Furious Fiction 22 – August 2021

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Here is my entry for Furious Fiction for August 2021. I have missed a few months with my last entry being way back in May.

The Furious Fiction criteria for August were:

1. The first sentence must contain only 4 words.
2. You must include the words paint, shift, wave and toast (or variations there of)
3. Something must be shared.

Based on a true story!

This story is based on a real life event although in much more benign conditions. In 1987 my ex and I were doing some painting. He had loosened the lid of a full can of paint and then went to do something else. When he returned he picked up the can and shook it vigourously forgetting he had loosened the lid! I walked into the room at the exact moment the paint was whooshing up all over his face and hair.

I grabbed him, and as it says in the story below, held him under the water forcing his eyes open – Silkwood style. Once we got him cleaned up, we started on the room. Once that was clean we went downstairs. We had a beach-comber style house and our car was parked underneath. It was covered in paint! That took another couple of hours to get that clean! A few days later he was still sneezing out blobs of paint. Funny but not funny.

The Furious Fiction Contest is fun, easy and low risk! But you could be $500 richer for your 500 words. Check it out at the Australian Writers Centre.

Story Stats: I started writing about 7 PM on Friday night. I did no more work on it until Sunday morning and spent another hour “polishing” it up and getting it under the word limit. All up about 3 hours. 496 words.

Whatever you want, darling!

“Whatever YOU want Darling”

Stephanie hated it when he said that. She was especially wary when the emphasis was on the YOU and not the Darling. It meant he didn’t like her decision but wouldn’t say so. Whatever you want really meant that the ‘whatever’ came with a whole side of heartache. It really meant “Darling I will remind you at every minute that you got what you wanted”

Exasperated, Stephanie waved her hand toward the deep crimson wall. 

“Well, what colour would you prefer Damien?” 

“I really don’t care Stephanie, like I said whatever you want” 

“Oh for goodness sake, Damien I’m sick and tired of you pretending you don’t care and leaving the decisions to me! Whatever you want darling” she snarled back in a mocking tone “No, it isn’t whatever I want. WHAT DO YOU WANT?” 

As she shouted, Stephanie shifted her weight onto her left leg and kicked the full paint can clear across the room. A thick unctuous arc of liquid vinyl followed a millisecond behind the rim of the can and draped itself over Damien’s head like a matador’s cape. The now near-empty can clanged against the wall and the last of its contents oozed onto the carpet. 

Damien stood motionless.  The paint trickled down his face. His eyes were opaque red pools. His teeth were smeared red and his spittle frothed blood-like at the corners of his mouth. Stephanie gasped and led him to the bathroom.  She pushed him under the faucet, holding his eyes open as the warm water sluiced the paint from his eyes. 

For the next hour,  Stephanie washed him gently but the red paint lingered. It was in his ears and nose. He hacked and spat as it dripped down his throat.  Neither of them spoke beyond Stephanie’s guilty clucks. 

Now that Damien was clean they went into the loungeroom only to be confronted by paint-splattered carpet.

“Thank god it’s water-based!”  Stephanie quipped trying to make light of things. She scraped the thick paint back into the can and poured buckets of water over the carpet. It seemed like a better idea to get the paint off first and worry about drying it later. 

Another hour passed and while a pink stain remained it wasn’t too bad. 

Damien finally spoke. “I’m hungry, let’s go get a toastie and coffee.” 

He grabbed her keys and headed down the stairs. Stephanie followed him into the basement garage, her remorse a heavy layer that slowed her down. Damien stopped abruptly on the bottom step and looked up at the dripping roof. The garage was directly under the painted room. The room that Stephanie poured buckets of water over. 

“Stephanie,” he said “did you ever stop to think where all that water was going?” 

Her shoulders slumped and she wailed. Stephanie’s black Peugeot was covered in a thin coat of red paint. 

Damien smiled. “I’ll share something with you, Stephanie.  I don’t like red. I would have preferred blue.”

A women in a protective suit and shower cape with a paint roller in hand.
Different house! All kitted up to pain the ceiling!

I’m back!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that I was done blogging. Well here I am, I’m back! 

I’d like to thank those lovely people who reached out to me. They gave me some much needed support and made me think on a few things. (And it wasn’t just family, but thank you Aunty Mary and my editorial team!)

Much of my uneasiness arose from the expectation  or even an obligation of having to write every week. It was a goal of my 60 before 60 challenge and with that done I wasn’t sure of how to progress. One writer suggested I just post whenever I wanted to rather than sticking to a rigid schedule. (Thanks Pete!)

And I’ll do that; write when I feel the need. That may be every week, that may be once a month. But I will write. If nothing else has happened over the last four years that this blog has been in existence, is that I have come to realise that I like writing, and I’m getting good at it! More importantly, sometimes I even have something to say that may interest other people.

Another source of discontent  is chasing perfect SEO. (Search Engine Optimisation) When I started writing I didn’t worry about it. I didn’t even know what it was. I just wrote. More recently I have been analysing my posts more carefully. Making sure I use the keyword the requisite number of times. Ensuring I have the right ratio of passive vs active voice. All in the hope of pleasing the algorithm and hence improving my ability to be found in random internet searches and increase my reach.  This has caused me to write in a less spontaneous way. It has made me use subheadings where I found subheadings intrusive or unnatural. It has made writing less fun.

To remain true to myself and continue to write; I’ll pay less attention to the SEO and if I grow my reach, it with be organically. Much like my quest to grow veggies and have chickens!

Thank you dear readers. More soon. 

PS:  Next week is a Furious Fiction post, then on with the voyage into intentional living or whatever the hell I feel like! One idea I’m thinking on is longer, more analytical investigative pieces. But then again it might just be fluff about making pickles and jam while in Week 8 of lockdown with potentially another four to go!!! (at least!)

Thanks Ing, your not so random act of kindness was the tonic I needed. 

Growing up in the Shire.

Growing up in the Shire was easy for me but I had a few things on my side. I wrote this piece for a non-fiction writing competition I entered last year. The competition has closed and I didn’t win a cracker! However I still think it’s a pretty good story. The theme of the competition was growing up in Australia. It’s a true story. It may be a tad too parochial for places beyond Australia. Some of the cultural references may not land right. The original piece did not have subheadings. They are there for the SEO!

Growing up in the Shire.

I grew up in “The Shire” in the 1960s and 70s. Back then it wasn’t THE Shire, just plain old Sutherland Shire at the arse-end of Sydney. Captain Cook’s Landing Place and hence the Birthplace of the Nation.

Cronulla was only famous for its sandhills and beaches not riots. The refinery at Kurnell was still pumping out petrol and the Royal National Park caught on fire at infrequent intervals.

It was a place where meat and three veg appeared on the table every night, except Friday night when the Dads stayed at the pub even later than they did every other night and the Mums would wait (im)patiently at home. The Dads’ dinners waited too, on top of a saucepan of boiling water turning into a dried-up biscuit of tough meat and grey vegetables. Microwaves were yet to be invented. The only way to serve spaghetti was out of a tin and mashed potato wrapped up in devon was the height of culinary sophistication.

The only restaurants in my home town were two Chinese cafes, a swanky Swiss fondue place and a milk bar owned by the Wogs that (allegedly) sold Pal burgers. Mind you, it was a progressive town! When Pizza Hut opened in the early 70s the line up to get in extended down the street for weeks. It was especially long on “All-you-can-eat Tuesdays”. We’d take turns to sniff the spew-cheese in the shaker bottles and congratulate ourselves for trying pepperoni.

You get the picture?

Anglo and middle-class.

Sexist, racist, able-ist

As we walked to school on opposite sides of the street, the public school kids chanted “Catholics! Catholics! Make me sick! Call the doctor quick! quick! QUICK!” A similar refrain was hurled back across the road by the Catholic school kids.

Girls skipped and played elastics while the boys played marbles or dug holes in the dirt patch. Only the girls did sewing and cooking and only the boys did woodwork.

You’ve got the idea?

Anglo, middle-class, Protestant and sexist.

There weren’t any gay people at my school. Not one! I’m sure. We never saw a poofter, not once! Although it did turn out one of our teachers was a paedo!

And then there was that spastic kid who had no ears because his mother had used thalidomide. The boys would twang the piece of elastic that held his glasses in place. And we’d laugh.

Anglo, middle-class, Protestant, sexist and intolerant.

I can’t imagine how it must have been if you were “different”. Lucky for me, I was white, middle-class, agnostic and female. My ancestors came from Germany but let’s not mention that. I was smart and cute, so that helped make up for the female bit. I could wangle things to get my own way most of the time. My life was easy.

That’s me: A white middle class able female.

Two Georges

It was another story for the two Georges in my year group, they didn’t have it so easy.

There was a George that nobody liked because he flapped, and a George nobody liked because he was Aboriginal. Flapping George was there from Kinder right through to Year 12. Naughty George turned up one day in Year 3 and I’m not sure when he disappeared, but it was sometime around Year 9.

I can still visualize Flapping George’s curly sandy hair crowning his pale freckled face. The face that was twisted with frustration and despair. The mouth that tried to squeeze out words. What words, I’m not sure but probably ‘get lost’ or ‘leave me ALONE’. We’d crowd around him, and if we played it right, George would jump up and down on his skinny, even more, freckled legs, and screw up his little face tighter and tighter. Then, at the zenith of the taunting, his hands would begin to flap like windscreen wipers and everyone would laugh and run away squealing with delight, and flapping their arms in unison having achieved the group’s goal. We had tipped George into a screaming rage.

Satisfied with our handiwork, we’d move on to harass the other George. The Naughty George. The George who always got into fights.The one with the fat lips and black skin. The George that everyone was a little bit scared of but not so scared it prevented us from teasing him. The one, later in high school, we would call Lamington. This George just turned up at school one day, all of a sudden and without warning. He was dropped headfirst into the lives of a “kind normal family who were being so generous to take him in”.

As an adult, I look back now and see the obvious truths not known or contemplated as a child. Flapping George was autistic and Naughty George, a member of the Stolen Generation. And I was in cahoots with the bullies. Where were the teachers telling us to stop? Where were the adults telling us to be kind?

As Flapping George grew up, he was able to control his flapping and although he was still bullied he “learned” to cope. His autism affected us less and hence stopped being a problem (for us). No doubt he went home from school each day, exhausted from his efforts to mask his autism and appear “normal”.

As I said, I don’t know what happened to Naughty George. We ‘jokingly’ said he’d gone on walkabout.

My future-self shamed by my past-self.

My 2021-self is ashamed of the 1970-self. I strongly admonish my child-self. I was a cruel and perverse bully. At the very best, I would describe myself as a bystander. A person who stood by and watched evil happen.

Part of me wants to protest that I didn’t know any better. That everyone did it and I was part of a society whose intolerance for diversity was accepted, expected and widespread. Deep down I knew it was wrong, even back then, to be so mean. But if I didn’t join in it could be me that suffered the wrath of the “typicals”. That’s how bullying works. In Year 10 I cowered under the desk in Tech Drawing class while the boys threw little pin darts at me because “girls weren’t meant to do Tech Drawing”. The teachers did nothing, despite my complaints. I apparently got what I deserved.

While bullies still exist in schools and the wider world, things have improved, a little. We are more tolerant, yes, but there is still a very long way to go. As a society, Australians are still, racist, sexist, ageist, able-ist, homophobic, and intolerant of any variation from the hegemonic norm.

Will we ever live in a world where we are free to be ourselves? As diverse as our genes and desires are capable of expressing? Where sexuality and gender will be viewed in the same light as height, as a non-binary continuum? Where your skin colour does not define whether you live or die in the hands of the law. Can we do it? I hope so. How much longer will it take?

A late apology

I fervently hope that the two Georges are safe and well and will accept my adult apology for my childhood behaviour. I am sorry George(s) for my part in your suffering.