Tuesday, 25 September 2007


(August's assignment was set by Gloria who selected an opening sentence onto which we must add our own 500 or so words to create a work of either fiction or non-fiction. The opening sentence reads:
"The lot of us met on Saturday afternoon as arranged.")

The lot of us met on Saturday afternoon as arranged. The pub was dim, the conditioned air sharp with the tang of stale beer. It was a little awkward until we’d downed the first round of drinks, then little knots of conversation tied us more firmly together. Besides our reason for meeting, we had nothing in common, so feelers were put out to establish some connection, to soften the business of the meeting with token familiarity.

I looked around at the disparate group with an inward smile. What had I expected – them all to be archetypal nerds, like me? My eyes lingered on a gorgeous woman, too curvy for current tastes, her full hips and breasts somehow perfectly in synch with her pouty lips, as if she could not quite close her mouth properly. Very sexy.

She was chatting with a fortyish, innocuous looking man. In his “casual” chinos and Ralph Lauren polo shirt, he looked pale and soft, probably from hours behind the desk telling others what to do. He cleared his throat several times, and looked at his feet self-consciously. What a place to try to pick up. Oh well, if you got lucky, at least you’d know what to expect later. A skinny girl with dreadful acne on her chin and neck hovered at the edge of the group. She was swathed in black layers, with pants that drain piped her thighs but bagged around her ankles. I’d never liked that look, and the pigeon toed, shuffling walk that went with it. I always think the person is in imminent danger of tripping over.

A solid, shorthaired woman in her mid thirties with a slightly impatient air was standing near an anxious looking younger man in jeans. She gave a cursory nod then looked away whenever he spoke to her. I’ve heard that looking past people when talking to them means you want to be somewhere else. Well, no one dragged her here. The young man was quite ordinary except for his stance; hunched with hands jammed in pockets so hard it’s a wonder he hadn’t torn the bottoms out.

And there was me. When I’d put the notice in the community pages of the paper, I was only half serious. I didn’t think any one would come forward, and here were six of us. I squared my shoulders and cleared my throat loudly to call the meeting to order. The others slid into their seats while I stood at the head of the table.
“Welcome to the inaugural meeting of TA,” I began. “Perhaps we could start with introductions, a brief history of your problem, and what you have tried so far to control it.” I took my place and glanced around enquiringly.

The businessman took the cue, “I’m Stephen. I’ve been doing it forever. It only really became a problem when I moved into my current position, which is quite high-pressure. Before that I could control it.” He took a breath. “I’ve tried all the usual methods to stop, even hypnosis, but I can’t. That’s why I’m here.”

The impatient woman stood. “I’m Anne. I’m a nurse and you’d think that in itself would stop me doing it. So far, nothing has worked, even the rubber band on the wrist to sting myself whenever I want it. I hope coming here isn’t another waste of time.” She sat abruptly.

Mr Average with the pocket problem spoke up. “I’m Tony. I’ve tried all sorts of things, from cognitive-behavioural therapy,” this occasioned a few interested murmurs, “to chemicals. I always find a way to do it, even though I hate myself for it. This is my last hope”

“I’m Jen,” the Bombshell. “I know this sounds bad, but I just really love doing it. No one worried much when I was younger, they just let me go, and now I’m not sure I can stop. Or even if I want to. But I’m getting married next year and my fiancĂ©e says I can’t do it anymore.” Sympathetic looks all round.

“I’m Vanessa,” Girl in Black. “I do want to stop. I’ve got enough problems without this stupid habit. I feel like a freak.”

I stood, “Thank you, every one. I’m Evan, as most of you know. I didn’t really think anyone would come, but I’m really glad you all did. If we achieve nothing else, at least we know we’re not struggling with this alone.” I looked at each face – sullen, impassive, eager, dubious, thoughtful.

“I think I came out of the womb doing it, and I do it every chance I get. Like Jen, I enjoy it, but also, like the rest of you, it causes problems in my life. I too feel like a freak, Vanessa, and hate myself, like Tony.” I nodded at each of them. “I do it when I’m stressed, when I’m tired, lonely, sometimes even when I’m hungry.” Someone snorted with suppressed laughter. “Part of me believes I’ll never stop, but I really want to try. That’s why I created the twelve step program based on AA principles and started this group.” A few nods. “If alcoholics can do it, drug addicts, over eaters and sex addicts, why can’t we?”

Stephen raised his glass, “Here here.” The others murmured in agreement, and Jen smiled and gave the thumbs up. “Here’s to Thumbsuckers Anonymous,” she said.

Gloria Moress ©

THE ANTIPODEANS by Marion de la Croix

(August's assignment was set by Gloria who selected an opening sentence onto which we must add our own 500 or so words to create a work of either fiction or non-fiction. The opening sentence reads:
"The lot of us met on Saturday afternoon as arranged.")

100 kilometres South West of Nairobi, Kenya

The following is a translation from the Massai language

The lot of us met on Saturday afternoon as arranged.
Abbasso swung down from the fever tree and nearly flattened Warty who had paused to scratch a flea that had niggled persistently in his armpit for the last twenty lopes.
‘Watch it mate’ the warthog growled to the Baboon.
‘Who’s snitchy today didn’t she come across last night then?’ Abbasso retorted, delighted to have touched a nerve.
Warty ignored Abbasso found the flea and crunched delightedly between his incisors.
‘You looked so funny Abbasso when you landed on Warty’s head’ giggled Chichi from behind the safety of Nzinga’s bulk.
‘Shut up vervet,’ Abbasso snarled.
‘Now now,’ roared Zhinzhi ‘lets have some order this is an important meeting.’
The rest of the animals formed a circle round the lion but Chichi kept her the hippo between her and Abbasso.
‘I’ll start. Who told you the kangaroos were coming Zhinzhi,’ an Impala called out
‘No one. I saw them I up near the border when I visited my cousin last week.’
‘How could they have reached inland so quickly?’
‘Have you seen how fast the bloody things hops? Wouldn’t be surprised if they made an appearance today.’
Alarmed everyone looked around.
‘Surely not Zhinzhi?’
‘I can tell you this. I watched them flee without a pause for a single hop before they disappeared over the horizon.
Gasps and cries of wonderment echoed round the clearing.
‘None of us can keep up such a pace for so long,’ muttered Nzinga.
‘Will they attack?’ Taglio asked then spotted a juicy blow fly close by, shot out his tongue retracted it and gulped.
‘Shit where has that one been?’ he grimaced.
He coughed aware he had everyone’s attention now and revelled in it.
‘You rotten chameleons, trust you to only think of your stomach even at a time like this,’ growled Titi.
‘I have to. You zebras are lucky everywhere you look there’s grass but I have to grab my food on the run.’
‘Tsk’ tutted the zebra haughtily and nudged her foal closer.
‘I say,’ said Mbobo from his elevated height amongst the acacias. ‘Can we please stick to the important issues?’
He wiggled his ears to chase a far too friendly tickbird from between his tufted horns.
‘I agree,’ said Zhinzhi.
‘Right first of all I cannot answer your question Taglio. If they do arrive I suggest we unite and approach them. They wouldn’t daren’t attack such a grand gathering as ours and we might be panicking for no reason.’
Overhead Mabili flapped his wings and screeched a warning.
‘Enemy approaching from the west!’ he cried and continued to ride the currents but kept an eye on the strangers.
Zhinzhi padded out of the clearing and gazed into the afternoon sun.
‘It’s them and they’re heading this way!’ he cried. ‘See what I mean they are constantly on the move.’
Everyone pushed and shoved eager to get a glimpse of the strangers.
‘Wow look at them go!’
‘They’re red!’
‘And they’ve got long tails!’
‘Look at their funny shape and they’re heads are only small!’
Suddenly everyone became aware of a thudding underfoot and felt threatened.
‘Calm down everyone!’ shouted Zhinzhi.
‘But they look like they’re on the attack’ screamed Juju.
‘What all of us at once don’t be such a fool hyena!’
‘Well I have to admit they couldn’t kill us all at once,’ he simpered.
The strange animals slowed and stopped about twenty lopes distance then propped on their behinds with their tiny feet tucked neatly into their chest. They showed no fear.
‘G’day,’ the smaller one called out.
Taken aback by the strange language Mbobo, due to his lofty appearance he took charge, stepped forward.
‘I beg your pardon?’ he asked.
The smaller kangaroo shook its head and looked at its partner.
‘Jeez Bluey I don’t understand their lingo.’
‘Its Massai Matilda I learned some when we were in the circus from the baboon.’
Bluey turned to the giraffe and hesitantly spoke in Massai
‘G’day hallo.’
‘Oh I see um.. I see you kangaroo,’ Mbobo said
‘I see you? What kind of a greeting is that mate?’ inquired Bluey.
‘It is our way.’
‘Strewth sounds weird to me anyway.’
‘What are you doing here?’ interrupted Zhinzhi.
‘Us well it’s like this mate we escaped from the Circus Oz.’
Everyone gasped. They had heard about circuses, evil places where men kept animal in tiny cages.
‘I’m so glad you escaped,’ whispered Chichi, ‘you can run free here with us.’
Bluey bent and peeped between the legs of the larger animals
‘G’day and who are you little one?’ he asked
‘I’m Chichi and I’m a Vervet.’
‘Oh well I’m called Bluey and this here,’ he turned to his partner, ‘is Matilda.’
‘Bluey!’ roared Zhinzhi, ‘but you’re red.’
‘Yeah mate anyone with red hair in Australia where we come from is called Bluey didn’t youse know that?’
Bluey scratched his head, smiled and looked round.
‘Youse’ all so friendly I could like it here.’
‘HERE!’ roared Zhinzhi.
‘Yep mate.’
Zhinzhi looked round the group.
‘I sorry but we must discuss this amongst ourselves before we can allow you to take up residence here.’
‘But were real friendly mate, we only eat grass seeds and berries and wouldn’t hurt a fly.’
‘They can stay,’ smiled Taglio happy to hear his fly supply was not threatened.
‘I agree.’
A chorus of voices echoed round the clearing.
Matilda smiled, glanced at Bluey then reached into what looked like her stomach and pulled out a miniature version of them both. Gasps of wonderment especially from the mothers rang round the assembly.
‘Thank you everyone. This is Joey.’

Marion de la Croix ©


(August's assignment was set by Gloria who selected an opening sentence onto which we must add our own 500 or so words to create a work of either fiction or non-fiction. The opening sentence reads:
"The lot of us met on Saturday afternoon as arranged.")

The lot of us met on Saturday afternoon as arranged. I’d been waiting for this for a long time. Now at last I was old enough to join the rest of the devotees, for that’s how I think of us – devoted to a cause.

Of course every young man in this community thinks that one day they’ll be invited to join the others. They check you out first of course. Find out whether your like-minded. I am. Always have been.

I know there’s a lot of bad press about us. Scathing pieces in the newspapers and so on. I don’t think they realise that we have lots of influential people in our group. Pillars of the community – doctors, lawyers and so on, as well as the ordinary folk, the truck drivers, the labourers. Doesn’t matter what you do, if you feel strongly about this matter you’ll be accepted into the group.

So I went along. A few of the older guys came up and shook my hand. They looked me straight in the eye and asked if I was up for it. Up for it! I was trembling with anticipation, wondering what it would feel like, how it would be to finally do something about this problem. To make my mark.

I hoped our efforts today would have a result. We had our target picked – that much I knew. It was a short walk, all of us together, feet and hearts beating as one. I liked the idea of a uniform too. All white, pristine – clean looking, somehow. I’m not too worried about the anonymity aspect really – but the older, wiser heads say that it’s a good thing. I don’t know … some part of me wanted to be recognised. It would have been great to have people who aren’t in these hallowed ranks come up and say ‘good on ya – I’ve wanted to do that for a long time’.

So, now here I was – amongst my heroes, in a long white robe. I’m the one fifth back from the burning cross in the photo which was in the local paper. When the trial started – murder was the charge – that photo went all over the world.
Odd, isn’t it – my first Saturday afternoon meeting, and unlucky enough to be caught in what they say was ‘the most brutal attack this Southern state has seen in many years’. I can still hear the older men, my heroes, my role models, cheering me on, and I can still feel that excitement as I went at the enemy. But that’s the trouble, isn’t it – most people don’t seem to understand about the enemy. I’ve known about it ever since my daddy told me. He’s in the photo too.

You can see that I’m not used to the tall pointed white hood as I’ve put my hand up to steady it. And my hand is slightly covering the three initials emblazoned on it. The three important initials – in my mind the three most important initials in the world. The next hood I’ll wear, so they tell me, wont be a white one, and no initials this time – just something to hide my face as I’m sent to my Maker.

© Nelma Ward

DE MORTUIS by Brian Hodgkinson

(August's assignment was set by Gloria who selected an opening sentence onto which we must add our own 500 or so words to create a work of either fiction or non-fiction. The opening sentence reads:
"The lot of us met on Saturday afternoon as arranged.")

The lot of us met on Saturday afternoon as arranged.

It was a stinking hot day, and most of us were grossly overdressed for the weather. Convention, however, demanded it.

Under the formal tight smiles and nods of greeting, we assembled around the open grave.

Even the freshly excavated earth was dry and crumbly under the baking sun.

There was very little shade or shelter from the heat – such trees as there were grew round the very edge of the cemetery, not in the middle among the graves, of course. His children were both there, naturally – they couldn’t risk not being seen on such an occasion.

And their respective spouses – damned hypocrites.

Hadn’t seen or heard from any of them for years, and yet here they were, almost panting in their anxiety not to miss out on hearing what had been left to them.
Plus all his old cronies from the pub.

I could overhear their remarks.

“Can’t have expected anything else. Not at his age. Not considering the amount he put away. Well, he hadn’t anything else to do, had he? Not with that sour old puss of a wife he had.”

I pretended that I couldn’t hear them.

His lawyer was there as well – wearing a synthetic sympathetic smile.

Another hypocrite.

Probably calculating his commission as executor.

Why wasn’t I the executor?

He never trusted me.

“Women know nothing about money,” he used to say “they’re only fit for cooking and children.”

Damned Teutonic outlook - kirche, kuche, kinder.

But I served him and tended him for all those years, didn’t I?

The hearse, at last.

And the parson.

Why did they ever imagine that the parson would help him?

He never attended the church, was always scathing in his remarks about it.

But there you are.

Word, words, words.

And then the coffin was lowered, and the rattle of sunscorched earth on the lid.

And the same synthetic smiles and hypocritical words of condolence.

And that was it.

And that was the end of it.


And then the house, empty and echoing despite all the children and cronies echoing in the empty spaces.

And the formal obligatory drink.

And the lawyer saying the formal, expected words.

Just as they had expected – everything for “his beloved wife”.

And their tight smiles as they piled into their expensive cars and drove away.

And then the silence.

But I still miss him.

And I am lonely, for all that.

Brian Hodgkinson ©

MOYA by Marion de la Croix

(The assignment was to describe an object so the emotional state of the narrator (point of view/character) is revealed without telling the reader what the emotional state is or what motivated the "said" state.)

The thorn imbedded deep in his toughened sole. His foot had swollen to three times its normal size and coupled with a soaring temperature he felt disorientated. Unable to progress another pace Moya crawled into the shade of a nearby acacia. His village lay in the distance and although he surveyed the mountainside through eyes unfocused with age, he saw no one he could summon. His emaciated body was powerless to fight the fever and he sensed he only had a few hours before death carried him over the horizon.

He lay down and his eyes misted over. He sighed and closed them, in preparation for his progress along the death avenue his ancestors had forecast by the drawings on the cave walls. Each man, so the proverb went, could decide on their own reincarnation.

Moya opened his eyes and just as he had imagined, the avenue wound ahead amongst a backdrop of clouds. He soared slowly above the pathway like a dove, pain and fever dispersed and the natural desire to breathe fell away. He allowed his senses to diminish with every wing flap. Nothingness enveloped him and like the butterfly he venerated, he had become cocooned in its chrysalis of suspended animation.

Without regret, he thought of his new wife Shana barely fifteen and sixth in his harem. Now the women could argue amongst themselves without his admonition.

Life withdrew and left a rack of bones and desiccated skin. In his ultimate vision he saw his remains fall away and his soul emerged into the butterfly.

Marion de la Croix ©


(The assignment was to describe an object so the emotional state of the narrator (point of view/character) is revealed without telling the reader what the emotional state is or what motivated the "said" state.)

The oldest house in that little bush township was a squat bluestone cottage of primitive design built by craftsmen from the Old Country. It had observed the past hundred plus years through the two windows that peered out from under its low front verandah; I ducked under the apricot tree on the north east as I walked around to the back yard.

I had discovered the old mulberry tree the previous spring, and now parted the canopy and disappeared beneath it. The late afternoon sunlight filtered down through the large, lime green leaves. Low branches hid me from view and arched out to form a cave full of translucent light; black twisted twigs, partly obscured, held clusters of ripening fruit. Each bunch of berries varied in colour from pink, to red, to deep purple...they glowed in the sunlight like individual arrangements of precious jewels, but the couple of prized juicy, ripe black ones were the only ones to pick.
Very few went into the bowl I held.

Jan Lowing ©

THE CAR by Gloria Moress

(The assignment was to describe an object so the emotional state of the narrator (point of view/character) is revealed without telling the reader what the emotional state is or what motivated the "said" state.)

We bought the car when I was about 36 weeks pregnant, because we both had utes. I was shown two to test drive: a red Camry and a white Falcon. I chose the Camry. We bought the Falcon. That was nearly seven years ago. It hasn’t been looked after at all. The paintwork is marred with trolley scrapes and stone chips, and there are dull patches on the bonnet where the cats sleep. The headlight protector that remains is cracked – better that than the headlight itself, I suppose, but it looks dreadful. The other day my youngest son snapped off the front passenger sun visor. He was terrified of my reaction, but I didn’t have much to say, besides, “Don’t worry, accidents happen.” My older son peeled half the tint film off his window to amuse himself on our last long car trip. It kept him quiet.

There are cigarette burns in the carpet, all though my husband is not supposed to smoke in the car, but you can hardly see them under the dirt, gravel and chaff on the floor. The seat upholstery is stained and the dash is covered in a layer of dust. There is a muddy footprint on the console, too, and cobwebs in the corners of the rear windscreen.

The CD player hasn’t worked for eighteen months. I think there is a ten-cent piece in it. I don’t mind the radio, but you can’t always get reception. I was driving a friend somewhere back in March and she pointed out that one of the shockies had gone, it was just another noise to me. I know it needs a steering alignment; the shudders at 100km/hr are pretty obvious.

Today as I wound down the window to get the mail, the window just stuck, halfway, refusing to wind in either direction. Of course we are in the middle of a rainy spell, and I can’t get in to the garage because of all the junk. Never mind. I’ll tell my husband when he comes home for lunch.

Gloria Moress ©


The assignment was to describe an object so the emotional state of the narrator (point of view/character) is revealed without telling the reader what the emotional state is or what motivated the "said" state.)

The damage isn’t severe, you would have to look twice to even see it, but it’s more about what it says. The curved crack in the brakelight reflector appears to be sneering; it’s saying ‘You are getting in everyone’s way, no wonder someone ran into the back of you.’

Who wants to hear that from a piece of cheap plastic?

If only it was cheap! The slightest cosmetic change to the lights and reflectors justifies the magic word NEW in television commercials. The ‘new Mk IV’ or the ‘New Phase5’ look only slightly different to previous models – but that suffices.

It means my brakelight reflectors went out of production three face-lifts ago. The local garage will have to contact the manufacturer for a replacement. It could be hard to locate, there will probably be a delay and it will definitely be expensive. Anyone would think it was from a rare hand-built luxury car instead of a mass-produced model of Japanese mediocrity.

The latest fashionable reflectors are moulded red plastic of course, just like the old ones. Every car requires them so why can’t they be standard items – and cheap – like number plates? Why does everything have to change?

Dave Wellings ©