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Saved by His Feathers – J.K. Leahy Short Story


Saved by His Feathers – J.K. Leahy short story

The proud one. JK.Leahy picture.©

His large pinkish feet were now pale scaly claws clasped in two tight fists at the end of the stiff body. All that was left of his proud behind was a featherless grey butt. It could have been a packed frozen turkey from Coles Supermarket, if we didn’t own a large rooster. Nothing was left of the tall proud white-streaked black feathers that lined and neatly covered his tail. The rooster loved to shake this tail and flap his wings before it tried to mount every hen we had in the pen.

Looking at what looked to be a corpse in front of me last Monday, I thought of the soft warm fuzzy black chick that had just hatched. My son Chris bought him and the hen at our local produce store near Brisbane five years ago. We thought we were raising layers until the black chick started acting weird, bullying the other chickens and making funny sounds that sounded like crows. It didn’t take him long to fine tune the crow and go for the hens.

Teaching the young a thing or two. JKLeahy picture.©

The late afternoon sun caught his morbid shape on the garden mound. I searched for movement. The dogs were barking madly. Stretched out, eyes shut and one battered wing hugging crudely to a large concrete brick as if hanging on to what was left of his life, my only thought was death. I turned him over. Lifeless.

I let out a cry and swung my piece of house timber at the two barking boxers as I tried to get them off the other chickens. The dogs, belonging to a neighbour, one black and the other white, had brought the rooster down so quickly and went for the others before I reached them from the house. There were wet feathers on the lilies, the wisteria and succulents, intertwined in the tall green grass, and the chicken coop wire. My obscenities, threats and timber swinging finally chased the dogs into the bushes behind the house and out towards the main road.

A feathery mess.

I picked up the rooster. He was cold and lifeless. Being the middle of winter, I tucked him quickly into my warm hoodie and cried while I called out for the hen who was still missing. The other two roosters seemed shaken but unscathed. Knowing that sometimes when dogs kill for fun, they could drag the carcase of their kill somewhere and leave them. I wasn’t sure of the hen’s fate, but at that moment, my son Chris arrived from work.

As I was calling for the hen, I could feel the rooster moving under my arm. I asked Chris to bring a towel to wrap the rooster and sent him after the dogs to find out whose dogs they were. I raced upstairs to clean the rooster’s wounds and stop the bleeding. I took the antiseptics and thoroughly brought out the bloody mess and noticed the bleeding punctures on the rooster’s back in three places.

Chris followed the dogs across our street and checked their tags and rang the neighbour to tell them about the incident. They lived directly opposite and across the road. Then, we drove to the Bellbowrie vet.

At the vet, the rooster’s breathing almost failed again. Chris reminded me to be prepared that he was old, and the vet may want to euthanize him to end his misery.

“I feel he will be okay”, I said to Chris.

Then the rooster made a lot of noise and trembled in my arms. There were three dogs barking from inside the vet kernel and two dogs waiting in the vet’s reception. I hid the rooster under my jumper again and kept in the corner, although I felt like leaving because I could sense, the dogs’ presence was too distressing for the old chicken. I wasn’t sure how to block his ears. Sensing the discomfort, the nurse called the vet and he ushered us inside and away from the dogs.

The vet pointed to the three deep punctures on the roosters back where most of the feathers were chewed off and blood was still coming out. I described the attack and the vet was shocked that the rooster was still fighting for its life then.

“Did he have large thick feathers?

“Yes, on his back, but not anymore”, I said.

“He is very lucky; his feathers saved him”, the vet said. The vet fully examined the rooster and gave him pain-killer and an antibiotic shot.

“He is very strong and he has a full gut. That is enough feed to keep him alive for a few days”, the vet said and smiled.

“How old is he – he is big?”

“Nearly five years old”.

“He is definitely a size 30” the vet said laughing.

A size 30 is a 3-kilogram bird, that I knew. I smiled.

“He is very healthy; I think your rooster is going to live – keep him warm and inside for a few days.”

I thanked the vet as he warned that the dogs could return, now that they have had a taste of blood.

“They think they’ve killed the rooster, but they know you have other chickens”, he said.

Where the bites were. I think the rooster would be upset if he knew I stole this shot of his tail.

The rooster slept in our house last night, woke this morning and had some porridge and gave me a dirty look so I gave him some chicken food – top layer mesh. He has been good all day and his wounds are scabbing nicely. He cannot use his feet yet, but he tried to stand a few times and crowed twice very loudly before he fell over. He wouldn’t let the younger rooster crow while he was recovering.

“Baby steps mister”, I said, but the rooster just gave me one of his ‘looks’.

In his sick bed and giving me one of his looks this morning.

Things My Mother Obsesses About – Story


Obsession JK. Leahy memoir

The kitchen in Bellbowrie house was marvelous. It’s Wednesday today, but the kitchen also looked marvelous on Tuesday and Monday.  I simply wanted to make chicken soup tonight, but I was afraid to dismantle this piece staring at me.

I looked at the stacked white cups, plates, and silver bowls that made this strange beautiful body and then the cutlery that made its arms and legs. Each item was part of another. It was a tidy dishwasher look without all the sections, except it was arranged to come together as one piece. If I had built a kitchen sculpture like that myself, it probably would have already unraveled when I got to stacking the spoons and the forks. And right now, if I tried to remove one cup or spoon to use, the rest would come crashing down like a dismantled sculpture. My son Nathan washed our dishes sometimes, but this was not his work of art – it was clearly my mother’s. My mother is obsessed about cleanliness and obviously tidiness. She has her own unique way of doing it.

Our kitchen has been so clean and different in the past six weeks since my mother has been with us in Brisbane that I’m inspired. I made a promise to myself; I could live up to this new expectation after she leaves. May be I could cut down on writing, art, a job, the garden, birds…It was not that we lived in a dirty house, but when my mother does something, especially cleaning, she takes it to a higher level, and makes you feel really good about it.

I could not have made this kitchen any cleaner in the past five years. Mother was not only obsessed with cleanliness, but getting any job done. Her gardening was the same and she began early and worked long hours. She was determined to clean the whole area and I reminded her some parts of our place was meant to be bushy for the animals. My siblings had asked me to bring our mother away from PNG to rest – but you think she would listen to me – no. She loves working hard. She attributes her strict work ethics to her parents, nursing, and her early learning from the Germans and Americans after the war.

I was grateful for her help now, but I fear when her holiday ends, this kitchen would return to the way my sons always left it; filthy with empty containers, piled up dirty dishes, peeled purple onion shells and spilled beverages. I clean it but it was never easy to maintain that pristine state for more than two days.

I took out the thigh fillets and started making chicken soup for my mother, my younger son Chris and I. Nathan had cooked his own meals for nearly a year and since he started a special fitness programme.

Across from the kitchen, my mother was folding the clean washing. Her knitting was on the dining table, colourful and laid out in neat bundles of colours. Mother folded all our clean washing like the way a machine would have done. We did sit and tell stories while we folded, but I soon gave up folding with her because she tended to unfold and re-fold the clothes I folded. And, if I told her she wasted her time because the clothes were meant to be worn again, she just giggled and said she preferred they were ‘properly folded’.

As I watched the boiling pot of chicken soup, I pictured Mother laying out all her medical tools on the shiny trays and pushing them from ward to ward on her tall shiny trolley. She is staring ahead with her white cap and apron crisply ironed and sitting in the precise position on her green uniform. She walks with her head held high and exuding a presence of authority when all around her is turmoil. I wondered if anyone had ever messed up her display of shiny metal pieces on the trays when she was a nurse. I once asked and she told me – never!

I think Mother’s cleaning and folding obsessions started from the hospitals and later, H.C. Leo a Chinese clothing manufacturer in Port Moresby hired her to fold completed garments. She was so precise with her craft that customers thought the cellophane packed and sealed shirts were done by machines.

My mother’s dedication to what she loves doing is second to none.

(To my regular readers – I wrote this draft/story yesterday, a part of a longer piece for Isabel D’ Avila Winter and our last Creative Writing Workshop group next Tuesday in Kenmore). If you expected drama while reading this – well there is, but it is in the rest of this story in the memoir – thank you for reading).

Two Crows and a Slice of Bread


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A quick sketch of the two while they guarded their nest yesterday.

A high chorus of panic flooded into the lounge. I ran out to see what had bothered the chickens. Two crows sit on the grass and eat the top layer mesh. I was surprised. I had not seen crows here before. As I pulled the sliding door, the crows shot into the tall gum trees. Then they split and one stayed beyond the fence and kept talking to the other in the gum tree. It was only then, I realised they had built a nest. Over the weeks and months, one crow would venture into the backyard to snap bits of food. At one point there were three of them. Now the third had left. The remaining two worked in a team, one stayed at bay and talked loudly while one approached the house to shop. They both tended to keep their distance from any humans, but one was always braver.

And just like that, a confident thief in a black suit, one crow marched towards the house one hot day. I stayed in the kitchen and watched. Without touching the duck nor chickens’ food bowls, the crow came under the house and picked up a slice of bread and flew into the trees and over and beyond. I watched the crow circle above our property and my two neighbour’s houses and returned to our backyard where it met the second crow on an old gum tree.

On this spot, where the gum had lost all its leaves, the crows shared their slice of bread in silence while the chickens and the ducks watched. I believe the chooks were kicking themselves for missing that slice of bread.

A Storyteller


A Storyteller – Stories, Poetry & Art

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JK.Leahy Illustration, Jan 2016

A storyteller illustrates a story about a girl, her mother and a turtle.

As the graphite glistens like a medieval etching on stone, the crisp white paper grows pictures. The art dances and the images come together and get close in a circle.

The storyteller adds smiles on their faces; the story is going to have a happy ending.

But, as the three characters get closer during the shading, the storyteller accidentally gives the mother a tear. Another tear is added deliberately for balance. Then the storyteller gives the girl a tear, somewhat reluctantly. The storyteller’s eyes fill with tears.  She works faster as tears stream down her face. She begins to shade around the three characters. She cannot separate them. The storyteller is pulled into the circle, to the three characters. There is no separation. It is the law of nature. It is the law of memory and love. It is the law of characters that we love.

Garden Finds – What Is This Object’s Story?


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I have been slowly putting a collection of things I find in our garden together. These garden finds are only objects of my curiosity more than anything else. There are quite a few regular objects like an axe in the above picture and the knife below.  Every object has a story, just like people and places. We have lived in Bellbowrie house for over four years and the collection is slowly building up.

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Some of you may know I am a museum curator, so I tend to collect things and then I attempt to tell their story. However, even without my museum work, I am always curious to know the story about each of the things my sons and I find on the property. I have some stories to tell.

Recently however, I have been thinking that since I cannot research and find all the stories about each of my garden findings, I may write some short fiction instead. It sounds strange, but I have thought up some fiction you may want to read.

This month, I am busy writing for the NaNoWriMo, so hopefully, in December I will be freer to write some stories about my garden finds.

Let’s see what you make of these objects I have posted.  Please feel free to tell your story about these objects or make suggestions – unless of course, you know what the real story. If you do recognise of know some of the objects, such as the gun, then, you have to tell us.

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An old pistol, or is it real? It is quite heavy. Picture JK. Leahy©
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A newspaper from November 25, 1987. Picture JK. Leahy©

 

Amile’s Twins – Short Story


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Picture by Barbara W. Beacham

Mondays Finish the Story

Amile’s Twins – a short story by JK.Leahy

She lived a life that some would describe as being on edge. Amile rubbed the twins in her red Yves St Laurent  coat. She ‘borrowed’ the coat from her one-month-old employer. With minimum wage, Amile was desperate for money. She heard about a game at Vipers, a dingy bar downtown. The stakes were nice and high. Gambling left her habits after Lucas was born, but times were hard.

That night, as the game intensified, all players dropped out except for Snarky Joe and her.  Snarky was rumoured to kill at a drop of a hat.

Grandma Magda’s lucky twin coins made Amile fearless. As the dealer began, Amile winked at Snarky and raised all in. Snarky’s hungry eyes lavished her full honey glossed lips, high cheekbones and large brown eyes. His eyes couldn’t go beyond the poker table; instead, he held Amile’s gaze.

Revealing her win, Amile reached for the chips. Snarky pulled out a .22 calibre.

“I win,” he said.


Click on short stories on triblamysticstories blog, to read more 150 word short stories created for Mondays Finish the Story flash fiction.

The Huntsman On Watch – A Short Story


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The Huntsman On Watch – JK.Leahy© Pictures and Story

Early this evening about 5pm, I was putting away the chickens when I saw a white fluff rolling across the black plastic on the chicken pen at Bellbowrie, Queensland. I had covered the chicken pen with a thick plastic to protect them from the storm. The fluff strangely did not drop to the ground, but instead, it stayed on the plastic.

As I got closer, I’m not sure who was more surprised, me or it – the fluff ball. It was a Huntsman spider, the largest one I had ever seen. It sat firmly at the front, guarding the chicken pen like a watchman. It made a short quick move into position. Its eyes were shiny and I felt, it was watching my every move.

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I tried to drop a gum leap on it from the back, to scare it away. Who was afraid of a gum leaf? Not a Huntsman.

“With this incredible light, if you ain’t moving, I will shoot you”, I told it. I ran upstairs and grabbed my camera. When I returned, it was in the exact spot, next to the gum leaf. I dared not use a micro lens, things were hairy enough as it was. Besides, I had no intention of being up close or accidentally dropping my camera – in the event Mr Huntsman came for me.

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I pushed the house key next to the Huntsman cautiously with the yard rake, as spiders are known for their unpredictable moves.

“By the way – I am not giving you my house key”, I said.

It still did not move, but this gave me a good scale for my shot. I had no intention of killing it, I just wanted to put away the chickens and I did not want the chickens to eat the spider. So, after a few shots, I decided to do other things.

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Half hour later, I returned and the wind had blown off the gum leaf.  The spider was still in the same spot, so I gave the black plastic cover a jerk. And, as quick as the Huntsman appeared, it vanished.

Australian Huntsman spiders belong to the Family Sparassidae (formerly Heteropodidae) and are famed as being the hairy so-called ‘tarantulas’ on house walls that terrify people by scuttling out from behind curtains. – See more at: Australian Museum

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A Chill – Short Story


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Picture: Barbara W. Beacham

Mondays Finish the Story is a weekly flash fiction challenge by Barbara W. Beacham. Barbara provides the picture and the first sentence, and the challenge is to write a story of 100-150 words using the picture and the first sentence. Here is my story.

A Chill – JK.Leahy fiction

“Not knowing what to expect, he made his way into the dark of the forest.” Marcus chuckled to himself, setting off for his morning run. Sun pierced the thick canopy, casting gentle light on his usual track winding through the woods behind his house. He pulled his laces taut as he reminded himself to pick up Elle from her friend’s eighth birthday sleepover to leave her with her mother at ten. As he increased his pace, Marcus thought of his plans for the day, making a special note to pick up Elle.

His daughter had spent the night across town for her best friend’s 8th birthday, but this week she’d be at her mother’s place; Marcus’s ex-wife hated it when he was late. Exhausted, Marcus stopped in a clearing and greedily gulped down the fresh morning air, but despite the heat, he saw something that gave his blood a chill. Hanging from a noose was a rag doll dog with button eyes…his little girl’s dog…

The House Where Milkshakes Came From – Memoir


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Now run-down and abandoned, I visited the house that milkshakes came from two weeks ago when I was in PNG. A woman squatter ran out to my car and asked me why I was taking pictures. Lost in my memories, I ignored her.

The House Where Milkshakes Came From (Draft Chapter) – Memoir JK.Leahy©

We climbed the steps together –  mother and I.  This house was where we got the money for the milkshake. I will soon have strawberry milkshake. It would be made in a tall silver cup that became sweaty with the cold liquid. With the straw, I would suck and burst the milky strawberry bubbles in the froth at the top of the cup. This routine happened once a month. It was the time when I went to Top Town (Lae City) with Mother and drank strawberry milkshake while I sat on my stool in the milk bar and imagined I was somewhere else – only for a half hour or less, until I finished.

There were a few routines like that between Mother and I. Another routine was buying a new dress once a year, at Christmas, so we could dress up and sing carols while we watched Jesus being born in the manger at Ampo Lutheran church.

Our thongs were slapping on the varnish steps as we climbed. We were loud. The steps jiggled and jingled to our rhythm. I saw our dashing reflections, like fleeting shadows on the clean wooden steps. We were early so the steps had no muddy prints on them. While I pretended to laugh with Mother, I was nervous. The milkshakes tasted divine and nothing like I had ever imagined, but I felt we always needed to pass a test before I could have the milkshake. Mother never let me have sweets – any sweets. She said the milk in the milkshake was good for my teeth and bones.

I grabbed her arm as we reached the top and saw that the two white doors were opened. They are the Lae welfare offices. Aunty Amet sat with her back to the door. The Welfare house was busy today. Other people walked up and down the wide corridor, but she remained undisturbed at her desk. Aunty Amet was a senior welfare officer and was probably busy with another ‘case’, I had thought. She wore a white cotton blouse and a floral skirt. Mr Knoll was in the other room and his face was turned away too. Thank goodness, he did not see me, I told myself.

“Here she is!” I heard a loud singsong voice and turned to see who was giving me away. It was Aunty Hebei. Mr Knoll would know I was here. Miss Hebei looked a million dollars with her curly black hair rolled up in a bundle above her caramel face. Her skin was polished and glistened with touch of sunlight that entered the office. She was like a picture of a famous person. I remember thinking, if I had been older than my seven years, I would have asked her what she put on her face, and her skin. To me, she was closest to being a misus, white woman. She smelled nice, dressed very nice, spoke very good English and she was so beautiful. I knew she was not tall but her shoes made her look so tall. I could never stand on the shoes as tall as hers, but I admired how easy she stood and walked in those shoes – a large piece of wood with pretty straps that covered her delicate feet with painted toe nails.

I liked Aunty Hebei as much as I liked Aunty Amet. Only Aunty Amet was related to us, but mother insisted I called them both “aunty”.  These two women looked after my welfare case.

“Hello”, I mumbled quietly to Miss Hebei and slided on the varnish floors to the comforts of my mum’s side. I was afraid to hold a conversation with her, because she spoke so well. I could not trust my English and I preferred to watch her from the distance while she talked to my mother. She sat at her desk and smoked her cigarette daintily, and caring about where she dropped the ashes. She puffed and while staining the end of the smoke with blood lipstick, she blew white puffs into the air, only to fall back on her like a blanket of mystery. Many times, I thought, Aunty Hebei really was from a foreign exotic place.

“Are you seeing Mr Knoll or Amet?” Miss Hebei asked, with one side of her face smiling – knowing we would visit them both. Her lipstick, a deep red rose colour glistened against her perfect white teeth and her very short green silky skirt moved with her shapely body as she turned away and glided in her very high heels to Aunty Amet’s office.

“Guess who is here?”, she said leaning into the door. Aunty Amet turns to the door and breaks into a wide smile. She is very beautiful even without make-up. I asked my mother once and she told me that Aunty Amet was related to us through mother’s father – my grandfather Kauc. Aunty Amet hugged me and ushered mother and I into her office.

After some discussions with her, mother told me we would leave, but we needed to see Mr Knoll.

“Oh No!” I thought to myself, he would inspect my teeth and I have been chewing betel nut. I said goodbye to Aunty Amet and turned to my mother. “Tan-ning – Let’s go?” I asked mother in Bukawac and pulled her arm.

“Mr Knoll would be upset if we don’t see him, and besides, he already knows we are here,” mother said.

We crossed the wide timber corridor to Mr Knoll’s office.

“Freda!” he calls my mother with authority, as if he is making a roll call.

“Yes,” my mother says and breaks into a shy giggle.

“Mr Knoll yu orait?” she asks and keeps smiling.

Amet em tokim yu – tete, ino gat liklik wan siling? (Has Amet told you, today there isn’t a one shilling or we have not received the money). Mr Knoll has perfect pidgin, and the standard one could expect from an ex-kiap. He had worked for many years in many parts of PNG. He was originally from Germany.

I saw his expression and I knew, the milkshake money did not come. I watched mother’s eyes drop and she pretended the news was fine. I felt sad for her. No strawberry milkshake in that tall silver cup for me and we will have a longer walk back to the village. I felt sad.

“Em tokim mi na em orait” Mother replied – that Aunty Amet did tell her and it was fine.

Now, it was my turn. Mr Knoll turned his attention to me and stared at me, his blue-gray eyes checking every inch of my face. His face, red from sunburnt emphasised his large red mole on his top left lip. His silver hair was a sharp contrast and brushed with a curved blade across his brow.

“Come!” He spoke softly. How are you darling?” he said and tilted his head downwards with an inquisitive frown so his eyes got even bigger. He beckoned with his finger to go to him.

“Mi orait”, I smiled.

“English please”, he said sternly and tapped his knees for me to sit. He interviewed me about my life in the last month; since the last welfare visit. Then, he ordered me to open my mouth for the dental check.

 

 

The Cold Lazarus – Short Story


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Picture by Barbara W. Beacham

This is my contribution to Mondays Finish the Story. This flash fiction challenge requires up to 150 words excluding the first sentence provided by Barbara Beacham. Barbara also provides the image. This image inspired several stories, but I decided to go with this one. I hope you enjoy the story.

“The Cold Lazarus” – JK.Leahy short story

“Few knew about the castle hidden inside the island.” Jezebel climbed carefully over the fragile, sunburnt coral.

As her tender arches gripped for support, she reached out to push the hanging vines apart. Crushed coral dust and tiny pale branches fell off her feet and into the deep blue ocean a few metres below her. A boat approached. Beyond the gentle hum of the breeze, there was a splash in the creek at the opening. Jezebel hesitated before high strident, piercing screeches shocked her as a swarm of black scrawny bats flew at her, ruffling her wispy golden hair. She gasped for air. Suddenly, it dawned on her. The note on her window that led her here; was that really a note from James, her sweetheart? Or was it from Lazarus, James’ evil twin? Ice flooded her veins as she saw his towering, hefty silhouette come into view at the castle entrance. Where was James?