Sunday 31 August 2014


"Came up to the world, have you boy?"

Bradley froze.

That voice. Deep, gravely, somewhat raspy. And suddenly the quietly confident man in a suit disappeared. Bradley was eight years old again, cowering behind the couch. 

He remembered that voice, guffawing in amusement, chortling with mirth as Bradley's young body got thrown against the wall. Then he remembered those large, beefy hands. He feared those hands; the burn across his face, the crushing grip on his arm. The same hands that dragged him across the floor before locking him in a room with a tall skinny man with sweaty hands and horrible breath.

Bradley remembered fighting until he can't anymore. He remembered the almost unbearable pain as his eight-year-old body endured what it should not have. He remembered learning to hate as he heard his own helpless whimpering. He remembered walking out of the room after what he felt was forever and saw those hands counting out bills given by the tall skinny man.

Standing by the door, he looked on as those hands pulled out a bill and handed him a dollar. Face stained with tears, eyes burning with hate, Bradley stood there holding his dollar, unable to walk after what the tall skinny man did to him.

Three days later, those same hands locked him in a room with another man, this time short and stout, and handed him a dollar with that same broken-toothed grin after he had to endure more than a little boy's body could have.

Those hands. A man. Pain. A dollar. A grin.

That was his life. 

It took twenty dollars and a building fire before Bradley could get out of that life. Before Bradley was taken away by the nice policeman.

Snapping back to the present, Bradley turned and looked at where the voice came from. The years hadn't been kind to him, Bradley thought dispassionately, noticing the lines on the face, the disheveled hair, and the yellow tinge to the skin. "Hello, Gabe."

"It's been twenty years, aren't I going to get a warmer greeting than that?" The grin flashed out at him.

Bradley shook his head at the small, squat, pudgy, and withered man standing beside his table. "Goodbye, Gabe."

Gathering his things, Bradley felt a rush of gratitude for the family that took him in and the years he'd lived after that fire. He stood up, nodded at the man that he used to know as his father, and walked out of the cafe. As he stepped out, he saw a tall woman rushing up toward him. He smiled at her.

"Hi, honey. I'm so sorry I'm late." She leaned up to kiss him. Then tilted her head to look back into the cafe. "Who was that you were talking to?"

Bradley looked back and saw Gabe sitting on the table he vacated, sipping the coffee he left. It doesn't hurt to look at him anymore, he realized. The years made him feel clean now.

"No one, sweetie. Just a ghost."

Monday 4 August 2014


 By: Michael Carta.

    Oh, High School. There is a magic spell that somehow stretches time when you enter the building. Hours turn into days and days turn into lifetimes. I am able to contemplate my existence and that of the entire universe all before the lunch hour. “The future lives and learns within these walls” what a corny poster. If the future saw this place and the people in it, it would give up. Somewhere along the line of evolution a mistake was clearly made, but we just keep building off of it. I honestly think one of the main contributors to the ozone layer’s depletion is the amount of hairspray from the girl’s bathroom. I admit I was a part of that craze my first year here, but have now come to a realization since I am a senior: nothing really matters in an environment made of fake people. My prison term has been four years; I am almost free, almost set loose. I have to just get through the next few weeks then I can say goodbye to this chapter in my life and welcome the future!    


“…Mary, hello?”

“Mary, do you have plans this afternoon? We have vacancy in detention if that interests you more than this class.“

“Sorry! No ma’am I am interested, I was just-“
“Just what?”

“Just distracted, but I am not anymore!”

“That’s your only warning today so keep focused. As I was saying, perspective gives us understanding. It is like a window into the mind of a creator; whether we are studying an artist, or an author. In some cases it can be a cipher that helps you crack the hidden code! I want everyone now to get with their writing partner and read the short dialog I passed out at the start of class. You are to extrapolate two possible perspectives that provide different truths from the same origin. In other words, tell me two separate things that you think the dialog is about. You have ten minutes. Mary, your group presents first so we can keep you interested. “

     So, I get up and flop into the chair next to my friend, and writing partner, Chelsea. She’s okay, not much going on in her brain, but she has been nice to me over the years. Unfortunately, she feels the need to lean in right next to you face when she talks. Close talkers bother me. I don’t much enjoy getting sprayed by spit during a conversation. It always reminds me of Jurassic park when that one little dino blinds the guy with spit. Anyways…

“Miss Pack has it out for you, Mary. I told you she’s evil. Tom says it’s because of all the pills she takes when she thinks no one is looking.”

“What? It’s not that bad, I was totally dozing off anyhow. I even drooled a little on my hand, see?”

“Uh, gross. So, what do you want to present?”

“Let’s see what we’ve got to work with.“

This is the crap what we had to read:
     She was everything to me. The absolute singular center of my life, but now… Now, she’s nothing but a bygone.  All the memories of her that I have are just shards that yield only a weak remembrance towards her majesty… Oh, how I despise time and its cruel nature that continuously drives her away from me. I see slowly fading images as she is washed away year after year, and I can only laugh at how cruel it is to be left behind in this way. I have seen most of this world and have more than enough experiences with other people. I hunger for nothing but to see her again! Even though I know that will never happen; such thoughts will be my undoing. The only thing that stops me from ending my torment and my life is that I would be unable to think of her any longer. Let bygones be bygones they say… What the hell do they know?  They know nothing of her… She was too pure, too innocent, and too perfect to be held to their standards. 

     How could I have been so easily mislead? How could I have been so careless as to fall in love. I let my guard down and will forever bear the consequence. With all of this in mind I say to you; be mindful at every turn you take and every word you speak. She is out there lurking… stalking… waiting for you to be vulnerable, to be fragile, open to love. And in that moment, when she catches you, you will experience such bliss that all the troubles of the world fade, but again I say to you; be mindful at every turn you take and every word you speak. Oh, my boy. She is out there and she will find you… of that I am certain. 

“Wow, sounds like a really grumpy old man writing to his son about his dead wife. “

“Hah, yeah maybe. Or, he was writing about drugs. Don’t ya think it’s odd how similar addiction and love are? “

“Uh, no. Here you go again, Mary. Off on one of your tyrants.”

“It’s a rant not a tyrant. Anyway, read it again and pretend he is a drug addict, it all makes sense. In other words; love is just an emotional drug, or a fix that takes a hold of you like any other substance we’ve learned about. He is simply warning the future youth to stay away from such dangers and pitfalls.”

“Oh, really? Are you making these parallels because Jimmy asked Stacey to prom instead of you?”

“No… whatever. “

“Sorry Mary… Look, without love your parents would not have made you, so be thankful that some people get addicted to such things!”

“Gross, thanks for the image. “

      God, Chelsea always does that. Brings up something not relevant and just spoils the mood. That and her close talking made me think about how fun it would be to test gravity by jumping through the window.

      I won’t tell you how the presentation went because it sucked. I tend to get nervous for no real reason other than my brain thinks I should be nervous. Thanks brain. Anyway, this is my last entry in this diary and like the old man in the dialog, I am jaded. This moment too will be a bygone soon enough; it will fade and diminish. Though, I am not afraid of such things. Not all of me is jaded! Life and nature are awesome things and they will come as they are. We have the honor of riding the waves of time; be thankful for the ride, however short it may seem.

Friday 1 August 2014

My Dear Psychiatrist

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2014 

(This story, in a vastly different form, first appeared in my anthology, Bearing all Gods and Goddesses, published by Independence Jones, and was entitled My Psychiatrist.)

I think my psychiatrist is crazy. Nothing serious, mind you, just a general lack of ability to deal with socially unpleasant or awkward subjects. His reticence with delicate subjects I gather from his body language, which seemed to shrink away from me when I revealed the first of my several skeletons, at the start of Sydney’s warm winter of 2013. It was by no means a hoary, befouled skeleton, at least not much so, but his reaction would have indicated otherwise. I could literally see his shoulders shrinking in, embedding himself deeper into his armchair and becoming a noticeable shade paler under the natural sun from the skylight in his office.
     ‘Is it really wrong to actively covet one’s neighbour’s wife?’  The doctor looked respectfully serious, and then asked,
     ‘Do you covet your neighbour’s wife?’
     ‘Yes, very much so. Ever since her husband invited me in for a drink when I first moved in to the flats where I am now. That was about two years ago.’
     ‘How long has she been married?’
     ‘Thirty-five years. She was married at the age of twenty-five.’  It was here that the good doctor paled so, probably because I am only twenty-seven. ‘She still looks in her thirties though; looks after her skin really well.’
     ‘Does she know you covet her?’  He sounded to be vaguely choking when he asked this.
     ‘She’s not stupid doctor. In fact she called over to my place a couple of weeks ago to invite me over for a ‘tipple of something,’ as she put it. I would have certainly gone over but I was on the way out to a friend’s.’
     Discussing the hoarier of my skeletal freak shows has proved to be similarly ineffectual, as he simply confirmed my own observations of the fractures in their dancing, dangling limbs without really showing me how to still their jangling, accusing and pointing bones. I’ll give you another example, a rare insight into my inelastic mind.
     It was four weeks since the revelation about my neighbour, Gloria, and I was again ten minutes late; I have to see him every four weeks, which the Medicare of fabulous, sophisticated Aus pays for.
     ‘The first thing I’d like to talk about is my desperate thieving career.’  The doctor pursed his lips and let his glasses slide down his nose in the warm room. Was he trying not to see me or trying to see me better?
     ‘What was desperate about it?’ he asked, looking at me with apparently sightless eyes.
     ‘I used to rob from the poorest of the poor, old homeless men, in order to feed my marijuana habit.’  The doctor then actually squirmed in his chair, and proceeded to adjust his glasses. He looked back at me, over my head.
     ‘Tell me about it.’  He sounded to be vaguely chocking again.
     ‘Well, again when I was homeless for that five year stint, of my own philosophic volition, I would check into Ulysses’ House every Centrelink pension day. It was eight dollars for the night. Ulysses’ House is the homeless shelter in Kings Cross. I checked in with the specific intent of marking old men who had just been paid from Centrelink. I was receiving the disability support pension but chose to thieve so that I could indulge in plenty of smoko.’  Here the doctor decided to take off his coat. The room wasn’t that warm though. He placed the coat on the floor beside him and once again looked back at me, over my head.
     ‘These people that you ‘marked’ were they the ones that you robbed?’
     ‘Yes. I was averaging a hundred and fifty dollars every pickings, in the wee hours of Friday morning. After noting where all these winos had crashed out I went around to their beds to see what I could easily pick in their drunken state.’
     ‘What did you steal?’
     ‘A lot of it was cash, all from winos that had gone to bed stupefied and with their wallets on them as a result. None of them ever woke up to find me lifting the leather.’ Again the doctor squirmed in his chair. We talked about the thieving for the rest of the half hour, or rather I talked, but the good doctor really was reticent to venture any opinion decidedly either way as to its morality. Was I just caught up in the Darwinian struggle, purely fighting for my survival?  Was I simply causing unwarranted deprivation to the frailest of our society?  The doctor neither admonished me nor justified me, but wanted to be elsewhere throughout the discussion.
    Of course we schizophrenics are renowned for reading too much into incidental signs and incidental quirks of body language. But, nevertheless, there are a lot of things about Dr Bea which fail to inspire confidence, all centering about his body language, which does its best not to be noticed, and thereby read. Is he scared of being analysed? 
     More to the point, should I tell him that he’s as limp as a dying lily?  Should I tell him that he is completely incapable of effectively handling the demons of others?  In short he has no cause to be a psychiatrist.
     If I were to tell him all this though he’d just think I’m getting crazier, when in fact I can clearly see that Dr Bea, while occasionally having some useful information, is as disillusioned as I am.
     I no longer see him, as of four weeks ago today (January 24, 2014), and when I told him my reasons, he simply gave me a stupid, blank stare – I hate when people do that.
     ‘Doctor, you do get it, don’t you:  you’re not perfect, and not close to being perfect, or even self-aware.’
     ‘Of course.’
     ‘Will I still be able to call in if I need some medical reports?’
     ‘Certainly, and you’re always welcome back.’
     Today also I can’t seem to presently prevent myself from imagining being in his office: talking, investigating and maybe discovering something new to be published in some psychiatry journal. Of course, I know full well that our sessions aren’t at all like this, but that doesn’t mean future ones won’t be like my past Uni. English Lit. tutorials: lively, engaging, and replete with revelations.
     My imagination does do me such wonder though that, not inconceivably, I could presently use it to salvage the sundered relationship between Dr Reyenn Bea and myself. He really is a good sort, but perhaps a bit too blood-shy. He really does need to harden up more if he wants to be a psychiatrist. Accordingly, if we both put some effort in, we could maybe finally rid these monkeys from our disparate backs.
     I’ll be back, after I’m at his receptionist’s again.


I showed Dr Bea this story and he said it was very funny, and portrayed him quite well. He said of it that: ‘…those who knew him well would agree with your rendering.’  To be honest, I was expecting him to be mortally offended; calling a psychiatrist crazy could be somewhat litigious.
     ‘That story was the very first time that someone has painted my portrait, and it was so much the better in words.’
     ‘Why was it better?’
     ‘You’re right when you say that I detest any sign of conflict. It really is true that it’s a fault which I need to find correction for.’
     ‘By the same token squeamishness does help one to avoid bloody situations.’
     ‘But life, Denis, is bloody. I really do have to learn that living ought to be both good and evil.’
     ‘Balance, doctor.’
     ‘Balance, for sure.’
     We parted the session with a handshake and the mutual feeling of pleasant bygones. I naturally gave the good doctor the last word,
     ‘Your insights are truly welcome, Denis, but we’ll be sure to get back to you in the next consultation.’  I smiled, nodded and headed off to present my Medicare card at the receptionist’s.


Doctor Bea gave up private practice one month later. He informed me at our last session, last week, but I chose not to ask him at the time why he was quitting. Instead I asked,
     ‘What made you choose psychiatry, Doctor?’  To which he replied,
     ‘I think psychiatry chose me.’  I told you that that man was unstable!  Here he is after spending a bland fifteen years in a very difficult field of medicine yet he is fundamentally unhappy with himself; he is simply too timid to ask for what he really wants. So what does he want?  He wants universal harmony, everybody comfortable and without any taxing horrors. He has though unmistakably averred his need to accept nature’s filthier side, from my portrait of him, and as to his future I most sincerely hope that he finds the right field of medicine. He seemed to be somehow considering following that path when last we spoke.
     Anyway, good luck, Doctor!


If you've been enjoying Denis' stories here you may also enjoy his debut novel, This Mirror in Me. It tells the story of Tonia Esqurit Ailbe, a mathematics professor, and her unusual manner of making her home a social hub, her life's fundamental aim: sitting at her dressing table mirror and imagining socialising with friends and family. It seems the only way, for one reason or another, that she can achieve her deepest aim. It is available on Kindle at for US $4.14, and via Smashwords, whom cover most of the other ereaders, at for US $3.99. If you don't have a Kindle or other ereader you can download one for free onto your smartphone or tablet.