her business card saying she was indeed the owner of the shop, but was attended by an accompanying fireperson. The firey said the fire didn’t look suspicious, but that was what surprised Vera. It all looked like an act of Nature, Nature gone wrong, but Its will nonetheless.
     Nothing was salvageable. She left quickly, unreasonably and dejectedly lacking confidence that the insurance company could help her. She would have to get another job now, if she meant to get by every day as well as pay off her bank loan. She had never defaulted on a debt, had always paid her bills on time, and she was not going to break that champion situation now.
     Her unreasoning confidence in being failed by the insurance company did indeed prove to be correct, for they weren’t long in denying her claim for any compensation monies. The fire was caused by an unattended cigarette, and was thus the fault of at least one of the policy holders. It was time to look for another job again. The bank had to have its burnt offering and that was the only way she could offer her sacrifice.
     She spent longer than she guessed she would in finding a second job, and then only as a pizza delivery staffer, four hours a night, six nights a week. She was passing the pizzeria, on the way home after an interview, and one of the staff had just put the job advertisement in the window. Sure, it was only a delivery person, but, mate, from little things big things grow. She lied about her age, as she learned to do, and only got the job because they needed someone immediately. The other driver was in a car crash.
     It was an easy job, and Vera liked how the familiar places, to where she delivered, often changed aspect from visit to visit. And thankfully her new job let the bank be willing to accommodate Vera’s reduced ability to pay the loan for the shop.
     Vera no longer thought losing the tobacconist to be a veritable tragedy after she had her first heart attack. Luckily she was not driving at the time, having instead just entered her car and sat down to start the night’s deliveries. She wasn’t entirely sure that it was a heart attack, but took herself to the nearest hospital - Westmead, western Sydney - just to check. They quickly confirmed a mild heart attack after she arrived there.
     Vera now knew, without being told by her doctors (which they did) that she would have to give up smoking. It was quite possible that the next cigarette might be her last, causing a larger heart attack, and she would choke on her own smoke.
     Naturally, she gave up the smokes.
     For four weeks. Exactly.
     She blamed God for leading her back to the smokes, and indeed everyone else in Paradise was liable too. On the night of her exactly fourth week of successful abstinence, her dreams led her into Heaven, but a Paradise that had long ago condoned and welcomed those imbibers of all manner of poisons and potions. Vera discovered that in Heaven you can smoke if you want to. You could be a chain smoker and things will only still continue to get better thereby in Paradise. Here, have a cigarette.
    Vera then sprang awake, about to light the smoke. She had a very strong tobacco craving. Very Strong. Undeniable.
     Her next cigarette didn’t strike her heart, paralysing her. It struck her eyes, blinding her. On her bluer days she recalls watching her vision film over as the last of the cigarette’s smoke curled up into clouds. She’s still glad that she was never a big reader and has in fact now become somewhat of an audiophile, finding that her hearing has compensatingly improved. Vera also now easily understands why God permits cigarettes, and other drugs, into Paradise. They are obviously there to show us that we can safely indulge in vice, that vice and virtue are interdependent, and the highs we get from these drugs is a hint of Paradise, a boon borne of bane. And she now smokes a pipe, its sweeter scent reflecting her own dearly won wisdom.

~~~

If you have been enjoying Fitzpatrick's stories here you may also enjoy his short story collections, and other books, available online as both Kindle books and paperbacks (go to http://amzn.to/1NfodtN). Other ebook and paperback options are available at  http://bit.ly/1UsyvKD Fitzpatrick is also having a collection of short stories, Aberrant Selected, published by Waldorf Publishing on September 01, 2018. You can follow its journey at www.aberrantselected.blogspot.com
    
    

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

An Unexpected Sabbath

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2015

God, with neither Warning nor Prompting, suddenly had an entirely original Thought, the first in billions of years. Sure God was a rational Creature, fully Engaged in the worlds that He Had Created, but this Thought was only His First original Thought, after He Had Created Reality. Since that time He had been far, far too Busy. God had just Thought that He was due a Sabbath, a due Reward for eons of hard Work. He had never been Entitled to a Sabbath before, or so He Reasoned, as He was Necessarily its Subject of Veneration. Not feeling the Compunction to Worship Himself, He had Worked every day since the beginning of Creation.
    ‘Time indeed for a day off,’ He Said to Himself and Shut down His Laptop. As this was only God’s Second Sabbath it Must Needs Be a very Special One, somehow Reflecting His Unstinting, Perfect Work throughout all of Reality. To help Him Choose something appropriately novel He brewed up a Coffee and when it was ready He Sat in His Armchair, Sipping, and Considering.
    The Answer came with His third Sip and was also an entirely original Thought: He would Descend to Earth and see if He can Chat up some nice, intelligent young woman. He had never Needed Companionship before (apart from that one time with Mary, who still hasn’t forgiven Him for allowing her only treasure to be butchered), Being Complete in Himself, but perhaps time was wearing His old Habits down. After all it wasn’t so long ago that He Had Had some Wine after a Break of three thousand years. Indeed, time probably was wearing His old habits down as He had just had His second completely original Thought in less than an hour. Will there be a third? God Expected so. He Finished His Coffee and Dressed Himself for some Heavenly Romance.

*

Earth was a lot shabbier close-up, and after doing a quick tour of the world God Set His Romantic Eyes upon an Aus lass, Aus being in its warmer months, and God very much Liking the summer apparel of the Aus women. Aus was not as shabby as the rest of the world and its human population wasn’t high strung, being instead a very relaxed and sociable people. It was their sociability that really appealed to Him, being thus the easier to Find a companionable woman. These companionable women He Expected to Find in the centre of Sydney (having Chosen Sydney for its business centrality, and where there’s smart business there’s bound to be smart women in smart, fetching outfits) and Walking out of Central Railway Station He instinctively Made His way to a cocktail lounge. He was initially Going to Try a pub but the sort of woman whom likes a bitter, ill smelling ale was not what he was after. He was after class, someone to complement His Omnipotence. Sure, God Knew everyone in existence but that was only at a passing level. He simply didn’t have the time to get to intimately Know everyone, although He was always on call. He soon Found a cocktail lounge, Chez Chic, and the plethora of dazzling female costumery Made Him Sure that a right well Companion was closer than He Thought. He Ordered a Margarita and Sat down, Surveying the crowd.
    Perhaps He should have Told the young lasses that He approached that He was the Maker of Heaven and Earth and duly Showed them Proof of This for that way His luck may have been much better. As it was, though, despite how many drinks He Shouted, despite His Intelligent, Mellifluous Conversation with very attractive ladies, He was Getting nowhere. Surely He wasn’t too old for them? He had Checked His face in the mirror at the bar and He looked a healthy forty. Still, though, forty is a whole generation away from twenty- something. By an hour before midnight He had more or less Given up. Maybe these women did indeed see Him as an old Fuddy Duddy, too old to make them seriously happy. He Left the lounge for Central Station, to Return to Paradise in the blink of an eye when He was unobserved.
    Halfway to the station, though, He had a Change of Heart. By spending all night at the cocktail lounge He had Put all His Eggs in the one Basket, not Allowing the full Expression of His Second Sabbath, and not Allowing the full Scope of chance to work His Way. So He made His Way to a pub Determined though to Leave at the stroke of midnight to Salvage the rest of His Sabbath. At least He was Focusing on His Own Welfare rather that the rest of Reality’s as had been His Wont. And it must be admitted that He was Enjoying His Second Holiday. The Cocktails also helped there. And a Beer or Three would top them off very well. He Chose The Central Tavern, just across from Central Station.
    The pub was nice and ambient in noise when He Entered, also neither too cold nor too hot, and He Approached the bar while Studying what they had on tap.
    ‘You remind me of that Germaine Greer joke.’ God Looked over at the speaker. He was being addressed by the young woman behind the bar, with red and black shoulder length dreadlocks, a black throat collar with a glittering pendant, and the corners of her eyebrows and the corners of her mouth being pierced. She was smiling at Him.
    ‘What Germaine Greer joke,’ He Replied.
    ‘Germaine Greer walks into a pub and the barman says, “So, why the long face?”’ God Laughed and the barmaid responded to His deep, manly Chuckle with a tinkling laugh of her own.
    ‘What can I get You, Love,’ she asked. God Chose a Beer without Considering and Was soon Exchanging Jokes with her, whom had introduced herself as Bella, ‘as in Belladonna’ she affirmed. Her piercings grew more alluring with each guffaw, and Bella, deliberately or otherwise God was Unsure, gave Him an extra Dollar in the Change for each of His Beers. God, indeed, was fast Becoming Infatuated with this lively young lady and her very colourful presentation. What Spoiled it though was when she told him that she was only nineteen and still at Uni, doing a BA, albeit a BA (Hons). Her thesis was on Patrick White’s cultural cringe.
    But God Rallied to this news well. Since He Had Eternity at His Disposal He would Gladly wait another five years or so for her, Befriending her in the meanwhile until she’s old enough for a Mature, Deep Relationship. Doing so would be no Chore for she was very funny, even joking about God’s apparent forty years as the Start of what Looked like a lot more. She claimed to be able to tell how long someone would live.
    Thus God spent the rest of the night with Bella, until the pub shut. Afterwards He drunkenly Made His Way Back to Paradise, not Caring if he was seen to Vanish after He Passed through the ticket barrier at Central Station. He went to Bed as soon as He Arrived Home, Laughing at some of Bella’s jokes as well as the magnificent time that He Had Had on His Second Sabbath. He Looked Forward to Seeing her again next Sunday.

*

   God Was Surprised to Find that He Had Butterflies in His Stomach when He Entered The Central Tavern a week later. He Approached the bar and Chose his usual Beer, served by a middle aged man.
    ‘Bella having a sickie,’ He asked of him.
    The barman looked at Him sharply.
    ‘You a friend of hers,’ he asked.
    ‘I Suppose So. I only Met her last week though. A very funny young lady.’ The barman placed God’s Beer on the counter and took His Money.
    ‘Well, Bella won’t be in to work anymore.’
    ‘Why’s that? She’s not in any trouble I Hope. I can Help there, most Probably.’
    ‘Bella’s dead.’
    God was Speechless. ‘Dead?’
    ‘Yes. She od’d a few days ago. She told me that she had quit the heroin, was very up front about once being a junkie when she applied for the job. So I helped her help herself, gave her the job to make sure she stayed off the junk. No-one knows why she started up again. Probably just the usual relapse. I used to smoke cigarettes and know well about relapsing.’
    ‘When is the funeral?’
    ‘It was this morning. Quite a few of the locals were there. She was very popular.’
    ‘Can you tell Me where her grave is? She was a lovely young woman that One rarely Meets with these days.’
    ‘Sure,’ said the barman and gave God the location. He left without Drinking any of His Beer and was at Bella’s graveside the instant after Exiting the Tavern.
    Musing silently at Bella’s grave He had His third original Thought since after the beginning of Creation: He would Observe a Sabbath from now on in order to Remember Bella and to Ponder what had almost very pleasantly Been. Sure there were other fish in the sea but only Bella had that particular feminine laugh at that particular pitch. He would have liked to Resurrect her but that would Violate so many Natural Laws that time itself might come to an end. He would not of course See her in Paradise, Bella having pronounced she was an atheist when He Asked her if she believed in God. Given time God would have easily Changed her belief.
    ‘It was very nice having Met you, Bella,’ He said to her gravestone. ‘I could have Brought you to Heaven where you’d make Eternity even richer.’ God then Returned Home, Surprised that He had Found a regular Sabbath now.
~~
If you have been enjoying Fitzpatrick's stories here you may also enjoy his short story collections, and other books, available online as both Kindle books and paperbacks (go to http://amzn.to/1NfodtN). Other ebook and paperback options are available at  http://bit.ly/1UsyvKD Fitzpatrick is also having a collection of short stories, Aberrant Selected, published by Waldorf Publishing on September 01, 2018. You can follow its journey at www.aberrantselected.blogspot.com



   

Monday, 2 April 2018

Beyond Their Will

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2015

Elijah was seriously tempted to give himself a good kick when he discovered that the kitten which had adopted him and his family was actually a lady. This was discovered when she gave birth to kittens of her own. Naturally Elijah and all of his family were delighted with these cute, furry additions. They also all knew, however, that they were a burden, financially and otherwise, more so in the motor home they were travelling Aus in, the motor home not being as big as it first appeared. One of those kittens could well get underfoot at the wrong time and cause a nasty fall. Yep, they were all agreed that the kittens had to go. They would have to be surrendered to the nearest AuSPCA and may God have mercy on them.
     Luckily they were in the large but still country Ballarat and there was an AuSPCA shelter. They gave Lucy, formerly Luke, or Lukey, two weeks with her six young, but when that time was over everyone involved was very upset about having to break up the family. It had to be done. They all turned up to the local AuSPCA wanting to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible.
     The AuSPCA, despite their pleas, couldn’t help. They were full. It was a few days after Valentine’s Day and they were bursting with unwanted puppies and kittens. For some reason this year’s Valentine’s, 2014, was worse than usual for them. In fact they were so full that most of their staff had taken some of the wee fellows home.
     When they had all returned home with the kittens, and deposited them with their mother, they all instinctively moved to the kitchen table in order to come up with a plan to avoid feeding this new family. Their own family could only afford the one pet.
     ‘Well,’ opened Elijah, ‘we can’t really look after this family and we can’t just abandon them. Have you met anyone, Blanche, in this park who would be willing to take them?’
     ‘Not really, Dad,’ replied Elijah’s daughter. ‘There is an old lady I met, who told me she’s living here on the proceeds of some rental properties in Sydney. She has a cat of her own but she’s also always been drunk when I visited her and I think Lukey . . . Lucy needs someone more stable.’
     ‘Why don’t we give them away on Speaking Nights, use the Nights to give them better homes?’ Janette d’Israeli was often capable of such clear thinking in times of crisis. Elijah thanked his wife, also saying,
     ‘You could probably sell them single-handedly, Janette, after such clear reason.’
     Thus it was decided that they would proffer the unwanted kittens to the public, while they all preached upon a street corner, asking everyone to find the loving Christ within them right there and then, and all were sure of their success. They spent the rest of the day with Lucy and her family, saying goodbye again.

*

Naturally they were all excited when they all turned up under a randomly chosen streetlight to listen to Elijah preach about the truth in Christ they had all realised throughout their travels, specifically the truth of charity. Elijah was indeed eloquent in his portrayal of such, clearly pointing out that science has shown that giving lights up the same area of the human brain as receiving does. And here are some kittens, brothers and sisters, newly born to the world and looking for good homes, good homes that Elijah could see many of them portending, promising unfettered love.
     But there were no takers. The unnamed kittens remained unnamed, remained unsheltered in a home that did not welcome them. Janette and Blanche both very much wanted to join their words with Elijah’s, but at the same time they knew that they would throw him off.
     They left early this night of charity ignored, charity despised. They also left feeling that perhaps humanity wasn’t worth saving, that maybe the whole human population was only concerned with their own hip pocket, only concerned with how much that they could maximise their own pleasure. Everyone else can go to hell. They, instead, could only go home to constraint.

*

Before the next Speaking Night the family all naturally found themselves around the kitchen table again, two hours before dinner at six pm. They were all keen to see if any of them had come up with an idea to safely evict the cats. They were each reluctant to start, probably because they all felt so cheap at not being able to safely rear Lucy and her children.
     ‘The only way we can advertise them,’ said Blanche after Elijah had plainly raised the topic of disposal, ‘is with our Speaking Nights. But people will still think we’re crazy. We need a way to show them that we’re just a normal family. A normal family that is under stress and needing another sturdy family’s help. We need to attract such a sturdy family to take these poor orphans.’
     ‘But they’re not orphans,’ interposed Janette. ‘We’re abandoning them since we can’t look after them.’
     ‘Isn’t that every orphan’s story?’
     ‘I’ve got it!’ suddenly exclaimed Elijah.
     ‘What? What?’ replied his family.
     ‘What does everyone want?’ His wife and daughter stared at him blankly.
     ‘Money!’ he exclaimed.
     His wife and daughter still looked at him blankly.
     ‘We’ll just offer the good passers-by some solid cash to take our kittens. Everyone loves cash.’
     ‘We’ll disperse them in no time. With money for their food. Dad, you’re a genius!’
     ‘No, just mildly cynical.’
     They all decided that they would offer ten dollars cash with each kitten taken home and they had an uncertain number of lookers-on. Nonetheless the kittens all found new homes after Elijah proclaimed that the ten dollars cash that he was giving away with each kitten would set them up finely for future life. Sure, Elijah was aware that there might have been a junkie or two who would pick up a kitten for the cash, but Elijah was also sure that this same said kitten would wield the necessary charm upon the junkie. Who knows, maybe these kittens would allure a few junkies away from the junk.
     But throughout Elijah’s speech bringing in people to purchase their kittens Blanche was very disturbed. Very disturbed indeed. She was very disturbed because her father was declaiming that the filthy lucre of money could easily buy love and happiness. Her father also pointed out to passers-by that their evil thoughts of this day could be channelled into good, the good of taking home and loving a completely innocent creature, especially since good and evil are the only definitions of each other.
     Was Blanche’s father now teaching evil as a source of redemption?  Sure Right and Wrong were mutually interdependent but surely her father was not now teaching evil as a path to righteousness? This certainly looked to be indeed the case. Blanche was mortified. And terrified. This was her worst nightmare, her father and mother working for the cause of Satan, his evil leading to a sham brighter life.
     Blanche though found her voice at home.
     ‘Dad, we’ve done wrong. We’ve preached wrong, we’ve preached that evil means can lead to a good end.’
     ‘What do you mean?’ responded her father.
     ‘We shouldn’t have given away money with each of the kittens. You shouldn’t have told them that money, rightly-gotten or otherwise, could buy love and joy or that Right and Wrong rely on each other: adopting Lucy’s children won’t counterbalance any evil. Dad, we’ve invested money we really can’t afford in what will probably be more unhappiness, ourselves now all facing lighter meals. Money really can’t buy anyone’s love, and good doesn’t rely on evil, or vice-versa.’
     ‘Maybe not,’ replied Elijah, sure that the kittens had gone to safe homes. ‘But it could well lead those who picked up the kittens onto the path of love.’
     ‘It might be best if we all take a break from the Speaking Nights,’ said Blanche. ‘I really do think we need to regroup and figure out more about what we plan to preach, since we’ve begun teaching that evil can result in righteousness.’
     ‘But we’ve only been preaching good,’ responded Elijah.
     ‘I’m not so sure, Dad. You have to admit after all that money can’t buy one happiness.’
     ‘Those kittens will make anyone happy, even the most devout misanthrope. I’m sure of it. Heck, even I miss them and I was the keenest to get rid of them.’
     ‘Still, money can’t get one lovin’. Real lovin’.  I think we need to plan our Speaking nights more. You know yourself, Dad, that we’ve been far too glib in saying that buying those kittens will bring unbounded love.’ And Elijah, despite himself, agreed.
     ‘Let’s just take a break from the Speaking Nights for a few weeks,’ said Blanche. ‘That’ll give us all time to settle our heads, give us all some time to set up what we really want to say. Give us all time to deny the hatred sold by Satan as wholesomeness. We can all repent our sin of abandoning Lucy with filthy lucre.’
     And repenting did them all good, but only for the first few days. After dinner of their fourth day’s abstemiousness they didn’t know what to do with themselves, watching the TV but speaking to each other in an attempt to lead them to a better life, speaking to each other as they spoke to the public. It was Elijah who first raised their need for Speaking,
     ‘We need to peach again, everyone. Working only for brightness, aware that evil may be used to shroud brightness, working for the joy of a bright cause appealing to everyone. Let’s express that immensely, throwing ourselves into something greater than we suspected. Let us all show each other that we are greater than we expected. Let us show the filthy lucre as the least of our worries, celebrating with everyone in the joy of causing brightness.’
     His family naturally agreed but it was Blanche whom provided a sensible warning: they would have to write out their speeches for each Speaking Night from now on, planning on how they were going to influence the crowd whom usually ignored the small family. By planning their speeches beforehand Blanche was easily able to show her parents that they could avoid Satan’s hope of their ad-lib proclaiming evil means as leading to good. And once again Elijah and Janette d’Israeli thank the Lord for their clever daughter.

~~~


If you have been enjoying Fitzpatrick's stories here you may also enjoy his short story collections, and other books, available online as both Kindle books and paperbacks (go to http://amzn.to/1NfodtN). Other ebook and paperback options are available at  http://bit.ly/1UsyvKD Fitzpatrick is also having a collection of short stories, Aberrant Selected, published by Waldorf Publishing in 2018. You can follow its journey at www.aberrantselected.blogspot.com