Thursday, 1 February 2018

An Impromptu Feast

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2016

Feeling more starved than usual, Katie Blyth, with the last $10.35 from her unemployment welfare until three more days, decided to buy a small bit of groceries. Entering the Jewell supermarket in Newtown, inner city Sydney, well into the spring of 2016 (which had so far proved warmer than usual), she had a vague idea of what she wanted: sandwiches. Passing by the tinned fish section she decided on pink salmon sandwiches, and so bought a large, quality brand of the fish, a loaf of generic, wholemeal bread, a small tub of generic margarine, and a can opener. She had some change from her purchase - not much - and was feeling proud of her new possessions. Being homeless and buying groceries are largely incompatible (especially if one is partial to very good bottles of Shiraz, and a good supply of marijuana for each day) making her revel in this delightful exception.
     Today still being much warmer than usual, she decided to eat al fresco. So she took up her lunchtime station on a bench on the footpath outside Jewell’s and began preparing what promised to be a tasty, filling lunch. She soon discovered that she had no knife to spread the margarine, and after a quick check of her change found that she probably couldn’t afford a packet of disposable plastic knives. She was too hungry anyway, and eager for the feast, to go back into the Jewell’s and see how much the knives were. So she decided to use the handle of the can opener, which proved very messy and clumsy. But Katie accepted that gratefully nonetheless.
     The sandwiches were more delicious than she had anticipated and she had three of them. But having most of the ingredients left over proved to be perplexing. How was she to store them? Her squat didn’t have a fridge, let alone any electricity. She had a few friends whom were in safe housing and they’d probably let her store the remains of the banquet in their fridge. But then the repast wouldn’t be readily available, and considering that these friends worked, her food, glorious food, would be out of reach practically all day. What was she to do? Was there any way of saving these precious boons?
     Staring forlornly at the remains of her meal she had an epiphany. Maybe if she wrapped all the goodies back in the plastic bag and buried the whole lot underground, that would keep them reasonably cold? It really was the only solution, so she wrapped up her feast and headed back to her squat.

*

Katie spent most of the night and most of the next day thinking about the food she had safely buried. It felt great knowing that if she got really hungry there was a good meal nearby, to be had without begging. Eventually though, at around six pm of the following day, she decided to take out her treasure and finish it all off in a gourmand ecstasy. She was salivating noticeably while digging up the hoard.
     When she finally had the plastic bag unearthed and opened she was absolutely shattered to see her store covered in worms, ants, and sundry creepy crawlies. Of course she had known that this might have been possible and so had tied the bag securely, but obviously to no avail. She placed the three items separately on the grass and tried to salvage each of them as much as possible. The salmon was a complete write off, as was the bread. The only thing she could conceivably use was the margarine. She felt like sobbing. Well if she couldn’t have her bounty neither would the thieving bugs. She collected the food together and dumped it all in a neighbour’s bin. It looked like she would have to beg up her dinner. Again.
     The beef kebab that she had begged up for dinner was not good that night, not nearly as normally good as it usually was. She kept recalling how close she had been to unlimited food, seemingly, and being able to have a full larder with not much begging. Certainly cheaper than the $6.50 each day for her kebab, not to mention the regular, and costly, Shiraz, and pot. She also started fondly recalling her ex-girlfriend, Mindy, and how perhaps Mindy had made the right choice when she left the streets after being moved on by the police from their squat a third night in a row. Mindy by now had probably just finished a nice steak dinner, chocolate ice cream for dessert, and was settling down to a good movie for the night. It seemed like Heaven.
     And now Katie wanted a piece of this Heaven too. Why should she be left out? Sure she had chosen to squat and opt out of modern society’s greed but maybe she could change the system she hated from within? From within a safe house, with plenty of food and plenty of comfort. Who knows, having such a haven might inspire her to be more proactive in her politics, may even be the catalyst for her to effect some noble change in Western society, doing so from a solid base. It was certainly worth a try since she wasn’t obviously saving the world by squatting.
     Enthused now with hopes of a brighter future she begged up some money for the bus fare to nearby Rozella Psychiatric Hospital, determined to admit she was indeed a depressive, as she had been diagnosed, and that she couldn’t change the world for the better by opting out of it. She would take the medications they gave her this time, gladly, would give up the pot that exacerbated her depression, and she would accept their help in finding her some decent housing.
     But Rozella had no room for her. The nurses in the admission office all knew her well and were sure that Katie had finally seen the sense of taking her meds and living like the rest of society, but there was absolutely nothing they could do for her. There was not a single bed free. She asked if she could spend the night in the admission office but they couldn’t allow that. If they did allow that the admission office would soon be full of the mentally ill hoping for a bed, presenting an occupational health and safety risk. The most that they could help her out with was to let her stay there for two or three hours on the very slim chance that a bed became available. She only stayed an hour though, as she felt tortured in being so close, yet so very far, from safety. She left the hospital feeling well-nigh near to pure despair. Was there a way out?
     Maybe Mindy would take her back, if only for a little while? Mindy would be sure to believe her when Katie acknowledged that she was indeed depressive, mentally ill and unsound, and swore to take the required medications in consultation with a doctor, and to give up the smoko that really wasn’t good for her. Mindy was in fact certain to take her in again if she, Mindy, truly did once love her. Katie wasn’t demanding the moon, she just wanted her former lover’s help for a week or two, then she, Katie, would move on, into a safe home of her own. Surely their two years together could allow so much?
     Katie hoped Mindy was at the same address, already feeling her welcome.

*

Mindy was indeed welcoming, but she couldn’t make the sole decision for allowing Katie to stay for a week or two, by which time Katie said she should have reached a much firmer domestic and social base. Katie’s fate was also to be decided by Adam, a new flatmate. Katie was quickly introduced to him and all agreed to see if they could realistically help out Katie with her hopes. They certainly believed she was committed to abandoning her wildness but they should all probably have a good natter to make sure each knew where they stood.
     Once Katie had been officially welcomed into the flat by both Mindy and Adam she chose to make best use of the resultant high she was now feeling; no more hunger, begging, and desperation. She first unpacked her meagre belongings and spread the sheets Mindy had given her onto the mattress on the floor of her new room, and then headed out to the local medical centre. The doctor she conferred with was a very well dressed, middle aged, Indian gentleman, Dr Kumar. After Katie’s tale of her sorry, mistaken, homelessness choice, her several admissions to psychiatric hospitals, and her newfound realisation that she did actually have depression, and needed help, he instantly held out his mind to help her. Dr Kumar took her seriously in hand and scheduled an appointment for her every day for the next two weeks. He also prescribed some new anti-depressants which were showing great results. They spent thirty minutes on their first consult, but Katie, at the end, did not fully commit to seeing a psychiatrist regularly. That would take a little bit of extra time. Thankfully, or so Dr Kumar informed her, some psychiatrists were willing to do consults under the Medicare of Aus, so Katie, when she was ready, need not worry about paying for the consultations.
     Katie, she realised, on the way to the pharmacy to fill the prescription (hopefully on credit) had entered Heaven.

*

Katie had a very severe reaction to the new tablets on the fifth night of her taking them, the same day that she had been placed in a job by her employment agency (Katie said a prayer of thanks when she was told of her new job, thankful that Aus had such a good economy, thus quickly allowing her a job.) She had been at home alone, enjoying her first Shiraz in five days, and enjoying a twenty dollar deal of ganja too, while she looked over her day’s work clothes that she was still wearing, in a mirror - a nice, alluring red dress, elegant, costume jewellery, blue sandals, and her clean, long brown hair which was delightfully pinching the back of her head at the base of a ponytail. She looked over all this and admired it, whilst also denying that she found herself attractive. She thought the mild twitch on the left side of her neck was just jealousy, the psychic jealousy of nameless others.
     When Katie realised that the twitch was getting steadily worse and was completely uncontrollable, she had just finished her first glass of wine, and her third hash pipe. There was not a possibly worse time to be delightfully heady, and warmly stoned. But she mentally evicted the panic and rang Emergency.
     The ambulance got to her by the time her whole head kept involuntarily swinging to her left. She had no control over it and felt that it was only going to get worse. She saw little hope in the paramedics. But they gave her some Cogentin and told her to lay down on her right side. They kept her talking, Katie actively co-operating, while the Cogentin took effect. Ten minutes later she was fine. The paramedics left feeling good, having done well. Katie certainly thought they had redeemed her sentience, allowing her to continue improving.
     But Katie was also doubtful. Since she had such a bad reaction to this medication, a so called ‘modern breakthrough’ according to Dr Kumar, she would most probably have an adverse reaction to any other anti-depressants, all of them being inferior to the new, modern tablet she had tried. Not only that, but now Katie had nothing to fight her depression with. She couldn’t fight all that good fight with willpower alone, and since meds couldn’t help, she had no choice but to leave the field early, before she somehow brought ruin unto the fine Mindy and Adam. She left them a kind note, explaining that she didn’t want to bring them down in her sudden helplessness. She begged them not to look for her, but to welcome her once again if she ever really needed it.
     When she got to her old squat, with only a duffel bag full of clothes, two books, and the remains of her ganja, and Shiraz, she was once again devastated. The place was being torn down. There was a metal fence out the front, signs all over it, and some machinery scattered over the front yard, all of it operated by men obviously intent on tearing down her home. She left dejectedly, but faintly hopeful that things couldn’t possibly get any more the worse.
     Idly wandering around Newtown then she gradually came up with a plan. She would invest in a tent and sleep in parks throughout the day, spending her active biorhythms under starlight. And when she had a tent she may as well see more of Sydney, besides Newtown. Indeed, now would probably be a good time to see Aus in closer detail. Full of a haunting purpose then she headed off to Newtown’s pawn shop and bought a tent. The guy gave her a good deal because she looked to be a damsel heading for distress. She also bought a portable cooler, enough to hold a few day’s groceries before they went off. The first park she slept in was Royal Prince Alfred, Redferne, but she couldn’t sleep that day. So she partially filled her cooler, after begging up some dollars, and read for the rest of the day and night, by booklight during the night, with the regulation bottle of Shiraz, and the regular tokes from her hash pipe, throughout the reading, and slept at dawn the next day. She was looking forward to the ham sandwiches for breakfast. Yum! Yum! Yum!

~~~

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

Monday, 1 January 2018

Believing in Visions

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2016

‘Love attaches itself to something prominent, even if that something be what others would hate. One can scarce feel extremes for mediocrity.’ Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Falkland

Had Helena known that Justyn, despite his roguishly sexy, manly, look, and good clothes, was a homeless beggar, she would never approached him at Kelly’s, in Newtown, inner city Sydney. She did not approach with the standard offer of a drink, but with a question; did he tie-dye his own jeans? They were certainly well done, also naturally highlighting his plain white buccaneer shirt. And, come to think of it, where did he get such a shirt?
     It turned out that, yes, he did tie-dye his own jeans. Hemp jeans made the process easier too, being so malleable. He had three pairs like it. The shirt he had found in a bin. It was then that Helena found that this studly hunk was nothing more than a bum. A bum who obviously knew how to look after himself, but a bum, a dero, nonetheless.
     Helena now found herself in somewhat of an annoying quandary: though Justyn was a real pleasure to talk with, appeared intelligent, smelt of enticing woods, he had absolutely no prospects. He also affirmed to her questions that he planned to live on the streets forever. He had a place to sleep, somewhere to shower, and food was never a problem thanks to his regular fortnightly federal welfare pension payment. He also declaimed to her how it was so enervating to be able to do whatever one wanted. He mostly chose to read all day, though. Upon closer questioning, however, Justyn agreed that homelessness was sometimes horrible: no toilet, no security, usually no electricity, and it was somewhat lonely, not being able to confide in one’s fellow desperados. He briefly agreed with her that if he were offered safe, clean modern housing he would give it a good go for a while, to see if he was missing out on anything.
     When Justyn posited this last, Helena saw a slim ray of hope. So, she got him another schooner, and then persisted in the conjecture. To the point where Justyn agreed he would move in to her share house, and spend a month living like a regular young man in Sydney. He quickly became excited at the prospect.

*

Justyn took to the sheltered life very well, so much so that after his third day in the new share house (the other housemates, Sandi and Rory, were happy for him to stay, as a favour to Helena) he had easily landed a job. It was at Flemington Markets, twenty minutes by train from the Sydney CBD, and he would be offloading trucks. He had been out of the workforce for three years and was thus even more surprised at his success. The hiring foreman obviously trusted to Justyn’s good build being able to do a good job.
     He started that night and naturally enjoyed this novel experience, his body in constant motion, his mind engaged. But not pointlessly, with no form of a reward envisioned. Instead he would have a good paycheque in a week, a veritable fortune after the poverty he’d just realised he’d been living in. He would even have enough left over to save and invest with.
     Events unfolded even more wholesomely along this track and after a month Justyn had over a thousand dollars saved, after his rent and share of the bills.
     It was after setting up a good interest bearing bank account with this thousand that Justyn for the first time saw that he could become considerably wealthy with just hard work. There was plenty of overtime at the markets so doing even more, maybe twelve hours a day, he could quickly enough set himself up as somebody to observe. If he could then cut his bills down to the bare minimum he’d be even wealthier. But his biggest bill, by cutting which would have the biggest impact, was his rent and he really could not cut that. Or could he? After all, he just needed somewhere to shower before work each day. He had got by before on only that, the shower being provided by Ulysses House, a homeless shelter in Kings Cross, near Sydney’s centre. Sure he would miss the ready access to a bathroom, but he had survived without it before and he was sure he could do such again.
     So he eventually left Helena’s place on the night after depositing his new riches, a night off from work, leaving a thankful note, and found his old squat to be in the same shape. No-one was home and his mattress was in the same place. His candles and books were in their same place too. He lit a fresh candle, wondering what he’d read before retiring for the night.

*

He had no problems in any shape in his new beggarly rich life. He had virtually no expenses and he saved virtually all of his pay. It was no problem attending to his duties in a professional manner whilst at the same time his domestic life was so very unstable. He hadn’t been moved on by the police for a while, but that was only a matter of time though. He had been at this squat for around ten months so far, less the time at Helena’s, so a visit from the police, moving him, and any others, on, was bound to fall due soon.
     But maybe the police had already been by, explaining why his two fellow squatters still hadn’t returned home. He could be here another ten or so months then, getting richer and richer. Life just keeps getting better by the day!
     Helena tracked him down near the end of this sixth week of increased riches. He had allowed himself two pints of Guinness at Kelly’s for passing $5,000 in his high interest savings account. Once again, she was the one to approach him.
     ‘Justyn?’ He turned around, stout to his lips. ‘Oh yes, thank God! I’ve been coming here for the past two weeks hoping to find you.’ Justyn put the pint down.
     ‘I hope I haven’t done anything wrong,’ he said. He was as well dressed, and as handsome, as she remembered him.
     ‘No, but something very wrong is going to be done to you.’
     ‘How’s that?’
     ‘Justyn, for two weeks I’ve been having this one vivid, recurring dream. It’s a horrible dream. Horrible. I see you being burned alive over and over again. Alone. You have to come home with me now. Move back in. To save yourself.’
     ‘It’s just a dream,’ said Justyn, but he was also spooked by its vivid, recurring nature. ‘No-one can predict the future, least of all with dreams. I always blow out my candle before sleep so, since only a candle could start the fire, there’s no need to worry. You worry too much.’ He resumed his stout.
     ‘Justyn, I can feel it. You have to come home with me so that you won’t be roasted alive. I’m serious!’
     ‘Look, Helena, you’re just scaring yourself, not me. Nothing’s going to happen. That I too can feel.’
     And so they continued, arguing back and forth, until finally Justyn agreed to move back in, just to placate her, and after she assured him she wasn’t trying to take away his streets again. But he would move in only temporarily, while Helena’s forecasted doom passed over. He would pay no rent either. Helena was naturally agreeable to this, but her housemates would probably want him to pay his way. After all, a good life in Sydney was not at all cheap so his extra rent monies would be handsomely appreciated. Besides, Justyn already had lived with them rent free for a month and another rent free month might cause tensions with Sandi and Rory if Justyn didn’t chip in.  But no, said Justyn, his money was entirely his own, and he could easily remain in his squat. He was only moving in as a favour to Helena, so it was unfair to ask him to pay as well. But both being rational, clever, people they agreed on a compromise: Justyn could stay there rent free but he had to do all the household chores. All of them. This compromise Justyn was very pleased with, even considering if he could, after a month’s due diligence, make it a permanent arrangement. It would be the best of all possibilities: he’d have his rent free, rich, working life, and safe, clean shelter with all the mod cons, all for about an hour’s cleaning per day and cooking dinner each night. He didn’t need to cook breakfast, Helena told him, because everyone ate cereals for breakfast. Lunch the house mostly had outside. All up, both Justyn and Helena felt it was a very, very good arrangement, and that her housemates would also consider it such.
     Helena’s housemates did indeed agree to the arrangement, quickly, and their first dinner with Justyn as the house chef was a resounding success. He cooked up a personal favourite, fettucine with creamed pumpkin. He also added chilli paste to it which gave it a real kick. Over dinner on that first night he told of how his parents had taught him to cook from an early age, that by his mid-teens he was doing all of the cooking at home. He enjoyed it, the best part being making people fundamentally content with his food.
     So when he was fired from his job, five weeks later, for mouthing off and swearing at his boss (Justyn really had been working too hard for too long, becoming unknowingly stressed as result) his house wasn’t too perturbed. Justyn didn’t need to bring in money to the house because he was doing a fantastic job in looking after it with his cleaning and his cooking. He would always be welcome with his contributions.
     ‘Well, let’s have a party then,’ said Justyn when he was told he could stay if he still did all the chores. ‘We’ll drink to new horizons.’ The other two housemates offered to get the wine but Justyn only let them if he owed them the favour. Happiness, thus, reigned supreme.
     It was Helena who suggested they get some pot. She had never tried it and today seemed the perfect time to try. Besides, it was still only Saturday, so she should have plenty of time to recover before work again on Monday. Justyn smoked a little and so knew somewhere he could get it. They only delivered and only did fifties, three grams. Helena got out the fifty cash from a nearby ATM and when she returned, with two bottles of scotch whiskey and cola, and some cigarette rolling papers for the joints, Justyn made the call.
     The pot arrived about an hour after Justyn ordered it but by that time they were beginning to be all well-oiled on whiskey. They rolled up a big joint and Helena, never having imbibed, was given the first few tokes.
     She liked it. Liked it a lot. She had Justyn show her how to roll a joint and by the time she finished sharing a third one she felt like a goddess. So much so that she told her friends she had to take a walk in the dark so she could talk to the stars. She was only barely heard and left the house in raptures.
     She returned at dawn the next morning, not knowing where she had been or how she had got home. She was still talking with the stars when she saw the fire truck leaving what could only be the burned shell of her home. She temporarily sobered upon the instant, and ran up to the wreckage. She was told by her neighbours, whose houses on both sides were seriously damaged by the fire, that her housemates had been taken to hospital unwillingly, injured, but wanting to see if Justyn had made it out. A police officer, also with the neighbours, said that he probably didn’t, that one burned body had been discovered in the living room. Helena was asked if she could identify it, despite the body’s charred state. She identified him by the tie-dye cuff on the left of his jeans.

*

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

Friday, 1 December 2017

Distinctly Shiva

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2016

Christi Barrett, from a very early age, clearly knew why she had never trusted anyone, except herself. This was because she had, again, early in life, realised that she had been chosen entirely at random to see all of Life’s secrets, in her dreams, thereby allowing Life to finally adjust to Itself. It was the quietest of convictions, but Christi also became certain that she could trust no-one, and thus not reveal her unique, secret, and prescient visions upon Life. Christi, naturally, became accustomed to the fact that she was a powerful figure, never doubting the insights she was given, and always receiving proof of her prescience. She was completely comfortable and self-confident in successfully completing primary school, high school, and senior high school, and was doing well in her studies for a science degree, with only one friend throughout all those schooling years. She was never bothered by her isolation, although choosing enough for her mammal blood. But still, mostly no-one ever really knew her. Her parents had eventually given up, hoping for a dramatic turn to Christi’s superiority complex. You never know.
     Christi’s complex suddenly dropped her out of uni. She then vanished. Her parents received a postcard a few days later, though, saying she was all right. She had, she wrote, dropped out of uni to learn everything from a very primal point of view, and to prove her own high worth to others. She was going to do so by first travelling all around Aus, bound by nothing or no-one, and then she’d see. She briefly mentioned that she’d get housing in homeless hostels, but called them ‘travellers’ hostels’, softening the blow of their daughter’s homelessness. Christi now sends them only Christmas cards every year, and that is all they have heard from her in several years.
     This year, though, 2012, on the first day of the London Olympics, Christi - the day before having arrived at a Sydney hostel, Penelope House - was wondering if she would soon be writing home with weddings bells, loudly and long declaring her love for one Mr Shiva Banerjee. He was similarly haughty, and very handsome. He was an actor, but who passed over minor roles, holding out for a major lead role; he never got any acting work. Often to his dismay, Mr Shiva Banerjee also looked very much, or glowed very much, like Shiva, the ideal svelte version of Shiva if he chose to walk commonly amongst us, with a long, dark, ponytail, and a spring in his step. He was always brightly, and interestingly, dressed, and also seemed to be always very pleased with an important secret. He had very recently been hired to work in the kitchen of Penelope House, but Christi first met him elsewhere.
     Christi first saw Shiva (as she instinctively called him) at the café cart at Martin Place train station. She was going back home to Penelope House, Kings Cross, after another successful day of begging for the hostel’s day’s rent (she had been temporarily cut off from her regular unemployment welfare) in the city. Her peripheral vision picked his glow out when he ordered his coffee (a large flat white), meeting his sweet eyes while she sipped her own just received coffee.
     There was no question to Christi that here, in Shiva, was the first person she could trust, that he, being obviously a god, was worthy of her higher appreciation. No, there was no question at all, Shiva was here exclusively for her heartwarm clasp, and responding was completely natural. No question on that score, either.
     He left after he received his coffee but Christi found herself immobile, not breathing, wanting but unable to approach him. The he continued on his bouncing way, eventually lost to sight.
     When she could again move she felt desolate, feeling on the cusp of betrayal. She simply had to find him again. Well, maybe if she turned up to that café cart every day at the same time she’ll bump into him. It seemed like a reasonable plan to her. She continued home, hopeful.
     You can easily imagine, then, considering Christi’s unreasoning passion for this god that had slipped from her dire need, Christi’s stunned reaction to seeing him helping to ladle out the food at that night’s dinner in the shelter. Again, she became immobile at his sight, finding it difficult to breathe. She had to be pushed ahead in the queue.
     When he was ladling out her potatoes she revised her plan. It was simple, just wait near the kitchen door for a few days and then just step up to him to ask him to marry her. She was quite serious.
     She got her chance the next day.
     ‘Hi!’ she said to him. He was just locking the kitchen door. He looked over his shoulder.
     ‘Hello,’ he replied.
     ‘You probably get this a lot, but . . .’ He was turning to face her, pocketing the keys.
     ‘I look like Shiva.’
     ‘Yeah.’
     ‘Yes, I get that a lot. My parents eventually named me that, after a month, because I never cried. I was always quiet. Happy. Engaged. I seemed to be such a master of everything that I must obviously be supreme to all. Thus, Shiva.’
     ‘Would you like to have a coffee with me? My treat.’
     ‘I have a wife.’
     ‘Oh. Naturally.’
     ‘Naturally. Excuse me, I have to go home to her now, and the girl.’
     ‘Naturally.’ Shiva left.
     Shiva left only for a little while though, for Christi quickly realised that since Shiva was a god he could hear her thoughts. She would pray endlessly now to Shiva, imploring him to return her love, showing her endless devotion. Shiva was bound to respond, also gallantly maintaining his first wife, being a Supreme Being. This was the only answer that her love would allow, and that would allow her to live.
     But being so close to this Being, literally having Him feed her, and her regular prayers to Him, but also His being so very far, soon caused conflict within her, an idle restlessness. She headed off to Adelaide.
     And Shiva came along with her, contentedly hiking along in her prayers and imagination. He made lively company, even though Christi knew that He was completely imagined. Still, it really was a good comfort.
     This comfort showed its derelict side a week into her residency at Elizabeth House, another homeless hostel, Hillcrest, inner Adelaide: she awoke after a dream, during a brief nap in front of the hostel’s large TV, which made her clearly see everything, that she was living on pure imagination. Shiva was not with her, he was with his wife and daughter. Shiva was not hanging on her every thought, desperate for all that she could give. Shiva had, no doubt, forgotten about Christi. Naturally. Christi would just have to get used to that immutable fact.
     But life without Shiva really was meaningless, no matter how much of a brave face she put on the conundrum. So she asked around for a razor she could buy and soon had her tool. It was after dinner so the dormitory was open. She went to the bed her day’s begging had paid for and lay peacefully down. There was already a few others around, an old woman in blue pyjamas sitting on the edge of her bed, and two disparate young women, sitting cross-legged on their own beds and idly gazing out the windows. She felt safe. She felt acutely the disposable razor, choosing to imagine Shiva while she slashed up her left arm. She was still looking out of the hostel’s windows while she passed into unconsciousness.
*

Christi was rescued by Jesus Christ, in the form of one of His ministers. This minister, Father David, was sometimes known to give a fiver or so to the more senior of the hostel’s guests, for ‘something bracing.’ He didn’t do it often, but he was here now with that purpose. Passing by Christ’s bed to give Mrs Reilly, in her blue pyjamas, a new five dollar note he heard a distinctive ‘drip, drip, drip.’ He turned to his right and saw Christi’s pool of blood. Instinctively he invoked the Lord and set about saving her. He tied off the cut with his handkerchief and dialled Emergency. Then he entrusted her life to the Lord for the next five minutes.
     Christi died twice on the way to hospital, the paramedic having to work double-time on her. When she came back the second time she muttered only the one word, ‘sorry’, and then passed into unconsciousness. This time it lasted for almost a day. She awoke to the feel of a palm against her forehead, and then saw Father David bending over her, counting off on some beads.
     ‘Father?’
     He opened his eyes upon her.
     ‘Hallelujah!’ he breathed. He looked tired, very tired.
     ‘What happened?’
     ‘It looks like you attempted suicide,’ he said. They were in the hostel’s infirmary. It was a large infirmary, expecting a large clientele.
     ‘Suicide? Me?’
     ‘Yes, child. God has redeemed you.’ It was the word God that recalled Shiva to her, and how she had used a common razor to erase the memory of a beautiful god. And she was still here, with nothing to live for.
     ‘Father,’ asked Christi, sitting slowly up in bed, ‘do you think God can come among us?’
     ‘I don’t see why not.’
     ‘Would you believe me if I said I’ve seen him? I know who he is.’ Father David remained poker faced.
     ‘Indeed,’ he replied.
     ‘And I’m madly in love with him, so, so, so madly, but he’s married. I want him, Father! Can I somehow have him? Somehow?’
     ‘Is he happily married?’
     ‘Yes. I think so.’
     ‘Alas, child . . .’

     But Christi did not listen to the priest, deciding that Shiva would always be with her in thought, listening to her prayers, if only as a friend. By keeping up the prayers Christi felt sure that Shiva would eventually return her love, that their friendship would naturally blossom into romance, no matter how many years, or decades, it took. She still remains thus pleasantly deluded, and has set about her fantasy in a very clear manner. She soon learned to schedule at least one hour per day in praying to Shiva, prayers that she had written out the night before. She only ever trusted this one person, and that only because he was God.

~~~

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

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

A New Quest

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2015

Mercredi Singh’s next lifetime goal is to get blood from a stone. She had already achieved her first such goal, which was to become a famous writer. She self-publishes her short stories to passers-by in Newtown, Sydney, and has a small following there. She simply walks up and down Newtown’s main street of King Street proffering people her professionally printed, sixteen page wares for five dollars each. Those that bought from her were usually artists, or somehow artistic themselves, and were genuinely surprised by Mercredi’s original selling method a la busking. To Mercredi this method came naturally, as she had spent six months in travelling northern Queensland, having flown the family nest in so doing at the age of twenty-one, selling encyclopaedias from door to door. She was only six months at this job because she was eventually fired for not making any sales. Though she had made no sales she had developed a thick skin and naturally thought of selling her own books, in which she was more motivated to succeed rather than selling other peoples’ books. Unlike those in Queensland that never bought from her, those in Newtown that didn’t buy her self-published booklets were nevertheless encouraging, being impressed that a young writer was displaying such entrepreneurialness.
     Of those that were keen to buy two of them approached her one day, and told her that they considered her one of the Great Writers.
     ‘It’s so cool how you’re just willing to get out there and just slog away at getting recognised, shouldering your way into the public’s notice.’ This was said by the apparent youngest of them, a lass with green dreadlocks. She was accompanied by another lass with similarly dyed hair, though not in dreadlocks. ‘In fact Mel here and I have been getting our friends to read your little books. They also agree that you’re a real genius and one of them is studying your works for an English assignment at uni. Well at least the works of yours that we have. I’m Tasha, by the way.’
     ‘Nice to meet you both,’ replied Mercredi. ‘I also sell my booklets because it’s nice to chat with artists in passing.’
     ‘Do artists mainly buy your works?’ asked Mel.
     ‘So far. But I really don’t think I’m one of the Great Writers. I’m just a sales rep who got lucky with her hobby.’
     ‘No way!’ exclaimed both the ladies simultaneously. ‘Your work is so pithy, short but every word works so hard and does so much,’ said Tasha.
     ‘I even reckon you’re better than Dickens,’ chimed in Mel.
     ‘Yeah, compared to you he was verbose and long-winded.’
     Mercredi didn’t at first fully appreciate that she had won her way into the high esteem of a small crowd, that she was indeed a hero amongst them and consequently being seriously studied. Certainly it was a small fan base but they were also certainly ardent and quite likely to promote her further. Later at home she realised that she had actually achieved her dreams: she was technically a famous writer, adored for her literary acumen. Sure she was famous amongst only a small crowd, but from little things big things grow. Things were bound to blossom even further now. This deserved a celebration, an expensive bottle of wine that she bought with her day’s sales of fifty dollars. She drank it while dancing to the radio, for the first time imagining the real possibility of Greatness.
     Eventually then, after a celebration lasting several months, Mercredi found herself in the midst of the busy city of Sydney with nothing to aim for. She had achieved her consciously set life goal but now had nothing to inspire her. Sure, she could look around for a job, but she had always wanted to devote her own life to her own projects.
     Pondering her conundrum one evening, in the midst of Sydney’s wet autumn of 2015, she understood that she needed a new quest, but the wine was failing to inspire. Should her new life goal be artistic? Should she travel down a path that would complement her natural talents? Well, assuredly, but then again trying something never tried before would give her a real sense of achievement once she had mastered its nature. Maybe she should apply for a science degree? The world was full of serious problems and one of them could lay the path for Mercredi to build upon her fame. Yet such a new path failed to present itself, despite the Shiraz.
     ‘This is like getting blood from a stone,’ she thought despondently.
     And thus began Mercredi’s refreshing mission. If she could get blood from a stone then all apparent paradoxes would submissively lay at her feet. Getting blood from a stone would give her the perspective to solve other impossibilities, and the resultant fame would allow her name to ring throughout history. She may well not need her unemployment welfare anymore, revelling instead in money that poured in through the application of her stunning mind.
     But where to start? She would need a stone. And a knife. So she gathered them together on her coffee table, and was half expecting the stone to split open in bloody fragments. But nothing doing, of course.
     She began staring at them knowing full well that if she applied the knife to the small rock she would be rebuffed. She briefly considered doing it the other way around, applying the small rock against the sharp knife, but instinctively felt that she couldn’t trick the Universe that way, giving her what she sought, the ability to turn the impossible into the practical.
     ‘Why a sharp knife,’ she suddenly asked herself. Surely a blunt butter knife would equally serve to unleash the crimson deep within the rock, or the possible crimson deep within the rock? Of course the blood was in there, blood and stone being essentially two halves of the same coin, both opposites of each other and therefore mutually dependant. Maybe a blunt butter knife applied to the rock in the garden was the key? That way the rock would be more amongst its natural elements and thus more willing to accede to Mercredi’s crazy ambition. Maybe.
     ‘Have to start somewhere though, and may as well start now.’ She tried to cut the stone. Causing only a scraping noise.
     She gave up for the day, and returned to her laptop, vaguely hoping that creating a new character might have some answers. And if s/he didn’t Mercredi suspected that cementing her recent literary fame was probably the only reasonable path to acquiring a new life-goal, albeit an indirect path.

*

Mercredi eventually realised, after two months of persistence, that she had bitten off more than she could chew. She has asked her friends’ advice on her current life-goal, but to no avail. Although one friend, Derrick, had told her that she obviously needs to think outside the box.
     She considered that more deeply now, alone in her flat again, and realised that she was considering the stone in isolation. What about its environment? Surely its interconnectedness should be taken into account? After all we all live in an interrelationship with our environs so obviously the same must be true of the stone.
     Accordingly, seeing herself as part of the stone’ s environs, just as much as its environs were a part of her, Mercredi took the knife and pricked the end of her thumb. She squeezed a droplet of blood out onto the stone’s craggy surface and felt at harmony with the Universe. Her blood clung to the rough surface of the stone and she squeezed enough of her blood onto it so that a little rivulet was formed, spilling onto the coffee table. Mercredi smiled in ecstasy, somehow feeling the tingle in her left thumb as the beginning of an immense hug that would always be with her, or at least easily accessible. She had, technically, drawn blood from a stone, as well as proving to herself that she is capable of anything.
     But what was there left to do now? What was there to motivate her out of bed every morning? Surely she was not bound to be perpetually chasing phantoms, perpetually seeking justification for living, always needing something bigger than her? Mercredi feared that that was just what was in fact happening.
     Only her writing, Mercredi felt, still proving to be a success, was the only natural thing that brought her true satisfaction. Why not harness it, go with the flow? She had continued her busking throughout her attempts to get blood from a stone, hoping that in thus keeping her mind distracted her subconscious would eventually come up with a solution to her problem. And maybe if she were to work harder she could start earning some serious money. Not that the money was the be-all, but it certainly helped.

     Mercredi, like a lover returned, felt reinvigorated to be back at her laptop creating other worlds and envisioning the stretches of glory that were already laid about her feet. Her new life goal is an adaptation of her original one, attempting to create a fully-fledged story in only one page. She fully expects to become even more famous by selling her sixteen page booklets all over Sydney, booklets with sixteen short stories for the reasonable price of only five dollars. Who knows, perhaps this was the beginning of a dynasty? It was certainly possible.

~~~

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

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Help

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2015

‘But Jesus called unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for such is the kingdom of God.’ Luke 18:16, KJV

Reality is ultimately circular. ULTIMATELY, as Joshua Andrew Devine’s first Technical Drawing teacher would say. Ms Templeton always started off a new set of pupils by saying that anything can be drawn using curves and straight lines. Thus, Reality is ultimately circular. The base then is a straight line. This then, more or less, gives the Greek letter ‘Omega.’ Where then, thought Joshua, is the necessarily balancing ‘Alpha’? Joshua has since had this question answered when voices (that only he is able to hear) told him that he is “The First True Alpha.”
     Joshua had become homeless at the age of eighteen, currently aged twenty-one, because of these voices, whom had woken him up one bright morning at the start of Aus’ 2012 mild summer. He had awoken with androgynous voices telling him that his life was in danger, that he was “The One,” and that he had to leave his parents’ house now. He trusted the voices (after all he could clearly hear them) and left the family nest after packing a few clothes and some bread in a bag. It was a decision that he never really regretted, having the voices to keep him company, and also to assure him that he is indeed “The First True Alpha.”
     Recently finding an abandoned newborn babe Joshua similarly felt was further proof of his Divine nature. After all wasn’t Moses’ life saved by being cast among the Nile River reeds? ‘Yes,’ said the voices, ‘and thus you too have now a chance to establish greatness.’
     Joshua found the babe hidden among some bushes in a small park in Redferne, early in the morning, before dawn, having espied the wrapped bundle and approaching it thinking it was a pile of hidden cash. He was very surprised indeed to see it was a young baby. A quiet baby, who uttered no protest when Joshua picked her up. Joshua knew it was a girl as the babe was dressed in pink.
     Holding the babe in his arms Joshua knew he was not at all capable of looking after her, that she must be surrendered to more capable people. He also saw the discovery as a sign that there were others, inconceivably, more important than ‘The First True Alpha.’ At least The True Alpha could look after himself, more or less, but here was a more important bundle, completely dependent upon the goodwill of strangers for its survival. Joshua decided to take her over to his only friend’s place, Timothy LaGrange, who could not only rescue the babe but show Joshua how the babe could similarly save Joshua, guiding him to shape his Divine nature. Joshua felt that he was very much rescuing another Moses, a counterpart to ‘The First True Alpha.’
     ‘Of course the baby is more important than you,’ said Timothy after they both sat down in the living room for Joshua to unburden himself. ‘You’re just a dero, J., but here is a bundle of pure potential. Here, you hold her while I ring for an ambulance.’
     The ambulance arrived in five minutes and in the meanwhile Timothy tried to show Joshua that even the abandoned girl was better off than him.
     ‘You think you’re crucial to Reality, J., but whenever have you ever done anything that got you applauded in the news, hailed as a hero?’
     ‘I work in secret, Tim. My every breath justifies Reality, gives it hope that there is indeed a fundamental meaning to life.’
     ‘Crap, J. None of my friends ever mention you as a saviour, in fact the few times that they do talk of you it is to disparage you. You’re not crucial at work, no-one desperately needing you to solve their problems. You’re just a dero, J., and the sooner you realise that the better it’ll be for you.’
     ‘Well, it was my homelessness that saved this babe. If it weren’t for me she could well have died horribly.’
     ‘Yeah but, J., if you got off the streets you could do some volunteer work with children, maybe work at Bernado’s. Then you’d save even more children. God knows Bernado’s need all the help they can get in protecting children.’
     Joshua was mildly stunned and he continued the conversation along these lines while the ambulance people collected the abandoned babe and checked her out. Joshua was soon thinking that Timothy had made a very good point indeed. Maybe that was the point of being ‘The First True Alpha’: to dedicate his life to protecting his younger brothers and sisters the world over. Maybe Joshua could eradicate child abuse permanently, giving a real definition to the ‘True’ in his magickal title.
     When the paramedics left Joshua continued exploring this newfound realisation with his only friend.
     ‘You might be right after all, Tim, maybe The First True Alpha is meant to look after the young. There’s no point in being so powerful if it isn’t meant to be put to good use.’
     ‘Firstly, you’re not powerful, J., you’re just a wreck who doesn’t believe that the voices only he can hear aren’t real. But secondly, maybe this babe is indeed a sign, a sign that you will be only happy in looking after the frail of the world.’ Joshua smiled, briefly imagining such positive influence.
     ‘Maybe, Tim, very well maybe I’d like to work in protecting children. The noble path I’ve been unknowingly looking for. There’s a problem though, a problem in getting off the streets and beginning the path.’
     ‘What’s the problem?’
     ‘I experienced child abuse when I was about six or seven. Nothing too serious, mind you, just a teacher who kept me after class for about a week in a row and looked down my pants to stare at my penis.’
     ‘How did that happen?’
     ‘I came to school one day not wearing underwear and while we were all sitting around listening to a story my penis fell out. The teacher told me to put it back in and close my legs more. And then every day after that, for about a week, after class and everybody had left, she would look down my shorts to see if I was wearing underwear. I was wearing undies by this time but the teacher still wanted to see my penis.’
     ‘I’m sorry, Joshua.’
     ‘Like I said it was only mild abuse. The point is though since I’ve experienced such abuse am I safe to work with children? After all most paedophiles are themselves the victims of abuse, setting up a vicious cycle.’ Here he paused and looked down at his bare, dirty feet. ‘It would be nice to think that I could stop all such abuse.’
     ‘Well, J., I don’t know the exact answer, that’s something that can only be answered, I think, by a psychiatrist. But if you really want to volunteer at Bernado’s, or work anywhere in child advocacy, you will definitely need to consult a psychiatrist. You should have seen a psychiatrist years ago anyway about those voices you hear.’
     What Timothy had just said sounded very reasonable to Joshua but he was still hesitant to come off the streets and lose the complete freedom he’d discovered there.
     ‘If I came off the streets though I’d have to pay rent to the Man. And I’d be justifying the sin of private property.’
     ‘That’s true, J., and I don’t like the Man any more than you do. But the good work you’d do would surely counterbalance “justifying the sin of private property.” The good may well far outweigh the sin, with the net result of complete goodness.’
     Again Timothy had a point. It was great having such a level headed friend.

     In fact Timothy had such a good point that Joshua there and then decided to move off the streets. He asked Timothy if he could move in with him for a short while until he had basically got his act together. Timothy was absolutely delighted to be able to thus help and together they found him a room in a boarding house within the week. Joshua then found a psychiatrist that billed under the Aus Medicare system and now plans to make enquiries about volunteering at Bernado’s after he has attended three consults. He sees his future as nothing but rosy, helping young minds to similarly experience a rosy future. Timothy likewise sees Joshua’s future as rosy.

~~~

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

Friday, 1 September 2017

A Novel Thought

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2015


Elijah d’Israeli, as he watched the road flow by the past two days, had been seriously pondering something entirely novel, a completely new thought: he should share a bottle of bourbon with his wife and daughter along for the ride. There were many pros to the thought: they both mightily deserved a party after travelling across Aus, Speaking on far flung street corners about a wailing Christ needing all of our help; it would bond all three of them even closer, maybe even becoming a solid anchor that they could all rely on in times of travelling trouble. Becoming intoxicated under the bright stars would also certainly be a notable life event, and if any of them have any niggling issues with the other(s) they can bring it up in a convivial atmosphere. Elijah could only see one con though - the cost. Fifty dollars for a bottle of the good drink was a lot of money for them and they had no way of getting any extra income.
    When Elijah finally accepted the fact that the pros outweighed the cons he was very surprised that his young daughter (and you know how young people love a party), was completely against it.
    ‘It’s called the demon drink for a reason,’ said Blanche, all of them on their way to Uluru, in the middle of Aus. The day had been roasting as usual, but the evening was quite pleasantly cool. ‘Here now, like I predicted, our Speaking Nights are being tainted. We’re not going to end up getting drunk every night and ranting on street corners, are we?’
    ‘You’re being too puritanical, Blanche,’ said her father. ‘Christ Himself shared wine at The Last Supper.’
    ‘That was completely different. But something tells me that the bourbon is going to become a habit, and you’ll end up doing nothing but embarrass me while I drag you both out from under a streetlight, ‘preaching’!
    ‘It’s not going to become a habit, dear,’ assured her mother. ‘I don’t think we could really afford it, could we, Eli?’
    ‘Not at all.’
    ‘That’s even worse. We’ll be beggared because of the drink.’
    ‘You’re worrying too much, dear,’ said her mother. ‘We aren’t going to fall to the demon drink. And, yes, I think a wee party would be nice. Who knows, we may even have one every now and then after being on the road awhile, finances permitting.’
    ‘Well, I’m not joining you,’ pouted Blanche.
    ‘Ah come on, Blanche. A wee nip won’t be the same without you. What if your mother and I promise, hand on heart, to not let the drink carry us too far away, tonight or any other night?’
    Blanche studied the motor home’s walls, considering.
    ‘Ok, but we’ll have to drink at night when it’s cooler. Let’s try to not get too wasted, shall we?’
    Elijah and Janette both proclaimed,
    ‘Hooray!’


*


The party began well, with a bottleshop in some remote South Aus town selling two 750ml bottles of bourbon for only $65. Mind you they could only afford the extra $15 by deferring their Net connection for a month. That should be no problem however, easily worked around with the occasional free Wi-Fi.
    They had pulled into a nearby caravan park after getting the drink, all set to cook up a large dinner before the drinks. Night had just fallen and the sky was a Faberge brooch after brooch of twinkling, priceless stars, as they heartily ate their dinner. After the washing up the party began in earnest.
    Need we say that the mix of stars and strong drink was sublime? Even Blanche was surprised that she was having such a good time with her parents, the alcohol mixing even better with music. It was also nice for Blanche to see her parents dancing.
    Blanche was thus not too unduly surprised to find a black kitten sleeping by her feet the next afternoon when she awoke after the heavy festivities. The kitten’s furriness gently guided her into wakefulness, her feet unquestioningly nestling into it, and once she realised she was cuddling a small, warm ball of fur she slowly sat upright. She stared blearily at the kitten.
    Yep, definitely a kitten, black, with bright yellow eyes, almost demonic in their brightness. She plopped back onto her pillow trying to remember where the kitten had come from.
    She still had no idea when, a short while later, she showed up at the kitchen table, carrying the kitten.
    ‘I see you’ve found Luke,’ said her father, having a coffee at the table. Her mother must still be in bed.
    ‘Luke?’
    ‘The kitten.’
    ‘Where did he, or she, come from?’
    ‘Don’t know. He just walked out of the dark late last night and went straight up to you. He seemed drawn to you, fascinated by you. Probably because you’re most likely to look after him, young as you are, and thus sympathetic.’
    ‘Why is he named Luke?’
    ‘You named him. You said he was darker than the Devil, Lucifer, and thus Luke.’
    ‘Well, Lukey, we’ll have to get you some special food,’ said Blanche nuzzling the kitten.
    The novelty wore off soon though as Lukey kept following Blanche around, would sit just staring at her while she was reading or cleaning up, or attending to the motor home’s maintenance as per usual. It was very creepy and Blanche didn’t take long to vociferate her objections. She secretly thought Lukey was indeed an agent of Satan, waiting to get underfoot and fatally trip her up. Her parents would be then left with no-one to protect them as they conitued ageing, compounding Lukey's sinister plans.
    She soon told her parents this, after a week of being under Luke’s close scrutiny, begging them to let it loose unto some other home. They would just abandon it and head off, free of its ever watching eyes.
    ‘It’s an innocent creature, dear,’ said her mother. ‘It has no evil intent toward you.’
    ‘I’m not so sure. I can see deep cunning behind those cute eyes.’
     But her parents didn’t need much persuasion to let the animal go. One less mouth to feed. They took Luke amongst the trees that night and left him there, scurrying back to the motor home and leaving the park. No-one felt any guilt.
    At least they felt no guilt for the first five kilometres or so. And then Blanche voiced all their conscience: Luke needed them, Luke relied on them. There was no-one else to ensure his best interests. Luke had only them to rely on.
    So they drove back to the park and Blanche was greeted by the bounding bundle of relief when she stepped out to look for him.

    ‘Ah well, Lukey,’ she said, taking him up to nuzzle, ‘if you are a spy you’ve met your match in me. I’ll certainly have to watch you.’ Luke looked into her eyes, thoughtful.

~~~

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