Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nine Clubs

The 3WW Wednesday words this week are heartache, jangle and reckless. A little scene for you:

We play bridge at a small square table in the corner of the staff room over lunch. The game starts when we have our four players. Today I'm partnered with Elka, a Polish woman from the art department. She irritates me in so many ways. Her jewellery is pretentious. She has dangly gold earrings and a golden necklace that looks like a dog chain. There are rings on each finger and countless bracelets on her arms that jangle every time she plays a card.

I could possibly tolerate Elka if she would just eat her lunch and play cards; but for her, this would be a waste of a captive audience. She imposes tales of hardship, misery and heartache on us. She is a perpetual whinger, who complains not only about the present, but also about every wrong committed against her, real or imagined, that she can remember or invent.

Elka is in fine form today, and I'm sick of it. I decide to provoke her further with a reckless bid to eight hearts. She drops her rambling and tells me to repeat my call; she's sure she can't have heard properly. Bob, on my left, doubles my bid. She is stunned now, and tries to rescue us to nine clubs.

The hand is unwinnable, but Elka is silent as she concentrates, trying to make something from nothing. Her pride forces her to fight to the death. I recover my smile as I get myself another cup of coffee and leave the staff room for the fresh spring air. Life's too short to keep playing a game you're not enjoying.

(Edit 28/10/2009: changed "heart properly" to "heard properly". Thanks Mattrozzi.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Shift Miner: 5 Minute Fiction

Today, the 73rd edition of Shift Miner Magazine came out, complete with a new section, written by me, called 5 Minute Fiction. The story in this edition is called Lifting Point, and appears on page 21 of the magazine. Shift Miner have recently started their website, where they have a copy of the latest edition available for download in pdf. You've got two weeks to read the magazine before it gets replaced by the next issue.

Shift Miner specifically targets workers in the Queensland coal mining industry, offering them news, opinions and entertainment relevant to the industry. Their business model appears to depend largely on advertisers targeting this same demographic. I'll be trying to write stories that are relevant to the context of mineworkers in this area, so I'm hoping my stories will really "click" with the readership.

I'm very excited to have a regular column in a printed magazine. I'm not sure what this is going to mean exactly, but it can't be bad.

Friday, October 16, 2009

[3WW] I'm Talking to You

The three words for Three Word Wednesday (3WW) CLIX are "frustrate", "indecent" and "understand". Here's a little scene around that...

"I don't understand why you watch those films. They're rubbish."

"Mum," she said, "I love horror movies."

"They're indecent. They're filth. They will turn you into a tramp. I try to bring you up a good catholic. Why do you throw all that away?"

"It's just for fun, Momma. It's not a religion. It's a fantasy. It helps me forget about school, and stuff; all my frustrations."

"What?" said Momma. "You have it so easy. You're ungrateful. You have nothing in your life to frustrate you, you understand? Nothing! Don't walk away when I'm talking to you. Hey, I'm talking to you."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ghost Gum

He dug the hole as quickly as he could. Sweat covered his face and soaked his shirt. The root of a long-dead bush or tree appeared in the bottom of the hole. He attacked it with the edge of the spade. The inside of the root flashed white and fresh against the dirt. Eventually he hacked through it.

After a while, the hole was big enough. He allowed himself a moment, leaning on his spade, breathing hard, to admire his creation. Then he went back to work.

When he walked back to his car, exhausted, he left behind him a freshly planted, well fertilised Ghost Gum. Aptly named, he thought.

(The Ghost Gum is native to Central Queensland).

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Peaceful Dove

She was watering her garden with a hose in the late afternoon when she saw the bird on her lawn, trying to hop away from the water spray. He couldn't fly, and didn't have much strength left for hopping. It only took her a minute or two to corner him against the fence and catch him with her hands. He was a small dove, grey, with black bands on its breast. He didn't look wounded. Perhaps he was sick, she thought, or in shock, after being attacked by a larger bird, or hit by a car. In any case, he wouldn't survive long, if she left him here, outside.

She held the dove firmly but gently in her left hand as she went to find something to put him in. She found a cardboard box. She put some budgerigar seed in the bottom, and a small container with water. The dove didn't move when she placed him on the floor of the box. She placed one of the wire racks from her oven on top of the box. Perhaps he would recover overnight, she thought.

In the morning, the bird was dead. She was careful not to let any tears form in her eyes as she tipped it from the box into her rubbish bin. It was only a bird. It would have died anyway.

(There is a good photo and some info about the Peaceful Dove at this link).

Sunday, October 4, 2009

More Espresso Stories

I've had a few more stories published at Espresso Stories. These are all 25 words or less, which you'll agree, is ridiculously short.

Why not pop over and have a look? Signing up to vote is very easy and quite fun. You can have quite a dramatic effect on the rankings of newer stories that haven't had many votes, especially if you really like (vote 5) or dislike (vote 1) them.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Fitter's Wisdom

The fitter struck the end of the coupling with the sledgehammer five or six times, forcing it further onto the shaft. Smoke came from the coupling: it had been heated to help it fit onto the shaft. The apprentice leaned forward with his measuring tape, then shook his head and said something. He moved back as the fitter started into the coupling again. Like a machine, they worked as one: hitting, measuring, moving.

Why, I wondered, had the fitter chosen the hammer instead of the tape? Perhaps he didn't trust the young man with the forceful delicateness of the task, or maybe he was venting the frustrations of working a week-long shift away from his wife and children. As I walked on, I understood the fitter's wisdom. An apprentice must learn to measure more than he must learn to strike.