Sunday, 28 February 2010

Magpie Tales 3 - Death by Duster

Number three in the Magpie Tales series. a weekly challenge put out by Willow of Life at Willow Manor. Visit her site or the Magpie Tales site to follow the writers who quest to respond to her prompts.

Death by Duster

Holy shit. That could kill a man.
Suddenly I'm sitting bolt upright in bed. I'm shaking with fear. I can see the dull weapon flying across the room.

My recurring nightmare has struck again. Not the one where I'm constantly trying to repair the huge decaying house I have bought sight unseen on the edge of a cliff with the sea raging far below and washing away the foundatiuons at the same time; not me flying out my window and skidding across the sky under a full moon, soaring and diving and flashing over rooftops; this is the one where I've killed a man, or more to the point a boy.

It's my first year as a teacher. They've given me grade four. I'm in a double classroom with another first year teacher whose classroom management is brutal. He's a bikie with a long ponytail reaching down to his waist. He rides a huge Moto Guzzi, all gleaming metal and growl voiced. I'm riding my motorbike to school too. It's a Czechoslovakian single cylinder Jawa. It goes ping ping. It never growls. I have long hair too but it's ratty and unkempt. I am skinny he is muscled.

His class sit quietly as he teaches maths by the book, from the book. I'm more free flowing. I engage the children in creative play. There are photos to prove it. Images of nine year olds standing on desks, crawling over desks, crawling under desks. At the distance of many years the memory is misty. Could the climbing and crawling have perhaps been chaos, the tyrrany of children over the inexperienced teacher.

'Sir's got a hairy sausage' says Ritchie, my least favourite classmember. I'm rattled. I haven't got a response to that. Could be I am tempted to confirm this but I am a first year teacher and banter about sexual organs is not encouraged. Craig is stabbing the desk with his compass, Madonna is combing her hair, Louise is cuddling her toy pony. I'm trying to teach maths too. Tables to be exact. Ritchie has taken to pinching objects from desks around him and hiding them in his tidy box. His head is buried under his desk for minutes on end. At the end of my tether I respond. Turning from the blackboard I lob the duster in my hand towards Ritchie. The intention is for it to land on his desk and frighten the little bugger so I can get his attention and be one up on him. Instead I have miscalculated my throw. The duster has a thick wooden base. I'm used to the fully felted type. My throw has exceeded its intended trajectory and I watch it sail through the air in slow motion and crack Ritchie on the temple. I hear the noise, like a hammer cracking a macadamia nut. A neat conk followed by a dull thud as the duster finally reaches its preferred destination, the desk.

Ritchie is howling. I can see the lump growing from his skull moment by moment. I am willing it to stop. He already has a big head. He's turning into a monster before my eyes. 'I'm going to tell my mother on you' he screams at me. He will too. 'You go right ahead Ritchie. Tell her I'd love to talk to her about your behaviour'. I'm desperately trying to get the upper hand over this nine year old. I'm shaking. The class is silent save for the sound of sobbing. And the bell rings,

The nightmares begin that night. I can't sleep. I have a mixture of replays and preplays running through my head. The preplay is Mrs Ritchie marching to the headmaster's office demanding I be sacked for maiming her son. The replay gets more and more dramatic, the lump bigger and bigger. Blood gushes.

I'm in the classroom next morning putting the day's maths tables test on the blackboard and I see this woman marching across the playground. I've never met Ritchie's mum but I know it's her. She has his stocky build. She looks fierce. The shaking starts again, deep in my stomach. I feel like dry reeching. I move to greet her at the door, a jumble of possible scripts running through my head. I cut her off before she can enter the battle zone. 'Good morning' I say, smiling with my mouth but fear etched in my eyes. 'Hello' she says. Here it comes. I'm dead I'm sure. The bruising, the bump. there's no way I can explain it as an accident. My career over before it's begun.

'I've come about Ritchie's hat. He seems to have misplaced it'

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Magpie Tales 2 - Obsession

Magpie Tales 2

In 2009 southern Australia experienced a week of fires unprecedented in our recent history. Many lives were lost, whole townships razed, families devestated by tragic loss of partners children, siblings. Months later arson charges are being laid against one of the brave band of volunteer fire-fighters who risk their lives to save others.


Mesmerised by
flare, flicker, flame, danger.

Mesmerised since
the first
the devil
captured his soul
took him to
the hill
showed him the
power the
voracious greed.

flames burn inside
his eye
fire lives inside
his head
in oranges and yellows and blood reds

a primitive power
a world beyond that moment
the spark
of life
engulfs him.

its name
into his
no embrace
can satisfy
the craving.

his passage
to omnipotence.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Willow = Magpie Tales

Early morning light slips

through the gaps in curtain folds creeps

past exotic arms curving seductively posing

in an exhibition of pride daring

rays to pass by my shimmering presence drawing

them to me

I am sun I am shine

I am the centre of attention.

Part of Magpie Tales a Willow inspired piece of writing

Sunday, 14 February 2010


I turned 60.
Thanks for the cake Loani.
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Saturday, 13 February 2010

Turning 60.

Turning 60 is all that's it's cracked up to be. Suddenly everything makes sense. Maturity descends miraculously; memory of events long past crystallise; old friends become recognizable again;

In reality just another day older.

In denial? No .

Years ago I ran a workshop with seniors aged from 60 to 85. They amazed me. I asked them two questions. How old are you? How old do you feel? Invariably they all placed themselves around the early thirties.
I agree with them. I'm still feeling about thirty two.

My theory is that around about that age it all begins to come together. You're no longer a kid. You sense you know something about life and you go for it.
For me it was becoming a father, starting a theatre company, feeling confident enough to front up to seriously important funding bodies (Australia Council etc) and surviving. I know a lot more now but at that time I knew I knew enough to have a go. And let go some of the self doubts. I've let go a lot more in the subsequent 28 years particularly over the last 10 years.

Fifty was good. Sixty is even better!
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Sunday, 7 February 2010

That Ordinary House 18 TV Dinners

The Brillman’s had been rare visitors to our house. It was at their place that we seemed to find ourselves on Sunday evenings. Eight of us would squeeze into a TV room the size of a large bathroom. The Brillmans had two children who were of little interest to my brother and I. We didn’t remember their names, having to be rehearsed each visit on the sullen drive between Morningside and Camp Hill.

The TV was the magnet. My parents had decided that there would be no distractions in our house until our studies were finished. Despite the ten years of deprivation and the resultant experience of being unable to join in any of the popular theme songs sung in the playground, we never complained. There was always the holiday respite, where we became fixtures in the living room of our playmates over the back fence. As a result the Brillman’s on a Sunday night was bearable if not scintillating.

Mavis Brillman was not unattractive. Her husband Neil, on the other hand, was a man with a nose to rival Jimmy ‘snozzle’ Durante. Our own family was noted for its honkers or ‘roman nose’ as we chose to romanticise it, but Mr Brillman’s was of Pinocchio proportions. Perhaps Mrs Brillman had a fetish for honkers and took a fancy to my father’s to add to her collection of Italian beaks. Perhaps she subscribed to the theory of the nose as an indicator of size in other aspects of a man – his personality, his income, his …… well I was too young to imagine any connections at all. Perhaps she just took a fancy to my father.

We never found out.

The carving knife outburst was followed by lengthy hushed conversations between my parents interspersed with tears and angry outbursts accusing my father of things I didn’t understand and in a code I couldn’t decipher. Noses were never mentioned.

“How could you?” What about my feelings?” “What, in god’s name did you think was going to happen?”

There seemed no likely resolution to their pain or ours when, out of the blue my mother made the phone call. It turned out to be a brilliant tactical move. Consciously or unconsciously she managed to resolve each of the party’s positions. First she accused ‘the other woman’ of concocting the whole thing. In my mother’s version Mrs B had invented the story to humiliate her big nosed husband for some serious flaw in his personality or a major misdemeanour hinting that it was he who had strayed and Mrs B was using this story to punish him.

Father was off the hook since, in this version, he was the falsely accused. My mother, having convinced herself of Mrs B’s total lack of integrity could redirect her anger away from My father and towards her ‘not unattractive’ competitor. Mrs B could back down and withdraw her accusation against her husband’s smaller nosed work colleague and humbly forgive her husband for something he had never done. My father chose to say no more. Wisely.

And as to the ultimate fate of Mr B, who may have been the only innocent party in the whole fiasco, I can tell you no more.

We never enjoyed another Sunday night TV movie until, three years later, our year 12 studies completed, my father relented and TV came to our house.

It was soon after this that my father announced that he’d decided to move on from the stress and pressure of the travelling sales representative’s life and gently slipped off to join the PMG as a postman. For the last ten years of his working life he pedalled his red postie’s bike around the suburbs of Stones Corner chatting to his customers – a group of lovely ‘older’ ladies on his daily run.