Waterfall Way

When I pulled into the street, I saw him leaning against the ash-grey trunk of a eucalyptus tree in front of the courthouse—faded collared shirt and jeans wrapped loosely around his hunched frame, a cigarette cupped in his hands.

He was following the progress of a ute in the middle of executing a reverse parallel park, calling instructions to “swing harder” and “back out”. The driver seemed not to hear him. I pressed and held the horn until he, and everyone else on the street turned to face me. Another stranger in town, they said with desiccated squints and open-mouth scowls that suggested limited access to dental hygiene.

He rubbed his cigarette into the tree trunk, waited, then crossed the street, scraping his sneakers on the road as he approached the car. Continue reading “Waterfall Way”

Sky fishing

The sun was pinned to the horizon and flushed the sky orange like an electric stove.

Ray was loading the last of the gear from the landing. He squinted at each bundle to measure its dimensions and weight, before tossing it into the boat.

“John says the weather will be calm ‘til four. Looks alright to me. We’ll be out over the port, up to the north there, across from the headland. There’s a trough full of bream and snapper out there John says. He and the bigger boats aren’t allowed along, they’re out further where the billfish are and we’re not after them.” Ray dropped the plastic tackle box onto the floor with a muted thud. The box’s claps popped open, releasing a spurt of lead sinkers over the ribs of the boat’s floor. “Damn it!” he spat and as he crouched down his brown toes splayed in his rubber flip-flops.

“Leave that and help me get these. I told you to close the thing properly if you take things out. Didn’t I tell you?” Continue reading “Sky fishing”

Orphans of the Salt

Introductory ‘pilot’ chapter to Orphans of the Salt – a novel in progress

“I repeat—we have arrived at Tract 16.”

Captain Dinh’s announcement was still crackling through the public intercom as Rosco Haymarket hopped three steps at a time down to the zeppelin’s observation deck, a warm bowl of aphid jelly balanced loosely in his hand. “The Royal Caucus” had spent the last six weeks flying over the New Pacific and he was eager to see something other than the curve of ocean and sky. He threw the bowl into a refuse chute and collected a set of scopes from the equipment racks. Two recovery engineers were already at the windows, their heads pressed hard against the reinforced glass. Continue reading “Orphans of the Salt”

Three Fantasies for Carlotta Cunningham

The Middle Beach High reunion was minutes old and already abuzz: the girls giggled as they arranged white garden chairs in rows along the walls, they nattered while they adorned sand-filled bottles with yawning posies; the men cleared their throats and rehearsed the success stories of their lives.

Some glanced over their shoulders in between sentences or peeked from behind their plastic cups of supermarket prosecco. Carlotta Cunningham was coming, expected to arrive just after nine—or 21:00 as she had written in the email—directly from the international airport, probably by cab if she couldn’t find a decent hire car, (who knows if I still know how to drive on the left!) and maybe, although not definitely, accompanied by an upcoming poet from Barcelona whose work everyone just had to get to know. Continue reading “Three Fantasies for Carlotta Cunningham”

The Cats of Butcher’s Road

The man stood at the end on the pier, a giant oak barrel balanced on two carrot sticks, one hand punched into his hip, the other tugging nonchalantly on a fishing reel.

It was the morning grey – before the insects, before the million fragrances and feathery winds – when the mist was still rising from the lake like steam off a mirror. The abattoir trucks wouldn’t be raking up and down the roads for at least another hour and, as long as the sun skulked behind the fringe of trees, the world was his. Continue reading “The Cats of Butcher’s Road”

Why I, a Papillon (or Continental Toy Spaniel), wish to become a Rainbow Lorikeet

I’ve seen them. Oh, yes. I’ve seen them alright: dozens and dozens of them flittering from tree to tree, shaking figs onto the paved ground, flashing their technicolour flaps at the wind, and trilling like a bag full of whistles. And I give them my best every day – I pant and yap and shake my collar until I’m wet at the blaze; I practise my plucky bounce over the prickly fern and attack the wall right under their green-feathered underparts. Continue reading “Why I, a Papillon (or Continental Toy Spaniel), wish to become a Rainbow Lorikeet”

The air conditioned

Toes rip through wet sand; they trace stones through the stinking weed, around flaking logs until I’m skidding, dry and squeaky, up the path to the car.

The sun has flashed the air and seared the afternoon white. My hands, still gluey from the orange, slap dispassionately at flies. Half the beach has settled in the pouch of my swimmers and I sway until I hear someone rattle the keys. Continue reading “The air conditioned”