“Goldilocks’ Grieving” published [short fiction]

I am pleased to announce that I have had a new short story published, called “Goldilocks’ Grieving”, the first in quite some time. You can read it here. Based on a true story, it’s about a guy’s reaction to witnessing another guy idling his car in the carpark.

I’m really proud of this story. It emerged almost fully formed in a single sitting, immediately after the events that inspired it. I used the draft for a uni assignment and then submitted it to a competition run by QUT, who published it in the inaugural issue of a new student-run mag called Scratch That.

Let me know what you think!

oneiric aetiology [microfiction]

He should probably have known better than to watch a movie that was triggering like that before bed, but he’s done it now and here he is on the verge of elsewhere. He’s woken up suddenly and looked over to see the bedside clock flick over to 11:09 before his eyes. Maybe not a portent exactly, but a number with meaning for him below reason in the realm of oneiric logic.

Nothing like this has happened for months. The meds had been doing their job of keeping it under the carpet. Their efficacy was bound to wane eventually, along with the validity of their prescription. The associations would return and they would double-back with intensity for having been repressed, and he would have some unknown reason to get out of bed again. Better than sleeping fourteen hours a day.

He now steps out of bed with diligence he can only remember from before the meds. He moves to the open window and yes, a course of tingles cascades down from his crown because yes, of course the traffic lights are green outside the window. It’s a main road out there and it’s the middle of the night, but such profane logic is not what registers when he looks back at the clock to see the numbers tick over to 11:12. It hasn’t felt like three minutes, but who is he to argue.

Others believe 11:11 is the master number, but his purpose is different. This isn’t some “secret mission”. It is below secret, arising from the primordial within.

Dr Schneider has other ideas, of course. And lots of elaborate linguistic chicanery for defending a model of aetiology as profane now as it was once arcane. This is not just apophenia. It is apophenia, yes, but it is not just some elaborate abstraction from reality to help the man cope with the abnegation of his responsibility. It is the perception of patterns that others cannot perceive, which does not mean the patterns are not there. As though to confirm this, a butterfly makes it path across the backyard in the direction of the green traffic lights.

He doesn’t know whether butterflies emerge at night, this man, but he knows that doesn’t matter. He knows what butterflies mean – that to not climb out the window would be a true abnegation of his arcane duty. He has waited months for this, sleeping fourteen hours a day in what he now understands was a narcotic cocoon.

He doesn’t expect to fly or anything crazy like that. But he knows when he jumps that he will land elsewhere, having committed himself to a leap into dimensions with their own notions of causality. And when he lands, the butterfly returns, doubling back in loops on the wings of infinity to bless his crown with a kiss of welcome. He climbs the fence with his crown tingling and crosses the road against the red light of the standing man.

~~~

This draft was produced for the EWF20 Swinburne Microfiction Challenge

biogas disaster [microfiction]

My wife and I were doing it when we heard a backfire outside and it triggered something in Nikki. She looks damn-near traumatised, eyebrows up in her forehead and a vortex of sadness spiralling downward in her eyes.

It just reminded her, she says, of this parent at school who’s a bit damaged now after what he saw.

We lay beside each other and the sadness emanating from Nikki reminds me of the old couple from The Titanic. She tells me she met this guy at a school thing one time. Middle of the day, kids all around and the air-conditioner rattling, talking like normal at first.

It’s worth mentioning our son is something of an amateur engineer slash chemist, an idealistic young kind who likes to put things together until they make new things. Sometimes the inventions don’t have much point, but the point is he tries to make new systems because the ones we have now aren’t doing anyone much good.

Apparently this parent’s neighbour was quite like our son, and that’s what got him on to the subject in the classroom that day.

Remember, we’re talking about this in bed after we were doing it and it all feels very much like we’re the old couple from The Titanic, drowning in each other’s arms.

Nikki was telling him about our older son and the guy, this parent, was all of a sudden about to cry in the middle of all these boisterous kids with the air-conditioner clanking away. Tears all up in his eyes and he said, “I’m sorry, can we sit?”, so Nikki manoeuvred him to the corner of the classroom that passes for a school library these days. That’s where he told her.

This neighbour of his was quite like our son apparently, but he’s no longer here because he got fed up with burning a shitty electric stove all the time. So he built some thing called a biogas digester and blew up his shed. The guy ran over there but it was too late, way too late, and all this was pouring out of this poor guy in the corner of what passes for a school library. Nikki was able to contain the outpouring somewhat but still, people talk about this parent at school who’s a bit damaged now.

No one talks about how damaged we must be that an idealistic young engineer slash chemist would risk his life in such a way. About how all the real polluters are too damn gluttonous to do anything real about the ancient phytoplanktons we dig out of the ground every day. The despair we share because anyone with half a brain knows we’re running this planet into the ground. But we talk about this in bed because we don’t feel like doing it now after a noise like that. These triggered memories arise like nightmare flashbacks, reminding us of just how deep we are in the problem of fueling our needless desires.

~~~

This draft was produced for the EWF20 Swinburne Microfiction Challenge

takes guts [microfiction]

“great now he’s off walking to school”

The sms comes as a surprise because you just sent a link to your friend and you’re expecting it to be from him but no, it’s your wife, from the driveway.

You step back from the phone thinking Why the dramatics?, but the phone comes with you because it’s in your hands and at the same time you remember all the times you did this as a kid. A glance out the window to see your wife has stopped the car and the passenger door is dangling open. You don’t remember remember – it’s more like a flood of melancholy that feels achingly familiar but somehow distant, connecting you at a spooky distance with your son, who could be anywhere by now, you catastrophise.

But wasn’t it only minutes ago that he answered you?, in the surly manner he takes to your gruff admonishments. He doesn’t walk to school because … thinking, frowning … wondering why you were even asking … realising, perhaps, that actually he’s never even considered this, just assuming that you or Mum would always take him … and finally, saying, “I don’t know the way?”

And that unsure inflection, stabbing you because the boy is eleven and doesn’t understand that rhetorical questions are even a thing.

“Exactly!” was the last thing you said to him and now you’re looking at your phone again because maybe you misread the message but no, your son has decided to exercise a mixture of spite and confused remorse by threatening to walk himself to school.

He knows the way, but doesn’t know that. All he knows is that Dad is annoyed with him again because he said something stupid and spiteful. He doesn’t know the word for spite, and he only knows that what he said was stupid because Dad got annoyed and raised his voice out the loungeroom window.

That was you who raised your voice and whose stomach is falling out from under you onto the porch in your dressing gown because what if he runs off or something stupid but no, he’s getting back in the car. He hasn’t bolted off into traffic.

You pick your guts up off the porch and walk back inside without a second wave, surly and frowning and annoyed by all the catastrophising and dramatics. Your stomach flutters as you remember again all the times you ran off as a kid, determined to hide out down the creek and hold your breath until no one cared anymore.

It’s a good thing you picked your guts up off the porch, because you’re going to need them later when you apologise and explain to him: your cheap shot about walking himself to school … that was meant to inspire gratitude for all the lifts, not fear and loathing and spiteful remorse … about all the times anyone said something stupid, or used a rhetorical question with a kid.

~~~

This draft was produced for the EWF20 Swinburne Microfiction Challenge.