Saturday, 1 April 2017

My Father's Last Will

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2014
(Formerly published, in a shorter form, under the title, My Father’s Ashes, in Fitzpatrick's short story collection, Bearing all Gods and Goddesses, published by www.independencejones.com.)


Deep within a dark, dark cave the ashes of my father have been spread out across the walls, in line with his Last Will and Testament. The walls of the cave are moist, not excessively so, most of his ashes being easily absorbed by the dampness. There was intermittent lichen but I worked around them, my father’s will being quite adamant that his last resting place was to be on solid rock. I spread them out in a loosely artistic shape, vaguely resembling a bird, because I didn’t want my father to spend the remainder of eternity in boring, unimaginative straight swipes across the cave’s wall. We were all surprised when his Last Will was revealed, especially with the fact that he had picked out the specific cave and that he specifically wanted me to perform the act. Maybe simply because I am the eldest son with two younger sisters, Leanne, and Daisy, the youngest. I won’t tell you where he has chosen his last rest; let him remain in peace.
    They have been there for just over a year now, and I spend a lot of time wondering why he would want his last remains treated in this way. I am not sure if he meant the act to be a boon or a bane. Did he expect to merge with the Earth in some fundamental manner? Or was he rejecting the Earth, ultimately prone to change? Was he choosing to become somehow more fundamentally solid, real, and more impervious to time, by partaking of stone’s nature? It could also have been a desire to reach Paradise by the most direct route possible, by by-passing the Earth altogether for an eternity of quietness. But then again my father was never a man who liked quietness. Growing up he always put on a classical radio station upon coming home from work as a bank teller (which he worked at until five years before he passed away at 94. He looked in his 60s until the last), have only the one can of beer, and spend the rest of the evening in joshing around with us.
    And then again, he may have been seeking utter oblivion, choosing to escape the natural recycling of his self had we emptied the urn containing his ashes over the vegetable garden that he had created. Perhaps his life was simply too full, and all he needed now was eternal rest upon a solid base?
    That garden was almost a farm it was so large. He gave us ten dollars every week when we were pre-teens if we watered it properly and did a bit of maintenance, and he always paid with a grateful heart and on time. I don’t think though that I, or my mother or sisters, would have eaten from the garden, which my sprightly 89 year old mother still maintains, should Dad have chosen to have his ashes scattered there. Dad  mustn’t have also wanted to be that close to his wife and children, forming their cells as he was absorbed through the produce, whilst at the same time being so very far away and powerless to help if his family needs it.
    I asked my mother, yesterday, again, soon after the start of Aus’ very hot 2014 summer, if Dad had given her any insight into this strange last request. I visit my mother every Sunday in Redferne, an inner city suburb of Sydney, having one of her superb lunches with her. My sisters can’t visit as they moved to other states years and years ago to take up good work promotions.
    ‘Well, Denis, he often thought life was a burden, even unnatural: I think he did it purely out of spite. Many times out of you and your sisters’ hearing he was sarcastic about modern society. Society in general.’  She isn’t usually so frank.
    ‘That’s not like him. In fact the opposite’s true.’
   ‘Remember how he always laughed at news of murder?’
   ‘Only because it wasn’t him or any of us.’
   ‘Still, it’s pretty peculiar you’ll have to admit. He also thought burglaries and thefts in general were funny but didn’t let on because he didn’t want you three thinking stealing was fun. He knew he could laugh at murders because neither of you have ever shown the slightest hint of violent attitudes.’
   ‘But he didn’t seem unhappy. In fact whenever I think of him I just hear him chuckling. Very contentedly.’
   ‘He just didn’t let on. In bed at night sometimes, admittedly very, very rarely, he would complain long, long and hard that everyone else was an idiot, taking the world with them to Hell in their collective idiocy. I used to hate it when he spoke like that, so full of venom and scorn. The opposite of the man that I fell in love with.’
    ‘I guess that would also explain why he kept his Last Will so secret at the last. He didn’t want us to see his eventually revealed possible dark side.’
    ‘We all have a dark side, sweetie, he simply kept his hidden from his children, the better to start them off in life. He told me of his last wishes soon before he went but I felt that there was nothing I could do to talk him out of it. After all, it was his Last Will, completely under his own control, like all of ours’.’
    Still, I’m not convinced that he did it out of spite, for my first clear memory of my father is that of his loud laughter while he tickled me. I had discovered his excellent tickles accidentally as a young child and remember thinking that he would tickle me again if I asked him nicely. So I went up to him on the couch while he was reading and asked, ‘Daddy, can you tickle me, please?’ He eagerly responded, the first of my many fond memories of his tickles.
    I hope he’s alright. Mind you I fully expect that he really is alright. Such a contented man must surely have only Paradise to look forward to throughout eternity.
    As for me, I want to be buried, not burned, most certainly in my father’s grotto.  At least that way I can be nearby if his spirit needs me. I have stipulated a shallow grave in my own will, the better to assist him if he needs it. After all, his unusual plan for being so laid to rest may have run into unforeseen consequences. I’ll be the more able to rescue him if I am whole and within easy reach, and the more likely to be able to give him any needed strength with my bodily nature, perhaps a somewhat decomposed bodily nature, but far, far more solid than his ashes.
    I really hope he’s alright.


~~~

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.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Luna's Grace

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2014

‘The Universe is aware.’ Deiyl Fillem




Deiyl Fillem did not in the slightest attribute Luna’s sudden appearance in his imagination, with her well-formed rump to the fore, to his diagnosed schizophrenia. In fact he thought it was his due, the natural result of his unique twenty-five years’ perspective, albeit a recently mentally ill perspective, upon a world that was crazier than he was. Deiyl of course denied that he was schizophrenic despite the evidence of over ten admissions to nearby Rozella Psychiatric Hospital. He put his mental aberrations down to his poetic, artistic nature.
    He was in his squat one night shortly after the start of 2014’s warm winter, in Redferne, Sydney, Aus, a land that crazy Deiyl thought was the natural twin to another such beautiful land in a parallel universe, smoking cigarette after cigarette and staring into his disordered mind while taking an occasional sip from a bottle of port. When her rump made its first appearance to his imagination, enticingly clad in a small, sheer pair of white silk underwear, Deiyl knew instantly that his luck had turned. Luna’s image then gradually formed in his mind, with her back to him and looking at him invitingly over her right shoulder. She was a well formed lady, with long blond hair and Dutch facial features, well able to carry her alluring derrière. He could not see her breasts but her smile, promising, aching, promised a similar largesse in their cherry red rosebud beauty. Deiyl stubbed out his cigarette.
    ‘Hello, Deiyl,’ She crooned, ‘I’ve been waiting for such an original stud like you for so many, many eons. Like what you see?’
    ‘Yes. Yes indeed; such a curvy rump as that must be insured. Who are you?’
    ‘Luna. Your local Moon.’
    ‘They say now that you’re in fact a small planet.’
    Luna turned around to face him, her large indeed breasts disappointingly housed in a pure white silk brassiere. She sat down in front of him, her legs slightly apart and curved under her.
    ‘I am a small planet, Deiyl, and a woman, a woman who can no longer spend endless time without satisfying her growing primal urges.’ Deiyl was speechless for a minute or two, watching Luna idly rubbing her thighs, her head cocked to her right, and smiling hopefully at him.
    ‘You mean . . . .’
    ‘Yes, Deiyl, I’ve become a real woman and need you, need you, so badly. We can make the stars shine so much brighter if you’re willing.’ It didn’t take Deiyl long to decide.
    ‘Well if you take off that bra it’ll be easier for me to decide.’
    ‘Not now, sweetie, let’s get to know each other properly first. Do you mind if I remain in this petite underwear?’
    ‘Not at all; they’re fantastic.’
    ‘Well then, sweetie, let’s have a nice intimate dinner. And I’ll let you feel my breasts first so you’ll know they’re all natural.’ They were natural all right.
    So this was how Deiyl spent the next couple of weeks, talking with the scantily clad Luna at every available opportunity, drinking with her, eating with her, playing with her in every imaginable way as often as he could. Deiyl was in fact falling in love, his very first love, and Luna did all in her power to enflame that desire as brightly as she could.
    The next full of the moon came around in its natural course and Luna’s ‘primal urges’ were at their fullest. She duly let Deiyl know.
    ‘Have you any plans tonight, Deiyl?’
    ‘Being with you is all I’ve got planned for the rest of my life.’
    ‘Well, tonight’s the night, Deiyl, the night when we see just how much we fulfil each other. And I’m sure you’re the complete, full throbbing man like I’ve imagined. And imagine you I have.’ Deiyl blushed.
    ‘And rightly too should you blush, Deiyl, you so very sexy young stud, if you knew just how much I’ve teased myself about you when we’re apart, rubbing my so, so sensitive parts so firmly, stroking them as my moaning thickens, lusting for you, Deiyl, so very much needing such a firm, strong and sure man like yourself, your bright blue eyes, your naturally well-formed physique, neither skinny not muscly, those beautiful, clean, thick long dreadlocks. Oh, Deiyl!’ Luna paused a short while, gathering her breath. She then resumed,
    ‘Take out one of those sexy zines under your mattress, Deiyl, and expend your lust in my name sometime today. I say so so we can spend all night tonight in finding each other’s deepest breath, moving together in perfect, satiated rhythm, delving, feeling each other’s earth move towards a mutual burst of utter ecstasy.’ Deiyl didn’t need to be asked twice.
    This expected burst of mutual rapture was duly achieved that night and both Deiyl and Luna approached the darkening of the moon in long nights of bliss, Deiyl sleeping during the day to keep up with his hungry vixen. Some of his time awake was usually spent in the only armchair of his squat writing love poetry in a hand-sized notebook. His unbounded joy in loving Luna expressed itself well, the best poetry he felt that he’d ever written, and with a bottle of Irish whiskey now instead of the cheap port. He’d bought a glass tumbler for it after a recommendation by Luna one night after their driving, flowing torrent of passion. The sophisticated glass made him feel even more of a real man.
    Two days after the first consummation of their desires Deiyl began to gain even more from their loving: he was now able to see the futures of all those around him, the passers’-by, the shopkeepers’, his few friends’, everyone that he came into contact with.
    The feeling was supremely divine, undoubtedly sure of the consequences of others’ every action and accurately predicting the results. Naturally he eventually turned this prescience towards his dearest Luna and himself.  The resultant desolation he witnessed forced a deep and strong sob against his will, the sudden explosion of despair he instinctively and with difficulty controlled.
    Surely things wouldn’t work out that bad?
   But yes, they would, Deiyl had seen it with the same vision that he had accurately foreseen his friends’ futures eventuate. He had seen his sweetest desire, fathomless and loving Luna, locked within herself, drained of all joy, barren, hollow and empty, too deeply despairing to cry throughout the remainder of time. Her emptiness had come in the wake of his death, his natural mortal death, so very brief in the eyes of countless eons, yet the prick of complete woe for Luna.
    Deiyl turned from the image and got up from his armchair where he’d been practicing his prescience. He too was now feeling the insidious creep of desolation.
    He simply must leave her.
    As a gentleman Deiyl felt that he simply could not allow this woe to come to fruition, to create such sadness to the only one he’d ever loved so purely and essentially. Certainly it was his first love and there were other fish in the sea but Deiyl had always said he would only ever allow himself to fall in love with the one woman, to love, honour, and guard above and beyond his abilities.
    He now, soon after another waxing moon had begun, had to let his love know that their passion must, must, must be sundered.
    ‘I cannot live then, Deiyl; thine heart is too entwined with mine own,’ Luna responded to Deiyl’s revelation.
    ‘I’ve shown you how I can really predict others’ futures; you know I’m not lying, or delusional. I’m sorry, so very, very sorry, Luna, but our affair tends to thine despair and desolation.’
    Luna knew he was right. There was nothing, absolutely nothing that she could do.
    ‘Let me then, Deiyl, choose that pain and sorrow: its counterpoint joy assuredly balances the endless angst?’
    ‘You know that’s not true, Luna. You are really facing endless ashes, unending sorrow. Our love the cause.’
    ‘So mine love is to be returned nevermore?’
    ‘Nevermore, Luna.’
    Deiyl then watched his well robed lady waft away before his imagination, bound to return only to the result of her infinite anguish. He allowed himself to sob this time.
    Luna was Deiyl’s one true love, which so few of us experience, and that night he, alone in bed, vowed to 
never name the word ‘love’ upon his lips. He never did name that grace again but at least Luna, his prescience with him throughout his ninety-five single years, was not bound to endless unable-to-be-shed tears. At least.


~~~

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.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Teadrop

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2014

‘So,’ thought Wu Ze Xi, ‘this is it.’ She had just sat down to the beginning of her senior high school final exams, on a very warm summer’s morning. The exam was English poetry. She had organised her exam space, and tested her three blue pens on the card with her candidate number indicating her allocated desk. Wu Ze was seventeen years of age and felt fairly confident of doing well on the exams, largely because she naturally adored learning. She had arrived in Aus from China with her two professional parents sixteen years ago, 1982, and didn’t really miss China at all, proud nonetheless of her ancient culture. The family soon after arriving here chose Sydney to take up abode, predominantly for business reasons. Naturally then they would want to live in the heart of the city, or as close as possible, and so ended up in nearby multicultural Redferne. Her and her parents all loved being of two cultures and Wu Ze was very proud of her excellent bilingualism. Well, three languages if you included French but she had never used it in France. She was also very confident in her understanding of English poetry (although she preferred Classical Chinese poetry, both sharper and more wistful.)
     The exam supervisors now began handing out the exam paper, face down on each student’s desk. When Wu Ze received hers she took out a flask from her bag. She placed it on the table and, after a quick prayer, poured herself a cup of chamomile tea. She took a sip when the supervisor announced the official beginning of the exam.
     It didn’t take long for one of the supervisors to approach Wu Ze and to query her about the flask she was drinking from. Wu Ze presented a medical certificate stating that she has suffered from anxiety for the past year, as well as having a family history of such, as a result of her father passing away in a car crash. Wu Ze had discovered that chamomile tea was great in alleviating her stress and the doctor had prescribed it whilst sitting her final senior high school exams. After reading the certificate the supervisor said that she would temporarily allow the tea but would have to show the document to her own supervisor. She told Wu Ze though that she would probably be allowed to keep the tea if the certificate proved to be genuine.
     Thus Wu Ze was allowed her tea throughout the remainder of the exams and by the end of them felt supremely confident that her many, many hours of study would bear the promised fruit. She was aiming to do Science at university, majoring in Biology and Physics, and when she received the final results she had the pick of her institute. She received 98.37%. She was slightly miffed that she fell just short of a perfect score but her parents were quick to point out that perfection is impossible and that she had done very, very well. Very, very well indeed.
     Wu Ze now came to rely on her flask of chamomile tea throughout her university studies, in lectures, and when doing assignments and exams. The other students nicknamed her ‘Teadrop’, which she was rather flattered by, proud of her eccentricity. The students liked her though and were impressed with her consistently high results. But unbeknownst to them Wu Ze was perhaps studying too hard, her goal being to be accepted for Honours Science. The crux came during the very last of her university undergraduate exams. She had just poured herself a chamomile tea but whilst having the first sip her right hand was shaking so hard that she spilled most of it. Looking at the mess she had made of her exam paper seemed to unleash a dam, and Wu Ze began sobbing uncontrollably. One of the campus’ nurses told her that it was a nervous breakdown, the obvious result of having very, very little social life since senior high school but studying intensely instead. Wu Ze had opened up to the nurse as she hadn’t opened to anyone since high school. Wu Ze had never really talked about her father’s passing, choosing to bury herself in study instead. The results, or so said the nurse, were always predictable.
     It took a full lunar month for Wu Ze to more or less recover and the university was happy to allow her to sit the final exam again after being provided with a brief report from her doctor. Her final results were again outstanding and she was invited to study for Honours Science, in Physics, which course she found gave her the first real intellectual challenge of her life. Her PhD studies, in Biophysics, were even more invigorating, with the assistance of the chamomile of course, and by the following day of her thesis’ oral defence she found herself being headhunted by some of the world’s largest breweries. At the time she didn’t know they were big players but a little research showed her that she had come under the notice of some very powerful companies. She soon enough found out why they were so desperate for intelligent employees.

*

     ‘Please be seated,’ said the suited young executive. Wu Ze had chosen to meet at random one of the brewing companies seeking her services.
     ‘Thank you.’ She was in a well-appointed office and her parents had bought her a new suit for the interview. Wu Ze was here just to test the waters, adamant she wasn’t going to fall for the first offer she was made.
     ‘Just a bit of paper work before we begin, Wu Ze,’ said the young man, taking a sheet of paper from inside his Manilla folder. His name was Earnest. ‘Would you mind signing this confidentiality agreement: what I’m about to raise with you is still commercial-in-confidence.’
     ‘Certainly,’ replied Wu Ze. She duly signed the document and Earnest then promptly got down to business.
     ‘As you probably know hops is the critical ingredient in making beer. Well, within the past three months an unknown disease has begun wiping out the planet’s hops crops. We want you to find the cure.’
     ‘On my own?’
     ‘Certainly not. We’re recruiting other higher achievers and you’d be part of the team.’
     ‘Surely it can’t be all that serious. Can’t people just switch to wine?’
     ‘One of the best things about an open market is that people have choice. And most people choose beer over wine. It has proved to be an important social lubricant over the millennia. This unknown disease is still secret because news of it could well snowball into disastrous consequences.’
     ‘And considering that we live in a patriarchal society, and that men love their beer, it could well bring society to its knees.’
     Earnest considered this a short while, and then replied,
     ‘Essentially, that’s correct.’
     ‘Well, Earnest, what are you offering for my help?’ Wu Ze listened politely to Earnest’s offer and then told him she’d think about it. She followed the same procedure with the other breweries finally selecting the largest of them, a German company, Hahne, who had the best resources for her to tackle the problem.
     Hahne paid for her flight over to Germany, arranged accommodation, and saw to all the paperwork for allowing her to work in Germany. She instantly missed Sydney, Aus, a land so pristine that she felt Mother Nature must have created another one in a parallel universe out of overflowing love for it. Wu Ze took up her role two weeks after becoming set up in her new homeland.
     Her first day at the new job was a thorough disaster. She wasn’t allowed to bring her regulation flask of chamomile tea with her into the lab, her supervisor stating that not only was it a contamination hazard but an accidental spillage would undoubtedly ruin the results of very expensive work. Wu Ze was dumbfounded. She had never had this problem before, her own supervisors at university making a medical exception for her in the lab’s standard operating procedures (within reason of course), especially since she was such an excellent student. She seriously did not think that she would be able to perform the high grade work required without the tea’s necessary soothing. But her new supervisor was not to be swayed: she must work without its benefit.
     She tried working without the tea but it was no use, her anxiety levels soon became uncontrollable. With her smattering of German she consulted a doctor who prescribed her Valium. The doctor warned her against its addictive nature and told her to have one only when the stress became unbearable. He prescribed it at the lowest dose, allowing her to work whilst medicated, although she would need someone else to operate the lab’s machines for her.
     Wu Ze thought that there was nothing finer than chamomile tea for relaxing her but the Valium was altogether in a greater league. She naturally loved it but despite her best attempts could not stop herself from popping the tablets like they were confectionary. She soon had to go doctor shopping, also necessitating improved German to argue with the doctor for what she had come to rely on. Naturally her work suffered and it wasn’t long before her employment was terminated. Her supervisors had clearly seen her popping the pills too much and felt that they had no choice but to let her go in case she caused a terrible accident.
     Wu Ze took to unemployment gracefully but she wouldn’t give up her Valium and so wouldn’t be able to reasonably find another job. A serious job. She spent her time instead in reading, pleasantly zonked throughout the day, and going to bed early. She found a black market site on the Net to supply her with the pills and felt she had no more needs. But when the news finally broke, three months after she was fired, that the planet’s hops plantations were dying out she felt tremendous guilt, feeling, undoubtedly unreasonably and irrationally, as if she had abandoned her global cousins. Life was probably going to become very trying for a large part of the world’s population and she felt that she was part of the cause. So she abandoned her own life, abandoned her flat and her pet dog, abandoned any chance of a fulfilling career and took herself to the streets of Berlin in a vague attempt to ‘atone’ for her sins. And now that she had no Net she found it virtually impossible to get the much needed Valium. She had no choice really but to substitute it with wine, red wine being the chosen medication. Luckily she had only a mild addiction, being sure not to up the dose per pill, and her withdrawals were readily quelled with the wine.  

     She was drunk throughout the various riots and looting across the globe that followed the news of beer inevitably, and soon, going the way of the dodo and she died drunk. She had accidentally become caught up with a bunch of looters and a flying shard of glass from a smashed bottle shop window nicked her left carotid artery. She died amongst her fellow citizens scrambling for the last of the beer. As she had no ID on her she was buried without being missed. The hops crops were eventually saved, just in time, through sheer luck if nothing else. Wu Ze’s parents still live in hope of hearing from her.

~~~

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 and you can follow its journey at www.aberrantselected.blogspot.com

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Probably Dishonest

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2014

‘Faaark! Faaark! Faaark!’ Thus have three crows constantly awoken Constince, Constince Mwebi, each morning for the past two years. It was just another annoyance about birds, thought Constince, so eager to start the day so they can all strut around chirping about how brilliant they are. Easily fed, shelter anywhere, companionship unquestioned: bloody birds. Pigeons especially were annoying, yea, the most annoying. They were everywhere, pigeons frolicking around and getting a free feed. Bludgers. Constince, it must be said, knew that her dislike of all birds was irrational but she pursued the delusion nonetheless.
     She turned over, opening her eyes.
     Before the crows could get started again in their high, shrieking way she got out of bed and looked around the mattress on the floor for her tobacco pouch. Found it. The crows were quiet.
     ‘Bloody birds,’ she said after the first drag on a rollie. She put on the kettle for a coffee after the smoke, this squat being the only one she’d been in with working electricity. And thus after the regulation coffee and three smokes she headed out to beg up a few bucks for breakfast.
     Outside, Newtown was in splendid form, alluring houses snuggled somehow intimately together under bright, dry and clear sunshine. Indeed, Newtown was perhaps Sydney’s belle. At least that’s how Constince felt. It was the start of summer, 2014, and Constince, stepping through the gap in her squat’s fence, felt that today’s dazzling morning sun promised things would be different; today was there mighty bounty possible.
      It was the instant she stepped into the public domain that something dropped onto her head, bouncing off. She looked up. A pigeon whirled away. She looked on the ground where the object must have fallen.
     It looked like chicken, a cooked piece of chicken. She picked it up. It was chicken, a tender cooked morsel. She ate it. Tasty, very tasty.
     Needless to say Constince was confused. Why had the pigeons now begun offering her food? Was it deliberate? Was it accidental? Were they making a peace offering on behalf of their avian brothers, sisters, and cousins? Were the birds somehow seriously disturbed by her irrational distaste for them, seeking conciliation? After all, Constince was really in the same boat with them.
     Nah, they were probably being tricky, enticing her to let her guard down and so make a simple mistake that would eventually turn fatal, all because she had decided to trust the freeloading birds. Yep, their overture of peace was quite probably dishonest. Bloody birds.
     Thinking about all this, walking up Newtown’s main drag of King Street and begging up a few bucks for brekkie, Constince decided she was going to make the birds pay for their duplicity, make them verily rue the day they had all crossed her. Bloody birds.

*

Constince had no sense that she was sleeping through the next morning, an important morning when she was supposed to hand in her regular welfare application. To be paid the following day she had to hand her ‘form’ in today to Centrelink, the Aus federal welfare agency, stating that she had looked for work in the past two weeks and was unsuccessful. Accordingly she was entitled to government monies to assist her in the further search for work. But to be paid tomorrow she had to hand her form in before 1pm today. Mind you she blew most of it at once on tobacco, bottles of wine, and what little was left over had to go on takeaway meals, having no fridge.
     Constince continued sleeping, blissfully through noon, the crows still silent, sleeping lightly through 1 pm, and awaking just before 2. She was instantly aware of her error, confirming it on the clock beside her mattress.
     Waiting for the kettle to boil after the ‘morning’s’ first smoke she tried not to think that she would probably be desperately poor for an extra day. Such was invariably the consequence, at least in Constince’s infrequent experience, of handing her form in late. Sure, she was bound to receive the welfare, but that extra day! A day that she needn’t to have begged. Maybe she should just hand in her form now and sleep until her pay went in. It really was the only answer.
     But, after a large breakfast of some hot chips, with chicken salt (she begged up enough for a large serve, comfort food for having to wait the extra day for cash), Constince, despite needing to hand her form in, decided on a post-prandial nap. She was soon home and easily settled down to sleep. She had plenty of time to hand her form in, even by 1 pm tomorrow, at the latest, would be fine.
     But the three crows wouldn’t allow her repose and did not look like they would let up with their screeching. She soon sat up, listening to them, wondering how she could fight the bastards. Bloody birds.
     The solution was fairly obvious: she could just shoot up some of her fortnightly harry, heroin, which she had saved up. It started out accidentally, but one fortnight she had bought some harry, didn’t have it, and the next fortnight she decided to treat herself to some KCF fried chicken. She found the harry when she was looking through her backpack for a napkin of some sort after the KCF. Ever since she’s had harry after KCF, setting it up so that it was a fortnightly treat, just before she accessed her fresh welfare payment. The arrangement made her feel like The Goddess, partying so high, and with more coming.
      So she injected the harry and soon welcomed a spreading numbness. She lay down. The crows thankfully decided to keep their nasty beaks shut.
     Things would be much better though if there wasn’t a dog barking, a new dog by the sound of his yelping. The poor dog must have also been terrified of his new environs for he or she didn’t let up all day. The crows’ returned cawing at the beginning of the twilight was the last straw; she got up, still slightly smashed from the harry, and made herself a chamomile tea, with two teabags; then all the friggin’ birds can chirp, call, tweet, or caw to their heart’s content, she’ll be peacefully numbed again. Not having had handed her from in didn’t bother her as doing so wouldn’t bring the welfare any closer. By 1 pm tomorrow would be fine.
     She fell asleep while the kettle was boiling. She slept soundly, the dog obviously having grown tired, and the shifty crows were quiet also. She slept the entire night, through noon the next day, and she slept through 1 pm, arising, suddenly, just before 2 pm. She cursed the crows for not waking her early. Bloody birds. Once again if she were to hand her form in now it would be at least 36 hours before she would be paid. So much begging!
     The only choice that seemed reasonable to her was to hand her form in now and stay awake until payday. Thank God she had coffee grounds, a plunger, and electricity. She set off instantly, stubbing her cigarette and gulping her coffee, and felt the beginnings of hope once the form had been lodged. It was just a matter of time.
      She managed to remain alert until dawn the next morning, with copious coffee and drawing in her sketchbook, but as the sun arose she was sure she needed some guarana to get her to the ATM as soon as the money was reasonably in there. And then a loose several hundred bucks!
     Getting a guarana drink she expected to be no problem and so was quite naturally surprised to see a dog charging her, on her way to a local shop, intent on fury. She didn’t believe it until she had to extend out her right forearm for the dog to grapple, whom then pulled her this way and that. A stranger rescued her, bashing the dog’s snout. A small crowd then developed to banish the mongrel.
     When the dog had vanished Constince’s initial rescuer thought it fit to call for an ambulance and the paramedics soon took her to nearby Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. The paramedics could see that it was a fairly clean bite but considering that Constince was obviously living rough an adverse reaction was more likely to any bacteria in the wound.
     She had always been scared of hospitals, more so now knowing that living on Shiraz, bananas, and water was not at all ideal for one’s immune system in an environment that held germs, though those germs be at bay. Nevertheless she agreed to stay overnight for observation when the nurse admitting her noted that the swelling from the bite was more pronounced and bruised than normal. When, the next day, the bruising was worse instead of better, she was admitted as an inpatient.
     She took the news that she had developed Methicillin-resistant golden staph very well. But things soon became terrible for her. For the first time in her life Constince had, deliriously beset with medical woes as a result of an experimental medicine to treat the staph, become so sick and neglectful of her Centrelink requirements that she was cut off of the dole. She learned the day before her eventual discharge from hospital that she had no welfare to rely on. She could reapply of course but, God!, it would take ages to get her money.
     She returned to her squat, somehow burned down, and wondered, ‘Now where’ll I sleep?’ Funnily enough a priest came to mind, someone who could take her out of these squats, begging, and placating Centrelink. True, she had entered her life of homelessness willingly, not wanting to pay rent to ‘the man’ in her idealistic early twenties, but four years of unrelieved poverty, filth, and her increasing wine problems had recently made her wish for an easier life. A cleaner life. Well-fed, comfortable, like of those she saw about her when she went begging.
     ‘A nice Protestant priest,’ she said to herself, outside her burned down home. ‘A priest who can marry must know the love that regulates each our core.’ She had never been religious so it was unusual that she should suddenly think of a Protestant priest for help: still, desperate situations call for desperate measures.
      Constince found her priest, a rector whom she consulted by chance in Surrey Hills, and he has taken things very much in hand. Constince now has safe shelter in his, Rector Thomas’, home while she looks for work and more stable housing. All the good Rector asks in return is that she attend to his menagerie, and a well diverse menagerie. Constince expects better yet.


~~~

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 and you can follow its journey at www.aberrantselected.blogspot.com


Thursday, 1 December 2016

A New Home

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2014
  
An aqua coloured leaf, obviously spray painted, was the only thing disturbing the pristine pool. Saina Malleswary was unsure if she meant throwing it in there as an act of defiance or an act of conciliation. Surely her father couldn’t really kick her out of home if she had to clean the pool as usual? And those streams of paint are going to need extra attention, requiring Saina’s usual diligence. Mind you, she had been adamant that she would leave home soon after turning eighteen, moving into a share house with two of her older friends. Her father wanted her to wait but then realised the sooner he let her go the better; she was always going to leave. And even he was surprised when five days after her eighteenth birthday, at the beginning of another very mild Aus autumn, at breakfast, he told her that she would have to leave in two days. Mr Malleswary wanted to get the pain over with as quickly as possible. Mrs Malleswary offered no objection. Time to fly, Saina.
     Saina dwelt on the words banishing her, staring at the streaming leaf, and then felt something snap deep within her being, like some mental support that had suddenly given way. She soon began breathing in short, sharp breaths, holding her head, her eyes squeezed shut, looking for herself in her mind’s eye. Luckily she knew to take big, deep breaths, thus controlling the sudden panic. She then reasoned with herself, arguing her return to normality. In fact moving out was bound to be great, having two good friends to shelter with. She was soon able to look down at her packed, large sports bag.
     ‘Yeah, everything’ll be fine,’ she said to herself. ‘Rita and Jess will be all the help I need. If any.’ She picked up her bag and headed inside to ask her father for a lift to her new home.

*

The trip was in silence and it was short, two suburbs over to Redferne. Five minutes from her new home though Mr Malleswary, Aadil, decided now was the time to reveal a secret of his that his daughter might find useful.
     ‘Sai, now that you’re a grown woman I’ll tell you of a habit of mine that I use to deal with a stressful world. As you know I have a family history of anxiety on my mother’s side and when it all gets too much for me I put on Handel’s Water Music.’
     ‘I’ve heard of that.’
     ‘It’s divine, Sai. I invariably listen to it with earphones to bring it closer. It’s in three suites and always allows me to let the stress and angst flow off into the ether. I feel great for weeks afterwards.’
     ‘I don’t really like classical music, Dad.’
     ‘Well, just listen to this one. It could well be your only solace in the obscure future.’
     ‘So it always calms you down? Relieves the tension?’
     ‘Always.’
     ‘I’ll see if I can get a copy soon.’ Saina’s inherited anxiety episodes were rare but intense and any boon couldn’t be refused in dealing with the sudden panic attacks. They then pulled up at Saina’s new address. Aadil thought it best to remain in the car while his daughter stepped into a new life but was also sure to remind her,
     ‘Make sure you go to work tomorrow! No partying!’
     ‘Yes, Dad.’ She closed the car door and then called out to Rita and Jess from the porch of her first share house.

*

Rita and Jess were just about to head out for an early lunch and invited Saina along. She chose though to remain by herself in the new house, walk around a bit and peek into all the corners, arrange her new bedroom, basically acclimatise herself to the new situation. The ladies perfectly understood.
     She liked her bedroom, neither too large nor too small. Pity the mattress was on the floor though. And the white wallpaper wasn’t as white as she remembered it. Well, there’s no point in depressing oneself. She duly sat down on the bed and considered her father’s recent words. Music would certainly channel her mildly disordered thoughts, some new music to reflect her new situation. Trouble was she had no money to buy the Handel and her bank account was overdrawn. And she most certainly was not going to ask her parents for a loan within an hour of the grand flight. How to get a copy, she brooded.
     ‘The library!’ she exclaimed. She could just borrow a copy. Easy done. True, it was Saturday, but only elevenish so Redferne library should still be open. Motivated now, she unpacked her bag, piling her clothes neatly on the floor, and her other small amount of books and knickknacks. That done she changed into a new outfit, red ankle boots, black jeans, and a purple blouse, and headed off to find Handel.

*

A mild anxious feeling settled on Saina when she saw that Water Music was out on loan. She was going to give up on the search, maybe listen to a classical radio station at home instead. But, no, if her father saw fit to point out that it helped with the genetic anxiety then she would need it as quickly as possible, especially with the stress of undertaking a new life. So she left the library to have a look in nearby Newtown  library. She briefly considered searching the local University library but she imagined it would make her feel like being at school again, instead of a budding woman making her mark upon the world. Not having any money though meant no ticket, thus no travel to Newtown.
     Well, she’ll risk it. It would be a short trip anyway with less chance of being caught.
     The trip was indeed uneventful but when Saina arrived at Newtown library it was shut, despite it being only 1200 pm. A brief inspection of the closed doors showed Saina a notice saying the library was closed due to renovations.
     ‘Well then, it’s the State Library,’ she said to the notice. And if the State Library didn’t have it she would borrow some money from a work colleague tomorrow to get a copy.
     Her perseverance was rewarded and she wasn’t fined for travelling into the city without a ticket. She pressed play on the loaded CD player with a feeling of a fundamental accomplishment.
     Her father was right, as usual. Travelling with the music was like travelling through endless processions of crystal castles in her mind. She was a spirit, travelling her sure and happy path, unable to be denied anything that she set her mind to. As she travelled with the music the pinkish castles were growing broader and taller, until they exploded in tinkling gems, making her skin tingle, and then reforming to reassure Saina that she was indeed safe. Here was always a home from which she could never be forced out of. It was a fountain that had always been flowing and always would be.
     When the music ended Saina felt as if she had discovered Paradise, a Paradise always available and accessible. On the way home she rang a work friend to borrow the money for the CD. Rita or Jess would have easily loaned her the money but Saina thought that that might not be a good way to start off her living with them.

     She listens to the Water Music every morning now, and when she feels the sudden silent creep of panic she imagines it, feeling its noble castles shelter her from the tension. The Handel was also the source of a newfound and still growing respect for her father.

~~~

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 and you can follow its journey at www.aberrantselected.blogspot.com