Eclectica: An anthology, p.8Publishing Portfolio
The policemen then approached the house with caution.
After waiting nearly fifteen minutes, which was enough time for Bryon to play out many possible scenarios in his head, the policemen escorted two men, with their hands hand-cuffed behind their backs, into the back of the police divvy van. One of the policemen approached Byron’s truck with the mysterious iPhone in his left hand.
“I am going to have to take your official statement about what has happened here,” he said.
Byron repeated again to the policeman what had happened and eventually the policeman told Byron what went on inside the house.
“Turns out it was just two no-hopers from the city trying to rob the residence.”
Doesn’t surprise me.
He continued, “There was a mother and two children in there. They are very lucky that you figured out what was going on and left your truck parked in front of the driveway—clever thinking. The mother was lucky enough to get her hands on one of their phones and tried to dial 000 before one of men took it from her.”
There were people in there? This could have turned out bad.
Byron’s face turned white. He looked towards the house and to his surprise two children emerged, holding the other policeman’s hand, and the mother followed closely behind.
“Why was the phone empty?” Byron asked.
“We are presuming that the iPhone involved was a stolen one. It seems that, as it was bin day, they decided to take the house’s bin out to avoid any suspicion that might have come from the neighbours, and in doing this they left the phone on top of the bin—the one you found. Criminals always make mistakes.”
“But why were they planning to stay there for so long?”
“Can’t really release that information to you Byron, but what I will say is that they had been waiting for the husband.”
Bryon finished giving his statement to the policeman and eventually headed to his truck, which was now parked further down the street.
“Is that the man over there?” a woman’s voice called.
Byron turned around and a woman approached him. She had red eyes, messy hair and marks around her wrists—she was the mother inside the house. She looked into Byron’s eyes, grabbed hold of his hand and said, “Thank you, thank you so much. You are an incredible man for what you did—a hero.”
It was the most genuine expression of gratitude he had ever received. “You’re very welcome,” he replied with a smile.
She smiled back and then made her way over to her children. Byron climbed into his truck and left Campbell Drive.
The next day Byron’s heroic story was reported in all the important Australian newspapers, was featured on the ninemsn website, and was even mentioned on all the national news shows.
The attention and praise he had received finally made him feel like a somebody, his life had turned around and all of his dreams were coming true. He found himself a wife, a nice home and was granted pay raise, which allowed him to buy his very own iPhone.
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By Cliff Broome
All-terrain tanks that tackle any slope and
Balance on the edge of things:
Hello, I see you every night
Soundless, shining, glistening
You seem to have your purpose
Won’t talk, never do, cat got your tongue?
I never hear you coming
And you never stop to chat
You leave a slippery river that will last for days and days
It shows me where you walked.
You ate my favourite flower
Put pepper holes in leaves
I used to stomp and squash you in anger, so it seems
I’ve grown a bit of tolerance and now I leave you be
So do your job,
But if you climb my favourite stems
I’ll pick you up as your eyes bend down
And your body moves back to shell, then
I’ll toss you from my garden, make no mistake of that
To the council grass without––pitched from your molluscy heaven
Into that snaily hell.
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By Zoe Donkin
I wait in the darkness. I hide in the shadows. I reveal myself when you least want me to.
I make you feel sad and mad. I make your blood boil. I make you see red and feel dread.
I can even make you feel physically sick.
Then I hide myself away again. But I’m always there. I’ll never leave you.
I’ll be there taunting and laughing, making a mockery of you.
I’ll make you doubt and judge not just yourself, but the ones you love, too.
I’ll make you believe that you’re the worst person alive.
I’ll make you feel like your insides are blackened and cold.
I’ll make you fear others and I’ll make you fear the truth.
I’ll make you second-guess everything told to you and over-think every word’s possible meaning.
I’ll wait and time myself perfectly, to torment you.
I’ll drive you to the very edge of sanity—pushing each time a little bit further—and then hide away, back in the shadows of your mind.
You can never be rid of me, no matter how hard you try.
What else did you expect of me? I am your conscience.
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Tragic in the Extreme
By Cliff Broome
With gloom written all over my face I took my seat for the debriefing. It had been a long week and dozens of community-spirited citizens had joined in the work with six professionals. We were all tired and so the meeting was briskly brought to order and the chairperson, James Mawson, dispensed with the preliminaries to get to the main business.
“Friends, it has been a long week of searching and suffering in very cold weather. I personally thank each and every one of you. However, I think most of you know by now that, although we found something, we have failed to bring forth the good news that we hoped for at the outset.”
I looked about the small room, which was as bleak as the storm outside. Wet faces displayed no good news. I reached into my pocket for chewing gum, but it was all gone too.
“Well,” continued James, “Rod was the only person who was able to report anything … so, Rod, will you please take the floor?”
I got to my feet and began, “When I found her, she was floating on her back, so from that moment onwards I had a feeling of gloom.”
“Was the identification positive?” asked an ashen faced man from the back.
“Definitely,” I replied.
“… And there were no signs of life present, whatsoever?”
“Were the lips blue when you picked her up?”
“You were absolutely sure? Remember, you were only working by torch-light.”
“It was a positive identification, there was no mistake and the lips were very blue.”
Spencer put up his hand––he had a question.
Spencer was in charge of the second team, who had been searching the eastern sections of the designated area. Just like the first team, there was a mixture of professionals and volunteers. The professionals directed in their assigned sphere and the volunteers undertook tasks assigned to them by the professionals. Both teams acted in a proficient manner throughout the long, tough week.
“Yes, Spencer?” asked James.
“I realise we have had a positive identification and the news is not good. I have heard that there is also a lot of decomposition, but I would still like to see the body, and most of the second team feel the same way. We have put in a supreme effort in atrocious weather and I ask, on behalf of the team, if it is possible to view the tiny corpse.”
“We thought that would be the case with your team, considering it was the first team that made the discovery. The answer is yes, but please be patient unt
Malcolm McPherson broke in before James could finish. “OK, I think we all have the message and it is getting late. There has only been one live sighting since we began our search of these swamps five years ago. Our concentrated efforts during the past week have turned up a single female specimen found today, by Rod—and unfortunately she was dead. We must assume, from this, that the virus has wiped out an entire species. In all probability, the Department will now remove the Blue Lipped Marsh Frog from the ‘Endangered’ status to ‘Officially Extinct’. I will now prepare the carcass for viewing while the supper is in progress.”
“Thank you, Doctor Mac. We also thank all volunteers for your attendance here tonight and your contributions in the past. The meeting is now officially adjourned for a supper of hot chocolate, mud cake and Freddo Frogs––all kindly donated by our long-time friend of the wetlands, Jim from Sampson’s Deli. All please put your hands together for Jim Churnberg and please remember to patronise Sampson’s Deli. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, supper is served.”
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By Saffron Hazelager
Two armchairs, fraying at the seams, sit side-by-side with a distance of one metre between. They face the television, soaking up the repetition of bad news each night at 6 pm. The armchair on the left envelops Mr, who is withered and rusty like an old tyre—slumped forward from curved bones that no longer hold him up straight.
On the right, the armchair plays host to Mrs, her silver mane of hair twisted tight and precise on top of her head, the ring on her wedding finger choking it cold.
They sit and stare into the melancholy silence that is their existence, the stench of it filling the air they breathe.
Mr and Mrs once enjoyed tea in the garden, occasional but not frequent enough encounters of love-making, and French films.
It was during a particular film in which Mrs, newly married and joyous, first laid eyes on a pair of blood-red velvet armchairs, the rich mahogany wood gleaming just as bright as the leading actress’s eyes. She knew a pair just as beautiful would be the perfect addition to the freshly painted loungeroom, and sought to find some just as inviting.
When Mr, a young and robust man, came home to find Mrs re-arranging the lounge room to compensate for two tapestry armchairs, he felt a small surge of disappointment that Mrs had made the choice without him. He had always believed that, once married, couples should make decisions concerning the house and garden together, especially since these were the first pieces of furniture that they were allowed to call their own.
Still, Mr was pleased with the choice that Mrs had made, and was delighted to sit down in this new-found comfort each night, the arched back cradling him like a child in his mother’s arms.
One night, when Mrs was feeling particularly adventurous, she sat down on Mr’s lap, interrupting his viewing of game shows. She began to kiss her husband, running her hands down his shirt and through his hair. She pulled away and looked deep into his eyes, and began to lift up her dress and wriggle out of her panties. Mr grinned, and he couldn’t help but fall more deliriously in love with his wife than ever before.
Upon the arrival of their son, the armchairs endured a beating of spilt milk, slobber and snotty noses.
Mrs would often try to scrub out the stains in between breastfeeding, washing and their son’s naps, and was always disappointed when they refused to budge.
When Mr started coming home each afternoon smelling of grease and petrol, Mrs would try to make a point that he change out of his work clothes into something cleaner before he sat down, reminding him that the chairs had cost five pounds each and must be looked after.
When Mrs wasn’t looking and attending to their now-young son and baby daughter, Mr would fall into the chairs from exhaustion, leaving behind tinges of dirt and grime.
When their weatherboard home hit market value during the early seventies, Mr and Mrs agreed that it was time for a change. Packing up their children and few belongings, they relocated to a bigger and sturdier home, constructed of brick and mortar.
When Mr and Mrs were arranging furniture and photos, knick-knacks and cushions, they realised that one armchair had endured a chip in the leg from the move.
As their new loungeroom faced north, allowing the morning sunshine to eagerly pelt in through the windows, Mrs noticed that the tapestry fabric was beginning to fade, and looked grubbier than before.
When Mrs became pregnant for the third time, they shifted the armchairs into a more harmonious fashion to accommodate a small crib. There was a sense of bewilderment and excitement flooding through the house, as Mr and Mrs’s children wondered in amazement at their mother’s expanding womb.
It wasn’t until the children were fast asleep one night that Mrs felt a stab of pain in her lower abdomen, and noticed a few spots of red seeping onto the faded, stained, chipped armchair, which seemed to be diminishing just as ferociously as life itself.
When their son had moved to college and their daughter was a blossoming young woman, Mr and Mrs considered that it might be time to upgrade their furniture. After all, the eighties were awash with brighter colours, and all their friends were sporting slick new couches and tables and glassware.
When the time came for Mr to get rid of the armchairs, he felt an unknown sadness creep up through his heart and to his bones, and he realised that, although they were dirty and old and unfashionable, the armchairs represented their life.
When he told Mrs he couldn’t get rid of them, she gave a sigh of relief and sobbed in his arms, thanking him for feeling the same way as she did.
And so the armchairs sat, enduring more movement, scratches, stains, spilt tea, crumbs, tears, creaks, chips and minor re-upholstering and, finally, grandchildren, as life took part frantically around them.
Then one day, life suddenly stood still, and Mr and Mrs wondered what was left.
That was all a long time ago, when life wasn’t as cruel to them.
Naturally, a golden fifty years of marriage had drawn its curtain across the stage, signalling the end of the show. They tried to find something beautiful in and around them that would sound the start of the second half, yet it seemed that they had sung their final songs, having nothing left to write about.
Mrs devours every forced word that Mr says.
“That’s nice, dear,” she sadly replies.
Her lack of interest and caring has been fed by her lack of energy, trying to preserve the slight beaconing of hope that they could rewind to the time they first met. They were once young and blissful and fresh, not old and dismal and burnt out.
Veins filled with stale blood crack through broken skin, as a pair of hands try to hold onto one another, but find that they can’t even feel the touch. Hands that have loved and sinned have finally let them down.
The screech of the kettle at 10.45 am breaks the unforgivable distance, and their hands dart back to their laps. Mrs gets up to stir the earl grey. Mr, a sensitive man, finds he can’t even bare an emotion.
The clock ticks on, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour. They wait, patiently, for love to return. But love comes and goes as he pleases, like he has somewhere better to be.
This time love left before they could ask him where he was going next, leaving no note of explanation or hint of a return.
Mr and Mrs were like armchairs.
Tearing at the seams, withered and nearly broken, they served their purpose for nearly fifty years; until one day, they could do no more.
They sat, one metre apart, silent and still.
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We Buy Him on Our Hands and Knees
By Melissa Watts
David Marr on Patrick Whi
“We buy him on our hands and knees,”
over White and the struggle of a ‘W ’ in an A–Z world.
myself a hapless victim of an alphabetical hierarchy.
Evocation strengthens my resolve.
The ardently faithful descending,
heavy on the cap,
before the omnipotent narrator.
The trembling potential of the boy,
confused by the act,
of the necessity of bended knee.
Yet I have been so poised for less.
A missing contact lens,
lost late under the bitter light
on a cold bathroom floor.
I’d not object to kneel again,
hoist my skirt, dust my knees,
and peer through the Flaws in the Glass.
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About the authors
Phill Boas. I am the author of a small number of academic texts and articles. I was trained as a social worker and psychotherapist at Melbourne University. I am currently deciding how to build a new career as a writer who comments on issues of social interest. Several current works in progress sit on the margins of the science fiction genre, from which standpoint I believe I am better able to explore marginally unthinkable thoughts.
Cliff Broome. I am a retired pharmacist with three sons, three daughters and twenty-two grandchildren. I am passionate about writing poems and short stories, and I and carry a pen and paper everywhere I go. I have lived in Sydney, Adelaide and Ballarat. I play flamenco guitar at nights to delight my two girlfriends––wife and small toy poodle (Niki). I love animals, succulent plants, cacti and cheesecake.
Maury Brown-Daniels. I have loved to write ever since I was really little, making up crazy stories for friends and family. I love the creepy and the unusual, and this strongly affects what I write. I am inspired by quirky things, such as song lyrics, or the sun bouncing off of shiny things. Other than that, I love theatre, film, food, tea, dancing while doing the dishes, cats, Castle and Batman.
Jordyn Chapman. I am a lover of film and popular culture, and enjoy incorporating these themes into my short stories. I adore mystery-thrillers and whodunit novels such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but also can’t resist humorous titles. From a very young age I knew that creativity was my strongest attribute and I have been fortunate enough to dabble within its many different forms.
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