Saturday, December 5, 2009

Not really a blogger

So my last post turns out to have been three months ago. Not much of a blog is it? I'm not sure which is cause and which is effect: the pathetic lack of readership, or the pathetic lack of posts. Well, just to keep you all up-to-date, oh great and mighty readership of mine, I am aiming to write 6000 words by February in order to make a submission to publish a collection of my short stories next year. This post is my attempt to procrastinate on making a start...

I had the horrible experience of being forced to jerk an editor around last week. Island Magazine accepted my story "Different Kinds of Heaven" for publication literally the day I was composing a letter to them to withdraw it from consideration. Unfortunately, much as I would have loved to have a story with them, if I let them to publish it, my required word target would have gone from 6000 to 14000 by February, and I doubt I could manage that. Needless to say they weren't entirely thrilled with me, and I can't say I blame them. In this case, inconveniencing an editor was the lesser of two evils.

Just to prove I'm still writing, here's an excerpt from my latest story "Shock", which I'm including in the unpublished portion of my submission:

And Smithy is hungry. Smithy is ravenous. Because two years ago—can it really be two years?—his wife left him, and he hasn’t had a woman since. Not a kiss even, barely a glance, when once they couldn’t get enough of him. What? Does his loneliness stink? Melissa took his best years, sucked the juice, the marrow out of his life and then left him while he was away on a day-trip to the Gold Coast for business. He came back and the house was a shell, doors banging open, that was how fast she’d run, and even the furniture gone. Nothing, just his clothes on the rack, the CDs of his she’d hated. Kids’ rooms empty. In the kitchen on the floor he found a butter knife with a bent-tipped blade that she must have dropped when she was packing, in the bedroom a bra, and in one room the wooden bee on a string that Ryan used to drag about when he was two. With the wings that spun and went clacketty clack.

Those three things she left by mistake haunted him. In the end he was convinced there was no mistake after all. He was sure she planned each one as carefully as the escape itself. Either she plotted it or God did, not that he believed in God. The bee, that was for the kids of course. The cruellest sting. And what could you do about it? Throw it out? How could you? Smash it? No, you sat on the floor and you drank and you pulled the string, over and over, and the wings turned and went clacketty clack. Then the bra. Well figure that one out, Einstein. No prizes. It smelled clean, like a bed freshly made before you roll in it. No trace of her scent on it, just the empty cups, the what-do-you-call, negative space.

And then the knife. That was a good one. That was the punch line. Stick it in and twist. He’d hold it in the venetian striped streetlight shine in the long pissed hours, turning the blade to catch the flash of neon strip and laugh. Thumb the blunt serration where the tip bent from someone’s long-ago effort to prise open a jar of pickles and think, I gotta hand it to you. God damn butter knife. She might have left something sharper.

His brother sometimes visited, Jack the do-gooder psychologist who thought you could make everything better by talking about it. He bought Smithy some chairs, and cutlery, which he threw out, because what Jack didn’t understand was that he wanted it like this. To live in an empty shell was absolutely fucking apt and he didn’t want any stuff around to give the lie to his desolation. ‘It rhymes, geddit?’ he yelled drunkenly at Jack. ‘Inside and out!’ Was this a nervous breakdown? Jack said there was no such thing—a meaningless lay term he said—but he might meet the criteria for a major depressive episode. ‘Meet the criteria’: that was how he put it, like it was something he’d applied for at Centrelink.

Two years later he was working again, back in a retail salesroom selling cameras, and he’d allowed himself furniture again, moved out of the old house into a one bedroom shoebox. He’d gone back to the gym, even signed up on an internet dating site, but whatever it was he stank of, they seemed to smell it via email too. He couldn’t bear the way they all stopped replying to him. He tried a few times, but the only women who showed any interest in him were old and used up, and had their own stink of desperation. The worst time was three a.m., when the waters receded from the reefs of his pain—rage and despair and hunger standing out bare and jagged and completely unchanged from the last time. The immutable bedrock of his life.

Ok, back to work now. I'm hoping to knock over those 6000 words in the one story...