The Whiter the Socks

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?’

Buy it online here

The Long and Grinding Road

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.

[Excerpt]

…and after the year I’d had—family drama, work stress, money problems—my emotional baggage was heavy and my bank account, a little light. Thank God for the Firefly.

There are many reasons why people choose the Firefly over plane or train.

I MET PEOPLE WITH BAGGAGE OF ALL SHAPES AND SIZES—LITERALLY AND METAPHORICALLY SPEAKING.

[Excerpt]

Steve’s gaze was a fly settling on the spot between my eyes. “So, how come you’re heading to Melbourne?”

[Excerpt]

“I’ve got a chance to, you know, start over. I’m straight outta recovery so I wanna change…”

[Excerpt]

Back in our seats, I wondered what Steve had been about to say, or had been trying to say, but couldn’t.

I am especially proud of this piece as The Big Issue is a not-for-profit, independent magazine aimed at supporting disadvantaged Australians.

Vendors receive $4.50 for every $9 issue sold.

More on The Big Issue here

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Leaden Heart

My mother grew up in Hobart before moving to Adelaide as a teenager. During a very special trip to Tasmania with my partner last year, I got to visit my mother’s old neighbourhood and home as well as experience some of the most beautiful Australian landscapes, wine, food and festivities (such as the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race).

We also made a day trip to Port Arthur, infamous convict penitentiary for some of the hardest criminals of the 19th Century, and also the site of more recent tragedy (Port Arthur Massacre, 1996). I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of the natural surrounds, juxtaposed against the stories of horror and brutality that had been experienced there.

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This short story was inspired by this spirit of place, and

…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.

[excerpt]

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…

Read it here

Buy it here

The Moon and The Sundarban

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.

 

[excerpt]

Dukhe lifted his shaggy brown head and sniffed. The villagers were at it again – burning incense, beating rapid footfalls on the hard clay earth and chanting in low, guttural voices as they did on the eve of each shrinking moon. Dukhe was so used to these strange monthly rituals that he let his eyelids grow heavy and stretched his forepaws towards the campfire flames, soaking up flickers of warmth. But as he was about to rest his head again, he caught a whiff of something heady, pheromone rich, skirting the opposite bank of the river just beyond reach of the firelight. The scent may have eluded a lesser nose, but it set the coarse hairs of his haunches bristling and exposed his canines to their root. Years living on the busy streets of Khulna in the far North—where the slightly rancid scent of another stray’s breath could carry with it the wide-eyed craze of the frothing sickness—had taught him never to trust a scent he couldn’t immediately define.

The sound began in the hollow of his chest, hitching a couple of times before bursting forth in a wolfish pitch. It was a sound that called to the heart of any dog whose breed had not yet been tamed, and for a second, the forest stilled, listening. The breeze held its breath. The tittering nocturnal creatures ceased their midnight rustlings. The tiger rose, hair bristling, the tip of its tail agitating left and right as though to swipe away the sound. When its attention shifted towards the village, Dukhe slipped beneath the tangle of roots and swum back to the banks of the khal where he rose, bloody and dripping.

 

To read full short story, order your copy of Pencilled In Magazine, Issue 1, ‘Fear and Hope’ here : http://pencilled.in/product/issue-1-fear-hope/  – A new literary magazine dedicated to publishing works from Asian-Australian artists and creators.

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