Words and Pictures - Tucked up in Bed

The morning noises slowly began to come into her consciousness as she awakened. There was a little of external and a little of the internal, almost a battle between the two. She tried to keep them out and move back into the comfortable place that she had been. Jessica pulled the warm and crunchy doona a little higher over her ears so that she could block out the sound of the elephants running up and down the hall, and the hyenas screaming in the back room. Her toes curled up against the sudden cold that hit them, so she curled herself into a very tight foetal position.
Jessica tried her hardest to will herself back to that place that she was in only moments ago where everything had seemed so peaceful, gentle and quiet. The green paddock that was so warm and green with flowers blowing gently in the breeze. She could see herself still as she had been running, as though she was still only 8 years old with no aches and pains, carefree through the tall grasses and flowers in her flowing white dress. She had been laughing out loud and running in no pattern at all. Running with no purpose other than just for the fun of it.

Jessica breathed slowly and gently. This was how she would begin the day. Remembering how to be carefree again. Remembering the fun of running through the paddocks of grasses and flowers. This is why she needed that extra moment today to be tucked up in bed.

Thanks Pip for hosting Words and Pictures again and providing me inspiration for a theme to write to!

Words and pictures - Careful

Careful Steps
Originally uploaded by coastwalker

Her heart leapt as her foot slipped from underneath her. She dared not glance below. She couldn't look up, she couldn't look down, she really didn't know where he could look at all. Maybe she should just shut her eyes altogether. Mary squeezed her eyes shut as hard as she could until tears started to come out. Her fingertips were beginning to go numb now. The tips of her toes, which were wedged into her Converse runners, were beginning to lose feeling as well.
"Heelllp", She feebly called out. Would anyone actually hear her from right up here? Would they hear that tiny feeble voice through the claret ash that was beginning to move gently in the breeze?
She began to ask herself for the hundredth time why on earth she had decided to climb onto the tiled roof.
Mary pressed her burning cheek against the cold, cold tile in an attempt to find some calm. In the distance she could hear all the noises of normality. Her brother, James was calling out to her mum about something that he wanted. She could hear someone else slamming a car door and starting the engine and driving off.
"Heeelllpp me. I'm on the..." Her numb fingers loosened their grip on the cold ceramic tile and she began to slide down the roof.
The scream that came out of Mary's throat was so gutteral that it could be heard in the next block. James and his mother ran all around the house looking for where the scream had come from. They finally arrived to the claret ash side of the house to find Mary with her legs looking a little twisted.
"Mary, what have you been doing?"
"Careful" she whispered, as she grimaced and she her eyes. At least she had now gotten down.
Thanks Pip for hosting this


This is the rest of short story I began the week before last. I hope you enjoy the end. Thank you for your time.

Mother (cont...)

One of the most special times that Antoinette could remember was a most gorgeous holiday at The Queenscliff Hotel when baby Julie was only nine months old. Julie was the most delightful baby of all in looks and behaviour. She slept all night and had regular naps in the day. She ate the food that was given to her. She smiled at all the people who smiled at her. Julie made all of the right gurgling noises. She was a pleasing baby who made Lazar and Antoinette very happy.

Lazar and Antoinette set off from Melbourne to Queenscliff in their old blue Mercedes in early February to stay for a week holiday. Almost everyone who saw Julie commented to Lazar and Antoinette about how gorgeous she was and exclaimed that what wonderful parents she must have. Julie was the most well behaved child there. She sat in a high chair in the dining room and ate her dinner without screaming and without throwing anything. She gurgled and smiled at strangers. She sat in her pusher when they went into all of the shops so quietly and gently. She slept through all of the nights like a baby. Julie’s parents were so pleased and proud. Antoinette couldn’t believe that parenting was so easy. Lazar just knew, of course, their children would turn out this way. Later in the evening, when she slept, Antoinette and Lazar ordered a night cap and enjoyed the beautiful views of the bay.

So it turned out that nine months later, there was to be another sibling for Julie. This time, the sibling was a baby called Michael. Baby Michael screamed all day and all night. Michael’s bassinette was moved from the Master Bedroom to the Nursery on day seven. Antoinette moved into Michael’s room on day eight. Michael did not sleep. Antoinette sang songs to Michael to get him to sleep. The bassinette did not get used; the rocking chair and the spare bed were well used. Michael bit her nipple. Antoinette cried. The baby bottles were bought and formula was found, mixed and given. Antoinette wept that she was no longer feeding Michael. Lazar worked longer hours. Julie sang songs to Michael while Antoinette cried. Antoinette cried some more. Antoinette took baby Michael to the Maternal Health Nurse for a check up and Julie sang along. The nurse smiled and nodded at the children and then gave Antoinette brochures on good old Post Natal Depression. Antoinette nodded and murmured and made the right noises, and then went home and put them in the bin. Who wouldn’t be depressed, she thought, as she rocked him?

A year went by and Michael finally learnt to talk and eat, and sleep. Antoinette slowly began to stop crying quite so much and began to get some much-needed sleep at night, and Lazar slowly started to work less. Julie sang to Michael when they played. Antoinette began to sing when she was happy and began to smile just a little more. Michael stopped crying so much and began to follow Julie around waiting for her to sing to him and play with him. There was peace again in the three-storey city house. On the weekends the children began to play by themselves before going into see Mother to ask to have their breakfast made.

Lazar was pleased to have his wife back finally. Sure, it was beautiful to see her being a Mother, but what he most loved to see her being a woman. As a Mother, she spent too much time looking tired and sad. The children seemed to take all of her energy and time. The demands that they had on her were all consuming. He had nothing to compare it to. He could not remember what his own Mother had looked like. Was she tired and sad? He could only remember that she had a beautiful perfume that she wore when she went out. He could remember kissing her and smelling that perfume on her. His own beautiful Antoinette had turned into a different woman once she had borne children. What was he to do? He needed to know so that he could make her happy, as he realised that it was his wife that was his true love. She did not wear perfume because they were not going out. Perhaps she needed more of him, more time from him so that she felt special again. He promised to himself that they would always find time to have for themselves so that they never forget who they were. His love for Antoinette in that moment was all consuming.

Antoinette bore triplets in a short eight and a half months later. The babies were born prematurely, as can happen when there are so many babies in a womb, however, fortunately for Antoinette and Lazar, they were all healthy. They spent three weeks in the neo-natal ward at the hospital after the birth and Antoinette spent every day going into the hospital to visit them. She took her very mature three and a half year old daughter and her nearly two year old son with her every day. Lazar’s work suddenly needed his presence. There were whisperings apparently, that things were getting a little shaky around the place, so it was important for him to be seen to be there. Whispers of an economic meltdown. There wasn’t enough time for crying this time. No time for any kind of meltdown. There was only enough time to collapse at the end of the day. After the three weeks when the babies, Molly, Amanda and Kate, came home, the house just became a place of nappies and routine. Julie took on the role of second in charge. When Mother was already singing, changing a nappy, or feeding, Julie would rock the bassinette and sing to the baby. Michael played with his cars around the bassinettes and over the heads of the babies. Occasionally he would headbutt whichever baby was being fed and then Julie would quickly try to play with him instead.

Julie couldn’t remember which happened first, whether it was Mother stopping singing or Mother stopping smiling, however sometime when the baby girls were still babies, mother just stopped. This isn’t to say that everyone in the family wasn’t well looked after.
Mother was always very careful to ensure that the children were well fed. Nutrition was a very important thing to Mother. All the children had to have three pieces of fruit, five servings of vegetables, a piece of meat, a glass of milk, a piece of cheese and four serves of cereals every single day.

She was also a stickler for teeth brushing. Antoinette would line the children up morning and night and floss their teeth, and then brush their teeth for two minutes each. She believed everything that her dentist told her and did not want her children’s mouths to be full of decay.
Mother also followed the cleaning and the washing to the letter. Antoinette read all there was to read on cleanliness and then enforced it. She bought every new product that came available. There was no way that she was letting her children have any germs getting near them. She scrubbed and bleached and rubbed and soaked and scrubbed and rinsed and mopped and wiped and sprayed to make sure that nothing could come close to those children.
Mother cooked all of the food from the raw product to ensure that there were no preservatives or additives going into the children. She started the evening meal at midday to ensure that it was cooked on time and laid the table for breakfast with the homemade muesli the night before. Nothing would touch her children.

Lazar and Antoinette could never go out because there was no one that was good enough for Antoinette to look after the children and she had no time or energy. The time had come, Lazar had felt, when Julie was 10 years old, that they should be able to leave the children alone for the evening with a babysitter. It was time, he felt. There had been much discussion, angst even, between the pair leading up to the night.

Don’t be a child, he said, Julie would be able to look after younger children if they need it. She has always been good with them.

The night finally here, Antoinette looked at Lazar and she just smiled.


I lie there unable to move. My hands are frozen together, clasping each other. My feet are crossed. My neck is cranked to the side and I am staring through these strange sunglasses into the reflection in front of me. I can hear myself think, but only just. The external sounds are overwhelming. The sound of an industrial vacuum and the drill take over my consciousness and I lull myself into the rhythm that they bring. Beyond them I can hear the piped sound of Penguin Cafe gaily singing through the speakers, oblivious to the proceedings.
The murmurings of the people to each other, or was it to me?
"Open wider please, and turn this way a little more."
"Not much longer, now, you're doing really well"
Mutter, mutter, murmur, murmur. I stare blankly at the reflection of in her glasses, hoping to see - or not. That hose is bruising my mouth and hurting my gum. My mouth is so dry now that my lips are going to crack. I just want to drink. My neck and jaw ache now, I want it to stop. She said to put my hand up if it was all too bad. What exactly did she mean by that?
My hands stay frozen. I try to move them. I am not afraid. Swap them around and move my feet.
"Are you OK?"
I look at her. What can I say? I can't speak with a drill and two suction vacuums in my mouth! I am just trying to relax! I can barely move! I feel like my body has slowed to be almost in unconsciousness....
"Time to rinse now..."
Time to awaken

Review of Dissection by Jacinta Halloran

Dissection is Jacinta Halloran's first published novel and was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards in 2007. I found, after a bumpy start, that this novel provided a window into the lonely world of a GP who has a revolving door every 15 minutes. In those short 15 minutes they are expected to analyse, problem solve sometime very complex issues. Jacinta takes the reader through the most difficult and probably most depressing and isolating time for a GP (Anna). The reader is taken into the most introspective thoughts of a very depressed and persecuted woman.

She deals well with the issues of how much is expected of GP's in that tiny time slot in terms of diagnosis and how easy it is for things, especially the rare and more complicated cases to get missed.

I found that the novel began a little tongue tied and I was initally frustrated with the introspection of the perspective, however, as I got over 1/2 way, I understood that some of this introspection and constant self-talk was due to her sense of mental health.

The end was not too neat and quite realistic. Jacinta has done a good job writing about what I expect it probably a pretty delicate subject given that she herself is a GP.
Well paced. 8/10

Words and Pictures - Fragrant

The strong aroma of the sweet perfume wafted through warm three-storey house until it alerted all of the occupants as if it was an early warning signal. A sense of foreboding was felt in the younger children whilst they finished their early dinner. As the hairs on the backs of their necks prickled, their food began to turn to a tasteless lump, churning over and over in their mouths. Their elder sister, Julie, tried to hurry them up with their crumbed lamb cutlets and steamed vegetables. She sang to them hoping to soothe them, like their mother would. Not long now, she thought, until they would be in bed, and then hopefully they would go to sleep. Maybe she would need to sing to them again.
Antoinette stared wistfully at herself in her red lingerie in mirror as she hooked her silver and ruby earrings in. Finally after all of these years she and Lazar were having a night away from her children. A night to feel like a woman again. She generously sprayed the perfume in the air and walked into it so that the perfume would caress her whole body. Her blue silk blouse fell gently on her soft pale skin. It had been so terribly long since she had felt this lush. Antoinette put on the old silver heart locket that had belonged to her mother and hung it around her neck. It fell to rest on her decolletage and nestled into the folds of her soft silk blouse. She pulled on a beautiful full blue and cream print linen skirt. This was the first time that she had worn these clothes and they felt just luxurious on her skin. Antoinette found lifted the new navy Jimmy Choo suede shoes and stroked one of them for a short while. It was the first time for over 10 years that she had bought shoes like this. They were just devine. Antoinette slid her foot into the shoe and then the other. She was transformed into another woman.
The musky fragrance of Lazar heralded his arrival to the bedroom from the ensuite and as he sauntered in she took a good look at him. His face was freshly shaven and he smelt so delicious and he was still a little wet from the shower with just the white towel around his waist. Antoinette felt like she was taken back to being that young woman she was twenty years ago when she first met Lazar. He took her breath away when she saw him like this. She felt an overwhelming sense of powerlessness. His chest was strong and taut with just enough hair and certainly enough muscle. His arms were strong and well shaped. The tan that he got from all of that time running on the bay track in summer was still fresh even now in autumn, and now fresh out of the shower against the crisp whiteness of the towel, he looked so much younger than his years. Antoinette nearly groaned with excitement and anticipation at the night ahead of them.
It seemed so long ago that it had been just the two of them, before they had to share each other with children, before she had to give herself up to the children and have nothing left for Lazar but tiredness. Antoinette remembered the freedom and joy that she felt when she was with him, alone, truly alone. At first with Julie there had been still so much beauty and happiness for both of them. It had seemed like such a calm time in retrospect where there was so much time for each other still. The three of them had so many picnics together, went on walks together and Antoinette and Lazar held hands as they walked. When Julie slept, there was still so much time that Lazar and Antoinette had together to be alone and intimate. Antoinette would sing to Julie because she felt such happiness and she would sing to herself just for joy. Their house was always clean and tidy. Antoinette and Lazar would often have a candle lit dinner for just the two of them and they would also often have good friends around for dinner. Antoinette could remember the laughter and love that was shared between them as they shared their time. Soon, hopefully, She and Lazar would be able to rekindle some of that magic.
This story this week is part of a longer short story that I have written. If you are interested in reading more, let me know.
Thanks Pip for a great theme again this week!

Review of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

I have just finished reading this lovely weighty tome, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize), & whilst I had a little difficulty holding the book some nights due to the weight of it and thickness of it, I absolutely loved it.

It really was a brilliant epic read about a child who started life as a girl named Callie to become the man named Cal. You as the reader are taken through the life of a hermaphrodite who is also a second generation American. The novel very cleverly takes you through the sagas of a clan's desire for survival from Greece during the battles of the Turkish wars, being accepted into America, the Michigan race riots, the desires of the heart, and the changes of technology and society. Through all of this, the abnormal gene is scientifically traced through the generations just waiting to erupt.

The characters are so deeply developed in Middlesex that I felt that I knew Desdemona, the grandmother, Lefty, the grandfather, Cal, the central character, Milton, the father, Theodora, the mother, and Chapter Eleven, Cal's brother so well by the end of the book that I felt sad to leave them.

Eugenides takes the reader through the different eras with such style and grace capturing the elements and issues with such depth that the novel has so much more to it than just a scientific journey of an abnormal gene. He deals with incestuous love without judgment, he also has the constant undercurrent theme of how migrants settle into new countries and the difficulties involved with this, and coming of age is of course at the forefront.

The epic novel is broken into three books with the first taking you back to Greece with Desdemona and Lefty beginning their journey together, and you as the reader are left wondering whether it is by choice or that there are no other options for them. The second book is the journey of Milton and Tessie (Theodora) who are Desdemona and Lefty's child and their cousin Sourmelina (Lina) their cousin's child respectively and how their love for each other is irrepressible. The third book is the journey of Calliope, or Cal, or Callie, who is the child of Milton and Tessie and the torment that she goes through as she reaches, then passes puberty. All three books are in Cal's voice and are intercepted with moments of his life and the struggles that he has with this now.

Eugenides has managed to write something so well that could have either be over clinical, or over emotional, and he has done neither. He has written a brilliant epic novel that raises issues for parents who give birth to hermaphrodites, and a brilliant read for everyone else. Thank you Jeffrey.
My Score 9.5/10

Words and Pictures - Rainy Days

Originally uploaded by chromatophobe

Annabelle sat in the chair looking at the rain through the window. She knew that there would be no going back now. This was the start of the rest of her life. The rain had changed everything. As a shiver ran up her spine, she pulled the rug that her grandmother had crocheted for her a little tighter around her shoulders. Tucking her feet under ample bottom she pulled the rug so that it stretched around her knees. Today was really the first day of the rest of her life. The rain had not fallen for so long she could hardly remember what the sound was when it had started to fall, but then she was taken right back to her childhood. She could remember how every year it rained for months and stopped for months, and then over the years, it gradually slowed until it stopped altogether.

Annabelle knew that she was now going to have to make some big and quick decisions as to what she was going to do to save herself and those around her who were unable to save themselves. She didn't even really know what she was up against, however, she knew that it was going to be a tough battle. She needed to clear her head. Her inclination was to nestle into the comfortable old armchair, pull that rug around her and fall asleep to sound of the rain, however, that could possibly be the most dangerous thing that she could do.

Annabelle looked out the window. In the far distance through the heavy rain she thought she saw some movement. Her heart leapt. Her hands were shaking. What did she need to get organised. She had gone over this so many times in the past decade at the compulsary six monthly Community Safety drills that she had attended. She could hear the sirens ringing in the distance, the same ones that rang during the drill. Annabelle jumped up out of her chair and flew into the laundry, changed into her safety clothes and grabbed the large container of Anti-Worm Mixture that everyone had been supplied with. It was all coming back to her now, as though she was a robot. She took the dispenser out of the container and tipped a cupful of the mixture over the top of herself. She would now hopefully invisible to those worms that were coming. She had to move quickly now. There were the two elderly neighbours that needed to be taken care of and the perimetre of her house that had to be dealt with.

Annabelle went through the motions just as she had always been instructed to do, starting with pouring a track of the Anti-Worm Mixture around her own house. It was no good getting the others if her own house was unprotected. Once her house was safe, she ran as fast as she could. She had pulled a plastic bag over her head so that the mixture didn't wash off while she picked up the neighbours. Annabelle tripped over a big lump on the path that hadn't been there before. Her gloved hands hit the ground as she saved herself. Freak out! That was George from next door. She could see that he already had worms coming out of his ears. They moved quicker than it had ever been explained to them. Annabelle threw up in the bushes. She had to move quickly. Maybe she wouldn't be able to get to Maude in time. She checked herself for worms like they had explained to her. They only went to where there was skin or orifices or open wounds. Her socks were tucked in to her pants, gloves on & sleeves were tucked in, and scarf around her neck so that only left her head. She couldn't see any on her gloves so she brushed her face and head just in case. Then she ran as fast as she could to Maude's place.

Maude opened the door to Annabelle in the most welcoming of ways. She had her container of Anti-Worm Mix ready to go, but was too frail to put it around the perimeter of the house. She really needed Annabelle to help her. When she saw Annabelle, she broke down in tears and fell to the ground. There really was no hope. Annabelle fell on top of her as the worms, that had initially been so tiny on her glove, had now grown so quickly once they had begun to feed in her eyes. They would begin their new life now in these bodies, these human vessels. This was their world now.

Thanks Pip for the theme for this weeks theme of "Rainy Days" for words and pictures! Join in & play along.