Hi friends, here is another 500-word short story I submitted (for fun) to the Fast and Furious Fiction with Queensland Writers’ Centre (QWC) Please comment if you enjoy reading it. Why did I use this plot? I have been following the turn of events in the Papua New Guinea politics when this prompt came out in QWC’s challenge and having worked in a political office in my past life – I couldn’t help but come up with this approach. I hope you enjoy having a chuckle.
The challenge in May was: the first word must have eleven letters. The story must have the words, “maybe, dismay, mayor, mayonnaise, and mayhem and at some point in the story, someone or something must be running.
Accommodate. We were all advised at Mayor Bob Rhode’s campaign office last week that every volunteer must accommodate any challenges – to ensure our favourite candidate wins the elections.
I pulled a salmon blouse over my denim skirt. I had volunteered to assist with campaign administration. I heard a knock. It’s nine o’clock on Friday morning, May 3. From the bedroom, the street looked deserted. Josh my husband was in construction – he often left a tool or his hard hat behind and rushed home to get it. I picked up toys on my way to the front door.
Mayor Rhodes, 50, was a happily married father of two who built special swimming pools for disabled children. He recently extended Bellbowrie’s Bucher Park for the community to take refuge from the rain. Our community loved him.
I opened the door and was surprised.
“Good Morning Mayor.”
“Did Jessica tell you I was coming?” he asked smiling. “You seem surprised?”
“Maybe… Jessica forgot.” I stumbled. Jessica Simmons was his secretary.
“Can I come in?”
“Yes, of course,” I said and led him to the lounge. “What’s this about?” I asked.
I’m 25. My 30-year-old husband told me that I was naïve. “Honey, men look at those blue eyes, your gorgeous breasts, and slender legs, because they want you. Be careful!”
The mayor wore a red sports jacket, his campaign T-shirt and casual slacks. He said he wanted to discuss some strategies for the campaign.
“You are a perfect campaign leader – a smart, young, and beautiful mum. Voters respond to that,” he said.
“Would you like coffee?” I interrupted.
I left to put the kettle on. A blue sedan, not the mayor’s official car, was parked metres away from our entrance on 55 May St. I was anxious. Our five-year-old Jessica was at school. After being at home for five years, Josh had suggested last week I volunteer in the Mayor’s campaign and learn new skills.
I returned to the lounge with coffee and biscuits. Mayor Rhodes had removed his jacket.
On the coffee table, he laid papers and a bottle of mayonnaise. He pointed and said my campaign area were marked with pink highlights. He stared at me and paused.
“Do you like mayonnaise?” he asked softly.
I sat down with his coffee.
“Yes, I like mayonnaise, but what’s that got to do with the election?”
He took the coffee and set it down, then he leaned forward and touched my hands – he was so close, I pulled my hands away.
He quickly rose and unbuttoned his slacks.
“It won’t take much time,” and as he looked in my eyes he said, “you are so beautiful Daisy, I couldn’t stop thinking about you since you walked into my office last week.”
I gaped at him with dismay. All I could see was the headline, “MAYOR MAYHEM ON MAY ST.”
Suddenly, a car screeched to a halt outside; footsteps were running towards us.
I have taken a very long blog holiday; the longest since I first started blogging four to five years ago. I have had several art projects I needed to complete and I needed to spend some time on my book, health, and my family. During this time, I’ve received wonderful emails from many of you. Thank you. These emails have deeply touched me, and made me feel that my writing on the tribalmystic blog means something to all of us. To blog daily will be difficult at this time, but I’m very happy to return and work at posting two to three articles, stories or documentaries and pictures per week and when I can.
Thank you so much for your patience and continued support. You being here with me and sharing our stories means a lot to me too. In my culture, we dance to celebrate important events – coming home to this blog is worth dancing, so above are a group of young ladies dancing in Palau. I took this photo over ten years ago, and especially like the bright tones in their skirts and dancing sticks.
To kick start the writing, I would like to share with you a short story. Some of you may recognise parts of this story from my writing (150 words) Mondays Finish the Story with Barbara W. Beacham in 2015. I have left a link at the end of the story for you. I built the tale from 150 words to 500 words for the Queensland Writers’ Centre Furious Fiction in April, but since I didn’t win, I can share it here. Let me know what you think. The rules were to use the following lines in dialogue.
“It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should, therefore, be treated with great caution.”
“It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should, therefore, be treated with great caution,” Joe said and placed two “candies” on the windowsill. I didn’t respond.
I sat where I could see the pink roses over the white fence. The neighbour’s little girl came out to play. She had bluish lilac eyes and sunshine hair – golden and full of light. She looked two or three, just like Rosie, if she were here with me.
The drugs, one blue and one red, may divert my headache, but not fix it. I didn’t want to argue with him anymore – it only ever turned ugly. But when Joe made poetry and philosophy out of his drug business, it sickened me. I was tired of it, and him. And I wanted my daughter.
Joe moved around the house and after a while, I smelt his garlic breath and stinky shoes.
“What’s it going to be then, eh?” His arm pressed mine to take the pills and he kissed my head. I had dreamt about Rosie and now became tearful. After two years in Johnson Mental Facility, I finally started to feel good again and hoped to see Rosie. I had not seen my baby since she was six months old and Child Services took her. Joe promised me we would see Rosie.
“You keep talking about Rosie, and you do nothing about it. Nothing! You sit at that window all day, every day, Cathy!”
He twisted the truth. He won’t help me find her.
“Oh, by the way, Jack is coming on the payroll. It’s great! He’s never done anything like this before,” Joe said, sounding like he was the model big brother.
“You shouldn’t force Jack into that crap, he’s only 16,” I lashed out.
“I didn’t. He said he needed money.”
“Really?” And that was all I had to say. It became a war.
Later, in hiding, I watched the police take Joe away. He would have calmed down, but only he and I knew that; not our new neighbours. If only Joe wasn’t shouting. This abandoned house was the safest so far in two weeks. We have moved ten times this year.
Today was very quiet. The sun warmed my scalp and shadows danced on my hands. My thoughts hurt my head.
“Ava! Ava! Where is your doll?” the little girl’s mother called.
Near the white fence were a lilac doll pantsuit and two doll hands. The roses matched her floppy hat and threw shadow creases over her delicate face. The toddler first ripped the doll’s head and legs, which she threw towards me. Ava had caught me watching her. She laid the doll arms and pantsuit down, and dropping the body, she ran to their house. My eyes salted, thinking how scary I must have looked to her. I need to leave before the Johnson Mental Health party arrives.
(A special tribute to some of the powerful women that influenced my life).
My line stretched beyond the width of the fat river. The water was slightly brown-greenish – you could see fish swimming under the surface. There were plenty. Debris from two other smaller river mouths came towards us and unfolded to the current that spread across the wider larger Socwa river. The 250gm nylon fish line pressed an unseen line on the glassy surface. We were in the swamps of Wagang Village, Lae, Papua New Guinea. I felt good my hook and bait was close to the other side. Maybe it will catch the big one.
It wasn’t a race between Ma Yang and I. It was a process of an apprentice with her teacher. And the apprentice in her final learning stages before graduation. The river had risen and covered the mangrove and pandanus roots and low-lying branches are now touching it. A mix aroma of wild tree flowers hung in the air, but the sweet pandanus penetrated the balance. With the deep current, yellow and peach awaho flowers flowed in a line that meandered through the low-lying branches like ballerinas in their fluff skirts. The flower centres popped out like mini umbrellas in deep maroon and gold flecks.
At eight, I was in primary school. But in my fishing years, I was ready to enter university, so we were there to start that course. This location is not for kids as my aunt would say.
“Only for those who are special” she said with a wink.
I knew my aunt had many secret fishing places. But if my mother knew Ma Yang had brought me here, my aunt would have been in trouble. Mother was mostly away and she would never take me to such places; she said “gaming sac” – meaning bad place, and they were full sorcery and other spirits lurking in the shadows.
My lead fishing teacher was beside me, and together we carried our old rice bags, roughly cut at one end and filled with bait (shrimps). The bait were all alive. We had a bush string each for our catch tied to the bag and dangled in the water. My teacher carried a knife. Sometimes we carried a roast banana or kaukau. Dry biscuits were okay, but they made too much noise when we snapped them with our teeth.
“We can pack them, but eat them on the beach after”, she said earlier this morning.
Ma Yang and I had planned this fishing trip for days. Yang yang means yellow in my mother-tongue, Bukawac. (Aunty Yellow was nicknamed “yellow” because of her skin colour).
Today the river swelled. Lup suc means the river had fattened with partially salt, debris and waste from rotting leaves, swamp and other fish life that would provide feed for the ‘kol pis’ in pidgin which means ‘cold fish’ – these are several breeds of swamp river fish.
I suddenly felt a tug and reeled in a cold fish. It was scaly like a python with brown green and bluish undertones. My aunt looked at me to say, ‘well done!”, but it’s all in the eye-talk.
The mosquitoes were biting, but the adrenaline from the fish bites created some tolerance to the annoying buzzing and bites. Sometimes without feeling the sting, when I took my eyes off the line, I saw mozzie bellies getting bloody and tight, then the mozzies would fall off and fly away. To constantly smack the mosquitoes meant an intrusion to the balance of the stillness, and the fish would move away.
“Mamang eng – be silence as Ma Yang often warned when we entered a sacred place. Every great fisherman knows that”. With the mosquitoes, she said if we put up with pain and irritation, we would truly master the art of fishing for cold fish.
I put some water on my brow to keep me cool. It was lovely under the trees but still hot. My next shrimp bait was peeled and neatly tucked over my earlobe like a cigarette – Ma Yang did the same.
We had travelled to this spot along the beach away from the village and deep into the swamp. Aunty Yangyang always picked a new spot for fishing, because she knew. I know she learnt it from her mother and my grandmother. My aunty’s mother was my grandmother’s sister. I was always excited at the anticipation of what mystery and beauty we would discover next and the fish we would catch there. My teacher never told me where we were headed next until we got there. That was part of the lessons – I had to pay attention to the land marks and work out how to get there on my own in the future. We used only shrimp baits for cold fish. We caught the shrimps the day before in a separate stream not far from our small village.
Travelling waist-deep through the wetlands and thorn bush, sharp objects, shell fish and branches and often stepping on kalum (thorn snail). This small snail is dangerous. Its tiny spikes broke off into your foot when you stepped on it. This often got infested, and can immobilise you weeks, if not dealt with early. It is funny because the word kalum also refers to ‘havoc’ in our language. The more difficult the journey, the more fish we caught, at least that’s how I saw it.
As my line raced across the flat surface, I pulled. Before I pulled out the fish from the river, there is a dance. The kol pis likes to jerk the line a couple of times and then let go. After a few jerks, it pulls hard and that’s when you know, you have got it. Aunty Yangyang taught me to not hesitate but also, not pull too soon. If you do, you lose the fish.
After years of fishing with Ma Yang, I learnt that some of the kol pis like eboob and ewayum took the lines like the ocean travelleys and made a dash for it.
I took my fish off my hook and I put the bush rope through the gills and dropped it into the water. It was now swimming again with the others I had caught.
Ma Yang was very quiet, but she had her eye firmly on the dark corners opposite us. We had fished for most of the afternoon and had been there for almost six hours already, but she was set on catching the big one. The big one is called “ee oc”. Both our catch lines were about a metre long. This would feed several households.
The big cold fish usually came at the end, like the grand finally and often this fish would come before or after you catch an eel. They co-existed in nooks of tree roots in swamp holes – both this fish and the eel. When my aunts and grandma and I catch these with our hands, you stick both hands into the holes and gently move along the belly of the eel to find the other. In my learning days, my grandma would find them and guide my hands to feel through the thick swamp. It was exhilarating, but all done in complete silence.
The sun was setting, and it got cooler. I had questions, but I was taught not to ask questions on the job. Anything I needed to know would be asked while we were walking home or by the fire at meal time. No-one spoke when we were ‘in the zone” and the fish were biting.
It was almost time to go home, but I was not tired. As the sun threw its last rays of a golden pink powder over the open space and green scaly pandanus – its reflection came closer to us under the awaho tree. She touched the water and I looked at her. Ma Yang’s fish line raced across the water and cut in a straight line as if a knife was being inserted into a cake. My teacher flexed her large, dried palm fish rod. It bent completely to the weight of what glided in large curbing circles in front of us.
She glanced at me. The finally dance began. I knew, the big one was here, but I must keep still.
Ma Yang died a few years ago after a long illness – there is an earlier post about her. I miss her.
Archeologists are mystified by recent discovery of a series of stone tools found in Attirampakkam, India. Researchers are unsure about the creators of these sharp-edgy collection.
The large collection poses a challenge to the existing prehistoric discoveries about places and movements of humans. Belinda Smith from ABC Science reported that in the Nature, International Science Journal, the discovery of more than 7000 tools showed advanced or more skilled techniques of shaping in these stones.
Shaping techniques such as these dates back to 350,000 years. Researchers say the tools may have been made by an archaic species of hominin, rather than modern humans – but this is not confirmed yet, so it poses quite a few discussions and arguments about the existence of humans and the stone makers.
What if a bunch of giant women were sitting around making their stone jewellery and left these ‘beads’ or their ‘gemstones’?
Okay, no jokes, I do love Science and seriously, this is an interesting discovery.
It was a very pleasant Thursday, ending with an evening conversation with both my sons who are away. I sent a picture of the blue-tongue lizard to Nathan and Chris about 8:30pm. The reptile was staring at me this morning about 9am when I went to let the hen out in Bellbowrie, Queensland. Its brown carpet patterned scales and raised head had stopped me in my tracks. I thought it was a carpet snake at first.
I had seen a carpet snake, this size and only a teenager, in November near the hen pen. The lizard’s arms and legs quickly gave it away.
My older son Nathan texted me back to say it was cool to have a blue-tongue lizard in our yard. It was common for the family to share our discoveries of creatures that lived on our property and the local bushland. There are many beautiful small creatures such as this lizard and water dragons, possums, koalas and other animals and birds of many kinds in Queensland.
I didn’t hear back from Chris, (my younger son), about the blue-tongue lizard. I thought maybe he had gone to bed, because he had started work at 5am.
Nathan texted me again to say an owl threw itself into his car as he drove home tonight. I thought it was strange and I gave Nathan my various symbolic meanings of why an owl would cross his path. It was mostly to do with deception and revealing truth, but when I thought about other meanings, death was one of them. I didn’t want to tell my son that. We talked a little more before he stopped texting back.
At that moment when the owl discussion came to an end, I heard cars speeding, tyre squeals and a loud bang! It was coming from the junction, 100 metres from our house. Suddenly it was eerie and the night was very quiet.
Nathan didn’t text again. I checked my phone twice.
“I think there is an accident”, I texted him again probing for a response.
From the direction of the accident, I could hear a high pitch horn of one car continuing, even after the crash quietened down. I was in our lounge where the sounds coming from the junction were the loudest. When the crash happened, I had been in my office. I moved here because it made me feel better somehow.
There have been many crashes on this junction – Moggill, Lather and Sugars roads in Bellbowrie. A few years ago a 65-year-old motor-bike rider was crushed by an unknown vehicle. Later, the man died in hospital. It took police a while to find the other driver.
I had this urge tonight to run 100 metres up the road to the crash, but part of me felt weird and uncomfortable. There were sounds outside my house; voices, branches breaking as if someone or people came into the property through the bush, and then more voices came from the roadside. I could hear other cars drive and stop at the scene. Two minutes later, I heard an ambulance. I felt relief. Some of the birds near our house made noises – echoing the high sirens. The accident must have woken the birds.
Then, a police siren started in the distance and then got really loud before it stopped at the junction. There were more voices, but no-one screamed or shouted. I heard louder vehicles come and then whinges, metal on gravel and then car doors shutting. I could not see the road; the huge gum trees blocked the accident scene. The sounds were very clear.
I kept thinking I should go and see it, but something stopped me. It was a fair walk in pitch black.
I texted my sons again about the accident. My older son did not respond. I thought he went to sleep. I called his brother Chris.
“What do you want me to do?” Chris asked me when I told him about the accident.
“Nothing – I’m just afraid, so I texted you,” I responded.
“I’m going to sleep”, he said. Chris was travelling for work in the Sunshine Coast.
“Goodnight son, I love you,” I said and hung up.
By the sound of the siren, a second ambulance arrived. It could have been the same one leaving. I wasn’t sure.
More voices came through the trees. I WhatsApp my cousin in Papua New Guinea – and he agreed, I should stay home. If help was already there, no need to go and I can find out more tomorrow. He is a cop.
My aunt called on WhatsApp and I told her there was an accident and that I felt scared. Over the phone, she said she was scared too.
“I think someone is hurt, the horn didn’t stop honking for a long time,” I said.
“Don’t go there”, my aunt said.
She diverted the conversation and soon, behind the night bird calls, the normal traffic sound returned. I shut all the doors and windows.
Two hours later, my son Nathan responded: “Oh shit! I hope everyone is okay… can you see any cars? ..if you can, do you recognise them?”
“No Nat. I was scared to go and see. The ambulance and police came straight away which was good – but the accident sounded bad.”
I said goodnight to my son and told him I loved him.
“I love you too mum”.
I hope no-one was badly hurt or killed. I will know soon.
Friday – 19/1/2018 – Update
To those that read this story – as it turned out, a friend drove by the accident last night between two cars. He said no one was seriously hurt, even though there was a lot of damage to the vehicles. I saw the remnants of the accident this morning, but I’m glad to hear that it wasn’t as serious as I thought.
I am away from the blog again, but I want to wish all my followers, readers, family and friends a very Merry Christmas (and if you don’t celebrate Christmas) happy end of 2017. I wish you all a wonderful, spiritual and joyful 2018. Here is one of my favourite musicians, Sona Jobartha with a joyful tune. See you all in 2018. Joycelin
A wrinkled dusky pink sheet cradles a flowered meri blouse, a laplap and a bible – a word or two in the bible is for me, she echoes…
Room scented with sea, woods, coconut oil, eucalyptus and basil
A lotto ticket to set me up for life (her farewell and a surprise gift)
“If I won,” she always said, “I would let you decide what to do with the money”
We had laughed and discussed the possibilities
On the bed, an italic old-style farewell, handwritten in a very neat prose, mixing pidgin and dialect –
“Pawi – my child, I will miss being here…”
My mother was in a plane and gone
Twelve months threaded colourful bilums, gardens, and stories,
bringing me back to the first ten years of my life.
An assortment of brown hue – sculptured gum branches stacked for winter’s fires
Through the window, her many familiar artwork marked my surroundings, reminding me of her even bossy ways
-purple and green kaukau leaves sitting neatly on mounds
“You have sweet potatoes for winter”, her voice reminds me.
The large elephant leaves of pumpkin spreads and sprout golden flowers – a promise for more food.
But, I miss her telling me her stories.
See below some of my mother’s creations. All her bilums featured here were sold before she left Brisbane for Papua New Guinea. If anyone is interested to purchase my mother’s bags – please write to: email@example.com
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).