Month: November 2014

She was hit by a bus she saw coming

I went to a book launch in a library the other day. It was good. The book was an anthology and the people published stood up and read their poems or short stories.

There was one poem that caught my attention and one line in particular that I really liked and the line is “She was hit by a bus she saw coming.”

Throughout the book launch, I sat behind a very pretty girl with a short hair cut. Her hair hung heavily about her neck and I was able, in the boring times, to entertain myself by watching the back of her head.

Below is a poem I made up sitting in the library using the one line I liked:

She was hit by a bus she saw coming

On a morning that shone like another

she was thrown into the road to her death

two children, she was their mother.

The city kept moving

the cars, the buses

after the medics had left

no one knew what all the fuss is

I saw the bus too, it was the 564

I was taking a call, I kept walking,

death can be welcomed or avoided so

watch where you go – a lot of people die talking.

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Why literature at all?

To me the most important part of literature is that it promotes empathy. I am not the most empathetic person in the world. When I walk through shopping centres and some person purposely walks at me or bumps my arm that can make me really angry. Almost to the point of fighting with people, physically.

I turn to literature not just to escape the hellish nightmare that is human society, but also to try and expand my ability to put myself in other people’s shoes. It is very easy to become angry at people. It is very easy to discriminate against people because of the way they look, the color of their skin, their sex, their sexual orientation, their political views the list goes on and on, but if a person can educate themselves and learn where others come from it makes it much easier to not only tolerate other people but accept them.

A man refuses to move over in a crowded space and tries to bump you with his shoulder, a woman with a shaved head pushes in front of you, a car cuts you off in traffic, all these things can very easily make me very angry and judgemental, but it would be a different story if I knew the man has had severe problems with bullying in his childhood, the woman was sexually assaulted as a child and the driver of the car has just been told they have cancer. All these backstories would explain to me why these people are acting they way they are and would help me not to lose my temper. It is of course impossible to know everyones story in real life, but in novels, I am able to discover that everyone is facing a battle, that life is hard and that people from other walks of life, from other cultures, from other neighborhoods are not as different from me as I first thought.

Another reason I turn to literature is that great stories let me know that I am not alone, my problems have been faced by others before and here are some ways to or ways not to face the problems. I was in a book store today and I picked up Catcher in the Rye. It is one of my favorite books and when ever I see it I pick it up and it instantly takes my back to when I was 15 and I read it for the first time. I read along the “all that David Copperfield crap” line and again I am a young man reading about a young man who is having real problems.   I remember being excited to finally find a voice that told me: here it is, here are those feelings, I am having them to… Just today I stood in the book store and I smiled because Holden was talking to me again and I was a teenager again. He is my friend and here he is as fresh and funny as ever.Only a few books can do that.

I tried like hell to make something like this in my debut novel ‘The Bomber’ I wanted to make a voice that was so unique but also faced the same problems of loneliness, anger, revenge and love that we all experience at different points of our lives. Literature is the most powerful of all art forms.

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Letters (Fiction writing practice)

For an exercise a few months ago I began writing letters to a fictional person named Grace. They were from the point of view of a lonely person writing to another, a woman perhaps the sender loved but never heard from. Below are the letters I wrote in that exercise.

Dear Grace,
I spent all night listening to late 70s early 80s music.

There were a bunch of people outside my house just hanging about in the street and I could not stand listening to them anymore so I put the music on. I love to lay in the dark and listen to music.

I have been thinking about going overseas but I don’t know where I want to go. Maybe Italy. I would like to have a job where I am paid to travel but I suppose everyone wants that. It is funny when people say that they are sick of going overseas for work, but I suppose that happens. If you do something all the time it can become annoying. I have heard that about all jobs- people in books stores, for example, start to hate books and most of them start because they love reading. That is my idea of hell, taking something you love and being made to hate it.

I think hell would be full of demons driven mad through the destruction of their love.

Please write me back soon,

David

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Dear Grace,
I decided to paint a picture of my own. I wanted to paint a forest. I had nothing to paint with so yesterday at lunch I went to the art store down on the freeway and I bought the cheapest oil paints, canvas and brushes I could find, but they were still very expensive. The girl behind the counter assured me they were of the highest quality but I have since found out from Russell (the guy who works in the cubicle behind me) that you can buy all the art supplies you need from the two dollar shop. At any rate I’ll have good quality paints and brushes to work with. Last night I started to paint, trying to capture the image I had in my head. I used three shades of green and mixed in a lot of white and yellow but nothing came out looking right. How do you put leaves on a tree? I don’t want to try and paint each leaf individually and when I just colour the tree green they look like big green blobs.

I called work this morning and told them I’d be late and tried to do some more painting but it does not look good. I don’t think I have the knack for painting. I do not have the patience or the skill. I may take up photography. If you want all the supplies I bought you are welcome to them. I can drop them over to you if you want them. They are no good to me and I dropped magenta all over the carpet and it’s as good as ruined now.

I’ll go down to the hardware shop tonight and see if I can get some paint remover and maybe get it out before they inspect my apartment. Do you have any idea about removing paint?
My God I dread going down there. I remember the people at that hardware shop are as good as useless. They would rather chat to each other up the plumbing section than help someone. But I’ll have to go and get something, the paint has gone deep into the loop. (or is it weave?) Any way it’s gone into the carpet a good way.

Love David

Monday, 11 August 2014

Dear Grace,

Last night I was sitting at the laundromat and I saw two women on the street outside fighting over an umbrella. It had only started to rain and only lightly. The small woman with the umbrella was minding her own business and was just attacked by a larger woman who stole it from her.
Should I have done something? I was across the street and it just seemed so weird- like it wasn’t really happening.

I lost my sunglasses and my good pen. I had them both in my pocket and they must have fallen out either on the train or in the park. I went back and search for them but I couldn’t find them. It was my good pen too, the one my dad gave me before he went away.

I find myself sitting down by the harbour a lot these days, watching the ships come in and out and waiting for the sun to go down and the city lights to come on. I saw a band practicing and it made me sad.

The kittens are fine. They all say hello.

If you want to come over to dinner on Wednesday just let me know.
Love David

PS I just read a book, The Plague by Camus. I think you should read it. I love Kafka, Camus, Orwell. I hope you do too

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Dear Grace,
Have you ever been to the park across from the art gallery where your work is hanging? It’s a really nice park. It’s huge and runs right from the gallery to the harbour.
I have been going to that park since I was a little kid. It is the best place to sit and think and be alone.
I used to skip school and go down there and hide out in the botanic gardens with the amazing rainforest trees. No one can find you if you crawl up into a Morton Bay Fig. They are like huge houses with many rooms.
Once I skipped school and I was down in the park and this old man came up to me. He sat down near me and we started to talk. I was very nervous and I didn’t like him.
He asked me if I had a sweetheart and I said no, he said ‘Of course you do, all boys have sweethearts, there must be someone you like.’ I did not get a chance to respond, he just kept talking, ‘A little girl with blonde hair and soft little hands. Big eyes that gleam and a little nose. A little girl who likes dresses and giggles behind her precious hands.’ Then he stood up, excused himself for a moment and then went deeper into the trees. I think he started to masturbate. I did not understand at the time but I knew something was wrong. I did not watch him, I was so afraid I froze. When he came back he was red faced and short of breath. A complete change came over him. He started to ask me what I was doing in the park at this time of the day and if I didn’t like school I should go and get a job because the world loathes a bludger. Then he said that all boys should be whipped. He said “Don’t you think all boys should be whipped? To clean the bad thoughts out of their heads?”
I agreed and then said I had to go and I ran off towards the city. I was afraid he was going to follow me, he didn’t.
It was the worse thing that had happened to me in that park.

The kittens and Mixy are going fine. Last night she almost attacked me so I do not interfere with them anymore. I will wait until they are a bit older.

Love David.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Dear Grace,

The cat I bought from your mother gave birth to kittens today.
I do not know how she became pregnant – well i know how of course-. I have been letting her out to go for a walk and a few months ago she was acting strangely and meowing a lot, so I suppose she met someone and became pregnant. She is hiding in the kitchen now with the kittens. I have no idea what to do, so if you could come over and give me a hand I would appreciate it.

I saw your painting in the local art gallery today. It is very good. A man standing beside me said the woman had strange hands, he said they were too small, but I told him he had a strange head that was too big and he walked away utterly destroyed. I am thinking about going back tomorrow to see it again and defending it if need be. (Although it is a wonderful picture not needing to be defended. I would be surprised if it did not win an award.)

I have been googling how to look after kittens all afternoon but it is hard to find out what I should do for the kittens themselves. I see it says about providing food and water for the mother but nothing for the kittens. I shall see if they need anything tomorrow and just let it flow naturally. Maybe they would like some grass from the garden or something. I don’t know.

Don’t forget that if you need an ironing board in your new apartment, I can go with you to help you get it.

Love David

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Letters to Grace: Catching the Train

Dear Grace,
The last time I caught a train in the city, a homeless man (well I assume he was a homeless man – he might have had a very nice home but just became very dirty, drunk and angry after a bad day out) came up and screamed in my ear.
It hurt and as I tried to get as far from him as I could I wondered why I even tried to go outside.
Anyhow, not having a car handy I had two back packs with me. I was going to the supermarket to pick up a weeks worth of groceries. I would fill both the pack packs with food, wear one on my back and one on my front, appearing as I imagined like a mutant turtle or a mentally deficient maniac. It was a big day out.

I remembered while I was walking up the two thousands steps in the Shopping Centre because the elevator stinks like painful onions, that you live near me and I was wondering… where do you do your shopping? BECAUSE I could totally go for borrowing a ride with you to the shops and we could do our shopping together. How much fun would that be?
I would in return put some money in for fuel.
It could be our weekly adventure.

Last shopping day I think I injured my back with my heavy load and I knocked a granny over as I came up out of the train station. Not cool at all.
Let me know what you think.

Love David.

Stars upon the stairs

Who knew

what stars could do?

They rained down from the heaven

onto earth

like spears-

like tears

like flashing lives that are gone too soon.

Upon the stairs I sit and watch the moonlit sky

through a window

and I wait

until I hear the rattle

behind me

from the top tread

a star has come and is rolling down to meet me

but be careful

it is still hot.

Novellas are hard

I am thinking about writing a novella but I am having a very hard time deciding what I want to write about. A novella is harder to write than a novel because you have to say something important, build great characters and resolve their issues but you have to do it in less than forty thousand words.

There is also the fact that the great novellas intimidate me. My favorite novellas include Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’ a novella that changed Christmas in the West forever. Of Mice and Men, probably the greatest story about human relationships I have ever read, The Old Man and The Sea for which Hemingway won the Nobel and perhaps the greatest Novella of all time; The Metamorphosis by Kafka. Some call A clockwork Orange a novella but I have never thought of it as such, I classify it as a novel (and for the sake of trivia, it is my favorite novel ever written.)

My tastes run to the shorter works of literature. I have recently read both Slaughterhouse 5 which I loved and War and Peace which I liked.

A novella has to make an impact, it has to be strong and it has to change the way the reader thinks for it to have any impact. A novella is something people can carry in their pockets, they can be taken anywhere making them valuable to the busy reader and a lot of high schools like to teach novellas because the short length can be consumed by the students in a matter of weeks.

At the moment I have my new novel The Bomber back from the editors, so I am busy with my edits. It is going well so far, I am changing a few loose spots and tightening them up so it will look its best when it is released in June 2015, but while doing these edits my mind is racing to what I am going to write next. I think I will attempt the great novella, something that will fit in a pocket but might change the world.

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Tom Waits 9th & Hennepin

Well it’s Ninth and Hennepin
All the doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes
And the moon’s teeth marks are on the sky
Like a tarp thrown all over this
And the broken umbrellas like dead birds
And the steam comes out of the grill
Like the whole goddamn town’s ready to blow…
And the bricks are all scarred with jailhouse tattoos
And everyone is behaving like dogs
And the horses are coming down Violin Road
And Dutch is dead on his feet
And all the rooms they smell like diesel
And you take on the dreams of the ones who have slept here
And I’m lost in the window, and I hide in the stairway
And I hang in the curtain, and I sleep in your hat
And no one brings anything small into a bar around here
They all started out with bad directions
And the girl behind the counter has a tattooed tear
One for every year he’s away, she said
Such a crumbling beauty, ah
There’s nothing wrong with her that a hundred dollars won’t fix
She has that razor sadness that only gets worse
With the clang and the thunder of the Southern Pacific going by
And the clock ticks out like a dripping faucet
Til you’re full of rag water and bitters and blue ruin
And you spill out over the side to anyone who will listen
And I’ve seen it all, I’ve seen it all
Through the yellow windows of the evening train

The mental health of Michael Yetts. A short story fragment.

Michael Yetts went to see Doctor Thorne because one morning he looked out his bedroom window and there was a face looking at him from out a large fern in his garden. The face identified itself as Prince Albert and then began to yell abuse at him. Even after he had closed his window he could still hear the voice and when he eventually called his sister to come into his room and look out the window she could see no face in the fern.

The Doctor’s room was nothing like they looked like in the movies. This one was plastic and cheap looking. There were pictures on the wall but these were all cheap prints of waves crashing into lighthouses and forests covered in fog. Michael instantly hated these pictures and he began to feel a deep regret at having come to see the doctor.

“Hello Michael.” The doctor greeted him and sat down in a chair that was also made of cheap plastic and it groaned, threatening to collapse as he sat down. The Doctor did not seem to notice how cheap and horrible the chair was.

“Hello.”

“Can you tell me what happened to you this morning.”

“What part?”
“Anything you think that is worthwhile telling me.”
“There was no rain.”

“OK.”

“That is important.”
“Why?”
“I went on the internet, I looked up the national weather thingo, you know the government has the weather website?”
“The bureau of meteorology?”
“Yes, that’s it. They said we should have rain this morning, from six to nine. I woke up and the sky was blue and the sun was coming up clear.”
“Why did that worry you?”
“The government tells me that it’s going to rain, so I decided the night before not to go for my morning walk.”
The Doctor looked at him for a moment.
“They ruined my walk, on purpose.” Michael went on.

“Your sister mentioned something about a fern, a face and voices.”

“Yes. That was a hallucination. I know that. I don’t need you to tell me.”
“Good. What happened, can you tell me?”
“I looked down into a large bird’s nest fern I have been growing under my window and there was a face. An ugly little spiteful face, a man, he had a big mouth and little eyes and he said he was Prince Albert and then he started swearing at me. He told me all this bad stuff while using really bad language. He said I was useless and of no good to anyone.”
“I know you have been on medication, have you been taking it?”
“I stopped.”
“Why?”
“When ever I take the medication, I’m not joking…” Michael looked the Doctor in the eye, “When ever I take it, bees start to follow me.”
The Doctor was quiet for a moment. “What do the bees do to you?”
“They are bees, they follow me, sometimes they settle on me and I have to brush them aside and when they get inside I have to take them out.”
“Do they sting you?”
“No, I think it’s the smell of the medication I take, I think it smells of the hive.”
“Do you like bees?”
“They’re fine. They’re hard workers and everything, perhaps they’re a bit stupid.”
“Why do you think that?”
“They do all the hard work for some Queen, they never get a holiday, they can’t fly in the rain.” Michael stopped and watched the Doctor writing in his black book. “Hang on, forget that last part. They can’t help it if they can’t fly in the rain.”

SHAKESPEARE

I love Shakespeare’s plays. They are amazing. I hope to one day see all of them on stage.

I am not so enamoured with his sonnets. However I thought I might share one that stands out to me.

Sonnet 27

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,

The dear repose for limbs with travel tired:

But then begins a joinery in my head

To work my mind when body’s work’s expired;

For then my thoughts, from far where I abide,

Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,

And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,

Looking on darkness which the blind do see;

Save that my soul’s imaginary sight

Presents thy Shadow to my sightless view,

Which like a jewel hung in ghastly night

Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.

Lo thus by day my limbs, by night my mind,

For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.

The internet

The internet is crazy. People can heap abuse anonymously, share opinions, ideas, nudes everything that was hard in information sharing and communications in the past centuries is now easy.

There is a deep morality in the internet however. If someone is doing something wrong, if they are engaging in criminal activity, these things can be brought to community attention much faster and with much impact. For example in a small takeaway restaurant not far from me, two young men were ordering a meal. The restaurant has video cameras which record all areas of the store and although this is brought to the people’s attention via warning signs the young men ignored it. In a petty act, an act of major stupidity, while the staff members had their backs turned the men took a donation tin from the counter and stole it. The donation tin was for sick children and contained, it would turn out seventy-two dollars.

When the staff realised the tin had been stolen they called the police and reviewed the footage. The young men could be clearly seen, however neither the staff or the police could identify them. So the cafe put the footage on facebook and youtube and within six minutes people began to leave comments identifying the young men. They were both eighteen years old and lived only two blocks from the takeaway store.

Their names were listed, their addresses were put on the net as well as abuse and the identification of their girlfriends and even that they were unemployed and drug users.

The police raided the homes and found the cash tin as well as drugs and the men were arrested. The internet provided me with this information as well as the face that one of the men’s girlfriends had left him.

There was also the case of a murder in my neighborhood. Within a few days of the murder and the suspects arrest, I was able to access the accused persons Facebook, find their names, photos and address. They are a husband and wife who beat to death a seventy year old man and stole thirty thousand dollars from his bank account.

The internet may be in a stage that may be described as ‘the wild west’ but it is powerful and wide reaching. People can damage businesses with negative reviews , they can humiliate a person by broadcasting personal photos or information and the internet can ever reach powerful celebrities or politicians.

It is an amazing tool, it is a world changing phenomenon and I am addicted to it.

I have recently been trying to build a platform here to promote my book but it is hard. I am not skilled and I struggle to attracted attention but there is something so fulfilling to communicate with people from around the world. I have discovered I have things in common with people who are from completely different cultures, I can make friends with people from countries I had no idea about and I can enjoy hours of videos about kittens. It is the future.

What happened to me yesterday

I found a chair for sale and because it matched one already in my house, I sent a message to the owner and asked to buy it. That was fine. It would be held for me, all I had to do was come around and pick it up. The chair would cost me sixty dollars.

That’s fine. I travelled into town and went to where the lady lived. A semi rural area where the houses are set apart on wide blocks and a lot of open space around. I went to the front door. The verandah was fenced off and there were a dozen small dogs hysterically throwing themselves about and barking. I stood on the front steps ten feet away from the front door so I could not knock, but the dogs were making enough noise the neighbors came out and gave me strange looks.

Finally the lady who owned the house came out and she was very friendly. A very kind woman, very welcoming and warm, she knew I was there to collect the chair. She told me to come in and the dogs would not bite me. I opened the gate and came in suddenly a three legged dog lunged toward me and locked its jaws around my shin bone. Its teeth sunk into my skin and it held on. I stood there in shock, automatically I wanted to kick the dog and send it hurtling off the verandah but I did not want to hurt it (not in front of the woman anyway). She yelled at the dog and then whacked it on the head and it released me, looked guilty for a moment and then came back to bite me again but I managed to get inside the house and escape.

She brought out the chair and I paid for it. It is a beautiful chair and in very good condition and I told her so. She was pleased to hear this and then she showed me some other antiques she owned, each of them being of high quality. Then we came to a brand new sideboard. It had lead light windows in the front doors but one of the panels was cracked.

“I found that for free on the street.” She said, “and I know how to lead light so I will be able to replace the glass. When I found this, it was in two pieces. I managed to screw it back together.”

“Oh so you are handy then?” I asked.

“Some what.” She said, “But as you can see I not too handy with the house work, my house is such a mess.”

“No no…” I said stuttering. “I mean at screwing.”

Silence. She went quiet and I went red in the face.

“I… I mean handy at fixing up…”

She was embarrassed and I was embarrassed so I left with my chair at that point. As I left even the dogs did not come near me. But I did buy a nice chair.

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