Winter

July 14, 2014 at 10:16 am | Posted in Poem | 3 Comments
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Holding th eline

Holding the line.

 

Winter.

A long, active life – lived to good purpose.

The proof in scars.

A dipping sun gilds fragile bones.

Awkwardly set, but clinging yet.

To this worldly thread.

Brave. Upright.

An iron will holds failing parts.

With fixed stare that daren’t fall.

To the creeping gloom.

 

Shane the slug

January 28, 2013 at 7:41 am | Posted in Short Story | 4 Comments
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5107038796_1e18266125

Commuters on two train stations heard
Fon’s scream …

Feisty and Fon married and bought an inner-city cottage.

It was warm and humble, with hand-made bricks, a kitchen fireplace and 13 types of vermin.

Though these were not evident until some time after the auction, Feisty calmly resolved to combat them by humane, environmentally responsible means.

As it turned out, this was not always possible.

When a plate-sized huntsman spider in the bedroom ignored his well-reasoned arguments, Feisty persuaded Fon to take the only remaining course of action.

She smashed it with one of her Doc Marten’s ten-ups, on the understanding that he would handle all similar transgressions by reptiles and tigers.

The next day, on their walk, Fon tested Feisty’s resolve by shouting ‘Snake!’ and leaping into his arms. He immediately rushed towards the indicated area.

‘What the hell are you doing?’ shrieked Fon.

‘I’m gonna club it to death.’

‘What with?’

‘Your Reeboks.’

Fon struggled to her feet in disgust. ‘That’s not what I had in mind.’

Despite her best efforts, Graham the Jack Russell terrier failed to impact the mouse population.

She lay snuffling for hours in the pot cupboard (and once accidentally overnight) as a robust clan devoured box after box of poison.

Feisty bought a mousetrap and experimented with cheese, salami and corn chips.

Only when he tried pre-softened Kit Kat fragments did he meet with success.

The victims stared bright-eyed up at him in a highly unsettling manner, strengthening his resolve to encourage Skat the cat to take a more active policing role.

Though she toyed mewing with the tiny corpses hurled on the roof, she steadfastly refused to source her own.

It was a wet autumn. As the house gradually slipped into the ancient sewer beneath it, cracks opened in the walls.

Worst affected was the shower. Week after week, Feisty watched the tiles diverge, until one night he found himself gazing right through the ceiling at the evening star.

‘This is crap,’ he observed to Fon, who vehemently agreed.

‘I hate the mould. It’s gone out of control since the recess broke. We’ve got to get it fixed.’

But they’d spent all their money on furniture and celebrating.

The toadstools appeared shockingly, literally overnight. Pale and spindly, they felt horrid even through the wads of toilet paper Feisty used to pluck them. When flushed, they spun lazily to the surface and clung to the bowl.

‘Jesus,’ moaned Feisty. ‘This wasn’t in the brochure.’ He lifted a broken tile to reveal rotting wood smothered in more fungus. Then a huge, febrile centipede shot out and reared angrily, startling him into the shower door with a crack.

Swearing and trembling, he fetched his silicone gun and glued the tile fragments to the best of his modest ability.

Though this worked for a while, the mould became worse than ever.

The couple took it in turns to scrub, but the stains went too deep. Soon the shower resembled a gritty wire-frame model of itself.

When it seemed it couldn’t possibly get any more hideous, the slugs arrived.

Commuters on two train stations heard Fon’s scream.

Feisty flew from their bed to find her rooted to the spot, clad only in her sparkly shower cap. Through chattering teeth she wailed, ‘Feisty, there are f*cking SLUGS in our shower!’

Feisty followed her bloodless finger and recoiled as four of the fattest gastropods he’d ever seen pulsed nonchalantly across the walls and floor.

Losing all sense of karma, he mounted the cubicle, reached in and turned the hot tap on full. Aiming the showerhead like an Indonesian water cannon, he blasted the writhing intruders onto the drain hole and into oblivion. He then hosed the surfaces repeatedly as Fon regained sufficient motor control to retrieve her robe and retreat to the kitchen.

A few days later, two more slugs appeared. Ashamed of his former reaction, Feisty gingerly plucked them with disposable chopsticks and threw them in the garden. They returned the following night. And the next.

He didn’t want to kill them, but could find no merit in allowing them to stay. Then, completely by accident, he encountered an enchanting article on slugs in New Scientist.

A naturalist in ever-damp Sydney, on observing three species of slugs in his shower, had discovered that they loved eating mould.

Through a series of experiments, he had even determined that the Great Grey Slug (limax flava) exhibited the optimum combination of appetite, light aversion and territoriality.

He provided a ceramic oil burner, to which his ‘leotard’ of slugs returned every morning. In return, they cleaned his shower nightly – growing up to nine centimetres long in the process.

‘No f*cking WAY!’ replied Fon to Feisty’s carefully worded suggestion.

To her eternal credit, she eventually capitulated under his intensive lobbying and agreed to a trial.

Elated to at last be dealing with critters in an holistic, non-violent fashion, Feisty installed his own oil burner and waited for results. Sure enough, the mould began to recede, particularly in wet, hard-to-get-at places like the door tracks.

Though the switch from daylight saving caused several fatalities, the program proved a success. So much so that during one full moon, a baby slug appeared.

Feisty was amazed to find that his revulsion had turned to acceptance.

Fon was markedly less enthusiastic and declined his invitation to name the new addition.

‘How about Séamus?’

‘I don’t care.’

‘Sly?’

‘I don’t care, Feisty.’

‘Simon, then?’

‘I really don’t give a damn what you call it. I am not bonding with the slugs the way you obviously are.’

‘Shane?’

‘Yes; Shane. Fantastic! Shane the Sh*t-eating Slug. That’s the one; let’s run with it, shall we?’

Feisty regarded her narrowly. ‘You’re not just saying that? You really prefer Shane?’

Fon unmuted the TV and concentrated on a ‘Toilet Duck’ ad.

‘We’re the germy germs, under the rim … ‘

Feisty stared at the screen, and was struck with a sudden thought. ‘I wonder if they really could be trained to clean toilets.’

He jumped up and ran an eclectic keyword search on Google, only to stump it for the first time ever.

‘Trial and error it is then!’ he declared excitedly.

🙂

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Pic by SleetDro.

A Husband’s Thanks for a Home-Cooked Meal

September 9, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Posted in Poem | Leave a comment
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20060816 010 Wok Fire

Light my fire!

I’m your bok choy baby,

You can call me Green Pea Paul.

I’ve got grinnage from that spinach

And that’s not bloody all.

I’m a lamb ramming psycho

Who never took a leek.

I’ve had a hit of gravy

That’ll last me till next week.

So thank you wife so precious

For an ace and decent feed.

You’re smart, cool and pretty,

And you fill my every need.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.

Honey, I Zapped the Kids – A Lively Tale of Murder by Electricity

September 7, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Posted in Article | 4 Comments
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Electricity is useful and dangerous. The fact it’s useful means it’s all around us. Yet the fact it’s dangerous doesn’t mean we all know how to use it properly. Despite WorkCover’s best efforts, safety is still not a sexy subject.

So how do I make you read a safety article? By using Barry Butcher. Barry is a happily married father of two who is about to kill himself and his family – including the pets. You’re going to see how he does it.

Barry has a nice home which he plans to renovate. As we enter the hall, we see an old fuse box with quaint ceramic fuses. Because these used to burn out often, Barry has replaced the fine fuse wire with a much heavier gauge. Next time there’s a fault in the home’s antique, cloth-covered wiring, the fuses will hold their own until the wiring ignites the granny flat out the back.

The resultant fire will account for Barry’s mother, Beryl. A sleek modern switchboard with automatic cut-off switches only costs around $350 installed, but Barry is saving for a new kitchen.

On our left is Betty’s nursery. Like most toddlers, she is endlessly inquisitive. Barry hasn’t put safety plugs in the unused power point sockets and to Betty, they look like portals to another world. In a way, they are. All she needs is a safety pin or paper clip key.

Compounding the risk is Betty’s mother Brenda, who is understandably concerned about germs. She regularly drowns the live power boards with surface cleaner. All except the one under the crib which has been gathering dust, cobwebs and cat fur ever since Betty arrived. It’s hard to tell which way she’s going to go.

Down the hall is the master bedroom. With the nights turning cold, the trusty old electric blanket has come out of storage, still bearing its fold marks. While Barry can’t see that the wiring’s had it, he has lately noticed (and ignored) a hot spot in the bed.

Before winter is over, dinner guests will put their firstborn down in the Butcher’s marital chamber and Barry will neglect to turn the blanket off at the power point.

It will be the last time Horace Henderson ever wets the bed.

Revenge will be swift. As Barry attends the disaster, he will fail to disconnect the faulty blanket. Through cracks in the old plastic cord he will receive a severe (though, unfortunately for the rest of the household, not fatal) shock.

The lounge room is Barry’s pride and joy. His surround sound theatre is far beyond what the home’s designers could ever have imagined – which is why there aren’t enough power points. In the Australian tradition of innovation, however, Barry has devised ingenious workarounds. The power board bristles with double adaptors and piggyback plugs, such that its load capacity is exceeded (though not increased) threefold.

Barry chose a cheap board without an overload cut-off switch and defeated the loose slots by bending the pins of each plug. The unsightly composite is hidden behind curtains that will burn with such ferocity that Blubber the goldfish will boil in his bowl.

Several slender, two-pin extension cords form a daisy chain around the current-hungry audiovisual gear. Because each unearthed connection represents an opportunity for Boof the cat to enter pet heaven, Barry has covered them with rugs, where they will overheat during an impressive demonstration of his ‘Apocalypse Now’ DVD.

Even Barry knows the kitchen poses many risks. But in avoiding the obvious ones, he misses those that are more subtle. While not foolish enough to pry toast out with a fork, he ignores crumb build up in the toaster. The filthy range hood filter is an even more potent fire hazard. He unplugs the jug when it’s not in use, but does so by yanking (and thus weakening) the cord. He keeps the deep fryer clean, but didn’t have it safety checked after buying it at the garage sale.

Barry could have everything in the house electrically certified for less than a night out with Brenda. She will survive all these perils, only to fall victim to a 40 watt reading lamp as it detonates the 20 watt globe installed by her husband. Blinded, she will stumble into a string of indoor fairy lights, rigged out of doors by Barry for a party three years ago. Rain-soaked sockets and sun-cracked wires will finish the job.

Barry’s teenage daughter Briony will also succumb to his negligence. Lazing in the back yard one sunny afternoon, she will reminisce on all the safety lessons her daddy taught her: how not to fly a kite under power lines; how never to leave cooking unattended and how not to use shavers or hair dryers near baths or sinks. At that moment, Barry will accidentally kick her portable stereo into the spa, with predictable results.

Barry is something (but not very much) of a handyman. When working around the house, he uses an extension cord reel. Each time he fails to unwind the cord fully before using his powerful tools, he risks melting it.

Of greater danger is his propensity to attack garden projects without sufficient forethought. Barry will make two mistakes while rejuvenating his front nature strip. The first will be to dig without dialling 1100 for the location of phone, water, gas, cable TV and electricity networks. The second will be to plant a tall, fast growing eucalypt directly under the street powerlines.

Seven years later, while still grieving the loss of Beryl, Blubber, Boof, Brenda, Briony (and, to a lesser extent, Horace), Barry will decide to prune the eucalypt. His lofty aluminium ladder will eventually connect with the powerlines and the shock will hurl him against the trunk. With its root bole stunted by underground services, the tree will collapse under Barry’s weight, rupturing the gas main beneath it.

The ladder/line combo will then spark the gas, setting fire to Barry’s home for the last time. Having miraculously survived her nursery, school-age Betty will die of smoke inhalation in the study.

Barry’s legacy will endure after his house is reduced to cinders. His sister Beverley’s inheritance will vanish as an assessor discovers that Barry lied on his insurance application about the house being rewired. The job would have cost less than $2,000.

The real tragedy of the Butchers is that their demise will be due neither to bad luck nor stupidity. As with most dangerous things, carelessness, laziness and a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude cause far more deaths than the more sensational factors employed by storywriters.

Safety may not be exciting, but it sure beats harming yourself and your family. Electricity is all around you. So learn about it, treat it with respect and don’t pretend you’re a sparkie. Life is tricky enough already.

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