Thursday 28 May 2015

A Toast to Moses

By Diana Gitau

It was a dark and grey afternoon. The clouds were heavy and the rains threatened to fall at any time. It was quiet. No children playing. No laughter. Nothing. There was a stillness in the air that weighed down on everyone. 

I walked past a freshly dug grave. The flowers were still there, standing alone,  the only living things in the area. Truphena Maria, daughter, mother and friend.  The headstone had no other details. I liked knowing the dates of birth and death so that I could calculate the age at which the person died. I thought of the children as angels, the young adults as the people whose lives were cut short and the old peoplewell, its about time I guess. When someone dies at the age of 80 they have already lived their whole life; what else is there to see after 80?

I left Truphena behind as I walked towards the funeral. More graves lined the way and the eerie silence gave the place a ghostly feel. There is such finality around cemeteries, it is the last stop. This realization made my feet heavier as I approached the graveside where the mourners had congregated.

The priest stood by the grave, exhorting the living to make their lives right in preparation for the next life. I didnt like what he was saying. A person was about to be buried, it was their funeral, so how about focusing on them and quit preaching to the living? The choir sang a hymn about the world not being our home. Someone really should come up with more appropriate dirges. A farewell of some sort, for instance, the James Blunt song goodbye my lover, good bye my friend. Now that would make a good dirge.

Then the coffin was lowered and reality sank in. Someone screamed. No, I think it was more of a howl, the kind of cry that a wolf makes in the middle of the night. It was the widow; people rushed to her and held her. Her cries were soulful, they sounded like they came from deep inside her belly. There was a little boy sitting next to her, staring blankly at the coffin, deaf to the cries of the woman.

I heard the thud of the soil hitting the coffin and watched as the grave filled up. I imaged him lying there, beneath the soil, permanently separated from the living. Moses Oyier - that is what the obituaries had called him. People walked around the grave, heads bowed down, placing wreaths on the mound of soil. Someone started another mournful dirge, utaacha mali yako uende She sang in Kiswahili. I hate that dirge. Who exactly is it meant for? Is it a mockery to the dead to remind them of what they left behind?

I thought of Moses once again; I still remember him lying on the side of the road taking his last breath. His eyes looked up at me blankly and I watched the light fade from his eyes as he stopped moving. I stood there and watched him die and then I got back into my car and drove away. My mind was clear. I had sobered up the moment I heard the thud and saw Moses on my windscreen. There was nobody else on the road and Ill never know how long he spent lying there before he was discovered. 

It was a beautiful funeral and I hoped Moses liked it wherever he was. I walked back to my car and drove to a nearby pub. I was going to raise a glass to Moses; the man who died by the roadside on a starless, pitch black night and was buried on a grey afternoon.

Wednesday 13 May 2015


by Lyra Reyes

He remembered everything about that day.

The days, weeks, and even months before and after were a blur. But he remembered every single moment of that day.

He woke up earlier than he usually does; the darkness outside still pressing against the windows of the house as he walked through it on his way to the kitchen. He walked quietly, without turning the lights on, and avoiding the boards he knew creaked.

He remembered idly thinking, as he did yearly, of replacing those boards come summer. The house was old. Sturdy, yes, but was wont to creak and groan. By the time he reached the kitchen he has decided, as he also did yearly, to leave the creaking boards be as they add to the house's character.

He went into the kitchen and turned on the light. Curled up by the door is  an alarmingly large, gray wolfhound. He reached down to rub the dog's head. "Good morning, Dracula."

Dracula yawned, thumped his tail on the floor, and answered with a soft woof.

The copper skillet gleamed as he placed it on the stove. Within minutes, the kitchen was filled with the sound and scents of sizzling meat.

Outside the window, the dark was slowly giving in to light. Unable to resist, he finished cooking and walked out the door to stand outside the porch and breathe in the cool country air.

God, it's beautiful, he thought. Watching as the rays of the yet unseen sun start giving colour to the world.

The door behind him opened and closed quietly. Then he felt the heavy weight against his legs as Dracula leaned against him. He reached down to ruffle fur and, when he straightened up, felt the warmth of the slender arms that wrapped around his waist. In silence, they watched the sun burst out to the sky; the tall man, the slim woman, and their faithful dog.

Breakfast was slow and easy, as it always was during Saturdays, a welcome change from the harried coffee and cereal during the weekdays. He read the paper while her sleepy eyes stared out the window.

"I love you."

He looked up, saw her looking at him. The declaration did not surprise him, as she always does it during odd moments, but the seriousness of her gaze made him wonder.

"Is something wrong?"

She smiled. "Nope. I just wanted to say."

Her smile widened as he fidgeted. "Don't worry. You know I don't need to hear it back."

It's not that he didn't love her, no, in fact, he loved her desperately. But he found words difficult to come by.

"Ready for your trip?"

She grimaced. "Yeah, unfortunately."

He chuckled. "You did write a book about Chiang Mai."

"Yeah, well, who'd have guessed writing about a place would earn you an invite to a city festival. Are you sure you can't join me?"

He was tempted. Really tempted. A few weeks ago he almost said yes but...

"I'm sorry, honey. But the wedding tomorrow was scheduled almost two years ago. I can't blow them off."

"I know, I know, I just thought I'd give it a shot."

She looked so beautiful, sitting there in the sun-drenched kitchen, with laughing eyes.

"How about this. You go to Chiang Mai and do whatever visiting writers do and I'll go take those wedding photos. Then let's meet back here in three days to pack and then fly off to Morocco."

She burst out laughing. "That sounds great! You got our tickets?"

"As a matter of fact.." He held up the airline tickets he was hiding in his paper and had the amused pleasure of seeing her goggle at them.

"Are those...are we..."

"Yes, they are and yes, we are."

Her eyes lit up and she let loose a joyful laugh as she stood up and launched herself at him.

"Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I love you!"

He smiled and held her tight.


Five hours later, he lifted her suitcase out of the car as she stood beside him rummaging through her purse.

"Got it!" She said with relief as she pulled out her plane ticket.

He set her suitcase down and reached out to hug her. "Have fun in Chiang Mai. And take lots of pictures."

"I will. Drive safe, okay. I love you."

"I'm sorry."


"Because I find it hard to say it back to you."

She smiled, "I already told you I don't need to hear it."

"But I can find no other way to tell you that you bring colour to my world."

She hugged him tight. "You goof. That's how you do it. That's more than enough."

He smiled. "See you in three days."

She reached for her suitcase. "Morocco, baby!"

He stood there, his hands in his pocket, as he watched her walk through the airport gates.


The drive back home took two hours as he had to drop by the store to buy food for Dracula.

When he got home, he set down the bag on the kitchen floor, turned on the small television and tuned in to the news.

Deciding to prepare for the next day's shoot, he took out his camera bag and laid out the contents on kitchen table.

His mind was whizzing with calculations and possibilities on lighting and framing as he picked and chose lenses that he almost missed it. When it finally registered, he slowly turned and focused on the television humming on the counter.

Commuter plane going to Chiang Mai. A busted propeller. One hundred seventy-five passengers and crew. No survivors.

He knew. Oh, he knew even before they came to tell him. Somber-faced and quiet, they came to tell him that all the colour in his world has gone.

When they left he closed the door and curled on the couch. Dracula padded over, whining, disturbed by the loud keening sound coming from him.

Receiving no response, the wolfhound jumped up the couch and sat by his foot, a silent sentinel watching over as grief and darkness slowly poured in.

Friday 1 May 2015

So Intimately Entwined

© Denis Fitzpatrick, 2003 & 2015

(This story, in a much shorter form and under the title The Crack of Dawn, was initially published in Denis’ first short story collection, Bearing all Gods and Goddesses, published by

Because the dark side and the bright side are so intimately entwined dawn begins always in utter darkness, being first announced only by birdsong. Marlena Geiger always awoke to this first song and duly felt the sun rise within her, especially so today, the first of her retirement. Saying a quick Protestant prayer of thanks for another morning she would then have liked to sleep in. But as usual she sat up in bed and peeked out through the venetians.
     Thoroughly dark and peaceful, the perfect time to begin the daily chores of her new, free life. She then allowed herself to fall back onto her pillow, scenting the summer air through the window promising her that her life was now completely under her own dominion, the twittering promising anything that she set her mind to. Almost on the verge of sleep again she sat up suddenly: seize the day!
     But there was a problem to attend to first.
     She got up, dressed, and went to have a look outside the front door.
     Again the bowl was still mostly full of kibble: her missing cat had not returned. Naturally, she became a tad more anxious, today being the third since His Imperial Majesty had absconded. But, then again, He had made His choice, and Marlena would only really want Him back if He chose to be with her. Again.
     And so, after cooking and eating breakfast, she was thinking fondly of how her garden was far more trustworthy.


She began her chores with the watering, and soon found something which always infuriated her. It was a surprise: several bushes of catnip. They were planted surreptitiously at the back of the garden. What made it worse was the fact that it must be a gift from a stranger, as all those who knew her knew how she hated surprises. Any sort of surprise.
     She would have to rip it out, and maybe dismember it too. And to teach the gifting lout(s) a lesson she would pile the butchered bushes on her front lawn as a clear example of what she thought of their nasty generosity. Whoever the culprit(s) was/were obviously did it to spite her first day of retirement. Funny, she didn’t think she had any enemies.
     She set to the task with a bound, eager to repulse the affront with all of her might.
    Soon the bushes were uprooted, and wildly strewn about her feet. She felt like jumping on each sorry looking offering gleefully. Best though to save her energy and really demolish it with the shears. That’ll show the lout(s)! 
     And when she had almost reduced the pile of catnip to flakes and chopped, small stems she heard a familiar sound from behind her.
     It was Pepper, her black cat.
     Marlena was overjoyed and had always suspected His Imperial Majesty would return, being trained as He was. She brought Him inside to be fed something special and temporarily forgot about the proffered catnip.


When her son returned home from work that afternoon he found Marlena in the garden moving the scarecrow onto a pile of chopped greenery on the front lawn. Vaughn had split with his wife of fifteen years about three months ago now and seeing as she had sole custody of the two children, and consequently the marital home, Vaughn was temporarily thrown back to living with his mother in Newtown until he could find a place of his own, in a tight renters’ market. Mind you he was learning to relove Newtown’s bohemianism, Sydney’s jewel he thought, in the brighter crown that was Aus: surely God had made such another happy nation, albeit in a parallel universe? And maybe he could stay in Newtown permanently after all; his single mother might well enjoy the company. Something to think about.
     ‘Did you find my gift,’ Vaughn asked, after having parked his car and walking up to his mother, looking somewhat alarmed. There was nothing to suggest that the chopped greenery was his gift of the catnip but Vaughn was well aware that his mother absolutely loathed surprises. He had certainly informed her that he was going to get the bushes but perhaps his mother was having a senior moment, or, now that he thought of it, she was deliberately telling him that she wanted nothing of his freeloading gifts. Marlena paused in her work, and waited before replying:
     ‘That was from you?’
     ‘Who else?  Remember, I told you last week that I was going to buy something for Pepper.’
     Now she remembered.
     ‘Darling… I’m sorry, I forgot. I thought it was from a stranger, or an unknown enemy, a surprise… I tore it out...’
     Not unexpectedly Vaughn wasn’t pleased, and could find no way to allay his suspicions that his mother was perhaps after all giving him some sort of hint, albeit subconsciously. Maybe she wanted to continue her single, lone domicile, with absolutely no-one else to look after except Pepper, who managed to look after Himself anyway. It might even be best to put up with a friend from tomorrow night if his mother really didn’t wish him to disturb the four and a half decades of her quietly and contentedly living on her own. Well, living with His Imperial Majesty.
     Marlena promised him she would buy some more catnip. Vaughn, always being a straightforward person, asked his mother if she wished him to move out sooner than anticipated, to regain her peaceful home, and had destroyed his gift as she wished to destroy his noisy occupancy. Marlena was adamant that she was not in the slightest perturbed by his presence but it still took him a few days to end his sulk.

     Marlena bought some new catnip bushes the following morning and Pepper naturally fell in love with them and has resolved not to leave anymore, entwining Himself with the green goodness whenever the fey mood takes Him. If only life were that simple for the rest of us.


If you've been enjoying Denis' stories here his previous such stories, from September 2013 to February 2015, are also available as a Kindle book, Amongst the Ways of God, at, which also includes several completely new ones. You may also enjoy his debut novel, This Mirror in Me, which tells the story of how Tonia achieves her life's fundamental aim of having her home as a social hub, by staring at herself in the mirror. It is also available as a Kindle book at Denis also has a short non-fiction book available, King Street Blues, which is an encouraging tale of Denis' willfully chosen five years of homelessness in the inner cities of Sydney and Melbourne. It too is available as a Kindle book at If you don't have a Kindle you can download the Kindle app for free onto your smartphone, tablet, or computer through your local app store.