Monday, May 31, 2010

The Mantra

"Do you have a mantra, Alf?" asked Jim.
"A flamin' what?" said Alf. He turned from looking at the girls playing pool in the corner of the bar, to face his mate.
"A mantra. Something you repeat, to give you strength. To direct your life, and concentrate your energy."
Alf thought about this for a moment, then held up his glass. "Beer," he said, then drained the glass.
"Flamin' what?"
"Beer," said Alf wiping his mouth. "That's what I say, when I'm tired, and need to concentrate, to get through the day."
"Beer isn't a mantra, Alf."
"Why not?"
"It's just a word. It's a drink. It's a beautiful thing, for sure, but it ain't a mantra. A mantra is a phrase that you repeat again, and again. And again."
"But I do."
"You do what?"
"I repeat it," said Alf. "again, and again. I say to myself, 'Beer, beer, beer, beer.' Just quietly, right, but it's fantastic. It really helps me... concentrate my energy."
"You're a Philistine, Alf."
"Thanks Jim. You're a good bloke too. Now, I think it's your shout."

This has been a Sunday Scribblings response to No. 217 (Mantra).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Big Weekend

My contribution to Edition 87 of Shift Miner Magazine was called Big Weekend. I hope you enjoy it.

Big Weekend
Pete stood alone in the soft glow of the dawn at the bus-stop, waiting for the shift-bus. He had a jacket on, but even that wasn't enough to keep out the cold. Winter was coming quick.

Someone came round the corner, walking towards Pete, smoking a cigarette. It was Will. He stopped a few metres from Pete and said G'day quietly as he looked down the street for the bus.

Pete said, "You look shattered."

"Yeah, big weekend."

"What'd you get up to?"

Will drew hard on his smoke. "Friday was a few quiet ones at Smithy's place. Followed by a few more. Didn't get home till about three."

"Good time?"

Yeah, not too bad. Slept through Saturday, though." Will threw his cigarette butt on the ground, then quickly lit another. He liked to get as much nicotine into himself as he could before the forty-minute bus-ride to site.

"And Saturday?" said Pete. "You get up to much?"

Will managed a grin. "Oh yeah. We went hard on Saturday night. Starting drinking at our place, for a while, to get limbered up. Then we went up the Tavern."

"Drinking before drinking?"

Will gave Pete a dirty look. "Too expensive to get completely rat-faced at pub prices. Can't smoke out, either. There was a band at the Tav, too. They sounded pretty good; I think."

Pete thought an iPod would have sounded good to Will when he was that well lubricated, but he said nothing.

Will continued. "We started doing shots there, which was fun, until it got a little out of hand. We stayed at the Tavern till we got kicked out."

"Too drunk?"

"No, closing time. Funny thing, I was sure I went home after that. At least I think I was going to."

"So what happened?"

"I can't rightly remember, but it looks like we went down to The Arms after that."

Pete grimaced. The only attractive feature of The Arms was that it had the latest closing time in town, and 1980s prices. A rough joint, but you could stay later, and get drunker.. "You can't remember what you did?"

Will smirked. "It was too big a night to remember. I saw the pictures on Facebook though; it was The Arms alright. We got hammered. A really good night. Very big night."

"You get sick?"

"At least a few times. Smithy seemed to think that was the best thing to take photos of."

Pete shook his head. Smithy had developed a talent for drinking photography over the last few years. It was kind of like wildlife and action photography combined. Tired of not remembering what he did the night before, Smithy had started taking pictures along the way with his phone camera. He could still take good pictures when he was so drunk he couldn't walk. Facebook had made Smithy's photos of his escapades accessible to the world. A lot of people logged in to see what they and their friends had been up to, but couldn't remember.

Will looked down the street. "Bus's coming," he said, as he lit his last smoke.

Pete said, "You have such big weekends. You must hate Mondays."

"Not at all, mate. I need a week at work to get away from it all and recover. A man needs some rest in life."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Miner's Wife Part II

I recently wrote a Six Sentence (6S) story called Miner's Wife Part II. It's hard to say a lot in six sentences, and I've really tried to in this one. As someone who works at a coal mine, I can't help thinking about what happens in the lives of those who lose someone to an accident. I've never been close to it, and never want to. As a writer, I just try to imagine, and this is horror enough for me.

The story is here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Swallows Came Back Today

The swallows came back today. I saw them as soon as I left my front door. I love to watch the swallows. They dive and whirl and seem to have so much fun. They don't care if you stand and watch them. Their colours are beautiful, if you can track one with your eyes for long enough to really see them. You might think they're a bit bland at first - just black and white - but they're not. Their feathers are black and white but also grey and silver in every shade.

I wonder what made them come back? Years ago, when they first appeared, I thought perhaps they migrated for the winter, but it's not that simple. There's no pattern to when they'll come or go. They might come three times in one year, or take three years between visits. Suddenly they are here, just a dozen or so at first. Over the next days and weeks their numbers will double again and again. Then their numbers will keep halving in the same way. One day - and I know it's coming even as I see the first of them flitting in the morning sun - they'll all be gone.

I can never be certain, once they've gone, that they'll ever come back. How can I? I don't know what brought them here, what will make them leave. It saddens me that their departure is so certain, while their return is so tentative. Even after twenty years, I still can't be sure.

While I walk, one of the swallows chases a small moth closely like a fighter plane. It banks left and right, up and down, intent on its prey. It almost brushes my face. I shout in surprise, and then laugh at the joy of it, and my own reaction. I look around, but everyone else on the street ignores me. They seem to be ignoring the swallows too.

I'm glad the swallows came back today. I'd like to tell Julie, my wife; she'd like to know. She loved the swallows, too. I don't know what made Julie come into my life either. I don't know why the cancer came to take her. But while I had her, I knew from the lesson of the swallows that, despite the joy we shared, her departure, one day, would be certain. It was sooner than I'd hoped, but later than it could have been.