I expect most of you have those family stories about your earliest years. The cute ones, the funny ones. The embarrassing ones that your mum or your dad always loved to tell your new boy- or girlfriend, when you brought them home for the first time.
My family has those too, of course. One involves a stolen sausage and a very old lady called Mrs Young; another involves a pair of gumboots, a laundromat and a Beatles song.
Mum and I are now the only custodians of that particular family lore, as Li’l Sis came along waaay after the event…
This experiment in fiction started as a loosely interwoven collection of short stories, dialogues, monologues and vignettes set around my home — Corio Bay in Victoria, Australia — and featuring the misadventures of an amateur bluegrass band.
As I write, however, I’m finding (a little to my surprise) that the concept is firming up, becoming tighter. Like so many tales, it is growing in the telling, taking on a life of its own. Plot strands insist on intertwining; characters show a disconcerting will to develop.
Here’s the story so far, as published on Medium:
In which an Aussie bluegrass band…
Tasha dried herself hastily on a towel and tugged on her dress, leaving knickers and bra trampled in a sodden heap on the cockpit floor. Wet blotched the thin fabric dark blue. ‘Try again!’ She reached for his arm.
‘Ahh … ‘
Leaning precariously over the rail, she tried to hook her hand under his upper arm but could get no purchase on wet flesh. He flopped back into the water again, gasping and exhausted.
‘It’s no use. I can’t do it.’
‘Salty … Tony. Listen to me. You have to do this.’
‘I know … Arm just won’t work…
The cacophony was relentless. So much noise.
She was a creature of the open oceans. Her ears were accustomed to the steady pulse of the long rollers, exquisitely attuned to the thrashing of wounded prey.
Here in the shallows, strange new sensations assaulted her senses from every angle. Churning, throbbing, pounding, shrieking, creaking sounds. Odd, rank smells.
She had never meant to be here. Wounded from the encounter with the seal, she had strayed into the labyrinth. Ever farther, ever more lost.
Odd objects floated on the surface of this confusing, constrained little sea. Superficially like the corpses of whales…
The little boat nosed out of the marina, its diesel engine purring softly.
‘It’s just lovely out here. I can’t believe I’ve lived in Geelong all these years and never been out on the Bay … What are those little boats doing on the beach there? I can see sails.’
‘That’s the school dinghies. The Nippers go out on Wednesday afternoons. They bob around and capsize a lot, with a safety boat watching over them like a mother duck. Don’t worry, they won’t bother us. We’ll head over the other side of the pier.’
Tasha snuggled into his side. ‘Are…
‘Ten-thirty tomorrow morning, then, Mrs Wilson … Yes, yes … I’ll bring the new toilet with me … No, you’ll have to … err, make other arrangements while the silicone dries … Just a few hours … Right-o. Bye now … Yes, right … No … Bye!’
Nigel pulled a face at his phone and placed it on the little mosaic coffee table with a sigh. He lifted his coffee cup to his lips and grimaced again: stone cold.
Hugh’s apartment might be tiny, but the location was worth the million-dollar price tag, atop a white-stuccoed, pantiled Italianate villa high…
This is the season that the Wurundjeri people call Berrentakk Darr-Karr*. It’s the season of the winter solstice and the cold west wind; nature gathers strength in its roots and humans hunker down around the fire, telling tales and making tools.
It’s a time for energetic sports such as marngrook (footy), but not a time for long journeys — unless you’re a modern-day Grey Nomad hankering for the subtropics. Animals mate and build nests in preparation for Wintooth Wootanbaj-Jumbunna, the season around the vernal equinox when life regenerates and babies are born.
I too sit by my fire, not making…
Often when I write an answer on Quora, it’s out of irritation. I’m a sucker for a trollish question. Usually, I end up wondering ‘Why, Steve? Why??’ as my impassioned answer languishes in a dusty corner of Quora with 0 upvotes.
More rarely, Quora can be a lot of fun. Just often enough to keep me hooked.
Thus I enjoyed answering ‘By describing it badly, what is your job?’ a while back:
I sit in my office typing words into a computer for two or three hours a day. Then I go off and do other things. I might come…
This is the last of three stories about Alice’s winter retreat. You may prefer to start with the first one here.
Bill regards me across the kitchen table, tea mug cradled between big, blunt-fingered hands.
“Tell me more about Martha Reid, Bill.”
He thinks for a moment. “Martha inherited this place from a fisherman and his wife, Pat and Niamh Reid, but she wasn’t related to them by blood. She was adopted as a young girl — an orphan.”
“They took her in?”
“She just turned up. Sodden and barefoot. Her father was the skipper of a small coastal trader…
This is the second of three stories about Alice’s winter retreat. You may prefer to start with the first one here.
The big stingray glides over the pale ground, propelled by a languid ripple of its wingtips. I follow at a respectful distance — until it grows uncomfortable with my persistence, and powers off with a beat of its wings and a snap of its tail, throwing up a concealing cloud of sand.
I kick my fins and head out towards the reef. The sun casts a shifting golden net of light over the aquamarine shallows. In the shadow of…