The Whiter the Socks

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Westerly Magazine (issue 64.1) has published a creative non-fiction story of mine, ‘The Whiter the Socks’ about my grandmother (babcia) and her time at Hohenfels Stalag 383 displaced persons camp after WWII.

This story tells three stories of survival: My babcia, Two young men, A cow.

Image: Australian War Museum (AWM)

 

[excerpt]

 

Babcia has sun-splotched hands, with skin that stays peaked after it’s pinched. She says it’s because she’s old and the skin has lost its spring. I think it’s because she carries too many secrets around and they’ve made her hands heavy.

The cow stood, body long to the wind, nose twitching. Dusk fell over the valley and a white frost crept up each blade of grass until the rolling green became rolling white.

The young lad raised his eyebrows as the older man tossed cloth into his hands. ‘What are these?’

‘Socks. To keep her hooves quiet.’

‘The Cow?’

‘Yes. Haven’t you ever put socks on a cow before?’

The Long and Grinding Road

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The Big Issue Australia have published my personal essay, The Long and Grinding Road, as a feature article in their New Year magazine (No. 578).

This was a think-piece inspired by one of the most difficult years of my life in which I spent many hours aboard the Firefly Express night-bus from Adelaide to Melbourne and back again.

Mother

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Mother is a psychological horror inspired by:

… a notorious Adelaide Hills firebug who was sentenced to 13 years prison in 2007 for the deliberate lighting of 21 fires around the town of Harrogate using customised mosquito coils.

$7000 damage was done to fencing and the largest blaze blackened 180ha of land. Residents describe the year before her arrest as a period of terror.

Links to news reports: The Australian, ABC, Adelaide Now,

My partner was witness to one of these fires at his family home in Oakbank. He remembers waking up during the night and seeing the fire at the end of the driveway to the property. During interviews with the CFS and the police, he learnt the incident was one in a long string of suspicious fires intentionally lit that summer.

It was believed, at first, that the culprit was male and from Harrogate. Many meetings were called by the local town council to discuss and condemn the terrorising actions of this individual.

The incidents became so serious that locals took to taking shifts, sitting in their cars and monitoring the entry to the town and recording suspicious vehicles passing through.

When White, loving mother of two and one of the most vocal advocates for catching the perpetrator during this time, was convicted, it sent shock waves through the community.

White told the court she had been suffering from post-traumatic stress due to an incident in her childhood, post-natal depression and anxiety.

She remembered watching the blazes but didn’t remember lighting the fires.

She was released on bail in 2016.

 

[excerpt]

 

Mother didn’t bother finding out my sex, so sure she was that I was a boy. ‘Gave a kick like a ginger hare in a ferret’s mouth,’ she told me once at Christmas, saluting with her empty scotch tumbler. ‘Near broke me ribs.’ As she laughed, the smoke from her Winnie Blues choked the tiny square space of kitchen.

Mosquitoes, a black storm cloud of them, rush the porch, blocking moonlight, wings beating a sound like static, angry humming becoming murderously loud. Once inside, I can hear the pebble bulk of their bodies battering the windows and doors, catching on the thin wire mesh of the fly screen.

‘There’s something wrong with my baby,” I say.

Leaden Heart

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This short story was inspired by:

the infamous escape attempt of George ‘Billy’ Hunt, travelling actor and self-proclaimed ‘mad man’, who tried to jump across Eaglehawk Neck to freedom in the the carcass of a kangaroo.

…The crack of the whip cut the frosty dawn, sending feverish shivers along the lines of sleeping men. Exhaustion kept them at a doze, although the sound pierced their flesh and settled in their bones. They had all endured the whip—but none had seen it ring so many times and with such ferocity as they did now…

The Moon and The Sundarban

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Pencilled In Magazine has published my short story THE MOON AND THE SUNDARBAN in issue 1 of their new literary magazine dedicated to publishing works from Asian-Australian artists and creators.

Sundarban: ‘Beautiful Forest’ (Language: Bengali)

This short story was inspired by a documentary I saw on the BBC UK channel in 2013 entitled, ‘The Man-Eating Tigers of the Sundarbans’. The documentary was about the Bengal Tiger living in the tidal mangroves of the Sundarbans, Bangladesh—the only place in the world where tigers actively seek out human prey (up to 300 people are attacked and killed each year). While it is a phenomenon that continues to stump ecologists, it has been loosely attributed to global warming (rising tide levels leading to a decrease in tiger’s rainforest territory). This is a concern for both the villagers and the tiger conservationists, who have seen a rise in poaching and ‘revenge killings’ of the endangered creature as a response.

The most fascinating part of the documentary was the conservationists’ innovative plan to train local stray dogs as a pack to warn villagers when a tiger is near. The bravery, intelligence and instinct for survival of these previously mistreated strays was what inspired me to write this story about Dukhe, a stray dog from the streets of Khula, Bangladesh, who finds his leadership of the Chadpai pack threatened by a mysterious creature lurking on the outskirts of the forest. He goes to investigate, and in the course of a single turning tide, changes the hierarchy of the forest forever.