Category Archives: Short Stories

A Choice of Kings (2009)

This short story has been published and appears in Dark Edifice #2 (now available). To read it (for free) please visit Dark Edifice and support this new Australian magazine.

Thanks.

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The Festival of Light (2010)

Diwali comes to a northern suburb where trees make way to new millennium homes. The McMansion around us is incomplete. It is opulence unfinished: a lordly manor for the middle-class, but there are no vassals here. Land is not tilled; it is paved and tamed and levelled: bent to human will.

Amidst the palatial rooms, at the foot of twin staircases, celebrations are held. Traditional snacks are served with cautious enthusiasm. Ancient practices are passed through time to briefly live again. Laksmi is welcomed.

An Iranian of indeterminate middle age demurs. Her husband is silent.

They are the faded glory of Cyrus’ great empire.

A girl from Singapore whispers English with an American’s accent. Her face is flustered and ruddy.

The sweet-meats of the hosts are supplemented by a Turkish dish from a guest’s oven. The recipe has survived generations of war and migration.

Sisters from Shepparton shake their heads in unison and hair like curled flame is for a moment wild. They are the daughters of Bodicea or Brian Boru.

They are the descendants of colonial oppression, relaxing in a subconscious self-assurance of alabaster skin and emerald eyes.

The host is desperate for the approval of his guests. He frets and stammers; refills plates that are barely touched. His home is his castle and built by his own hands. The tour is obligatory and detailed. In the prayer room Ganesha smiles wisely from a moment of frozen dance. He holds pride of place over bhagwans and Demi-Gods.

Outside coloured rice is shaped to patterns exotic and arcane. Candles are lit and the air thickens with perfume and incense hidden amongst the gloaming of the day. Lord Rama returns to Ayodhya.

Sparklers are lit from candles and rejoice in their brief moment of life. They say the light is eternal… for sparklers it is not. Soon enough they are inert; only strange shapes of ash in the dirt. So too may we all one day be.

“Ashes to ashes…”

“Illuminate the inner self. Live in Brahman.”

Words echo silently across the gulf of religions.


Hospital visit (2009)

Idiot smiles in chins slick with drool.

A bag of sagging flesh ambles along the corridor. She is bruised and bloated like some grotesque beaten beast. Staples run from temple to temple like a rail line.

I visit a skeleton. Arthritic joints curl fingers into claws. They clutch at me urgently.

The Roman Catholic chaplaincy has come and gone. They left a pamphlet full of prayer and promise. Death is obviously near but god, if he is here, is more subtle. I cannot apprehend him. Perhaps the others can.

Words fill the air, the innocuous ‘secondary’, the arcane ‘metastasised’.

‘Cancer’ echoes in the room or in my mind. The word haunts like a spectre. Every other word exists in the long shadow it casts.

A nurse brings afternoon tea. White with sugar. It is drunk through a straw with glacial precision.

My boy saves me. Soon he will be two. He is life amidst death. He is irrepressible – indomitable. He is an incarnation of oblivious joy. He climbs over the deathbeds like they are play equipment in the park.

Then he is tired and saves us all.

“He is tired.”

Excuses are made. Cheeks are kissed: his round and plump; hers dry and wrinkled.

We shuffle out with guilt inflecting our relief.