Annerliegh Grace McCall
J. Richard Wrigley
Professional Writing & Editing
INfusion is produced as part of the NMIT Professional Writing & Editing course
by the Publishing Studio class, co-ordinated by Edwina Preston.
INfusion Issue 47, 2012
Project Co-ordinator: Edwina Preston
Editing Team: Tom O’Connell, Aaron Hughes, Helen Krionas, Shevon Higgins,
Tom Donlon, Jess Morris, Isabelle Dupré
Design Team: Bernard O’Connor, Adam Mackay, Norman Jensen, Caitlin Rose
Management Team: Jodie Garth, Sam Gillard, Veronica Bauer, Tony Stark
Proofread by Aaron Hughes and Jodie Garth
Original cover photographed by Norman Jensen and designed by Bernard
eBook version prepared by Edwina Preston, Helen Krionas and Aaron Hughes,
December 2012, following print run.
INfusion Issue 47
Published by NMIT Professional Writing & Editing
20 Otter Street, Collingwood, Victoria 3070
(03) 9269 1881
Submissions to INfusion should be emailed as Word attachments to:
Further information: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is an adult-content publication. It may contain content and language that
address social taboos such as death, sex, and violence. Views expressed in INfusion
do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors, or NMIT. For all the work and
care that goes into producing a magazine, mistakes do occur. Please notify the editors
of any significant errors, so we can rectify the problem in future issues.
Copyright in each contribution remains with the individual author.
Editorial — Tom O’Connell & Edwina Preston 7
Windmill Books — Warwick Sprawson 10
Won’t Stop (pic) — Aaron Hughes 21
When My Brother Tore the Pages from My Book — Simon Exley 22
Cul-de-sac Books (pic) — Bernard O’Connor 23
Communication with Aussies — Veronica Bauer 24
Home (pic) — Aaron Hughes 26
Jordan — S.L. Higgins 27
Dusseldorf Trees (pic) — S.L. Higgins 29
Behind Closed Doors — Mary Stephenson 30
I Met a Wizard Online (pic) — Emma McVinish 33
The Butcher — Jodie Garth 34
Bast (pic) — Anne Bowman 35
Sarcoma — Myron Lysenko 36
Hole in the Sky (pic) — Veronica Bauer 38
The Shy Observer — Tony Stark 39
Hold Still (pic) — Emma McVinish 40
After the Rain — Anne Bowman 41
Alice — Annerliegh Grace McCall 43
Be Free (pic) — Aaron Hughes 45
Leaving the Devil — Aaron Hughes 46
E Garmisch München (pic) — S.L. Higgins 50
Changing Places at the Table Doesn’t Fool the Cards — Emma McVinish 51
The Bell Jar (pic) — Emma McVinish 53
Sacrifice — Jessica Morris 54
Urban Luminescence (pic) — William Hallett 56
Caeli Mori (Prologue) — Tom O’Connell 57
Dogtags (pic) — Bernard O’Connor 66
Happy Superman — Gabrielle Balatinacz 67
High Notes (pic) — Veronica Bauer 68
Hypatia of Alexandria — Norman Jensen 69
Rhine Valley Castle (pic) — S.L. Higgins 70
For the Price of a Dead Dog — Norman Jensen 71
And They Shall Weep (pic) — Anne Bowman 72
One, Four, Three — Aaron Hughes 73
Short-Lived (pic) — Veronica Bauer 76
Boxing Day — Rattanbir Dhariwal 77
Dresden Palace (pic) — Bernard O’Connor 79
Orpheus and Eurydice — S.L. Higgins 80
Leaf it Alone — Jodie Garth 84
With 5% Juice (pic) — Emma McVinish 89
Phylogeny — Bronwyn Lovell 90
Last Peek (pic) — Emma McVinish 91
Mending — Bronwyn Lovell 92
Stroke — Helen Krionas 93
Morning Smoko (pic) —Veronica Bauer 101
Queering the Western: Brokeback Mountain — Heather Troy 102
Oscar (pic) — Bernard O’Connor 109
Dick Lit. — Veronica Bauer 110
The Land of Defeat — William Hallett 113
Pussycat Northcote (pic) — Norman Jensen 115
Every Time I Close My Eyes — Simon Exley 116
Lost on Another Planet (pic) — Bernard O’Connor 117
I Call My Dog Sugar — Sonia Sanjiven 118
Innocent Infliction — Isabelle Dupré 120
Fluorescent Lights — Isabelle Dupré 121
Isolation — Samuel Gillard 122
How to Make Love Stay — Emma McVinish 129
E.M. (pic) — Tom O’Connell 130
The Chemo Room — Maria Leopoldo 131
The Matador and the Bull — Tom O’Connell 132
A Sunday Morning in 2040 — J. Richard Wrigley 133
Hello Kitty (pic) — Aaron Hughes 137
Up the Garden Path — Jodie Garth 138
Dusseldorf Lake (pic) — S.L. Higgins 140
Misandry — S.L. Higgins 141
The Blind Toymaker — Anne Bowman 144
Destruction — Cassandra Andreucci 145
Akosombo Quartet (pic) — William Hallett 148
Aftermath (pic) — Bernard O’Connor 150
Flooded (pic) — Veronica Bauer 151
Recipe — Bronwyn Lovell 152
Grandpa — Rattanbir Dhariwal 153
Awesome and Euridium — Tony Stark 155
Rock Angel (pic) — Bernard O’Connor 158
In Trouble — Mary Stephenson 159
Luneberg (pic) — S.L. Higgins 164
The Beach — Danielle Gori 165
Sing it Again — Veronica Bauer 167
Bukowski (pic) — Bernard O’Connor 170
Shakespeare and Co. (pic) — Bernard O’Connor 171
Biofictography — Warwick Sprawson 172
Author bios 174
Is this thing on? Good.
Hey! Hi! Hello there!
Summer Edition ‘12
First things first: a hearty welcome to INfusion 47! What you’re holding
in your hot little hands is a real labour of love — from the students of NMIT’s
Professional Writing and Editing course, to you, the world.
This is an exciting issue for our humble publication. Not only do we feel
that this is some of the strongest and most varied work we’ve put out, but
we’ve also gone and made some big changes! If you’ll allow me to talk shop a
moment, I’d like to run you through a few of them.
(It could get hyperbolical in here. You have been warned.)
The biggest change for this issue would have to be the long overdue transition
into e-publication. You’ve heard of e-books, right? Of course you have!
You’re down. You’re hip. (I like your leather jacket and bootcut jeans. Very
Well, while the rest of the publishing industry embraced — and continues
to embrace — digitisation, we’ve been — like nervous parents on the
sideline — waiting in the wings, quietly assessing the situation.
So, this issue, I’m told, will be broadcast on the official NMIT website for
the world — and prospective future students — to see. (If you’re a prospective
future student reading this, I wholeheartedly encourage you to enrol. Personal
note: do try to get through this one scrappy editorial without exposing your
sinister personal agendas.)
In all seriousness, though, what the e-book format does is allow us to
showcase our work to friends, families and professional contacts anywhere in
the world. Distribution is no longer limited to our initial print run!
This issue, we widened our callout range and embraced submissions
from outside the student body. Outside works have been included in the past,
but this is the first time we’ve actively pursued them. Don’t worry, we still
favour student works (we want our magazine to represent us), but opening
up to the public has given us more work to choose from — which ultimately
results in a higher quality publication.
For our editing team, this has also given us the very practical experience
of having to edit and liaise with writers with whom we have no pre-existing
rapport. This better replicates the methods of real world publishers and, so,
better prepares us for further work in the industry. I hope this is something
that continues in future issues.
This issue, as with INfusion 46 before it, benefitted from having
full-sized classes work on it. Last year’s two issues were put together by a
small-but-dedicated group of volunteers. They all did a fantastic job, but this
year’s increases in time and manpower have allowed us to be a little more
ambitious. I’m talking initiatives like quirky page layouts, running author
bios, and publicising our intentions with community-wide posters.
All year our teacher, Edwina Preston, has stepped back and allowed
us full creative control. We’ve discussed, designed and delegated; we’ve also
experimented, learnt from our mistakes and have pushed, not just ourselves,
but our authors, too.
This issue, we had the experience of shopping around for an external
printer. This was an exciting insight into the ‘business’ side of producing a
magazine. The company we went with had to adhere to both our high standards
and our monolithic list of demands (we maintain that samosas, Long
Island iced teas and regularly-fluffed pillows are conducive to the creation of
great work). It’s this level of control that has helped make INfusion 47 feel less
like a school project and more like a fully-realised literary journal in its own
The final thing I’ll mention (and, again, this bears relevance to previous
issues) is that, this year, the INfusion team have become even fiercer advocates
of the online software, Dropbox. Dropbox plays an important role in
the production of INfusion; it enables us to seamlessly manage our files and
our spreadsheets across both home and class computers. It’s another example
of how the internet has helped us expand our operation (we’ve also started a
Facebook page: check out ‘INfusion Literary Journal’). I feel it’s important to
embrace — and not resist — new trends and technologies; you might say, in
some respects, that this is our ‘crazy sci-fi issue’. (If you’re wondering, though,
we’re still yet to harness the technology that projects our INfusion logo into
Well, that’s enough waffle from me. I’m really proud of how this issue
turned out. For some of us, it’s the culmination of two years of study and, as
such, it’s a real product of all that we’ve learnt.
I hope you enjoy Infusion 47.
I don’t usually comment on INfusion editions, but found I couldn’t resist this
year. Every year is fabulous, and I am continually bowled over by my students’
commitment and professionalism, but the 2012 team needs to be singled out
for special praise.
Negotiating a group of fifteen people on one publication could’ve been
a train wreck. Instead, this issue has been a smooth-running engine, powered
by passion and persistence and a preparedness to work outside of class time
(excuse the alliteration). Tom O’Connell has honed his already muscular editing
skills and applied them with both humility and grace; Bernard O’Connor’s
substantial design sense has informed the overall look and feel of INfusion 47;
Jodie Garth has kept her gentle but nevertheless efficient management skills
sharp despite being well into the third trimester of her pregnancy.
And the rest? Thanks go out to the diverse but highly harmonious 2012
Publishing Studio group: the quiet professionalism of Adam Mackay and
Caitlin Rose; the indispensable pedantry of Norman Jensen; Veronica Bauer’s
optimism; Sam Gillard’s InDesign expertise; Helen Krionas’s bubbly reliability;
Aaron Hughes’s determination to be teacher’s pet; Jessica Morris’s
invariably sunny nature; Tony Stark’s gentle determination; the inimitable
Shevon Higgins; the divinely eccentric Tom Donlon; and Anne Bowman, who
selflessly volunteered her time and knowledge to the project. Oh, and, of
course, Isabelle Dupré, and her exceptional illustration skills.
Phew! Hope I haven’t missed anyone out ... Thank you all for making
Issue 47 a teacher’s dream.
Subject: New Voices Award 2012
Congratulations! You are the winner of Windmill Books’ inaugural New Voices
Award! Your manuscript, with its vivacious writing and vivid characterisation,
beat contenders from all around Australia. Everyone here at Windmill is really
excited about working with you to publish your wonderful manuscript, ‘The
Would it be possible to come into our Melbourne office and meet the team? It
would be good for you to meet Kathy, the editor you’ll be working with.
Thanks for choosing to entrust your manuscript with Windmill Books and
congratulations again on winning the New Voices Award.
Publisher, Windmill Books
Subject: New Voices Award!
* * *
I can’t tell you how excited I was to receive your email! As you well know, being
a writer it is a constant battle to get traction and continue your journey against
the blizzard of rejections, so you can imagine how winning this award has
bucked me up. I’ve been working on this book for nearly three years and it is
wonderful that I will be able to share it with a wider audience.
As my letter may have indicated, I live on a bush block near Castlemaine but I
come down to the city regularly and would be delighted to meet the Windmill
team. What day/time did you have in mind?
Thanks for this great opportunity.
* * *
Subject: Re: New Voices Award!
Summer Edition ‘12
It was great to meet you yesterday and present you with your certificate.
Everyone here at Windmill really admires your work and is keen to produce
this book and, who knows, perhaps future books too! We are sure you will
become a significant new Australian voice.
Could you please forward us your most recent manuscript? Kathy will do a
thorough read and provide the initial feedback. Obviously we want to work
with you to make this book the best it can be and, as discussed, this will likely
mean a bit of rewriting before publication.
It was lovely to meet you and we look forward to seeing you again soon.
Publisher, Windmill Books
Subject: The Bourgeois Collective
* * *
Just touching base; George said to contact you directly — he sounds very busy,
the Frankfurt Book Fair must have been exhausting. I was wondering if you
have had a chance to review the manuscript yet? I know it has only been three
weeks (twenty-three days, to be exact) so please excuse my impatience, but I
haven’t really worked with an editor before and am very keen to receive professional
I’m really looking forward to working together on this.
* * *
Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you earlier but we had three books going to print
so we were all very busy. I’ve almost finished reading the m/s but perhaps it is
Summer Edition ‘12
best that we wait until I finish it completely before I pass on my suggestions.
Maybe you could drop by the office sometime next week? Say, Friday 1:30pm? I
will be able to provide more direction on the ms then.
Senior Editor, Windmill Books
* * *
It was interesting to read your comments on the manuscript, although some
of your handwriting was a little difficult to understand and you sure seem to
spill a lot of coffee. I must admit I was shocked by the scale of the revisions
you’ve suggested. Do you really think the whole of Part One needs to go? It
seems to me that the backstory of Frank’s relationship with Matilda is central
to the narrative; if the reader doesn’t know their history then they won’t
understand their actions and conversations in Part Two. I guess it is just a
little confronting receiving such direct, professional — and very constructive
— criticism. It’s great though. I see an editor as a helicopter surveying the
whole literary landscape while the author is crouched in a cave with a pen.
I think you are probably right about the character of Jeff. He doesn’t add a lot
to the story — it’s a little sad, but I’ll snuff him out.
I have taken six weeks off work (I’m an arts teacher at the local TAFE) so I can
devote myself to fixing up the manuscript and incorporating your suggestions.
I will email you my revisions when they are done. Would you like them
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
chapter by chapter or the whole lot when it’s finished?
* * *
Subject: Award guy
Could you ring the award guy for me? He’s been leaving messages on my
phone and I don’t have time to ring him back. Let him know you’re handling it
from here. Do we have a meeting today? If so it’s your turn to bring the cake.
Publisher, Windmill Books
Subject: Re: Award guy
* * *
Yeah, we have a meeting at five about the alien book. I’ll call Devin this afternoon
and let him know re: calls. Before I do, have you talked to him about a
contract? He seems to be waiting to sign something — was a contract a part of
the award? Anyhow, you might have to handle that part of it. The award was
something initiated before I started here so I’m not sure what to tell him.
Hope chocolate cake is okay? Don’t be late or you won’t get any.
Senior Editor, Windmill Books
* * *
Thanks for your calls. Yes, I had a chance to look at the new chapters and I
agree they are an improvement. As time is getting a little short, please make
sure you get the rest of the ms back to us asap. Also I notice the character
Jeff appears to be in the story still, renamed Claude. Is there any difference
between the old Jeff and the new Claude? I also urge you to really think about
the comments I made about Frank. I think readers empathise with likeable
characters and at the moment Frank comes across as a little creepy with all his
staring and gnashing of teeth.
Anyhow, we’ll keep in touch.
Senior Editor, Windmill Books
* * *
Thanks for your emails and calls. I am often away on business trips and the
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
like so it is best for Kathy to address your concerns. Although Kathy only
joined us this year, she comes with many years’ experience editing fiction,
including some pretty big names. As the publisher, it is not my position to
provide you with feedback or a second opinion on your manuscript. I know
everyone at Windmill is right behind your efforts and looking forward to the
book launch in March next year.
I’m glad you finally received the cheque. The $500 is an advance on future
Don’t hesitate to contact Kathy with any other concerns.
Publisher, Windmill Books
* * *
Subject: The friggin Bourgeois Collective
Just checking, did you get time to have a look at Devin’s revised ms? It seems
he is having a little difficulty in implementing some of the suggestions I made
to improve the narrative and fix the structure. Actually, if anything, it seems to
be getting worse. Which genre did you think it best fitted when you gave him
the award? Comedy? (just joking)
I’d really appreciate it if you could take a look. We could get together and
come up with a plan to get the book back on track, or at least make sure it
doesn’t become a major embarrassment. I have five books on the go at the
moment, so it is difficult to devote too much time to just one. You know how
it is, it goes to print in January, which seems like ages away now, but always
comes sooner than you think.
Senior Editor, Windmill Books
* * *
Subject: Re: The friggin Bourgeois Collective
Had a quick look at the ms and share your concerns. It seems very bland. I
only really got as far as Chapter 2, but I can see we have some major issues
to clear up. I agree that all the rocket business has to go — it is too sciencefictiony.
I thought that you could give the awards guy a copy of that Cormac
McCarthy book, The Road. It’s got similarly bleak themes and a father-son
relationship. It sold a tonne of copies and I think they made a movie too. Keep
the receipt and I’ll reimburse you. You’ll have to handle all this, I’m off to the
Miami Book Fair tomorrow. I trust your judgement, although you might need
to be a bit firmer with him.
Publisher, Windmill Books
* * *
I must admit I was taken aback by your email. I really put a lot of work into
this new draft and faithfully implemented most of your suggestions. It seems,
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
perhaps, that these weren’t so much ‘suggestions’ as orders. Would this be
right? I haven’t had much publishing experience before, but I was under the
impression that a book was a partnership between the author and the publisher
(and, by extension, the editor) and that the author’s opinion would
carry some weight. As far as your suggestion that I use The Road to ‘inspire’
me, I think you have completely misread my work. I mean, have you even read
my book? Seriously? I am writing a social commentary using scenes and situations
that bring to light the flaws in our insatiable capitalist society — much
as Orwell did in 1984 — not writing an ode to the end of the world. It’s been
seven months since I won the award and I am concerned that your long delays
in responding to my emails mean that I now won’t have time to implement
your latest batch of ‘suggestions’ (many of which, by the way, contradict your
You want me to be more forthright in my writing? Okay, I’m extremely pissed
off with you and Windmill.
Go fuck yourself.
* * *
Subject: Fwd: WTF?
I’ve forwarded an email from Devin, the award guy — he’s gone rogue. I’ve
tried my hardest to be sensitive and constructive but he is not playing ball. I
have to ask: how the hell did this guy win the award? Surely there must have
been more polished entries?
Anyhow, we should meet to discuss this as soon as you get back, the print date
is only six weeks away. Don’t bother bringing cake unless it’s rum cake.
Senior Editor, Windmill Books
* * *
Subject: Award guy
After our meeting I looked over the latest ms and agree — it is a terrible
mess. The characters are boring and the plot is limp — I mean, ten pages just
explaining the layout of the factory! We have to drop this guy, I’ll wear the loss
of the advance. This New Voice thing seemed like a good promotional idea at
the time, but I didn’t really have time to go over the entries. It was actually the
work experience kid who selected the winner. Anyhow, it was obviously a mistake,
so dump the guy, ring Trish in production and tell her to smooth things
over with the printers. We might have to move books around in the production
Publisher, Windmill Books
* * *
Subject: Problems in the Bourgeois Collective
In consideration of your recent phone calls and emails Windmill Books has
exercised its right to terminate your contract for ‘The Bourgeois Collective’. We
are sorry for any inconvenience or disappointment this might cause but your
failure to provide adequate revisions by deadline means we have no choice.
As an act of goodwill we have decided to allow you to keep the advance.
We wish you luck on finding another publisher.
Senior Editor, Windmill Books
Subject: Thanks for the good times
Dear Rotating Retards,
* * *
Are you called Windmill Books because you rotate in circles, rooted to the
spot, gibbering, paralysed by the limits of your mollusc-like brains? You’ve
fucked me around from go to whoa. You couldn’t run a bath, let alone a publishing
company. It’s just like my cousin said when he worked there on work
experience — you’re as professional as a shit in a boot. I’m glad to be rid of
you: just like owning a pen doesn’t make me a writer, knowing the phone
number of a printer doesn’t make you a publisher. Your office smells of moral
turpitude and poorly suppressed farts.
I don’t need a publisher for my writing. Spray paint is cheap and walls are
everywhere — look across the street, arseholes.
Devin Aaron Hughes
When my Brother Tore the
Pages from my Book
I gave up writing
when I was maybe
five or six
when my brother
tore the pages from my book
I gave up writing
when I was twenty-four
a religious clone
Everything comes in threes
so I will give up writing
when I die
Communication with Aussies
My third day in Australia was coming to an end and somehow I had to get
from the hostel to the central bus station with a twenty-five-kilogram backpack
dragging me down. Why on earth did I pack four books? Probably to
distract myself from the reality that I was totally lost and was beginning to
think that spending a year backpacking Down Under was not the great idea it
had seemed when I’d been bragging to my friends about it.
I pay the rest of my fees, which leaves me enough money for lunch and
the bus fare, but not a cent more. I turn to walk away and the girl behind the
counter shouts after me, ‘See ya later.’
I stop in my tracks, my giant backpack nearly bringing me to my knees.
What? Slowly I turn around and waddle back to the smiling girl. I didn’t book
another night by accident, did I?
In somewhat muddled English, I try to explain that I am leaving
Brisbane never to return in this lifetime. After two bone-dry days of failing to
locate anything in this godforsaken town, I’ve had enough. I couldn’t even find
a supermarket and had been living on snacks from the fuel station across the
Her smile doesn’t waver. ‘Yeah, nah, you’re alright, where you headed?’
I am slightly embarrassed to tell her that I am heading to a ‘farm stay’ in
Gympie — where I will learn how to get on a horse, fall off a motorbike and
not cut my arm off with a chainsaw or slice my face open with barb wire while
putting up a cattle fence.
‘Sounds great, have fun.’ I turn away again with a mumbled goodbye and
am nearly out the door, when I am stopped again by a cheerful ‘See ya later’.
I don’t get it. I really don’t. Is my English that bad? Didn’t I just explain
that I was not coming back? Why does she think I’m coming back? Cursing
every single book ever written, I drag myself and my luggage back to the counter
for a second round.
I ask her if I am mistakenly booked in for another night. She must be
used to dealing with imbeciles because her smile stays firmly plastered on her
‘Yeah, nah, you’re all checked out.’
Do I owe any more money?
Summer Edition ‘12
‘Nah, she’s alright.’
What? Who is alright?
I can’t deal with this; my backpack is cutting into my shoulders and,
twenty minutes into my journey, I am already drenched in sweat. I’m leaving;
to hell with it if she thinks I’m coming back. One final ‘See ya later’ trails after
me as I shuffle away from the crazy lady behind the counter.
I would like to say that after this I got it. But I didn’t. The scene repeated
itself in a bakery and a fuel station on the way to Gympie, then one more time
as I was saying my goodbyes at the end of the farm stay. The trainer there —
maybe wise to my limitations after watching me fall off a standing motorbike
and slowly roll down a muddy hill several times this week — finally takes pity
‘It’s just a phrase, Bubblegum. It’s what we say instead of goodbye.’
I stare and silently relive many, suddenly very embarrassing, moments in
my mind. Of course, I knew that.
That’s lesson one: Australians do not mean what they say. Ever.
‘See ya later’ means ‘goodbye’; ‘she’s alright’ means nothing at all; and
‘fuck off’ means ‘what an interesting story that was — I can hardly believe my
ears.’ ‘Don’t worry about it’ means ‘I am a very polite person, are you?’ Or it
means, ‘you are an imbecile incapable of the simplest task, go away and let me
do your job because you are clearly useless and I am so polite I don’t even say it
In case of doubt, just nod and smile.
‘I walked into a door handle.’
‘I fell over.’
‘I missed the swing of the punching bag.’
‘It was my fault.’
‘I made him angry.’
I sat, staring at the other occupants of the room, listening to the excuses
that these battered wives had used in the past to explain their injuries and
I looked to my feet, thinking how stupid I was not to have realised what
was happening to me every time ‘I love you’ was said. All the apologies. The
remorse. I looked up to see the head of the group staring at me expectantly.
‘Would you like to share your story?’ she asked me.
I didn’t know what to say. When I go home I’m scared, but I didn’t think
they would understand. I act calm, confident, in control. But my spouse scares
me. I’m alone when I go home; my family doesn’t know, how can I tell them?
How do I tell them that the day I said ‘I do’, I lost my soul?
‘I married Jordan when I was eighteen. We were young and in love. I
thought I was going to be that happy for the rest of my life. But something
changed. Work got harder … or maybe we just weren’t old enough to realise.’
I paused. How do I explain this? How do I explain what happened to us?
What happened to me?
‘It started when she wanted to have a baby.’ I thought back to that day.
She had walked into the house and thrown me onto the bed. Our usual slow
love-making was replaced by a fast, painful bout of sex. I only lasted ten minutes,
but the torture she put me through felt like I had been restrained for
hours. I had woken up the next morning covered in bruises, my ears filled
with her apologies.
‘She said she was at the right time in her cycle, and I believed her.’ Two
months later she told me she was pregnant. I was going to have a child, when
we were still children.
‘Leslie, my sister, said I was too young, that we were fooling ourselves
into believing we could take care of a child. She was right. We couldn’t.’ Jordan
went back to work three months after Tara was born.
‘I stayed for Tara. She was the only thing keeping me sane. I would have
left, but I couldn’t leave her there. I didn’t know what Jordan would do if I left.
What she would do to Tara.’ And I couldn’t take Tara with me. Me, with no
support system, no money because I was a stay-at-home dad. And Jordan —
with a politician for a dad and a mum who was a member of a freaking royal
family. I was screwed.
‘I thought it was over, that I would be submissive for the rest of my life.’
But I got home one night to find him in our bed. Tied up the way she
used to bind me. Gagged so he couldn’t talk. Blindfolded. He groaned. He was
in pain. I could tell. His wrists were raw from the binds. His ankles, too.
‘I got a divorce. And sole custody.’
Behind Closed Doors
‘You like being a little sister, don’t you, Meri?’
I had not given the subject much thought.
‘It’s nice with two girls. Isn’t it?’
My mother looked up from the table. I nodded.
‘It was for the best then.’
I was about to ask her what she meant when she looked up at the clock
and rose to her feet. She removed her apron, rolled it into a bundle, then
shoved it into the kitchen cupboard.
‘Sweep up the mess,’ she said, pushing me towards the broom.
As I swept the debris of the garlic plants that she had been plaiting into
wreaths, I heard someone at the front door. I hoped it wasn’t one of the yayas,
the old Greek women who often turned up unannounced to pay their respects.
Eleni called them witches.
‘They’re not paying respect,’ she would say. ‘It’s the complete opposite;
it’s downright disrespectful to just turn up like that, as if they own the place.’
The yayas made Eleni angry, but they frightened me. There was something
strange in the way they all dressed in complete black — black dresses
with black cardigans and black stockings, which they rolled down to just
below their knees. You could see their hairy legs when they sat down. Without
exception, they wore gold crucifixes at their necks and carried large vinyl
handbags — black, of course. From those bags they would produce sugarcoated
almonds, bonbonniere that had been left over from a recent wedding
or christening, which they sucked noisily behind their false teeth. Afterwards,
they would reach inside their bags for a lace or embroidered handkerchief
with which to wipe the spittle from their mouths. The yayas made me uneasy.
It wasn’t all the black; it was their sameness. I wondered if all Greek women
ended up that way.
When I had finished sweeping, I took a peep into the front room to
see who was calling. The front room was supposed to be the ‘good room’ for
receiving guests, but it also housed the bed, which I shared with Eleni. Every
morning we had to make it ‘visitor ready’ by spreading one of the heavy blankets
— which our mother had woven in Greece — upon the bed. In front of
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the bed, we would place two small armchairs and two wooden seats around a
small table. Arranged in this fashion, the room made do as a living room.
Sitting on one of those chairs, I immediately recognised Haricula. Of
all the women who visited, this one I disliked the most. Her face was gaunt;
time had sucked the flesh from beneath her skin, leaving her skin taut over
her cheek bones and chin. Her nose dominated her face, tapering from her
arched eyebrows down to a sharp point just above her tight mouth. A thin line
of black facial hair grew above her top lip and a few longer whiskers were visible
on her chin. Her skin was like the leather my father used for shoemaking,
creased with wrinkles that crisscrossed every part of her face right down to her
throat. Her hands, too, repulsed me. With their skinny fingers and long yellow
nails, they reminded me of chicken feet. My mother beckoned me closer.
‘Say hello to Haricula,’ she demanded.
Not Aunt Haricula, not Cousin Haricula; she was simply Haricula. Up
close, I noticed she smelt like the chicken and egg broth that mother cooked
on Sundays. Haricula laughed her greeting and her false teeth gave a strange
clattering sound. She’s cackling! She’s a hen! I shrank back.
Haricula clucked her teeth again. ‘She has no manners. You need to
teach her how to respect her elders,’ she declared to my mother. ‘You should
cut the girl’s hair.’
She spoke as if I had left the room.
‘It is an affront to God to have such hair,’ she continued. ‘So white.’
She crossed herself as if she was in church. I looked to my mother. I
waited for her to defend me, but instead she told me to prepare coffee and
cherry preserve. When I returned with the laden tray, they were sitting with
their heads close together whispering. Haricula caught sight of me. She sat up
straight, nodded her head in my direction to alert my mother, then folded her
hands in her lap and pursed her lips. My mother rose and, taking the tray, told
me to leave the room and close the door behind me.
I could not remember ever seeing that door shut. The three-room cottage
in which we lived did not have a hallway. The rooms were built one after
the other with two shared doorways: one between the front room and the
kitchen, the other between the kitchen and my parents’ bedroom. If privacy
was necessary, the second door could be closed, but the first door was always
I stood in the kitchen and listened. The whispering and muttering ebbed
and flowed; sometimes it was like the breeze rustling through the leaves and
then it would grow louder, more intense, like a biting winter wind. I thought
I heard sobbing, so I pressed my ear to the door. My understanding of Greek
was limited, but it was enough to comprehend that they were talking about a
baby. One word, katastrepsei, I had never heard before and each time it was
mentioned my mother’s sobbing grew louder and more plaintive.
The conversation continued for a few more moments in muffled tones
and then I heard the scraping of a chair. I jumped back and exited the house
through the back garden gate. I went in search of my sister. Eleni’s Greek was
better than mine. Perhaps she would know what katastrepsei meant.
I Met a Wizard Online
He was a robust man with ruddy cheeks, and upon his spherical head perched
a small tuft of hair: a handful of greasy salt-and-pepper strands, unwashed for
many years for he was not one to invest in shampoo or care for his appearance,
not when his head would be covered by a hat for so many hours of the day — a
hat which, blue and white in colour, matched his apron, an apron which, contrary
to his hair, he took great pride in, washing it meticulously at the close
of each day to rid it of stray remnants of fat and sinew, eradicating the fingershaped
blood stains smeared across his protruding middle, smeared by chubby
fingers as he set about his work in the shop — his shop — day after day: his place
of pride and joy — his sanctuary — once owned by his father but now solely his,
where he chopped and carved and sold his wares to passersby (greeting them by
name, and in return greeted personally), these customers, but more than that —
companions, almost family — as they engaged in transactions of meat for money,
sharing for the briefest of moments a passion for these delicacies of sausages and
burgers and mince and steak before one would exit the store, the door’s bell dinging
in their wake, and the other would proudly rub his large belly with his red
hand and flash a smile on that large red face.
(for Lucy Lysenko)
many blossoms —
the teenager is diagnosed
with bone cancer
Women’s Hospital —
as a precaution she harvests
removes her knee —
transferred to Peter Mac
to begin chemotherapy —
perfect beach weather
rose petals —
the patient begins to lose
glorious sunset —
teenagers at their windows
flies towards the moon —
hospital chapel —
we light a candle for all
our dead family and friends
bloated and sick —
she sends her parents away
so she can cry
closed coffin —
the bald teenagers
she books her flights
for a holiday in Europe
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Hole in the Sky
She sits silently, sucking her dummy.
She’s tall for her age.
She could be a six-year-old;
I know she’s only four.
The Shy Observer
I understand her shyness;
she’s an observer.
She told her mother about the other children.
I recall her detailed descriptions of everyone.
She’s so intelligent;
I love her dearly.
I feel her pain.
She looks for me;
she makes sure I’m still there.
I know it’s hard to be so sensitive.
She cries when it’s time for me to go.
I could cry too; God, it’s so hard sometimes.
I comfort her the next time she arrives.
I suggest things for her to do.
She does a painting, alone ...
I know she trusts me completely.
After the Rain
We had been waiting for the rain, something wet and cool to wash away the
dust and quench the dry-throated whispers of recent months. That strange
dust, suggestive of ground-up, mummified bodies and bones; that dust which
seemed to coat everything in layers of death.
We had grown tired of yet higher levels of water restrictions, tired of
infrequent showers which hardly washed away the dust that gave everything
a grey cast, settling into cracks and crevices, stone-like and reminiscent of
unwashed old age. Weary of dead gardens and parks and the skeleton trees
lining every path and roadway — the unwelcome sight which greeted us daily.
Of course, our complaints at being affronted by the unaesthetic appearance
the drought was causing to our neat, ordered suburbia seemed petty,
given increasing food shortages — the results of years of our vanity affecting
the land — were becoming of greater concern. At least bushfires were less frequent
as there was precious little left to burn. Ash-like dust whirled, choosing
its domain, and where it settled, nothing ever grew again.
Strangely, it wasn’t entirely true that rain never fell anywhere during
these arid times. Weak showers fell in some places: over the odd veggie plot
in a suburban backyard, or over small patches of farmland. It was as though
something wanted some of us to survive. And weirdly, rain only fell in places
where the dust hadn’t settled.
The dust was somewhat unusual, not only in composition, but in distribution.
Satellite pictures revealed that it fell in strange patterns — selective
it seemed — using the Earth as its canvas for cryptic images. But pictures of
what? Some observers remarked that the pattern was one of a death’s head,
which settled over areas like a movable stamp pressed onto the land, indelible,
eternal. Sure, scientists had their say on the phenomena, but no answers were
Then something happened: it began to rain.
At first there was the appearance of cumulus clouds, quite distinguishable
from the ever-present, mocking dust clouds. Rain came in tiny droplets,
not really enough to do much in the way of replenishing dwindling water supplies.
Not enough to wash away the dust.
A homicidal, suicidal humidity built up. Constant power outages from
the overuse of air conditioning only added to the intolerable situation.
Surprisingly, for all the problems faced, society hadn’t fallen into complete
chaos. Restrictions and rationing were daily concerns, but we seemed to be
People had died in numbers equivalent to dwindling resources and harsh
conditions. At first it was the usual — the old, the infirm, the very young.
But there was something odd about the manner of their deaths. People just
stopped. Instantaneous death became something of a relief, really, as hospital
and medical services were stretched to the limits due to the increased occurrence
of other ailments.
Despite all of that, the dead were taken care of; bodies didn’t just pile
up on the streets. Cemeteries had been overcrowded, and cremation was
limited due to lack of resources, so laws were quickly passed allowing people
to bury their dead at home, in gardens, backyards, and community spaces.
Death was so commonplace that the usual conventions were relaxed or merely
ignored. Simple rituals were practiced; everything stripped back, with even
religion reduced to its most basic formalities. Almost back to the bones of the
Then it finally rained. And the rain changed everything.
A torrid, torrential downpour announced the breaking of the drought.
Everyone who was able to ran into the streets. Funny thing, though: all who
were touched by the rain dropped dead. Those indoors watched on in horror;
the sinking realisation hitting like those cruel longed-for raindrops hadn’t.
Salvation was not about to happen this day. It’s believed that many took their
lives during those first hours — bereft of hope, their wills smashed from waiting
for the reign of dust to end, only to result in yet more despair. But it didn’t
end there. No, weirder things were to happen over the next few days.
It rained for one full day, and then stopped. It was then the dead began
It wasn’t those touched by the rain: only those who had been caught
in the dust. As gravestones moved and little patches of earth in backyards
cracked, the desiccated corpses of those who had died in the drought began to
emerge. Once dried and crackled, rotting and decayed, the now rainnourished
corpses plumped up and took to the streets. There, they gathered
up the bodies of the newly dead. And took them home.
Have you seen Alice?
Alice in her blue dress
Over burnished copper skin?
She walks ahead
Only to smile
Have you seen Alice?
Her bare brown feet
Slender ankles, grooves
Like cupped lovers’ palms
Skipping up dust
With fierce white teeth
I’ve seen Alice
Drawing my eye
Of swollen line and stick
A flatness that hums
I’ve seen Alice
The wicked sister
Who walks about
This way and that
For a bushfire birth
In Alice I’ve loved
She lay quiet
Dense dark lashes
Annerliegh Grace McCall
In Alice I’ve slept
The cicadas chattering
Their heart attack chorus
Unto the land
And Alice awakes in fevered dusk
So fine is Alice
A devil bestowed upon her
The gift of marbles
So that she might roll them
Between dry, loving fingers
Of russet sand
Are both soft
I left Alice
Drew my name in the land
Sand that can never
Leaving The Devil
Enough is enough.
Time to go.
Damian collapsed back onto the bed. He slowed his breathing, almost
meditating. He turned his head on the side, waiting for any sound from the
living room. Hugo would hopefully be knocked out for a while yet. He’d had
more tequila than usual last night. But Hugo’s tolerance for it had increased
lately. No telling how long Damian could rely on the alcohol to keep him out.
Now for what the chatrooms talked about: an exit strategy. He didn’t
have long; an hour maybe? He wouldn’t let himself stay this time. He knew
that if he didn’t go now, he’d let Hugo persuade him to stay, again. He’d believe
the apologies. He’d give in to the pleading, the tears. He’d wake up tomorrow
evening to another expensive gift.
Like that would make it all okay.
The gift would be broken in a couple of weeks.
And maybe I would be, too.
Damian cradled his bruised left arm. He reached over to the bedside
table drawer, thumbed a couple of Panadol and swallowed them dry. He
looked down at the finger-shaped bruises on his arm. Hugo had large hands.
They could be gentle hands. They could stroke his body until he cried out
for pleasurable release. Lately, though, there was a ruthless quality to Hugo’s
So, it’s come to this, has it? Well done, you.
He felt a warmth rise in his face. He could no longer deny what Hugo
was. Worse, it defined him, too. He was a victim. A special type of victim, but
a victim nonetheless.
I’m a boring housefrau stereotype.
Damian took another deep breath. Outside on the balcony, a cicada
chirped. It would soon be sunset. This was his cue to get moving.
He sat up on the edge of the bed, then stood up too quickly and stumbled,
unsteady. As he waited for the dizziness to pass, he ran several tentative
fingers over his left temple. He could feel the beginnings of an egg-shaped
Summer Edition ‘12
That was the edge of the bedside table. That’s what finally put me out for
the count last night.
Damian looked down at himself. He was still wearing last night’s tight
black jeans and matching muscle top. The zip and button of his jeans were
still done up. Looks like Hugo hadn’t touched him this time while he’d been
He looked around the room, blinking.
What to do first?
He took a step forward, but struggled to ignite his thought process. His
He would need money to get away. This spurred him into action.
He took Hugo’s leather satchel from the dresser and found the wallet in
it. He extracted all of the cash; about three hundred dollars. Damian took up
his canvas backpack and checked he had his credit cards. As soon as he left, he
would get the maximum cash advance on both of them. Once Hugo knew he
was gone for good, he would cancel both cards straight away. He checked that
he had his driver’s licence to prove his identity.
He fumbled in the side of his bag. The dog-eared passport was there. In a
pinch, he might need to get out of the county. It might be the only real way to
get away. Unless Hugo chose to follow him.
He stood, head cocked again. He thought he’d heard something. He
paused for a moment, holding his breath. Nothing.
Keep going, dickhead.
Damian took up his bag, then ducked around to his side of the bed. He
remembered Hugo had thrown his phone — and several shot glasses — across
the room last night.
He found the phone, amongst broken glass, by the curtains.
Miraculously, the carpet had protected it. Grabbing his iPad and MacBook by
their cracked screens from the beside table, he pushed everything down into
his backpack and zipped it up.
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
Ah, now that might be a problem.
Hugo had taken them from him the night before when he’d threatened
to leave. That was before Damian’s lights had gone out. He needed the keys
because he needed the car. It was the only thing, apart from his personal
credit card, that was in his name. He could sell it and start anew.
But the keys were in Hugo’s pocket.
Damian absently scratched at his neck with his good hand. He glanced at
it, and found his nails crusted with dried blood. He darted over to the mirror
behind the bedroom door. There were two ragged gashes on the right side of
his neck, surrounded by purple bruises. But the wounds were healing already.
Hugo had been busy last night. Busy, mean, and thirsty.
He stared at himself in the mirror. Dried blood, bruises, holding his arm
This is what you’ve come to. Classy.
Damian reached across to the dresser for a packet of moist wipes.
Carefully, he wiped away all of the blood. Then he ran a towelette through his
spiky hair. Better.
Okay, get the keys.
Damian willed himself into action. He slipped into his black bomber
jacket, shrugged on his backpack and slid into his sneakers. Listening intently,
he padded down the carpeted hallway to the living room.
Hugo lay on the couch, snoring. Bare-chested, still wearing last night’s
leather pants and biker boots — the very image of a rock god. His razorcropped,
white-blonde hair stood out against the electric blue of the sofa.
Dry blood trailed from the left side of Hugo’s mouth all the way down to his
Damian touched the side of his neck again.
Hugo really had guzzled last night.
He watched the rise and fall of Hugo’s broad chest. Many a night he’d
fallen asleep on his chest, listening to his own blood thrumming through
Hugo’s veins, even if he couldn’t hear Hugo’s heart.
But that was the past now. If he could get away, he would spend some
time healing. Then he would find himself a handsome new sugar-daddy master.
Preferably one who wouldn’t use him as a punching bag, and who would
protect him if Hugo came after him. He was happy living the life of a cylix — a
Damian spied the outline of his keys in the pocket next to the bulge in
All he had to do now was retrieve the keys from the hip pocket of a six
foot four, two hundred and twenty pound, three hundred and seven year old
Jesus fucking Christ.
E Garmisch München
the white chariot arrives on the dark street,
illuminating me in its headlights.
your face glows softly,
strength and tenderness,
man and boy
blended in its contours and cleft.
dark locks fall over weary, sweet kaleidoscopes;
your broad chest carries vests and ruffles well.
your hands, glimpsed in the light,
are safe and caring,
right here on the steering wheel.
we ride into the small city enclave,
fairy lights strung on early spring branches.
a bewildered nursery rhyme moon cradles the darkness.
read to me with your voice, both deep and light,
glowing words that spin me out into the stratosphere
of my Puck’s dreaming.
take photos of your rose-lipped, Pierrot face
and our happy adoration for each other.
we will stride blissfully through the street,
beneath the lion’s arms,
up secret stairs with doors for little people
and white rabbits,
fitted with silver bells and jazz music.
floral footprints guide us into empty labyrinths with spinning songs.
the last one comes on and we dance by ourselves;
other secret suites await with tiny stuffed chairs,
bowls of chocolate and strawberries on the windowsill,
four dripping chandeliers,
Changing Places at the Table
Doesn’t Fool the Cards
and a quaint restroom.
we could live here!
with the cat that is asleep
on the forest green lounge.
i’d never find these spaces without your mischievous leadings.
take my hand and go farther into night,
sands shift under our feet,
the light buzzes with electric currents,
and sleeplessness intoxicates from your mind to mine.
dew drips from leaf cups
onto your glossy, laughing, sleepy head.
the tiny path clambers up;
vine stalk buds protrude lustfully through the fence.
come sleep on my orange pillow.
let me tell you bedtime tales.
our fingers brush
and my heart sounds like two mechanical mice
making love in a spoon drawer.
i press my face to your chest;
now it’s time to sleep,
only to wake to each other
for a new adventure.
The road that led Sister Ursula into the Congo heartlands was shaped like the
diamond mouth of a Black Mamba. Though the dirt road was wide and sure,
the dense olive green of the surrounding jungle gathered at a point in the
distance. It suggested an end of the road, or a complete wild surrender. Ravi’s
small hands were clamped tightly around Sister Ursula’s waist — his fingers,
a pinching reminder not to increase the pace of the patient equine they were
The grey-haired mare had been a lucky gift from a missionary in Mabasa.
Ravi had named him Miracle. He was a fit beast, not easily spooked. So far,
their six-week journey had been determined by avoiding reasons to give
Miracle up. Tribesman had offered hay-beds and cows in his stead; peasants
had flocked to him with hungry, out-stretched hands; and nature had pushed
Miracle to his limits with high rivers and territorial hunting packs. They were
yet to find themselves lost. Sister Ursula had managed to keep them on the
one long road, letting it snake them into the edges of the Congo.
The fewer villages and painted faces they saw, the more Sister Ursula
looked for God. She had been promised a country bountiful in faith and had
no reason not to believe in it. The orphanages she had passed through were
bursting with colours and paintings of dreams; paintings that had come from
those whose lives were little more than dirt and famine.
When Ravi’s pink hands had clutched at the hems of her skirt, a smile of
possibility had stayed with her. Discovering he had been separated from his
family by war, she felt she owed something to this place of light and dark. To
take Ravi home was also another reason to leave her wooden desk and stilted
shack behind in Sudan.
Father John had been less forthcoming with her leave. As his long fingernails
picked at his pocket-watch, he reminded her that she was a ‘woman in
a black monkey’s nest’. She had told him she felt safer in God’s country than
with the Arabs. Father John’s face had scrunched upwards as it often did and
that was that.
Sister Ursula’s new companion was young and progressive; Ravi was
a peaceful little soul during the day. Small for his age, he passed for much
younger than he was, which prevented the persistent slave hunters from
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reaching them; if disturbed, Sister Ursula would point harshly into Ravi’s
skinny biceps and say: ‘Look at his skinny arms! He is no use to you!’
They were usually left alone. It took several times before Ravi understood
her trick. ‘You are my scavenger,’ she winked. ‘I can’t share you.’
Yet, when night fell, Ravi became a fearful little boy. Sister Ursula told
him stories of Moses and the Exodus, tracing circles on his forehead until
he finally succumbed to sleep. Listening to Miracle’s steady breathing was
enough of a reassurance to close her own eyes. But every night, they snapped
open with the screams of Ravi’s night terrors. Sometimes it took hours to calm
him. She often contemplated shaking him awake, but never acted upon this.
His subconscious didn’t need a gaping hole. In the mornings, his night terrors
were never spoken about and Ravi was uninhibited. ‘Here is your morning,’ he
would say, smiling and passing her a banana.
The day the rain came, Sister Ursula watched with unease as the sky
poured onto her hands and into the mud beneath Miracle’s hooves.
‘Perhaps we will find real shelter tonight. Offer work in exchange for
board. This rain will do us no good.’
Ravi didn’t reply, for once; his nightmares had exhausted him. They
trudged for hours along the outskirts of the road.
Sister Ursula focused on the distance, trying not to let the passing jungle
distract her thoughts. There had never been a moment of doubt, but the
rain created the sense of entrapment. Like she was washing alone in a corner
somewhere. The torture lay in the knowledge that it wouldn’t stop for months;
that they might not be dry for a long time.
As her round brow furrowed in thought, she saw the first of the masked
faces. Miracle had smelt them too; snorting and jostling at his rope reins. She
squeezed his belly with her feet to silence him. Taking long breaths to slow
her heartbeat, answers monopolised her thoughts: they were scouts protecting
their ancient tribe; it was just a lone African practising a rite; a curious
welcomer, watching them pass.
Sister Ursula realised one lone tribesman couldn’t move that quickly;
there were many masked people between the trees. She wanted to run, kick
Miracle as hard as she could, but she feared a death arrow in her back. She
feared the effect it might have on Ravi if Miracle were to take an arrow to the
neck. She pulled at the reins, dismounted and faced the jungle.
Caeli Mori (Prologue)
After fifty-nine days of gruelling interstellar travel, the mineral-farming vessel
Still Legacy begins its descent. The ship’s captain, Attila Carne, regards his
subordinates with a nod. The entire crew has completed this type of journey
before — some as often as five times.
Except young newcomer, Kipp Anderson. In a spell of awe, Kipp
approaches the cockpit, which offers a panorama of the planet below. He
presses his face against the glass.
‘So, that’s Nasci,’ Kipp breathes.
‘That’s her all right.’ Attila rests his hand on Kipp’s shoulder. ‘Ain’t much
like Fusion, is she?’
‘No, sir. Not a patch on home.’
With just two and a half light years separating them, Nasci is Fusion’s
nearest neighbour. Yet despite their proximity, the two worlds could not be
more different. There’s a lustre to Nasci’s crust; Fusion’s exterior, however, is a
drab charcoal colour.
Kipp’s enthusiasm bests him. He shifts in his cabin position, like a terrier
itching for a walk. In the background, the crew make jokes at his expense;
Kipp — preoccupied with the magnificent view — is impervious to their
barbed sense of humour.
‘It’s so green.’ Kipp shakes his head. ‘Absolutely incredible ... Captain,
d’you think Fusion ever looked like this?’
Attila saunters back to the ship’s control panel. ‘It don’t look like no
pictures of Fusion I’ve ever seen. And I been around a might longer than you,
Attila has worked as an S-Class pilot for the Cartier Federal Space
Corporation (CFSC) for most of his life. His wealth of experience has made
space travel a smooth, intuitive process for this trip.
Attila notes Kipp’s disappointment. ‘But, hey, I guess anythin’s possible.
Galaxy’s old as time.’
Kipp smiles, finding comfort in the thought.
With a glance at the navigation grid, Attila confirms they are on the
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
correct course. When he is satisfied, his hand glides across the terminal interface,
settling on a small red panel. The landing alert sounds throughout the
ship. He toggles a switch to initiate the landing protocol.
‘Hey!’ says Kipp. ‘Look at that!’
Below, Nasci seems to expand at their approach. From their current
vantage point, it is a green orb with a trio of unremarkable moons. The closer
their ship draws, the more distinct the surface details become.
Still Legacy slowly infiltrates Nasci’s atmosphere. Kipp discerns the
shape and texture of what his data files call ‘flora and fauna’. A rich, leafy canopy
comes into focus. Rocky ravines and sweeping hillsides follow. Kipp spots
a flock of tiny winged creatures foraging beneath a tree. He watches with
admiration, until Still Legacy’s approach frightens them away.
The ship’s boosters perturb the ground below. The trees shudder and
bend, as though conceding an arm wrestle. Kipp steadies himself with the
assistance of the control panel.
Attila takes his place at the head of the group, then turns to address his
crew. ‘Belvrey. Simmons. Head to the crew’s quarters. I want you to round up
Simmons raises his hand in salute. ‘And what should I tell them, sir?’
Attila smirks. ‘Tell ’em vacation’s over.’
With Attila in command, the Delta Mole thunders out of Still Legacy’s cargo
bay. The Delta Mole is a miner’s-issue industrial tank, with heavy-duty treads
and a self-governing navigational A.I. With Still Legacy’s entire crew on board,
the Delta Mole roars through the jungles of Nasci, steamrolling over rocks and
Inside the Mole, Belvrey has assumed the role of driver. Attila shadows
him, his hands linked behind his back. Attila’s view alternates between the
exterior view and that of his crew — the squabbling, twenty-man microcosm
Kipp raises his hand to speak.
Simmons glares his way. ‘What the hell is wrong with you, greenhorn?’
he spits. ‘You got something to say, you just say it. This ain’t no goddamned
basic training simulation.’
Kipp bows his head, his cheeks glowing.
‘Kid was just bein’ respectful, Simmons,’ Attila interjects. ‘You oughta try
it yourself some time, ’stead of always carryin’ on like a bitch with a bee sting.’
Simmons purses his lips and folds his arms.
Attila grants Kipp permission to speak with a wave of his hand.
‘Sir!’ Kipp is overzealous. He composes himself with a short, heavy
breath. ‘I was wondering what the plan was, sir? There don’t seem to be any
workable mines in this area ...’
Simmons winces at the question.
Attila thrums his fingers along the back of Belvrey’s chair. ‘Kipp, you’ll
find we’ve employed our usual post-landin’ procedure. This here Mole’s
equipped with advanced navigational software. As we speak, Fusion’s satellites
are beamin’ down information to lead us to a shaft.’ Attila gestures to the radar
screen. ‘See that waypoint? That’s where we’re headed.’
‘Ah …’ Kipp says, nodding to himself.
Attila rubs his chin and gazes out the Mole’s porthole. ‘I dunno if you
know this, kid, but Nasci’s a special place. It’s got what you might call a
“planetary consciousness”. That’s the term the scientists have coined for it.
Basically, Nasci’s aware of everything goin’ on across its surface. It even reacts
Kipp’s mouth hangs open as he considers this thought.
Attila smiles. ‘Don’t worry — planet ain’t hostile. What it does is, it
regenerates itself. Can do it in a real short space of time, too. That’s why we’re
just mowin’ down all these trees, y’see? Next time we’re down here, they’ll
have grown back, good as new. Remarkable shit, really.’
Kipp’s eyes widen. ‘Yeah,’ he says, finally. ‘Remarkable. A planet that can
endlessly renew its own resources ...’
Belvrey chimes in. ‘Captain, five minutes ’til approach.’
Attila gives him a sardonic thumbs up. ‘Kip, there’s one other thing. Even
though it can renew itself, Nasci still deserves our respect. We’re used to life
on Fusion, where everything’s run by man and his machines. But things are
different here.’ Attila locks eyes with Kipp. ‘On Fusion, we’re used to productivity
and efficiency — brought up to think “take, take, take”. But we’re guests
here on Nasci, so there’s rules. Fusion’s like one giant factory that we jus’ happen
to live on. Sure, it’s a glowin’ example of everything man can achieve, but
it also lacks what I call soul.’
The crew rolled their eyes at yet another of Attila’s ‘new age rants’. Kipp,
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
however, gets a giddy thrill from his theories. He has never heard anyone
malign Fusion before. To him, Attila is a brazen heretic.
‘Trust me, Kipp,’ Attila continues, ‘I’ve bin around. Spent most of my
time out here, in transit. Gives a man clarity, y’know? Perspective. See, to the
people of Fusion, Nasci ain’t nothin’ but an overgrown wasteland. The only
people who can stand to live there are the hut-dwelling Cali.’
‘The Cali?’ Kipp asks.
Simmons, still listening in, slaps the heel of his hand to his temple.
‘Yeah. The Cali are a peaceful tribe who help maintain the natural order
Kipp cannot believe this. How did he not know there were natives living
on Nasci? ‘Do you think we’ll run into any while we’re here?’
Attila smirks. ‘It’s possible, kid. Entirely possible ...’
A moment of silence passes. Then something occurs to Kipp. ‘Are the
Cali okay with us mining their planet for ore?’
‘Boy, I couldn’t tell you,’ Attila says with a shrug. ‘They’ve seen us doin’ it
before and … uh … nothin’s ever really come of it. They don’t seem to like confrontation.
We just keep our distance, and they keep theirs. Live and let live.’
‘Captain,’ Belvrey interrupts. ‘We’ve arrived at the site. Locals call it
“Marné Polecheia” — Devil’s Hearth.’
Attila flashes Kipp a look that lets him know question time is over. It’s
time to for them to get to work.
The Still Legacy’s crew separate into three teams. Each establishes an excavation
site and, working from one of three points of entry, attempts to infiltrate
the catacombs below. Each miner is equipped with sophisticated tunneling
tools — the very best Fusion and the CFSC can provide.
Team Alpha farms the base of a huge crater, which is the resulting
damage from a meteor strike. Team Bravo — containing Attila and Belvrey
— penetrates the planet’s surface with the Delta Mole’s large drill. And Team
Charlie — with Simmons and Kipp — sets to work down a pre-existing tunnel,
the entrance of which had been blocked by natural disasters. Each of their
sensors indicates that there is a noticeable spike in mineral ore readings here.
The men labour on into the night.
When Kipp emerges, he slings his hardhat to the ground, greedily inhales
the fresh surface air, then collapses by the open fire. The CFSC adrenaline
shots have allowed them to work for a long stretch. But now that the effect
has subsided, exhaustion creeps up on them and the miners fall into a sort of
Kipp is buzzing: his first mining shift is over. His older brother had gotten
him this gig and, with plenty to prove, he’d accepted. He has so much to
But right now, he is dog-tired. He crawls over to the camp. The moment
he lays down, he blacks out.
Kipp’s eyes flicker open.
He sits up and looks around. It’s unbearable: every muscle in his body
aches. He tries to stand, taking short, quick breaths as he does so. But he falls
on his arse. He would laugh if it wasn’t so painful. He looks around. The rest
of the crew are already up and prepping for work.
‘Mornin’, greenhorn,’ Belvrey smiles.
Kipp lifts a finger in acknowledgement. His face betrays him and he
Belvrey laughs. ‘Welcome to your second day of real work. Don’t worry —
that pain means you’re doin’ it right.’ Belvrey reaches into his pack and pulls
out a small canister. ‘Here.’ He throws it to Kipp. ‘Take one of these.’
Kipp rattles the tin. He flicks it open, popping a pill into his open palm.
It’s a struggle just to bring his hand to his lips. He fixates on the task, shuts his
eyes, then swallows.
The pain falls away. A pleasant numbness settles over him. He exhales,
climbs to his feet.
Belvrey smiles. ‘Good shit, ain’t it?’
‘Not bad,’ Kipp laughs.
Attila approaches, geared up and ready for work. He eyes Kipp up and
down. ‘Come on, sunshine. We’re waitin’ on ya. Get your shit together and let’s
Kipp salutes him and rounds up his belongings. He is beginning to get
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
Simmons leads Team Charlie to the entry point. Yesterday, they laid the
groundwork tunnels; today, they farm for minerals. The light from Simmons’s
hardhat torch points the way. They lower themselves deeper into the yawning
Kipp is the first to speak. ‘Don’t you guys find it strange that this tunnel
was already here when we first arrived?’
Simmons maintains his pace. ‘What do ya mean, kid?’
‘Well,’ Kipp swallows, bracing for their backlash, ‘I’ve been thinking
about the entryway we used yesterday ... It was obvious it had been used
‘Why the hell would you think that? Took us an hour to laser through
them boulders. They were blocking the opening, remember?’
‘Yeah ... I know ... but … ’ Kipp struggles to articulate his theory. ‘It’s just
that — apart from those boulders — it seemed like a pre-existing tunnel. And
— and if that’s the case, well, why was it blocked off?’
Simmons stops and regards Kipp face-to-face. He’s close enough for Kipp
to smell the menthol on his breath. ‘Well, ’cause of the damn elements. Some
sort of rockfall put them boulders there, didn’t it?’
Kipp holds his breath, gnaws at the inside of his gum. ‘Maybe ... but I
don’t think so ... ’
Simmons takes a deep, dramatic breath, wrestling his temper to defeat.
‘Then what do you think, Mr Conspiracy Theorist?’
All the members of Team Charlie focus on Kipp.
‘You’re gonna think I’m crazy, but … ’ Kipp swallows the lump in his
throat ‘… I think someone blocked this shaft for a reason. I — I think they’re
trying to keep us out.’
‘Move it, Kipp!’ Simmons shouts, yanking on his cable. ‘We have to meet the
Corp’s quota if we expect to get paid.’
Kipp crawls through the narrow passage. ‘I’m going!’ His movement is
slow and stilted; he is unsure of this whole operation.
Simmons and five other miners tail him. They shuffle through the tunnel
at an experienced pace.
‘Really, sir, I saw them ... ’
‘Boy, you better shut the hell up with all of them ghost stories!’
Simmons’s voice echoes through the tunnel. Kipp shudders. ‘I’m tellin’ ya, no
one but you saw the Cali. And you’ve already spooked yourself half to death
with all your stupid theories! Clearly, it was just ya mind playing tricks.’
Kipp considers what Simmons is saying. It’s certainly possible. But he
thinks he will try one more time to convince his team. After all, the worst
that could happen is that he holds everyone up and opens himself up to more
ridicule. If he’s right, though, he could be saving all of their lives. He just can’t
shake the feeling that something about this tunnel is wrong.
‘Okay, I get all that, Simmons. But Attila told me the Cali are kinda like
Nasci’s guardians. They watch out for its wellbeing. I’m sure I saw someone —
maybe from their tribe — spying on us from the undergrowth ...’
Simmons clenches his fists, his blood boiling. ‘You’re lucky we’re in
this tunnel, kid! I’m getting real sick of this. We checked the surrounding
area! There was no signs that the Cali had ever been there! No footprints, no
upturned rocks ... no nothin’!’
‘But they know Nasci inside out! Of course they wouldn’t leave any evidence
of their presence!’
The floodgates open. Simmons clutches Kipp’s ankle and yanks him
backwards. ‘That’s it, kid! I will not have you undermine my authori—’
‘Captain!’ It’s Zach, another member of Charlie Team. ‘Look at this!’ He
gestures to the ground in front of him.
‘What is it?’
‘It looks like ... ’ He smacks the ground beneath him with his open palm.
It makes a heavy thud. He does the same to the ground ahead. ‘Yeah, just as I
thought — it’s hollow.’
‘Hollow?’ Simmons is beyond frustrated. ‘So? Just what the hell are
Zach whacks his closed fist against the false ground. It crumbles. He
repeats the action, this time a little firmer, and the ground begins to fall away
in large chunks.
Kipp struggles to see from his position. ‘It’s got to be some kind of
Simmons grins. ‘Could be the Cali’s treasure vault! Everybody: turn
around — we’re going into the chamber.’
Team Charlie explores the room below. Kipp studies the strange wall
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
markings. Zach and the other men poke around, searching for other hidden
cavities. Simmons, drunk on the idea that something valuable is buried there,
considers the promotion he’s convinced he deserves.
The chamber is dim and expansive. It is considerably wider than the
narrow tunnels they passed through earlier. The dank odour of mildew rises
from the earth around them. To all of them, it smells like the stench of death,
though no one openly acknowledges this. The only light comes from their
torches, and a glowing trickle of what appears to be phosphorus.
‘Simmons!’ Kipp’s voice reverberates through the crypt. ‘I don’t think we
should be here. These markings ... they must be from the Cali. I think they’re
‘Boy, I’m getting real tired of this.’ A grin spreads across his face — the
mark of self-righteousness. ‘In fact, I’ve decided it’s in our best interests to
purge you from this team. The second this shift’s over, I’m nominating you for
a transfer. You can sully one of the other teams.’
Kipp sighs, accepting the hopelessness of the situation.
Zach approaches Kipp. From over his shoulder, Zach examines the Cali
markings. ‘Hey … ’ he whispers. ‘I — I’m on your side. I believe you. I got a bad
feeling ’bout being down here.’ He forces a laugh. ‘Call it miner’s intuition ... ’
Kipp’s heart leaps in his chest. To him, Zach’s words are a confirmation:
Team Charlie is trifling with things that don’t concern them. ‘What can we
do? Simmons doesn’t care about anything but uncovering damned treasure.’
Zach gives a half-smile. ‘Look, I don’t think we need to worry. He’ll get
bored once he realises there ain’t nothing here.’
‘What makes you think nothing’s here?’
‘Oh, something’s here. I’m absolutely sure of it ... You see these markings?’
Zach gestures to the Cali’s graffiti. ‘They’re like cave drawings. I believe
this, here,’ he points to the hexagonal splash of paint, ‘represents this room ...’
Kipp nods. ‘Yes! You’re right ... And this,’ he runs his finger along the
wall, ‘seems to suggest there’s a hidden cavity. And these — these are definitely
Cali warriors. Look at their expressions! They’re frightened. Terrified, even.
Something’s sealed in here. I’d bet my life on it.’
Zach raises his finger to his lips. ‘I — I know where that is ... That hidden
cavity? I found it earlier.’ Zach draws Kipp to his size, their backs to the
others. ‘It’s in the corner of the chamber, sealed by a rusted metal grate. No
one knows about it but me. But I’ve covered it up. If we keep quiet, no one’ll
find it. Simmons will give up eventually. He’s hardly the most patient—’ Zach
‘Who needs patience,’ a voice cuts in, ‘when you guys’ve got such stellar
Kipp spins around. It’s Simmons.
‘Save it. When we get back to the surface, both of you will be up for performance
reviews. “Dishonourable discharge” sound good to you?’ Simmons
rolls his head and cracks his neck. He is still smiling. ‘Now, show me where
this grate is, and don’t even bother trying to stuff me around — no one’s leaving
until I say so.’
* * *
One day you want to wake
And throw yourself
Down the stairs.
You feel so chippy you
Over the edge
And you want to
Jump; hope that the wind
Holds you up.
Skipping on a bridge, hope we
Fall and submerge
Beneath the damned concrete
Of the world.
Sink below and find
Atlantis beneath our pale feet.
Be in the middle of an
And see the Godly light.
Like Venus, on an Oyster Shell,
A Pagan Maid, Alexandrite,
Philosophy she teaches well ...
She’s learnt her Trade and Science while
The Empire balanced Left and Right
Like Venus, on an Oyster Shell.
Her Father Theon thinks she’s swell:
‘These Chapters did my Daughter write—
Philosophy she teaches well!’
She’s quiet, mathematical,
Whilst Governor and Bishop fight;
So Venus, on an Oyster Shell.
‘Love you my Beauty, or my Smell?’
She sets a Love-struck Student right—
Philosophy she teaches well.
At Hands of Christian Mob she fell:
‘Let’s strip her, straight to Hell tonight
Like Venus, on an Oyster Shell—
Philosophy she teaches well.’
Hypatia of Alexandria
Rhine Valley Castle
Beside the flooded Danube’s Shore,
oppressed by Huns and Alans, we,
the humble Gothic Folk, implore
the Roman Emperor’s Decree:
the Status of a Refugee ...
They’ll let us cross! There’s Work, they say.
Our Wives and Children will be free—
for Empire, what’s the Price to pay?
Now crossed, at Marcianople’s Door,
the Romans feel our Misery—
they will sell us some Dogmeat for
our Sons to live in Slavery ...
But Fritigern, our Chief, breaks free,
proclaims there is another Way;
we’ll arm ourselves with Banditry;
for Empire, what’s the Price to pay?
Near Adrianople, the Emperor
(who hunts us down, eventually)
shows us his Legions, score and more ...
Such Pity that he doesn’t see
our Hun and Alan Cavalry!
(It’s now a different Game we play.)
We set that Emperor’s Spirit free ...
For Empire, what’s the Price to pay?
Their Emperors come fast and free;
the latest one has said he’ll pray
for us to join the Military—
for Empire, what’s the Price to pay?
For the Price of a Dead Dog
BATTLE OF ADRIANOPLE, 9 AUGUST 378 C.E.
And They Shall Weep
Ben stretched. I followed suit. We both had slightly sore lower backs from
sitting in the car for so long. We arched our backs, like cats in the sun, and
looked out over the white-flecked ocean.
It’d been a pleasant drive. One hour on the road, then Devonshire tea
at Caldermeade Farm. Ben loved the freshly whipped cream on the scones. I
gave him one of my scones so that he could use up both our portions of jam.
Not good for his diet, but his weight-loss surgery wasn’t for another couple of
It was another hour and a bit before we arrived at Cassandra and
Norton’s. They welcomed us in their usual country way. Her elderly parents
couldn’t get over how much weight I’d lost; her dad couldn’t believe it was me.
Some days, I can’t believe I’m me, so I knew what he meant.
Then, lunch with the whole Kennedy clan in one of the local cafés.
Twelve of us, all chatting and catching up. Little Sharmaine kept cadging
two-dollar coins from us for the Barney the Dinosaur ride in the arcade. For a
child who’d received blood transfusions in utero just two years before, she was
doing remarkably well.
Ben and I had been given leave to spend the afternoon on our own, but
were under strict instructions to be back for dinner at 6.30pm. We’d been
promised roast lamb and veggies. Ben kept checking the clock on his iPhone
to make sure we wouldn’t be late. There was no way on God’s greenest earth
that he would be late for a dinner like that.
Ben can be a bit of a rebel without a clue. The drive down had been
spiced up a number of times when his hand lingered on my leg, his fingers
brushing my crotch. I would turn to him and smile and he would look at me
blankly and say in a bad Cockney accent: ‘Wot?’
We’d driven down the cape road and gotten out to stretch our legs. I had
been uncomfortably hard in my jeans and concealed myself behind the car so
I could make some adjustments. Ben just flashed me a toothy, knowing smile
and I felt a warmth in my cheeks. I felt very lucky. Lucky to have a boyfriend.
Lucky to have a boyfriend who was, well, just so damned nice. Lucky to be able
to get away for the weekend. Lucky to be sharing it with him.
We got back in the car and drove down near the surf club. We pulled in
One, Four, Three
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
just before it, staying away from the crowds at the newly built canteen. Our little
grassy area was quiet; sun-dappled and warm. We took our shoes off, rolled
up our jeans and walked down to the beach. The ocean glittered before us. A
cool breeze ruffled his hair. This was no mean feat, considering the amount
of product he used to control it. We wandered over to a wooden bench to sit
down. Instead of sitting, he lay himself on the bench and put his head on my
lap, ready for a nap.
‘Wot?’ he said.
I just smiled. I sat in the sun and took off my glasses. In the shade cast
by my upper body, he started to breathe deeply. It was one of those perfect
moments when everything is quiet and still. You frame moments like these for
the years to come.
He rolled over, then back onto his side, but I could tell it was getting too
hot for him. I suggested we go and put down a blanket under the trees, so we
walked back to the car. I took the two brightly coloured rubber-backed blankets
from the boot and spread them out on the grass beside the car. He got his
jacket to put under his head, and I got my backpack to put under mine.
He started playing the soundtrack to Downton Abbey on the speakers
of his iPhone. The sound of the piano rolled in time with the waves from
the beach. He snuggled in along the length of my body and his breathing
I looked up at the patches of blue sky and the white meandering clouds.
A bird flew across the treetops. Another one started a gentle mocking echo of
the piano. I thought to myself: I could say it now.
I had made such a fuss about Valentine’s Day the previous week. Dinner
out, and a large bottle of fancy cologne for him from his ‘To Buy for Myself
Sometime’ list. And a nice card, which had taken ages to find, that said how
much I valued what we had and how much he meant to me. It stopped short,
though, of those three simple words. I just wasn’t ready to say it yet. I wasn’t
sure when I would be. I wanted it to mean something.
His card had been signed ‘Love, Ben’. Damn it: he’d said — or at least
written — it first!
But I thought that this might be what it is. Sharing a journey with
someone. Flirting on the drive. Singing along to Katy Perry on the car stereo.
Both of us laughing at me for almost getting us lost. Again. Eating ice cream.
Walking in the sand. Lying on the bench next to the surf. Lying on a blanket
next to the beach, entwined, not caring who was looking at us. This could be
what it is. This could be what it means. Sharing your life with someone, relaxing
‘I think I love you,’ I said quietly, then held my breath.
He took my hand in his and kissed the back of it, lingering for a
‘One, four, three,’ he said.
‘Take what you just said and count the letters,’ he patiently explained.
I: one. Love: four. You: three.
One, four, three.
Very clever, I thought, and smiled.
He snuggled in closer. I couldn’t see his eyes because of his sunglasses,
but I could just make out the relaxed smile on his face. I closed my eyes and
drifted. The music from his phone swelled in time with the ocean. And with
It was our first Boxing Day in a new country and we were visibly excited. We
were told that the place we were going shopping was so massive that it would
be tiring just going from shop to shop. A chocolate cake was baked to counter
any hunger pangs and we also made sure there were sufficient fluids on board.
This was followed by a marathon brainstorming session, the end product of
which was a list of things to buy.
Chadstone Shopping Centre was earmarked as our Happy Hunting
Ground, as it was flooded with heavily discounted goods. Once the chocolate
cake had been carefully encased in an airtight container, we set out on the
journey. We were chauffeured by our cousin, who had an extensive knowledge
of the place casually referred to as ‘Chaddy’.
Our destination was about an hour away and the sight of the chocolate
cake in the container proved too hard to resist, so we started nibbling. Our
cousin was worried he would miss out if he didn’t find somewhere to pull over.
We were running late, though, so we assured him that we’d set him aside a
piece. The container was now in the safe custody of my cousin’s wife, who —
going by nuptial vows — was the only person my cousin could trust.
Upon reaching Chadstone, we began a lengthy search for a parking spot,
which would only conclude after scaling the entire Mount Car Park — or, as
the sign read, ‘Multi-level car park’. Our cousin split us into two teams; my
wife, myself and our fourteen-month-old daughter were to remain confined to
a shop of our choice, while my cousin and his wife explored this jungle full of
bargains and bargain hunters.
We were overwhelmed by the mad rush of the masses; the joy and anticipation
we’d felt had vanished. Boxing Day had turned into a boxing ring!
Customers were competing against each other and salesmen were rewarding
them with their best deals. Never in our lives had we had such an understanding
of the term ‘survival of the fittest’.
My wife and I barricaded ourselves inside our chosen shop. The clueless
expressions on our faces made us sitting ducks. It wasn’t long before the
shop attendant, armed with a smile on his face, saw us and pounced. He took
us through aisles of heavily discounted clothing and, after a few minutes of
intense scrutiny, we realised that even with all the price reductions, buying
those clothes would move our coffers to bankruptcy and our family to tears.
We decided to call in our cousin, the wise shopper that he was, to rescue
us. But to our horror — and to the shop attendant’s delight — there was no
mobile signal in the shop. Even Vodafone seemed to be conspiring against us.
With the shop attendant hovering over us like a satellite, it didn’t take long for
us to buckle under the pressure and withdraw our wallets.
Then we heard a voice that was like music to our ears: it was our cousin,
back from his shopping expedition, bringing news of the better offers that
awaited us in other shops.
We bid adieu to the cunning shop attendant, grateful that God was still
around to heed our prayers!
Orpheus and Eurydice
A severed head bobs
down the river.
‘What went wrong?’
flashes through his mind;
his eyes focus on his body,
along the river bank.
Walking down the aisle,
her face is
graced with a smile,
she waits to meet her groom.
Her train sways with her glide;
when they meet,
her hands are enclosed in his.
His wife rests on a stone tablet.
She has lain there for days.
Death doesn’t take her beauty.
A snake bite, her only blemish;
he can’t see through his grief.
He lives on,
ignorant of the world surrounding him,
He denies the world its pleasures;
he’s consumed by his want,
He knows how to do it.
He knows how to get her back.
He just needs to make a deal —
a deal with the god
of the Underworld.
A journey though the Underworld;
he charms all those he meets.
With his lyre,
he charms Cerberus,
Hades’s three-headed hound,
the ferryman of the River Styx.
He makes his way through.
He plies the god with his music.
The deal is made;
her life will be spared.
All he needs
is to not look back,
to fight the
urge to look upon her.
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INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
He finds her.
She would follow his lead.
He walks ahead, mindful
of his steps,
in case she falters behind.
They traverse each plain,
walking over smooth grass,
cobble stones and rocky, unpaved roads.
Upwards and upwards,
He doesn’t know
if they are going the right way,
or if their fate will be to circle
Something shines ahead.
from the outside?
He steps over the dividing rock.
He blinks back the sunlight.
He breathes in the fresh air.
He waits for her to reach for his hand.
He waits longer still.
She never clasps his hand.
He turns to
look for her.
He shouldn’t have.
as Hades drags her back
towards the Underworld.
He’s pulled from his reverie.
The Thracian Maenads
pay worship to Dionysus.
He remembers his death.
He was ripped to shreds
by women worshipping a god.
His head travels down the Hebrus,
his lyre floating beside it.
His mouth spills mournful songs;
his destination: Lesbos.
The Greeks hear the
they build him a shrine
and bury his head.
The gods see his lyre,
still floating in the river.
They take it to the heavens.
and transform it
into a star.
Leaf it Alone
‘Brendan!’ Mum’s voice rang through the house.
‘Mu-um!’ I yelled back, equally as loud.
Silence. I knew this scenario. Mum’s silence meant ‘Come here when I
call you. I’m not going to yell again and I’m not going to come chasing after
you.’ It was the first day of the school holidays and she was giving me things to
‘Coming!’ I called out as I plucked the new riff I’d been practising.
‘Now!’ Mum again.
I rolled my eyes and exited my bedroom, finding Mum in the kitchen.
She was baking, and a batch of cookies was on a rack, cooling, on the bench. I
reached out to grab one. The dough was hotter and softer than I’d expected it
to be, and the cookie collapsed under my fingers.
‘Ow!’ I exclaimed, shaking my fingers.
Mum gave me her ‘serves you right’ look. ‘You’d be hot too if you just
came out of the oven.’
Parents say the dumbest things sometimes.
‘Go on, take it.’ She waved her hand at the mutilated cookie.
‘You called?’ I asked, shoving pieces of the gooey chocolate into my
‘Yes,’ Mum replied. ‘I want you to get rid of the plant.’
Now, we have more than just one plant at my house, but I knew exactly
which one she was talking about. Our back door leads out onto a small
porch and down some stairs. Next to the porch is this plant. It’s got a thickish,
browny-green stalk that stands straight up out of the ground. Amongst
its wide, bright green leaves are thin windy vines, reaching out and curling
around whatever they can get their spindly fingers onto. The plant is so tall
now that its top leaves are higher than the porch and the vines have wrapped
themselves around the handrail. It’s even taller than me when I stand next to
it. None of us have bothered to prune it since we moved here, and it’s now at
the point that even I think it looks ridiculous and should be cut down. Just not
‘But Mum—’ I protested.
I hate gardening. It’s so bad for guitarists’ hands. You end up with dirt
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under your nails, and your hands get scratched from twigs and prickly weeds
and bruised from the rake or broom.
She held her hand up. ‘No buts. I’m not having you slacking off around
here for two weeks.’ Mum rinsed her mixing bowl and utensils. ‘I want it
done by the end of the weekend, please. The Green bin is getting collected on
‘Okay,’ I grumbled. I turned to leave, intending to leave the task until
‘And if I were you,’ she continued, ‘I’d get onto it today. It’s supposed to
Dang. If there’s one thing I hate more than gardening, it’s gardening in
the rain. Or after the rain. The ground gets sloppy and muddy, and I end up
with bits of twigs and leaves stuck to my skin, making me itchy, and the dirt
gets this yucky ‘wet’ smell.
Looks like today’s the plant’s final day of life.
I went back to my bedroom and my guitar. My room is at the back of
the house, so out of my window I can see the porch and the plant. I picked up
my guitar and strummed it. ‘Oh, plant, I’m coming to get you,’ I sang softly.
I laughed and put my guitar down, glancing out the window. In the gentle
breeze, the plant’s viney fingers looked like they were tightening their grip on
I changed into my oldest clothes and headed out to the garage to get
my weapons of destruction. I took a final look at my clean, uninjured hands
before pulling on Dad’s gardening gloves. Armed with gardening tools of
varying shapes and sizes, I went out to meet the plant. I dumped the tools on
the ground then went round the side of the house to get the green waste bin.
I wheeled it back to where the plant was, bent down to tie my shoelace, and
when I stood up, nearly got stabbed in the eye by some secateurs.
I jumped back, guarding my face with my arms. ‘What are you doing?’ I
yelled at the plant. Gripped by its branches was the largest of the secateurs,
the blade directed at me, as the branches moved back and forth, opening and
closing the clippers. It was like a cartoon. Or one of those freaky movies —
you know the ones where a plant comes to life, bursting out of the ground,
clutching innocent people in its grip like a giant octopus. But this was no
movie set. This was my backyard.
In a moment of heroic courage, I grabbed another set of clippers and
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decided to take this thing on. As the plant continued to wave its weapon at
me, I waved mine, attempting to knock the secateurs out of its vines, or lop off
some of its branches. It was a pretty good fighter, this thing. The usually rigid
stalk was bending and swaying wildly, with the leaves and branches always
just managing to avoid the snip! of my metal blade. Finally, with a sneaky
movement, I cut through a small clump of leaves. The plant paused for a
moment, then dropped the gardening tool.
‘Ha! Got you!’ I thought, clenching my fist in victory.
It was a short-lived victory.
The viney branches reached out towards me and some wrapped themselves
around my wrists. I shuddered as they made contact with my skin.
Others went for my waist. I waved my arms, trying to free myself from this
mutant plant, as its talons gripped me. With one sudden movement, they
yanked, I yelped, and the plant released its grip, sending me backwards to the
ground. It recoiled into its original position, and I was left sitting on the grass,
my track pants around my ankles.
‘You okay, my friend?’ a voice called out to me.
Oh no. Franco. My next-door neighbour. He’s a nice guy, but now was
not the time for friendly neighbourly interaction.
‘Hey, what you doing with no pants on?’
I turned to see Franco’s face with its crinkly smiling eyes and greying
stubble peering over the fence. My face reddened and I stood quickly, pulling
my pants up and tightening the drawstring. I gave a tentative wave. Franco
chuckled and his face disappeared.
I glared at the plant, which now sat innocently unmoving, as if nothing
had happened. I stomped up the back steps into the house.
Once in my room, I flopped onto my bed, my heart pounding. Did all
that really just happen? I looked down at my track pants. I looked at my wrists
which still had faint red rings around them. I looked over at the window and
jumped, startled. The plant’s branches had stretched over to the window and
were scratching at the glass. My own dumb song from earlier rang in my ears.
‘I’m coming to get you.’ Yes. It did all really happen. We have a psycho plant in
Mum asked me about it over lunch.
‘What were you doing in the yard before?’ she asked.
‘Fighting the plant,’ was my response.
‘Well, for all the time you were out there, you certainly didn’t get much of
it cut down.’
I stabbed a cherry tomato with my fork and chomped on it loudly.
I ventured back out into the garden in the afternoon. It was waiting
for me. I had stupidly left the gardening tools within its reach. I laughed to
myself as I thought this. Within its reach. From what I’d seen, anywhere was
within reach for this monstrosity. I’d barely gotten to the bottom of the steps
when it raised its branches, baring the variety of pruning devices I’d left on
‘Whoa,’ I said, inching my way towards it. ‘Okay, plant,’ I said slowly. ‘Be
nice. Don’t get angry with me — I’m just doing what my mum told me to do.’
It didn’t move. ‘Put the tools down — that’s a good plant.’
A gardening fork fell to the ground. I looked at the plant suspiciously as
I bent to pick it up. Before I could escape, it lurched forward and snap went
some hedge clippers. I gasped, touching my head and watching in horror as
my fringe fluttered down in front of me.
‘Right, you stupid plant.’ How dare it touch my hair. I stabbed angrily
with the fork. It spat back at me. A lime-green snot-like substance squirted
from its leaves onto my chest and started seeping through my shirt. It smelled
so bad. I cried out in disgust and stormed off to the garage, kicked the door
open and threw the fork onto the floor. I pulled my t-shirt off. The smell was
Franco’s face popped up at the fence again. ‘Why the banging around, my
I came out from the garage. He grinned. ‘No pants, no shirt.’ He sniffed
and pointed to my shirt, which was rolled up in my hands. ‘You have wild
I gave a small smile. ‘Yeah, it is pretty wild.’
‘Wild plant,’ Franco repeated. He gave his usual chuckle and said, ‘You
try to kill it, it try to kill you,’ as if that was a perfectly normal thing for a plant
I looked at Franco carefully. ‘You know about these plants?’
‘I live here a long time. I know about all your plants.’
Gee, what else is in this yard that I don’t know about?
‘Don’t worry. You look worried.’ Franco waved his hand. ‘You leave it
alone, it’ll leave you alone. No problemo.’
‘But ... have you seen how big it is? You want me to just let it keep
Franco shrugged. ‘It grows, it shrinks. It does what it wants. Leaf it alone.’
He looked at me with his serious dark eyes, then couldn’t help himself and let
out a raucous laugh. ‘Leaf it alone!’
I had to smile. ‘Okay. Thanks, Franco.’
‘You’re welcome, my friend.’ He was gone again.
The plant looked back to normal as I tiptoed back up the stairs into the
Mum came into the bathroom just as I was finishing shaving my head.
What had been left of my hair looked like a mullet. All my hard work in growing
my hair had gone to waste.
Mum raised her eyebrows. ‘Finally having a haircut?’
Mum grinned. ‘Gardening and cutting your hair in the one day? Who are
you and what have you done with my son?’ She laughed at her pathetic joke.
‘Ha ha, Mum.’ I put my razor away and brushed my hand over my fuzzy
‘Thanks for getting rid of the plant,’ Mum said, leaning on the
‘Well...’ I began. ‘It’s not actually gone.’
She gave me a funny look. ‘What do you mean? Isn’t that what you’ve
been out there doing?’
‘I tried to cut it, but—’
Mum didn’t let me finish. She snapped. ‘Brendan, I give you one simple
task to do, and you can’t even do that.’
‘I don’t want to hear it.’ She stormed out. A moment later I heard the
back door slam.
I started to follow her, but then thought better of it. Instead, I hurried to
my bedroom, pulled back the curtains just enough to peep out of, and waited
for the show to begin.
With 5% Juice
It’s those little animal sounds we make
while fucking and eating — a casual
swish of saliva, a gentle flick
of the tongue.
Our civilised mouths are quick to close in
on those primal spasms — to muffle
the creaking of rusty cages keeping
chaos from our heads.
Wilder wants are whipped and chained
while tiny zookeepers zip round our brains
chasing the synapses that fire too fast
to be human.
We wince against our devolution — so damn
terrified a snarl or howl might rip out
of our mouths and run away
with our wits.
Bronwyn Lovell Helen Krionas
Today I mended a dress
with silver needle and blue
thread, and I felt proud —
The stitches were rough —
crooked at best, which I didn’t
mind; liked, in fact,
for their character.
Stepping out in the fabric
with its cottage garden blooms,
I knew the straps would not slide
from the cliffs of my shoulders.
And I felt capable.
I was now self-made.
I felt stitched together
by my own hand.
A shrill whistle echoed across the fifty-metre pool. Will stopped swimming
mid-stroke. He bobbed to the surface, removing his goggles. He blinked water
out of his eyes; his coach came into focus, poolside. Robert looked the same as
he did every morning before dawn: annoyed and dishevelled.
‘Not bad, Will — think you shaved a bit off your breaststroke split,’ he
said, trying not to sound too pleased. ‘Keep this up and you might top your
Will nodded, pinching water from his nose.
‘Wish I could say the same for your little mate, here,’ Robert went on.
He marched around to the blocks at the head of the pool. ‘You’re killing me,
Nathan,’ he declared, ‘I don’t know why you bother turning up here when you
don’t seem to give a crap.’
Nathan, who had been leaning over a lane rope, threw his arms up in
protest. ‘I was doing a two-beat kick, like you asked!’
‘Yeah, but your timing was way out. You need to pay attention when I
talk, mate. And drop your hips a little — I don’t want to see your rear-end
above the water again, got it?’
Nathan nodded, like he’d heard it all before. ‘Anything else?’
‘Yeah,’ Robert snapped. ‘Tomorrow you come here clean-shaven. You
want to be the best?’ The coach pointed to Will, his star apprentice. ‘Take a
leaf out of his book.’
Nathan scratched at his three-day growth as Robert stomped off. Will
swam over to his friend. ‘Break time?’ he suggested.
They climbed out of the pool, legs unsteady, thighs burning. Their
belongings were strewn across a bench and two plastic picnic chairs. Some of
the girls from the AIS had arrived and dumped their own bags alongside the
boys’. Will pulled on his windbreaker and sat down. He peeled open a banana
and downed it in two bites.
One of the girls waved at Will. He smiled back.
Nathan had a gleam in his eye. Will knew instantly that a prank was on
the horizon, and watched as Nathan scoped out his first victim.
‘This could be hilarious …’ he said to himself. Nathan was a hulking figure,
all bronzed skin and muscle, yet he had a boyish face that charmed even
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the biggest cynic. He could get away with anything.
Will could see him waiting for the opportune moment. Nathan slid open
Emily Hartford’s bag and slipped a pair of pink goggles out. He stowed them
under one of his towels. He zipped the bag closed; it looked as though nobody
had touched it.
Will couldn’t help feeling uncomfortable. ‘Dude, you know how she is
about those goggles.’ A smile grew on his face in spite of himself. ‘She’s really
‘She’ll get over it, when I give them back.’
‘I’m telling you, she’s gonna lose it.’
‘I know!’ Nathan said, giddy with excitement. ‘It’s so funny when her face
goes all red and she starts breathing through her nose ... ’
Nathan was part-way through a nasty but comical impersonation when
Emily strolled over.
‘What’s this?’ she asked of their collective wheezing (Nathan’s was part
of his impression, but Will’s was due to being doubled over with laughter).
‘What did I miss?’
‘Nothing, babe. Just guy-talk,’ Nathan said, playing with one of his stray
‘Yeah, right,’ Emily said wryly. She slipped off her thongs, tucked them
into her bag and began rummaging for her now-missing goggles.
Nathan shot Will a gleeful look while holding up a finger, warning Will
not to distract Emily from her pursuit. It took three more seconds for Emily’s
search to become frantic. Half a second later — Will was especially conscious
of elapsing time — she spun around to face Nathan. Will wasn’t surprised to
note that Nathan had described her angry face to a tee.
‘Give ’em,’ she said, extending an open hand to him.
‘What?’ He gave an innocent sniff.
‘Give me back my lucky goggles or I will seriously rethink this whole
Will could hear the anger in her voice now. He purposely avoided her
Nathan shrugged. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
Emily seemed to struggle with herself for a moment. ‘You are insufferable,’
she muttered. Nathan feigned offence. Emily shifted her attention to
Will. ‘And you should know better than to let him do this kind of thing.’ Will
hung his head. ‘Now, where are they?’
There was a beat.
‘Under his towels,’ Will said in a low voice.
Nathan exhaled impatiently.
Emily retrieved her goggles. She glared at Nathan. Then, in a matter-offact
tone: ‘You can fuck your hand for the next six weeks.’ With that, Emily
strapped on her goggles and jumped into the pool. Nathan watched her with a
‘I told you it was a bad idea!’ Will picked up his headphones. ‘Her dad
gave her those goggles before he died. You just can’t help yourself, can you?’
Nathan cocked his head to one side. ‘Depends on what I want.’
Robert emerged from the office. ‘Ten minutes, boys!’
Will flicked his iPod on and focussed on the water in front of him.
Nathan was one of those guys who got whatever he wanted, often with little
effort. William Stephen Miller? Well … he was not one of those guys.
Four gold, one silver and two bronze medals, over three Olympics. That was
what Will had to thank for his enormous house. ‘House’, in fact, was too humble
a word. It was actually a mansion worth over two million dollars. Kind of
a waste, really, considering he really only slept there. The rest of his time was
spent sweating at the gym, arguing with his coach and — of course — swimming
thousands of laps.
Will thought about this — his non-existent social life — while his
mother buzzed around, cooking their dinner. The kitchen was open-plan,
with mirror-finish black cabinets and a TV built into the fridge. Will sat at the
counter, the smell of bolognaise sauce distracting him from the homework on
It was Will’s parents who had convinced him to get a degree. At twentyseven,
his swimming days were drawing to an undeniable close. The next
Olympics would be his last, though he hadn’t announced it to anybody yet,
not even Nathan. Breaking world records would soon take a backseat to doing
people’s tax returns. He squinted at the university’s website, not absorbing
anything he was reading.
‘Will, hon, it’s ready,’ his mother called.
‘Cool. Thanks.’ Will crossed to the table. ‘If hunger didn’t kill me,
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boredom would have.’
‘Come on — there’s nothing wrong with accounting,’ she chided.
She missed him rolling his eyes.
Will scoffed down his large serving of spaghetti while his mother filled
the air with small talk. She visited several times a week, mainly to make sure
he kept food in the house. Will didn’t mind her cooking for him, but their
conversations had been uncomfortable of late. Will’s sister, Mandy, was pregnant
for the second time and about to burst. Having a grandchild agreed with
his parents, who had mellowed out over the last few years. But their eagerness
for more little ankle-biters had resulted in them giving Will frequent, pointed
looks, as if to say, ‘Your turn now, son.’
He didn’t know how to tell them … he couldn’t tell them.
At half-past seven, Will’s mother pulled on her jacket and grabbed her Louis
‘Little Tiffany’s waiting for Nanna.’ She hugged Will goodbye. She felt
soft against his hard body. ‘I put a goulash thingy in the freezer. And—’
She smiled as Will closed the door after her. He waited, listening, until
the sound of her car had faded away.
Will returned to the kitchen and shut down his laptop. Studying was the
last thing he wanted to do. Fetching the stereo remote, he turned on a mix CD
Nathan had given him and cranked the volume up. The nearest neighbours
were half a kilometre away. There he was, alone: the richest, fastest swimmer
in the country, in his castle on a hill.
Will sighed and shed his jumper. Anxiety was beginning to knot up his
insides. There was only one sure way he knew to ease his mind. He looked
through the glass wall that was the rear of the house, then paced through the
lounge room and slid open the back door.
It was a clear night. The rectangular pool was ten metres long; the warm
yellow lights from its depths made it glow in the dark. Will pulled off his
shorts, standing in his underwear for a moment. He threw the shorts in the
direction of a deck chair but missed. He enjoyed the crisp breeze on his face
for a second. Then he took a deep, measured breath and dived in.
Will surfaced, shaking the hair out of his eyes. The cold water was
exactly what he needed to remain in the present. He began to swim slow laps,
counting them off in his head. The music emanating from the lounge room
came in and out: clear when he raised his head to suck in a breath; muffled
when he was submerged.
At some point, Will heard the music abruptly stop. He didn’t know how
long he’d been swimming; he had counted 216 laps, though. Perhaps the electricity
had gone out? He remained underwater but opened his eyes; the lights
were still on. A figure stood in shadow on the pool deck.
Will broke the surface of the water, out of breath.
‘Turn the stereo back on!’
‘Don’t you ever get sick of swimming?’ Nathan grinned and un-paused
Used to seeing Nathan in his usual training gear, Will thought his friend
looked overdressed in designer jeans and a tight t-shirt.
‘Right there … ’ Will snorted, feigning disappointment. ‘That’s why I’m
faster than you.’ He floated backwards to the shallow end of the pool.
‘Fuck off,’ Nathan laughed. Without invitation, he tossed aside the stereo
remote and started pulling off his clothes.
‘I’m getting out now,’ Will lied.
Undeterred, Nathan draped his jeans over a cobwebby clothes-airer.
Will stopped swimming when he noticed that Nathan’s undies were a pristine
Nathan canon-balled into the pool with a juvenile yell. A small wave
splashed up and hit Will in the face. Nathan’s undies were now see-through.
Will adjusted his own, dark briefs as though trying to compensate. He channelled
all his energy into not looking beneath the water.
‘Let’s race!’ Nathan doggy-paddled over to Will.
‘I’m too tired.’
‘Pfft. Come on!’
Will shook his head, knowing Nathan wouldn’t let up unless they
attempted a race. They readied themselves, each with one hand on the brick
border of the pool.
‘Freestyle,’ Nathan smirked, ‘the length of the pool. No dolphin kicks. In
He counted down. They raced. It was over within ten seconds. Will
let Nathan win. Nathan was so excited he did another couple of laps and
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slammed his fist into the water, cheering. Anyone would’ve thought he’d won
gold. As far as ridiculous backyard swimming competitions were concerned,
‘Are you drunk?’ Will chuckled. ‘Where did you come from, anyway?’
‘Launch party for some new lads’ mag,’ Nathan replied. ‘And I barely had
anything. They had beer but … I don’t know, I have to be up early.’
They were each treading water at either end of the pool now.
The half-smile slid off Nathan’s face. ‘I know you think I’m a smartarse,
but I do know where to draw the line.’
Will didn’t like the serious tone in Nathan’s voice. ‘Hey, relax. I was
Nathan nodded; he was already over it.
‘So I came to tell you — I dumped Emily.’ He looked unreasonably
pleased. Will frowned; the confusion must have shown on his face. ‘She’s too
much hard work, you know?’ Nathan explained. ‘I need someone who can just
be chill and have a laugh sometimes … She never smiles. Have you noticed
Will had noticed, but he didn’t feel right saying so. Inside the house,
the CD’s last song finished. Silence descended. The sound of the lapping pool
water was amplified.
‘Don’t date a swimmer,’ Nathan continued. ‘I swear it’s the worst thing
you could do. They have no lives!’
‘You mean we have no lives.’ Will’s eyes flicked underwater. Damn it.
‘Well … I think I’ve managed to strike a balance.’
Will passed a hand over his face, wiping water from his eyes. Nathan was
deluding himself if he thought a balanced life was even an option.
‘Was she upset?’ Will asked.
Nathan thought about this. He laughed; it was soft, a whisper of a laugh.
As though he’d just realised something. ‘No.’
Will didn’t know what to say. ‘It’s probably for the best, man. Now you
can really concentrate on Worlds.’
‘And kicking your arse.’ Nathan smiled.
Just like that — all thoughts of Emily forgotten. Will didn’t realise he was
holding his breath until he felt the tightness in his chest. He breathed out. If
only he could let go of his own feelings that easily. Like Nathan.
‘I want my spare key back, by the way,’ Will said, as though he hadn’t
been thinking about it. Nathan laughed at first, stopping when he read
through Will’s fake-casual tone.
‘What? Where’s this coming from?’
Their voices echoed across the water.
‘Well, you’re abusing it — you’re like Kramer from Seinfeld,’ Will joked.
‘What if I had company tonight?’
‘You never have company. Read a paper: everyone thinks you’re a hermit.’
‘They do not.’
‘Seriously,’ Nathan insisted. ‘It’s been ages since you broke up with
‘—Sarah. People are starting to think—’
Will kicked his feet up so quickly the water shot up like a geyser. Nathan
wore a puzzled look. Ripples disturbed the water’s surface. Will’s eyes were
closed; he wanted desperately to be outside of his body. Someone else.
He didn’t know how to tell him … he couldn’t tell him.
Will said nothing. He opened his eyes to find Nathan staring at him. In
a fluid, well-honed motion, Nathan disappeared underwater. His frame was
distorted by the water’s movement and the dappled light. Nathan surfaced, a
metre or so away.
‘Why didn’t you tell me?’
‘I couldn’t.’ The prickling in his eyes had nothing to do with chlorine.
‘Does anyone know?’ Nathan sounded concerned. Will shook his head.
Nathan drifted closer, disbelief painted on his face. ‘You can’t keep this quiet.’
‘I have to! I’m “The Bullet” — remember?’ Despite his best efforts to control
himself, he had begun to cry. ‘People have been throwing money at me to
be their poster boy for ten years. Can you imagine what everyone’s gonna say
when they find out?’ Will turned away. He couldn’t bear being emotional in
front of Nathan. It was like being naked, but far, far worse.
‘Are you kidding me? Look at— you’re fucking miserable! This is why you
hardly ever talk, isn’t it?’ He gave an incredulous sigh. Will felt warm breath
on the back of his neck; Nathan was too close. ‘Come out, man. You’ll be surprised
how people are okay with it.’
Will faced the edge of the pool, his hands braced against it. He was
panting — a shuddery, post-race kind of exhalation that hurt his whole body.
He felt, rather than saw, Nathan’s hands rise through the water and come to
rest on Will’s chest. Nathan held this awkward embrace until he heard Will’s
Nathan finally spoke, his forehead resting against Will’s shoulder.
‘You’re William Miller.’ He murmured his name like it was one word.
Williamiller. ‘You’re not a machine.’
Will couldn’t respond. He felt a strange sensation, as though Nathan’s
words had freed him of some invisible weight. He reached up and touched
Nathan’s hand; one stroke across his long fingers. The tension shifted — rose
and ebbed — within a breath.
‘You want me to go?’ Nathan said.
Will allowed himself three seconds to memorise the feeling of Nathan’s
skin against his.
‘Yeah,’ he managed to say.
Nathan’s strong forearms slipped away. The air around Will suddenly felt
cold. The water trickled, making a sound like gentle wind chimes, as Nathan
climbed out of the pool.
Will didn’t turn around until he was sure Nathan had left. That’s when
he spotted them, hanging from the clothes-airer: Nathan’s drenched, white
Will gazed at them for a long time before going inside.
Queering the Western: Brokeback
The appearance of Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005) within the canon
of the Hollywood Western provokes a radical rethinking of the nature of the
genre. Despite the director’s insistence that Brokeback is less a Western than
a love story, its relationship to its generic forebears is fundamental to the ways
in which it explores and destabilises notions of both masculinity and samesex
desire in dominant American ideology. The film’s two queer protagonists,
arguably the first to be openly depicted within the Western genre, both confront
and subvert some of the dominant cultural stereotypes and prejudices
of the tradition, and of Hollywood cinema as a whole. In ‘queering’ this genre,
Brokeback Mountain forces an examination of its underlying ideologies —
working to both destabilise and redefine its history. At the same time, some
of its problematic queer representation serves to contain the progressive elements.
This essay will suggest that Brokeback Mountain’s ‘queering’ of the
Western works both to subvert and reinforce traditional notions of manhood,
masculinity and same-sex desire in American film. Despite its shortcomings,
Brokeback Mountain can be seen to generate a rethinking of sexuality in the
Western, and further, to insert ‘queer’ into mainstream Hollywood, using the
very vehicle which so often sought to suppress it.
Brokeback Mountain’s situation within a generic history is central to its
potentially subversive power. Historically, the film can be seen to mark a significant
moment in both Hollywood and Queer Cinema — arguably, the point
at which the two have intersected. Despite the director’s denial that the film
belongs to either the Western genre or Queer cinema, popular discourse on
the film has claimed that both of these genres are contained within Brokeback
Mountain, which is a significant notion in itself, as traditionally the two could
not be more ideologically opposed. As a genre that is founded upon the figure
of the white heterosexual male hero, the traditional Western has vehemently
disavowed any form of same-sex desire or homoerotic connotation. While
viewers have frequently ‘queered’ traditional Westerns through reading
homo-eroticism in their subtexts, the homophobia accompanying Western
narratives serves to counteract such anxieties and reinforce dominant heterosexual
readings. With the insertion of a ‘queer’ narrative into this tradition,
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Brokeback Mountain marks a fundamental change in the representation of
American masculinity which the Western strove to uphold. It achieves this
through presenting same-sex desire between protagonists who are otherwise
icons of an ideology that is antithetical to this desire — American cowboys.
In Brokeback’s opening sequence, where we first see Ennis del Mar and
Jack Twist, familiarity with the ‘cowboy’ of earlier Westerns enables us to
immediately identify them as such. Set against the haunting and desolate
backdrop of rural Wyoming, classic frontier country, both men appear in
western shirts, jeans with oversized belt buckles and classic cowboy hats and
boots. As Ennis stands against a wall with his head down so that all we see is
the top of his hat, Jack slouches against the side of his truck, peering out from
under his brim. While both men silently ‘size each other up’ with sidelong
glances, more importantly, the audience is given time to do the same. Through
their costuming and body language, Jack and Ennis are presented as explicitly
masculine. They are strong, silent, hard-working types, embodiments of
the mythic American cowboy, a figure that has come to represent a national
ideology. As Tom Sullivan suggests, the cowboy evokes an entire cultural
ideal of masculinity and patriarchal society, one embedded in the American
imagination through the Western film and its icons. Cowboys, those early
American frontier heroes, were ‘independent, self-reliant, brave, skilled’ men,
who brought moral order to untamed land, acting in support of the family
and heterosexual community from which they came. The cowboy epitomises a
white, straight, normative masculinity, which, as Eric Paterson has noted, is in
its very nature ‘antithetical to same-sex desire’. Thus, from the very beginning
of Brokeback Mountain, before a single word is even spoken, the first shots of
Jack and Ennis become a visual portrait of an entire cultural mythology. This
mythology, one which endorses heterosexuality and is ‘accompanied by rabid
homophobia’, is thus set up to be radically challenged by the queer narrative to
The first forty minutes of Brokeback reinforce the traditional American
masculinity of the protagonists. In a long montage depicting Ennis and Jack
setting off on their sheep herding job, we see the men saddling up horses, riding
through forests and along rocky ridges, chopping wood, setting up camp,
hunting, using guns, and generally displaying a melange of rural ‘masculine’
skills. Recalling Westerns such as Ride The High Country (1962) and The Big
Sky (1952), Brokeback mimics shots of Jack and Ennis retreating on horseback
into the wilderness, locating them as reincarnations of the ‘cowboy and his
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sidekick’ from earlier Westerns. As Paterson notes, Ennis almost perfectly
embodies the ideal of the American man, while Jack serves as his less reserved
but equally courageous sidekick. At this point in the narrative, their friendship
is ‘akin to the bonding of buddies in Western and war films’, developing
organically against the rugged Wyoming landscape, a site against which
so many previous Western icons and their sidekicks have both worked and
Brokeback ‘queers’ this traditional friendship over the course of Ennis
and Jack’s stay on the mountain. In time, their nights by the fire, work and
daytime ‘horseplay’ slide into a sexual and romantic relationship. As Cynthia
Barounis notes, the development of male–male desire in Brokeback occurs
organically; ‘it is figured as a natural corollary to male horseplay and the violent,
almost primitive, crashing together of two male bodies’. This queering of
traditional homosocial bonding in Brokeback Mountain has been described
as a radical departure from earlier Westerns. It has also, alternatively, been
described as only serving to make explicit the latent homoerotic desire that
existed between cowboy ‘buddies’ in Westerns all along, in films such as
Shane (1963) and Red River (1948). In Brokeback, Jack and Ennis’s relationship
can be seen as the logical extension of the ‘buddy relationship’. It unmasks
what can be seen as an artificial boundary between friendship and deeper
‘emotional and physical intimacy’ which has always, if not sometimes flimsily,
been maintained in earlier films. Same-sex desire in the Western can be seen
to have finally been brought ‘out of the closet’ in Brokeback Mountain. The
film forces us to re-examine the nature of male relationships over the course
of the genre’s history and acknowledge the existence of the homoerotic desire
which it has consistently denied. In re-appropriating the Western landscape
and its traditional narrative into one of queer desire, the film challenges
the idea of genre as a set of strict signifiers and conventions, supporting the
idea that a ‘genre itself is something like a permanent state of revolution’. As
Erika Spohrer suggests, if the film presents Jack and Ennis as ideal models of
Western masculinity, it does so only to turn these ideals on their head, ‘forcing
an interrogation of the male relationships that so define the Western genre’.
Brokeback’s queering of the Western genre also manifests in its appreciation
of the erotic power of the male body. As E. Ann Kaplan suggests,
mainstream cinema has continually disavowed the existence of an erotic gaze
upon the male body, which connotes objectification and feminisation. In
the Western, however, the male body is constantly depicted in a potentially
erotic manner; it is displayed in action, revealing muscularity and masculine
strength, and outfitted in costumes which further highlight these attributes.
By depicting the male body in ‘dramatic physical action’, the Western genre
consciously celebrates its strength while its sensuous or erotic nature is disavowed
through action and an emphasis on its functional qualities. Brokeback
works to expose this disavowal through its protagonists’ appreciation for each
other’s bodies. While the film continually depicts Ennis and Jack’s bodies in
action, as in early Westerns, their appreciation for each other’s physicality
reveals itself through their gazes. As Paterson notes, Jack and Ennis ‘move
from clandestinely appreciating each other to being able to gaze directly; to
look and take pleasure in looking’. This reworking of the gaze is instigated
in the opening scene, when Jack first looks at Ennis through his car mirror
without his knowing, making Ennis the object of his voyeuristic gaze. Later,
both Jack and Ennis take turns ‘looking’ at one another. Ennis looks at Jack
as he leaves the campsite; Jack looks at Ennis as he rides off on his horse. It
is through this myriad of gazes that erotic tension is built and then acted
upon. In this way, Brokeback can be seen to queer, or rather to unmask, the
erotic gaze that existed in the traditional Western. Once again, this works to
deconstruct the conventions of the genre, destabilising the homosocial code
between male characters which the Western sought to maintain.
However, despite the fact that Brokeback can be seen to bring queer
desire in the Western to light, the film can also be seen to subtly reinforce
some of the genre’s long-standing ideologies. Same-sex desire between buddies
in the Western has always been subservient to heterosexual relationships
and marriage and it is problematic to note that this notion remains evident
in Brokeback. Paterson notes that in earlier Westerns the cowboy’s desire to
remain undomesticated indicates ‘a deep ambivalence towards the society
he defends, and especially towards its most visible embodiments ... women’.
To counteract this, the Western hero’s sidekick inevitably has to be killed off,
usually in combat, to enable the cowboy’s reintegration into the heterosexual
community. This plotline inevitably worked to disavow any suggestion of
same-sex desire that the sidekick figure presented, allowing the cowboy to
remain the icon and protector of the white, heterosexual community.
Although queer desire between Ennis and Jack is acknowledged and
acted upon, the film can be seen to nonetheless retain much of this traditional
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ideology. While Jack is willing to leave his wife and ‘set up ranch’ with Ennis,
Ennis refuses to leave his wife and children, or to identify as gay. He attempts
to remain a husband and father, although his ability to perform this task is
presented as being constantly undercut by his relationship with Jack. In these
troubling scenes, Ennis is shown repeatedly deserting his neglected wife,
Alma, leaving her in a claustrophobic domestic space so that he can be with
Jack in the freedom of the mountains. Here, queerness is pitted against the
heterosexual family, depicted as its enemy and destroyer, and the cause of its
undoing. Furthermore, queerness can be seen to remain consistently subservient
to the paradigm of marriage and the family. After his marriage falls apart,
Ennis chooses to live alone rather than start a life with Jack, saying ‘two guys
living together ... it’s not done’. Despite no longer being with Alma, Ennis
still remains paranoid about his family uncovering his relationship with Jack.
This aspect of the narrative serves to reinforce the traditional ideology of the
Western; Ennis appears unable to shake the hold of the heterosexual family
or community in favour of starting a life with Jack. He continues to fight an
internalised homophobia, and Jack, just like the sidekick in the Western, is
killed. Jack’s tragic death works to reinforce what has almost always been the
fate of the homosexual in mainstream film — to die. This affirms D.A. Miller’s
notion that homosexual desire in Hollywood ‘is shown to best advantage in
the condition of having passed on’.
The final scene of Brokeback is shown to affirm the ideology of the
Western and the paradigm of the family, simultaneously killing off queer
desire. In this tokenistic sequence, Ennis’s daughter announces her marriage
plans, asking him to be present at the wedding. Ennis is shown as being
redeemed and reintegrated into the heterosexual community through his role
as a father, supporting the expression of normative sexual relationships. The
last sequence depicts Ennis looking at a photo of Brokeback mountain and the
shirt of Jack’s that he has hung in his wardrobe, before closing the door. Here,
the queer desire Brokeback Mountain has unmasked is shown being returned
to the closet, while the traditional heterosexual community of the Western
genre is renewed and regenerated.
As a mainstream Hollywood film, Brokeback Mountain can be seen as
a significant achievement in the canons of both queer and Western cinema.
The film works to challenge the traditional conventions of the Western genre,
and indeed the nature of genre itself, by re-appropriating the Western’s
traditional signifiers of heterosexual society — cowboys — for its own queer
ends. Through its exploration of the organic sexual relationship of its two
protagonists, Brokeback calls attention to the homoerotic nature of earlier
buddy films, destabilising the ideology of the entire Western genre. However,
despite this, the queer desire Brokeback unmasks is also contained through
its narrative. The plot ultimately adheres to conventional notions of sexuality
and gender supported by earlier Westerns, culminating in the ‘death’ of queer
desire and the regeneration of the heterosexual community that Jack and
Ennis’s relationship challenged. Perhaps it can be said that by bringing queerness
into mainstream cinema through the conservative genre of the Western,
Brokeback Mountain acts as a marker: both of how far cinema has come in
terms of representing same-sex desire and how much more there remains to
Barounis, Cynthia 2009, ‘Crippling Heterosexuality, Queering Able-
Bodiedness: Murderball, Brokeback Mountain and the Contested Masculine
Body’, Journal of Visual Culture, Vol. 54, No. 8, pp. 54-75.
Clum, John M. 2002, ‘HE’S ALL MAN’ : Learning Masculinity, Gayness and
Love from American Movies, Palgrave, New York, USA, pp. xix-93.
Doty, Alexander 2000, ‘Queer Theory’, Chapter 15 in Film Studies: A Critical
Approach, John Hill & Pamela Church Gibson (eds), Oxford University Press,
UK, pp. 146-150.
Kaplan, E. Ann 2008, ‘A History of Gender Theory in Cinema Studies’ in
Screening Genders, Krin Gabbard and William Luhr (eds), Rutgers University
Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, pp. 22-27.
Kitses, Jim 2007, ‘All the Brokeback Allows’, Film Quarterly, Vol. 60, No. 3,
Leung, William 2008, ‘So Queer Yet So Straight: Ang Lee’s The Wedding
Banquet and Brokeback Mountain’, Journal of Film and Video, Vol. 60, Issue 1,
Spring 2008, p. 23.
Lugowski, David 2008, ‘Ginger Rogers and Gay Men? Queer Film Studies,
Richard Dter, and Diva Worship’ in Screening Genders, Krin Gabbard and
William Luhr (eds), Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey,
Miller, D.A. 2007, ‘On the Universality of Brokeback’, Film Quarterly, Vol. 60,
No. 3, pp. 50-60.
Neibaur, James L. 1989, Tough Guy: The American Movie Macho, McFarland &
Company Inc., North Carolina, USA, pp. 6-9.
Osterwell, Ara 2007, ‘Ang Lee’s Lonesome Cowboys’, Film Quarterly, Vol. 60,
No. 3, pp. 38-42.
Patterson, Eric 2008, On Brokeback Mountain: Meditations About
Masculinity, Fear, and Love in the Story and the Film, Lexington Books,
Plymouth, United Kingdom.
Pye, Douglas 1986, ‘The Western (Genre and Movies)’, in Film Genre Reader,
Barry Keith Grant (ed.), University of Texas Press, Austin, pp. 144-157.
Spohrer, Erika 2009, ‘Not a Gay Cowboy Movie? Brokeback Mountain and the
Importance of Genre’, Journal of Popular Film and Television, pp. 26-33.
Sullivan, Tom R. 1990, Cowboys and Caudillos: Frontier Ideology of the
Americas, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, USA, pp. 44-47.
Wood, Robin 1986, ‘Ideology, Genre, Auter’, in Film Genre Reader, Barry Keith
Grant (ed.), University of Texas Press, Austin, pp. 60-61.
Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee, 2005
Red River, Howard Hawks, 1948
Ride the High Country, Sam Peckinpah, 1962
Shane, George Stevens, 1953
The Big Sky, Howard Hawks, 1952
Wayne’s First Stop
He arrives in town,
covered in dust.
Small town, one road,
everybody looks up.
Word’ll spread fast;
they’ll be waiting for him,
It’s entertainment they’re after,
the kind only a stranger can bring.
Three days since the last whiskey:
his business can wait.
for the boy
who takes his horse.
The doors swing in;
all eyes on him.
He walks slowly,
avoiding their stares.
He downs the first three shots without pause.
‘Where from?’ the barkeep asks.
‘Nowhere’ being the answer
that marks a man as trouble.
‘Looking for someone?’
‘Tommy Hanson is his name.
Short and nasty fellow,
moustache like a dead maggot
trying to crawl up his nose.’
The barkeep nods to the table by the door,
where the fellows who end trouble
play a game of cards.
He is drunk by now,
can still walk,
as long as he doesn’t try to stop.
He throws stones at the windows,
smashes two before the door flies open.
Storming out of the front door
the reason for his long ride:
an ugly face
begging for a bullet.
Maggot-face is in his long johns,
shotgun pointed at Wayne.
He stops yelling when realisation dawns;
the shotgun shakes,
then drops to the ground.
Wayne spits at Tommy,
missing by a mile.
I’ll give you fair pay
for what you did to my girl.’
Their backs together,
the sheriff recites the rules.
‘I hope she finds you,
my bullet your ticket.
She’ll haunt you on the other side,
repay you herself.
Summer Edition ‘12
She always liked,
to hear a man beg.’
Tommy’s moustache twitches,
nearly disappears up his nostrils.
‘I didn’t mean,’ he squeaks.
It was meant to be a joke.
They step towards
the turning point,
fingers itching to reach.
he’s been waiting for this.
The last thing he sees
a wet patch on Tommy’s pants.
The coffin is lowered
in front of few eyes;
the priest recites
the usual drivel.
The man on his crutch
smiles to himself,
on the other side:
waiting with open claws
to tear the maggot apart.
Death’s not enough,
but she’ll do the rest.
Wayne spits on the grave
and is on his way:
five more to go.
He knows his next drink
is three days away.
The Land of Defeat
Cleanliness and peace stir together. You can’t spot solid ground for miles.
No mountains or ocean can be seen. There is only a series of small lakes and
rocks cuddling together. Large stones, covered in moss, hide in the bushes
that’ve sprouted from the wet soil. Ferns can be discerned all around. The sun
is active as it shares its energy and camouflages in the cloudless grey sky. Oh,
how the sky is bright.
You can’t tell morning from afternoon; all sense of time is lost. It fleets
into an illusion. The weather feels humid in this empty world — a vast, flat
terrain that carries empty strains of extinction.
Travelling is useless unless you want to find a way. One step into the tall
leaves and up again. This feels like the grass is a pool of its own.
Accidentally, feet soak into the unseen mud.
You can’t see where you are, let alone what surface you’re walking on.
There is a hint of solid soil, but how long will it last? Travelling along the
deep, wet plain, rocks tower overhead like buildings. Perhaps climbing on top
should provide a greater view of the land. Luckily, they aren’t too steep. They
are easily climbed. Once at the top, the world seems to spread and the view
becomes clear. But fog lingers and folds itself over the sky and horizon.
Nature is testing the will. It wants to present itself as a hindrance — a
barrier which you cannot escape from.
The challenge is nature itself.
Every game can be won, and victory is awarded with a prize. Sliding
down the rock and lunging forward into the water, like a possum leaping
out, begging itself to fly. The landing was soft and water splashed all around.
Running over the humps and jumping over puddles can take someone so far.
Ferns stand tall in all directions. No matter where the only attention went, it
could only give it to the thick plants. The sound of the wind doesn’t scream at
the slightest when it flies past the ears.
Growing tired from expelling energy. The obstacles are difficult to conquer.
Now at a walking pace, exhausted and fatigued, it can only summon
opportunities for injuries. It doesn’t warn the mind; it only wishes to drive forward
out on the endless plain.
Trip! Tumbling over the grass knots and flying into the pool. The splash
is awesome. Water erupts without any guide to measurement of how deep it
is. Until now … It feels as if the water has grabbed on and is dragging prey into
its stomach. It gets darker. It’s getting harder to see. The body can’t move. It
can’t breathe. It can’t live.
Eyes close … Willpower … Disappearing …
Slam! The floor shakes silently. Getting up, I notice myself facing the
carpet. The blanket covers me. The pillow, on the other hand, stays still on the
bed. I get up, realising that the sun is shining through the curtains. As I stand
up and snap myself out of my daze, I reach for the watch on my bedside table.
It’s 2.05 p.m.
I must’ve overslept.
Every Time I Close My Eyes
Every time I close my eyes
I can see him hanging there
He was my brother
My best friend
Why is life so unfair
Now every time I close my eyes
I can see him hanging there
Why was I left alone?
Why weren’t my parents there
Why is it
Every time I close my eyes
I can see him hanging there
He lived such a fulfilling life
He lived without a care
So why is it
Every time I close my eyes
I can see him hanging there
I can remember
All the good times we had
For me he was always there
Every time I close my eyes
I can see him hanging there
Lost on Another Planet
I Call My Dog Sugar
I never had a chance. I never had a chance. I was always going to be like this.
I’m not sure what type of daughter my parents thought they would have but I
feel like they did not expect this. The thoughts in my head are not born from
the pictures the universe sets in front of me, but rather the ones that have
been sprawled out and tattooed to the walls of my mind, my insides.
I think about standing out in a crowd and kissing tiny dog teeth and
people who accidentally sing out loud on public transport and bushes named
I think about spelling and grammatical errors and how they’re very
irritating and how their appearances in everyday media creates a sad misrepresentation
of my generation that simply should not be there.
I ponder about underage mothers and the dignity one loses in the wearing
of fake brand merchandise and the name Sal Paradise and boys in tight
jeans. I care about my mum’s depression and my dad’s depression and my
brother being a slut and my hair.
I feel for strangers who look lost and think about their lives and hope
they find their way and then I think to myself, ‘Well at least they’ve broken
away from the monotony of knowing.’ Knowing where you are, who you are,
where you’re headed and what lies there waiting.
I daydream about drugs and sex and music and rain and dancing and
laughing. I always, always, always think about laughing. Laughing aloud in
public and smiling to yourself at a joke and clutching your stomach and crying
tears of ecstasy, ecstasy from the laughter. I think about a boy I once liked and
I wonder how he is and where he is and to whom he’s talking and envy how
lucky they are. Lucky to be friends with him. Then I think about him laughing.
Then I smile too.
I remember that I have no luck, but I’m so very lucky and wonder
whether luck is real and if it is, where is it? I recall being left out by the girls
in temple and being popular in high school and feeling insecure when I was
younger and drowning in overconfidence now. I wonder why I’ve always found
it more fun to make people hate me and how I always manage to surround
myself with whomever it is I want, and when I became this way and whether
it is good or bad. I ask myself why I don’t care. I have no answer.
Summer Edition ‘12
I think about my hands and how they are like my mother’s and my lips
and their likeness to my father’s and I think of the things I’ve done with these
hands and lips. I wonder how my parents would feel if they ever found out
and how I would feel if they ever found out and how I feel when I’m doing
these things and then I come to the conclusion that I regret nothing.
I regret nothing and I do everything and I say yes to anything and no to
everyone. I hate with so much force sometimes that I tire myself out, but then
I think that perhaps I have to hate because when I love, and there are just a
few who truly know my love, it’s far too strong and my heart becomes far too
light and I misjudge the sharp pangs of reality. Then I remember that I’ve seen
sadness and I’ve felt sadness and I know sadness and that it scars and you
never forget it like the ending to a favourite story.
I think about moving in closer to him and feeling the warmth of his
chest on mine and leaning in for a kiss and the feel of lips on my neck. I recall
hair being swept off my face and intertwined fingers and hands on thighs and
deep breathless kisses. I imagine hundreds of thousands of millions of people
and silence and darkness and two people alone.
I relive the dropping of a stone in my stomach when bad news is found
out and the fleeting moment of hysteria when a step is missed down the stairs
and the sharp pain of a paper cut that draws no blood and the electric spark of
a meaningful touch. The touch of our lips.
I think about the thoughts people have and the things that come to their
minds and the kind of moments and wishes my parents relive and then I think
to myself, ‘Surely they knew I never had a chance.’
And then I think about the summer time.
‘... back to the mother, back to God, back to the All.’
Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
A state of non-living
mentored by society — away from the self
living-ness is reflected
through the disturbances, encountered
struck as an animal by torchlight
through a dedication to craft
as is the dried ice used for the final numbing of cold toes
let me reach out for your hand
your last affordable appenditure
Summer Edition ‘12
Fluorescent lights insects of the summer love face their angry love-r after
being brutalised by ants leaving scars deep fried on the whiskers of a praying
Off a building morse morse morse coding my weakest subscription to the
world below above the squeak of sneakers screeching they cry not like the rugged
wolf prowling hungry for breast milk
Over-gross creatures leave their bald patch at home with the magazine I left
on the floor yesterday
The kerosene lamps faded and the room became black. The mansion creaked
and, outside, the old oak trees blew with the wind.
The man rose from his chair and relit the lamp on the wall. The bookcase
had piles of books neatly placed with each other. The walls were white.
No dust smoked the room. He sat back down on his chair and lit the other
kerosene lamp on the table. The wooden chair was red-brown; it belonged to
his father who vanished long ago. The man sat perfectly still reading his book,
never adjusting himself. A breeze crept in as the door screeched open and
Clarke entered the room.
‘Mr Isaac, your dinner is ready.’
‘You will address me as “sir”.’
‘Give me your pardon, sir.’
Isaac turned around on his chair and motioned for Clarke to leave.
Clarke wore a black top hat and morning coat with a white shirt underneath
and gloves to match. When Isaac’s parents disappeared, Clarke was the only
one he had left; he was the butler of the household. Clarke had taken care of
him since he was a child.
‘I shall await you in the dining room, sir,’ recited Clarke. He bowed and
closed the door behind him.
In the dining room, the wooden floor reflected Isaac. The table stretched
from one side of the room to the other and was covered with pristine white
sheets. He was the only one who ever used this table. The next room was the
kitchen; the fire in the cast-iron stove kept the house warm. Clarke hunched
over him and cut the meat and poured wine into Isaac’s glass.
‘There is no mail for you today, nor has anyone come to visit, sir.’
Isaac bit his tongue while chewing his meat. He tried to hide it with a sip
of his wine. ‘Clarke, you may retire for the day after I’ve finished.’
‘Very well, sir.’
Isaac woke up and looked out the window. The grass in the field danced with
the rocks and trees. He rubbed his eyes to dispel the illusion, but nature kept
dancing. The grass and rocks closed in on the window. The trees stretched
their branches, and leaves broke off and twirled in the wind.
Summer Edition ‘12
‘Morning, Mr Isaac. Breakfast is prepared for the day.’ The interruption
halted the leaves and rocks.
Isaac squeezed his pillow. ‘It’s “sir”. I don’t want to have to remind you
again.’ Isaac went into his room. Not tonight, he thought.
In the night, Isaac heard a loud thump. The window. Isaac rose quickly. He
looked outside. The stars were still out, but the leaves and rocks weren’t dancing.
He heard drums pounding outside. Beating away. Boom, boom. Boom,
What on earth is Clarke doing? He rolled out of bed and opened the
door, but the noise had stopped. He stood there for a moment, but all he
could hear was the wind blowing through the crack beneath the front door.
He closed the door and the noise started again. He laid his ear on the ground,
but couldn’t feel any vibrations. The drums began to subside. Perhaps it was
just his imagination.
When it stopped, Isaac returned to bed.
‘Morning, sir. Your breakfast is prepared.’
‘Did you hear a noise last night?’
‘What noise, sir?’
‘It was like someone was banging on a wall, but it wasn’t coming from
inside the house.’
‘Perhaps you were dreaming, or it could have been the horse, sir. It grows
‘Since when did we have a horse?’ He hadn’t felt like this before; his stomach
‘We’ve always had the horses, sir. I use them to ride into town.’
Clarke stepped forward and placed his hand on Isaac. It was a subtle
reminder for Isaac to go to the living room.
‘What’s in the town?’ said Isaac. He shrugged Clarke’s hand off. ‘Why don’t
you take me?’
‘It is much too dangerous for you! You belong in here.’
Isaac rose from his chair and kicked it towards Clarke. ‘But why?’ Isaac
crunched the page and slammed his book shut. He threw the book at the window,
shattering the glass.
‘The town took your parents!’ Clarke reminded him. ‘What if it took you?’
The summer air drifted in from the broken window. The scent of flowers
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
tingled Isaac’s nose. It was a sensation he’d never felt ... It seduced him.
He looked through the hole and saw how crisp the brown in the trees had
become; how vivid the blue sky was; how much brighter the grass was. Isaac
walked over to Clarke. His fist was clenched. ‘I won’t be eating breakfast today.’
‘I recommend that you eat your breakfast. It is important for your health.’
‘You will do your best to keep your opinions to yourself. You’re a servant
— don’t you forget it. Leave, now.’
Clarke hesitated. Staring at the window, he approached the table. ‘Let
me fix that for you. I will border the window.’
‘But, sir, flies will get into the house. ’Tis the summer season.’
‘Sir, we can’t just leave it. The house will become foul.’
Clarke stood back and gazed at Isaac. Sunlight dripped through the broken
window. It was the first time Isaac had felt warmth on his skin.
Isaac swung around and looked straight into Clarke’s eyes. Storming past
Clarke, he headed for the backdoor.
Outside, he could hear the birds on his roof and saw their nest made
from branches. One of the birds flew away into the distance, and Isaac wondered
if it would come back.
The sun was much brighter than he had thought. He opened up the double
wooden door that led down into the cellar. The sun revealed the stairs. He
took a few steps down and closed the door the behind him. Inside, it was pitch
black. As he traced the walls, grime and cobwebs stuck to his finger. He pulled
the kerosene lamp off the wall and lit it. The cellar was dusty and the stone
tiled floors were covered in dirt. He saw broken spider webs across the room,
though no real sign that anything was alive down there. He didn’t want to go
back into that mansion, so he remained in the cellar for the rest of the night.
Isaac dreamed about the night of his parents’ disappearance. He felt alone,
even with Clarke there for him; it wasn’t the same without his parents. Ever
since his parents had left, Isaac had been too afraid to go outside. He was
afraid he’d meet the same fate as his parents. That was twenty-five years ago.
Isolation ravaged his mind; Clarke only provoked it with his restrictions. Isaac
‘Sir, are you down here?’
The light gleamed over Isaac’s face. He shielded his eyes.
‘Have I any letters or visits?’
There was a pause. Isaac took a few steps down. ‘Not today, sir.’ His voice
echoed down clearly.
Of course not, he thought with a sigh. He erupted into a coughing fit.
The dust was building up in his lungs. Isaac climbed the stairs. Each step left a
‘Sir, may I suggest a bath? That will rest your mind. It will help if you stay
in for the night with me.’
‘I stay in every night.’
‘As you should, sir.’
Perhaps not tonight.
After his bath, Isaac looked at his watch. He grabbed his formal evening
tails, black top hat and white shirt from the cabinet. Isaac looked into
the mirror, brushed his clothes and placed a white bow tie around his neck.
He finished his outfit with his polished black trousers. His thick moustache
‘Sir, where may you be going?’
‘I’m heading for town.’
‘Are you sure, sir? It may be better to stay here.’
‘I’ve stayed here for as long as I can remember.’
‘And it’s a good thing. Why go to the town? You have me, and everything
you want, right here. I take care of everything for you.’
Isaac grabbed a bucket of water from the kitchen and dipped his comb
inside. Clarke followed him. Isaac looked into the mirror and combed his hair
into an even part.
‘I need to leave.’
‘No, you don’t.’
‘What is the matter with you? You’ve been acting strange lately.’
‘Strange?’ The room grew darker around Clarke. ‘I only do what’s best for
you. Why is that strange?’
‘Perhaps not always. I’m beginning to think you do what’s best for you.’
Isaac passed through the hallway and headed for the front door. The hovering
Is this another dream?
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
Before he could place his hands on the knob, Clarke pushed in front of
‘I cannot allow you to leave.’
‘Have you gone mad? Move!’ Isaac raised his eyebrow and looked into
Clarke’s pale face. No movement from either of them. They stared at each
‘If you don’t move, I will make you,’ Isaac said.
The hovering lamp only revealed half of Clarke, but Isaac could see the
smirk on his face. Isaac grabbed Clarke’s shirt and pushed him against the wall.
Clarke kicked himself free. He charged at Isaac, but Isaac stepped aside.
Clarke crashed into the wall with his shoulder and grunted.
‘You’ve gone crazy!’ Isaac shouted.
Clarke held his shoulder and panted. He wiped the sweat from his brow
and looked at Isaac. Then he charged again. Isaac punched Clarke in the
face and threw him to the ground. Clarke latched onto Isaac’s leg, but Isaac
shrugged him off with ease.
‘Don’t leave me, sir. I need you, please!
‘I want you gone when I come back!’ Isaac shut the door behind him.
His caravan was amongst the tall grass under the tree. He wiped away the
dirt and noticed how worn it was. The wheels were stiff and unstable.
This is not fit for use.
Clarke barged out of the front door screaming nonsense at him. Isaac
saddled up the horse, jumped on and rode to town.
Upon arriving, he looked down the cobblestone street. Lamp posts were lit on
each corner. Everywhere he looked, people walked around. Houses lined the
street and windows glared from the inside. Men, dressed like himself, walked
around the streets wearing bowler or homburg hats. Women wore afternoon
gowns that covered them from their necks to their ankles. Others had elegant
half-crinolines. Isaac couldn’t keep his eyes off them. The dress was like nothing
he had ever seen before.
Isaac approached a lady on the sidewalk. Isaac felt his heart beating
uncontrollably. His hands shook.
‘Hello,’ he said. ‘May I ask where I can find a place to rest?’
‘Well, mister, it depends on what type of rest you’re after.’ Her voice was
clear and soothing.
‘A place to drink, perhaps. I’m thirsty from the ride.’
‘You know what, mister? I wouldn’t mind a drink myself!’ She erupted
with laughter. Isaac looked around and laughed awkwardly with her, unsure of
just what was so funny.
‘The name’s Violet Bouchard.’ She reached her arm out. Isaac shook her
‘Isaac Smith,’ he said. She laughed again. Isaac felt sweat running down
‘What is so funny? Is it my name?’ he asked
‘No, darling. Rest your horse by the tavern. Come inside with me?’
‘It would be my pleasure.’ Isaac gazed upon her blue eyes and her long
brown hair that had been tied up in the bonnet around her head. Her figure
stood out in her purple half-crinoline dress.
Inside, men cheered and drank and sang along to the band. A few young
men huddled together and played their instruments: a piano, a harmonica
and a banjo. Old men sat in the corner playing dice. A man with burly arms
carried barrels from the cellar. Another pack of men sat at a table playing
cards and smoking tobacco from their pipes. The scent of tobacco caught
Isaac’s nose. They found a place to sit.
‘May we have two glasses over here?’ she asked the bartender. ‘So,’ she
said, turning back to Isaac, ‘what brings you here? I know you’re not from
‘You’re right. This is my first time in this town.’
‘Where do you live?’
‘About three miles down the road. Once in a while, I see caravans go by
my house. Hauling goods for the town, I suppose.’
‘So, have you lived there your entire life?’
‘Yes, as long as I can remember.’
Isaac looked away. He fixated on his glass of beer, then looked up. ‘Yes,
by myself.’ The glasses were brought over and filled to the brim. They each
took a sip.
‘I’ll have you know the alcohol here doesn’t compare to anywhere else in
Isaac didn’t realise he had drunk the whole glass so quickly. ‘I would have
For the majority of the night he glued himself to the chair, not wanting
to leave Violet. The night air grew colder and they knew it was time to depart.
‘Shall I see you on the morrow, sir?’
‘It would be my pleasure.’ She gave him her hand and he shook it again.
‘You’re not the first,’ she said with a smile. His heart felt composed at
that very moment.
On the way back, Isaac’s stomach turned again. He felt queasy at the thought
of returning home.
‘Clarke?’ He got no response.
Maybe he really did leave ... But where would he have gone to? Isaac
checked upstairs, downstairs and all around, but there was no trace of Clarke.
He had vanished. Isaac went into his room and passed out on his bed.
He woke the next morning with no interruptions from Clarke. It felt
No-one likes to be alone.
He climbed onto his horse and headed for the town. Hooves kicked
through the dusty road as the trees waved side to side. Behind, the grass and
rocks twirled along in the wind and, for once, Isaac smiled.
How to Make Love Stay
#1. Tell love you are going out to pick up a delicious cake and, if love
stays, it can have half.
It will stay.
#2. Tell love you want a memento of it, then obtain a lock of its hair.
Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner that has yin/yang symbols
on three sides.
Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language.
Remove the ashes of burnt hair and use them to paint a moustache
on your face.
Tell it you are someone new.
It will stay.
#3. Wake love in the middle of the night.
Tell it the world is on fire.
Dash to the bedroom window and throw out a pre-prepared bucket of
Casually return to bed and assure love that everything is going to be
Love will be there in the morning.
the chemo room
is filled with oversized chairs
with footstools and big armrests
so patients can imagine that
they are there just for
a social visit
Tom Jones is blaring through
the speakers ‘what’s new pussycat’
and patients tap their feet
nervously as nurses
against each patient’s file
a lady visits the chemo room
carrying a basket filled
with oils and cream
and offers foot massages to patients
so they can act as though they’re
just visiting their local masseuse
but nothing can take away
the burning sensation in the
nose and throat of patients
as the dark red fluid
drips into their bodies
this spring they won’t be
able to smell the daffodils
The Chemo Room
Tom O’Connell J. Richard Wrigley
The Matador and the Bull
Brittany shoves him once, twice, spits in his direction.
Her boyfriend, Glen, leaps back, stumbles on the lip of the kerb. His
arms make sad little windmills. A passerby sidesteps the spectacle and
Brittany laughs, first at the passing stranger, then at Glen. She thinks long and
hard about ways to hurt him. She compares him to his father, but the words
falter against him; he has heard this one too many times. She brings up that
fat sheila again, the one he ‘rooted last month’.
Finally, his frustration bests him. He bites back, lists — for the fourth
time that week — his reasons for the indiscretion. It was, he explains, a
knee-jerk reaction, the unfortunate consequence of months of compounding
stress. He reminds her that she is far from innocent herself. Her list of follies
is lengthy: there was the handjob she gave Markus, their mutual friend, at the
football; the phone abuse she inflicted on Glen’s family (because of an innocuous
remark Glen’s father had made over dinner); the gross mismanagement of
their welfare money; her endless stream of criticisms; the broken tail-light she
never replaced; the way she refused to find work, despite dire financial straits;
and the ... the ...
He is shaking, has made a scene. The reasons why they shouldn’t stay
together cascade over him. The Bundoora-bound 86 pulls up behind them.
Brittany — red-faced and full of piss and vinegar — boards via the front
entrance. On the second stair, she stops, turns, a tear trickling down her
cheek, and says: ‘Well, you’re a fuckin’ dud root, you are! Stay away from this
piece of shit, girls! Never once made me come in two years!’
The doors close and the tram pulls away. From the middle of Smith
Street, Glen watches Brittany exit his life. When at last she’s gone, he turns,
walks the five paces to Woolworths and relays his story to anyone who’ll listen.
He misses her already.
A Sunday Morning in 2040
The old man saw the word faith emblazoned on the wall near the reception
desk. It startled him anew each time he saw it. The old folk’s home, despite its
motto, was generally no more religious than a chocolate Easter egg. For that he
Today, though, passing by after breakfast, he saw the warning signs of
yet another Sunday: the television mute and blank, and the foot-high wooden
cross being set up centre stage. Soon, the same few white heads would gather,
bowed over large-print hymnals. He kept away. He retreated to his room,
pushing his walking frame before him, and dressed for a walk, his second that
Returning, still too early to avoid the round up, the old man came up
behind a woman. He thought she was called either ‘Heather’ or ‘Barbara’. She
stood with her hand lingering on the doorknob closing his door, as if lost in a
‘Caught you,’ he said.
At the sound of his voice she turned. Her smiled broadened at the sight
of his own twinkling grin.
‘Fancy a hymn or two?’ she asked.
‘ “Rock of ages, cleft for me,” ’ he quoted, in a creditable imitation of a
Welsh accent. ‘I love the old hymns, isn’t it?’
His references escaped her, as they often did.
‘Come along then,’ she said, urging gently.
‘Thanks, love, but I’m a practising heathen.’ This was one of his stock
Her eyebrows lifted at his choice of words. ‘What, you? Shenanigans
under the full moon?’ she said.
‘I keeps me boots on,’ he said with a wink and stepped past her, reclaiming
She took the hint and let the old man be.
Once inside he dropped his hat onto the bed and walked over to the chesthigh
shelf in the corner. He gazed at his shrine — So small these days, he
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
thought, so diminished — the gilded brass Buddha-image on its wooden stand
and the row of eggcup-sized offering bowls in front of it, all resting on brocade.
And behind the statue, the framed photo of his Teacher hung on the wall.
He brought out the small bunch of rosebuds from where he had been
hiding them, cupped in his hand. He balanced them on the lip of one of the
bowls and stood, palms together, dipping his head in a bow.
He is transported back to the room where, in his forties, he spent years in
robed retreat. His room is small, low-ceilinged and cell-like. The rooms on the
floor above project out and hang cantilevered over the verandah beyond his
door. His room is deeply shaded, cave-like. It is his sanctuary. The small space
is dominated by his elaborate altar and the many photos and prints populating
the walls around it. The shrine keeps him company; he is happy here.
There is a knock on the door; something vanishingly rare during retreat
but, in this instance, expected. It is the Centre’s manager whispering, ‘He’s
Richard is relieved to abandon the latter of this morning’s two sessions,
which have been made near-impossible by churning anticipation. He takes up
the gong; his is the fortnightly office of marking the hours.
He marches around the property, gong held high, striking out a crescendo
every few steps. The eight other retreatants seem just as eager for deliverance.
Even before he reaches their doors some emerge, legs adjusting to standing and
eyes adjusting to the light. This disruption of their strict routine, after so many
months, is extraordinary. The Rinpoche is coming.
So well-established is the daily round of practice — meditation, visualisation
and chanting — that it has become their way of life. The Retreat Master,
who instructed them, will be away for several weeks yet. He is taking advantage
of this time outside Tibet to visit his family who, long ago, fled to Nepal. It is,
Richard supposes, a vote of confidence that the retreatants are trusted to carry
They have all that they need: lunch each noon; soup each evening; and
detailed instructions on what to do, while seated for the largest portion of each
long day, cross-legged in front of their brocade-draped altars. Conditions are
the closest to ideal that their Teacher could devise. The greatest disturbance,
here on the edge of the National Park, is the shrieking of the local band of
cockatoos, or the roar of high winds. Life is pared down to its simplest form,
allowing them full immersion in their practice.
As the sound of the gong is carried away on the wind they quickly gather,
robes flapping yet otherwise silent. They stand under the deep shade of beech
and oak where the concrete meets the gravel car park. The surface is — for
once — free of possum pellets, having been swept for the Rinpoche’s arrival.
They wait, disciplined despite the adrenaline roiling within them and cooling
The car — a suitably splendid burgundy Lexus — blows past them and
grinds around a circle in the gravel. The driver holds the doors open. He
makes no eye contact with the retreatants.
Their Teacher — high-ranking and world-travelling — has arranged this
visit of his colleague and friend, the Rinpoche. He wants his retreatants to
receive a particular initiation, maximizing the benefit of the retreat. So, here
is the Rinpoche walking towards them.
This is the Rinpoche? Richard had not expected a man in his forties
wearing cowboy boots and jeans and sporting a ponytail. Neither had he
expected him to be accompanied by a lovely blond Westerner. The assumption
he makes shames him. My own dirty face in a mirror, he thinks.
No time is wasted. The Rinpoche goes straight to the nearby shrine-hall
and sets to work. A Tibetan monk, usually a resident of the city, is also present
by prior arrangement. The monk and the Rinpoche’s attendant — the blond
woman — co-operate with quiet efficiency in setting up for the ceremony. The
Rinpoche takes his place, seated on a simple foot-high plinth in the middle of
the floor. From his briefcase — which is stuffed to bursting — he takes the
cloth-wrapped text and ritual implements. Holding these — the bell and the
symbolic thunderbolt — he intones the liturgy. Around the Rinpoche, the
ornate carved altar and the richly decorated walls and ceiling fade to a mere
background. He sits, self-luminous, in an island of light. The text on the low
table seems unnecessary; the syllables of the liturgy flow from him like water
from a spring. The large room fills with the ringing of the bell, the drone of his
chanting, and the thick resinous incense smoke. If there is any magic at all in
this world, it is gathered here.
The retreatants crouch attentively, moving forward when beckoned, one
by one, to receive the empowerment. It is quickly done. The Rinpoche follows
the short ceremony with a few words. Speaking softly, with his head inclined
and a gaze that each feels to reach into them, he entreats them to do their
best. The retreatants, their armour dissolved by months of intensive practice,
feel his words as the gentle touch of a fingertip on the tenderness inside their
One of the retreatants is married to their Teacher. For this she receives no special
consideration from him. During the retreat, her role as retreatant trumps
that of wife.
Nevertheless, the following day at breakfast, the Centre’s manager
announces to them that their Teacher has telephoned the Centre and asked to
speak with his wife. He rang to tell her he was alright.
Alright, they wonder. What do you mean, alright?
The Centre’s manager tells them that she has been authorised to give
them news of outside events. Ordinarily this does not happen, but these are
‘Two passenger planes have been hijacked. They have crashed into the
World Trade Centre,’ she tells them. ‘The towers have fallen. Thousands have
There is more. They can barely take it in. Their Teacher is in New York
and, as anyone could guess, he is not alright at all. Nobody is. The world has
— they all feel it — undergone some tectonic shift towards greater mistrust.
Before the Rinpoche leaves that day, he composes a Long Life prayer
for his friend, their Teacher. Such prayers are commonplace in the Tibetan
tradition. With their Teacher there, in New York City, witnessing the trauma
firsthand, the short verse takes on even greater meaning.
The old man gazed at the faded photo of his Teacher, robed and raised on an
ornate throne. It came to him that he had been present when that portrait
was taken. He recalled his Teacher joking, swathed in the immensity of the
inherited robe. Without thinking, the old man, his palms still together, began
intoning the prayer — the Rinpoche’s short four-line verse. It came to his lips
as easily as it had during the many years he had recited it daily.
In sonorous, long, drawn-out syllables he intoned, ‘Om svasti …’
Then, realising what he was doing, he stopped. Long-life prayers were
not for the dead.
Up the Garden Path
It was a cold day: the biting wind swirled amongst the leaves scattered on the
path and blew ripples across the glistening water of the man-made pond. A
solitary gold fish skimmed just below the water’s surface, passing the day in
aquatic pleasure. The pond was bordered by a single line of bluestone blocks,
neatly slotted side by side like a colourless mosaic, not dissimilar to those
forming the path on which the rustling leaves danced.
The moist, freshly fallen golden leaves fluttered amongst the crisp brown
ones, long detached from their branches and, no doubt, soon to be crunched
and crushed by wanderers down the path.
The wind stopped. The leaves settled into new positions on the ground
and flowers ceased their waving to one another. Against the bleak backdrop
of the grey April sky the flowers’ vibrant petals chirped and sang to one
another, declaring that No, winter is not yet here and their spirits would not
Climbing out of the ground on stems of varying lengths, the flora
splashed magenta and tangerine and crimson against the otherwise dreary
landscape of green, brown and grey. One could not help but smile in the presence
of such creation.
A canopy of trees with outstretched arms and interlocking fingers
lined the bluestone path, which led to a simple structure at the rear of the
garden. The rotunda, having stood beneath the varied temperaments of the
sky, observing many a passing moon, was faithful. It offered shade from the
scorching heat, and shelter from angry storms. The ever-changing weather,
however, had not treated this rotunda kindly; its once-white paint was now
chipped and stripped from its wooden frame.
Inside the rotunda sat Mrs Simpkin, hands loosely clasped in her lap.
Below the bony, wrinkled fingers, across frail legs, a quilt was draped: a gaudy,
geometric calamity. Mrs Simpkin’s silver hair tossed and turned in the breeze
which had returned from its brief slumber. Wisps blew across her face,
though she did not attempt to brush them away. She sat peacefully, a slight
smile upon her lips. Mrs Simpkin had spent many afternoons in this garden,
her senses refreshed by all that was on offer.
Another figure entered the garden. Waddling down the path in flat
Summer Edition ‘12
leather shoes, her timepiece bouncing against her left breast with each step, a
‘Oh, Mrs Simpkin, my dear. You still out ’ere? In this frigid weather?’ The
nurse reached Mrs Simpkin, tucked the quilt around the old woman’s legs and
set about reordering the dishevelled silver hair.
Mrs Simpkin did not hear. She remained motionless, eyes fixed ahead in
the direction of the cacophony of petals.
‘Flowers are pretty, ain’t they? Pity winter’s on the way. These flowers
won’t be ’ere much longer. Still, best enjoy ’em while we can, eh?’
Mrs Simpkin did not respond.
‘Ain’t that right, Mrs Simpkin?’ The nurse flashed a smile and looked
into the old sapphire eyes. ‘Mrs Simpkin? ... Mrs Simpkin!’
The nurse stepped back abruptly, her hands first rising to her mouth,
then clasping at her chest.
‘Oh, Mrs Simpkin,’ she murmured.
The solitary gold fish skimmed below the pond’s surface. The leaves fluttered
on the path. Mrs Simpkin sat peacefully, a slight smile upon her lips.
I’ve never known heartbreak. I always prided myself on ending a relationship
before I got hurt; I never got emotionally involved. I made a wall around my
heart: three inches thick and ten metres high. But he got through. He swept
me off my feet and made it harder to breath. He made all the clichés true and
all those silly love songs make sense.
But one day I caught the early train one day and saw him — and her.
Michelle. I guess I had it coming: she was easy; I wasn’t. I envisioned scenarios
of walking over and making a scene, or saying hi because it didn’t bother me;
even though it did. But the truth is, when I saw them, it felt like someone had
… it felt, as clichéd as this sounds, as though someone had sucker-punched
me in the stomach.
I ran off the train and waited thirty minutes in the pouring rain for the
next one. I got three texts from him in that time. I ignored them. He’s with her
— either hiding the fact that we’re an ‘us’, or making fun of me.
When the next train arrived, I grabbed the most secluded seat I could.
I’m sure I’d frighten little kids with my smudged makeup. My hair — once
intricately braided into a bun — was now a destroyed plait, only half resting
on my shoulder like it should.
I took out my iPod and scrolled through my playlist.
‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ — Sinead O’Connor
‘I Will Always Love You’ — Dolly Parton
‘This Kiss’ — Unknown Artist
‘Unchained Melody’ — Righteous Brothers.
Really? As if my day couldn’t get any worse. I kept scrolling until ‘I Hate
Everything About You’ by Three Days Grace came on. Still a love song, but it
works. Why did I change my playlist when I was happy in my relationship with
Sebastian? Where’s my Linkin Park, Green Day, RZA, Chester Bennington —
my pump up music?
Ugh, this is not my day. The train was nowhere near full yet this arse
decided to sit next to me. I sneezed on him, thinking he might be afraid of
Nope. God damn him. Why wouldn’t he piss off?
‘Hi, I’m James.’ The annoying man reached out his hand.
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
‘That’s nice.’ I stared at his hand. I looked like crap: hair and make-up,
clothes. Everything about me was saying ‘go away’, and he wanted to say hi?
‘You are …?’
‘So not in the mood to deal with an ignorant male. Thank you very
much.’ His height would usually intimidate me — when he walked through
the carriage he had to duck under the handle bars attached to the roof of the
train — but today it just infuriated me further. Sebastian is the same height.
I hoped he would take the hint. I stared out the train window; we’d
just passed Footscray station. The eyesore of a bridge loomed overhead, its
rounded metallic supports marring the otherwise pleasant view. How is it that
all the druggies get on at St Albans? I thought it would have been Footscray or
‘Bad break-up?’ He shuffled in the seat to get comfortable. His bag rested
next to mine on the seat between us.
‘Because my life revolves around men?’
‘Well, your statement was pretty misogynistic.’
‘I think you mean misandrist. Misogyny is the hatred of women; misandry
is the hatred of men. And I don’t hate men; I hate one — well, right now,
two. The cheating bastard and the one who won’t take the hint to rack off.’
I just wanted to be miserable in peace. I didn’t need some random guy
to solve my man troubles. Any advice from him would just backfire. Because
Sebastian would think the same way. It would just blow up in my face.
‘Make him jealous.’
Oh ... kay. And how many times has that really worked? ‘No thanks. I will
just sit here and fester for a little while before I have to see him at work with
that office secretary slut. God! Why did I inter-office date? I am so stupid.’
I slammed my hand against the window. I realised afterwards how much it
‘You’re right. Relationships between colleagues never work. I find it
easier just to sleep with them. No strings.‘
Right. I should slap him, but he’s making a weird sort of sense.
‘Exactly,’ I said. ‘No strings. No attachments. No feelings.’
God, I must really need sleep if I agree with him.
‘So, why did you let him get to you?’ He turned his knee towards me,
then rummaged in his bag for an apricot yoghurt bar.
‘I am not talking to you about an extinct relationship. I wouldn’t even
talk to you about an active one. I have no clue who you are.’
‘Well, you know my name is James, and that I can’t tell the difference
between misandry and misogyny, and that I sleep with people I work with.
Oh, God. Do not smile. Do not smile. Do not smile. Shit. I smiled. I
turned my head to look out the window so he couldn’t see.
‘Where do you work? For all I know it’s at a mental institution. That
would make it weird if you slept around.’
‘I am the proud owner of an electricity company.’
‘Because that really makes panties drop. You sleep with your clients?’ So,
this guy does have half a brain.
‘Surprisingly, yes. It’s like being a pool boy and working for a cougar
housewife.’ He shuffled closer. ‘It’s also great for mending a broken heart.’
‘Well, that wouldn’t help me. I’d need an epic rebound for that to work.’
My phone beeped with an email before we entered the city loop tunnel.
‘He was good?’ James wiggled his eyebrows, making me half giggle.
‘Top Five. But not that … because he knew how to please, I mean
‘Fool me once, shame on you?’ He rearranged his bag.
‘Now arriving at Parliament Station,’ the train speakers announced.
‘Well ... my stop ...’ James rose from his seat.
‘Mine, too.’ I took a moment to check my reflection in the window.
‘You look gorgeous.’ He handed me his card and moved towards the
doors. ‘Call me if you need a rebound.’
Anne Bowman Cassandra Andreucci
The Blind Toymaker
(Anti-Intelligent Design sonnet written for
Albert Einstein’s birthday)
Shall I compare thee to a clockwork toy?
With each intricate piece designed to work,
Filling its creator with pride and joy,
And never so much as a random quirk?
This perfect toy lives on a perfect world,
Made for it through some creator’s fancy;
And when the universe first churned and whirled,
The plan did not include anything so chancy —
As evolution, random mutation;
You propose to rewrite biology?
To fit your specific computation
Of irreducible complexity.
Okay, you might have a different take;
But pure belief does not a science make.
The wind blows from the east as I walk home from the corn fields. The ground
under my feet is blood-red and scorching hot. The sun beats down on my
cheeks and sweat trickles down my back. The satchel my mother made for me
is filled with corn and is very heavy as I break out from the grasses and onto
the dirt road.
The wind changes and picks up the dust from the earth. I start to cough;
the dust tastes different in the back of my throat. I take in another breath;
the choking air isn’t dust, but smoke. I look up and see some billowing ahead
from the direction of the village.
I start to run. My satchel bounces wildly as the smoke gets closer —
that’s when I hear the scream and the gunshots.
I am near the village edge and wedge myself into a crevice of the great
Elder Tree. I hope that none of the rebels spot me. The howling screams from
mothers in the tribe pierce my ears; is my mother one of them? Have they
taken my brother?
A hot tear runs down my cheeks as the curses and gunshots of the rebels
draw closer. My bottom lip quivers; more tears race down my face and neck.
But the gunshots and shouting suddenly stop. All that is left is the twinkling
sun through the leaves on the floor, a rustling silence in the branches and the
soft mournful whimpers of the mothers. I take a moment, take a few breaths,
then I force myself out of the tree’s safety and onto the threshold of the
There are bodies before me. And blood. Houses in the village centre
blaze the colour of the setting sun. Black smokes plumes up into the crystal
blue sky. I look down at the young men lying in the village centre. Large
gashes expose their guts and smile up at me. Many bullet-holed women lie
here too; blood oozing from their bodies. Pools of blood seep into the dry
earth. Mothers and elders mourn over the dead and try to save the ones that
This place — once a place to come together as a community and feast; a
place to pray — is now desecrated by evil. I take a few more steps into the village,
trembling, trying to remember something important. But all I can think
of is death. I walk in the direction of my house and my neighbour cradling her
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
daughter. She is only my age, but the rebels have taken her life with a single
click of their triggers. The bullet has hit her heart and blood is covering her
mother’s face as she rocks her baby back and forth, waiting for her to wake.
But she will not. She will never see day again.
I swallow the bile rising in my throat as I hurry towards my house; there
is no blood here. A small smile crosses my face and my trembling stops as I
stumble into my door.
I call out to my mother in our language, rather than English. She looks
up in shock. A moment passes before she breaks down into tears. She runs
over and crushes me into her arms.
‘My child! You are safe!’
Hysterical laughter escapes both of us as we hold each other. For a while,
we stay like this. We are safe. Father comes in soon after and has the same
reaction as Mother. It is a strange reaction. I pull myself out of my parents’
‘Where is Lukiya?’
I ask for my brother but they do not answer me. They look at each other
warily. Mother begins to cry again; not in joy, but in deep sorrow.
Father drops his face into his hands ‘They took him. They took all of
them: the boys and the young girls. The children of the village are gone, or
dead. Except for you.’
He goes over to his wife to stop her from fainting, but I am the one that
collapses. My brother — only twelve — has been taken by those monsters.
They will make him do bad things; they will make him kill.
For the rest of the night, Mother and I stay huddled up together, sleeping
and waking often in tears. Father helps the elders to prepare the dead and
help the injured in the village centre. I think of my brother the whole night;
his innocent face and kind nature.
Will he survive the torture he will endure? Will they kill him for not
being brave? Will they break him? An image of my sweet brother holding a
gun — blood spattered all over him — creeps into my mind. When I awaken,
I’m screaming. Mother wakes, too. I tell her about the image and we both cry
Father comes back for the night. He curls up on the other side of me and
we all fall into a tiresome and dreamless sleep.
I wake to the beat of drums. For one moment, my heart races; maybe it
was all just a dream. I jolt up, a smile on my face, and listen closely to the beat.
It is the beat of the dead. As I bring myself to my feet, my face falls and I walk
out into the blistering sun. I squint at the sudden brightness and make my
way to the village centre. I walk towards the Elder Tree; the tree itself appears
in mourning for its people lying under it, lifeless.
I swallow and join the elders, surviving tribe members (both injured and
not), and my parents. We are amongst the dead. The Chief Elder belts out
prayers for the Elder Tree and the Earth to take these dead into its arms and
bring them peace. The drums beat slowly, sombrely, in the background, and
the remaining villagers sing slow songs of sorrow and peace.
After the funeral service, the men in the village take the dead to their
resting place just out of the village’s boundary. The Elders and the rest of the
village take shelter under the Elder Tree in a loose circle.
Chief Elder starts the meeting by discussing the absence of youth in the
village. Mothers begin to sob; some look at me strangely. I feel uncomfortable,
but try to focus my attention on Chief Elder. He smiles at me with a pained
expression; his great grandchildren were taken from him. Chief Elder brings
the attention back to him and discusses the restoration of the village buildings
that were destroyed in the attack.
I zone out for these mundane discussions and watch the sun’s rays
through the tree leaves. They seem to dance and play in the leaves like the
children once did in the giant limbs of this tree. A single tear runs down my
cheek as the memory clouds my eyes. It brings a smile to my face.
Then the loneliness hits me; I look away from the dancing rays, to the
road leading out of the village. I see the men returning to the circle.
They sit beside their wives and throughout the group, keeping strong
expressions even though they are hurting as much as — or even more than —
the women. Once the men settle in and the restoration discussion comes to an
end, the Chief Elder gets to the big question of whether or not to go after the
rebels and rescue the children.
Everyone is silent for a moment. Then chaos erupts through the entire
circle. The injured are fearful and condemn the idea. Some men get up, ready
to go after their children; some shake their heads. Some women beg their husbands
not to risk their lives; others beg for them to save their babies.
My heart starts racing again. Brother can be saved. But will the men of
the village save him?
Bronwyn Lovell Rattanbir Dhariwal
Preparation time: 21 years
Cooking time: 10 years
Ingredients: Bones, guts, whimsy
1. Combine ingredients and mix together in a bowl until they form
a spongy dough.
2. Cover with a tourist tea-towel and leave in a moderately warm
suburban family until risen twice as tall.
3. Send to school daily. Allow the mixture to be pushed down
repeatedly until it reduces to half its size. Let it rest and rise again.
4. Remove from family. Toss and stretch until its shape begins
to bounce back quickly.
5. Bake until a thick skin forms. Then enjoy. Best served with
a movie and glass of red wine. Flavour will improve with age.
The year was 1907, and Grandpa was born into a family of wealthy landlords.
His place of birth was called Kot Lakha Singh. It was named after his greatgrandfather,
who had been rewarded with the ownership of that land on
account of the valour he had shown in one of the wars during the eighteenth
Grandpa was the only son, so he had a privileged upbringing. He grew
up to be a fine horseman, a wise farmer and a well-built, handsome young
man. There was an aura of invincibility around him and he became a much
respected person of the area. His fame would also attract foes, ever-conspiring
to eliminate him and take his land. There was an attempt on his life, the
marks of which were permanently left on his body in the form of three sword
Life, as we all know, is a great leveller that does not necessarily wait for
judgement day to deliver justice. One of the great certainties of life is uncertainty
and my grandfather, despite being in the good books of lady luck, was
not going to be an exception to the laws of nature.
The year was 1947: Grandpa was forty, Grandma was thirty and my father was
one year old. The British left India; the new people in charge exulted that the
British crumbled under the pressure created by their peaceful agitations. But
the fact was, affording India was now a luxury for the Crown, who was already
reeling under the stresses of World War II. A new country, Pakistan, was created
and the Indian subcontinent witnessed the largest human migration in
mankind’s history. Under the new transfer of land laws, people moving from
India to Pakistan would get a multiplied proportion of the land they left in
India, whereas the land share of people moving from Pakistan to India was to
We were the unfortunate ones; for us, there was a cruel definition for this
new so-called freedom. From being the proud possessors of more than two
hundred and fifty acres of fertile land we were reduced to being the humble
farmers of a mere twenty-five acres — and that too was in split locations. So
the smaller farms were sold off and the family built a house near the largest
block of farmland. Grandpa was now faced with the daunting task of raising
four children with limited resources. Education for his children was topmost
on Grandpa’s agenda, and he did not let financial restraints get in the way of
his children’s academic ambitions. My father requested that Grandpa let him
work on the farm, but he was told to focus only on his studies.
The year was 1979 and I was born. My father was now a college professor and
my mother was also working, so we moved to the accommodation provided by
the college. My grandparents, however, stayed in the village and our weekend
trips there gave us immense joy. Our grandparents showed us genuine love
Old age was now fast catching up with my grandparents, so my father
decided to bring them to the city to live with us. Grandpa missed the village
and so my father made a point of taking him to the village once every
The year was 1997 and Grandpa was now ninety. He had lost his memory and
struggled to recognise his wife, his son and his grandchildren. All he could
remember was his glory days; the days when he was a maverick. Suddenly
we would hear names — names that were known only to Grandma, and to
some extent, my father. These names were of my grandpa’s friends and girlfriends
who once again made an entry into his life even though only in his
Grandma passed away in July of that year, followed by Grandpa in
December. Their memories still follow us.
The year was 2007. My daughter was born. Life goes on.
Awesome Anderson played his legendary riff.
The crowd cheered.
The crescendo reached ever higher
As Euridium’s voice effortlessly matched his notes.
‘We’ve never been better,’ Awesome said later.
Back at the hotel, the coke appeared.
Somehow, this time, the peak was easier ...
Lights so bright, their eyes were burning.
Awesome turned to look at the TV.
When he looked at Euridium again,
He found her lying across the bed ...
Next day, he rehearsed alone.
She came to in time for the show,
Her voice as angelic as always.
Awesome wondered how she did it ...
Half spaced, but unfazed.
That night the lines were snaky,
Premonitions plagued Awesome’s mind,
Yet nothing seemed out of place ...
Must be getting paranoid, he told himself.
Euridium didn’t stir when he got into bed
Her breathing shallow ...
Awesome was too stoned to notice.
When he woke up, he saw her lips were blue.
The ambulance sped her to safety
‘Another hour and she’d have been dead,’ the doctor said.
Hospitals aren’t always depressing, Awesome thought.
Should’ve listened to my intuition.
Awesome and Euridium
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
‘Due to a family emergency, tonight’s show has been postponed ...’
The official line that no-one contradicted.
They both recovered well from the scare
And let the performances provide their thrills.
Six months later, temptation led to danger.
A lethal combination,
With no ambulance to save the day;
Euridium took a one-way trip.
Awesome wanted to join her.
‘It’s not your time,’ the light told him.
‘You have to go back.’
He thought of Euridium every time he played.
He dedicated all his shows to her ...
Played better than anyone could ever wish.
It was like Euridium’s spirit inhabited his body ...
New inspirations came easily.
Solo artistry fired his soul ...
Increasing popularity and loneliness;
Two sides of the coin, with depths no-one else could touch,
He saw her in his dreams.
He talked to her photo,
He remembered her kisses.
The emptiness deepened ...
Yet the despair inspired creativity.
He’d been clean for two years,
Then he had an offer he couldn’t refuse.
The needle stuck tight as he felt the rush
No-one to save him this time.
The TV blared his latest video clip.
No-one heard his last words ...
His voice soared,
Unearthly choirs joined in.
The moon and stars seemed brighter
And peace descended.
Time stood still ... at least for Awesome.
Millions mourned the world’s biggest star.
‘He reached depths no-one else dared to,’ the TV said.
His songs played around the clock
And no-one forgot ...
An inspiration to all who came after him.
Centuries later he was still acclaimed ...
The greatest musician who ever lived.
Awesome ... no name more apt,
No tune too hard.
‘So, what happened?’ Miss Lowell leaned over the desk towards him.
Daniel tried to focus on the carpet. It looked the same as the carpets at
home. He brushed his shoe against it, but he wasn’t sure.
‘Daniel?’ Was she becoming impatient? He couldn’t tell.
His tongue felt thick against his teeth. He was finding it difficult to see,
let alone speak.
She pushed a tissue into his hand. He looked up and almost caught her
eye but turned away just in time. Damn, it was reflex to look at her, a way of
saying thanks. He wiped his mouth and checked the smear; he couldn’t tell if
it was blood or dirt. Daniel inspected his knuckles, and then turned over his
hands to look at the palms. Scrunching up the tissue, he began to brush away
the tiny bits of gravel embedded in the skin.
‘Okay, Daniel, first things first: let’s get you cleaned up. What have you
He reached into his pocket for his timetable and tried to make sense of
it. For a second he wasn’t sure what day it was, let alone the period.
‘Daniel, it’s Wednesday, period three.’
His head remained bent over the piece of paper.
‘Are you going to ring my parents, Miss?’
‘They’ll want to know what happened.’
‘Do you have to?’ His voice quavered, betraying him. He lowered his head
closer, willing the shapes on the paper to form into letters.
‘It’s school policy, Daniel. Your parents have the right to know.’
‘I’ve got double English, Miss.’
‘I’ll let your teacher know that you are with me.’
When she returned he followed her to the sick bay.
‘You had better wash your hands.’
Daniel pushed back his sleeves. He took his time, avoiding his reflection
in the small mirror above the basin. Miss Lowell pulled on a pair of gloves and
began to dab disinfectant on his hands.
‘Your teacher says I should ask you about Lionel. What’s going on
between you two?’
Daniel shrugged his shoulders. ‘Nothing, Miss.’
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
She dabbed lotion under his eye. He kept his eyes shut.
‘Do you normally hang around together? Tip your head back and look at
the wall behind me.’
Miss Lowell pulled down his lower eyelid lid.
Daniel found the eye drops soothing.
‘So,’ said Miss Lowell, ‘what’s Lionel got to do with this?’
‘Nothing, we’re just in the same English class, Miss.’
‘Do you sit near him?’
Daniel could taste the bitterness of the drops at the back of his tongue.
‘He usually sits in front of me and Jude.’
‘Do you talk to him?’
‘What about Jude?’
‘Sometimes Jude asks him to move his head so he can see the board.’
‘Does he say it nicely?’
‘So, he would say something like, “Hey, move your big, fat, ugly head?” ’
‘Something like that.’
‘What does Lionel do when Jude asks him to move his head?’
‘He turns around and swears at us.’
‘And what do you do?’
‘Jude says it wasn’t him and just laughs.’
‘And what does your teacher do about all this?’
‘Doesn’t he notice anything?’
‘He doesn’t know how to control the class, Miss.’
‘You know what I always say about that, don’t you?’
‘Yes, Miss,’ but Daniel couldn’t remember all of it. Something about
power and self-restraint something or other.
‘Is that all? What happens after Jude laughs?’
‘What? You just stop?’
‘Well, sometimes Jude might push the back of Lionel’s chair or knock his
‘What does Lionel do?’
‘He says to cut it out. Sometimes he threatens to get us.’
‘Both of you?’
‘Yeah, but he always looks at me.’
‘So, what happened today?’
‘Jude and me went to the canteen and we were just sitting down near the
oval. Lionel comes up and he asks for a bite of Jude’s sausage roll. Jude breaks
off a bit and throws it on the ground and says, ‘’Eat that!” and he calls him an
effin’ c-word — sorry, Miss — and then he just runs off.’
‘Who runs off? Jude?’
‘Then, Lionel asks me for some of mine. I go to give him some, Miss, and
he grabs the whole sausage roll. I was shocked, Miss. I go, “What the fuck!”
Oh! Sorry, Miss!’
‘It’s alright; go on.’
‘So, I stand up and I go to hit him, but when I see his face I suddenly
stop. He calls me a sick c-word, and then he just punches me in the mouth.’
‘O—kay ... Jude starts it and you get punched?’
‘Then the next thing I know, Lionel hits me in the eye and grabs me
around the neck.’
‘Can’t remember, but I’m on the ground and Lionel’s gone. And then,
yeah, and then Jude comes back and he’s trying to help me up. Then the yard
duty teacher, Mr— Mr— the Woodwork teacher with the glasses ...’
‘Yeah, Mr Hardiman. He comes over and tells me and Jude to stop fighting.
Jude goes, “We’re not fighting, sir.” And then he says, “Just get to your
coordinator, now.” ’
‘Why didn’t Jude come with you?’
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
‘Are you right to come back to my office? I’ll have to write this down.’
When they reached the office, Miss Lowell continued to probe. ‘What
stopped you from hitting him?’
Daniel focussed on the bandage on his hand. ‘It felt weird, Miss. I can’t
explain it. I wanted to real bad, but I couldn’t. There was something in his
eyes. I don’t know. It didn’t feel right, you know? I don’t know; it just didn’t
‘Have you left anything out?’
‘No, Miss. Maybe a few swear words.’
She picked up the phone.
‘I’ll have to let your parents know that you’ve been in a fight.’
Daniel looked at the carpet. His vision was still a bit blurry.
‘Could it be my mum, please?’
He could hear the house phone ring out. Then Miss Lowell dialled his
mother’s mobile and he listened as that too went to Messagebank.
‘There’s no answer, Daniel. I don’t like leaving messages about matters
like this. Parents tend to panic and think the worst. I’ll have to call your father.’
Daniel thought the carpet looked a bit clearer. ‘Do you really have to,
Miss Lowell began to dial.
‘It’s okay, Daniel. You’re not in trouble. I don’t think you’re at fault.’
‘You don’t understand, Miss. He’s a sergeant in the army.’
‘Aren’t they allowed to accept personal calls?’
‘No, it’s not that. I’ll get into trouble.’
‘But you’re the one who got beaten up!’
Daniel raised his head and looked at the noticeboard on the wall behind
‘Didn’t even throw a punch, did you?’ she continued.
‘No. That’s the problem.’
‘I see.’ Miss Lowell replaced the hand-piece. He was grateful that she
didn’t push for more.
‘Well, I don’t have to do it straight away. As long as I do it before you get
home. Maybe your mum will pick up before then. I’ll try again later. You can
sit here until the next bell.’
She began to write her report.
Daniel’s gaze returned to the carpet. He thought of Lionel. It was weird.
When he had gone to hit him, they had locked eyes. He hadn’t looked at
Lionel before — well, he had looked at him, but he hadn’t really noticed him,
hadn’t taken him in. It was as if he was seeing him for the first time. Lionel
had looked kind of apologetic. Sad, too; almost as if he didn’t want to punch
him. Yet he had still gone ahead and done so and more! Why would he do
that? Why do something if you don’t really want to do it? He thought of his
dad. Daniel scraped his foot along the carpet. He could see better now —
yeah, it was exactly the same colour as the one at home. It even had those tiny
white flecks through it. He continued to stare at the carpet and thought of
Lionel. He straightened himself in the chair.
‘Miss?’ He looked her straight in the eyes. ‘It’s okay, Miss.’ He pulled back
his shoulders, holding her gaze. ‘Go ahead, phone him, me dad.’
I remember that day on the beach like it was yesterday. The sun on my skin,
slowly turning me a warm brown, the colour of summer. They say a tan is
only skin deep, but I disagree. That summer I felt as though the warmth of
the sun tanned my whole being and transformed me. Carefree and young, I
had nothing to lose and wasn’t yet worried about gaining anything.
I climbed to the top of the rocks and walked carefully along their jagged
surface. Most people wore thongs or reef shoes to protect their feet,
but I didn’t. I had been walking down my street shoeless for months, building
up my soles for that very moment. I continued on alone, breathing in
the sea air and looking out over the ocean that I would someday cross. At
that moment however, I was perfectly content where I was.
I stopped in a small cove — one of the best places to collect seashells.
I sat cross-legged with a small bucket that I had brought along for the purpose
and started sifting through the sand. I found them: tiny little shells
which had once been home to tiny little creatures. I favoured the shells
with small holes in them; they were the ones that I could use to make a
Braiding the threads from my towel — which I had carefully pulled
free with my teeth — I wove the shells in one by one. I tied the necklace
around my neck and as I did so I made a wish, as was my tradition. I
believed that when the threads wore down and the necklace finally came
apart that my wish would come true.
I continued on along the rocks, climbing higher and higher. I spread
my arms wide and closed my eyes, tilting my head up toward the heavens. I
took a deep breath, then walked on my tiptoes along the very edge. I knew
that I wouldn’t fall; I’m sure it was that faith that kept me safe. I spotted
a rock pool below and made my way towards it. The water was clear and
blue, and I knew that it would feel as good as it looked. The pool was twice
as deep as it was wide. I lowered myself in and allowed myself to sink to
the bottom. The water was crisp and comforting, like a familiar embrace.
Small fish swam around my feet, and the seaweed that danced and swayed at
the pool’s edge clung to my skin. I could taste the ocean: a mixture of salt and
sea plants. I swam up toward the light and broke through the surface. Then I
climbed out of the rock pool and walked slowly back towards the beach.
The shattered vase of consciousness pours out
the dribs and drabs of dreams forgotten,
the leftover childhood fancies,
the deeply buried hopes.
Sing it again.
The shattered vase of consciousness pours out
the filthy side of everyday people,
the shameful thoughts no-one has,
the violence within.
Sing it again.
The shattered vase of consciousness pours out
that love is just dependency,
that friendship is acceptable extortion,
that hatred is what drives us all.
Sing it again.
Here’s to you, my shattered friend — broken down into molecules.
Here’s to you, you illusion robbed — the truth will come out eventually
Here’s to you, reality, my friend — crush them all to dust.
Sing it again.
Here’s to you, what they call home — an empty box.
Here’s to you, what they call career — a set of chains.
Here’s to you, what they call motherhood — feet in cement.
Sing it again.
Here’s to you — let us rejoice.
Here’s to you — for we are nearly there.
Here’s to you, and me, and them, for we are all denied.
Sing it again.
Sing It Again
What was that? The suits ask their desks.
What was that? The heaving belly asks the heart.
What was that? The typing fingers ask their head.
Sing it again.
That was me, the rule of thumb replies.
That was me, the taxman says.
That was me, the politicians shout.
But it was me.
Sing it again.
Shakespeare and Co.
Since completing RMIT’s Professional Writing and Editing Course, Warwick’s
writing has appeared in numerous publications including The Moreland
Leader and The Frankston Standard. He is currently working on a fiction
Warwick is an acclaimed Australian novelist. He has published three novels
and two books of poetry, including his most recent, Allow Myself to Introduce
Myself (Pepper Publishing, 2009). He has twice won the Tony Towers Tidy
Town Award and teaches creative writing at Victoria University.
Warwick’s recent biography Shades of Me won the inaugural Furlong Fiction
Award and has subsequently been produced as a confusing play. He was
awarded the Pascall Prize for Criticism in 2011, although he thought it sucked.
Warwick used to write good stuff, long ago, sometime in the early 90s.
Publishers continue to print his work in the hope a familiar name on the cover
will increase sales. Everybody humours him.
Warwick lives in Brunswick, likes gardening and patting his dog, Spike.
When not writing, he makes a living being nice to people and selling organic
Earwig monkey bars flyscreen-door. Earwig heirloom toenail broomcloset.
Handkerchiefs. Tendril silk doorknob hand grenades. Blistered headlight
Summer Edition ‘12
Warwick Sprawson knows the publisher, or else they’d never publish his
arrangements of turgid stools. He plugs their stuff on his blog and they occasionally
print one of his stories. Get over it, people. It’s the way the world
Warwick lives in a gently crumbling terrace house in the inner-city. A recipient
of a generous Arts Victoria grant, he spends his days writing, drinking
tea and petting his beloved chickens, Galli and Betty. A bidding war over his
acclaimed first novel meant that he could buy a large estate somewhere warm,
like Queensland or Vietnam, with spending money left over. Since finding
inner-peace he has stopped receiving rejection letters.
Warwick’s just this guy, you know? He’s not really this or that, he just kind
of is. Whatever. He’s had some stuff published, I guess, but he’s really more
into other things, you know, more real things, things with heft and weight like
painting and carpentry and smoking and shit.
1.) Warwick Sprawson is A) 21 B) 53 C) 37 D) 12
2.) He has been published in A) Southerly B) Unusual Works C) On the
Internet D) On walls
3.) Warwick Sprawson is a teacher of A) Yoga B) Safety with Hammers
C) Creative Writing D) Insolence
4.) & 5.) He divides his time between A) London B) New York
C) Frankston D) The Laundromat and A) Castlemaine B) Paris
C) Frankston D) Homelessness
6.) Warwick Sprawson is currently working on a A) Chicken burrito
B) Computer C) Young occult novel D) New hairstyle
Some years ago a baby was born, named Cassandra Andreucci. And now
that she’s older, she has no fucking clue how she’s survived this long and not
been locked up for her filthy mind. Between daydreaming of her one true
love (locked up in handcuffs) and accidentally falling into the minds of her
characters — it’s a wonder she has a job or a social life. How does she do this?
Because she’s awesome.
After moving around so much, Gabrielle has settled here in Melbourne. She
enrolled in the Writing and Editing course to follow her interest in writing
after her life-plan backfired and she had left nothing else but her dream.
The immigrant country-bumpkin from Bavaria did not come on a boat, but
could build one with all the paper from chucked-out first drafts. While her
career is still under construction, Veronica lives with her partner and two dogs
in domestic bliss in Northcote.
Anne Bowman’s anagram is: ‘I own an amber name’, and she wears amber to
represent the Baltic side of her origins. In the land of her birth, Emily Brontë’s
ghost whispered across the moors into her mother’s womb, and thus the child
grew up with a liking for all things dark and spooky.
Rattanbir Singh Dhariwal is an extremist to the core. The lesson he has learnt
after three years of full-time taxi driving in Melbourne is that one has to stick
to a lane to reach a destination.
My, myself, the selves of I.
Simon Exley is a poet, a student and a contributor to INfusion 47.
Summer Edition ‘12
Jodie enjoys writing stories and poems to entertain children. She hopes to
work as a freelance editor around entertaining her own children.
Samuel Gillard has a passion for writing, e-sports and K-pop (though some
would argue he is more interested in the pretty Korean girls). He enjoys
fantasy but isn’t afraid of other genres. One day he will achieve his dream of
finishing his novel, hoping the book will inspire people.
Danielle Gori is a world traveller, a collector of books and a writer. She is
always seeking out new adventures and experiences and then writing about
them. She currently lives in her hometown of Melbourne with her loving boyfriend
and their rabbit, Bunnykins.
Enjoys writing and photography above all else. He loves dinosaurs, and he’ll
continue to love and study dinosaurs until the day he discovers a way to resurrect
them from their fossils and unleash them upon the world. Then he will
reign supreme as ‘The Dinosaur King’! He also loves cats.
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
S. L. Higgins
As she types this, Shevon Higgins is arguing with her insurance company. She
has smoked with Norman Reedus, Jonathan Frakes and Nicholas Brendon.
She’s drooled over Adam Baldwin with Sean Maher. On occasion she writes
stuff. Her latest literary adventure has been described as ‘Downton Abbey
meets Sherlock Holmes’.
Editor-in-training. Aspiring writer. Former PA. Olympic Speed Typist. Weightloss
success story. Recovering Queenslander. Shower singer. Chocoholic. Neat
freak. Chatterer. Member: Tall Show-Tune-Queens of Australia (TSA). Motto:
‘Try everything except incest and folk-dancing.’
Norman was born to poor but honest parents in 1963 (he still remembers the
1st Moon Landing) in Geelong. He fled to Melbourne in 1984 and has habitually
associated with musicians, artists and poets. He considers himself a poet
and is a co-convenor of the Poetry Readings at the Dan O’Connell Hotel in
Carlton every Saturday.
Helen Krionas is a storyteller from Melbourne. She never learned how to
swim. When she grows up she wants to be Elaine Benes.
Maria has been doing a creative writing class for about four years and thought
it was about time that she experienced the highs and lows of submitting her
work to literary journals. This is her second poem to be published. She’s really
enjoying the highs.
Bronwyn Lovell is an emerging poet living in Melbourne. Her poetry has
been published in Antipodes, Cordite Poetry Review and the Global Poetry
Anthology. She was shortlisted for the 2011 Montreal International Poetry
Myron Lysenko is a well-known Melbourne poet and former teacher of poetry
Emma McVinish believes in love, red dresses, and the Power of Three. She also
thinks that the jerk who designed the Water Temple should be pushed down a
flight of stairs. In a tricky situation, she asks herself ‘W.W.N.D.D?’
Jessica is 5 ft 6 in, with blue eyes and a serious stance. A keen lover of life, she
enjoys taking deep breaths and putting pen to mouth. She also likes to drink
Manhattans and open mail. Jessica has thoroughly loved her year at NMIT.
Tom O’Connell honours his lineage by averaging twelve cups of English
Breakfast tea a day. Incidentally, he often has trouble sleeping. His biggest
aspiration is to find work as a professional editor.
Bernard O’Connor began the year wanting to learn about writing and ended
up taking photos of imaginary places and thinks he should have done a photography
INfusion 47 Summer Edition ‘12
Annerliegh Grace McCall
Annerliegh is an emerging writer. She is studying a creative writing degree at
Melbourne University and finds inspiration in ordinary people and everyday
Despite her killer looks, sultry charm, enviable style and Colgate smile, Sonia
Sanjiven ain’t so bad at writing, really. Her aim in life is to be one of the ninetynine
problems in a very attractive musician’s life. Sometimes, the bitch is one.
See pages 170-171
Born in Greece, 1954. Survived Collingwood. Thrived in Nillumbik Shire.
Retired English teacher. Now enjoying the creation of stories, rather than the
correction of essays. Once a romantic but now a realist who has occasional
lapses into sentimentalism.
Tony Stark is enjoying the intellectual challenge of the Diploma of
Professional Writing and Editing. Learning the rules of different writing formats
is a stretch, but he is endeavouring to continue raising his standards as
he makes his way through the course.
After completing an undergraduate degree in creative writing, Heather is currently
gearing up to hand in her honours thesis in cinema studies. She enjoys
writing on issues around gender and sexuality in film, and hopes to continue
this work next year in a PhD.
J. Richard Wrigley
Was born in Yorkshire in 1953. By a series of fortunate incidents he finds himself
now living in Melbourne, retired from nursing, impassioned by writing and supported
by a wonderful patron of the arts, to whom he is married.