Saturday, June 19, 2021

The other side

 A body breezed past Barry and onto the pedestrian crossing.

‘What the … Hey, lady!’

A car swerved to avoid the woman.

‘You’re … Hey!’

She continued her path, seemingly oblivious to the traffic.

A car honked its horn.

Without thinking Barry hurried out after her, his arms outstretched as if they would somehow stop an 18-wheeler.

‘Are you crazy?’

Her face was wet with tears. ‘What?’

‘You’re going to get killed.’

‘So?’

‘And you’re going to kill others.’

‘Others?’

‘Come-on.’ He pulled her back to safety.

‘I need to cross.’

‘To the other side, but not the other side.’



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

It's for the best

 ‘You didn’t tell her?’

‘No.’

‘You just ended it.’

Terry nodded.

‘With no explanation.’

‘I told her we weren’t suited.’

‘And she’s meant to believe that? You’ve been inseparable.’

‘It’s better this way.’

‘For who? You?’

‘For both of us.’

‘And she doesn’t get a say?’

‘What good will it do her?’

‘What good is breaking her heart now doing?’

‘It’s better than watching me die.’

‘Jesus, Terry.’

‘What? It’s terminal, Neil. Six months tops. It’s better for her to move on now.’

‘She’s not going to move on.’

‘You’d better keep this to yourself.’

‘Terry.’

‘It’s for the best.’



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

No, no you’re not

‘Chloe! Wow.’

‘Hello, Brett.’

‘You’re a mother now?’

Chloe looked down at the stroller.

‘How old is she?’

‘Just gone two years.’

‘Two years? So, she’s …’

‘We have to go.’

‘Wait. I’m a … a dad?’

‘No, no you’re not.’

‘Why didn’t you tell me?’

‘You’d moved and changed your number.’

‘Well, my parents then?’

‘I did. They told me to get an abortion.’

‘What?’

‘That’s between you. We’re going now.’

‘Wait, Chloe. Can we talk about this?’

‘No.’

‘Can I at least say hello. Hold her.’

‘No.’

‘But I’m her father.’

‘No. You were just a torn condom.’



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Hope from hopelessness

‘Would you like anything else?’

Katja looked up at the waiter.

‘Do you know where my date went?’

‘He’s left.’

‘Left?’

‘When you were absent.’

‘What the …’

‘He’s paid the bill.’

‘But left me sitting here like an idiot.’

‘He was just avoiding the inevitable.’

‘What?’

‘He’d ask for a second date and you’d say no.’

‘So he left?’

‘No-one has ever said yes. So he bailed early. I guess he can tell himself there might have been a faint chance rather than none.’

‘Seriously?’

‘Would you have said yes?’

‘No.’

‘Then he gained a little hope from hopelessness.’ 

A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

You don't deserve each other

‘That’s it? It’s over?’

‘He needs to apologise.’

‘For what? Not breaking a promise to a friend?’

‘He was sneaking behind my back.’

‘He was being discrete.’

‘I was his girlfriend.’

‘And you don’t need to know his friend’s secrets.’

‘He owes me an apology.’

‘He tried explaining it and you wouldn’t listen.’

‘Then he should try again.’

‘He’s not going to; he’s a fatalist.’

‘What?’

‘You made your position clear. He’s going to respect your wishes.’

‘My wish is an apology.’

‘Then keep wishing.’

‘He’s giving up?’

‘He’s given up. And so am I. You don’t deserve each other.’



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

It's probably for the best

‘You’re just going to let her go?’

‘I tried reasoning with her; she wouldn’t listen.’

‘And?’ James asked, exasperated. ‘Try again.’

‘I can’t force her to trust me.’

‘You love her, right?’

Mark nodded.

‘Then why are you giving up so easily?’

‘That’s just how it is. Her friends can’t understand why she’s with me, I don’t understand either. She deserves someone better.’

‘Not this crap again. That’s for her to decide; not you or her friends.’

‘Well, she’s decided.’

‘Based on a misunderstanding!’

‘That I’ve tried to explain.’

‘Then explain again.’

‘There’s no point. It’s probably for the best.’



A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Her mother

 The screaming stopped with the slamming of a door.

‘Who the hell was that?’

‘Sarah’s mother.’

‘You’re her mother.’

‘Her biological mother.’

‘What did she want?’

‘Sarah.’ Hannah dropped to her haunches, crying.

‘But you’re her mother now. … Hannah?’

‘The adoption … it hasn’t been finalized.’

‘But …’

‘Mom, what are we going to do.’

‘You need to talk to Matt. And to a solicitor.’

‘She’s going to take her baby … our baby back. She says she’s not ill anymore.’

‘Ring Matt. I’ll collect Sarah from school.’

‘Mom.’

‘It’ll be okay.’

‘She’s her child.’

‘She’s yours as well.’


A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Mothers

 Carrie popped the cards into the letterbox.

‘Who’re they for?’ Emma asked.

‘Our mothers.’

‘Their birthdays are close?’

‘Same day.’

‘Wow. And you’re not going to visit either?’

‘We don’t get on.’

‘Both of them?’

Carrie quickened her pace.

‘Hey, slow down!’

‘I don’t want to talk about it.’

‘You fell out with your mother-in-law?’

‘My mother.’

‘And he fell out with his mother as well?’

‘His mother-in-law.’

‘So neither of you fell out with his mother.’

‘We both did.’

‘But you just said …’

‘Emma!’

‘Unless …’

‘Stop.’

‘Really? Ryan’s your step …’

‘No! Stop leaping to …’

‘Wow!’


A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Foundations

‘Woah! Stop!’

The digger’s arm juddered to a halt.

‘What?’

‘You’d better take a look.’

‘What is it?’

‘Bones.’

‘Bones?’ Reluctantly, John stepped down from the cab into the rain.

‘There.’

‘Is that a jaw bone?’

‘You smashed the skull.’

‘Shit. We’re going to have to shut down the site. I’ll call the police.’

‘But what about the foundations?’

‘They’ll have to wait.’

‘We’ve got concrete coming tomorrow.’

‘Cancel it.’

‘But the house needs to be finished before the wedding.’

‘Nothing good will come from living above a dead body.’

‘Except I’ll be one if we’re still in the caravan.’


A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

No greater rival

‘What are you doing?’ Cate asked, yawning.

‘Trying to get this report finished,’ John said, without looking up.

‘At four in the morning?’

‘I want to hand it over tomorrow. I mean today.’

‘You said it’s due next week.’

‘It is. I want it give it to Hanley early.’

‘He set the deadline.’

‘He notices these things.’

‘He’s concerned about you; that you’re going to burn out.’

‘I’m just trying to get ahead.’

‘By running yourself into the ground?’

‘By being the best.’

‘There’s no greater rival than one that doesn’t exist, John. If you’re being bested, it’s by yourself.’ 

A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Review of On The Java Ridge by Jock Serong (2017, Text Publishing)

Two boats set out in Indonesian waters. One, the Java Ridge, skippered by Isi Natoli, is a tourist jaunt for Australian surfers. The other, the Takalar, carries refugees heading for Australia. It is not going to plan on either vessel, but then a large thunderstorm approaches. While the Java Ridge shelters in a lagoon on an occupied island, engine troubles prevent the Takalar making land. Drifting onto coral reef in heavy seas she flounders. The Australians and their Indonesian crew rescue as many people as they can, but over half the refugees are dead and one Australian is seriously injured. Meanwhile, in Canberra, the ruling party has just pushed through a new hardline policy regarding maritime assistance to vessels in trouble. In election week there’s little appetite to roll-back the policy, even if there are potentially Australians involved. Those stranded on Dana island are on their own.

On the Java Ridge is a morality tale concerning refugee and asylum seeker policy, with Serong exploring the politics and consequences of punitive programmes through three groups: the politicians and civil servants creating and enacting the policies, the Australian public, represented by a group of Australian surfers, and the asylum seekers themselves. Each has a principal character the story is hooked around: Cassius Calvert, former sportsman turned politician and the Minister for Border Integrity; Isi Natoli, skipper of the Java Ridge; and nine-year-old, Roya, who is travelling with her heavily pregnant mother, her father and brother missing in Afghanistan. Serong keeps the focus at the individual and group level throughout, capturing nicely the personal dynamics and lived experiences of the three groups. The result is a very humanizing, empathetic, character-driven tale that is threaded through with periods of danger, tension, action and loss, with the politics playing out in multiple everyday ways. The result is a contemporary social commentary that is not overly preachy or forced, but nonetheless drives home its message whilst remaining a thoroughly engaging tale of survival against the odds with a knockout denouement. I finished the book a few days ago and I’m thinking about the flurry of final sucker punches. A superior, slow burn, thought-provoking thriller.


Saturday, April 10, 2021

Swansong

Amy hit the high note and held it.

Opening her eyes, three of the chairs had turned.

‘Wow! That was amazing!’

‘Who are you?’

She tried to compose herself. ‘I’m Amy. I’m 52.’

The next couple of minutes passed in a blur.

‘So, who are you going to pick?’

‘Nobody. I just wanted to sing; to see if a chair turned.’

‘You’re not …’

‘Thank-you.’ She strode from the stage.

‘Amy, wait.’

The presenter caught her in the wings.

‘I’m sorry; I’ll be gone by the time the series ends.’

‘Gone?’

Amy tugged the wig free. ‘That was my swansong.’


A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Review of The Delicate Storm by Giles Blunt (2003, Harper Collins)

During a false spring, pieces of a body are discovered in woods outside of Algonquin Bay in Northern Ontario. Detective John Cardinal is assigned the case, but struggles to find leads. His efforts are not helped by the interference of the Mounties and secret service, neither of whom seem keen on solving the mystery. A few days later the body of a young doctor is found naked, seemingly raped. Cardinal’s partner Lisa Delorme picks up that case, but also makes little progress. Once Cardinal’s victim is identified there’s a lead to grasp onto which points back to events in Montreal thirty years before and an act of terrorism that derailed the Quebec independence movement and had lasting repercussions for policing and security. The only people who seem interested in revisiting what happened were the victim and Cardinal and Delorme and someone has done a reasonable job of evading evidence.

The Delicate Storm is the second book in the Cardinal and Delorme procedural series set in Northern Ontario. In this outing they are investigating two deaths, a dismembered man and a young female doctor, both found in woods outside of Algonquin Bay. Neither appear to be straightforward and progress is slow, not helped by inter-agency intransience. Following the trail of the dead man leads them to Montreal and acts of political violence that gripped and shocked the nation in 1970. Blunt puts in play all the ingredients for a decent police procedural meets political thriller. However, after a decent start the story starts to lose its way. In the middle section, when the tale moves to Montreal the pace drops to a crawl and the story becomes a drawn out political history lesson on Quebec separatists and specific events. It’s interesting in its way, but is way too much tell and not show. After that, the tale winds to an underwhelming denouement, with the excitement coming more from it taking place in an ice storm rather than the mystery. What saves the story to an extent is the revealing of some of Cardinal and Delorme’s back story, with some nice character development. Overall, however, a tale that had lots of potential suspense that starts well then slowly fizzles out.


 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

It's just begun

‘Where are you going?’

‘I’m leaving.’

‘At this hour? I thought you were staying the night.’

‘I have to go.’

Greg reached out a hand. ‘Are you okay?’

Maria pulled away. ‘Let’s end this.’

‘What?’

‘We said no strings, remember?’

‘Maria?’

‘I can’t do this. You’re a player.’

‘But …’

‘I don’t want a serious relationship. And I’m not going to let myself be hurt again.’

‘You’re hurting now.’

‘It’ll be worse later. Trust me it’s better this way.’

‘But we …’

‘There is no we. There never was.’

‘We can work it out.’

‘No. It’s over.’

‘It’s just begun.’

A drabble is a story of exactly 100 words.


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Review of City of Veils by Zoë Ferraris (2009, Abacus)

Shortly after Miriam, an American woman married to a contractor working in Saudi Arabia, arrives back in the country after a trip home her husband disappears. Cautious of the authorities given its repressive regime, particularly towards women, she’s scared and out of her depth. On a local beach the disfigured body of a young woman is found. Detective Osama Ibrahim is assigned to investigate, aided by forensic scientist, Katya Hijazi, one of the few women working in the police force. After a stuttering start, the woman is identified and eventually connected to Miriam’s husband. Aided by her Bedouin friend, Nayir, who could end up being much more, Katya tries to make a positive contribution to the case. But it’s not easy to be a female investigator in Saudi, and just as difficult to start a relationship of equals with a devout man. Miriam’s life, however, depends on Katya making progress on both fronts.

City of Veils is the second book in the Katya and Nayir trilogy set in Saudi Arabia. As with the first book, there is a very strong sense of place and politics, and continued good character development. The plot is intriguing and engaging, with plenty of twists and turns, though the desert denouement felt a little over-dramatic and switched pace and structure. While the story provides a fascinating social commentary on Saudi society, at times there was a bit too much tell rather than show, with the narrative explaining a situation rather than just detailing it. The result was a kind of education through fiction that felt a little too prescriptive even if it was informative. Other than that, I thought it was a well plotted, entertaining read with two lead characters I’m happy to spend time with.