Articles:

MASTER PLAN FOR A NEW ECONOMIC MIRACLE FOR THIS NEW MILLENNIUM
by Kathryn Hamann (after Swift)

Nuts and Bolts: Writing With A Computer by Walter Vivian

Letters: None

Short Stories:

Fieldwork by Andrew D. Schmulow

A Slip of the Tongue by Heidi Attwood

Closer than Mother and Daughter by Jen Craig

Wildcat and Raskol by Simon Drake

The Third Pot © Leo Cappel 2002

First Chapters

"From This Day Forth" by Janet Woods.

Reviews

Comfort Me with Apples - Reichl. Reviewed by Heidi Attwood

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Short Stories

 

Fieldwork

by Andrew D. Schmulow

 

Everything rots in the jungle. Everything rusts at the coast. Even ideology.

Travelling through Viet Nam, initially it seemed that everything would go wrong. From the very start this venture had been less than auspicious. Bob had been sitting in his office at the University, his feet up on his desk, surrounded by his books. It was a clammy winter's afternoon, but the office was warm. Bob was telling me in his characteristic can do fashion what would be involved in completing a PhD. "Five facts per page, 500 pages. That's it. Oh and some fieldwork. But we'll sort all that out. You'll be a' right." He added the part about fieldwork as an afterthought. A remark made almost in passing.

That's how I came to be stranded in Viet Nam conducting 'Fieldwork;' lost, irritable, and anxious. No one spoke any English, I didn't speak any Vietnamese, and my smattering of Indonesian was of no help at all. Easy to get lost under those conditions.

The destination was a town called Hue where the World Bank had a scheme on the go. One, which was causing some anger in Hanoi, the capital, and some embarrassment at the Bank's HQ in Washington. Doubtless there would be some value in this for a thesis, although how exactly was still elusive, except that it could be classified, later, as "fieldwork." I had boarded a bus after what seemed like enthusiastic confirmation from the driver at the mention of the name Hue. Half a day and a night had passed on the bus, after it had taken me, stupidly, most of that time to realise we were heading north, not northwest. Speaking to the driver was of no help. Every question elicited the same energetic nodding. The few other passengers were able only to smile and bow their heads when asked where we were going. So at the next stop I got off, crossed the road, and sat down to wait for a bus going back the way the other way. By now it was early morning, and I was tired, hot, and feeling slightly fragile.

Sitting at the side of that road for five hours, nothing came or went, except ever-greater feelings of anxiousness. During that time the only reminder I had of civilisation was a Walkman. I sat staring at the remains of what used to be a small building, or a house, or something, which was beyond the verge on the other side of the road. Only one wall of the dwelling remained, and that had what looked like a mortar hole through it. At some stage someone had decided it would make a good political billboard, and so had painted a slogan on it with a reference to the Vietcong. Or as the Americans used to call them, "Charlie." Next to the slogan was a Soviet flag crossed with a Vietcong flag and below the flags what looked like two hands shaking. Behind the flags there was a halo of sunlight etc. The usual stuff denoting glory, fulfilment, and other equally dubious theories. It was a strain to see the details because years of jungle downpours had leached the colours. Parts of the wall had crumbled under the attack of vines, creepers and a wild fig tree growing through the mortar hole.

This scene was reminiscent of one from a few years past, in the southern part of Mozambique. It was also a wall which had been part of a building, and which had been partly destroyed during the civil war. If memory served the wall had also been used for a slogan, in Portuguese, and had expressed the hope that the late Samora Machel would live a long time. The remnants of this building in Mozambique was in a settlement on the coast. The building itself was, at most, 50 metres from the beach. Years of sea spray and salt air had bleached the colours, making the slogan hard to discern. Interestingly, the characteristic flags, hands shaking and halo had been there too. Made me think that maybe all those former communist states had been issued with a set of easy to paint motifs which included flags, hands shaking and a halo.

So as I sat there (where exactly remained uncertain, but somewhere half a day and a nights bus ride out of Hanoi), waiting in the hope that transport going back the other way would come by, I tried to figure out what life was trying to teach me through this experience. The lesson seemed to be that I spend too much time travelling in countries with poor infrastructure, and an official language other than English, which was why so many of my travels had been unsettling; and why the feelings of anxiousness were so familiar. Perhaps I wasn't by nature as adventurous as my travel destinations would suggest. Maybe I would be happier in the Hanoi Sheraton, interviewing Vietnamese bureaucrats over gin and tonics, with only the buzz of the airconditioners as a reminder of the steamy tropics. I'd been passing myself off as a kind of Camel-man, when my true calling was for room service. Perhaps my flags of preference were not the ones painted on billboards in jungles, but rather those cute ones stuck on the end of a toothpick on a cheeseburger.

After an eternity, a bus finally came by, picked me up, and deposited me in a village about 200 miles east of my original destination. I actually managed to do some pretty good fieldwork at a project being run by Argentineans, of all people. The trip was uneventful from then on. I didn't get lost on any more "people's buses" which I guess is Vietnamese political jargon for "Putco," and I didn't get bitten by anything worse than mosquitoes (granted, they were the size of small winged rodents). I got used to the flies, and the water didn't make me excessively sick. Just sick enough to keep my gut cleaned out regularly. I enjoyed a bed on stilts, which were high enough to keep the rats at bay. The food was humble, but outstanding. Vietnamese cuisine will take the world by storm yet. I made it to the coast a few times, and there really are few things more gentle, calming, and deeply beautiful than the South China Sea. That corner of the Pacific between Vietnam and the Philippines.

Eventually it came time to fly out from Hanoi at the end of what seemed like a long month in that village. Its funny how clearly the experience leaves you when you take-off. Suddenly as the plane loses touch with the ground, you become insulated in 50 million dollars worth of 21st century technology. The best Boeing has to offer. And it's the little things - the notice that the comedy channel on the headsets has been revamped - that ushers you into a new reality. Very different from catching tonight's dinner in the chicken coop, with feathers and squawks flying. As the plane banked to the south, and the stewardess came by to ask me if I would prefer Newsweek or the Sydney Morning Herald, it was as if I was now completely removed from the third world and all its problems. As I sat there on the flight, I thought back to when I had been stranded half a day and a night's bus ride north of Hanoi, in the middle of nowhere, en route to Hue. Those faded, washed out slogans on those crumbling, stucco walls in Vietnam and earlier in Mozambique came to mind. The revolutionary ideology which inspired them now equally as faded and crumbling. Everything rots in the jungle, everything rusts at the coast.#

 


A Slip of the Tongue

by Heidi Attwood

 

1979. Geneva, Switzerland. Summer sliding into the gold and russet of

autumn, weather unseasonably sultry, the pavement sending up beats of

unexpected heat and the lake lying like a blue void, tidy buildings huddled

on its banks. The severe countenance of a prim Swiss city, its financial

heart pulsating between the warmth of the south and the hard pragmatic cold

of the north.

 

I had the requisite Farrah Fawcett look, with an attitude buried somewhere

beneath, my personality reflected by tight skirts split at the calf and

aiming for the thigh, my demeanour sometimes uncertain, my gaze wandering.

Here, I was trapped. In a cage with red carpets and less than one inch of

glaze between me and the atmosphere, the pavements below, the traffic

zooming past. My desk was jammed up against the window and from my view on

the fifth floor, I watched the city scene, mesmerized. Roofs of cars

stopped and started, darted, driftedÉ like my thoughts. I recognized some

of the bank employees returning from their standard two-hour lunch break, as

they waited in front of the little red man across the rue du Rhône.

 

On the other side of the building, glass also, I could see mountain peaks,

early snow lovingly licking their tips, firm and tight. How I missed home -

that flat red land, the heat, the ocean. Occasionally a plane landing or

taking off was silhouetted against the sky's blue ice and the mountains

looking down on the international airport. I stared, sighing, remembering

our summers back home when the bitumen burned and eucalypt perfumed the air.

My typewriter awaited me, huddling on the desk, reproachful and sulking.

The era before computers.

 

I'd just started a new job. American Bank with a high profile and slipped

image. They were out to get the competition and make a statement. We were

all learning how to push the new look. I was in a dream, as usual, trying

hard to relate the world of big business, big finance. Trying to care.

Struggling in an alien culture and married to a man who was one-third of the

time away, one-third of the time drunk, the other third in a world of his

own. While he was gone, I worked hard, glad of the reprieve. In a glitzy

bank where opening an account meant being a multi-millionaire or having at

least 250,000 US dollars to get started, my boss, recruited from a rival

bank, had a point to prove and spelt it out to me: "Our Bank has to be

Number One!" I crossed my legs, flicked my hair and thought about my plans

for the evening.

 

"I have two bosses," he continued, "Éof equal standing. One based in

London, the other in New York."

 

I mulled this over, staring out at the Lake and its attendant peaks, white

like the beards of old men blown by a stiff breeze, erect, dying. I ached

for Australia.

 

"Next week," he announced. "Bill is arriving from New York and while he's

here, he may need secretarial help. I've told him you'll be available."

 

He adjusted his tie and fiddled with a designer-label pen. Indifferent, I

stifled a yawn, uncrossed my legs and gave him an acquiescent nod. I didn't

know his superiors. They were faceless. Probably big shots with big

mouths. Of no interest to me.

 

* * * *

 

That crisp, biting autumn day. Afternoon heat had dissipated the sky's

softness and bounced off classic buildings, shyly warming newer edifices

which perched incongruously, like uninvited yet obligated guests, on the

edge of Geneva's streets. I was preparing for an international conference,

designed to show our people how to become infallible and deadly in the

jungle that was banking. The Private Banking Department would teach them

about marketing 'must-have' products. While learning their new persuasive

skills, they would languish, modern-day sybarites cocooned and nurtured, in

a 12th century French castle. The Château, dark and brooding, complete with

turrets, narrow apertures, beams and refurbished modern suites, reclined by

the whispering shore with a backdrop of mountains and a view across the

water to the mountains on the Swiss side. A beautiful but extravagant venue

for blowing the corporate mind (and budget).

 

The bank officers were due to arrive a few days before the conference. As

unofficial interpreter and accommodation coordinator, responsible for flight

confirmations and other requirements, I was a central part of the activity,

and would also stay at the castle. Teaching and workshop issues were

handled by my direct boss, who delegated duties and set up the program.

 

* * * *

 

Our Fearless Leader had arrived. As far as he was concerned, this was a

hick town compared with New York. He strode in. In a hurry. Tall, with

curly dark-grey hair, and an amused expression. In a suit. Of course. I

looked at him without interest, then looked away, gazing down at the street

where everyone was rushing in the afternoon sun. My boss ushered the

visitor into his office, a partitioned space dividing him from the rest of

the floor. I fiddled with papers, answered the phone, talked to

participants from out of town as they wandered about like lost souls.

 

The intercom.

 

"Could you come in please?" He handed me a scrap of paper. "I'd like you

to call this number for Bill."

 

I was out of luck. "Il n'est pas là, Madame, mais si vous voulez parler

avec un de ses collaborateursÉ?" Would I like to speak with one of his

colleagues instead?

 

I sucked my biro as I relayed this information to Bill who was hunched over

a coffee table with my boss, and remember leaning against the door, awaiting

instructions.

 

"He can't see you, butÉ" I looked up from my shorthand pad, my mind

elsewhere, "one of his collaborators can."

 

I was about to leave when I caught his grin, aware of an appraising

expression behind the gold-framed spectacles.

 

"Collaborator? Really?"

 

Rivetted, my eyes locked with his, dancing into a strange eternity, while I

felt as if an invisible net had slid down and tightened over my

consciousness. He laughed again and I dived unwillingly into that blue gaze.

Blushing, possibly.

 

He told me later he remembered the word I had used, but I could think only

of the look he'd given me. And what I'd felt when I looked back. And how,

suddenly, I had become alert.

 

* * * *

 

Five years later, I eventually boarded one of those planes I'd so often

watched as they thrust their noses skyward, wings tilting and veering off to

the west.

 

Heading home. Ending our affair.

Top


Wildcat and Raskol by Simon Drake

Copyright 1998

 

Wildcat. Wildcat and I giggled among the calm, reserved, Sunday-lunching, wealthy and married baby-boomers, enjoying lunch at the newly renovated Customs House. Under the clear blue Queensland sun we looked over the murky Brisbane River and the sleek silvery Story Bridge spanning it. For the first time in my life the slim structure was a calming sight for sore eyes. We ordered Coronas, jam scones, and continued our bent and tipsy catch up. We come together when ever we can to find something through each other about ourselves. I was solo and finding myself again, and much to my annoyance and prediction, she was having a double Man Dilemma on the rocks. Wildcat is a Professional Male Dilemma. She makes a killing and a living off their dilemmas and no-one expects her love-life to ever be as so simple as a suburban girl's traffic-calmed road of love destiny. Wildcat, one who beams boundless energy and never runs out of steam, coped very well in her experienced and professionally cute way.

After her last charmer, Closet-Junky, charmed her cash into his veins, she decided to stay-single and on our last romp we bonded over this faith. Like a damsel in distress she had fallen into his arms from out of mine, many moons ago. After my split with Wildcat I resumed and strengthened my ties to Bambi. Bambi and I went to Sydney, split, and I'm doing fine. There's no need to look another girl lovingly in the eyes for a good year, excluding the heated climax of a one nighter and only if the phone number's a genuine fake. On the rebound from Closet Junky, Wildcat falls into the hands of a big bearish blonde friendly guy who'd been waiting in the wings like a Shakespeare 5th Act timely villain. He'd been her good mate for six years, watched her date his mates, then through the practicality of affairs, break their hearts ,leaving them slaughtered in her icy wake. He was one of the few to pop in on her at detox in her younger years, and posthumously toasted once to wish Wildcat and I the best of Love and the future. Time's changed. She's temporarily living with him on a rebound. He should know that against his best judgement he'll never really have her, and him being older you'd expect some brains. No, the older the wild boys the more desperate they pine for the wonders, the mystique, the craziness, and lure, of Wildcat. Gentlemen raise your bundy rum to another heart-ache, and suffer.

She's adorable with her ankle cut florally summer dress, strawberry blonde hair, knee-high black boots, mobile to her ear, sportily making good diplomacy of the second part of the dilemma. Now a new dashing man has crashed into her tangent after years of submerged and a probable un-happy life. Apart from riches derived from I guess scams, H-Man must be poor in spiritual health. Who else phones up Wildcat every half-hour, saying he's gonnaídrive up from the coast and pick her up and whisk her away to his leopard skin, Miami-Vice kitsch babe lair. Wildcat's thinking of marrying him, I said, "Go ahead. At least if it doesn't work out, you can get half."

"Shit yeah!" she winced then persisted with a wicked grin as if it's her godly inheritance.

It is. No one should mess with this woman. I did. We had fantastic tie-up games, morning moaning, kinky positions for kinky places, and karma to come back and slap us in the face. After our painful but gleeful split I charged on with the young and luscious Bambi. A new woman, a new learning experience. She turned from eternal Angel to purgatory Demon. Thank God after the plate-smashing hate receded a wrinkle didn't appear below my crystal blue eyes. In the late afternoon I can feel a tinge of grey in my fringe set against a red horizon. Call that exhaustion. Need to shed some skin, find myself, go walk-about, dig a hole, lay a while, get up and greet the sunshine.

So I was home, this my third day R&R in Brisbane after moving and living for the first time in Eastern Suburbs Sydney. I'd been there four months and enjoyed immensely the opportunity of a place with big bucks and thrills. It'll age you though, and it hurt to see the youth throw themselves so joyously to the wicked ways of a town gripped by expensive and petty play-games where the ring-masters are old-hand conniving cons begging for one more line, another fix, just a drop under the tongue, of the elixir of youth. In darker Sydney, or as I termed it to close friends, Sodomy, no-one is from Sodomy. It's a mix of out of town youngsters making a life from what home couldn't offer. Adventurous youngsters from Brisbane with half a creative streak are not lured to Sodomy. They get kicked out of sunny Queensland and flap earthwards wondering what's happening to their precious life. Red-Necks don't chase them to the border screaming, "Faggot!" or other silly all things. The absence of money and respect for worth sends them crazily over the Tweed River Bridge at 120km/h and gaining. Now I'm back wiser, happy, a tad wealthier in knowledge. Wildcat was keen to see how I'm coping and to share a laugh on our sacred soil.

I was very mellow whilst enjoying her warm company. Her soothing understanding nature danced like sun-rays with the crispness of a slide show of fond memories. Across the river perched on the cliffs of Kangaroo Point is the Olms Hotel. We bunked there in the old days and ran amok, completely comatose by check-out time. After speeding and bonking we couldn't crash till nine in the morning anyway. I can see the red-brick walls in the distance, an enticing backdrop behind her locks of blonde. She sucked the cream off her little finger. Out of the blue I pop the big question, "Wanna do the motel thing tonight?"

She rolled her eyes and cast an undermining smile. "No comment, Raskol."

I grin and understand. She is wild in bed and I for one who she has come to for trusting and neutral guidance should cease my randy puppy antics for just this day. Why join the line of hopefuls banging on her door? There's so many more fish in the sea, with only half the fan-club to match.

Arms outstretched she challenged her guardian angels, "What is it with these men?î"The strain of two moping hearts weighed her brow, "Did I bring all this on?"

"Well! Yes."

Defiant to the hilt she proclaimed the sweetest of innocence and naivety, "Really?"

"It's your environment. Why wouldn't they love you!"

Very eloquently I explained the profile of the men ten years her senior. "A starved man sees so much more clearer. They love the young meat. God help me if I'm ever like them."

"We'll see. Scoundrel - you are!"

"Bambi is only four years younger."

"Raskol, that's what they all say."

To the baby-boomer's with inquisitive ears this either sounded exciting or dangerous. After all it could have been their daughter(s). We felt uneasy in their antique presence so Wildcat and I moved on to the Valley. In the sweltering hot mall I saw the same crowd from four months ago in parallel mundane retro spirits. The vibe from the night before had washed away so we drank bourbons and swapped stories. Recurring themes popped up. Who should Wildcat choose and thank god I'm not with Bambi anymore. How's my writing, painting, anything else? All importantly, How's Life? Oh its Sweet. I'm feeling so good. I felt mature. An internal voice gnawed like Sandman on the radio, swiping me with simple equations about spirituality and the passages we go to to attain the next level, from which I have wretched scars to prove their path. When I bolt or waltz through the mazes of fire I've journeyed before, it's much easier, and I guess you call that confidence. Over the years it harbours me from much foolish behaviour and dire acts.

I planted my elbows on the table and rested my head in my palms. Dreamily staring into her eyes my voice sunk as heavy as a Mills & Bloom one-liner stud. Roasted walnut and honey gravy. "Wildcat, You'd be an awesome wife." I saw her joyfully skipping with children, twirling around the kitchen, taking her out to dinner parties, snuggling up to her neck in the tail-end of winter. Her vision narrowed right through me like lasers and I singed, smouldering of jealousy.

"So they say," she boasted.

Wildcat and I are of the same year born and for all the wealth of this world I need another ten years before I could support a woman, the wardrobe, and the offspring that pop out after marriage.

"Do you really want to tie the knot as much as these old codgers feel they have to? They're desperate. They'll treat you like royalty and lay on the charm like princes, but when the party's over You know the score." She played a dumb-nieve glare so I kept up the tempo. "You grace the room like a movie star Wildcat because you are single. Eternally single."

She leant back and sucked on her twelfth B&H very aware of the market value of young lasses, but thoroughly enjoying the attention. Her mobile rang again and she was first to cringe. "Oh hi. I knew it'd be you. Drinking bourbons. A friend. Old friend Raskol. He says I should run off with you. We'd have fun together. Tonight?" She looked at me to share the horror of H-Man's desperation. "Ah."

I'd had enough of her phone calls. It reminded me of that first date thing. The heart-pounding suspense and heavy breathing, the high-pitched choir boy crooning, "Will you go out with me???" So what do I think of Wildcat leading this new pussy-whipped desperate plot loss on? H-Man high up in his Gold Coast Penthouse is fumbling for compassion in the dark horizons of approaching loneliness. Why can't he find a lady his own age? Why doesn't he cut to the chase? Even if you marry a young piece they're only going to bloom with age. Breast will sag, and if cosmetic surgery can fix that, the wrinkles on the hands never lie. Maybe H-Man wants a companion for his wisdom, like a play child to bounce ideas and dreams. As the sun sets, old dog may have learned wisdom but the young puss is playful as bubbling spring. Too playful for any child within the man. Why doesn't he grow up instead of growing down? These and many more things I will fail to educate Wildcat to this afternoon.

We bore quickly of our cafe surroundings and catch a cab down to the cool breeze fanning New Farm Park. Amid the circular rows of wondrous blooming flowers we sat on a park bench and smoked. As the talking became too repetitive we lay on the grass and gaped silently at the wide blue sky. The wind tickling our fringes, the warm grass curling under our backs, the gaiety of arvo picnic people and their erratic toddlers chasing kites.

"You know this weather is the best." I said. "In Sydney it can be beautiful. Then it turns cold. Here it's constant warmth. Reliable."

Wildcat's a thousand miles away and climbing. "What am I going to do?"

"Youíre a magnet for these dramas. What does it matter anymore?"

She doesnít care, but it is her life and with other's involved itís kind to care. "He wants to meet me at my mothers. Before that I've got to move all my stuff out of Roy's."

"What ever happened to Roy being your friend?"

"Yeah!" she protested. Her back arched, posing her torso to the sun. "That's another scandal."

I smoothly reached over and caressed the curve of her cheek flowing gentle to the neck. For the pale soft skin, innocent flicker from her eyes, I naturally palmed her face to mine. "Listen." I commanded. She succumbed to a dreamy embrace. "Close your eyes, forget about it all You're with me so relax."

Wildcat slumbered exactly how I wanted her. Spread-eagled on the grass apparently without a care in the world. Her recklessness stemmed from that core truth. If there weren't family clans around I'd have slipped the dress over her shoulders, laying kisses from her neck, circumnavigating her breasts, then down to her belly button. She'd greedily control me, pass the power back, and we'd be live again.

I loved Wildcat for more than the wild cat reasons. Then for practical reasons I had to discard her like the antagonised object of a Guns'N'Roses epic rock ballad. Peel away the sting of her whip and you find the reason for her crazed but attractive actions, which once you get over, you see that the woman inside is loving, open, compassionate, intelligent, with a twist of girlish insanity to keep you on the edge. High on the list, she was wonderful to cuddle up to on rainy days. We never stopped fucking. Even when we were apart we'd be thinking and teasing each other over the phone. I had my own interstate sex-line, anytime.

Time is ticking. We woke and strolled hand in hand through a cluster of knotted trees, out of the park, to a nifty corner bar and restaurant on Brunswick street. H-Man rang again, Wildcat subdued him with charming patience. In our final hour of Spring I waited for a pizza and a few more precious minutes of her time. Even when she wasn't on the phone I saw by her shifting eyes the two fool's voices gyrating in her head round and round like vultures circling for a juicy rebound of a rebound with fresh creamy skin and a squeal to give even the most hardened clergy hard-ons. Brrrrt! "Roy. How was work? Home and hosed already. Cooking what? Right! Uh-huh. An hour I think. Yeah mate. See ya." She placed the phone on the table and heartily sipped the last of her present bourbon.

"And your afternoon agenda?" I asked, mildly patronising.

She tidily flicked her head back. "Roy's making dinner. Now that's cute."

"Sounds like the right time to break the news more than ever."

"You bet."

I laughed for her. We giggled like kids, grinning and huffing at another Wildcat absurdity.

She proposed with a hint of seriousness, "Iíll say I need space,"

"Which is true."

"And cry a lot. Never fails."

"Girl's last resort." I winked.

"And who said you know everything?" she venomously defended her species.

"Youíre fucked if he starts whimpering," I cackled. "Two can tango."

"Maybe. So I'm going over there now. She tensed with the sense of a painful conflict. "Move my stuff out! then off to mothers to meet H-Man. Heíll be there for at least an hour before I get there.

She doesn't even know him! You know, I feel for him. "You want me to baby-sit to this guy to save him from your Ma while you bail from Roy?"

"Take him out for drinks. Sure. He'd like that."

"I'd chill him out." I like to meet different people in varying circumstances. I'd also fill him in on the finer details of this little lady. Things, in his lustful blind state, he otherwise wouldn't know until the judge slammed the hammer and with a gravelled voice commanded, half is hers. No I won't. Let him find out, as we do. Besides if I should teach him anything and such a young master I am, I should be paid accordingly.

She tinkered. "It's an option. Got to go."

"Which way you heading?"

"Wynnum."

"West End. Drop me off at the valley?"

"Sure." I paid the bill (much to Wildcat's surprise) and told the head waiter to order a cab. Wildcat bought more bourbon. We brain-stormed a party-place for the New Years Millennium to catch up at. Cab pulled up, we skolled the spirits and stumbled exhausted into the back seat. In this final minute I more than ever thoroughly enjoyed her company. Even the subtleness of sitting beside her I enjoyed as much as strangling her with 100 megatons of lust at the height of our eclectic romance. Any second, if the weather is right, we can do it. Pull into the motel and ravish, gnaw, suck, blow, tickle, pump, groan like retired porn stars.

When the taxi pulled up to the lights I knew there were at least five seconds of farewell glances and customary kiss. She was a totally mad and seductive kisser. When our tongues danced we were electrified, returning charge for charge and dually sucking on this bubbling stream of lustful energy until we broke apart completely amazed at the other's stamina. And now today when I stare into her opal black eyes, as I had done numerous times before, and once to break the lock of love I peered into the hellish depths of her scared soul, I paused in suspense. To touch the flame twice is to gamble with pain. To sip the venom again and again is a pleasure to weaken me insane. To kiss her lips once was enough. To leave with a little smack and pout kept me divine and in gentlemanly order. I'll see her again, when she's free, when there's no need to cuddle like bunny-bears and copulate like jack-hammering teenagers. I was finally man enough to leave the girl in the woman alone. All the more wiser, all the more saner. All the more cooler. They can have her, and she will.

 

 


Closer than Mother and Daughter

by Jen Craig

 

Two women: one a generation older than the other, both in animal print polyester shirts that gleamed eerily and were almost, but not quite, identical. Both with pouched white faces between dark, wiry sheaves of hair, horn-rimmed glasses, a penance of stiff gaberdine skirt. The women sat side by side on small canvas folding stools. Looking up. Watching the tripodded camera on the landing above them.

The younger one squinted, assessing the F stop range.

Beyond the camera was an aluminium frame of sky the blue of pale plastic lunchboxes. Closer, and the view tipped and deepened: the Cook's River swollen with metallic rain, a weedy used car yard and a sprung ride-on amoeba in a triangular segment of sandy playground, across a curved, rutted road.

It was eleven o'clock on a weekday. The younger woman had taken Rec. Leave because it was her mother's sixtieth birthday - but you couldn't be sure that she didn't resent it. The mother had stolen looks at her daughter all morning in an attempt to determine. She had opened her presents with extra care. A Richard Hamilton calendar. A blouse and a pair of Christian Dior sheer-to-waist pantyhose. Then, a brief laugh: 'What is it- penises!' A mould for twenty-four handmade chocolates. 'Shall we make some now, Phyllis?' Her daughter was sorry she hadn't any chocolate.

Was she still seeing Brett? Yes, said the daughter. Had he said anything more about getting married? What, said the daughter, would I be getting married for? Well, some day you might want children, said the mother. It was a sore point. She wished she hadn't said anything about children.

Eventually the daughter had said that there was nothing to stop her having children, married or not.

Oh yes, the mother said, it seemed to be the thing. She was acutely aware, then, of the sameness of their hands, the skin, knuckles, the kinds of gestures they produced where the last two of their fingers would not quite straighten. She expected that the daughter, like herself, had a strange fear of being somehow biologically 'abnormal' and therefore unable to reproduce. She slipped the Dear Mum Happy Birthday Love Phyllis card in beside the makeup purse in her handbag. Really, she liked these occasions when Phyllis dressed both of them in this way. She felt cosied and pressed under glass; closer than mother and daughter, closer than twins.

The camera, with its long zoom snout, had an unpleasant leer. It waited patiently for the daughter to finish brushing her mother's hair, but with its mouth imperfectly closed as if repressing a comment.

'I have booked a table at The Thailand,' said the daughter.

'Lovely,' said the mother, feeling the static at her hair like so many fingers.

The previous year they had taken a ferry to Manly where they had wandered the Corso and had fish and chips among a mess of seagulls. An icecream had fallen from its cone and landed on a foot. Hers she believed. The daughter had laughed at first, then let it die. 'Next year,' she had said, 'we'll have to stay closer to home.' Meaning hers.

The photograph of the two of them dressed identically had become a ritual. It had been the daughter's idea ten years ago after the fiftieth birthday party, when the mother, dressed in the same nylon, blue spotted, Sussan backless number ('What a scream, Phyllis! Look at us!'), less than a fortnight after the mastectomy, had fallen hilariously drunk into the in-ground pool only to be rescued by the ex-husband she had never wanted to see again and the twin who died parachuting the following Easter. 'It'll just be the two of us then,' Phyllis had said, shocked at the sudden enervation in her mother, holding tightly onto her mother's upper arms the way that nurses do. She had suggested that her mother no longer drive herself to visit but get picked up from Tempe station. Was it the shock of cold water on the stitches? The men in her family? The photo idea had come to her then.

Her mother had even very nearly smiled through the drying white of the too-strong chlorine streaking her face. The photos, she enthused, would be something like those portraits of Gala by Salvador Dali (like the one from the calendar her father had left and her mother had never removed from the back of the study door). It would be a little homage. Our little joke. And Phyllis herself would organise the printing of the photograph onto the calendar and send it in a tube in time for the New Year (Woman in the Zoo; Woman in the Devonshire Street Tunnel; the Harbour Bridge; with Fish and Chips on the Manly Corso).

Ah, she might have sighed. There was always so much to do.

This year though, quite out of the blue, her mother had rung a week earlier, suggesting that they do nothing for the comingbirthday.

'What? Nothing? You mean nothing at all?'

The mother had sounded hesitant, as if about to cry, or, rather, querulously determined - a tissue in one hand, and a half-drunk cup of tea in the other. Phyllis had let her diary fall open on the telephone table. The Magritte street scene on the page opposite the birthday depressed her. She saw herself inside its dim midnight tones, the reflections of the false blue sky over it twanging at the back of her neck. Then her own grip of determination. I suppose, she'd started to think with a measure of huff, I could always go and see a film.

But her mother's new resolve interrupted. 'So, shall I be on the nine fifty-seven then?' Mock bright, like a dab of lipstick on a mirror in a pocket.

From the mist of Allure: Firm Hold hairspray, the mother tilted her head back and asked after her daughter's work. 'I might be applying for a promotion,' said the daughter, 'although it won't be coming up until August. Horse's birthday actually.' They both let their lips relax then, a whiff of the unexpected buoying them up a little.

Before she'd set up the camera the daughter had poured them drinks. 'Here's to you,' the daughter said, raising her glass so that the flickering light in the kitchen ran along the top of it, making part of a halo hover near the hippos in the Jacques Sistern jungle print curtains. The mother, in a hurry to respond, brought forth her own glass too quickly and the two, clashing, lost stems, liquids and delicate convex lenses of glass.

'Oh no- Oh my goodness- Phyllis dear, sorry- What will I do- Can I help- Sorry'

Phyllis swept the glass into newspaper without comment. When she leaned back on her haunches, the bundle of newspapered glass balanced, subdued, you could have seen small indentations on either side of her mouth- a suggestion of 'I knew this would happen,' perhaps. Or not. She'd been about to get up and actually hug her mother (hug her shoulders). To say: 'It's OK.

Don't take it so bloody seriously, Mum. It doesn't matter anyway. Brett gave me those glasses. Look, we can smash two more.' She'd been just about to get up. Was rehearsing the words first so that they would flow better. But the mother, by this time, was at the mirror surface of the kitchen clock (a large single breast with a nipple at the centre), studying the crown on her left upper canine in the way that, locked in the bathroom, the prodding of a pimple can settle you down.

They didn't smile. It would never have occurred to them.

Even small moves, adjustments to clothing and hair, a dab at the corner of the mouth, made reverberations as if the very paint in the stairwell was a fine white metal stretched over the concrete, and sensitive, like human skin.

For the time delay, a little red light on the camera flashed fifteen times, the last five at double speed: da-da-da-da-da screech, collision. Click. Phyllis only just made it for the first shot. She hurried through the film. Her mother's eyes were becoming looser, wide and reflective like the round handles on doors. Phyllis ducked into her flat and found a luggage strap to fasten her to the stool.

She might as well finish the film. - twenty four.

And her mother, notwithstanding the stool, was floating, nearly horizontal now, heading up the stairs like a sleeping fish in a current. The window on the upper landing didn't open but Phyllis ran ahead, just to make sure, and to save the camera from destruction. Looking back she could see that her mother was crying, the makeup around her eyes glistening but resistant: Coral Blue liner, Aquatint shadow, mascara like a dark corrosion. Phyllis hung on to her, arms right round her shoulders,fingers locked. Hadn't she always tried to protect her from such hopeless, hopeless gestures?

'Come on, Mum. Come on.'

The makeup didn't run but there was plenty of mucous.

'Please, Mum. This is... ridiculous.'

But the closed window gaped impossibly and the mother went voluntarily into the swell of noise outside.

Phyllis ran into her flat and opened the balcony doors and stood there, leaning on the parapet, too embarrassed to call out, for there was her mother drifting up towards the faraway clouds, messily, like a disturbed picnic, with everything showing under her rucked-up skirts and between the legs of the stool.

Later, when there was no more to see, Phyllis got on her hands and knees and pulled out the bags of chocolate melts she had hidden under the lounge and ate them, in desperate rhythmic handfuls, no longer wanting to think about what she should do now that her mother had escaped.

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The Third Pot © Leo Cappel 2002

 

 

'Hey, living image of a pot, how're you feeling now? Here, I brought you a bottle of wine, I thought

you might need it after that prize giving.'

 

Melissa grins: 'Don't remind me, Roberta. Did you ever hear such a load of bull before?' She mimics

the TV personality who had presented her with the big award: "Look at the absolute perfection of

that shape, and look at that flawless glaze, at the incredible beauty of that celadon colour. This is not

just another pot, this is the living image of the Artist. But do come in, Paul and Wendy are here

already."

 

Paul sits behind the pottery wheel and is trying to centre a bottle of wine on the slowly moving

turntable. 'I'm out of practice,' he says. 'Mind you, it must be at least twenty years since I last threw

a pot. Wheels are too limiting for me.'

 

Melissa nods. 'You can handle your freedom,' she says. 'I'm not quite ready for that yet.'

 

'Meanwhile you make perfect pots,' Roberta says with a touch of envy in her voice.

 

Last night the admiring crowd had gathered around her award-winning celadon vase. Her vase on

its own pedestal in the centre of the art gallery. They had stood around holding glasses of wine and

savouries in their hands, paying each other the usual complements and gossiping about the few

artists who where not present.

 

'That vase last night just wasn't me,' Melissa says.

 

Paul agrees. It had been he who had given Melissa her first lump of clay when she had wandered

into his studio after school. It had been he who had taught her to throw her first pots as soon as her

legs were long enough to reach the flywheel and on her tenth birthday he had helped her build her

own simple kiln.

 

'You're right, it's not you. It was once, but not any longer. Now go and make a pot that is you.'

 

'How? Where do you start?'

 

'Here, where else?'

 

When Melissa had decided to enter a pot into the competition, she actually made three almost

identical vases and picked the most perfect one. The other two were still sitting on one of the

shelves.

 

'Right,' says Paul. 'We'll take the better one of those two and see how much of it is still you.'

 

Roberta gently places it on the table, strokes it. 'How can you say it's not you, it's so beautiful, so

elegant.'

 

Melissa bursts out laughing: 'Elegant, like me?' and she looks down at her clay-spattered jeans.

 

Wendy too is laughing. The vase is elegant indeed, there can be no doubt about that: the body not

too full, with nice tight curves, a fairly long, slender neck, the mouth generous without being too

wide and the foot nicely balanced. 'No,' Wendy laughs, 'it doesn't look like you at all.'

 

'Actually, I didn't mean the way it looks, but how it feels, the kind of pot it is.

 

'What do you want to see in a pot that this one doesn't give you?'

 

'I wish I knew, Paul. I know that I don't want perfection any more. That's for sure. And I want to

see where it comes from. I want to see the clay, and I want to feel the heat it has gone through.' She

hesitates. 'When you really get down to it, all I do is take a heap of mud, shape it somehow and burn

the hell out of it. Then I mix some metal oxides with more mud, smear it on the pot and stick it once

more in the fire. I want to be able to see that. And I can't see any of that in my present work.'

 

'Good enough for a start,' says Paul. 'I challenge you now. I challenge you to make a pot for me

that tells me what you feel. But I want more. I want you to make me a pot that is you.'

 

Melissa is dumbfounded.

 

'I mean it, Melissa. I feel that you can do it, but I challenge you to show us. Make me a pot that

really is you. When I look at it I want to recognize you in that

-O-

'Where is it? I want to see it!' Roberta bursts in. 'You said you would have it finished today.'

 

Melissa points at her big electric kiln. 'Still in there. It's almost cool enough to open, but we have to

wait for Paul and Wendy in any case.

 

'But can't we have a quick peek in the kiln? I'm so excited. What's it like?'

 

'I know what I want it to look like, but the damned thing is still in the kiln, I haven't seen it either.

How do I know if it worked? Oh, for God's sake, I don't know. I've never tried this before. It scares

me, Roberta. I thought it would be a piece of cake. Just throw an honest pot that shows how I feel

about potting. But what Paul made me do is throw a pot that tells even complete strangers about

me, about myself, about my innermost feelings. Paul wanted me to make a pot that is me!'

 

'Paul was right,' comes a gentle voice behind them.

 

'Wendy, I didn't hear you coming in.'

 

Wendy smiles: 'That's all right. But Paul was right in asking you to try. You're not just another

potter, in your heart you're an artist. Otherwise you would not have been unhappy with those

comments at the award presentation. You know, as an artist you have to be honest.

 

'And that means you'll be vulnerable like hell,' adds Paul as he appears in the studio door. 'In a way I

feel sorry for you, but whether you realize it or not, you're an artist.'

 

'So you might as well learn to enjoy it,' comments Roberta. 'I've never seen you so tense before.'

 

Melissa does not quite know what to say. 'Vulnerable is right,' she thinks. 'Other times when I

opened the kiln it was not like this. Other times I was excited, keen to see what the pots would look

like. I was never afraid of what other people would say.'

 

Wendy comes up behind her, rubs her neck, her shoulders. 'Don't worry,' she says. 'You're amongst

friends.' Melissa sighs, nods and opens the kiln door. In spite of the heat in their faces they crowd

around, anxious to get a first glance at Melissa's pot, but all they see is elegant goblets and mugs

dozens of them.

 

'You didn't think I'd fire the kiln just for you, Paul? Most of these are for a gallery down South.'

Melissa puts on her gloves, takes out the first row of goblets. Pale blue goblets, celadon green mugs,

a series of soft mauve goblets. Then, right in the back of the kiln, they catch a glimpse of vivid pink.

Without looking at the others Melissa takes out a very large, straight jar and puts it on the table.

 

'That's beautiful,' exclaims Roberta.

 

The jar is totally different from all the delicate, subtly coloured goblets. Different from any of the

work on show on the shelves. This is clearly a clay jar, rough, with finger marks and nail scratches,

with a rugged deep black glaze and a surprisingly bold pattern of pink and gold. Pink and gold on

black.

 

'Now that's me,' says Melissa. 'Here you are, Paul, my self portrait.' Melissa sounds confident, but

her eyes betray her. Her eyes challenge Paul to disagree with her.

 

Paul looks at her silently. He looks at her strong but slender hands, her slim figure and her sensitive

face. He looks at the solid, squarish jar, back at Melissa. 'Is that how you see yourself?' he wants to

know. 'Is that how you really are, or is it how you want others to see you?'

 

'I,' Melissa begins. She stops again, looks away.

 

'It's an amazing piece of work, truly beautiful, but not very feminine, is it?' Wendy says gently.

 

'But that pink design?'

 

'A cliché ,' Paul almost whispers. 'Sorry Melissa, but that is where you give yourself away. Don't be

afraid to be honest with us. Like Wendy said, we're your friends.'

 

Melissa turns away. She goes to the window at the other end of the studio. Outside a few sparrows

are searching for insects in her herb garden. She loves that corner of her garden. All the pots which

didn't quite work out, but which she could not throw away ended up between the herbs. A colourful

rockery of man-made rocks and aromatic plants. 'Is that me?' She bites her lip, turns back and picks

up the jar. The jar is rather heavy, a raw statement in clay, in black, gold and pink. 'Or is this me? Is

this honestly me?'

 

'No!' she shouts. 'This is not me either. This is just a mask, a lie!' She holds the jar high above her

head, throws it with all her might against the steel base of the kiln. The jar shatters. Black, gold and

pink shards fly everywhere. 'No!' she shouts again. 'That wasn't me at all. Not - at - all!'

 

'But it was so beautiful,' Roberta says softly.

 

Melissa stands there with her head bent, her arms hanging down, suddenly all spent. 'Help me,' she

whispers. 'Can you help me, Paul?'

 

'Sure, I'll help you. Don't judge yourself too harshly though, you can do it. The colours of that pot

may not have been you, but that pot did portray your strength.'

 

'Even in the way you demolished it,' Wendy chuckles.

 

'But it was so beautiful,' Roberta says once more, still somewhat in shock.

 

Melissa takes a deep breath, pulls herself together. 'That pot is only a memory now, and a heap of

pieces for my garden. Can you really help me, Paul? You were not just saying that, were you?'

 

'I can point you in the right direction. But first I have to fire our old woodkiln. Wendy and I have a

whole kilnload of stuff waiting. How about you and Roberta coming to our place next week to help

us fire her?

 

'Sure, love to.'

 

-O-

 

Paul releases the catches of the kiln door. 'Stand back,' he says and slowly the massive door swings

open. A wave of hot air wafts out. This kiln is big, big enough to walk right inside and it is filled up

to the top with pots. Shelf above shelf with Wendy's pots, and in between, exactly in the centre but

half sheltered by one of Paul's free-form ceramics - - -

 

Melissa gasps, points: 'That's my vase.'

 

Paul smiles. 'Yes, I bought it.' He puts on his gloves and lifts the vase out of the kiln, places it in the

middle of the table.

 

Nobody speaks. Only the vase makes little noises as it cools down further, tiny tinkling noises.

 

Some of the original celadon is still there, where it had been sheltered from the direct flames by one

of Paul's ceramics, but it is subtly altered. No longer cool and aloof, the glaze somehow reveals a

faint memory of the fire. The other side shows a strong, swirling pattern of red and brown

overlaying the green. Some specks of ashes have burned themselves into the glaze and, most

amazing of all, the vase is no longer absolutely symmetrical, one side has slumped just the slightest

little bit.

 

No impersonal perfection now. It has been through the fire and in the fire it has gained a more

human beauty. More approachable, and somehow more profound.

 

Melissa whispers 'That's me.'

 

'I've tried to open a door for you, break your shackles,' Paul says softly. 'I was so afraid I was doing

the wrong thing. It's right, isn't it?'

 

Melissa nods. A great relief washes over her. 'He has shown me the way,' she thinks. 'He has set me

free.'

 

Melissa sits down and weeps.#

 


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Letters

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Articles

 

MASTER PLAN FOR A NEW ECONOMIC MIRACLE FOR THIS NEW MILLENNIUM

by Kathryn Hamann (after Swift)

 

In this address, I wish to consider what vision, Australia should be

taking into this new millennium. We keep thinking it must be a long, hard

road to find the solution to our various woes, but it is really all too

simple. In this paper I propose not to bury Australia with pessimism, but

to inter what is past. Listen and discover how easy death can be.

Lately, as I have reflected on the events we see in the newspaper;

deficits, budget cuts, unemployment and all that personal suffering,

balanced only by those events we all get a kick from: swimming, football

and public funerals, I have come to see that all we really need to do is

to restructure our cogitations.

 

After all we would all agree that there are some people out there, who

are just not pulling their weight. So with a little lateral thinking, it is

obvious the euthanasia debate holds the key to our problems. After all we

might say, all people are created equal and all human life is precious, but

do any of us really believe this? Of course not! But we are all much to

afraid to grasp the sharp point and come out with it. Death is a precious

gift we can offer to all!

 

Let us be real about this; we have always had the difficult problem of

what to do with groups like the disabled, the chronically ill, the mentally

ill, the elderly, etc. After all we might all be unfortunate to know

someone like this and sadly, we might even have a loved one, who falls

into this category; for there is often dear old Granny to be considered.

But this is not the time for sentiment. No one has yet had the depth of

vision to suggest what I am going to suggest,for we prefer just

to ignore these people and cut services making life difficult and

unpleasant.

 

Sometimes indeed cuts may be linked to death as we have seen in the Kew

Cottages fire; if any of you, that is, have memories that can stretch that far

back. But it was not enough! Some were left alive to continue to cost us

hardworking taxpayers hard earned dollars and make us miserable by having to

witness from time to time the intolerable suffering of their lives. The

present Aged Care Assessment system is working well in denying care to the

elderly and keeping those nursing home waiting lists down, but do we need to

have any waiting lists at all? Why have waiting lists to enter homes which

will simply prolong complete misery not just for the ÎAged Parent Îor Aunt

but for the whole family. Then sometimes the Aged are taken out on buses.

That sight is enough to spoil anyone1s outing. No consideration whatsoever.

So I say it is time to give freedom - give such people freedom of

choice. Death can be so much more palatable.

 

Not that we would suggest forcing anyone to choose to die. After all

who would say no to suffering? And everyone would see immediately where

duty lies. I am sure incentives could be found. After all, we would be

freeing them and their families from unbearable suffering . Nor do we want

assets to be consumed by medical and nursing home costs.

You see a compassionate move towards a kindly death would allow us to

save, by cutting welfare, reducing government services, closing nursing

homes, and hospitals etc. etc. Obsolete buildings could be converted to

special, very beautiful places to die in, with wonderful casino type

recreation facilities to help fill in time, for those waiting either for

their turn to receive the blessing of a dignified end or waiting for a loved

one to receive their last special gift of release from the

hospital trolley of their choice.

 

I am sure it will be so popular an option that at first, queues will

unavoidable. For those about to die, whilst waiting for their number to

flash up to tell them it is their turn at last, we must insist that cash

only will be accepted at the gaming tables. I really can1t say, that I

approve of passing on gambling debts and there is no need. I am sure,

that in particular here in Victoria, even despite the sad change in

governement, no one would dream of shirking their social duty.

To make everyone feel secure,that what they are doing will have the

maximum benefit to all, roads to these places of freedom from intolerable

suffering must have tolls. We can make a little joke in the manner of our

beloved former Victorian premier, "Who doth the bell toll for? It tolls

for thee!"

 

On the marketing side, just think how it will also solve the

problem of Granny's Christmas present; give her an all expenses paid ending

to a life too painful now for any to endure. But please do not forget to

have the will witnessed properly.

 

As well, there could be special videos prepared of the loved ones last

moments, entirely produced and sold by our admirable, competitive, private

companies. Great for Chrissy presents for those relatives and friends who

missed it. And Granny may become quite a star and she will be always with

you. Much better than having her drooling and peeing in a corner each

Christmas. Then we can remember her as she would like to be remembered and

we can shed a tear at all the happy times, not spoilt by a present of

intolerable anguish. Special obituary columns could be set up in the

papers, providing much needed revenue. An increase in funerals will boost

several business, including that of our declining churches. Thus allowing

them to take on any welfare work necessary for those, who can prove their

troubles are temporary. When you consider it, churches aren't all bad:

after all they do provide an after life incentive plan.

 

And now I come to the real crux of the matter. If we are going to have

euthanasia, we should really get behind the concept and have a panel, where

every Australian could be assessed. We could there ask the important

questions like, "Are they costing more than they are producing? Are they

ever going to be productive? Are their lives to be filled with the

unbearable suffering of knowing that they can contribute nothing to the

public good? Can they visit such palaces of delight as the Casino to spend

hard earned money?"

 

These and other similar pertinent questions would allow us to flush out

the plain lazy, affectionately known to us as, "dole bludgers", but exempt

those, who may have acquired enough private means to make them useful

economically. And wouldn't this make our children work! Oh, if they

knew they had to face this board when they left school! It will give a whole

new meaning to working for the dole.

 

When I first wrote this paper in the nineties no one was ready for it.

Since then you may say we have lost faith in gambling as a means to solve

our ills. Which is why I propose certainity. And I am sure this is the

time when my proposal can be adopted. Look at the asylum seeking issue as

well. This country has shown over the last year it has the heart to deal

with the real issues.

 

Many of those setting out from their delightful countries do so in

leaky boats and what is the natural consequence of that? Think about it.

By the time we pick them up they have nothing left to pay for their passage.

And have you ever seen any of them working their passage? Never have I seen

a single photo of even one of them up swabbing the decks.

 

Then there is the Australian roulette of - which detention spot? Up in

New Guinea we can permit them to acquire malaria. And goodness knows what

else they are given in the other delightful and secluded spots selected for

them. For our thoughtful and considerate government does not allow us to

know what gifts were given to these people, in case we become envious. Nor will

it burden us with knowing the full cost of our compassion.

 

So why not think about this issue with an open mind. There is no need

for any of this misery or anxiety. Many asylum seekers say they would

rather be dead than in the specially chosen places we have granted them,

while we determine what they truly are. And many of these so-called asylum

seekers say they would be rather be dead than go back to where they came

from. (Even if their homes have been bombed I presume there is a roomy

crater they could hole down in quite nicely). And though they are not

citizens, who are we to deny them the rights we would like to enjoy? We

can grant their request. We can do it. Give them asylum from all the ills

of living. We are a great hearted country. We want no more of these

tasteless lip sewing episodes or asset-stripping demonstrations.

 

Of course there will be strict guidelines and two thousand and two page

document of six-point typing to satisfy those cursed with scruples. I have

no ideas of what monetary use scruples are, quite the opposite. However

kindly death will be a business and therefore exempt from freedom of

information legislation.

 

But all this must be worked out in endlessly fine detail another paper.

I would not like to be seen not pulling my weight.

 

Come on let us not let other countries beat us to it. It is now time

to seize the syringe. We must tell everyone we must act now for the

greater good. Look how that phrase has inspired people to embrace the idea

of stem cell research. Not we are likely to need this research - except

suppose for a chosen few who both can show their worth and their ability to

pay . From every angle though my solution is much more cost effective.

Fellow Australians, we must not shrink from the task ahead.

We must not let ourselves prevaricate. Let me assure you all will be done

with due propriety and profit to all.

 

As we now have the type of Federal government and State governments,

who are willing and waiting for amoeba like opportunities to engulf them.

From this embrace a future will emerge of rosy hue, where action is taken

and carping wimps will just fade away - with a little help from such

friendly folk as myself.

 

No more will anyone need ever to worry, for if after a careful and

caring assessment, we can all see that there is not a future for you, you

can be assured of a peaceful and dignified end.

 

You can also, I am sure, think of many others who need this kind

service. Submissions could be made by concerned citizens, about groups who

are suffering and would by their embracement of the public good, improve

the quality of life for all Australians.

 

So how long will it take to put this into place? With our creative and

compassionate politicians, well aware of those of us past our used by date,

I am sure this scheme can be up and running in no time at all - surely in

no more than a month - if the ethics committee is chosen with due vision.

If there is a shortage of buildings at first, I do hear the churches, who

are finally beginning to learn the values of our current economic

philosophy, are about to divest themselves of their surplus. No doubt some

of the incense may still linger in the air, or perhaps they

could throw some in with the deal. And if we all like the casino idea, the

necessary gambling machines can surely be obtained quickly; after all we

must by now have a triple A rating. And if we create a world wide

shortage ... Terrific!

 

And think of the value of this ides as a tourist attraction . I am

sure you do not need to hear more. I know you wish to just get out there

and put it all into place, even if it means dying in the attempt. But there

is one last carrot . An advertising campaign is both necessary and will be

a lot of fun. Remember those casino ads we all loved. We could revive

them and this time they won't be carrying banquets!!

 

May I then be so bold, even though we still have an ex-premier

skilled in this area, as to suggest a slogan for this new campaign to

create a better world.

WE NEED YOU !

COME TO US

AND DIE NOW!

No! No! I need no thanks or applause, all I ask for is your

enthusiasm and willingness to make this concrete.#

 

(THIS IS PUBLISHED WITH SOME TREPIDATION AS IRONY IS NOT WELL UNDERSTOOD OR READILY PERCEIVED IN OUR SOCIETY. FURTHERMORE, WE HAVE POLITICIANS MAD ENOUGH TO ADOPT ALMOST ANYTHING IN THE NAME OF ECONOMIC RATIONALISM.)

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(REPRINTED FROM PP1)

Nuts and Bolts: Writing With A Computer

Walter Vivian

Conversations at writers' gatherings suggests that it is likely that few creative writers are comfortable about writing with computers. In fact, many seem to regard the computer in the same category as venomous brown snakes! A surprising proportion still battle away with clunking old typewriters.

One renowned writer owns to taking to the fountain pen when writing poetry, as if the muse is offended by anything remotely mechanical. Another, of enviable reputation, writes longhand at an ordinary table and has a typist type up drafts that are worked on until the final piece is ready for display typing.

I've been through, it all from dip pen to power personal computer. Can you remember the delight of a good fountain pen and how much easier it was to let your thoughts flow along with the ink that reached the page somewhat faster, without need to dip, wipe and avoid blots and spatter?

My first typewriter was an Olivetti Lettera 22 portable. How proud I was at the quality of the type! Despite trying to do the right thing by using the correct fingers, it was fiendishly difficult. I found that too much mental energy was expended in the process and I could not compose on the keyboard for many years. Worse, the kinaesthetic element of spelling was removed and I found myself making simple and quite maddening errors. I would handwrite my drafts and then type them up in a separate process. Type seemed to validate the scribbled word.

Errors and amendments were a trial which brought to the fore skills in juggling the carriage to squeeze in extra letters, and marvellous circumlocutions to try to fit something credible into the space available.

Later, I bought an electronic machine, which produced a beautifully even type and had a built-in corrector. About a year later, I bought my first computer and hardly used the typewriter again.

What are the advantages in writing with a computer?

If you have chosen wisely and have a good computer which is user friendly, all you have to do is type. (I think that most computers now have this quality, but for years, Macintosh was the best by far, even though this was not reflected in popularity.)

A computer allows you to write almost as fast as you think. Errors do not matter, because you can go over your work in an editing process, zapping out your errors and correcting misspelling. No more do you have to re-type pages 3,4,5,6 & 7 because you made substantial changes on page 2. The text is moved along, appropriately to fit, before you print.

Cutting and pasting is easily effected with a click and drag of the mouse, the rolling switching device attached to the keyboard. You can try your sentences or paragraphs in different sequence, combine them, separate them, highlight them or bracket them.

I well remember the difficulty that I had with the beginnings of my first thesis, all nine of them. It took me a morning of physical cutting and pasting on the floor, before I had reduced them to one satisfactory, coherent, unified beginning. All this can be done almost effortlessly on screen, using the mouse.

Writing poetry is a dream. Get your thoughts on the screen as quickly as possible, either directly or from scribbled notes. Before you go to work, instantly copy another version above your first effort and work on this. When you return for a fresh look, copy your last effort, so that you have a stack of drafts, with the latest first. If you feel that you have painted yourself into an artistic corner, as poets and oil painters are prone to do, then you have the luxury of being able to look back to see where you went wrong and to mine out any vital turns of phrase that were lost along the way.

I know that Kerouac and others have been known to say something like, "first thoughts are best thoughts", but I am sceptical. Most writers need to revise their work.

Before you print, you have the luxury of setting out for display in different size, fonts, spacing and positioning. You have the capacity to show your work in the best possible way. (Overdoing it is the mark of the beginner - beware!)

There are other advantages such as the spelling and grammar checking facilities, which nevertheless can be quite maddening because of their mechanical obtuseness. Temporary editing marks help you to correct. You have the facility to compose in large type such as 14 point for comfortable viewing and to finish in 10 or 12 point, ready for printing.

Articles and stories can be easily tested for that all-important opening, either by reordering paragraphs or injecting new ones, not forgetting to first copy your original.

Lately, I have taken to having my computer read my work back to me in one of a score of voices. It is also maddening, but the computer reads exactly what I have actually put on the page, in its mechanical, metronomic way, rather than what I think I have put on the page.
(
I SUSPECT THAT GEORGE 2, EMPEROR OF THE FREE WORLD, MAY ALSO USE THIS TECHNIQUE AS HIS SPEECHES HAVE A FLAT, MECHANICAL STYLE OF ARTICULATION!)

Work from a good printer has a slight edge when it comes to acceptance for publication, but this will soon change.

I suspect that electronic submission will soon be favoured, because it goes directly to an editor's screen without messing about with typing or scanning.

Adequate secondhand computer and printer combinations may be bought for about five hundred dollars. A more sophisticated ensemble, including a modem for connection to the internet and e-mail, would cost two to three thousand dollars, but if you have good advice, a mix of old and new equipment would cost less.(TIMES HAVE CHANGED. AN ADEQUATE COMPUTER PRINTER COMBINATION COULD BE FOSSICKED FROM A SCRAP HEAP OR FOR A NOMINAL PRICE OF ABOUT $50.00 AND IF YOU ARE PREPARED TO TRUST SECONDHAND UNITS, LESS THAN A THOUSAND DOLLARS WOULD GET YOU READY FOR THE INTERNET.)

Computers rarely wear out, but become obsolete with amazingly rapid advances. My fourth computer has 256 times more memory and 7500 times more storage capacity than the first!

But don't forget that there is a marvellous old-fashioned device that is a good and cheap adjunct to the computer. It is portable, doesn't leak, is erasable and writes with variable thickness and density on a variety of surfaces. Pencils, too, are very useful writing devices!#

 

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First Chapters

 

 

"From This Day Forth" by Janet Woods. ISBN: 07090 7127 2

Robert Hale (UK) Hardcover. Release date Sept 2002.

 

CHAPTER ONE -1778

 

The main parlour of the Fox and Hound was a broth of human ripeness, tobacco

smoke and spilt ale.

 

Remy St Cyres gazed at the surface of his wine. A pair of dark eyes stared

back at him, an inheritance from his Spanish-born mother. Their expression

was slightly reproachful. He blew a storm of ripples across the liquid,

pulled a smile on his face and looked at one of his two companions. 'What's

the time, Charles?'

 

The building shook and a gust of wind rattled the shutters. His lips

thinning into a smile, Charles pulled a gold watch from his pocket. Once the

possession of Remy's father, the timepiece had been lost on the turn of a

card. Remy had the devil's foul luck when it was pitted against that of

Charles.

 

'It's twenty minutes past the hour. You have until midnight.'

Remy smiled with false confidence. 'I live a charmed life, my friends. A

maid of suitable birth is sure to come through that door. Once I'm wed I'll

be back in my grandfather's favour and my allowance will be restored.'

Simon Ackland leaned forward, the expression in his eyes more challenging in

inebriation than when he was sober. Usually a quiet fellow, it was his

birthday they were celebrating. 'Nothing was said about your bride being of

suitable birth, just that she be of marriageable age.'

Remy stared at him, astonished. 'To marry unsuitably would defeat the object

of this exercise. My grandfather would then disinherit me without

compunction.'

Charles tapped a finger nail on the pocket watch, which lay face up on the

table. Etched inside the hinged cover a ruby eyed snake coiled inside a

garland of Tudor roses. The St Cyres crest seemed to mock him.

Softly, Charles reminded him. 'You have more at stake than your allowance.

If you do not carry off and wed the first unattached woman to walk through

the door, I will call in all your debts. The deeds to Rosehill estate should

just about cover them.'

Remy blanched at the enormity of his debt to Charles. He gazed at the door,

then ran a palm over the ring on his little finger for luck. The ruby was

his birthstone. The jewel in the ring glowed like fire in the lantern light.

It had been a gift from his parents, one he'd sworn never to part with.

'The ruby is the lord of gems,' his mother had told him when he turned

sixteen. 'Wear it on your left hand and it will protect you from

misfortune.'

It had. Two months later his parents had been slain, their coach ambushed on

the King's highway, on this, the Dorsetshire side of London. Nothing had

been stolen, but there were rumours of a grudge slaying, for his father had

held an important position as one of the King's advisers. Fate had given

Remy a bout of dysentery, which had prevented him from being with them.

So he'd been lucky to avoid the same fate, but had been left alive and

alone. Now the ring was the only possession of value he had left. The

thought of losing it in such a way made him feel sick at heart, and slightly

desperate.

Mi casa en la colina. My home on the hill, Remy mused. That's what his

mother had called Rosehill, the estate where he'd had been born and raised.

Now he looked set to lose it too.

He'd been too young to handle the responsibility attached to his father's

estate and the title of viscount which had been passed on to him. His

grandfather, The Earl of Blessingham was an autocratic tyrant who'd

disapproved of his mother's foreign blood. Recently, he'd withdrawn his

monetary support, declaring Remy a disgrace to the memory of his parents, as

well as to himself.

His lips tightened. Would his parents be proud of him now - a son who'd

gambled away his birthright in eight short years? He doubted it. Whatever

the outcome of tonight's drunken wager, Remy swore he'd never gamble again,

especially with Charles, who was considerably skilled at cards and his

senior by several years.

Head beginning to pound he gazed desperately at the hands of his father's

watch, willing them to slow down time, praying a woman suitable for his

purpose would appear.

Charles was wearing a smug smile, as if he knew what the outcome would be.

Suspicion filled Remy's heart. Charles had the cunning of a fox. Had he

arranged for his sister to be part of this wager?

Catherine Boney was not the type of woman Remy admired. She was too studied

in her perfection. She made him feel uneasy, though he couldn't place a

credit to his reasoning. What if it was arranged so she'd come through that

door first? Charles would win either way.

He swore when the watch chimed half past the hour.

Charles eyes were bland as he expertly shuffled the cards, but his knowing

smile stayed in place.

Rain slanted against the roof. Rivulets found their way down the chimney to

hiss against the glowing coals. Despite his bravado, Remy felt unusually

pessimistic. No unmarried woman would be abroad in this weather unless she

had a specific reason, he thought, his spirits plunging to a low level as

Catherine came to mind again.

As he sloshed a measure of wine into his cup, the wager did not seem quite

so funny to him now.

 

***

 

Due to the late hour, the road between Dorchester and the harbour town of

Poole was almost deserted.

Fleur Russell drew a hood over her wind-whipped hair and surveyed her three

brothers through narrowed eyes. 'I'm chilled to the marrow, damp, and

totally exhausted. The lights of the inn are visible up ahead. Please allow

me go ahead and secure us some accommodation.'

Leland grunted as he and Macy put a shoulder to the coach, stuck axle deep

in the mud. It would have been helpful if their uncle had helped lighten the

load. Unaware of the misfortune that had befallen them, the bishop snored

cosily in a corner.

The coachman's whip cracked over the horses heads, encouraging them to pull.

They made a valiant effort. Steam snorted from their nostrils when they

applied their overworked muscles to the task. The poor beasts were beginning

to lather.

Fleur sighed. 'You cannot allow those poor creatures to pull us on to Poole

tonight, Leland. They need to rest. Stable them for the night and free the

coach in the morning. A coin or two will get you all the help you need on

the morrow.'

Straightening up, Leland eased the small of his back with his hands. 'I

think you're right. Go and secure us a couple of rooms then. Macy and I will

unhitch the horses and wake the Bishop. He'll have to help carry the

luggage.'

He jerked a red-thatched head at their younger brother. 'Take Cris to

protect you,' he said, his expression clearly conveying something else.

Crispen had just recovered from a lung infection and was labouring to

breathe in the raw air without coughing.

Crispen was the one most like her with his green eyes and shock of sable

curls. He wasn't as unpredictable as the dark-eyed physician, Macy, nor was

he as straightforward as Leland. At eighteen, and her junior by one year,

Crispen possessed a lively mind and an enigmatic charm.

Fleur loved all her brothers with a passionate intensity, but the youngest

drew from her a motherly affection. Childhood playmates, Crispen's traumatic

birth had been at the expense of their mother's life. Ten years later they'd

clung together for comfort when their father's death had orphaned them.

Fleur had comforted her younger brother, and had attempted to shield him

from the rough discipline of their two elder half-brothers as they grew.

Despite her efforts, he'd managed to grow up with his fair share of the

Russell fearlessness, which grew stronger with his journey into manhood.

The offspring of an earlier marriage, Leland and Macy had assumed

guardianship and raised them. But the situation was changing. Leland had

taken a wife a few months previously. At the same time, Macy had announced

his intention to study surgery. As for herself, she was being packed off to

live in the bishop's household.

It wasn't fair, she thought mutinously. She'd miss Cris, and she'd be bored

witless.

There had been a ferocious argument before she left, of course, conducted

out of earshot of the bishop in the stable yard. But Leland knew her too

well and would not be moved by either temper or tears.

'Marguerite says you have hoydenish tendencies because I've neglected your

female needs. I'm inclined to agree with her. You can't sing or play an

instrument, or even dance. You've been educated in the wrong areas and are

lacking the feminine virtues a man expects in a wife. Your Aunt Verity will

rectify your faults, and a season in London will secure you a husband.'

She scowled at him. 'If Aunt Verity is so solicitous of my welfare, why

didn't she offer to improve me before? Could it be because my spinster

second cousin left me her fortune and Aunt Verity has a gibbering idiot of a

nephew she wants to marry off?' She turned towards Macy for support. 'Can

you imagine me as wife to the Reverend Chalmers?'

Macy's lips twitched, but his hazel eyes remained flat and dangerous.

'To be honest with you, no, I can't. The man is a fat, lazy slug who left

his brains in the cradle.' He took out his pistol and examined it. 'Rest

assured, Fleur. The suitor who hopes to claim you, must prove his worth to

me, first.'

Leland flicked him a grin. 'You've chased off every suitor who gets within a

courting mile of her. It would take a fool to cross you.'

'That's not so. In fact, he'll need to be fearless to cope with our sister.'

Macy allowed an ironic smile to soften his mouth. 'Fleur needs a man with

special qualities. Don't you agree?'

He didn't elaborate on those qualities but the look he exchanged with Leland

was accompanied by a knowing grin.

Fleur snorted, knowing herself at be at a decided disadvantage. She lowered

her voice as the bishop approached, a portly figure whose stomach preceded

him wherever he went.

'Both of you can keep your counsel. Just be warned. I intend marrying the

man I fall in love with, whether you think him suitable or not, Macy.'

'If you need assistance getting him to the altar, let me know,' Crispen

offered, and the three of them began to punch each other on the shoulders

and laugh.

Disgusted, because Crispen had united with their brothers in teasing her,

she gave them all a good earful before ascending into the coach after the

bishop. Her smile faltered at the expression of shock on his face.

'They are ill-mannered brutes,' she tossed casually at him by way of

explanation.

The bishop tut-tutted, but said nothing. He didn't have to. His sour

expression spoke volumes and brought bright colour whipping to her cheeks.

From that one look, she deduced what her future held and her heart sank. She

had the feeling that anything would be better than living in this

self-righteous bore's household.

As the coach carried her towards her distasteful future she grew more and

more determined. If anyone expected her to become a weak-minded woman at the

beck and call of some man they would soon learn different.

Conversation with her uncle proved difficult, for he answered in

monosyllables. She had the feeling he stood judgement on every word she

uttered, which was inhibiting as well as daunting. Eventually her attempts

at conversation became desultory, then ceased. She was relieved when his

head lolled to one side, though he snored like a demented bullfrog.

As the horses ate the miles and the tedium of the journey set in, her

annoyance at being expelled from her home abated. Perhaps a few social

graces wouldn't go amiss, she conceded. She would certainly like to learn

how to dance.

Their entry into the mud stopped her train of thought. The sudden jolt

propelled her forward onto the bishop's flabby stomach. He emitted a

flatulent and deflating, 'frrrrrumph' then continued to snore.

'Just as well he's asleep,' she muttered, holding her handkerchief to her

nose and grinning when her brothers' heartfelt curses coloured the air.

That had been an hour ago. Now, bone-weary and hungry, the distant lights of

the inn glinted a welcome.

Behind them, the sound of a carriage was heard.

'If we want a comfortable bed for the night we'd better be off,' she said to

Crispen, 'Else someone else might get their first.'

 

***

 

The hands on the timepiece moved inexorably towards midnight. Remy and

Charles stared at each other across a pack of cards. Simon staggered outside

to relieve himself.

'A guinea if you can piss into the wind without splattering yourself,'

Charles called after him, then without flickering an eyelid, 'One last

wager, Remy. Highest card. Your gambling notes against the ring.'

An even chance. Sweat pricked at Remy's forehead. It was as though the devil

himself was tempting him. His palm circled over the ruby, reminding him it

was a gift of love. He took a deep breath. 'I'm through with gambling.'

'How do you intend to retrieve the estate back from me then?' Charles

sneered.

Remy tried not to sound as despairing as he felt. 'You haven't got Rosehill

yet.'

'In exactly two minutes -'

The door crashed open. A draught set smoke billowing from the fireplace.

Simon grinned as he swayed back and forth in the doorway. 'A woman and a

youth on foot are approaching.'

Clearly startled, Charles shot to his feet, scattering cards in the process.

'A youth? But -' He recovered quickly. 'Probably a peasant. I won't hold you

to the wager if she's of unsuitable birth. No woman of quality would be

afoot, especially at this hour.'

But he was talking to himself, for Remy had decided not to allow himself to

be manipulated by Charles any longer. He would decide for himself if the

woman was worth marrying or not. If he lost the wager he'd throw himself on

the mercy of his grandfather.

Snatching up the watch Remy hastened to the door, slipped outside and

snapped. 'Fetch my horse, Simon.'

The lantern they carried was extinguished by a gust of wind, but not before

he caught a glimpse of them. Both young, the lad was slightly built, and

would be no bother.

It was surprisingly easy to take the woman. He tapped her on the shoulder,

saying, 'Have you a husband?'

'No,' she spluttered and Remy caught the glimpse of a luscious mouth and a

pair of large glittering eyes before she turned to the youth, who was

suffering the onset of a sudden coughing fit.

As the lad bent double Remy pushed him to the ground. He grabbed the bottom

of the woman's cloak, threw the garment over her head and bound her arms to

her side with the noosed cord he'd brought with him.

Lifting her struggling form he threw her face down over his saddle and

whooped triumphantly. It look but a moment to mount and turn his gelding

towards Rosehill.

The youth sprang at his stirrup, managing to hold tight for a few seconds

until he lost his grip. Remy put his foot in the youth's chest and sent him

reeling backwards. He was doing him a favour. His mount was unsettled and

ready to lash out at anyone who got within range.

Remy swiftly got the horse under control.

A little while later he grinned when he still heard muffled curses coming

from the folds of the cloak. The wench had a lively turn of phrase. His

glance slid along her length. And from what he'd observed under the

voluminous travelling cloak, a form worth a second look. He ran an assessing

hand over her waist and backside.

An outraged shriek and her struggle to free herself was redoubled. The horse

began to side-step when she managed to disentangle a hand and grab its mane

for support.

'Stop struggling, wench, or my horse will throw us and stomp all over you.

He has no liking for strangers.'

'Keep your hands off me, you hen-hearted bully. I'm not some brood mare you

purchased at market,' she hissed, her outraged voice muffled by the cloak.

An amusing truth under the circumstances, by God! He began to laugh until

his horse smelt a warm stable ahead and went into a trot. His burden gave a

muffled groan. Aware her position must be causing her discomfort Remy

slowed to a walk, rearranged her cloak and hauled her into a sitting

position in front of him.

She jerked her leg back and heeled him in the shin.

He sucked in a deep breath, but managed to refrained from cussing at her.

Had he been in her position, he'd have done the same.

The euphoria of the wine he'd consumed was wearing off, swiftly being

replaced by a headache. 'Calm down and just sit quietly. The sooner you do

that, the sooner we will be comfortable and I'll be able to explain the

position you find yourself in. Do you understand?'

She said nothing, she had no need to. The power of her fury tensed her body.

This was no wilting flower. Given the chance she would uncoil like a spring,

hurl herself from the horse and make a run for it. Half of him hoped she'd

escape, the other half remembered Rosehill. He tightened the noose around

her body.

Lightning flickered in the distance. A low grumble of thunder followed, like

a warning growl from an unfriendly hound. He cursed when a sudden downpour

of rain slanted down on them.

'Hah!' she spat out, 'A little cold water may cool your devil's blood.'

'Let's hope it cools yours,' he muttered, 'You're as prickly as a hedgehog

bathing in brine.'

His burden hissed something intelligible, then relaxed a little as the horse

plodded towards Rosehill. He tried not to think of the ramifications of his

action this night, tried to ignore the tantalising perfume lingering about

her. He had other things to think about - mainly his own stupidity.

This girl he'd abducted was of good birth. He guessed her coach and escort

had become mired back along the road, because she was not abroad on such a

night by chance. Someone would look for her, and they'd find her without too

much trouble.

The wind had increased in strength. The forest bent beneath its fury, the

branches of the pines cracked and snapped above them, peppering them with

bark and needles.

Then they were clear of the trees. Ahead was a long, sloping hill and the

pale light of a solitary lantern to guide him home. As Remy urged the horse

into a gentle canter his passenger showed her familiarity with horses by

every unconscious movement of her body. They were too close for his comfort,

he realized a few moments later.

The rain became an icy deluge, which effectively cooled his ardour.

 

***

 

Fleur's ear pricked as the horse's hoofbeats changed. They were on a cobbled

surface, probably a stable yard. There was a faint aroma of horse dung, the

smell of the sea in the air and the faint, storm-tossed roar of breaking

waves amongst the thunderclaps.

She was over her fright now, thinking clearly despite her discomfort. Her

abductor was a man of quality judging from his speech and the feel of his

clothes. He smelled strongly of wine. He was in his cups, which made him all

the more dangerous. Had he learned of her inheritance? It was not

uncommon for heiresses to be abducted by greedy and unscrupulous men, but

she hadn't expected to become a victim considering the reputation of her

brothers.

Her mouth dried when her abductor lowered her into a pile of straw. Her

cloak was a dripping shroud about her body, the hood a forlorn droop about

her face. Carefully she eased some life back into her muscles.

A lantern was alight on a rough bench, creating a pool of light. Beyond

that, darkness stretched. Her abductor was tall and well-muscled. He'd lost

his hat. His dark hair was slicked down by the rain.

He was seeing to the comfort of his horse, a fact which did nothing to

reassure her. If the man was too impoverished to afford a stable hand, then

he was definitely after her fortune. His preoccupation gave her the chance

to rid herself of the noose and he didn't seem to notice when it dropped to

the floor around her feet.

Lighting licked a bright square around a door at the end of the darkness.

Whilst the man was occupied she edged silently back towards it. Her brothers

would move heaven and earth to find her, she knew. She needed to find

somewhere to hide until morning if she was to avoid the fate she imagined

was waiting for her. She might be compromised now, but she'd not surrender

to her captor willingly.

She'd nearly gained the door when a blast of wind blew it from its latch. It

banged against the wall, the suddenness of it making her gasp.

He turned, his face illuminated by a prolonged flash of lightning. Dark eyes

bored into hers. She snatched a riding crop from a nail when he strode

towards her and turning, fled into the wildness of the night.

It was like running into hell. The rain was a frenzy of bruising, drenching

slush. The wind tore at her clothes, forcing its way into her lungs to

inflame them with soreness. The plants whipped at her, scoring her flesh

with thorny fingers. The air was filled with the sound of fury as the

unrelenting storm filled the boisterous night.

There was a lantern burning in a porch, someone in an open doorway. A woman!

He wouldn't dare attack her with someone as witness. His footsteps echoed

behind her. Heart pounding, breathless, she headed for the doorway.

'Is that you, sir?' the woman said in a high, quavering voice

A foot came down on the hem of Fleur's cloak, jerking her to a choking halt.

'Go to bed, Mrs Firkins,' her abductor said calmly, 'I'll see to my guest.'

'Yes, sir.' Mrs Firkins picked up a candle and it bobbed across the hall and

up a curving flight of stairs.

The fact that the woman turned a blind eye to what was going on wasn't

reassuring. Fleur loosened the clasp at her throat, stepped out of its folds

then whirled round and slashed the riding crop back and forth across her

attacker's face.

When he staggered back with a curse, she took the opportunity to follow

after Mrs Firkins. She overtook the old woman on the stairs, took a left

turn and traversed a maze of corridors before slipping through one of the

many doors. There was a key in the lock. It turned with a satisfying clunk.

Lightning revealed a sleeping chamber of magnificent proportions. The

furnishings were covered by dust sheets.

The storm was centred overhead now, the room illuminated by flashes of

lighting as bright as day. The flickering light revealed a large dressing

robe. She wrenched open the door. Inside, hung garments of every

description. Everything a woman could need, in fact, though the style seemed

a little dated.

Apparent from the unused smell of the room, the owner had not been here for

a long time. The former occupant was probably dead, Fleur thought, but she

was too cold to care, and not fussy enough to mind wearing the clothes of an

unknown person who might never need them again.

Shivering, she exchanged her sodden undergarments for a warm chemise, then

pulled on a taffeta petticoat and a velvet overskirt and bodice. Crawling

into the dusty centre of a four-poster bed she drifted into an exhausted

sleep, oblivious to the shivers that racked her body.

Even the loud creak of the door opening from the adjoining room didn't wake

her.

***

 

Remy held a candle on high and gazed down at his prize. Despite his

throbbing head he smiled at the sight of her. She was a beauty. Her hair was

a gleaming tangle of tossed sable. She slept on her back, her breasts a soft

swell against her bodice. One hand formed a loose fist in the shadowed cleft

between them, the other curved against her cheek.

The outfit was Julia Cordova's, for this had been his mother's chamber when

she'd been the mistress of Rosehill. His father had occupied the adjoining

chamber.

Funny how his victim had chanced on this chamber, the one place she'd be

safe from violation. If he'd been inclined that way. If she hadn't left a

trail of water to follow he doubted he'd have looked for her here, or found

her so quickly.

She murmured something and turned on to her side when he plucked a couple of

pine needles from her hair. The movement revealed a slipperless foot and an

expanse of bare leg. Her foot was cold to his tentative touch and shivers

swept over her body from time to time. Carefully, he eased a feather-filled

comforter over her.

Now he'd captured the girl he didn't quite know how to go about arranging

the nuptials, for wed her he must if he was to retain the deeds to Rosehill.

Who was she? Where did she come from? he asked himself.

There was an enamelled signature ring on her finger. He leaned forward,

catching sight of an eagle with a rodent clutched in its talons before she

moved her hand, hiding it from sight. Where had he seen the design before?

He closed his eyes for a second or two, recalling a vast hall, the design

worked in marble on the floor. Taken aback, he paled. The Russell family!

When he'd been a child his father had bought a pair of matched greys from

Earl Russell. They'd stayed the night, Remy joining the younger Russell

children in the nursery wing. A terrifying visitation by a couple of

boisterous banshees at midnight had a disastrous effect on his bladder and

had been the caused of recurring nightmares long after his bruises had

healed.

Besides the childhood trauma, was the recollection of the reputation of the

eldest two brothers. Neither backed down from a fight and Macy's reputation

as a crack pistol shot was becoming legendary in sporting circles.

Remy managed a self-deprecating grin. Ah yes, he knew how he'd go about

wedding the girl now, with the business end of a pistol in his back . . .

providing her brothers allowed him to live long enough!

 

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Comfort Me with Apples - Reichl. Reviewed by Heidi Attwood

Autobiography. 320 pages (April 2002)

Random House (Paper); ISBN: 0375758739 $27.00

 

A Gastronomical Romp

 

Some Background (quoted from back cover)

Ruth Reichl is the chief editor at "Gourmet Magazine" and was the chief

restaurant critic for "The New York Times". She held the same post at the

"The Los Angles Times" for ten years and was chef/owner at the Swallow

Restaurant in California in the mid-seventies. She has written for numerous

publications including "Vanity Fair", "Family Circle", "Metropolitan Home"

and "Food and Wine".

 

Overview

People who love food and the artistry of food preparation will truly relate

to the subject matter in this engaging book. Those who don't will love the

author's style and lively treatment of her topic.

 

Ruth Reichl writes about food for a living and the book describes her

journey from one restaurant to another, exploring the gastronomical delights

not only of America, but also France, China, Thailand, Spain, and others.

Interspersed with this is her own emotional and psychological journey as she

tries (unsuccessfully) to hold career and marriage together. Her husband is

on a path to his own particular fame, which of necessity sends their

parallel lives into opposite directions. As both of them achieve renown,

their marriage falters as each party becomes involved in other

relationships.

 

The reader is whirled into the life of the wealthy to experience

gastronomical delights, along with snobbery; famous names are dropped like

peppercorns throughout the story &endash; she spends an evening at Danny Kaye's

home, and rubs shoulders (albeit fleetingly) with such legends as Gregory

Peck, Elke Sommer, Kathleen Turner, Henry Winkler, to name a few. Reichl 's

appearance contrasts starkly with the snooty establishments she visits,

belying her knowledge, appreciation and acute evaluation of the dishes she

samples.

 

For example, sent on an assignment with a food editor in LA, she gives a

delicious account of her rented car, and feeling of awkwardness at her

appearance: "É I arrived at Ma Maison and saw the Jaguars, Rolls-Royces and

Mercedeses (sic) parked in front. How could I possibly hand my Rent-A-Wreck

to the valet? I couldn't. I drove right past the restaurant and parked on

the street. As I struggled to lock the door I was conscious that the damp

night air was frizzing my hair. By the time I got to the restaurant I was

excruciatingly aware that my dress was hemmed with Scotch tape and my shoes

were in need of a shine."

 

She delivers her verdicts and descriptions with humour and earthiness.

Anyone aspiring to be a food writer, or quite simply a writer, is left

simmering enviously at the richness and imagination of her descriptive

powers.

 

For example, at the beginning of the book, Ruth and her husband are living

in an 'environmentally-friendly' commune in Berkley. "[Her] parents came to

inspect [itÉand] were not thrilled to find themselves sleeping in a bedroom

with a curtain in place of a door, but it was the food that finally drove

them away. They endured three nights of brown rice, tofu, and lentils with

a side order of anti-agribusiness theory, and then insisted on going out to

eat."

 

Other delights: "He put the softest little ball of sweet, buttery cheese in

my mouth. I swallowed, and it was like sunshine and green fields."

 

While in France: "There was a kind of magic to champagne that old [1911], a

wine bottled before automobiles or airplanes or either of the major wars. A

wine bottled before women had the vote. Watching the liquid come sparkling

into my glass, I thought of all the years it had been waiting in that dark

bottle, what a different world it was emerging into. I was drinking

history; I liked the taste."

 

Still in France: "[Each forkful of] scrambled eggs with truffles was like

biting off a piece of the sun. It was like musk and light, all at once, and

suddenly I burst out, "This is what I always imagined sex would taste

like.""

 

In conclusion, while the book bounces along with Reichl's lively,

fascinating narrative, certain unexpected aspects shift its focus, sometimes

a little disjointedly. For example, elements such as recipes and

psychological drama make an appearance among the culinary anecdotes,

changing the genre completely. Recipes are positioned strategically (often

at a time of stress or crisis, or when something important occurs), and this

could be a plus or a minus, depending on one's point of view. The book

would still been stunningly successful without them (perhaps included in a

separate section at the end of the book?), but they are obviously there for

a reason. In terms of choice of recipes, their sheer extravagance may not

be to everyone's taste, especially in this age of cholesterol-fear and

weight-watching. But then again, that is precisely what the book is about &endash;

the excesses of the super-restaurants, those who patronise them (often

without true appreciation), but most of all it is also about those who not

only love and appreciate brilliant food, but also have the power to describe

it so that it 'lives'.

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