Thursday, December 15, 2011

Creative Interview

The idea came suddenly to Joel, as he sat contentedly on the toilet seat. In that moment he knew it was a winner. Ten seconds later, some unsuspecting soul wondered into the Gents', and let out a moaning, retching type of sound. Whoever it was, left in a hurry. Joel smiled to himself, and finished up.

He looked at his face in the mirror as he carefully washed his hands, and decided that there would be no problem. He felt confidence flow into him as he headed to the waiting area again.

Joel's trouble was that he never did well in job interviews. He was a solid worker, he felt, but he just couldn't think of the examples and stories they wanted in interviews these days. And even if could drag up a story, he'd always down-play his own role in the drama, or the significance of the solution; mostly because he pretty much always was a minor player, and generally very modest. Modest and mediocre: that was Joel.

That was all about to change, as Joel strode down the hallway. Why not take the skills from his hobby of creative writing and apply them to job interviews? The writing itself hadn't yielded the blockbuster novel or critical acclaim he'd dreamed of – for he'd come to realise he was mediocre at writing too; but, it was a hobby that he enjoyed.

Eventually he was called into the interview room. It had white painted walls and ceiling and glaring fluro lights. The HR lady shuffled her papers and kicked things off. “We're going to ask you some behavioural questions,” she said. “We're looking for specific examples, where you can tell us about a situation, what you did, and then what the outcome was. Is that okay?”

Joel smiled; that was going to be perfect. “Sure.”

The lady smiled back. Even the grizzled old manager beside her seemed to soften a bit.

“Can you tell us about a time you came across a situation or a practice that was unsafe; what you did about it, and what the outcome was?”

Joel took a deep breath. “Sure,” he said. “When I arrived at the place I currently work, I found that people had to walk across the roads on site a lot, which involved lots of interactions with light and heavy vehicles.”

Which was true; but of course, he'd gotten used to it, like everyone else. Grizzly and HR lady both nodded, starting to scrawl notes. Joel smiled; he was about to get his creative writing written by dictation. He continued, “So I conducted a traffic study, and based on my analysis and my research into Australian Standards and the Coal Mining Health and Safety Act and Regulations, I wrote a draft Traffic Management Plan for the site, which included quite a few changes.”

They'd stopped writing now, and were watching him, awestruck. Joel didn't miss a beat. “I costed all the changes, and then facilitated a semi-quantitative risk assessment around the major changes I'd identified; using a cross-section of the work force. I then presented my findings and recommendations to the Senior Management Team. They approved the plan, and further approved nine-hundred-thousand dollars in out-of-plan capital to make all the proposed changes.”

Joel smiled, as if at the memory. “I project-managed all the changes, though I was given a few resources to help out, of course. We now have a system of well-lit and signed pedestrian crossings, as well as segregated traffic flows and hard barriers in the higher risk areas.”

HR lady was back to scribbling notes now. The manager looked stunned.

“Was that the sort of answer you were looking for?” asked Joel, trying to sound as innocent as he could.

“Perfect,” they both said together, then laughed.

He nailed the rest of the interview, of course, and heard promising noises at the end about “progressing things to the next stage”. The job was his – he knew it – his first senior engineering role. It was his, until that grizzly fool had to talk to his boss for the reference check, and started to blubber on about how impressed he was with the traffic changes, and the increases in plant yield and the reduction in site costs.

This was first published in Shift Miner Magazine.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I used to live next door to drug dealers. I should say they used to live next door to me. To be even more precise, when they used to live, they lived next door to me.

They weren’t just dealers; they were cooking up what they were selling. Everybody knew, but nobody called the cops. There wasn’t much point, because it made life very uncomfortable if you did. They had friends in low places, clearly.

I left them alone though, until a kid died, shooting up on some of their speed. His mother was pretty upset about it, I heard. I’d had enough of living in such close proximity to that scum. It was time for retribution. It was for the kid, I suppose, and a little bit for his grieving mother, but I was sick of the smell.

Friday night I could smell that they were have a cook-up. I put on some gloves, jumped the fence and turned off their gas bottle. After a few seconds I turned it back on. I could hear the gas rushing through the valve. I smiled, and scurried home. I sat on the toilet, immobile, with earplugs in my ears and my hands over my head until the house shook with the force of the explosion. All my windows on the eastern side of the house shattered.

The police called around later asking why nobody on the street had called the police or the fire brigade. Everyone said they thought someone else would have.

This is my response to Three Word Wednesday (3WW) number CCL

This week's words:
Immobile; adjective: Not moving; motionless; incapable of moving or being moved.
Proximity; noun: Nearness in space, time, or relationship.
Retribution; noun: Punishment that is considered to be morally right and fully deserved

Friday, December 2, 2011

It's Futile

“It's futile.”

“What is?”


Bill rubbed his eyes and shook his head. “Whatta ya mean, everything?”

“Life, stuff,” said Graham. “Work, especially. Here we are, a thousand k's from anywhere, in Woop-Woop, working ourselves to the bone, twelve hours a day. Why? What's it for?”

“Don't know about you, but I do it for the money.”

“And what's the money for? Nothing lasts.”

Bill shrugged. “Food, a home for the family, cars, schooling, a boat, holidays. You need money for everything.”

“But none of that lasts. You can't take it with you when you go, can you?”

“I can't?” said Bill. “Well if that's the case, I'm not goin'.” He laughed at his own joke; it was his favourite kind.

Graham swore. “Can't you keep up a serious conversation for once?”

“Sorry mate,” said Bill, trying to look sorry. “You're very correct. You can't take your gear with you when you kark it.”

Graham sighed. He went to the wet-mess bar and got two more beers. He came back and handed one to Bob. They sat in silence for a few minutes, and watched the sun flood the sky with red and orange as it began to set. The brigalow and a few gum tree stood out against the brightness in black silhouette. The clouds looked like they were on fire.

Bob said, “Might be the middle of nowhere, but I like it out here. More than Brisbane.”

Graham said, “I hate Brisbane, actually.”

“You hate everything today. You sound like you're in a hurry to curl up and die.”

“No, but we all die, and then nothing's left.”

“You really think that? You die, and then that's the end of everything?”

Graham shrugged. “It's futile.”

“You mentioned that.”

Graham grunted.

After a minute Bob smiled. “Ah!” he said, to himself.

“What's up?”

Bob said, “Your girlfriend called it off, didn't she?”

Graham turned suddenly to face him. His surprise was obvious. “She wasn't my girlfriend,” he said. “She was my fiancĂ©e.”

Bob said nothing, but shook his head.

Graham mumbled, “Yeah, she called it off.”

“Even though it's futile, would you like another beer?”

“I hate you,” said Graham. “But: yes, I would.”

This story was first published in Shift Miner Magazine.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Apology Accepted

He looked out the kitchen window and saw her hanging washing on the line. The breeze tugged at the towels and shirts, and the line danced as it fought to hold them back. The breeze pulled her skirt up around her legs and made her hair a long, blonde banner. She was so beautiful; but, so stubborn. He sipped the cold water in his glass, then sighed. He put down the glass, and went out to her.

“Hello,” he said as he approached. She didn't react, except that she may have flinched, slightly. She kept hanging up the clothes.

He reached into the basket, took out a towel and put it on the line. He took one of his high-vis work-shirts from the basket. He started to peg the collar to the line.

“Upside down,” she said, startling him. He turned toward her. She stood, her hands on her hips, looking at him.

“Sorry?” he said.

“You hang shirts upside down,” she said, pointing to two, already on the line.

“Oh,” he said. He took off the peg and hung the shirt the other way around, checking his work against the two templates. He glanced at her. She hadn't moved. Her hair was flicking around her face. He saw the curve of her body under her clothes and the trace of a smile on her face. Maybe a smile, anyway.

“Why don't you go upstairs?” he said. “I'll finish this off.”

She didn't move as he awkwardly hung a bra beside the shirt.

“Go on,” he said. “Put you feet up. I'll be up in a few minutes.” He leaned over and, holding the back of her head with both hands, kissed her forehead. The smell and feel of her hair reminded him of better times. He fished a lone sock from the basket and hung it beside the bra.

She stepped toward him and kissed him on the cheek. “Come find me inside,” she said softly. Her words were almost stolen by the breeze. It seemed right then that her eyes were shining wet. He said nothing. She turned and walked toward the stairs. He watched her as she walked, until she was in the house.

He smiled as he reached into the basket for a pair of shorts. He kept smiling as he felt the wind jostling around him as he hung the rest of the washing. A line, a quote from sometime in the past, kept echoing through his head. “The wind bloweth where it listeth.” Must be Shakespeare, he thought.

He noticed there were only two pegs left when he was finished. He put the two pegs in his pocket and walked towards the stairs, carrying the empty washing basket over his shoulder, thinking again of happier times. As the screen-door flapped and slammed behind him, he decided those times were now.

This story, like almost everything I post lately, was first published in Shift Miner Magazine. Incidentally, it was first not published in one or two other publications. I think I learned to love this piece more than it deserved. I hope you get something from it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Least I Could Do

What people noticed first and remembered longest about Bernadette when they met her was her scowl. The everyday look on that woman's face could peel the paint off walls. She looked like she was angry and in pain, at the same time, all of the time. It wasn't unusual for kids to come away crying. Behind her back, Bernadette came to be nicknamed The Scowl. I had nothing to do with that, of course. Well, very little.

The other thing people noticed about The Scowl was the constant criticism and put-downs that she aimed at her dear husband – and my best mate – Stan. It made people cringe. Stan put up with all this with the patience of Job. I don't think he ever complained or told her off. That's how Poor Stan got his nickname.

But every man has his breaking point.

I was having a drink with Poor Stan at the Mount Morgan Arms Hotel one Saturday afternoon when The Scowl filled the doorway with her whole self, and screamed above the noise of the rowdy crowd, "Stan, you've had enough to drink; come home!"

Poor Stan went as red as Karl Marx. The pub went quiet. People looked at their shoes and fidgeted with their coasters.

I expected Stan to put down his glass and shuffle off after her, like he usually did.

Instead, he took a long drink from his beer.

He said to me, "If I'd of killed her when I first wanted to, I'd be out of jail by now."

That's an old and tired joke; but I was pretty sure that Stan wasn't joking. He never joked.

"I suppose it's better late than never," he said.

I could see he was close to his breaking point, and that cut me up inside. Poor Stan was a bit spineless, but he was still my mate.

I said, "Don't go back to your house. Why don't you buy a carton and go round to my place? I've got to take care of something here in town, and then we'll get on the grog. How's that sound?"

Stan put his hand on my shoulder, said that sounded good, and went to the takeaway window. I said goodbye to Bob behind the bar, and left.

In half an hour, we were at my place, drinking.

We were still throwing them back, watching the sun set, when Sergeant Ted, the local police force, came around. He broke Stan the news that his wife's body had been found only an hour ago. She'd been found behind one of those big steel rubbish bins in the narrow lane behind the shops, on the top side of the main street. Sue from the fish and chip shop got a real fright, apparently.

Stan took the news of his wife's sudden passing really well. He looked a little stunned, but more like a man who'd won lotto, than a man who'd lost his soul mate.

Sergeant Ted started his investigation right there by asking Stan if he'd killed Bernadette. Motive, the man had.

Stan didn't reply straight up, then said it was obvious that it wasn't him. Ted asked why that was.

Stan asked, "You said she were stabbed once in the back?"

Ted nodded. "That is correct."

"Well," said Stan, "I always dreamed o' stabbin' her right here in the front." He pointed to his own chest. "And never, ever, just the once. Maybe a dozen times. That's what I always dreamed of doin', and I reckon that's the way I'd of done it, if I'd of done it, which I didn't."

It didn't seem that this was the kind of evidence Ted was looking for, because he had a few words to say about that.

I butted in. "He was with me, Sergeant."

Ted didn't like being interrupted either, apparently. I never really liked Ted, so I got over it, and told my story.

"We left the pub not long after The Scowl showed up, about three..."

Stan interrupted, holding up his hand. "Don't call her that," he said, "please."

"Sorry." I shrugged. "We left the pub, with a carton, and came back here. We've been drinking since then. We haven't seen her since. Have we Stan?"

Stan shook his head. "Not since she was at the pub."

Sergeant Ted scowled, reminding me a bit of the late Bernadette. I shivered. Ted said good night, told us both to stay in town, and left.

Stan went inside and then came back with two beers. He handed one to me. "There's only two left now," he said, "and we'll have finished the carton."

"Then we'll go for a walk and get another one."

"Good idea."

We drank, and I listened to the cicadas out in the scrub. We didn't say a word until our beers were empty.

Stan said, "Thanks for covering for me mate. I didn't kill her; but thanks for covering for me. Makes things easier."

I slapped him on the back. "No worries, mate," I said. "I know you didn't kill her. It was the least I could do."

This story was first published in Shift Miner Magazine.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Lift Home

Bruce wasn't used to having passengers in his car. It took him a minute to gather up the fast-food wrappers, coffee cups and CDs from the front seat so that Danny could get in. Danny had some sort of job with the prep plant, though Bruce wasn't sure what they did over there. Bruce threw it all on the back seat and mumbled, “Sorry about that.”

“No worries at all,” said Danny as he got in. Once Bruce was in his seat, Danny added, “It's your car. I'm just glad for the ride.

Bruce drove carefully out of the car park. Soon they were on the open road. Danny tried to start a conversation a few times, and Bruce tried hard to keep his end up, but without much joy. Bruce wasn't good at talking to people he didn't know. He almost never started a conversation. He hated that about himself, but found it hard to change.

Danny said, “You mind if we turn the radio on?”

“Sorry,” said Bruce. “No aerial.”

Danny shrugged. “You got CDs?”

Bruce coughed. “They're not really what you probably want to listen to.”

“I've got pretty broad tastes.”

“My stuff is a whole new level.”

“Wow,” said Danny. “You got me curious now. Is it very offensive?”

Bruce thought for a moment. “Not to me,” he said. “But it is to a lot of people.”

“Try me.”

Bruce tried to laugh, but it came out as a kind of squeak. He reached down turn on the car stereo.

After a moment, a man's voice began to speak. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Then, after a pause, the voice said, “Chapter four.”

“What the -?” said Danny, turning in his seat to face Bruce. “What is that?”

Bruce reached over, and pressed the power button again. He sighed. “That,” he said, “is a man reading the Bible. I'm up to the gospel of John.”


“It comes after Luke.”

Danny shook his head and scratched his hair. It looked to Bruce like he was considering jumping out of the car. Bruce wondered if he should slow down a bit.

Danny said “I meant, why do you listen to that stuff?”

“I can read a lot more by listening when I'm driving then I can find time for at home.”

“You listen to a man read the bible over and over?”

“Well, not exactly. I sometimes skip to different bits. And, I've got one version of a woman reading too. She's got a nice voice.”

Danny didn't say anything.

“I listen to a lot of other things too,” said Bruce. “I've got a stack of audio-books, and I download a lot of talks, lectures and sermons from the internet.”

“You don't like music?”

“I love music, but I listen to my music at home. And at my desk at work. Car-time is my daily bible-study time.”

“It doesn't make you fall asleep?”

“You kidding?” Bruce laughed. “Nothing is more interesting, or important.”

Danny was quiet a moment. Then he said, “You know what I think's the biggest problem with you Christians?”

Bruce glanced over at Danny. He looked tense. “Not at all.”

“You're always trying to ram it down everyone's throat. All the time.”

They drove in silence until they got to town.

This story was first published in Issue 105 of Shift Miner Magazine.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Let's Go

Tony walked up toward the open garage door. A Harley Davidson motorcyle had been wheeled back out of the garage onto the driveway. The water mark was up over the headlight.

Inside the garage stood a man, looking dazed.

Tony said, “G'day. We heard you could do with a hand.”

The man nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “I'm Keith.”

“Tony.” Tony introduced the others. “So Keith, do you have a plan?”

“Not really.” Keith shrugged. “Never done this before.”

“Well, we have. A couple of times.”

A few of the blokes chuckled. They'd been working together four days straight now, eleven hours a day, cleaning the mud and muck out of people's homes. Any people: young families and old ladies, the well-to-do and the dirt poor. The flood had put the normal social distinctions on hold for a while, and replaced them with new ones. Now there were those whose homes were flooded, and those whose weren't; those who helped others, and those who didn't; those with insurance, and those without.

Keith raised his hands. “Look Tony, if you're gonna help, you're in charge.”

Tony nodded. “Good. Let's have a look.”

The water had come up waist high through the house. That meant any stuff up on the benches was borderline, and that cupboards and fridges may have floated around. There was a step up from the garage into the house, with no lip on the threshold; good for hosing out.

Inside, the house stank, badly. There was the usual flood smell of mud and rotting carpets, but this had a little something extra: sewage. Every house stank, but these were the worst, and there was no getting used to it. They all had to work to hold back the urge to vomit.

Out the back was a covered patio, beyond that was a muddy lawn.

Tony made some quick decisions, then spoke up loudly so that everyone could here. “All right, here's the plan. We'll get the patio hosed out and clean first. Give it a good scrub. That'll be for the clean and dry stuff.” He turned to Keith. “Have you taken photos of everything for insurance.”

“Don't have any.”

“Right. That makes it simple. Everything that's destroyed, goes out on the footpath. If something may be salvageable, out on the back lawn. Let's go.”

Keith took Tony aside for a moment. “Why not put the clean stuff in the garage?”

“It's lower than the house, and is the best place to push all the water out with squidgees.”

“Never thought of that.”

“Neither did we, the first time.” Tim smiled. “Come on mate, let's start.”

Three guys started cleaning down the patio. Everyone else started carrying wrecked stuff out to the front of the house. There was a lot of wrecked stuff.

“Maybe we could wash the mud out of the sofas,” said Keith, hesitantly.

“Don't think of it as mud,” said Tim. “Think of it as poo.”

“Why's that?”

“Because there's plenty in all this.”

“Did you sand-bag every drain and every toilet bowl?”

“Well, no.”

“Well, your toilets flush both ways mate.”

Keith went pale, then vomited were he stood, onto the lounge-room floor. Two other blokes went out in sympathy. Tim could feel it in the back of his throat but managed to keep it together. He took a hose and washed the spew out into the garage, and down the driveway.

After an hour of hot, sweaty work, everything that was clean and dry had been removed to the patio. The lounge and dining room were empty of everything, including carpet and underlay. One man remained, lifting up the timber strips around the room that the carpet had once been nailed to. Everyone else had moved onto the bedrooms.

In another hour, they'd finished hosing out the mud.

Tim called his team together. “Time for lunch,” he said. “Let's go.”

This story was first published in Issue 104 of Shift Miner Magazine. It was inspired by my experiences in the clean-ups of both the 2008 and 2010 floods in Emerald; though the 2010 flood was most vivid in my mind. The 2010 floods happened (mostly) between Christmas and New Year, with most of the clean-up in the first weeks of January, before the Brisbane floods hit.

Feel free to share your flood experiences by posting a comment.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy Christmas

Chris wasn't sure what had gone wrong with his Christmas.

He'd made all the right preparations, sparing no expense. There was plenty of grog, and he was into it at a very reasonable pace. There'd been lots of good food: ham, chicken and prawns, and all kinds of salads. He was still feeding himself as much White Christmas and nuts as he could handle without making himself sick. There'd been presents for everyone under the tree; he'd made sure everyone got what they wanted.

Now, with the presents opened and the Christmas lunch consumed, Chris sat back with his rum and coke, trying to make himself feel happy. He knew he should; and he couldn't rightly think of anything else that he wanted, that he could have or get, that might be missing.

His son Jack was playing with his new iPhone, in his room. He'd seemed happy with it.

Chris got up, and went to the kitchen where his wife was trying to work out how to use the whiz-bang fully automatic coffee machine he'd bought her. He shook his head; a thousand bucks for a machine, when a teaspoon did the same job, quicker. But, it was what she wanted. She'd seemed happy enough, when she'd unwrapped it, though not very surprised. Now her head looked like it was shaking, as she turned from looking at the manual to the machine, back and forward.

Seeing the machine made Chris think he'd like a cup of coffee, so he put the kettle on.

"Are you right?" Helen snapped at him.

Chris got such a fright he almost spilled his drink. He looked at her slightly dazed, confused. "What?"

"Don't you think I can get this to work?"

Chris thought about that for a moment; he knew a trick question when he heard one. Actually, almost all of Helen's questions were trick questions. She didn't often ask him for his opinion or his advice. "Of course you will," he said.

"Well wait five minutes and you can have a real coffee."

Chris shrugged, and turned off the kettle. As he left the kitchen the machine started to make a terrible high-pitched grinding noise.

Well, in any case, thought Chris, if he couldn't feel happy on Christmas Day, he could certainly get drunk. He made himself another rum and coke, going very easy on the coke. He used only as much as was absolutely necessary to make the concoction look black.

He went and sat on the back steps, wishing he wasn't already looking forward to his next tour. Over the fence, his neighbour was playing frisbee with one of his boys, who was about ten. They really did look like they were having a lot of fun, and for a minute he envied them, which was ridiculous. That man didn't earn half what he did: he drove a piece of junk, and their house was tiny – especially for the four or five kids they had. They might be happy for a few minutes, but it couldn't last.

The neighbour's kid laughed as he jumped to catch the frisbee. He called out, "Thanks for the frisbee dad, its fantastic."

Chris sipped his drink and frowned, and tried to think. Had Jack actually said thanks when he'd got his phone? He'd certainly said, "Cool." That didn't mean thanks though, did it?

Chris went inside to Jack's room and knocked on the door. No answer. He opened the door. Jack wasn't there. The iPhone box and manuals and cables were on his bed.

He went into the kitchen. "Helen," he said. "Jack's not in his room."

Helen handed him a cup of coffee. "He went out with his friends. I said he could go. It's not a happy Christmas if you can't have fun, is it?"

"No, I suppose not." He sipped at the coffee. It wasn't hot enough, and it tasted like dirt. He smiled. "Lovely. Happy Christmas." He took a long sip of his rum and coke.

This story was originally published in Issue 102 of Shift Miner Magazine.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Promise to Fish

They fished in silence for an hour, standing close together on the beach. The sun set over the sea, flooding the sky with an orange glow. David looked up and down the coast in the fading light. They had the beach to themselves.

"You get any bites?"

Sam shook his head. "No, not yet."

In twenty minutes the sun had gone, and David and watched the white foam on the tops of the small waves shining in the moonlight as they came into the shore. He felt cold. "I'm going to make a fire," he said.

He reeled in his line and walked to their fishing bags and put down his rod. He went up to the high water mark, just below the dunes, to gather driftwood. He prepared a pile of wood on the sand to start a fire, but had nothing to light it with. He shivered, and walked back to Sam.

"Any bites?" he asked.

"I think I got one," said Sam, "just a minute ago."

"Maybe he stole your bait."


"Hey, you got a light?" said David. "I don't have anything to start a fire." He knew Sam smoked, though he tried to keep it a secret from their mother. That meant he tried to hide it from David too.

"Yeah, I do. I thought we might want to make a fire."

David smiled. Sure you did.

Sam started winding in his line. "I'll come with you," he said. "I'm sick of standing here, catching nothing."

When he'd reeled his line in, he showed David the bare hook.

David nodded. They walked together to their fishing bags. Sam put his rod beside David's, and they walked over to the pile of driftwood nearby. Sam lit the dried-out seaweed and grass David had stuffed amongst the smaller pieces of wood. In a few minutes the fire was burning well. They sat as close as they could to the fire without burning the hairs on their legs. Neither of them spoke as they stared into the flames. The fire snapped and crackled. The waves dropping on the shoreline made a constant, beating sound.

Sam spoke first. "Do you have a problem?"

David smiled. Sam was always blunt; never the diplomat. "No, I'm just cold; and, I don't actually like fishing all that much."

Sam shrugged. "Me neither."

"I never fish, actually, except on these trips with you."

Sam nodded. "We used to love fishing, when we were boys, when Dad would take us. We had a lot of fun then, didn't we?"

David laughed at the memory. "Yeah."

Sam reached behind him for a piece of wood and placed it on the fire. Bright sparks jumped up into the smoke and then fizzled out high in the air. "I guess it was Dad who really liked to fish," he said.

"You really think so?" said David. He turned from the fire to study his younger brother's face. "Did you know he never went fishing by himself, after we'd both left home?"

Sam turned and looked David in the eye. "You sure? He used to talk about it."

"He talked a lot," said David, "but he never went. I asked Mum. She said he only ever fished with us. He never even went fishing before we were born. He only bought the gear when I was four or five."

"That's weird. Dad did do some weird things, didn't he?"

"Oh, yeah."

"Hey," said Sam, "how old's your little boy now?"

"Frank? He'll be five in a few months."

"You gonna take him fishing, like Dad took us?"

David thought for a moment, staring into the fire. "Yes," he said, turning back to Sam. "I think I will."

"That's good. If I had a kid, I'd take him fishing."

David didn't reply to that.

Sam spoke again. "Do you want to keep doing this; our once-a-year fishing trip?"

"We promised Dad."

"I know," said Sam. "Why did he make us promise, anyway? We don't even like fishing. We haven't caught a thing in years."

"Yeah, but we promised."

"You're right." Sam poked at the fire with a stick. "We'll keep doing it, then."

They drifted into silence again. They stared into the flames, poking at it with sticks, and throwing things into it. David said, "You wanna pack it in?"

"Sure, it's getting real cold now."

They put out the fire with sea water, fetched with the buckets that were meant to hold their catch. They walked slowly together up the beach to their cars. They packed away their gear, then shook hands. David reached forward and hugged his brother, awkwardly. "See you next year," he said.

"Yeah, sure; next year. Look, I'll try to call you, more often."

"Sure, that'd be great. Me too."

This story was first published in Issue 100 of Shift Miner Magazine.