Sunday, February 5, 2017

Found Objects 2

Continued from Found Objects

A tiny hand clutched hers when she came round. The smell and taste of disinfectant in her system and the shine on pale green walls rendered her more confused than ever.  The small ward echoed with beeps and clicks and the beige folds in the curtain separating her bed from another were unfamiliar and threatening, something from a distant memory but she wasn't sure what.

"Hi Grandma, are you poorly?"

The tiny voice was more familiar but not quite recognisable, as were the concerned faces of her son and daughter, towering above her bed, almost hovering as harbingers yet clearly worried. She felt as small as the hand that held hers.

"Hello Alice." Another voice entered the space.

She turned her head to see the young Intern reading from his notes. His face expressionless, his tone monotonous. He turned his attention to the couple beside her bed as the little boy squeezed tighter and smiled at her.

 "She was very lucky," he began, his demeanour almost reprimanding.  "Thankfully a neighbour heard the dog barking and sounded the alarm.  We don't know how long she was unconscious. I'm advised that she was clinically dead but revived by Paramedics at the scene.  As a result, she's a little confused. She has a contusion on her skull and has experienced a cereberovascular event. She's currently also suffering dysphasia,  has paralysis on the left side which may or may not resolve. She also is showing signs of amnesia, probably due to the head trauma."

 The two adults that she barely recognised were nodding in accordance, soaking up his words, assessing his prognosis but to Alice, it looked like they were ashamed. The woman placed her hand over her mouth to muffle her emotions.

"The first few days are crucial," continued the Intern. "She'll be visited by a Speech Pathologist, a Physiotherapist and monitored four-hourly. But you also need to do your part to enable a full recovery."

"She needs to be reminded of who she is and engaged in conversation frequently to help with her articulation. Perhaps you could bring in photographs or objects that are familiar to her and talk about them, what the meant to her, reinforce her memory. Long term memories are generally the first to return, something from her past would be appropriate."

Again the adults nodded in deference to the medico's authority. The Intern patted Alice's arm in a sign of faux empathy and swiftly exited.

"We have to go Mum," the woman said. "Do what the doctor tells you and we'll be back tomorrow, promise."

She looked into the woman's eyes with an inkling of remembrance but wasn't sure who she was. Her daughter? Her daughter-in-law? Some stranger who had mistaken her for a parent?
The man was already heading towards the door without saying a word.

She tried to mouth "Who are you?" but the words spilled out differently and her nonsense "Ninety-nine, father," landed on her daughter's ears and evoked tears.

"Tomorrow Mum. You'll feel a little better tomorrow."

The woman sighed and kissed Alice's forehead.  Alice felt something familiar about her touch and smell. The little hand disengaged and waved as he cornered the bed, his other hand clasped tight by a well dressed woman who did not look back as she disappeared behind the curtain folds.

Alice gazed at the ceiling and a slightly flickering strip light that made her blink more frequently than she had before. The tubes in her nose made her sneeze but she couldn't raise her left arm to stem the spittle.  A nurse entered with a tissue and assisted.

"There you go luv, I'll leave these here for you. Might have a bit of trouble with that left arm so use your right. The physio will be here in a couple of hours. Would you like a cup of tea?"

She nodded, her throat was parched. She tried to say 'Thank you' without adding 'Ninety-nine father," but it didn't work. The nurse seemed unfazed.

"That's alright luv, It'll come with time," and she too slipped behind the folds.

Folds that brought back a first memory. Folds that now reminded her of those drawn slowly across the casket at funerals. Folds that enveloped as it slipped behind into the Chapel crematorium. She couldn't remember where she'd seen them, only that she'd seen them often.

"Here you are luvvy," chirped an orderly as he set down the cup and saucer. He helped her sit up with firm yet gentle arms, plumped up the pillows and offered her a sip through a straw.

"You'll be alright, you're a lucky girl Alice, a very lucky soul. Just a few more moments and you might not be with us here now. Just think, you'll be up and around in no time. You'll probably look at the world a little differently now that you've got a second chance eh?"

Alice, syphoned the luke-warm tea and rejected the plain biscuit. The orderly too, then disappeared behind the folds, leaving her to assess her survival. Her mind was active even if it was a little befuddled, all she could remember was a tattoo she wished she'd had.

Muse 2 - A Little Death is Good for the Soul
Posted for 10th Daughter of Memory - 8th River of Mnemosyne Challenge


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Found Objects

She'd wondered about it many times. Living alone in an enclave of frightened neighbours, the gates electronically controlled, people peering through lace curtained windows at unfamiliar cars - What would happen if she died, alone!

"I could be dead for days before anyone finds me!" she'd lamented to her kids. They were now grown with wives and children of their own. Rarely seen, rarely contacted other than the odd phone call or message. It had been a constant fear since she'd gone beyond her 70's.

There was no reason to believe anything would happen. She was frail but healthy. She had a panic button in the bathroom and a remote to carry round in the event of an emergency. She'd only used it once when she fell from the second stair and sprained her ankle. Help came . . .eventually. It gave her some solace, but not much.

She had a frame. Since her knee had been replaced, it had been pain free but even harder to traverse those stairs. It was inflexible which is why for an hour, twice a day, she would watch television and use a mini cycle to increase it's reach. Which is why, she'd hired a Zimmer frame temporarily to help her get around. The instability was palpable and her recovery slow. She should have had the surgery done 10 years earlier if only the surgeons had been cooperative and she hadn't been so afraid of convalescing. They wanted to put her into assisted living but she wasn't that unfit. Her curled hair, now white made her look a little mad and her rather random selection of poorly matched clothes might have been a little unorthodox but she knew she wasn't crazy.

She'd become forgetful.  Years of trying to learn a language, mastering sudoku, trying to be alert and forcing memories had only been slightly successful. She still couldn't remember what day it was or where she was supposed to be at any given time without a calendar reminder or a phone call. She lost things, all sorts of things. For one, the remote panic control. Her rubber gloves. That other slipper. She could have her glasses on her head whilst searching for them, her mobile phone in her hand whilst forgetting where she'd left it. She'd left the garage door open overnight then panicked realising that anyone could have entered during her broken slumber, but she knew that wasn't really true. Nobody would come, nobody ever did.

She'd always intended to get a tattoo. A specific tattoo with a specific message. She'd banged on about it for years but never managed to pluck up the courage to be inked. She wasn't afraid of dying. She was afraid of living. That's why she'd chosen this little Villa in it's enclave of fear. All her neighbours were the same. Quiet, unobtrusive. Never waved, never spoke. That's why electronic gates and high walls formed a virtually impenetrable fortress around her. She knew once 'in' she was safe. She also knew once 'in', she was vulnerable to not being found.

As she limped across the lounge room to grab the TV remote control, her brain exploded. She felt weak, sweaty and her hand couldn't grasp the oversized item, bought specifically to help with arthritic hands. She could see the red and green buttons jumping at her - stop then go, in focus, then blurred. She could feel the vertigo take over as she gripped the frame tightly with both hands, leaning her now frail and atrophied body against it, her knees weakening but not prepared to bend. There was nobody to talk to, nobody to help, and where was that damned remote panic button. She began to speak. Not in an ordered fashion but words jumbled like letters newly collected from a Scrabble board and randomly placed in their little rack.

As she glanced upward, pins and needles stabbed relentlessly at her wizened hands. She caught a glimpse of the wedding photo on the mantle. Her voice quivering with fear she asked the handsome man holding her hand for help but the words exiting her mouth made no sense. They'd been so clear in her head but had got lost between brain and mouth. The handsome face smiled back at her giving cold comfort as she slipped.

Her eyes moved rapidly. She felt the aluminium frame beneath her wobble and loose it's footing, only helping her lose hers. She fell. A long, slow fall, the room dashing sideways in a blur of diagonally lined colour.  No-one saw her hit her head on the coffee table as a small spew of red stained the rug. No-one heard her plea for help although she wasn't even sure the words had been anywhere but inside her mind.  As she and her tiny frame covered the ground in a stupor of confusion and a stab of pain, she was sentient enough to realise this would only kill her if she wasn't found. She began to wish that perhaps that would be better and how she should have followed through with the long forgotten intention to have that tattoo. As she lost consciousness she gazed at the inside of her wrist and imagined it there. "Do Not Resucitate".

Muse 1 - Covering the Ground with Great Intentions
Posted for 10th Daughter of Memory - 8th River of Mnemosyne Challenge 
Continued in Found Objects 2

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Cop of Cafe

When she first met Calvin Morcombe, he'd just been demobbed and was still wearing his Military Police uniform. He sauntered over to the cafe where she was quietly sipping tea and contemplating a slice of Pavlova. She barely saw him approach but heard his velvety voice.

"Morning Miss. Could I cadge a cigarette?" His bright blue eyes were dancing like light on water and he beamed a smile as wide as the Bass Strait. Her breath was taken away as she reached for her packet of Capstans and offered him a smoke.

"Mind if I sit?"

Louise nodded approval and before long, the country girl and the soldier were immersed in conversation. He told her of his campaign in North Africa, his childhood in Nowra and study of Medicine in Sydney. How he adored living among the snow gums and crystal creeks of the Snowy Mountains but would prefer to live somewhere more cosmopolitan one of these days. He outlined his plans to set up practice and become a famous surgeon on Macquarie Street. She told him of her affection for theatre and dancing and her gratefulness that the war was over and life could begin again.  She was electrified, mesmerised by this handsome man with great prospects, her passport to freedom. She neglected to tell him of her boredom in such a parochial outpost and her yearnings to be a socialite.

Louise was a secretary for a local law firm, Cal about to return to medical practice and looking for a small town location in which to build his patient list.  Funny how a shared cigarette brought them together. If one could call it 'together'.  At least he'd slipped a ring on her finger and relieved her from from the boredom of stenography.  Just as things would swim along, he'd interrupt their relationship for short breaks into Sydney, making a long distance home visit or attending a course to further his career. At first, it was for a couple of days, but lately, days extended into a week or two.

Upon his return, he'd bring her gifts. Flowers, chocolates, nylon stockings.  He'd even arrived home last time in a brand new car. A Holden the colour of pale sunshine, they could ill afford it but she loved it, and the prestige that came with it. They'd christened the back seat down by lake Jindabyne steaming up the windows while the snow fell outside. She loved that car, not just because of their back seat love making. It reminded her of the desire for big city living and all that it encompassed, but they had to start somewhere and for now, this was home.

He'd also shower her with affection each time he returned, and for a while, things would become  normal. She trusted him with her heart, her life. He was her life. She, an only child. Her father killed in the Pacific and her mother long gone, frustrated by the constraints of a gossipy little town. He however, was somewhat circumspect about his emotions, his finances, his trips away. The secrecy began to tear at her. Her constant inquisitions began to annoy him.

"Cal, who is this patient in Wollongong? And if you're doing all these courses, where's your certification?" She'd pry. "Where's this hundred pounds a month going?"

He'd never answer directly, just hold her and kiss her. His constant intimation that he was doing it 'all for her'  and to not worry her pretty head about business matters was working. She felt guilty for being suspicious. 

"Lou, trust me. It's necessary. If I don't keep on top of things, we'll never progress to a bigger practice. You want that don't you? More experience, more money? A move to somewhere a little more exciting and sophisticated than this Godforsaken hamlet."

She did. She did want more. She wanted it all. She was a doctor's wife. She wanted the hustle and bustle of the city, intelligent conversation, access to theatres, dance halls and fashion. Yes, she wanted much more. As did he, but what he wanted did not include his increasingly nosey wife. The parochial country girl trying to play debutante. She was beginning to annoy him and his desire for more sophistication. Climbing the medical ladder to success did not include dragging an ignorant country girl along. He'd already found a replacement. More refined, more appropriate. Frankly more beautiful and ultimately more suitable for his career objectives.

He had a plan for Louise. First to undermine her, then to make her look unstable. Then to be finally rid of her. He would talk about his frail wife to his patients.

"She really needs a break . . " He'd say when they enquired after her.
"She's not happy here"
"She's taking medication"
"She has a heart condition"
 . . . the slow trickle of deception began to breed in a town where everyone talks.

"That poor doctor", "How does he deal with such a woman", "Dear man deserves better."

***

"I'd like to take out an insurance policy." Cal leans back in a Winchester leather chair opposite a bespeckled clerk at Mutual Insurance in Sydney.

"Right, I'll just take down a few more details, your date of birth . ." the clerk begins, pen in hand.

"No. Not for me. For my wife." Cal retorts whilst examining his newly manicured fingernails.

There are benefits to being within the medical fraternity. Normal protocols can often be waived for such pillars of the community.

"Of course sir. We would normally require your wife's signature but, seeing as you're 'remote', we can probably dispense with that formality Dr Morcombe."

The clerk doesn't bat an eyelid and continues questioning on the nature of the policy and the policy holder. "What amount would you like to insure your wife for?"

Again, Cal is cool, he's already done the math. "Oh, I think probably fifty thousand pounds would do it."
 
***

She never saw it coming. Not for a moment. It was a delightful drive. They'd done it many times before, picnicked by the lake. Held hands and skipped pebbles. Had coffee in the cafe across the road then driven too fast along the Alpine Way. Sometimes, they'd sneak into a lay off and he'd kiss her tenderly, then vigorously before sliding his hand beneath her skirt.

"Wanna get in the back seat?" he'd asked that day. She'd complied and started to remove her underwear. He slid on top of her and caressed her hair. This time, he didn't kiss her. He put his manicured hand across her mouth and nose and placed his full weight on her sleight body.  A small hypodermic needle in hand, he'd injected a pocket of air into her carotid artery. She'd resisted violently but he was a strong man and pinned her down until she moved no more.

The autopsy showed nothing other than coronary distress and myocardial infarction. Unusual in one so young but then everyone knew that she had been under enormous stress and pressure. Cal knew that she also had an atrial septal defect and just 20mg of air forced into an artery would be fatal and untraceable.  His obvious distress at losing a wife so young, so lovely engendered sympathy and affection rather than suspicion and criticism. He'd got away with it.

Her 'distraught' husband of course, could no longer live in their house and had made arrangements to move to Sydney.  The house and surgery were closed as Morcombe prepared to move to the city. Furniture had been forwarded to a new address. He merely had an overnight bag and a full tank of fuel.  Keys in the ignition, he started the car, checked his wing and rear view mirrors and left Nimmitibell and stone cold Louise behind him forever.

It was that very turn, next to that very lay-away, where they'd done the deed and where she'd met her fate. He checked his rear view mirror, more on reflex, or perhaps the draught felt at the back of his neck. His face palled and the world went by so slowly and yet so fast. It was her, smiling in the back of the car, her face translucent, her eyes dead, her once pouty mouth smiling as he slammed on the breaks - too late.

***

"Nice car! Barely damaged apart from a bit of a scrape on the bumper."

The first Officer on the scene scanned the surface of the vehicle, "Ah, broken windscreen too." It was moments later that the limp and lifeless body of Dr Calvin Morcombe was found hurled 20 feet from the front seat. Bloodied, broken and contorted, it was not a pretty sight. But it was the expression on the corpse's face that brought an expression of terror to a young Jindabyne policeman's visage.

"Bloody Hell, looks like he saw a ghost!"

***
Somewhere  in Sydney, an unknown blonde dressed in an imported Chanel suit presents an insurance policy to a bespeckled clerk.

"He nominated me as his next of kin,"

A black gloved hand takes a large cheque from a clerk's fat fingers. Red lips smile seductively.

"Thank you . . . "

"Jeremy, Jeremy Nathan . . ." The clerk can barely make eye contact for fear of getting a hard-on.

"Thank you Jeremy." The blonde sashays from the bank, kisses the cheque and places it in her purse.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Clutch and Choke

It was a good day for fishing in the Peel River, its dry banks moistened by the receding waters. It was more of a deep creek at this time of year.  It yielded little but large carp. Too bony to eat but easy to catch. Joe Franklin and his pal Finn Riddell wandered along the bank of river gums in pursuit of such a catch. Joe, a larrikin of a lad, the perfect foil to the quieter and stumpier Finn.  His gangly legs bearing the beginnings of adult hair, yet his body lithe and thin, he was built like a streak of Pelican Shit.

"You're havin' a growth spurt!" his Nana had said as if it was something surprising for a 15 year old boy. "You'll be 6' 3" like your Grandad before you're 18!"

Finn, the smaller of the two, had yet to embrace the bum fluff moustache of his counterpart. Fresh-faced and freckled, he'd been forced to don a stripe of zinc across his fair nose. The perfect foil to the the chocolate smudge embracing the corner of his mouth.

Their hook lines and sinkers had been carefully packed in canvas packs along with a swag of Vegemite sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper and tucked into brown paper lunch bags. Each had a flask of Cottees lime cordial and a small tube of Aerogard to deter biting insects. The flies that summer were in plague proportions. Not even the Australian wave was enough to deter them. Finn's mum, God bless her aproned form, had been slaving away dipping small squares of sponge cake into chocolate then covering the iconic 'bricks' with coconut. She'd popped a couple of the Lamingtons into each of their lunches but these were devoured long before the boys reached their 'secret' fishing spot. Each laughed at the other, as they extended their tongues to the sides of their mouths to salvage  remnants of chocolate. The 'lammos' were delicious.

It was hot. Christmas was over and the school holidays in full swing. It was a perfect day for casting and hooking a couple of carp. Little else swims in the Peel at this time of year. Occasionally, the local trout hatchery throws in a few tiddlers but the carp manage to out compete the little tykes and rarely can a full sized rainbow be fished in here.  The River Oaks made swishing noises in the hot breeze. Cicadas tuned in and out with their deafening song. Occasionally a cockatoo would screech its objection to the interlopers below then settle quietly among the River Oak branches happily crunching on its seeds, the husks fall noisily to the bank below.

As they approached their familiar lair, the boys peeled off their rucksacks and began grubbing around the banks for anything that might do for bait. At best, they'd find a wichetty grub or a worm. At worst, they could use the crusts from their sandwiches. Either way, it was the doing of the thing rather than the prize. Carp are poor eating so they'd throw them back anyhow.

"Finn!" yelled Joe.

The two boys had slowly separated, scrounging with deep concentration amongs the shale pebbles an deep into the soggy mud below.

"FINN!" Joe yelled again, with some urgency.

"Look what I found! Think there might be any money in it?"

Joe was waving a small clutch purse. Pink leather with a silver chain. The kind of purse he'd seen his mother take to the Masonic Hall Ball on Ladies nights. A posh purse that she saved for special occasions. Finished in now muddied satine with a small rusted pearl clasp.

Finn ran along the bank, slipping on the wet shale stones and recovering his composure after wiping more muddy smears on his shorts. No care about the scolding he'd get upon arriving home for being so dirty and having grazed his knees. By the time he reached Joe's side, the small purse had been pried open and its contents were being removed and placed on warm shale pebbles to dry.

"There's some coins!" Joe's smile of delight assured Finn that there was probably enough for an ice cream on the way home. "Not much else. A lipstick and a hankie."

A flash on the water elevated their gaze. The river being low in the height of summer was normal. What was not, was the appearance of a smooth yellow metallic form, the sun glinting blindingly from its wet surface.
"Waddaya think it is?"

Joe's head cocked from side to side trying to work out what it could possibly be. Finn shielded his eyes with a hand coated in black mud, leaving yet another smear across his forehead.

"Dunno. Might be an old car or something?"

Little went on in the country town of Nundle. A sleepy village on the outskirts of Tamworth NSW. Years ago, when gold was found at Hanging Rock and Swamp Creek, it had been a bustling town of prospectors from all over the world. But since, it had reverted into a small farming community. Everyone knew everyone. If a baby was born, everyone knew about it. If someone had an affair, everyone knew about it. If there was a prang at the corner of Gill and Oakenville, everyone knew about it. Few of the township even owned a car so it was a mighty big deal when one ends up in the drink. This latest turn of events however seemed to be the Peel's best kept secret. The boys were hell bent on solving the mystery.

Bait gathering and fishing became unimportant as both boys stripped down to their shorts, leaving shirts and shoes on the bank. They waded in to examine the object. As they forged a watery path across the shallow creek, it became clear that it was indeed the roof of a car. Snagged on an old log, probably during flood time in Spring. From the bank, only the roof could be seen but the body of the vehicle had formed a natural dam. As they rounded the object the discovery of pink fabric, flowing atop the water and a partially decomposed corpse had them terrified and excited. Still seated, her faded pink gown, remnants of brunette hair flowed gently with the current as if trying to escape their anchorage. A choker of pearls, still in place around neck.

"Bloody Hell!!" both boys spat in unison. "Better call the cops."

The whole town turned out to watch the palaver that involved retrieving the vehicle. Instructions were being yelled left right and centre as men tried to tie a sturdy rope around the  Holden 48-215. The muddy water's of the Peel barely revealing the grisly passenger within. Women raised hands to their mouths in horror, shocked at the discovery but not so much that attaining a voyeuristic position was a priority. Mumblings about how 'awful' it was, how things like this just don't happen in Nundle. It took a good 10 men to secure the vehicle and unwedge it from the sticky mud. As men hauled and harrumphed, the car began to move slowly across the river, towards the bank, leaving little eddy's and whirlpools in its wake. Harry McCormack, the most senior of the two officers on duty that day, began to wave the crowd away.

"Nothing to see here folks. Go back to what you were doing. This'll be a job for Sydney detectives."

As he shooed the reluctant audience from their viewing vantage points the car slowly emerged from it's watery grave. Water gushed from the windows as the body of the woman was slowly revealed. The men, pulling the rope had their backs to the ordeal but when Harry McCormack took a closer look, he began to laugh. Not just a snicker or a giggle, a hearty belly laugh, a guffaw in fact. He'd seen some crazy things before, but as a country cop most calls involved drunk and disorderly, an occasional kerfuffle with local Abbos and the odd domestic. Joe Curry had shot himself accidentally in the face years ago but he was an ape and most thought it poetic justice. But what appeared to be a young woman in a ball gown, in the prime of her life, now lifeless, had him clutching his belly in hysterics.


"Alright fellas, good job," he managed to stutter through his tearful giggles, "Looks like we've rescued a Mannikin!"

Continued in Part 2 A Cop of Cafe

Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge No. 7
Clutch and Choke



Monday, February 16, 2015

To Bury a Mountain

Continued from Muse 8: Ghastly Truths

The flames had subsided and a thin pall of smoke was rising through a hole in the roof of the Goddess. The front window was shattered and firemen were cleaning up around the debris. A small crowd had gathered to watch the event in the darkness of the early morning. The fire had looked more spectacular than it actually was.

A phone call, a mad dash in the car and Reya and Iris stood in disbelief. A paddy wagon was parked next to the fire engine, Dave's terrified face peering from the caged window at the rear.

The fire chief introduced himself and explained that he thought it was arson, they found a pile of blackened 'smalls' in one of the dressing rooms and the smell of petrol was quite evident.

"It'll take a proper investigation but I'm pretty sure this was deliberately lit. We found Dave up the street at Mulligans, drowning his sorrows and smelling of fuel. The cops have him in the van. You might want to follow them down to the station." He gave Iris a nod and turned back to the cleanup at hand.


  "Reya, he wouldn't do this. I know he wouldn't do this!" The desperation in Iris' voice honest and convincing. Although even she thought he might be capable of such a thing after his violent reaction to her indiscretion.  

The structural damage wasn't huge, plenty of water and a load of soaked stock but Reya was insured. It wouldn't take much to repair the window and clean up the mess. Reya tip-toed amongst the puddles and broken glass. A  large pile of blackened silk and lace smoldered from the first dressing room. The firies had done their job and prevented the fire from ripping through the whole shop. Most of the mess was the result of water dousing the flames.

***
Dave was 'escorted' into one of the holding cells. He's known to police round here. Not for any wrongdoing but because he's a local and a decent bloke. They're all on first name basis.  He's drunk as a lord, out of character for this clean-living, hard working man. 

"I threw her out . . .it's all my fault, I threw her out .  ." was all he kept mumbling.

"Take it easy Dave," reassured one of the Police Officers, "Let's get you out of these clothes and you can sleep it off. We'll talk about what happened later."

The Sergeant instructed his young charge to find a clothes for Dave, before retaining the fuel stained trousers as 'evidence'. 


***
Dianne was furious that Iris had declined to leave with her.  She was convinced that this one would be easy. She'd wasted weeks on this little recruit. Iris was to be her key. Her passport out of debt and a way to a new life. Dianne's story paralleled that of her nemesis. A young girl on a terminal spiral into depravity. Only Dianne had succumbed to smack to relieve the numbness of being slavered on by rich old men. She'd also become a slave to her 'manager' Joe Camilleri. She was a prize at the Platinum Club, one of Joe's most sought after girls, and she owed him money. She owed him a lot of money. She'd accumulated a mountain of debt that needed to be buried, eliminated and Iris, or someone of her ilk was to be here payload.  He'd guaranteed to let her go if she could find someone to replace her willingly and with youth, beauty and talent. Iris had all these attributes but that cow Reya had talked her out of it.  

 ***
Dave couldn't focus. The house was quiet, empty without her.  He went through the top drawer in the bedroom. She'd taken everything. Even the lilac underwear.  Being alone right now wasn't good for him, he was going to head into town. He needed a drink.  

He didn't recognise her from the beach. It was dark and he hadn't got a good look at her face. As he drove closer to the stalled Corolla and the frustrated brunette kicking its tyres, he suspected nothing. The woman ran her fingers through her hair and looked as if she was on the verge of tears. 

"Dammit! Not now you rusting piece of shit!" She yelled at the inanimate object as if by some miracle of magic it would just begin running. 

She looked up and eyeballed Dave who had slowed down and wound the passenger window. He felt compulsed to say something even though he wasn't really in the mood.

"Can I help?"  

"I dunno, I think I've run out of petrol" She replied, clearly exasperated.

"No problem, I have a jerry can in the boot."

He pulled over to the curb, popped the boot of his car and retrieved a 10 litre plastic container with a yellow spout. 

"Here, open up the petrol cap. I can give you enough to cruise into town."

As he poured the liquid into the tank, the yellow spout became dislodged. Petrol oozed from the cavity and splashed all over his clothes.

"Damn thing, does that all the time!" he quickly replaced the spout and continued pouring. 

God, I'm sorry." Dianne feigning guilt that her rescuer had doused himself with petrol.

"No mind. It'll wash out. There, try and start her."

The car coughed a little but started. 

She wound down the window, thanked him and took off.

The Jerry can had given her an idea. Hell hath no fury.

She'd ruin both of their lives and be gone before midnight. Nobody knew who she really was, what she really was or where she really came from.  Breaking into the shop was a snack. Just a simple lock on the back door. A deadbolt and alarm having never been installed in the rush of reservations. A small detail neglected.  She doused the shop, arranged a pile of lingerie in the first dressing room, having it smoulder for a while would give her time to escape. She'd be long gone before anyone suspected a thing.  As the garments began to burn, she slipped quietly into the night.

*** 
 Reya decided, rather than renovate, she'd close The Seventh Goddess, attend to the structural repairs and perhaps lease it to another owner. The insurance money was more than enough to see her into an easy retirement. 

Iris had enrolled in night school and had the farm for sale. Dave wouldn't be out of prison for four years or so and she was no farmer. But she was a country girl, not designed for the big smoke. She'd stay at Wiseman's Cove.

In a small town, not too far from Wisemans, a tall brunette is now a blonde, holding the hand of a woman barely past puberty. Stroking her face and telling her how beautiful she is and how well she could do as a dancer in the city.

The End

Muse 1 "The Seventh Goddess"Muse 2 "The Forensics of Spume"
Muse 3 "The Way of the North"  
Muse 4 "Virginal Zoophilia"   
Muse 5: "Stakes and Lies  
Muse 6: "A Meal of Her Loins"   
Muse 7: "Controlled Burn" 
Muse 8: "Ghastly Truths"  
Muse 9: "To Bury a Mountain"





Ghastly Truths

Continued from Muse 7 Controlled Burn

Iris turned up on Reya's doorstep with no more than a single suitcase on wheels. She looked tired and a little forlorn. Leaving Dave had been harder than she thought. He wouldn't speak to her and had avoided her company completely for the last 24 hours as she packed a few things. She'd left without saying goodbye, just left a hand written note pinned to the kitchen door apologising and thanking him for being a good man but just not good enough.  He tended his cows and didn't enter the house until she'd wheeled her case down the driveway.  His heart empty and angry.

The two women sat at a small kitchen table, a sliver of light forming a beam across the floor in the early evening. Reya poured each of them a cup of Earl Grey and put a small plate of ANZAC biscuits on the table. She brushed a sleeping cat from her chair and sat in front of her young assistant.

"I'm going to tell you something. I want you to listen. The city is no place for a young woman with nothing. And Dianne . . well, she's not all she seems. I've been doing a little investigating and, you my girl, are about to make a huge mistake. One that I made many years ago."

Iris sipped her tea, blowing the hot surface to cool it down.

"I left Wisemans when I was just 17. I'd had a huge row with my parents. Well, Let's say I wasn't the best of daughters. I ran off the rails a little. Wasn't particularly good at school but I had a pretty face and a nice body. I'd experienced men . . anyway, that's beside the point. I did the same as you, packed a bag and caught the next bus out of town.  I had no more than a hundred bucks in my pocket, nowhere to go and nowhere to stay. I was so young, so stupid, yet I thought I was being clever and independent, I just hadn't thought it out.

I found a hostel that was cheap and started looking for work. I was surrounded by bars, strip joints, dive's. Drunken men lolled in the street, hookers stood in doorways.  I was befriended by the woman who ran the hostel. Most of the 'visitors' were women, some bought men back to the dorms. I tried to get work but I was inexperienced. Nobody would hire me so I began doing chores for rent. I'd clean, take bookings. She was good to me. She fed me, let me stay, even gave me a little cash. .  She'd stroke my hair and tell me how attractive I was, that I should be a model or a dancer. She flattered me, bought me clothes. I thought she was becoming my friend but no, she was literally grooming me.  One day a very well dressed man came into the office and she asked me to leave. I could see them talking and looking at me through the glass pane in the door. I knew they were talking about me. When he emerged from his conversation, he asked if I'd like to work in his club. He wasn't bothered about the fact that I was only 17, "I won't tell if you don't." was his response.

I started as a waitress but it wasn't long before I was dancing and stripping. Being ogled by drunks, slobbered on by old men.  Along with it came a stiff drink or three for courage, a line of coke, or two, or three. It was a downward spiral of stripping, sex, drugs. It was supposed to be 'no contact' but when someone throws $1000 at you for a blow job in a booth, it's hard to say no. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. The money was great and I wasn't qualified to do anything else. I did pay off the debt but it left me empty. Beneath the tough exterior, I became lost, sad. Others danced to fast loud music, I chose Sade and Rickie Lee Jones. I remember dancing to "It's OK, it's not that bad . . " But it wasn't OK. It was awful. It was like taking Valium and becoming disassociated from everything. There was always some financial emergency, a reason to stay or more to the point, nowhere to go."

"You think Dianne is recruiting me? For something like that?" Iris' mouth is agape.

Reya took a sip of her own tea, "Yes, yes I do."

"What happened? How did you get out?"

There was this woman, she'd been a stripper herself and started a sort of rehabilitation program for dancers, hookers, addicts. She befriended the bouncers on the strip that I was working and would leave small bags for the girls. They had things like cosmetics, donated toiletries in them and literature on a support group to help us quit. I began to squirrel money away, took it easy on the coke and started going to her support group. I was still dancing but managed to save, a lot. It's lucrative but demoralising.  Iris, I was one of the lucky ones, I had a head on my shoulders."

Reya continued, explaining how she'd stayed in the club for almost five years yet still attended the rehab group. How they'd found her work in the retail industry. First as a shop assistant, still dancing at night. She'd grown through the ranks, ran her own department, finally left the sordid world of clubs and leering gazes to become manager of her department. She'd never married due to the shame she'd carried from her previous career. She'd taken lovers but none had stayed once they knew her past and, at 50 years of age, she decided finally to come home to where it all began.

Iris, my point, is leave if you're not happy but not like this. Plan ahead, acquire some skills, find somewhere safe to live and work you enjoy. Stay away from Dianne. Stay here for a while if you need to wrap your head around what to do but stay away from that manipulative woman. She's bad news. I've known her kind.

As if on cue, Iris received an SMS.

"We're going tomorrow. Found you a job. Platinum Club. Meet me at 10. Mulligans bar. :* Di.

"Reya, she's found me a job, what should I do? I can't go home, I can't stay here indefinitely."

Reya opened her laptop and Googled "Platinum Club". "Look you silly girl, look at this joint. You want to be a pole dancer, a stipper, a sex worker in the dark end of town?"

Iris' eyes begin to well as she checks out the web site. Its banner in Flash showing women covered in foam, languishing on tables, wrapped around shimmering poles, the faces of onlookers pixelled to protect their identity.

"Is this what you really want?"

Iris began to cry.

Muse 1 "The Seventh Goddess"
Muse 2 "The Forensics of Spume"
Muse 3 "The Way of the North"  
Muse 4 "Virginal Zoophilia"   
Muse 5: "Stakes and Lies  
Muse 6: "A Meal of Her Loins"   
Muse 7: "Controlled Burn" 
Muse 8: "Ghastly Truths"  
Muse 9: "To Bury a Mountain"




Sunday, February 15, 2015

Controlled Burn

Continued from  Muse 6: "A Meal of Her Loins"  

He was waiting for her when she arrived home, barefoot and wet hair. He, in not much better condition, the edges of his trousers sodden and damp sand deposited throughout the living room. 

She knew immediately something was wrong. That somehow he knew. 

"Where the fuck have you been?"

One short question with a single curse word stopped her in her tracks, had her reeling, wondering what to say? What to do? Where go go? There was no hiding from this.

"I wagged class and went for a swim. Gonna take a shower." 

As she made a half turn to walk away from him, he rose from his chair and hit her hard on her right cheek, knocking her to the ground and spilling the contents of her shoulder bag. 

"Dave for fuck's sake. I just went for a swim, what is wrong with you." 

Iris was stunned, her hand held against a growing red welt on her cheek. He'd NEVER hit her, never. Perhaps this time she deserved it. He knelt beside her and put his hands hard on her shoulders, pushing her down onto her back on the cold wooden floor. He straddled her and with one hand across her mouth began undoing his trousers. She flayed at him with her arms and mumbled indiscernible abuse through his hand. He was furious, she'd never seen such anger in his eyes.

"Fucking bitch. I gave you everything. I allowed you to do everything, and this is how you repay me? You lie, you deceive, you let some lesbian bitch do what you never let me do! " 

She's struggled wildly and managed to connect a knee to his crotch and he released his grip momentarily. She rolled from beneath him and crawled towards the door, trying to rise as he lunge at her, pulling her down by the hem of her shirt.  They scrambled, limbs flying and fighting. She hit him in the chest and lashed out with tanned legs. He bent his forearm across her throat and pinned her down until something clicked and he reneged. He was left kneeling, exhausted, confused at the animal he'd become. She lay still, breathing heavily and stunned that he'd ever do anything like this.

"Dave . . ."

"Shut the fuck up. Just shut up."

He wiped his mouth with his hand but the slow burn of hate hate had already begun in his heart. He's never flashed like that. For a moment, he wanted to kill her, snuff her out like a candle flame between wet fingers, but he couldn't. The silence while they collected themselves was palpable.  She, sunk into the depths of shame and he simply in a state of abject disbelief that he could have had  such thoughts about the woman he supposedly loved.

He picked himself up and pulled up his fly. "Get out. Just pack your things and get out." Then disappeared, slamming the front door behind him.

Iris knew better than to argue. It's her fault, he clearly saw, and she's hurt him beyond belief. Crazy thing, she didn't feel an ounce of guilt and realised that she wasn't in love with him anymore. He bored her but until this, he'd been a safe bet, a good provider and easy to get on with. She wasn't in love with Dianne either, it was just a moment in time, an experiment, a brief infatuation. It was awesome, it was frightening, it was outrageous. Now, things are looking up, she has permission  to leave her dreary, cow-stenched life and go back to where she belongs. And if she's lucky, Dianne might come with her.


***

Dianne's face betrayed her inner joy at 'mission accomplished.'

"She's good," Dianne studies a slightly chipped, painted red fingernail while nonchalantly talking to a male voice on the other end of the phone.

"Oh she'll do it, she just left her husband, doesn't know a soul. No skills other than retail and pole. Won't take much to push her over. She'll do it."

"You're a clever girl Di." The male voice clearly appreciative of his protege's recruitment efforts. "She looks good in the photos, just need to break her in."

"Yes I am Joe. I'm very good at what I do, but it's time to end it. She starts, I leave. That's the deal."

"You got it baby. If she measures up. You're free. Debt paid, nothin' else to talk about."

"See you Saturday Joe. Be there." No sooner has she hung up and there's a text message from Iris.

Dianne needs this. She needs the stupid country girl to come with her. She needs to be absolutely sure there's nothing left for Iris in Wiseman's. The marriage is over, she's sure of that. Poor poppet messaged asking to stay but . . Dianne put her off.  

The polished red nails speedily navigate her iPhone. 

"No, better if you don't stay with me. What if your crazed husband comes over. Go ask Reya if you can hang with her and we'll leave Saturday morning. I'll pick you up. Just be cool for a couple of days. It'll be alright."

***
"You're what? Resigning?"

The indignation in Reya's voice is more than disappointment, it's shock and awe. 

"What for? What happened? I thought you were happy here, finding yourself. Having fun? It's that bloody tramp Dianne isn't it. Putting silly ideas of fame and fortune into your head 'Oh' Iris, you've got such a lovely body . . Oh you'd make thousands dancing in a city club' . . I can just imagine the bullshit she's imprinted on your churlish, nihilistic brain. You used to be a sweet girl, a good wife, a great help. A few weeks with this trumped up tramp and you've turned into an idiot"

"Reya," Iris chose her words carefully, as she wasn't expecting a tirade and wondered why Raya was so vindictive, "He's thrown me out. He saw something he shouldn't and he's mad as hell. It was over before but, it's definitely done now.  I'm going back to the city. Dianne . . ." "Don't you talk to me about that woman Iris. I warned you about her. I'm just  . . "  

Reya reins in the emotion, barely believing that this girl is about to repeat history.

"Iris, It's your life. When are you leaving?"

 "Well, I was hoping, perhaps I could stay with you until Saturday, I just need a day to collect my stuff. I suppose I should talk to Dave. He was furious last night, wouldn't talk to me at all. I spent the night on the couch."


Reya felt a little ashamed of her outburst. She had no real right to tell this girl what to do and with whom. Perhaps staying over would give her a chance to talk, get to know her better, convince her that the decision she's making may not be for the best.

"Of course, Iris, you can stay as long as you want. Now, get to it and unpack those boxes over there."


***
It was more a protest than full blown arson but the lights and sirens made a big deal of the fire.  Smoke billowed from the Seventh Goddess as windows were smashed and water spewed over silk and lace.  Whoever started it, did a good job of halting business at the Seventh Goddess, ruining Iris' job prospects and fitting in perfectly with Dianne's plans.



Muse 1 "The Seventh Goddess"
Muse 2 "The Forensics of Spume"
Muse 3 "The Way of the North"  
Muse 4 "Virginal Zoophilia"   
Muse 5: "Stakes and Lies  
Muse 6: "A Meal of Her Loins"   
Muse 7: "Controlled Burn" 
Muse 8: "Ghastly Truths"  
Muse 9: "To Bury a Mountain"