Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Animal Underworld

Sarah Harvey

Once, long long, ago in a leafy Sydney suburb, there lived a black Labrador called Jet. Jet lived in the same street as a cat called Pickles, a grey Siamese cat. Jet and Pickles didn't get along.

Each morning, as Jet’s owner took him on his daily walk, Pickles and the other neighbourhood cats would line the surrounding streets and taunt Jet as he walked past. Pickles was the ring-leader of the other cats, and he encouraged them to tease and pick on Jet. Jet’s owner didn't realise what the cats were doing of course, but Jet did. Jet was hurt by the cats’ cruel meows about his weight, and his salt and pepper-coloured fur.

One thing the cats didn't know though was that Jet owned a violin, and although he loved his violin, he’d never been taught how to play it. One day, when his owner was out, Jet decided to sneak out for a walk. He did this occasionally, but never strayed far enough to get lost. On this particular day however, he decided to wander in a different direction so as to avoid the cats. He got lost.

As he was working out how to get home, Jet saw a ‘shop that he’d never seen before, but as he couldn't read, he didn't know where he was. Where could he be? Jet trotted into the shop and saw lots of violins, along with other musical instruments. He was in a Music Shop! In the music shop the sales assistant gave Jet some lessons on how to play the violin and then directed him home.

Jet practised and practised for days; Pickles and the other cats could hear the music coming from Jet’s house. They were very jealous because they couldn't play any musical instruments.
One afternoon, about a week after Jet had been to the music store, he was out for a walk with his owner. As usual the cats began to taunt him, but Pickles hissed at Jet to come and meet him in the side lane that night. Jet was nervous but wanted to show the cats that he was not afraid of them.

As agreed, Jet snuck out after his owner had gone to sleep. He sauntered around the corner into the alleyway and stopped. It was blanketed in darkness. A young tabby knocked over a rubbish bin in fright and the lid clanged noisily onto the ground, but Jet still couldn't see anything and approached with caution. A light above the lane flickered briefly so that Jet could see the cats sprawled across his path. He heard one of them hiss defensively.

‘Come out into the moonlight where I can see you,’ said Jet.
Pickles obeyed and moved out into view, followed by a few of his posse. Pickles was wearing a smart black vest. He arched his back and stretched lazily as the other cats around him shifted nervously and flicked their tails. Pickles studied Jet for a moment.
‘That thing you've been playing... What is it?’
‘It’s a violin.’
‘You play it very well... for a breed of low intelligence...’
‘What do you want, Pickles? I have things to do.’
‘I want to learn how to play the violin too. I want you to teach me.’
Jet considered this for a moment.  ‘I’ll teach you, but for a price.’
‘Name it, dog.’
‘Stop making fun of my weight and my hair colour. I can’t help growing old and I'm working on my fitness. It will happen to you one day too.’
‘Well if you’re going to be sensitive...’
‘Pickles...’
‘Oh all rightall right. I’ll call the others off.’

Very kindly the Jet showed Pickles where the music shop was and he had some music lessons too. In return, Pickles did as he had promised and never teased Jet again. 


Sometimes, when none of the other cats were watching, they even played a duet. 

Monday, 27 January 2014

The Abduction of Penelope

By Sarah Begg

 “Hurry up Crysta! Do you want to get stuck with kitchen duty again?” the caller raced across the fields holding her skirts high about her knees. Her long sandy hair streamed out behind her and her face was flushed from the exertion.
“Slow down, Penny!” Crysta came stumbling after her friend, breathing heavily and having difficulty keeping up. Her dark hair was plastered to her face and she cursed herself silently for agreeing to skip the evening classes in favour of visiting the meadows with Penny. Crysta knew that she would probably be given kitchen duty for a week for truanting, yet she could not resist the coercive power of her friend. Penny, on the other hand, would get no more than a scowl from Depeter, the High Priestess, who also happened to be Penny’s mother.
“Don’t you just love it out here?” said Penny, once Crysta had caught up. The latter looked sidelong at her friend, and felt the usual pang of envy. Penny was tall, graceful, and beautiful; her sandy hair falling to her waist, her bright blue eyes closed as she savoured the atmosphere of the fields. Yet not only was she graced with exceptional looks, she was the daughter of the High Priestess, miraculously conceived and born of a virgin – for her mother had never lain with a man yet was unaccountably blessed with a daughter. Penelope was proclaimed as a gift from the Gods, meant to succeed her mother and become a religious leader and symbol. Penny had been doted upon from the moment she was born, favoured amongst the priestesses in everything she did. Crysta, on the other hand, was the seventh daughter from a minor noble house – nothing but a burden on her family – and so was sent to the Temple of Bayoneth when she was six years old to begin her life as a devotee of the Gods.
“It’s lovely,” said Crysta sarcastically, her face burning. “Now can we hurry up and pick some flowers so we can get back? I’ll be in enough trouble as it is.”
“Oh Crysta, you’re no fun,” Penny opened her eyes and grinned at her friend, “I’ll race you to the next hill!” and she was off again, running down the side of the first hill and sprinting towards the next.
Crysta rolled her eyes and began to follow when a feeling of uneasiness swept over her. She stopped moving and glanced around. There was nothing unusual moving in the fields yet, inexplicably, fear began to creep up the back of her neck. The only movement she could see, aside from the softly swaying grass in the breeze, came from Penny, cavorting across the fields, oblivious to anything untoward.
But then Crysta felt the ground begin to vibrate beneath her feet, and looking down she saw a small pebble near her sandal begin to dance amongst the grass.
Stop Penny, she thought as she looked up, her eyes boring into Penny's back. Her throat felt stuck together, her body frozen to the spot. She willed her friend to heed her, but Penny was oblivious to her silent plea and continued on her cavort across the field. Then she heard the sounds, carried towards her on the wind – the beating of running hooves and the creaking of chariots. Crysta fell to her knees trembling – the noises were coming from all sides, yet she could not see the riders amidst the undulating terrain.
“Penny,” she whispered, finding her voice. Then louder, “Penny!”, but her voice shook and soon she was struck silent by fear.
Then Penny stopped and stood frozen, staring up at the nightmare forming atop the hill.
First the twin horses appeared, foaming at the mouth. They were black as midnight, their eyes glowing an evil red. Then the rider emerged, as if from a nightmare. He stood astride his chariot, lash in hand, dark cloak billowing out behind him as he sped downhill towards the lone girl standing in the field. He was dressed entirely in black, with black cloth covering his head and face, leaving a small partition for his piercing eyes. Cryst knew who he was instantly. The priestesses cautioned all the acolytes with tales of Lord Hayden, ruler of the city's corrupt and sadistic underworld. Crysta thought that they were simply stories – that no one cold possible exist living a life deep below the ground. Yet seeing this apparition before her – she had no doubts any more.
Crysta watched horrified as five more or these demon chariots appeared from all sides to converge on the girl, who still stood rooted to the ground, halfway up the hill. Crysta was shaking violently as she cowered on the ground, wanting to save her friend yet terrified that these beings would see her. She watched on as the first chariot reached the girl, and, just as the horses narrowly missed colliding with her, Penny threw up her arms in a feeble attempt to shield her face and was snatched up by the rider into his chariot. Wheeling around in a circle, the charioteer signalled with a gesture and the others formed up behind him into a V, and the chariots went pounding back up the hill and disappeared over the brink once more.
Crysta remained trembling and cowering on the ground for some time, until the ground stopped vibrating and she realised that the only sounds she could now hear were those that she was making herself. She shakily got to her feet and with the fear that they might return still within her, she sprinted as fast as possible back toward the Temple of Bayoneth, to bring the tidings to the priestesses.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Tourist

by Diana Gitau


Maria woke up in her hotel room not knowing how she got there. The last thing that she could remember was having drinks with Ahmed the previous night. 

She looked at her watch and realized that she as running late and would miss her ferry. 

Grabbing her belongings, she quickly checked out of her room and ran to the port.

 “Ticket please!” the ticket inspector stopped her as she tried to rush to the boarding area.

“I will miss the ferry, can I just get in?’ Maria pleaded. 

“I have to see your ticket before you can go to the boarding area “he insisted.

Maria went through her purse looking for the ticket. She couldn’t find it! She emptied her backpack but still couldn’t find anything.

“You need to buy a ticket before you can get in”, the inspector insisted.

Her heart was racing. She had the ticket the day before. However, there was no time to start looking for it then and so she decided to buy another one. 

Going through her purse, she realized that her wallet and phone were also missing. 
 Suddenly, she heard the final horn being blown and watched in dismay as the ferry left the dock. That was her only means out of Zanzibar.

Maria assumed that she must have forgotten some of her things at the hotel in the morning rush. Dejectedly, she left the port and headed back to the hotel.

 “I think I forgot a few items in my room” she explained to the receptionist.

“Your room has cleaned, there was nothing there.” he said. “Have you checked your bag?”

“Of course I have!” Maria yelled feeling frustrated.

“Calm down Maria, I am trying to help.”

“No, I only had my phone and a little money.” Maria said when he suggested that she might have lost her ticket at the club. 

“Who was on duty here last night?” She thought that someone might have seen her coming in. If Ahmed had robbed her then someone might have seen him.

“I was the one here; remember I opened the door for you?”

“Was anyone else with me?”

“Of course not” he added tiredly.

Helplessly, she went and sat outside the hotel wondering what to do. There was no Kenyan embassy on the island; the nearest one was the mainland at Dar es Salaam.

“Maria, you are still around!” 

It was Ahmed, her only friend on the island!

“What happened last night? She desperately asked.

“We left the club at 3:00am and you came back to your hotel” he quickly filled her in. 

Maria explained the events of the morning and the fact that she couldn’t remember much from the previous night. Ahmed was equally perplexed. 

“I don’t have any money, I can’t help you”

“Can you get someone to buy me a ticket to the mainland; I can go to the embassy at Dar es Salaam and get help from there”, She pleaded desperately.

“I think I know someone who can help you.”

Ahmed took her to a house off the island where they found a man seated in an office behind a mahogany desk busy with paperwork. Everything in that office screamed of power and affluence.

The man was dressed in white. His robe had golden embroidery and so did his head scarf. He also had a huge white beard like most Arab men on the island. 

“So how can I help you Ahmed?” he asked.

 “This is my friend Maria from Kenya”, Ahmed explained to the man her predicament as he listened without interrupting.

“So how can I help you, my Kenyan friend?” he asked now looking at Maria
.
 “I need money to buy a ticket to Dar es Salaam so that I can go to the embassy”, Maria explained. 

“I will help you my friend…..actually, I will pay for your tickets all the way to Kenya” he said.

Maria sighed in relief; she was going back home! 

“Thank you Sir...”

“Call me Abdullah, we are now friends.” 

“I will need you to do me a small favor though; you will travel with my two friends to Nairobi where I have arranged for someone to pick them.”

Maria thought that was a small price to pay and so agreed quickly. Abdullah then arranged to have her travel on the next day. 

In the morning, she was introduced to a man and woman who were her travel companions.  They spoke in Arabic and Maria discovered that they didn’t know a word of Kiswahili or English.

“I have asked them to pretend to be deaf and dumb so that nobody asks about their language issue”, Abdullah explained much to the confusion of Maria.

“If anyone asks, say that you are all Kenyans and had travelled together”, again Maria wondered what was going on. 

“We have even given them nice Kenyan names; they are Musa and Rehema, nice...eh?” he added before cautioning her, “Do not let the immigrations officials inspect their documents.”

“Is this illegal?”She hesitantly asked.

 “Of course not, they just need to get to Kenya, they need help crossing the border because the language barrier”, he added smiling.

Maria had her doubts but there was no much time for second thoughts. Soon, the trio made their way to the port where they once again met the ticket inspector. She showed him all their tickets and headed to the immigration desk. 

She first handed over her passport which was quickly stamped. When she handed over Rehema’s passport, the immigration officer seemed to take forever with it. He started looking at it from page to page.

 “What were you doing in Zanzibar?”

“We were on vacation”, Maria quickly answered.

“I am asking her,” he said as he pointed at Rehema.

“She is deaf”, again Maria volunteered. 

“M-A-D-A-M…eh?” he called out to Rehema speaking very slowly and loudly.
“She still can’t hear you and she can’t read lips.” Maria said hoping to end the interrogation.

She sighed with relief as she saw him stamp the two passports.

They reached the mainland and luckily had no issue getting the Dar es Salaam to Nairobi bus. They just had to buy the tickets.

It was 6:00pm when they finally arrived at the border.

“Kenyans here, all non-Kenyans there”, the immigration officer shouted as he pointed at different queues.

The trio got in line with the other Kenyans.

“You two, I said non-Kenyans should stand over there, you are in the wrong queue!”
Maria realized that the officer was referring to Musa and Rehema.

“We are all Kenyans, from the North-Rift, Boranas”, She quickly explained, knowing that she was talking too fast and giving unnecessary details.

The officer looked at them for a while and walked away after he added, “They look like Somalis!” 

Those words shock waves through Maria’s body. Musa and Rehema did look like Somalis. She hadn’t thought of it but then it made sense! They didn’t speak any Swahili like everyone else in Zanzibar! Their appearance was also quite different.

The Kenyan government was very strict about illegal immigrants. Culprits were deported or imprisoned. The smugglers faced up to twenty years in jail. She thought of abandoning them and running away but then again everyone had already seen them together and she still had to get her passport stamped.

“NEXT!” the immigration officer shouted glaring at her. She hadn’t even realized that she was holding up the queue.

She gave him the three passports but to her surprise, they were all stamped and returned to her, no questions asked.

Maria couldn’t wait to get to Nairobi and get rid of her two companions now turned contraband. She had so many questions about Ahmed, Abdullah and the Somalis. She started wondering if all was happening was just a coincidence. Her lost phone, tickets and money, meeting Ahmed and then Abdullah who just happened to have two immigrants who needed to travel to Kenya; it had to be a set up!

Once in Nairobi, she rushed to the rendezvous as Abdullah had mentioned where a man called Mawe met her. 

“I have a long way to go” Maria pleaded refusing to sit down.

“Oh yeah, you are going all the way to Limuru.”

Maria was stunned. How did he know where she lived?

He reached into his pocket and handed her an envelope and a phone.

“This is your payment, always keep that phone on, we will notify you of your next assignment.” 

She was dumfounded. Payment? Next assignment?

“I am sorry there must be a mistake, Abdullah told me to bring these two here and that was it.”

Mawe burst out in a maniac laugh.

“Don’t be na├»ve Maria, do you know who these people are?” he asked.

“This is Wariahe Marda and his wife.”

The name sounded familiar but she couldn’t place it.

“They are wanted for crimes against humanity in Somalia and are now international fugitives. You have just brought them to Kenya so you can’t just run away from this”, he added coldly.

“Just go home, enjoy your money and I will call you for your next assignment.”

Maria silently picked the phone and the envelope which was quite heavy and left. That was not how she had expected her vacation to go. In just a week she had turned from a tourist to joining an underworld of smugglers.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Number Nine.

By Michael Carta. 


Nuclear fallout marks the beginning of the slow process in which nature is cleansed and slowly reborn from the ashes of the failed world.


A vast underworld has formed in the remaining underground subways of several major cities across the planet. Hundreds now live in relative harmony in their own makeshift societies. Niko has been living deep within the subway system in the California underworld for ten years. It was the day of her fifth birthday when her father ran her to the safety of the tunnels.  
Darkness ruled the majority of the day unless it was your shift to go into the “fray”. This was the term used for venturing out into the abyss of ruins to scavenge.  A thick cloud layer of debris and ash smothered Earth’s surface from the Sun. The days were windy and endless without any hope of change.
Just before he left for fray duty one day, Niko’s father had given her his only prized possession; a small photo of her mother. She understands now that it was his way of telling her that he was not going to return.
Niko lived for the time she spent in the fray and cherished every moment of it. The tunnel lights were always a pale orange, but on the surface things looked different, less muggy. She especially enjoyed taking out her mother’s picture to see it more clearly and would always remember her father’s face when he thought of her. It was the only time she had ever seen him smile.
Quickly she jumped up and moved into the changing room to assemble her gear for fray duty. She was completely covered head-to-toe in less than a minute with a pair of worn goggles on her forehead. They always went out in groups of three: a digger, a collector, and a navigator. All tethered together by a long chain. Some foolish groups detached themselves since the chain could get snagged, but this was risky. The terrain was rough, uncharted and unpredictable.
“Come on we’re burnin’ daylight here!” she shouted playfully at her comrades still assembling their gear.
“Niko, what does that even mean?” Said 188, the boy next to her.
“Yeah, you say that every time!” Said 137, the smaller boy next to him.
“I dunno. I think it means: “hurry up slow pokes!”, my father used to say it many moons ago”
“Moons?”
“Don’t ask!” she said giggling.
Niko was one of the only ones known by a name instead of a number. The number was assigned when you were established as a member of the group and those with a lower number were more senior and had more authority. All single digit members had names, she was technically number nine, but widely known as Niko. Only two others remained of the original single digits and were the real decision makers. However, she was too young to be a part of their council.
They ran at a brisk pace and within a few feet the amber light from the common area diminished. With their hands along the wall they could tell when the tunnel turned and where to stop. After a mile or so they reached the dead end where the metal wall was pinned against the entrance of their enclave.
“Group C reporting for duty commander!” she announced proudly to the man seated next to the wall.
188 and 137 smiled since groups did not have names and the doorman never spoke. Niko was always being silly and they enjoyed her presence.
“How are you always so chipper Niko?” said 137 in wonder.
“Well.. there’s darkness all around us, but that does not mean it always has to be dark in here.” she said as she tapped his head and smirked.
“We can make our own light”
Slowly and methodically the old man pushed the barrier to the side. The metal screeched against the concrete revealing a small two foot opening just big enough for the three of them to dart out quickly. A relentless wind burst through, bringing with it thick amounts of soot. Niko lunged out first and the man was already closing the opening as the others barely squeezed through.
“Close one!” she shouted.
The others could not hear her over the gusts of wind. They huddled up for a few moments to let their eyes adjust to the light difference. 188, their navigator, moved first and hooked Niko to the front of the chain, 137 in the middle, and himself to the rear. His job was to log their route so that they could follow it back. If a team was lost, there was no rescue. The next team out would search for them, but their primary focus would be to find some useful quarry. During his first time in the fray, 188 was nervous about getting lost or left behind. Now his fear was numbed and he thought that such a fate would be better than dying in the darkness anyway.
Strangely the wind began to settle and the mixture of soot and dust was not as thick. Niko trudged forward with excitement. She moved at an ample pace since she did not want to drag the two behind her. After a short while there was a brief tug as if 188, or 137 stopped suddenly. She waited patiently and did not turn around. Those two were always looking for excuses to stop.
“What’dya think we’ll find t-”
Before she could even finished her thought she was yanked viciously off her feet backwards by the chain. Her body slammed into rubble and her lungs burned as she gasped for air.  She was dizzy from the impact and her eyes were too watery to see what was going on. There was a brilliant spectral flash of light that she never imagined possible followed by a deafening boom that shook her to the core.  
            “So beautiful!” she thought, but then her heart skipped a beat. She was blind. A wave of panic rushed over her as she anxiously pulled the chain. It came quickly and was too light. She cried out and heard nothing but a constant ringing in her ears. Within a few frantic moments she held the end of the broken chain in her hands. She was alone and lost in the darkness... or so she thought...

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Senach

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2013

     Non servitum

     Senach Henri Roussecut celebrated his six birthdays since his twenty-first in what was, to him, the brightest manner possible: hitchhiking from Redferne, Sydney, Aus, to Melbourne, likewise within the domain of charming Aus and to Redferne’s distant south.
     ‘Chilly, chilly, chilly,’ he said to himself. He had spent the night in a gazebo atop Mount Macquarie Pass and he was keeping south in an old East German overcoat and a thick cotton blanket wrapped around him. It was still bitingly cold though.
     ‘Chilly, chilly, chilly.’
     ‘You’ve said that already.’
     It was looking up for more diversion that Senach noticed the crumpled envelope. It was apparently a windowed envelope, with an enclosed crumpled sheet, pale yellow at either the head or the tail, and sticking out invitingly. Senach stopped his trek and looked at the letter a little ahead and across the road.
     Senach approached the missive.
     It was addressed to Senach H. Roussecut.
     ‘Senach!’ exclaimed Senach. Senach is a very rare Gaelic first name and so to meet with one’s own namesake in the middle of nowhere is fairly miraculous. Not to mention that he had the same initial as Mr Roussecut as well as the same surname. Senach proceeded to read the note.
     It was a form letter from the Commonwealth Bank of Aus asking Mr Roussecut if he wanted to rollover or withdraw his two hundred and ninety thousand dollar term deposit. Assuming no correspondence from Mr Roussecut the term deposit monies would be rolled over. The Commonwealth Bank of Aus thanked him for his investment and remain open to further business.
     ‘Sounds like someone I should get to know,’ said Senach. He looked at Senach H. Roussecut’s address:  La Belle, Mauriton.
     Finding Mauriton on the GPS of his phone he headed off to meet what had to be a new relation.

*

     Monsieur Roussecut was just as run down as ‘La Belle’, if indeed it was Monsieur Roussecut who answered the door.
     ‘What!’ roared the man who answered Senach’s loud knock. ‘No hawkers!’  Senach felt his vehemence as a fine mist. Unobtrusively wiping his visage Senach asked,
     ‘Are you Mister Senach H. Roussecut?’
     ‘What!’
     ‘Are you Mister Senach H. Roussecut?’
     ‘No hawkers I said!’
     ‘I’m not a hawker, my name is Senach Roussecut too, we must be related.’ Monsieur Roussecut adjusted his rags. They looked to be once white, or of a pale pastel, but were now begrimed and distinctly malodourous.
     ‘Senach!’ exploded M. Roussecut. ‘Rare old Gaelic name that; are you sure you’re not a hawker?  How do you know my name?’
     ‘I found this letter and since we have the same first and last names decided to visit you.’ Senach handed over the letter. Senach pointed out that it had already been opened. M. Roussecut briefly perused it, crumpled it and the envelope together, and threw it away again.
     ‘Do you mind if I step inside for a while?  After all we must be related with a rare first name like ours, not to mention having identical surnames, and it’s always good to know family.’ M. Roussecut begrudgingly grunted, allowing Senach inside the hovel.
     And it was indeed a hovel. The place was cold, lightless except for a fire in the hearth of the living room, and the walls were obviously darkly layered. There was also the unmistakable odour of vegetables passed their prime. Senach could see the barren kitchen down the hall and he walked passed the only bedroom with a lone single mattress and a thin disgusting quilt. The room with the shut door was probably the parlour and was as likely to be infected as the rest of this house appeared to be. M. Roussecut led Senach to the fire.
     ‘So you’re a Senach, eh?’ asked Roussecut when they were seated, companionably enough.
     ‘Yes. Senach Henri Roussecut.’
     ‘Is your mother’s maiden name Roussecut?’
     ‘Yes, Marionne Roussecut.’
     ‘She’s in her mid-forties by now?’
     ‘Forty-six, just after New Year’s eighteen months ago, 2011.’ M. Roussecut looked from Senach and gazed into the glowing fire for some moments. ‘Marionne is my elder sister. She never could stand my daring thoughts.’
     ‘Mama has never mentioned a brother.’
     ‘I became dead to your family when I got hooked on harry.’
     ‘Harry?’
     ‘Heroin. That’s what happened to all of the furniture; I sold it off a bit at a time for shots. And it was a real bastard transporting it all in to Mauriton to the pawn shop.’
     ‘Are you still addicted to harry, to heroin?’
     ‘Not at all, now I save my pension, off the horse for over twenty years. I own this house, inherited it from a rich underworld junky who had a grain too much one day, and I keep my expenses to fifty bucks a fortnight. I grow my own fruit and veggies, only needing meat and the incidentals.’
     ‘How older is my mother than you?’
     ‘Five years. We’ve always had opposite tastes. She probably named you after me because she could never help but look out for me. She must have never really given up the hope of me getting off the junk. She probably meant to somehow influence me by bequeathing my name on her innocent newborn, somehow channel its newfound possibilities for me. Does Marionne still avoid alcohol?’
     ‘Religiously.’
     ‘Well, we’ll have a sup to renew the family ties,’ said M. Roussecut while chuckling to himself and groping under the only armchair in the living room. Senach was precariously perched on a three-legged chair. ‘Just hang on,’ said M. Roussecut, ‘I think there’s still some Merlot around here somewhere.’ M. Roussecut not finding the promised bottle under his armchair went into the adjoining kitchen. ‘Finally!’ he said after locating a corked half full bottle of red wine. ‘Here’s to Marionne!’  He had brought the bottle back into the living room, but with no glasses. ‘We’ll take swigs at the bottle,’ he informed Senach.
     Roussecut explained his most shameful memory of the junk was missing his sister’s wedding. Marionne was married on her twenty-first, to a respectable gentleman, while M. Roussecut was hunting for junk. He didn’t turn up to the wedding, which had started a half hour after he shot himself a nice shot of harry. He had been clean now though for twenty-five years, completely clean with the help of the methadone (a medical substitute for heroin) program, and revealed that he had gradually become obsessed with relapsing, saving all of his money in case of ‘an event.’ Thus the rags and littered home. M. Roussecut did not spend his pension but saved most of it and the term deposit was the result of over twenty years of saving and investing. His pension he had received under absolutely false pretences, having for six months faked being schizophrenic (after researching into schizophrenic symptomology) and being granted a federal disability support pension in consequence.
     After this history M. Roussecut followed up with this question of Senach,
     ‘You wouldn’t have a place to let in the big smoke, would you?  I presume you’re from the big smoke?  That big, fancy backpack says you’re heading either to Sydney or from it.’
     ‘From it. To Melbourne.’
     ‘Would you have a room to spare at your place when you get back to Sydney?  Like I said I get a government pension so money is little worry for rent, and I really hate having to clean this place.’ The place was putrid; M. Roussecut probably meant that it was an impossible house to clean.
     ‘Ok,’ responded Senach to his uncle’s enquiry. It was only polite; Roussecut’s place was a carcass. ‘I have a two bedroom flat but we’ll have to go halves on everything: rent, electricity, food, everything.’
     M. Roussecut looked around his squalid abode, imagining the cleaner bliss he had recently begun to dream about.
     ‘Let’s head off now,’ said Roussecut.
     Well, why not, thought Senach. M. Roussecut simply stood up and was ready to leave. The fire was low so he could afford to leave it safely.
     ‘Ready,’ he said. Senach picked up his backpack again. ‘Ready,’ he said. They headed out of the door of the decrepit house and off to Redferne via Melbourne.

*

     Senach was duly lauded for returning this sheep to the family abode, bearing the lamb come through adversity. M. Roussecut’s mother, meeting him the day after his reunion with his sister, prayed a Hail Mary over him at this returned good fortune. Hallelujah!
     Roussecut now lives in Chippendale, having sold his house for a one bedroom flat, and just recently become a complete teetotaller. But he doesn’t live at home; more often than not he’s at Marionne’s or Senach’s soaking up all of the healthy family years he has missed. He still gets the occasional cravings for junk which he repels with the clear realisation that his hovel would easily welcome him back. Life will just as easily let you slip as let you bloom, Senach.
     ‘Cheers, Marionne!’

     ‘Cheers, Senach!’


***

     If you've been enjoying Denis' stories on this blog you may also like his debut novel, This Mirror in Me, available on Kindle at http://amzn.to/16p4XDn for $3.87. It tells the story of a mathematics professor's highly unusual Saturdays ritual. It has been given a five star rating, received shortly after its release. If you don't have a Kindle you can download the app for free on your smartphone or tablet.