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Selected shorts

My Mother Was a Russian Spy — Winner of the Launceston Tasmania Literary Award 2015

She watches his gaze slide to his dog and then off to some place she cannot see and she looks away herself. She knows from her own thinking that there are some things you can’t think, even to yourself, let alone say. So she pretends to be very interested in the house, although to tell the truth there’s not much to see after the first glance.

Middle-man – Joint-winner of the Todhunter Literary Award 

She dropped into the chair opposite. ‘And you? What’s got a chap like you out and about at this still unholy hour of a wintry morning?’

The Schoolteacher — published The West Australian weekend magazine

But she hasn’t yet finished. Her lip curls. There is another hush like the last. The air starts to pump.‘Does that mean that it can’t contain any . . .?’ She stops and looks down, moistens her lower lip, crosses her legs at the ankles so the knees fall apart. The collective gaze of the class swirls from the girl to the teacher.

Baby Shoes

‘For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.’ Six words in this week’s  classifieds. In bold type with a phone number. I swallow. Breathe. If you were grieving, you just plain wouldn’t advertise your baby’s clothes. Wouldn’t, couldn’t. If the thought came to you, which it wouldn’t, you’d puke. Black tea burns my tongue, tastes like turkey on the inside of my throat…

The taxi driver

‘Going swimmin’?’ I ask. I usually talk to my fares. Amazing the connections you make, even on short rides and most people are chatty enough. But this one isn’t having any of it. Makes out she doesn’t hear. . .

The No-name Silk Tie

But the possession that had given him the most pleasure of all, because it meant he’d arrived at a place where money meant nothing, was his no-name silk tie.

Endlessly Rocking — commended Julie Lewis National Award, anthologised

‘I don’t know why you can’t be an ordinary mother,’ she hissed. ‘Why can’t you just be an ordinary mother like everyone else’s?’

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

‘Well,’ the child says tossing another glance at the satchel. ‘Sometimes I think it’s better to be dead than alive.’ I raise my eyebrows. She goes on, ‘My grandmother . . .’ She picks at the violets embroidered on the hem of her white shift, looks back up at me. ‘Well. You see, she might as well be dead . . .’

The Gambler — highly commended A B Natoli National Award, published in Island

When I give it to him, he takes it in both hands. All his life he had been aiming to make his fortune. Now here it is, contained in the infinite possibility of this slim piece of paper. ‘Ah, yes, this is it.’ His voice is gruff, his face alight, his mouth moving along with his eyes, as if he’s tasting the numbers. . .

Left, left, and left again

The young man walked right up to where he stood in front of the wood hut, so close his shadow had moved beyond the ranger before he stopped to shrug the pack from his shoulders. He scraped a clump of hair into the elastic band at the back of his head and stuck out his hand. ‘Name’s Donovan,’ he said, his voice tight and clipped . . .’

Bitsa

She nibbled delicately at the nails of her hind foot as she always did when she was nervous and I know she was thinking of the night she was taken by my father. Mother was a pedigree, a Doberman, and patrician to the end of her long nose, while father was . . .

Never-never land

‘It doesn’t look like a real Christmas tree. It’s the wrong sort.’ Only one says this, but his sister’s face mirrors it.‘Well, it’s a pine tree,’ I say in my most reasonable voice. ‘Christmas trees are pine trees. After all.’

Singapore Sting

Lim Wee Kiat was a busy man. It was the first day of the month and time, once again, to claim his allowance from each of his seven sons and three daughters. . .

Sticky Wicket

A stinker of a day altogether, you could say, with the end-of-season temperature reaching for a new record. When they can, the fielders skulk in the shade of the peppermint trees. From time to time the captain calls them in and they overreact, running briskly to cover their reluctance.

The Deadly Germ of Doubt — runner up Qantas magazine award

The word got around that strange things had been happening on Mooroolbark Station. It appeared that the managers had gone walkabout. They’d just upped and left the place. Even the dog was gone.

The Music of The Night

A woman walks through the hotel  lounge on her way to who knows where. It’s impossible to tell whether her evening is just beginning or ending. She is dressed as if for a night out in a black silk dress that clings. . .

The Kookaburra’s Laugh — published Scope South Africa

Just married . . . and what comes after.

The Vanities

It is not until he pulls out a chair she sees him in front of her. The warmth rises in her body but the face she presents is chill. In fooling the world, she is able – most times – to fool herself.

Essays

What’s this thing called sex? — published Griffith Review

‘He sat on the edge of the bed and took my hand,’ she said, her eyes very round. ‘And then, well, you can guess the rest.’ A tribute to one of my greatest friends.

Never, ever, look back

The scene that lingers in my memory is no longer that of employer and servant—black and white in their separate spaces—but of two women who’d arrived at a place where language is superfluous. For a moment they looked at each other, their gazes uncertain, their mouths working.

The R-word

Desmond had been retired for a few weeks and he acted like he’d been given some miraculous command to start living. He talked on and on about what he was going to do, about the businesses he would finally have time to set up, about the places he would now be able to visit, friends he would be able to spend more time with. We sat and listened and I still couldn’t get  D. H. Lawrence’s story of the man who loved islands out of my head . . .

On the Outside Looking In

Suddenly Dad does frail very well and the subject grinds to a halt that day. But in small drifts in response to my questions over the next few months and then years, the story slips out. Some of the story. In bits that as I start to research turn out to be completely out of context and still have everything missing. But gradually I realize the colourful bedtime stories of my childhood were in fact true stories with the names and dates and any connection to our little family left out. Totally left out.

Thousandth Miles — published Griffith Review, broadcast ABC National

Immigration is not only about quotas or imperial judgements or tightly held opinions as to whether we should accept people from other countries into our own or whether we shouldn’t. It’s not even necessarily about the geography of being a long way from home. A large part of it is about belonging . . .

Rootlessness in Literature — published International Journal of the Humanities

Certain common characteristics arise in the literary output of writers who, for one reason or another, reside and write in a country other than their heartland. But what strength of desire for belonging, what state of loneliness, draws readers to these books?