The port city of Le Havre is a masterpiece of vague navigation aids. Roundabouts point to places that people really don’t want to go to, especially the British tourists who drive tiredly off the ferry, yawning after a rolling night on the English Channel. Long stretches of road also exist without a roundabout, so if you take the wrong turn you’ll have to drive for kilometres (and get even more lost) before you find your way out again. For those without a satnav in their car, or those unwilling to use their smartphone data to navigate, it’s a rude introduction to la belle France.
One of the architects of this bewildering and frustrating road system was a man we shall call Armand. Armand was a misanthrope. In fact, he was the misanthrope’s misanthrope, an utter bastard who made it his life’s work to create misery for others. He fitted perfectly into the French public service.
There was nothing Armand liked better than to drive around his town and the local environs, including Honfleur and the magnificent Pont de Normandie. He knew his way around every street without even having to glance at the masterpieces of misdirection he’d created, and he’d drive with the window down, Gauloise in his mouth, smiling at each sign of frustration from motorists. Each wail of horror from a car with GB plates which was going around a roundabout for the third time. Each angry scream of air brakes from articulated lorry drivers who suddenly realised that the port sign they thought was the one they wanted, wasn’t. It was all music to Armand’s ears. Continue reading
You’d think that telling chicks you write music for movies and live in a terrace in Darlinghurst would be a winner. It’s when they find out more that everything turns to custard.
Yeah, I really do write music for movies. Soft porn, since you ask. You know, girls lying on the bonnet of a Ferrari and slooooowly taking their kit off, licking their lips, then their fingers, and putting those fingers places where the camera goes on full zoom to follow. Nothing violent, sometimes a couple of lezzies, sometimes a girl with a guy, often a girl on her own.
This bloke in America makes the movies and pays me to do the music. Every time some horny bugger with his tongue hanging out downloads one of the movies it’s royalties for me too. It’s a nice little earner that bulks up the money I make being a sparky. Until the bloody ATO discovers me Paypal account.
Women I date don’t like it that I have to watch the porn to write the music but I can’t write without seeing what I’m writing for, can I?
When I was a kid I wanted to be a rock star. The only sensible thing Dad ever done for me was force me to become an apprentice electrician instead. Get a trade first, he said, so’s if the music shit doesn’t work out you got a day job. It didn’t work out but a few years back I taught myself how to compose music on a synth and computer, doof doof stuff that sells well on the internet for those dance and rave places where nobody gives a shit about the music but wants the beat.
One contact led to another and for the last year it’s been the porn music, regular stuff, one soundtrack every two or three weeks. Bland sort of music, and I bet nobody notices if one soundtrack isn’t very different to another when they’re watching the action. I wonder if most of the blokes who watch this stuff notice the music at all really. Continue reading
Imagine your Mum’s handwriting was so appalling that you were registered with the wrong name. An embarrassing one. And to get around it you create a whole fantasy existence …
By Any Other Name
by Caroline Sully
I was born at the same time we were moving house: from our crowded rented terrace in Glebe to a Federation pile on the lower north shore my Dad’s childless, widowed aunt had left to her only nephew.
From the confines of the Crown Street Women’s Hospital in Surry Hills Mum dazedly gave instructions about the move as Dad and my three older sisters thundered into the ward to congratulate a weary Mum and get their first peek at me.
I was, apparently, a red-faced squawking scrap of a thing with a mop of dark hair. My sisters, expecting a pink and white angelic infant who slept with a Mona Lisa smile on her perfect face, were disappointed and said so while Mum and Dad filled out the paperwork.
I was to be named Denise after the said departed aunt. After a heated discussion about my middle name, which made me howl even louder and brought a starchy nurse to the bedside, Mum scrawled the name Elinor down and sent the family away.
She gave the nurse the completed form for my birth certificate, and went to sleep. Job done.
Nobody thought to question Mum’s writing, which was appalling at the best of times and even worse after a long labour and a good dose of painkillers.
It wasn’t until I was five years old and starting school that we all realised the name on my birth certificate had actually been recorded as Penise.
* * * Continue reading
Finally, a new short(ish) story: Holly’s first job in 1970s suburban Sydney isn’t just answering the phones, it’s dealing with a dodgy overbearing builder who wants to marry her off to his son.
“What’s a Palamar?” Rosemary squinted at the note; it had grubby fingerprints on it and smelt of garlic, clearly the work of Franco the foreman whose spelling was a phonetic reproduction of his accent.
Rhoda and I peered over her shoulder. “Palamar comming 10AM toomoro.”
“I suppose we’ll find out at ten tomorrow,” Rhoda said brightly.
“Palamar, palamar,” mused Rosemary, staring out the window into the muddy mire that was the backyard cum building site. Franco and the boys had left for the day and as usual they had simply downed tools and walked off, leaving shovels, trowels and other equipment in a still life.
Her eyes widened. “Pa-LA-mar! It’s a plumber!”
You wouldn’t believe how excited three people could get over this announcement but working with the builders was like dealing with an alien life form or translating an ancient Egyptian cuneiform. There were rare moments of brilliance in communication. Continue reading
I wrote this story as part of a marital challenge; my husband and I, having had a couple of glasses of red one night, both went off to our respective computers for 90 minutes to see what we could come up with in terms of fiction, off the cuff. I’d had some chocolate with the red wine, and decided that chocolate would be the theme of my story. It wrote itself after that -!
It was like the old song Some Enchanted Evening, but if you’d have asked Jane, she would have said “Wha?” in vague tones, not recognising a song penned hundreds of years before she was born. And even so, she didn’t believe in romance.
Instead her crowded room was full of men and women with grey skin or green, one eye, maybe two, often three. The eyes she met were those with the same colour of her own, dark brown and, most particularly, human. Continue reading
Hugh wasn’t going to argue with his forceful vet when she told him his dog needed more exercise. However, the vet’s instructions didn’t include meeting someone and falling in love
It was, on reflection, rather amusing that a visit to the local vet could lead to such a passionate affair. Not with the vet. Hugh had no desire to enfold the plain-faced, squat Clarissa in his arms. And not with his dog, either. Although he was fond of Todger, and, if pushed, would admit that he loved the dog as much as he loved his two children, but in an owner/pet kind of way.
No, Clarissa had prodded Todger’s amply-covered ribs and chided Hugh about letting young Golden Retrievers run to fat. “You’ll have horrible hip problems with him later. How often does he get a walk?”
“Um,” Hugh said, flailing. He was trying hard to remember the last time any of the family had taken Todger outside the garden. Probably six months ago, and he’d been so excited he’d pulled Claire off her feet and now she and her brother were afraid to walk him.
“Every day, Hugh. He needs a walk every day. For heavens sake, you live on the edge of the village, you’ve got the most wonderful woods and moorland just a hop away.” Clarissa glared at him through her thick glasses; obviously he was now on the list of Bad Pet Owners. “Cut his feed in half. No snacks, unless they’re carrot sticks. And walk him. Train him, take him to obedience lessons and keep his mind active too. Let him have FUN.” Continue reading
There’s a party next week and Gina’s Little Black Dress is about to become Gina’s Busted Seam Black Dress. But a chance visit to a Chinese food store and the impulse purchase of Dieter’s Tea will change all that…although perhaps not quite in the way Gina expected.
1. Finding the right mantra
The South East Asian food store smelt interesting, enticing. Its interior, so dark compared to the blinding, sunny white tiles outside, held a promise of spice, a soupcon of cheong-sam, a steaming bowl of noodles.
Gina swept aside the awful plastic flaps of fly curtain; her shoes sounded hollow on the old lino. She drew a deep breath of spilled soy sauce and dried mushrooms, and almost sighed in delight. Like so many other Asian corner stores, the shelves were piled to the ceiling with packaged goods, many of them labelled in Chinese or Korean or Thai. Several had English subtitles along the lines of “is good taste yum yum!” which were so endearing she was tempted to buy them anyway, regardless of whatever mysteries hid inside the tin. Continue reading
When Layla, trapped under a fallen bookcase, calls for divine help, the last person she expects to answer her call is the Fuck Up Fairy….. Warning: Bad Language, religious irreverence. 18+
It had NOT been Layla’s day. The hot water system had died a natural death during her shower, she’d been overcharged at Sainsbury’s for some very indifferent Bulgarian red, a trolley had added a new feature in the way of a creative dent in the rear panel of her car when she finally found it in the carpark (after almost dropping the two bottles she’d fought over), a traffic snarl made her fifteen minute journey home take 35, and that was all before 10am. Since then she’d learned the water system wouldn’t be fixed for at least three days, her boyfriend had left an ominous message on the answering machine that simply said, “We have to talk,” in a way that said he was about to dump her, the secretary of the CEO she was supposed to interview that afternoon (deadline for major business article: tomorrow) rang to say she’d got the dates mixed up and the CEO was currently en route to Rio de Janeiro and couldn’t be contacted, and a letter from the bank informed her politely she was overdrawn.
Layla fought the impulse to scream at the secretary, but instead persisted like a bulldog until she got the Rio hotel details out of the stammering woman. She had a feeling the telephone on the other end had turned, of its own accord, to ice. Great, now she could add a nice international phone call to the overdraft. Continue reading
Georgina’s generous and rather loopy Aunt Hermione left her a house in her will. The only snag is Georgie has to share it with a feline monster with a penchant for belting up people he doesn’t like. Dedicated to my lovely huge silver tabby Hamish McFlea, 1999- 2008, the inspiration for Glasgow Ned (but much nicer). Warning: Bad language.
Where there’s a will there’s a greedy relation. An old joke, but, like a lot of old jokes, based on truth. In this case there wasn’t one greedy relation, there were two of them, shouting at me at once.
“How DARE Gran leave you her house! You’re only her NIECE!”
“She was out of her mind! I’m contesting the will!”
Trent and Sebastian, my two furious and already well-off cousins, drew breath at the same time, ready for the next tirade. I took advantage of the microsecond’s pause to have my say.
“Firstly, Great-Aunt Hermione was entitled to leave her house to whomever she chooses -”
“Whomever she chooses,” mimicked Trent, who’d failed English in High School but mysteriously made his living as a newspaper editor.
I glared at him. “Secondly, she wasn’t out of her mind. She was a cunning old lady with a terrific sense of humour.” Continue reading
When journalist Nicola Jenkins heads up to her uncle’s farm, she finds the scoop of a lifetime galloping on top of a hill.
Author’s note: Back in the 80s and early 90s I had quite a nice little earner writing horse stories for a magazine. Given that the readers were often horse-crazy girls well under sixteen, the only thing that ever got mounted was a horse (unlike some of the stuff I’ve written since!). This story is one of the less saccharine ones, and doesn’t rattle on about dressage tests, one day events or show ring competitions. It was first published in The Horse Magazine in 1990, but I’ve reworked it slightly. And yeah, only the horses get mounted. Sorry! CS
Nicola saw the gate ahead of her and braked with a sigh of relief. It had been a long drive from Sydney and she was too tired to take much notice of the high brick house and intercom at the gate, which were way out of place this far out from town. The nameplate said “Tom Jenkins” and “Darius Stud Farm”, and that was all Nicola cared about. The glaring “Trespassers will be SHOT!” sign she totally ignored, since she wasn’t really a trespasser. Continue reading