Romeo, Romeo, Wherefore Art Thou Gumboots?

Balcony scene © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2022

What can you see? What can you surmise from this scene?  Is it in suburbia or the mountains or maybe near the sea?

Can you name the trees? Or guess the potted plants? What time of day, or time of year, do you think the photograph was taken?

And who might live there?  Who owns those gumboots?

You could write a short story about someone who walks out onto this balcony.  Perhaps it’s the home of the Capulet family? There is a good reason why Juliet walks out onto a balcony.

Valentine’s Day is nearly here! Imagine an alternate ending. A happy, sad, good, bad or exciting scene… Writers, write about it in your own hand! Put it in an envelope and present it to your loved one.

❤️ Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Postscript: I will write my own version on traditionally the most romantic day of the year 14th February 2022.

A Red, Red Rose
by ROBERT BURNS

O my Luve is like a red, red rose

   That’s newly sprung in June;

O my Luve is like the melody

   That’s sweetly played in tune.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43812/a-red-red-rose

Quick Stories #10 Don’t Touch

Image © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was to write about a character using one main Sense throughout as their habit or quirk. 

Don’t Touch

When she finally left the confines of four walls, the coronavirus played havoc with Alva’s uncontrollable desire to touch things.  Touching was curtailed now she had to steer clear of a global pandemic.  More rules, wear a mask, keep your distance, use stinging hand sanitiser and avoid frowning people when she hovered too long over an item.

Neighbours gossiped, asked “Why does she do it, why doesn’t she stop?”  Alva would touch anything to get a sensation through her fingers. As long as something was within arm’s reach, she would touch it.  Uninvited, raising eyebrows and brashly crossing social boundaries, she would slide her hands over both public and private property. 

Alva looked back on moments of craving, her compulsion led to some embarrassing and hurtful situations.  She had stroked art gallery statues and let her fingers trail down their finely carved contours regardless of “Do Not Touch” as security guards marched towards her.

Park rangers were unforgiving when this random woman stuck her fingers into the wire of the exotic monkey enclosure.  The screeching was so loud, zoo visitors stopped in their tracks.  Alva was screeching along with the monkeys.  She nearly lost a finger that day and left the zoo via the first aid room and a rabies shot.

A mere glitch on the tactile radar which didn’t stop her caressing the shiny bonnet of a new car while the owner was inside.  On hands and knees, she loved the feel of cold marble floors; the juxtaposition of gritty sand; the fur of her neighbour’s fluffy cat Fluffy.  Best of all, the soft skin of her first granddaughter. The parents nervously hovered around when Alva visited unexpectedly but she put it down to new-baby nerves.

Alva touched the foggy glass of refrigerator doors in the supermarket, the round shiny apples, the springy bread rolls, and habitually opened egg cartons to fondle the smooth eggs.  Egg shells are an optical illusion, they cracked easily often speckling the front of her clothes.  As always, she purchased the carton of eggs at the checkout, along with the seven or eight other items she had lingered too long over in the fresh food aisles.

As a toddler, Alva was not allowed to touch anything for fear of disease.  Her chubby, exploring fingers were denied the grasping of matches, silver cutlery, dog food, shiny beads; the feel of feathers or a squishy banana.  Mother laced white cotton gloves on her hands, forbidding tactile experiences.  “Don’t touch this, don’t touch that!”

Outside the supermarket, Alva ran her hand along the rough bricks of the building, around the sturdy white poles in the carpark, and even debated whether or not to touch the hot metal railing of the trolley bay.  A quick palm slide.  The burn made her feel present, in the moment.  Heat on her skin always satisfied her sense of unity, completion, perhaps even closure. She smiled at the helper waiting beside the van.

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #9 Cheers Dears

Café Noir et Blanc, Joinville-le-Pont 1948, taken by Robert Doisneau (1912-1994) a noted French photographer who had a poetic approach to Paris street photography and later became a pioneer of photojournalism.

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it. I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt (above) is a black and white photograph.

Cheers Dears

There had been bitter discussions over the guest list regarding Roderick’s brother Ivan, the odd sheep of the family, and whether or not he should be invited to our afternoon wedding.

I thought Ivan, while not fully conversant with wedding etiquette, well, any etiquette really, was an all right sort of fellow who could knock back a sherry with the best of us.

Roderick joked that he was the only person who had ever seen Ivan take a bath; one bath.  Ivan was perpetually in transit to and from distant coal mines.  No perks, just Black Lung, high risk, low pay.  Whereas Roderick had chosen banking, and naturally I was pleased with his substantial wages.

Over family luncheon, Roderick tabled the No-vote and Ivan replied “I’ll find a way.”  Mother had stifled a nervous giggle; I remained silent.

Ivan’s occupation had not dimmed his wits and I personally think that’s why Roderick’s family shunned him.  He could be too sharp with his tongue and cut too close to the bone.  Roderick said he spoiled things.  Strangely enough Ivan never aimed an acerbic comment in my direction.   

Our big day arrived and the ceremony was only slightly marred by Roderick inexplicably going red in the face and choking during the vows.

Afterwards, our wedding photographer suggested something casual.  Something along the lines of newlyweds imbibing a fortifying drink.  The cosy bar where we first met was chosen for its location halfway between the church and reception rooms.

Stephen, the best man, hurried us through the narrow streets as shoppers stopped to smile or offer a cheeky comment.

I sensed somebody was following us but I couldn’t pinpoint anyone when I looked back.  “Nerves,” I thought, squeezing Roderick’s damp hand.  “Guests to greet, boring speeches, cake to cut.”

My bridesmaid Ethel is a teetotaller and declined to accompany us.  Wisely as it turned out.  The gritty pavement ruined the soles of my satin shoes and the hem of my gown.  I knew Mother would be distressed, aggravating her heart condition.

On the way into the bar, I snagged my bridal veil on something, the door handle perhaps, and Roderick untangled it with a tut-tut of exasperation.

We ordered our drinks, and one for the photographer. While Stephen chatted up the barmaid, the photographer positioned himself further down the counter, clicking away.

“Oops,” I said during a playful attempt to give Roderick a sip of my drink.  Liquid dribbled onto his hand-made silk cravat.

He tut-tutted again, grumbling “Don’t want to look like Ivan on my wedding day.”

I raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow.  “Our wedding day, husband dearest.”  Under my breath I muttered “Here’s to Ivan…”

During our bridal waltz, news came that Ivan had been killed when a tunnel collapsed on the early shift. A week later, our agitated photographer said “No charge”.  Roderick was distraught. Ivan looms in every photograph in our wedding album.

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #8 Something Lost Something Found

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was Something lost something found.

Something Lost Something Found

When I lost someone precious, I discovered something unique. Inside. I found a hidden strength; strength I never knew existed within my core being.  Compassion, knowledge, insights into human nature, a powerful understanding of the love, the joys, the sorrow of being alive.  I look beyond the grieving widow, the crying child, the unhappy workers, and I see what is really going on beneath the surface.  I’ve been there, experienced the hurt which shows on the faces of struggling men and women.  Yet humanity so often hides behind a mask of stoic resignation, and this is accepted.  When humanity rises up and protests at the injustices, it is not accepted.  Because it causes disruption; it causes people to think, compare, feel uncomfortable.  Next time you lose something, think about another person who has nothing left. Their despair at seeing everything destroyed in horrific circumstances; knowing they will never see another, never be the same again; family, home, job, life.  I have had that happen to me.  It is painful, it scars your heart, your soul for eternity.  I carry on but it will always be with me, that’s why I see it in others.  My hope is that one day when you too connect with that something within, you grow stronger in the knowledge of humankind.  Thus, when a person masks their heartache and begins to stumble, you understand, you can reach out.  After loss, empathy is found.  Use it wisely, young one. 

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #7 Artist as a Child

Moggill Farmhouse Brisbane Queensland © Elle 2019

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the three prompts (courtesy of AWC Furious Fiction) were 1. The story’s first sentence must contain only four words. 2. The story must include something being shared. 3. The story must include the words paint, shift, wave and toast.

Artist as a Child

His pose seems unrehearsed.   Gavin sits with one shoe raised on the chair, leg bent.  His elbow rests on his elevated knee, arm dangling.  A persuasive artist, gallery patrons arrive and gladly absorb his relaxed aura.

This unperturbed look is the impression he gives to anyone who doesn’t know him better.  Apart from guest appearances, he is an horrendously difficult person to be around.

Oil paint, turpentine soaked rags, brushes, and canvas torn from frames habitually litter the studio floor.  Thus I dispute the saying “order out of chaos”.  If Gavin could do that, he would never paint a single picture.

One of his latest, and most important works, was completed in an afternoon of ranting and raving when a courier delivered the right set of three wooden easels wrapped in the wrong brown paper.

“It’s for an art installation.  It has to be unwaxed brown paper!”  He paced the concrete floor.  “The whole idea is to paint in situ.”

The courier didn’t want to understand the significance.  He was already backing out the door, having encountered Gavin’s artistic temperament once before.

“Take it up with the boss,” he said, sliding our huge door shut with a thud.

Gavin pulled irritably at the neckline of his t-shirt which had seen better days, soon to join the castoffs on the floor.  “Sabotaged!”

“I can order a roll of brown paper from the newsagent.”  I tried not to sound too down-trodden.

Gavin hissed “Elle, I don’t want stuff they cover school books with!”

I let my office diary drop, scattering a zodiac of tiny seed pods across the work bench.

“Improvise, Gavin.” I said calmly.  “You may find it works better without the absorbency.”

I dabble, you see, landscapes.  His eyes lit up and I almost heard his brain creak.

He accepted help to shift the easels closer to the window for natural light, jostling unfinished works aside.

We share the art studio, an unusual arrangement for siblings considering one is famous and the other does not want to be.

I had declined to organise tonight’s chat and chew platters, believing that I already fill the role of sales and booking manager so catering was a bit too much.  The honorary title of art advisor suits me.  Nowhere does it state I must “arrange tiny scraps of organic food on dry toast.”

When our spendthrift patron Lady Augusta arrives, she gives me a quick wave before aiming straight at Gavin to discuss her eighth portrait sitting.  Goodness knows where these works end up.

Gavin quickly grabs an illustrated catalogue, head down, apparently ready to discuss technique with a notable art critic. He tells the critic “They want me on the cover.” I wince.

Guests are moving aside as Lady Augusta swoops, all fluttering chiffon and swinging pearls. Nevertheless the exhibition is a success and I sell my lone painting; at the evening’s highest price.

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #6 Walk in the Park

Moreton Bay fig tree © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it. I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was Pain.

Walk in the Park

The temperature was cool and pale winter light shone from an almost cloudless grey sky.

“Nice day for a walk, ” thought Janet as she drove into the carpark, “and coffee at Beans if I get that far.”

A knee injury had confined Janet to the house.  A foolish accident sustained while moving furniture.  A mere second which had induced weeks of debilitating pain.  She cautiously manoeuvred out of the car.  Elasticised support around her left knee bulked out her grey slacks giving the appearance of elephantiasis, but comfort overrode vanity.

Janet tested the weight on her knee.  It twinged but held.  She walked slowly along the ancient tree-lined avenue.  Her pace increased when she noticed murky clouds gathering in the distance, threatening.  An abrupt gust of wind buffeted her, bringing a drop in temperature and moisture in the air.  The sudden change made her head swim.

Disconcerted, she stopped.  “This is weird.”   

Regaining equilibrium, Janet lurched forward and glanced at the old Moreton Bay fig tree overhanging the path, leaves rustling and branches swaying.  She had the ludicrous feeling that the tree was getting ready to walk across in front of her.  A dry rustle came from behind.  Half her senses screamed “Don’t turn around”, the other half wanted to know what was going on.  Cold wind and grit stung her eyes but Janet turned to look.

The primeval trees were blending into each other, meshing their long heavy branches across the avenue, blocking her route back to the car.  Adrenalin rose, overruling the growing throb in her knee.

“Need shelter… Beans café.”

She spun back to confront the old Moreton Bay fig.  Its leaves whispered around her head, a long tree root tugged her leg.  She panicked, stumbled, and cried out as her knee gave way.  The wind moaned through the branches, whipping up foliage and twigs, encircling her body.  She heard a crack, the sound of splintering wood, crashing, falling.  Green, then black, followed by bright lights and two voices asking the same question over and over.

“Can you hear me, Miss Gallagher?”

Equipment beeped, the bed was hard, Janet was back in hospital with a reassuringly numb knee.

“What happened?” she croaked.

The doctor and nurse exchanged glances.

“You were in the park,” said Nurse, “and lost consciousness when a tree branch almost crushed you.”

The doctor air-patted near her shoulder.  “Nothing to worry about.”

Nurse grinned.  “The ambulance driver said you were wrapped in greenery, heaven knows why.”

Janet knew why.  The Moreton Bay fig had tried to warn her, tried to protect her from the deadly branch.

“Presumably,” said the doctor, “you had accidentally taken a double dose of pain medication for your knee.  Your GP did stress caution because it can cause disorientation.”

“Or worse,” intoned Nurse.

Janet nodded vaguely.  As soon as she was discharged, she would go and thank that Moreton Bay fig tree.

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #5 Reconcile or Reject?

Highrise apartments with tennis courts at Cerulean, Main Beach Gold Coast Australia, an apartment project designed with the owner-occupier in mind. Image supplied by Cerulean Main Beach. Information https://www.therealestateconversation.com.au/news/2018/07/16/owner-occupancy-the-rise-apartment-design-changes/1531702806

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was Fork in the road.

Reconcile or Reject?

“Julian Wentworth is a pain,” thought Karri. 

She actually heard him say that he was the best looking bloke in the building.  The junior girls in the office loved him and admitted to having his business card pinned to their bedroom walls alongside Duran Duran posters.

They thought he was hunky, his hair so stylish, his suits so well-tailored.

“And he never has smelly breath.”

When Penelope whispered this in the tearoom, everyone squealed “Ooh, how do you know?” and she blushed scarlet.

To prevent her stuttering reply, Karri jumped in. “He’s so up himself I don’t think he knows it’s daylight.”

Blank looks turned on her, followed by the cold shoulder.

Karri swigged the remains of her Nescafe and returned to her desk.  She had a secret.  Julian Wentworth had been asking her out.

Nobody on staff knew Julian had initially invited her for an after-work drink on Friday.  Karri shuddered when she thought what could have happened but didn’t.

She sensed his neediness.  Julian was only keen on one thing; cajoling his way inside her apartment on Riverside Drive. 

Grateful for the building’s strong security, Karri muttered “He won’t get his hands on my assets.”  She certainly didn’t want his fingers running over Grandma’s porcelain figurines.

The other office secretaries believed Karri was so lucky teamed with Julian.  He was the principal of the rental section of Frederickson Real Estate, the avaricious bastards she worked for, and he was always hunting for prestigious rental properties. Obviously he wanted to scrutinise her prime real estate, her inheritance.

When she bumped into Julian outside her local bakery on Thursday, he had insisted on walking her home until she snapped “Get real”.

At work on Friday, she told him to “Go jump”, and later to “Get lost” regarding Saturday night dinner.  He was not easily dissuaded and had suggested tennis on Sunday afternoon.

Surprise, surprise, the tennis courts were close to Karri’s apartment.  She enjoyed social tennis and had accepted.  Now she looked glumly at her canvas tennis shoes.  Julian would own an ergonomic pair, teamed with ultra-white shorts, and a tight top with a crisp collar and sporty logo.

She laughed, picturing him posing in front of the mirror then arriving late.

He was at the main gate on time but they couldn’t reserve a court.  The tennis centre had just closed ranks for an Under 12s tournament.

Ungraciously Karri did not offer her home for coffee so they walked to the nearest café.  She noticed envious glances from female customers and sat down hugging the tennis rackets.

Her gaze snagged on an attractive bloke in tennis gear sitting in the corner.

He sipped from a teacup, covertly watching Julian at the serving counter.  Distractedly he put the cup down on top of his cheesecake.

“Oh, hell,” Karri thought as Julian fumbled with the payment, jaws clenched.

Her mind clicked; she could see it was decision time. “Which road is it going to be?  Reconcile or reject?”  

Julian turned quickly and walked straight over to Mr Cheesecake.

“Anthony, old friend, how are you?”

Anthony pushed back his chair and rose to embrace Julian.

“Oh, Jules, I’ve missed you so much,” he beamed. “How did you find me?”

Julian looked across at Karri.  “That lovely lady lives nearby.”

They hugged again, and an elderly man at the next table dabbed his eyes with a serviette.

Another look from Julian conveyed an apology and Karri realised he must have discovered Anthony had moved into her apartment block.

She waved away his life of subterfuge.

Three’s a crowd; she could sacrifice a coffee. Anyway, her tennis shoes pinched.

“See you Monday, Jules.”

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #4 Buzzing

Hillside residence in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (source unknown)

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt words (courtesy of AWC Furious Fiction) were to include an attic or basement, an insect, earth, wind, fire and water

Buzzing

“It’s in the attic,” she said, a note of desperation clinging to her words.

“Brisbane houses don’t usually have attics.”  I pictured her old home, the corrugated iron roof shimmering like fire in the afternoon sun.

“You know, that bit in the rafters with the twirly vent.”

“Why don’t you ring a pest controller?” I said, jaw tightening.

A gusting sigh.  “I did.  They can’t visit until Thursday and I’ll be driven mad before then.”

I imagined her tugging at her hair, bunching a fistful.

“Okay, I’ll come over.”  Firmness was needed.  “But I’m hosting a workshop tonight.”

“That’s great, David.”  The chirp was back in her voice.

I cleared my throat.  “How big is this wasp thing anyway?”

“I can’t tell.”  A pouting tone with a double meaning.

Her woman-child habit irritated me into bravado. “A squirt of insect spray should take care of it.”

“What if it doesn’t die?”  Her voice dropped a notch.  “What if it has wasp babies?”

“Jeez, Lettie, I’ll be over in twenty minutes.”

She bolted down the pathway to greet me and stopped suddenly.  A puff of wind raised dust around her bare feet as she pressed a finger to her lips in a hush gesture.

I could hear it.  An intermittent buzz, like the starter of a fluorescent tube on the blink.

“Might be electrical, we’ll have to be careful.” Deflection from a bloke afraid of bugs.

We walked down the uncarpeted hallway to her austere kitchen.  Set into the ceiling above our heads was a square manhole cover.  The sound of buzzing intensified.   

“Please be careful,” she whispered, pointing to a ladder.

“Why don’t you go first?” I half-teased.

Something changed, her body stiffened.  I saw emotions cross her face until she settled on anger.  “You always disappoint me!”

Before I could placate her, before I could berate myself yet again for being a miserable letdown, Lettie had dragged the ladder into place and climbed towards the hatch.  She opened it with a violent shove and the air crackled.    

Her slim body was half-way through the opening when I yelled “Wait, I’ll do it!”

I heard a girlish squeak, and my own voice shrilled “What?”

“Your turn, David.”  She descended, face aglow. 

The buzz from a thousand imaginary bees drilled into my skull.  I wondered what I would find; what I would do if I did find something.

I raised my boot to the first rung, the ladder seemed too small, the opening too high.

Once my head and shoulders breached the cavity, I heard water dripping somewhere in the gloom.  Ah, I saw a blinking light on a damaged possum deterrent.  Seconds later I heard a whooshing sound.  I lifted my arm but before I could move, two chains bearing a large silver blade swung down towards me.

The buzzing stopped.

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #3 Fair Enough

Missing Out © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was Missing Out.

Fair Enough

My sister wants to be called Garet, and I say “The end bit of your real name?”  I count to five.  She doesn’t hit me.  “Why not go for something different?” 

She pulls a face, accentuated by squinting into the morning sun beaming through the kitchen window.

Undaunted I continue “You’re called Margaret, right.  It might be hard for people to cut off the first part.  Why not the dual purpose name Monica? Get it?”

“Sounds like an English teacher,” she huffs, missing the point. 

“Yeah, you’re not brainy enough.”  I duck the paperback she aims at my head.  It tumbles to the floor and our dog Loopy senses conflict.  He hauls his arthritic body off the floor and lopes from the room.

Garet twirls a lock of hair, she’s in another place.  Possibly Zone One, the Plaza hair salon which radiates militancy.

Theatrically I gasp “You’re not planning short back and sides?”

“Not too short,” she says airily, “and a different colour.”

She holds up her phone, the image makes me blink.  “Wow, purple bleeding into fluoro green.”

“All the girls at school have short hair, like, I mean, really short hair.”

I lean forward.  “So instead of remembering all that stuff Mum and Dad say about being an individual—”

She cuts me off “That’s fine when you’re an adult and your high school days are behind you.”

My mouth won’t stay closed.  “Do those dimwits in your class use a social scale based on hair styles?”  

Garet flares “Of course not!”

“So why do it?”  I kinda know but want her to admit it.

“You know why.”  She picks at her nails, glaring.  “To fit in.”

“And?” I raise my voice an octave, my eyebrows go with it.

“It’s complicated.”  Garet stacks her cereal bowl on top of mine.  “The fear of missing out.”

My two hands slam onto the pine table before I can stop.  “Missing out on what?  Art gallery trips, tapestry classes?”

She flinches “I want to be part of the volunteer group visiting sick children in hospital.”

Instantly I regret my outburst.  Until she adds “There’s some pretty cool interns who hang out with the volunteers in the canteen.”

Fair enough, I can reason with that. Tragically I was overlooked for a hot new soccer team. Now I won’t put my hand up on Sports Day because of that fear, that stab of rejection.

“Garet,” I say condescendingly, “go a full makeover but don’t forget that your family loves you, okay.”

“Thanks, Bro.”  She actually blushes saying that, then twirls her hair again. “I’ll think about it for another week before I tell Mum and Dad.”

“I won’t breathe a word.”

I figure she’ll come home this afternoon with crazy coloured hair.  Fear of missing out makes a person irrational; like wasting money on a soccer club tattoo.   

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #2 Final Frontier

Scientific device © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write whenever I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it. I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words. For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was Space.

Final Frontier

Fran ripped off the velcro strap so violently it took a tuft of her hair with it.

She dropped the VR headset onto the work bench and almost tapped the flashing message on her wrist screen before remembering she was no longer authorised to communicate.

Tord’s on-screen decree was absolute: Shutdown.

She was back in the real world, a contemporary world with little social consciousness, running on limitless personal greed, and no respect for history.

Money flowed through unnamed corporations with anonymous board members and spies controlled by the malignant régime of vigilante ruler, Tord, who leeched the economy of countries world-wide and left billions starving.

Fran spent two claustrophobic years in this grey-walled bunker recreating virtual realities of those countries before the takeover, demonstrating to Tord how nature was exhausted; Earth could no longer be sustained.     

Now those desperate years of work would be erased.

Fran spoke to her roving virtual assistant, a small round device, and issued one command; one irreversible command.

The VA argued with her but Fran was adamant.

“Erase internal and external data and activate equipment meltdown.”

She patted her agitated assistant and suppressed a pang of guilt at the VAs inevitable termination.

“Sorry, Beep.”

Fran unlocked a drawer and seized a new prototype, a machine gun-shaped molecular transporter, just as the security door crashed open.   

“Tord’s here! What are we going to…?”  The voice stopped.

Fran swung around to face her colleague Angelo.  “It’s your day off, Ang, forget about work.”

His eyes grew dark as he walked slowly towards her, arm slightly raised, ready to grab the glowing transporter.

“Please don’t do it, Fran.”                 

She moved back, but he lunged and grabbed the end of the device.

At that moment a thickset man strode through the open laboratory doorway.

“Stop, you idiots!” Tord bellowed. “That biomolecular thing is worth millions!”

His bodyguards shouted but as Tord stepped closer, he tripped.

Tord staggered forward and grabbed Angelo’s arm and Fran’s hand.  She was holding the transporter in a vice-like grip and Tord’s added pressure activated the transference trigger.

The air hummed and vibrated around them, turning everything blue then blindingly white.  Their mouths gasped for air as they travelled through time and space.

Steadily their senses cleared and Angelo discovered what had tripped Tord.

It was Beep, and the VAs Echidna mode had been activated.  It didn’t take long for Tord to start shrieking.  Metal spines were embedded in his ankle, rapidly injecting Quill-Still.  He would be asleep in seconds.

“Good,” thought Fran, as he sank to the ground unconscious.         

All they could see stretched out around them was a vast, empty desert of ochre dust.  The sun was high and the temperature melted the horizon.

Angelo shaded his eyes.  “Looks like 2041 to me.”

“I didn’t manage to set coordinates,” sighed Fran.

She handed him the transporter, removed her lab coat, and carefully rolled an exhausted Beep into the pocket.

Angelo tapped the screen.  “Reset to last week; Tord never visited, body never found.”

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Quick Stories #1 Wrong Agenda

Boardroom photograph by S O C I A L . C U T Brisbane based creative agency specialising in a social media first approach Unsplash image

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt was three names Beverley, Johnno and Smith.

Wrong Agenda

When Smith, the Big Boss, walked into the boardroom everyone was stunned. Beverley, Sales Manager, and the assembled staff hardly knew where to look.

A business man at the wrong end of his fifties, who wears a suit on his day off and never drinks coffee, is not the sort of person you would expect to walk into an annual general meeting with purple hair.

Branch Accountant, Johnno, was the first to recover.

“What the hell happened to your hair, Smith?”

Air was suspended in several lungs, waiting for the backlash, as Smith placed his sleek laptop on the wide polished table. He unbuttoned his charcoal grey suit jacket.  He shook it carefully and placed it on the back of his executive chair before sitting down to adjust his brilliant white cuffs.

By now a modicum of control was coming back into the astonished and amused faces around the room.

Strangely, Johnno appeared to be unconcerned at possible retaliation. He was already tapping his keyboard and pretending to shuffle through notes.

Beverley peered sideways and surmised that Johnno was on social media. She watched his keystrokes and smothered a sly grin. Publicly admiring Johnno for his clever mind and ruthless behaviour at tax time, privately she loathed his unpleasant temperament.

Stealthily, Johnno began to manoeuvre his laptop into a position where he could take a snapshot of the boss.

“Two important words,” boomed Smith, “Fundraising for charity.”

The staff blinked as one.

“Three words,” corrected Johnno.

Smith raised his eyebrows, fortunately their natural grey, as Johnno back-peddled a little too elaborately.

“And those three words are Well Done, Smithy.”

“Give him enough rope…” thought Beverley, and said out loud “Which charity benefited from your rather colourful transformation, sir?”

Smith was about to reply when Johnno, being the accountant that he was, asked “How much did you raise?”

Beverley thought this was rather blunt from a contender for the new State Manager position.

Ignoring Johnno, Smith cast his eyes around the room.

“I raised $2,450.35. My hairdo is the result of my granddaughter’s first attempt at up-styling.”

The boardroom tittered in response; Johnno was busy texting under the table.

Beverley received a subject heading Purple People Eater and another Sure Looks Strange To Me.

Smith continued “She needed a volunteer so I put my hand up, more’s the pity.” Polite throat-clearing emanated from the executives, many of whom had encountered his granddaughter and her office décor ideas.

“Two good deeds then!” exclaimed Beverley, giving a rousing wave of her arm. Johnno quoted her on Twitter with a photo of a chimpanzee offering a high five.

“Buckle up, guys,” rumbled Smith, “this session is going to go off with a bang.”

During lunch, Johnno found out his photo of Smith’s hair had gone viral. Next day he received his notice of termination and discovered the new State Manager, the only person he’d ever liked, was Beverley.

Maybe she didn’t like chimpanzees.  

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Mr Bad Neighbour’s Christmas Mail – Final Episode

Part Three of three parts over three days, this Christmas story is a semi-humorous collection of reminiscences from an adult when he was a teenager.  He said it is a fictional recollection – but is it?  I have retained the way it was imparted to me, with minimal alterations and formatting so readers may find it a bit unconventional. GBW.


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Christmas tree in King George Square Brisbane Queensland © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

EPISODE THREE

Dad had his specs on and was reading the newspaper, to see if his shares had risen, while listening to the cricket commentary on the radio.  The others had flopped in front of that boring ye olde traditional stuff on television, so I went into my bedroom.  I checked my new tan in the mirror, then checked to see if the flat parcel was still there.  I felt around inside the pillow slip but couldn’t feel anything.  Where was it?  I felt all around the area, my wooden bedhead, under the sheet, under the bed, down the back of the bed, but it was gone.  My heart rose into my throat before plunging down into the pit of my stomach.  Someone must have found it.  When would they come forward to quiz me?  I had been dreading the thought of my fingerprints being on the envelopes until I realised that my fingerprints were not on any police file.  Then I grasped the next fact.  They would dust the prints then check my actual fingers.  Sprung so soon when it was only an hour before the bonfire, one hour before the evidence would have been incinerated.  I collapsed onto my bed.

Eventually I got up from my bed and walked slowly out into the backyard, around the dusty cactus rockery, and towards Dad to help him chuck stuff on the accumulating bonfire pile.  He had finished with his newspaper and was already twisting it into wicks and setting up sticks to encourage a good blaze under our discarded remnants of Christmas.  That was a good metaphor and I mentally made a note.  Everyone was told to stay inside as Dad lit a match and the bonfire flames licked at paper plates, wrapping paper, cardboard boxes, cellophane, plastic cartons, plastic cutlery, bonbon hats, tooters, streamers, tangled decorations and a disposable cooking apron which twisted and writhed and finally melted in the red-hot flames.  A steady column of acrid black smoke rose into the sky.

In the intense heat, a molten puddle began to form, and in this inferno I thought I saw a text book shrivel into ashes.  A donation from Roslyn?  The high temperature would have kept us back, but we were never allowed to toast crumpets or marshmallows on sticks because Dad said the air was too toxic.  I hoped our neighbours had their windows closed and I thought of Mr Bad Neighbour’s gravelly voice.  If everyone burned off, I reckon the air would turn to ash and breathing would be difficult.  The sun would be blocked, the rivers would turn to sludge, the trees would lose their leaves and the temperature would rise.

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The land burns © Dot Bernet 2020

Shocked at my own imagination, I turned to the old mango tree growing in the opposite corner of the garden near the paling fence.  Suddenly I wanted to stop the burning.  It was my favourite tree and it was getting ash on its leaves.  I was turning to run for the garden hose when Bitzy ran passed me.  Instantly I saw what he had in his mouth but as I reached down, he veered away and headed towards the bonfire.  Two awful things happening at once.  It was hopeless to try and stop the blaze now, so I concentrated my efforts on Bitzy.  I shouted to Dad.  “Stop Bitzy!  He’s got my book in his mouth!”  With one sweeping gesture, Dad reached down and took the parcel out of the dog’s mouth, holding it above his head.  Bitzy did a wide arch and ran back toward the house and his water bowl.

“Thanks, Dad,” I gasped, “it’s too important to be scorched.”  He raised an eyebrow.  I didn’t stick around to offer an explanation.  The house was cool after the extra heat outside and I welcomed the quietness of my bedroom.  I pushed aside Philip’s swap cards and sat down at my small student desk.  With coloured pencils, scissors and glue I made a paper angel, wrote on one outstretched wing, then folded it across the body.  I glued the angel to the packet and before I could think any more about it, I ran out of my room, flung open the front door, raced down the patio steps, along the crazy paving to the front gate and headed towards Mr Bad Neighbour’s dumb, er, distinctive letterbox.

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I slipped the flat parcel into the posting window of the Swiss Chalet and turned away.  I ran slap bang into Mr Bad Neighbour.  He steadied me with one wrinkled hand.  In the other he held a Christmas-looking parcel.  “Here.”  His face was pale, his voice was wheezy.  “Save me a trip.  This is for you and your family.”  I stuttered my thanks, which he waved away saying “It’s only shortbread.”  I smiled.  “That’s my favourite.”  He nodded.  “Mine, too.”  This was getting a bit embarrassing for me, so I muttered another thank you and stepped around him, racing back home quick sticks.

It wasn’t until I was sipping leftover eggnog and munching shortbread biscuits that I realised Mr Bad Neighbour did not appear from his front gate.  He must have come down the street.  There was a ting sound as Mum hung up the phone.  She came bustling down the hallway full of gossip.  “Well, guess what, my lovelies?”  I shrugged and the others just waited for her announcement.  “Mr Bad Neighbour has been delivering tins of shortbread to all the homes in the street.  Francesca says you could have knocked her down with a feather she was so surprised.”  Dad said “Well, that’s nice of the bloke.  Maybe he’s not as bad as we think.”  Mum tapped her chin and said “You know his health is bad.”

Roslyn and I looked at each other over the top of Philip’s chlorinated head.  I knew from the gleam which flared in Roslyn’s eyes that she was the one who had given Bitzy the envelope parcel.  She must have had her fingers crossed that the dog wouldn’t make it to the bonfire.  She said “Just another Christmas miracle, I guess.”  I wanted to wink at her but it seemed too corny.  And how could I tell her what I had felt in the split second beside the bonfire?  It was like I saw the world being choked by our own careless actions.  When I go back to school next year, I know I am going to be really interested in geography and social studies and definitely telling people to think about where all their rubbish goes.  Into the ground or into the air, I am sure it is going to cause long term damage one way or the other.

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Christmas character cardboard creations © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

It was about half an hour before bedtime and Bitzy growled in his sleep, Philip picked at his flaky nose, and Mum and Dad were being mushy, hugging on the couch in front of the television with the sound turned off.  We’d had a good laugh about the time Dad put the dining table directly under the ceiling fan and turned it on full blast when Mum had just finished laying the table decorations.  Red, green and silver flew everywhere!  Roslyn and I sat on the floor reading really old Blinky Bill comics.  I bumped shoulders and said “Thanks for being a good sister, Ros.”  She grinned.  “Oh, I just have to be patient.  You always work things out in the end.”  She sounded a bit like Mum and I groaned theatrically.  Holding up a bowl, I said “Care for one of Uncle Mark’s nuts?”

All in all, it was a pretty good Christmas.  But that was months ago, and you know what?  Since then Mr Bad Neighbour has not held a loud party.  In fact, he doesn’t have parties any more.  He also stopped smoking and takes healing art classes in the church hall.  His speciality is angels and he is considering launching a business called Angels of Forgiveness or some such soppiness like that.  I certainly hope he never talks about my note or mentions the archangel called Gabriel because that just happens to be my first name.

– The End –

© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

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From Brisbane to the rest of the world © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

You know what Gabriel wrote on the inside of that angel’s wing?
It was a quote he’d heard on Christmas Day
And it goes something like this
“Bearing with one another and,
if one has a complaint against another,
forgiving each other.” Colossians 3:13

Mr Bad Neighbour’s Christmas Mail – Second Episode

Part Two of three parts over three days, this Christmas story is a semi-humorous collection of reminiscences from an adult when he was a teenager. He said it is a fictional recollection – but is it? I have retained the way it was imparted to me, with minimal alterations and formatting so readers may find it a bit unconventional. GBW.


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Lychees originate from southern China and were brought to Australia more than 100 years ago by Chinese goldminers © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

EPISODE TWO

This may have been a threat but I reckon Mr Bad Neighbour wouldn’t take it further because he was mostly in the wrong, most of the time.  I’ll never forget him taking a kick a Bitzy just for walking past his front gate.  What he didn’t know was that he was surrounded by neighbours who pretended to ignore him while keeping a dossier and thinking “He’s a bit suss.  He’ll trip himself up sooner or later.”  Of course, they hoped he’d trip and fall straight into prison.  There’s a slim chance that could happen.  But, in the meantime, they politely pretend he didn’t exist.

I hung up the receiver and it clattered into the cradle in such a way that I hoped hurt his eardrums.  As I turned, I saw a pile of white envelopes someone had dumped in the cane basket beside the telephone which usually held keys and junk.  I brushed aside tiny plastic charms from the Christmas bonbons we had at school on the last day and started to shuffle through the bundle like a pack of cards.  I recognised some of the handwriting and was pleased to see an overseas stamp.  My brain stopped my hand.  My eyes locked on the address in a long window-faced envelope.  It wasn’t addressed to my parents.  It wasn’t addressed to me.  It was addressed to the man nextdoor.  We had received Mr Bad Neighbour’s post by mistake.

Tentatively, I recommenced shuffling the white business envelopes and was amazed to see that three others had his name and address on them.  I read a bank return address, a doctor’s return address, a government office return address and an investment corporation return of address.  There was no way of knowing if they held good news or requests for payment.  Maybe the doctor’s one said he had an incurable disease.  “Oh no,” I thought, “that could mean he’s highly contagious.”  I shuddered.  My next thought was to toss the envelopes back on the pile and let Mum or Dad sort them out.  They’d probably seen this happen before, especially at Christmastime when the post office had relief staff sorting the mail.  Mum might even slip a striped candy cane in with the bundle.  She would think it was a nice gesture but I preferred to think it was hinting at Scrooge, or more likely the Grinch.

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Cute cat and silver ribbon says Christmastime © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

My mind seesawed but my hand stayed firmly clamped.  There were many things I could do with these four envelopes and they were all illegal.  I couldn’t open them, I couldn’t bin them, I thought about re-posting them so they took longer to get back to him, and finally the nastiest option.  I could drop them in the soapy kitchen sink, maybe walk on them, then popping them into his letterbox.  He’d never know.  Or would he?  The postman may have realised his error and would be prepared to testify in court that he put them in our letterbox, unsullied.

The more I mulled over ways to annoy Mr Bad Neighbour by delaying or partially destroying his mail, the less grip I had on reality.  The right thing to do had slowly evaporated and I knew there was no way I would simply put his mail straight into his stupid Swiss Chalet letterbox with its plastic Rudolph on the roof.  I wanted to get back at him for pushing over my bicycle, puncturing my football, telling Mum I trod on his flower bed looking for snails.  Well, it was for a school science project.

Christmas Koala 001Re-posting mail at this time of year meant long delivery delays, quite possibly he wouldn’t get the four envelopes until the New Year and by then he may have advanced lung cancer.  The rational part of my mind said “Surely the doctors have already booked his hospital bed?”  No, there was nothing for it.  My finger prints were all over them, they had to be destroyed.  It wouldn’t be my fault they accidentally fell into the bonfire we always had in the back corner of the garden on Boxing Day afternoon.  Mum liked to clear up and burn the rubbish left over from our festivities.  Occasionally items, unwanted or otherwise, were accidentally broken or scrunched up or drooled on by Bitzy, so what did a handful of paper matter?

It may have been Aunt Zilla’s Christmas plum pudding and brandy custard, but I did not sleep well that night.  Cousin Philip’s parents were on a grown-ups break so Philip stayed in my bedroom, snoring like a diesel train in a sleeping bag.  First up, after I had wiped the envelopes down like they do in the movies, I secured them in some spare wrapping paper and sticky-taped the sides.  Unsure if they would pass as useless overflow or a forgotten gift, I tucked them safely into my pillowcase.  This made my pillow crackle all night and that didn’t help my sleep either.  My mind replayed our Christmas Day family fun over and over, but instead of focusing on my great haul of goodies, and Dad whacking a six over the garage, it kept circling back to the hall telephone table.

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Warm thoughts and merry words © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

Over Boxing Day breakfast, mainly leftover lychees, cheesy bread and dips, I casually asked Roslyn what she thought a person would be fined if they destroyed someone’s Christmas mail.  She looked away from the sight of Philip spooning plum pudding and custard into his mouth and onto his chin.  After swallowing a chunk of ham, slathered in mustard pickles, she said “Depends what was in the mail?” then took a big glug of orange juice before continuing.  “If it was birthday money or bank cheques, it would probably mean a stint in the lockup.”  This was not what I wanted to hear.  “Er,” I groped for a reply.  “What if it was an accident?”  She laughed.  “Then nobody would know, would they?”  And I knew I had my answer.

I tried to keep the jubilant tone out of my voice, while tucking away the word “jubilant” to dazzle my next English teacher, and said “Better not work in the post office, I guess.”  Roslyn gave me a funny look, as though she was going to ask if I’d got a holiday job.  I quickly jumped to my feet.  “Hey, Phil, wanna come to the pool with us tomorrow?”  Philip nearly choked in his eagerness to accept the invitation.  It was nice being a younger kid’s idol.  “That would be great!”  Roslyn raised her nose and said in a haughty voice “I wouldn’t come to that lukewarm pool if you paid me.”  I pulled my Velcro wallet out of my board shorts.  “I have moneeey.”  I waggled two five dollar notes.  “Ice creams are on me.”  They both responded appropriately but I guessed Roslyn had worked out that Uncle Mark had been unfair and given me more than he had given her this Christmas.  Should it matter?  It did, and I felt bad about it.  I made a mental note to buy her a packet of Smarties.

Philip’s holidaying parents left instructions while they were away; games of Scrabble were meant to be the kid’s calm Boxing Day entertainment.  Yeah…  At the chlorinated council swimming pool, I let Phil slide down the slippery slide into the blue water about a hundred times and eat too many jelly snakes which made him sick.  Even when Roslyn forced him to wear a daggy t-shirt in the water, and he got a sunburned face which made him look like a drunk on Saturday night, he loved every minute of it.  “You forgot to apply his sunscreen cream,” wailed Mum.  “Don’t worry, Auntie June,” said Philip.  “My skin will peel off soon enough.”  She left the room still wailing but I couldn’t work out if it was because of Philip’s skin or because her own sister would skin her alive.  Little did I know that I was minutes away from my own personal disaster.

To Be Continued…

© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

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From Brisbane to the rest of the world © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

Mr Bad Neighbour’s Christmas Mail – First Episode

Part One of three parts over three days, this Christmas story is a semi-humorous collection of reminiscences from an adult when he was a teenager.  He said it is a fictional recollection – but is it?  I have retained the way it was imparted to me, with minimal alterations and formatting so readers may find it a bit unconventional. GBW. 


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May your Christmas be shiny and bright © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

EPISODE ONE

Another stinking hot and humid morning, classic Queensland December weather.  Another sweltering Christmas Day lunch was coming with its overload of perfumed aunts, sweaty uncles, sweaty sliced ham, burnt potatoes and sickly sweet desserts squabbled over by squealing cousins.  One year, all the aunts brought pavlova, sunken in the middle and piled high with Golden Circle tinned fruit.  The cream on top had started to curdle and Mum had given up trying to swish off the flies.  This year Aunt Hilda brought the sweetest dessert, a huge glass bowl of rocky road trifle.  I thought cousin Philip’s head was going to explode with excitement.

The entrée was always nice.  Usually Jatz crackers, cheese cubes, carrot and celery sticks and maybe olives or cocktail onions.  If Uncle Mark attended, it was guaranteed there would be salted peanuts, salted brazil nuts and salted cashew nuts.  Not that he was particularly generous, it was just that he liked nuts with his chilled beer.  He drank a lot of chilled beer, summer and winter actually.

Uncle Lucas said what he said every year.  “The person who invented the festive punch bowl was a drongo.  Talk about a foolish way to serve yourself a drink.”  The main reason he didn’t like it was because Mum never poured alcohol into the bowl because of the little kids.   But I had to agree.  For a start, if chunks of pineapple are mixed into the lemonade and cordial swill, it is very hard to ladle the liquid into your glass without splashing.  If my sister Roslyn, who hated stuff in her drinks––even those paper umbrellas––spied a slice of lemon or a glacé cherry floating around, she would spend half an hour trying to fish it out with a toothpick she’d pulled out of a boiled cheerio.  Of course, the linen tablecloth got pretty sticky but our dog Bitzy enjoyed his snack.  On the whole, he did very well out of Christmas lunch. He’s only sicked up once so far.

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HOMEMADE AUSSIE PAVLOVA is a baked crusty meringue with a soft fluffy centre, topped with whipped cream and sweet tangy seasonal fruits © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

In fact, Bitzy was ready and salivating when we all trudged home from the universal Christmas Day morning church service.  I think it was invented to delay the opening of presents under the tree.  The best present I got was Cluedo and I kept asking everyone to play it with me.  Anyway, we had to walk there and back because the almost-Christians always filled the carpark at Christmas.  The first thing I noticed was that Bitzy had romped through most of the gifts under the tree.  Probably bidding our cat a fond goodbye for the next couple of days.  Fortunately there was no food in any of the presents so he didn’t do much damage, although the bows looked a bit wonky, and I could see a skinny Barbie arm waving for help through a snowman-wrapped box.

Snowmen, holly, red robins, can’t we move on?  Even Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, or St Nicholas wears a red hot thermal suit.  In this temperature!  Come on, those cards on the mantelpiece are weird, why would he get togged up, harness the reindeers and deliver pressies to kids in the outback wearing that outfit?  And why does he fly over Bondi Beach or Ayers Rock?  Most of us live in three-bedroomed houses in the suburbs.  I vaguely thought of the song “Six White Boomers” about kangaroos instead of reindeer.  Those reindeers are a worry, surely it’s not their only seasonal job.  And what if Santa got a ute?

This got me thinking about the Sri Lankan family at one end of our street, and the Indigenous mob at the other end where me mate Gazza used to live.  I will have to ask Dad if they exchange gifts and celebrate like we do with decorations and excessive food.  Before school starts again next year, maybe I can ask Gazza.  He’s been outback but hopefully will swing into town at the end of January around Australia Day celebrations.  Well, maybe not, he burns the flag, so I’ll probably see him in February.

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Christmas symbols anyone? © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

I tweaked the tinsel holding another load of gaudy cards and they bounced violently but didn’t fall off.  Mum always wrote Christmas cards even though she said it was a chore and Dad said it was to keep in good with people.  Our tree this year was a bare branch from a local gumtree, stuck in a flower pot and decorated with crafty things Roslyn and I made at school while the teachers took a break in the staff room.  It was strung with twinkly coloured lights and looked good leaning forward, sort of humble, like Mary and Joseph in the cowshed.  Sometimes Roslyn would make a little manger, padded with dry grass, and wrap one of her dolls in a facecloth to look like baby Jesus.  She didn’t like it when I used my toy dinosaurs as lowly cattle.

In the lead up to Christmas, we always visited the local Christmas Lights display.  Lights were plastered all over ordinary homes in ordinary streets, creating traffic chaos but giving everyone an eyeful of how much electricity there is to waste.  Roslyn thought I was weird because I liked the plain twinkly lights in the trees, not the big bold brightly coloured ones that beamed from roof-lines in the shape of the nativity.  This year a couple of families had lined their driveways in a successful imitation of an aircraft runway.  I guess it was an incentive for Father Christmas to visit, reserved parking, no chimney fuss.  I half expected to see a bale of hay for Rudolph and the team.

When I think of lights and decorations, I think of the time when Roslyn was a toddler, she popped a small glass Christmas tree decoration into her mouth and chomped it.  Everyone went hysterical and she had to spit it out and rinse her mouth and get a lecture.  It was only Uncle Mark who muttered “Damn glass manufacturers” which is probably why the world went plastic.  In hindsight, it has proved to be just as dangerous.

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We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

Dad usually asked “Could we have a barbecue this year, love?” but Mum always vetoed the idea because “It’s Christmas, Merv, not Melbourne Cup Day.”  He grumbled as he stirred the rich dark gravy he always made for the roasted leg of lamb.  Which he always had the honour of carving right after we said grace.  This meat was my favourite and I couldn’t understand why my best friend Redmond was a vegetarian when there was such a variety of food on the planet.  I’d often ask “Why restrict yourself, Red?” and he’d snort and go and sit on another side of the shelter shed, muttering “carnivore” and filling his mouth with mung beans.

Anyway, on this after-lunch, over-heated Christmas afternoon, the phone rang.  Due to the little kids still playing in the paddling pool, everyone lazily keeping an eye on them, their aluminium chairs sinking into the lawn as they digested the food they’d gutsed, I was the bunny.  I raced towards the house, scaring a scrap-watching magpie, ran along the hallway and skidded to a stop in front of the telephone table.

“Hello,” I said and held my breath, wondering who it would be.  A gravelly voice said “Would you stop making so much blasted noise.”  I blinked.  This was our nextdoor neighbour who always made the most noise in the street.  Loud parties, squealing women, swearing men, breaking bottles, knocking over bins, and revving his Holden Monaro GTS twin exhaust pipes at one o’clock in the morning.  I swallowed and composed the reply Mum had drilled into me.  “Thank you for calling. I’ll let my parents know you rang.”  His cleared his cigarette smoker’s throat.  “You better, or else there’ll be trouble.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

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From Brisbane to the rest of the world © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2020

Strolling Down by the River

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Came over the hill and the Brisbane River is to the right…


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And a line of waiting cars can be seen to the left…


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The Moggill Ferry is on the opposite bank…


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Here it comes, loaded with cars…


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With a clank, the metal plank is lowered and the cars drive off…


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A warning to boats cruising up the river…


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It is nice to sit on the river bank in the sun.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


BACKGROUND INFORMATION  Moggill Ferry, a tolled vehicular cable ferry, crosses the Brisbane River between Moggill, Brisbane and Riverview, Ipswich, Queensland.  It has weathered several floods since 1920s and had various replacements.  The ferry was motorised in 1940s under joint control of the Ipswich and Brisbane City Councils.  It can carry 20 vehicles (car AU$1.90) GVM vehicle up to 4.5 tonnes (AU$16.30) pedestrians (free) and operates between sunrise and sunset—if you miss the last ferry, you have to take the long way via Ipswich Highway.  Services operate daily, except for Good Friday and Christmas Day.  The journey takes approximately 4 minutes on the vehicle ferry.  I think that depends on the pull of the current.  During the floods of 2011, the ferry cables broke and ferry staff lashed it to the riverbank so it would not get washed away.  It may look like a bygone era but it is well-used and only 19km (12 miles) from the centre of the city. GBW.

Coach Departing Now, Folks

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Made in England – china dessert bowl – date and manufacturer unknown.

A rather dramatic story is unfolding in my breakfast bowl.

Cereals and desserts have been eaten from this bowl for over thirty years and yet I have never properly looked at the picture on it.

A few days ago I had a shock when I scooped up the last spoonful of my Weet-Bix (similar to the UK Weetabix, both invented by Bennison Osborne, an Australian) and saw there was a castle on the hill.  I kid you not, I had never seen that castle before!

Allow me to acquaint you with some backstory.  Originally there was a set of six china bowls (15 centimetres or 6 inches across) and originally my parents owned them.  Unfortunately porridge, domestic accidents, and heating leftovers in the microwave have whittled them down.  Of the surviving two, one has a nasty looking fault line appearing.  Therefore, the bowl I have photographed may be the end of the ceramic line.  Or the end of the beginning of a coach trip.

So far, so boring—but wait.  Although this bowl is old, I have to be honest and say it is not an antique.  In fact the picture may have been embossed on like a transfer and glazed over.  Never mind, I’m getting to the point, well, ten points actually—

  First there is the brooding castle on the hill; quite a substantial pile.  A name doesn’t immediately spring to mind but I’m working on it.

  Nestled halfway down the hill is a gamekeeper or crofter’s cottage.

  In the valley at the base of the hill is a small village.  An unaccompanied lady is standing on the side of the unpaved road which runs past the Duck Inn.  She isn’t over-dressed and uses a walking cane.  Her gaze is towards the two gentlemen opposite, chatting beside the milestone.  Perhaps this marker reads “London 100 miles” but I can’t decipher it.

  One of the toffs (lord of the manor) is holding a buggy whip.  He would not have ridden a horse down from the castle in a top hat.  He could be the lady’s son and heir up to no-good, he spends too much time in the tavern.  Or she may be his old faithful nanny, instructed to keep an eye on him.  Or yet again, she could be the wife of the man canoodling in the middle of the road.

  We see two lovers canoodling in the middle of the road.  The man is keener than the woman, and a dog is either giving them a wide berth or coming around behind the man to nip him on the ankle.

  Unbeknown to the busily occupied people, a cat slinks into the rear footwell of the coach.  Earlier he had been shooed away but being a feline named Nosey…

  Outside the Duck Inn (a duck is painted on the sign) the coach boy is making final preparations for the horses’ feedbags.  He loves them ‘orses.

  The coach driver is ready and waiting.  He’s heard rumours that Dick Turpin is lurking in the vicinity (if I’m in the right century) and wants to get going well before nightfall.  The innkeeper loaned him a pistol and it digs into the small of his back.

  Seven people are milling about.  At least four are passengers judging by the loading of a trunk on the roof, a well-wrapped parcel in somebody’s hands, and a family group perhaps saying goodbye.  The husband could be off to London on business and the daughters are sad but the wife is glad he’s out of her hair for a few days.

  Lastly, a curtain twitches at one of the attic windows of the Duck Inn.

There are leafy details in the background and in the foreground the stone wall appears to be crumbling.  I have looked for birds but only managed to spy a tiny number 9 in the garden beneath the Duck Inn sign.  A maker’s mark?

And that’s it.  There are no hallmarks or stamps on base of the bowl except the words “Made in England”.  I have no idea if the picture is fake-aged or has been copied from an earlier (original) tableware design.

One thing is for sure, it has given me a good idea for an historical short story.  Visual prompts are another way to overcome writer’s slump.  Look hard at any image and you will find a story to tell.

Check your kitchen cupboards, your own crockery may have a narrative in the making!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

My ‘Commuter Scene’ in The Drabble

Delighted to be Drabbled! Love the accompanying photo, just wish I was as glamorous as this young woman Gretchen Bernet-Ward.

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By Gretchen Bernet-Ward

It’s nauseating. I usually don’t read on public transport. Sentences sway like a line of melting ants. I look out the bus window, watching cars whoosh along one level, trains on another. Soon train tracks swoop down, crossing the road. Ding, ding, ding, shrills the signal. A teenager ducks under the falling boom gate and sprints across the tracks. Impatient, foolish. Two seconds between life and resembling dog vomit. Platform security guards move in. The teenager projects nonchalance then slumps onto a metal seat. The bus moves off and my eyes fall to the formicine words.

           
“The written word has been a big part of my work-life, never for personal fulfillment. The birth of my blog activated the joyous freedom of self-expression. I use public transport and, oh, the things I’ve seen …” – the author

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Why do we care so much about shortlists? And I am on one!

I am honoured to be on the Shortlist in such esteemed company.
Here’s Jen Storer telling us all about shortlists… Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Someone recently asked, what’s the big deal about a shortlist?
 
What’s the big deal?
 
A shortlist groups together the best!
 
 It acknowledges the most accomplished of a long and always healthy collection of entries.
 
It’s also how we make competitions like the Scribbles Creative Writing Awards, manageable — both for the judges and for the competitors.
 
Imagine if we only gave out two prizes, two ‘nods’, per category. Judges would tear out their hair. Creators would feel jaded and demoralised. And rightly so!
 

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A shortlist gives more people a chance to shine. It spreads the love a little further.
 
Yes, indeedy. To be on a shortlist is a great honour. And a great thrill.
 
Not only can it boost us emotionally, psychologically and creatively, it can also boost our career.
 
Publishers and agents care about shortlists. Funding bodies care about…

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‘Door Knocking’ Short Story

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Door Knocking

It’s a bright, breezy Saturday morning and I’m doing light housework when I hear a knock on the front door.  On the weekend nobody knocks at the front door at this time of day.  Nobody except salespeople touting a product, charity or religion.  I go to the window and look down at the doorstep, which doesn’t have a porch covering, and I see two people.  A fair-haired woman who is thumbing through an iPad and a man in a jaunty hat.  The window is open so I lean out, say a loud hello and they look up.  Predictably, they respond with surprise, the man uttering the usual “A voice from above” and I give a weak smile.  The woman swallows and clears her throat.  She launches straight into her patter which goes something like this “We are currently in your neighbourhood discussing death and dying and what this means to families, your family…etc, death cropping up several times…and what are your thoughts on this subject?”  My first reaction is annoyance, she hasn’t said who she represents.  The invisible signs are as obvious as the outward message.  My second reaction is one of astonishment.  Do they really expect me to talk over such a matter with them, total strangers, door-knocking my street, making dogs bark, trying to look deep and meaningful on a topic which is universally devastating no matter what the circumstances?  My third and final reaction is to look her in the eyes and say “I’m sorry, I do not wish to participate.”  She smiles, he smiles, I offer them a polite good-bye and they wish me a happy weekend.  As I’m drawing back, I catch a momentary look of relief on the woman’s face.  Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

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Giant Wallabies

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My short story mentions a rural event known as a show.
Alternate names can be exhibition, county fair or agfest.

Looks of disbelief washed across the children’s faces.  Robbo’s face shone with a self-satisfied smile.  Next to his work boots lay Dugger, his Labrador dog, who raised an eyelid then went back to sleep.
A snort came from school teacher, Miss Evelyn, and all eyes turned to her as she gathered up her patchwork squares.
“What a lot of nonsense,” she said as she stuffed sewing material into her carrybag.  “Brookfield Show eve and you’re going to fill their heads with fantasy.”
One of the younger children put his hand up.
“Did it really happened, Robbo?”
Robbo said “Yes” at the same time Evelyn snapped “No” and the young boy retracted his hand in disappointment.
“Can you prove it?” asked Angela, an older girl with jet black hair and thoughtful eyes.  She was one of many third generation Brookfield students whom Miss Evelyn had known from babyhood.
“Hmm,” Robbo said thoughtfully.  If he had a beard, he would have stroked it in contemplation.  “I reckon I can try.”
Robbo was a well-known local figure, a carpenter by trade who could turn his hand to any odd job around the residences in the area.  He and Dugger were a volunteer Story Dog team at the local school.
Today they had veered off topic and instead of the slow readers reading, Robbo had tantalised them with an opening salvo to his tale.
“Start from the beginning,” Miss Evelyn sniffed “so we can get into the right mood.”
The children chuckled nervously and settled themselves back on the kindergarten cushions.  Some of the older boys had objected to being in the kindy room but the seating arrangements were more comfortable than their classroom, currently overflowing with paintings and craft waiting transfer to the Show pavilions.
Miss Evelyn settled herself down again like a kookaburra shuffling her feathers.  A couple of the young ones inched closer to her, hoping for motherly support should the need arise.
“Okay,” Robbo rubbed his hands together.  “Here goes!”  He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees.  A security thumb or two was popped in, soft toys were hugged and someone let off a smell.
“It wasn’t a dark and stormy night, in fact, it wasn’t dark but there was a rain cloud,” began Robbo, lowering his voice, “and two small brown wallabies grazing in a paddock near the Showgrounds.”  His eyes roved the attentive audience.  “A large crow was sitting high in a nearby gumtree when––”  Robbo clapped his hands and everyone jumped.  “A bolt of lightning struck the gumtree and the crow flew away.  The lightning had ignited the tree and fire was crackling fiercely through it branches before someone in the general store rang the fire brigade.”
Everyone wriggled then settled again, eyes just that bit wider.  “The flames had reached the ground and were burning towards the Brookfield Showgrounds at a furious pace.”  Robbo looked around.  “Where are those two wallabies?”
A hand shot up and the timid voice of Frederick of the smells said “They ran away to safety.”
Robbo shook his head.  “No, they were still there.  And you know what?”  He raised his calloused hands high in the air above his head.  “They had turned into giant wallabies.”  Then, for extra emphasis, he stood up and reached for the ceiling.  His fingers almost dislodged a butterfly mobile but it added to the atmosphere as they fluttered wildly around his uncombed hair.
“These were energised wallabies, they had super powers and were big enough to roll the Ferris wheel away.”
The group froze; Frederick crouched ready to run.
An older boy scoffed “Yeah, but what can they do about the fire?”
Nodding heads inspired him to add “Maybe the crow flew to get help?”
Robbo pulled a face and told them the crow was another story.  Sitting down, he attempted a sage storyteller voice.
“They bounded over a fence to Moggill Creek and began drinking lots and lots of water.  It tasted a bit like dirt and leaves and stuff but they guzzled until they were full.  It was difficult for them to walk so they sort of rolled back towards the outer fence.  It flattened and they put themselves right in the path of the oncoming blaze.  With puffed cheeks and one big blast like a wall of creek water, they hosed over the flames until they went out.”  He cleared his throat.  “Of course, the smoke made them cough and they had to wipe their eyes but all in all they didn’t even get their fur singed.”
“What happened next,” shouted two girls in unison, grabbing each other’s hands.  “Did they get a medal?  Or a free pass to the Show?”
Miss Evelyn pursed her lips and shushed them.
Robbo’s expression sobered.  “Not that simple, I’m afraid.”
Dugger shifted position on the floor and put his bony jaw on his paws, the seams of his orange vest creaking beneath him.
“The two giant wallabies heard a sound,” continued Robbo, “and turned to see that stray sparks had ignited inside the main Showground and were crackling and spitting across the dry leaves, past the arena, towards the agricultural buildings and meeting hall.  Oh no, historical buildings.”
Nobody saw Miss Evelyn trying to swallow a laugh and regain her composure.
“Surely the local fire brigade would have arrived by now?” she said.
“Their siren could be heard in the distance,” said Robbo, “and the general store had put up makeshift road blocks to stop traffic.  The store owner was hosing down the store and the giant wallabies knew if they were seen by him, their cover would be blown.  After one mighty spurt of water, they shrunk and hopped off into the distance, far away, up towards Mount Elphinstone.  There is a cave high on Mount Elphinstone where, legend has it, two wallabies sit and keep watch over the dry land.”
Robbo surveyed his listeners.  “The paint had been blistered off some buildings, and a palm tree was sooty but it survived and a quick paint job fixed the rest.”
“Phew, that’s a relief,” said one of Angela’s younger siblings and everyone laughed.  Apparently they shared similar thoughts – the cake pavilion housing their entries sitting under cling wrap on paper plates.
“And sideshow alley,” thought Miss Evelyn.
“However,” Robbo spoke at full volume, causing several children to squeak, “whenever there is lightening in Brookfield, or a barbecue out of control, you are wise to stay away from the flames because the giant wallabies will activate.”
“But,” said Frederick gravely, “they are our friends and they would protect us.”
“True, true.”  Robbo was momentarily fazed.  Even asleep, Dugger thumped his tail in encouragement.  Robbo rallied “Just don’t get in the way of giant wallabies at work.  Like flood waters, giant wallabies could unleash a wave of water which would wash you off your feet and into Moggill Creek.”
Miss Evelyn puckered her brow.  “Robbo, please.  No more scary stories.”
Robbo avoided her gaze, patting Dugger and adjusting his leather collar.
“Show’s over, kids.”
Determinedly, single-minded Angela spoke up.  “You said you had proof.”
Judging by the looks Miss Evelyn saw on the younger faces, caps nervously twisted between little fingers, they did not want proof.
“Sure,” replied Robbo with an airy wave of his hand. “If you go into the pony club grounds near the Brookfield Cemetery, you’ll spy a bleached eucalyptus tree trunk.  That’s the one which got struck by lightning.”
“Also,” piped a helpful voice from the sidelines, “I’ve seen wallabies.”
The collective chatter was enough to wake Dugger.  He got to his paws, shook his furry head and looked around.  He let out a sharp bark and ran to the open door.  With a slight pause to sniff the air, he bounded out of the room.
The space Dugger left seemed suspended, a motionless void.
“Wallabies,” whispered Frederick.
The electronic school bell sounded, breaking the spell.
“Lunch time, children.”  Miss Evelyn rose and smoothed her tartan skirt.  “After lunch we have choir rehearsal for the opening ceremony.”
As the children helped stack cushions in the corner, Miss Evelyn turned to Robbo.
“Was Dugger motivated by the aroma of tuckshop pies or something bigger?”
Robbo shrugged.  “That dog has a great sense of theatre.”
She wagged her finger.  “Giant wallabies or not, the Show must go on.”

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Wallabies Ferris Wheel

AUTHOR NOTE:  This short story is dedicated with love and respect to Kookaburra Kat of KR, a long-time friend who supports and encourages my literary endeavours and is a passionate wildlife warrior, nurturing and caring for all creatures.  GBW.