Sunday, November 01, 2009


Billy wanted to be the kind of easygoing person that everyone likes. He wanted to be cool: but he wasn’t.

Every morning Billy walked past _La Petite Café_ and saw all the happy customers reading or chatting or laughing, normal people who didn’t have a single care. Every morning Billy thought, “I’m going to go in there one day.”

One morning he awoke before sunrise and, after trying for some time to get back to sleep, he got out of bed and sat near a window watching the distant city lights. Today was the day.

It was a crisp morning in the middle of winter; the moon was hiding in the daytime sky and Billy was watching the café from across the road. His bloodless hands felt tingly and alien. His pulse thumped clearly in his left ear.

“Today is the day,” Billy told himself as he walked towards the café.

He took a deep breath and reached for the door handle, pulled when he should have pushed: the door closed with a bang. Everyone turned to look at him. His face flushed and he felt a cold bead of sweat ran from his armpit.

This wasn’t how he thought it would be.

Once inside he shuffled to the counter his fists clenched tight. He scrunched up his toes too when the waitress asked him to repeat his order.

Billy collected his cup and walked with great caution towards an empty table. There was a pool of cold coffee in his saucer by the time he sat down. His face was burning; his hands cold, damp and shaky.

“Today is the day,” Billy repeated to himself as he pulled a diary and a pen out of his bag.

Turning to a blank page he wrote, “Amongst the Spheres,”

He stopped and frowned at what he’d written.

After some moments he added, “Darkness for light-years.”

He was pulled from his reverie by the laughter of a young woman at an adjacent table. She was engrossed in a book and didn’t seem to care that people were looking at her.

It was then that he realised that what he’d hoped for hadn’t come to pass. His release, his transformation, his metamorphosis, hadn’t taken place.

“Damn this fear,” he thought. “And now I’ve stayed too long; they’re waiting to get my table back.” He started to panic, flung his diary into his bag and marched out of the shop.

He didn’t see the girl with the book trying to catch his eye as he left.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Fearless Andrew Biggs

Andrew Biggs never said no to a dare. I remember one day the bell rang and he shot out of class and climbed straight up the flagpole. He had that crooked-tooth grin on his face and you would’ve thought it was all his idea, if you hadn’t known that Simon Parker had slipped him a note in the middle of Maths.

You could tell he wasn’t just doing it for the attention though. Hell, he just clung to the top of that old white-flagpole with a kind of wistful look on his face; just hung there admiring the view, oblivious to the crowd gathering below him.

Then a teacher heard all the fuss and called out, “Mr. Biggs, if you would be so kind as to join us down here on planet earth. You and I need to have a little chat about the school rules.”

Andrew just slid down that flagpole like it was a fireman’s pole and landed right at the teacher’s feet. He had that crooked-tooth grin on his face and not the slightest hint of fear in his eyes.

Andrew was the kid in the back row of the class photo, that photo where all the boys look awkward and half the girls are hiding behind their hair. Andrew’s in that back row, his crooked-tooth grin turned up to 10, making rabbit ears behind Mr. Peterson’s head.

Anyway, the real story started when someone dared Andrew to kiss Katie Miller during English.

Andrew got out of his desk, walked over to Katie, and gave her a kiss on the cheek an Alsatian would’ve been proud of.

“Andrew Biggs get your grubby hands off Katie Miller and get back to your desk. NOW,” Mr. Peterson yelled.

Throwing chalk had been banned the year before but you could tell Mr. Peterson really wanted to throw some then.

The rest of the class was dead silent pretending to work, but Andrew just sauntered back to his desk and sat down as if nothing had happened.

He probably would’ve gotten away with it too if he hadn’t said, “Hey Katie; do you want to go to the school dance with me?”

Katie, who was still rubbing saliva off her face, looked shocked. But before she could say anything, Mr. Peterson jumped to his feet, grabbed Andrew, and started dragging him out of the class. Andrew had gone too far, not that we blamed him; I mean Katie was okay – for a girl. But her father was a bit of a big-wig and everyone knew Mr. Peterson was afraid of him.

So, Mr. Peterson was dragging Andrew out of the class. Andrew didn’t look worried at all; nope he just walked along with that top-of-the-flag-pole look on his face as if he was having a nice relaxing stroll in the park. We were all a bit worried that Andrew would get the strap, but what happened next was worse.

Mr. Peterson was being pretty rough and Andrew wasn’t looking where he was going, so his feet got tangled in Simon Parker’s desk; he fell forward and landed on his head.

There was quite a lot of blood and we all had to go outside and play. An ambulance came and they took Andrew away on a stretcher.

We didn’t see Andrew for a few weeks but we heard he had been in a coma so that was pretty cool. When he came back he was all different and when Katie asked him if he still wanted to go to the dance, well I would have sworn he looked scared. He just shuffled off as if nothing had happened.

Mr. Peterson had to get a new job but our new teacher told us that Andrew might not remember all of us now and we shouldn’t tease him.

Simon Parker had just one thing to say to Andrew, “I dare you to climb the flagpole at lunchtime.”

Well, when the bell rang, Andrew shuffled out of the class and slowly climbed that old white-flagpole. He was only halfway up when he began to look all scared and then he started to cry. We were all embarrassed and the fire brigade had to come and get him down.

I heard a teacher whispering that Andrew was probably better off – everyone needed some fear – but I wasn’t sure.

Anyway, Andrew’s parents moved him to another school after that and we just got on with life. Simon Parker took Katie Miller to the dance and that was the last most people thought about Andrew Biggs.

I still wonder what happened to him though: to Andrew I mean. I miss that crooked-tooth grin of his. Well gee, I mean, it was nice knowing someone who wasn’t always afraid of everything.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Argument

Some couples say they never argue as if that one fact encapsulates the truth of their relationship.

We argue.

There is silence and anger and heaviness around the eyes.

“All I’m asking is that you snap it along the lines!” I say too harshly.

“Just because you’re a perfectionist doesn’t mean you do things perfectly,” she retorts.

A barb well thrown, insightful and direct, the kind of statement only someone who loves you could know would hurt you.

My chin lowers, my eyes flash and I am not who I think I am.

I feel my blood pressure rising and I need to take care. My voice could take control of me; speak without inhibition. My soft voice, my sometimes feeble voice, could rise up on a wave. My sometimes shaky voice could pour forth a fire and a fury.

My anger knows no consequence. There is new life in my voice, the breath of life in my sinuses. If I hadn’t spent so much time in this skin I would let this flame flare up inside me – let destruction go where destruction will go.

But experience has shown me the cost.

So I stop myself and stand, flaring and glaring, waiting until my heart relaxes and my soft voice returns.

“You’d think after 50 years we would’ve found better things to argue about.” I say.

She hands me the chocolate – a peace-offering.

“85 percent,” she says with a sad smile.

“Bitter aftertaste,” I say.

“Broken along the lines,” she says.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Flame of Peace

A sweet evening breeze tousles curtains and stirs a candle's flame.

Flickering flame,
freedoms soft dancer,
light in the window,
come dance on these walls.

Gentle breeze blowing,
spirit of ages,
soothe this man lying,
bring peace with your breath.

He lies on the floor and breaths deeply. He lies on the floor; his mind is a haven and his spirit a bird on the breeze.

His spirit soars and his whole body is filled with warmth and peace.


He his unaware of the noises outside until the band starts to play. The sound pierces his tranquillity like an arrow. Carols in the park he remembers.

It is inconvenient. This invasion is an annoyance. His mind becomes turbulent.

The smell from smoky barbeques accosts his nostrils. He tries to refocus but the sound of children playing and adults laughing is too much. The band plays on and on and the singing goes on without cessation.

He tries a breathing technique he learnt long ago. It takes some time but slowly his mind begins to calm. He shuts out smoke and lets in the gentle breeze. He shuts out laughing and playing and lets in the sound of his own heart beating. He shuts out singing and music and lets in peace.

He closes his eyes feeling complete once more.

He floats in this pleasant state; the light from a bygone sun fills his mind as he drifts in to sleep.

But he shouldn’t have shut out the smell of smoke.

Sweet evening breeze,
come blow at this window,
knock over this candle,
end peace with a flame.

Sweet evening breeze,
carry sirens call to us,
smoke to the heavens,
and spirit to stardust.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The McIntyre Group Run for Fun

The boss was an overweight middle manager who lived for finance sector luncheons. That morning he had been to see a doctor and was told a terrible truth; he would need to cut back on heavy food or start exercising.

Well, cutting back wasn’t an option so, instead of going to a gym like any sensible person, he decided to take up running. In fact he decided to take up running that day. He also decided that we would all be joining him.

His PA spent the morning making fliers and stapling them around the office. Everyone rushed to read one.

“The McIntyre Group Run for Fun! 1st prize - The afternoon off!”

There was a collective groan.

“But we don’t have our running clothes,” someone said hopefully.

At that moment the boss jogged out of his office wearing $1,000 worth of over stretched running gear.

“Get the defibrillator ready,” someone whispered.

“Just run as you are people,” the boss declared in his most commanding voice. “We’re only going around the block.”

We lined up outside with white shirts untucked or skirts held up above knees.

“GO!” The boss boomed.

He led the way and the rest of us trailed behind half-heartedly.

We must have been quite a spectacle because a small crowd had gathered along the edge of the street. They stood silently with their mouths agape.

One bystander called out “Hey! Where are you all running to?”

“The bank,” the boss grunt-shouted back.


We all nodded and kept going.

10 seconds later the bystander and a bunch of other people had overtaken us at speed.

By the time we got back to the branch there was a line of anxious customers queuing around the corner.

The bank had to be shutdown after that. The boss’s finance sector luncheons were over.

I hear he has never been healthier.