Tag Archives: life in general

Holding Pattern – A Short Story

Solkyri are a Sydney-based post-rock band, and their fourth album, Mount Pleasant, is due for release February 7, 2020.

They’ve dropped the cover art and the first track to the album, “Holding Pattern,” and while I was listening I had an idea for a piece of flash fiction.

Using the track title as the inspiration for the story, as well as the liner notes that the record was inspired by the theme of deception, deceit and false facades, this piece came to be.

Having a look at the track listing, I have further ideas for other pieces of flash fiction. Something you could read while listening to the album.

I hope you enjoy the story. Click on the link below (Track 1) to listen while you read

Holding Pattern (Track 1)

She sped along the first-floor landing, her eyes focused on the stairwell at the other end hoping no one was coming up. The rubbery slap of her thongs on the concrete her measure of time. Shorten the stride to take the corner. Grab the handrail for balance. Every step touched. She didn’t see him seated at the bottom. Launched from the third last step and catapulted beyond him onto the grass. Pulled up short, losing her thongs. Turned around, picked them up and walked back to him.

“You made me lose my time,” she said.

“Sorry.”

He was new to the building. They were both twelve.

“Saw you move in. You staying here long?” she asked, sitting beside him on the step of the bottom flight of stairs. She and her mum had been there a while. Seen some residents stay a month. Others for years.

“Dunno. Mum reckons it’ll be short. Til we can find something better.”

“What number are you?”

“2B. Like the pencil.”

“Or Hamlet.”

“I get that a lot.”

She shrugged.

“I’ve seen you walking up and down.”

Another shrug.

“How long does it take?”

“Four minutes and thirty-three seconds,” she said. “When I walk.”

Three storeys. Three circuits. Three orbits of the planets as she described it to him. She directed with her hands the path of her movement: starting at the bottom, along the ground floor, up the first flight of stairs, back along the first landing to the next flight of stairs at the opposite end, up again to the second landing and along to the other end and back down to the start.

He imagined an old-fashioned game of Donkey Kong and looked at each landing as a runway for barrels.

When she ran the circular orbit, she had her rules, and failure to uphold them meant an automatic disqualification and the time was null: each step on the stairs must be touched up and down; if someone exited their door or interrupted the run by coming up the stairs; if you knocked something over. She ran wide at the corners to maintain speed.

“Like a holding pattern for planes. What’s your record?”

“One minute, seventeen seconds. Only once.”

A woman’s voice called his name. He stood and walked up the stairs behind her. She rose from the bottom step and walked away from the building, counting her steps in long strides equal to the number of stairs. Turning back, she saw him crest the horizon of the stairwell and trot along. He waved. She waved back before he was eclipsed by his door.

The rubber of her thongs was worn thin and a stone pushed up into her right foot. She let the pressure build until she could no longer ignore it. Looking out for bindis she sat down and pulled the thong off her foot and dug the random nugget of asphalt from the sole. She flicked it towards the apartment block. Tugged at blades of grass that itched her legs.

From her vantage point she pictured herself walking past each door; that she was the sun passing the planets. Isolated entities existing behind each frame. Each had their own individual orbits within their sphere. Born of collisions and random traditions where the building came to be less of a systematic community and more of an isolated block of cells where individuals charted a pilgrim life of searching for the uncertain for a sedentary (or was it sedimentary? She often confused them.) life of uncertainty.

A uniformed mother walked along the footpath, fishing in her large handbag.

“Hi, Mum.”

“Hi, sweetheart.”

Her mother was a cleaner at a large hotel down the road. She once spoke of the room she had to clean after a person took their own life on the queen-sized bed. And then another person stayed there the next night and didn’t know. Their own block of flats was probably the same. Layers of people; some who left their shoes outside the door in little boxes; some who had a pot plant by the front door; some without door mats; some with fly screens.

The old woman who lived next door once said to her that she lived frugally.

“It means she has little money,” her mother explained.

The girl liked the way frugal sounded in her mouth. It was pleasant. The mouth to taste; to let fill with saliva and dry out when there was nothing. To speak hungry words although they had no taste. To speak words as prayers or wishes or curses.

She found out more words to do with money. She elongated spendthrift and emphasised the “ffft” at the end. P-words. With emphasis. Prodigal was said contemptuously with a Sunday school cadence. Profligate. Pecuniary.

Week in and week out, the money ran in, and the money ran out.

Beer bottles and pizza boxes.

Match boxes and cigarette packets.

Cereal packets and milk bottles.

All running to something. From something. Or someone. Running to stand still. The viciousness of hope was a powerful drug. The vivacity of hopelessness was even stronger.

A week later she was drawing on the footpath using chalk she had taken from her classroom without the teacher knowing. Circles within circles within an elongated ellipsis that stretched as far as her hand could reach.

“It’s just gonna wash away when it rains,” the boy said.

“Then I’ll draw something else.”

She started to fill in sections of the overlapping circles in different colours.

“Mum said we might be here longer than she thought.”

The girl kept filling in circles.

“Can I colour some in, too?” he asked.

She shrugged.

Sharing the coloured sticks they filled in the shapes into a kaleidoscope of muted pastels.

“Can I run with you one day?”

“Only if you can keep up.”

“What if you’re standing still?”

“Then you’ll never be able to catch up.”

 

Listen HERE

Here is the track listing for Mount Pleasant.

  1. Holding Pattern
  2. Potemkin
  3. Pendock and Progress
  4. Meet Me In The Meadow
  5. Shambles
  6. Time Away
  7. Summer Sun
  8. Well, Go Well
  9. Gueules cassees

Three Words for the New Year

In the light of celebrating the changing of the Gregorian calendar into 2018, let’s acknowledge Greg’s dating nomenclature: Happy Greg’s Day!

But, another three words to define this changing of the calendar on the wall, the diary on the desk, the scraps of paper used as notes and the back of my hand useful for the writing of lists, is to refocus the directions, habits and purposes of what you wish to achieve.

These are my three words for 2018: Patience, Fortitude, Tenacity

They are defined by my theological outlook and perspective, and have connections to events and situations that have impacted, are impacting, and will impact me. The changing of a calendar date doesn’t mean that all the craptacular events that happened last year haven’t continued on this year; I still have to deal with them. They impact myself, my family, my creativity. 

To be honest, 2017 was a year of continuation of years of crapness that feels like someone having handed me a never-ending roll of toilet paper. It helps clean up the mess but the mess keeps on coming. I didn’t, and haven’t, dealt with some of it well and the effect compounds into multiple areas but especially my creativity. 

No new stories written. Nothing published. Ideas planted, germinated, rising about the soil and scorched by the sun. It’s been a barren few years in terms of creative output. 

So how do these words help me refocus for the coming year? It’s about forming positive habits and achievable steps, looking at the long term destination rather than short term gains or (potential) rewards. 

Patience – like that of a saint. The ability to weather the storms and circumstances, and to travel when the conditions are good. To me, it’s having a longer perspective, a focus on the horizon and not simply the step immediately in front of me.
It’s a cultivated habit, a fruit of character and personality. To keep doing the work, not seeing the reward, while others around you are blessed and keep on going with nary a care in the world. I will have my reward in this life, or the next. Not to be distracted by the success of others (applaud them, support them, champion them) because they have done the work that is required. 

Fortitude – defined as courage in pain or adversity. Basically, above all, to stand.
So much has sucked away the creative impetus and momentum over the last few years and it has taken up a significant amount of emotional and mental energy. Often it’s painful and demoralising. Especially when it’s not happening to me specifically but to close family members who you take care of. It’s hard to see someone you love in pain and there is not much you can do except hold a space for them, and yourself.
Sometimes I feel like an anchor point for those around me but I’m afraid I’ll lose my grounding. But, digging in and digging deeper. 

Tenacity – keeping on when all you want to do is give up. And I’ve been feeling like giving up a lot lately. Had a rough gig on the weekend; it wasn’t a train wreck in terms of my drumming but for whatever reason it felt awkward and crap and at the end of the gig I wanted to break my drumsticks, sell my gear and quit playing drums. 
But that is one gig. I will have other bad gigs, I am sure. I’ve also had great gigs. Each day is a chance to refocus, start afresh and be thankful for mercy and grace. I’ll be looking at the next gig this weekend not through the lens of the past gig but at the possibility of what awesomeness it could be. Back to the practice pad.

Im summary, three words are meaningless without a plan to make them a habit so I’ll keep making notes, keep reading, keep writing. 

What would your three words for the year be?

New Year, New What Exactly?

It is the year 2017, according to the Gregorian Calendar. It may as well be Year 42AMB (After My Birth). Or Year Zero with the way the leadership of the world is going.

Reflection: 2016 was meant to be the Year of Getting Stuff Done.

Stuff didn’t get done. 

Because reasons.

Some within my control. Others outside my control.

And it was the most frustrating year regarding my creative output. I realised it’s been two years since I’ve written a complete short story. The most output I had was the rough draft of a verse novel (still incomplete) and part of a novella. I had done little pieces of writing but there was a host of reasons that kept me from putting in the work and making it happen. 

It’s not trying to make excuses, although I can do that with the death of two significant people during the year. It’s an acknowledgement of what I did not do. I can use the word ‘failure’ without it becoming a label to wear.
I failed to complete projects.
I failed to write.
I failed to make time to work out what I wanted to do.
I failed to plan.
I failed to pursue my creative desires.

I did do things that kept me thinking about writing and creativity, like my zentangle poetry. More importantly, I gave myself permission to put it aside for the sake of significant priorities. And that’s ok. 

But with the end of the year, taking a break over January, I needed to move beyond the sloth and slump and take on a new perspective. In speaking with some close writing friends, we try and find a single word to help guide and focus our creative work. It took me a few days to sort it out but my key word is “Intentionality.” 

If I am to pursue the creative goals I have set for myself I need to be intentional about the work I have planned and the work I plan to do. Which leads me to how I want to approach the new year.

DO THE WORK.

If I am to be intentional in my creative work, I therefore need to DO THE WORK. That work might involve planning a new short story, creating a new zentangle poem, writing a new piece or editing a current story.

It needs to be planned, deliberate, month-to-month goals and outcomes. One month it might simply be planning and note making for a project. Another month it might be actually writing a short story or pushing towards the completion of the verse novel or novella. At the moment, this month is given over to completing a vignette collection.

It’s a new year and a need for a new perceptive. Therefore, I will be intentional and do the work.

How about you?

Handwritten Pages #5

I grew up in a house with a corrugated iron roof and loved hearing the sound the rain made on it. It’s a familiar sound and a familiar memory and I used it as the basis for an idea developed below.

IMG_20160609_080729

Like the wind picks at the corrugated iron roof, this memory is a scab I have picked at for years and years.
I have scratched and scratched.
Sometimes out of curiosity, out of a need to understand; to comprehend how we failed to relate to one another. Or out of frustration and anger at failed intimacy. 
I retreat into the solitude of the bedroom, into a book and a pen and bury myself beneath headphones where the music thrashes and yells and pummels.
And like the wind, I return to pick at the scab of memory.

Handwritten Pages #4

Sometimes it’s random images that lodge in my head like a splinter. This is one of them. I think there’s more to this story but I’m putting it aside for later to see what grows out of the compost heap.

IMG_20160603_100132

The child stood on the crest of the hill overlooking the city. She turned her eyes upwards to the uniform inky expanse of night sky. It was spotted with dots of white; a scattered litter of light like tissue fragments on a black jumper in the wash.
Turning her gaze downwards the city lights exploded in a galaxy of white, orange, red, blue, green.
She bent down and performed a headstand, inverting the world, and for a brief moment she believed the earthly heavens were brighter than she ever hoped for.

Handwritten Pages #3

This week’s Handwritten Page is inspired by a colleague of mine who wrote down for me a series of events and remembrances of growing up in Queensland, Australia.

I have only taken a snippet of a memory while I work out a larger story from the raw material. On a side notes, people’s stories are fascinating.

IMG_20160527_082843

My sister and I would sit in in the projectionist’s booth at the drive-in, offering gifts of popcorn, hot chips and sips of Coke to the projectionist. Gifts from our mother who ran the tuck shop as we waited for Dad to pick us up after he finished his shift.
We watched visions of life unspool through the reels as the clatter of the projector spoke over the dialogue and music, until frame by frame, it disappeared.
I loved how the end of the film would fthlip fthlip fthlip as the reel ended. A child’s tongue extended, blowing a raspberry. I saw it as a cheeky gesture, a way to express myself no matter how serious or shitty life would become. A chance to blow a raspberry at circumstance while the reel was changed and life moved on.

One Image, Two Conclusions

Last Friday I had a shocker of a day at work; the end of a long and tiring week which meant that I did not shower myself in glorious brilliance. And, as they say, the hits kept on coming.

It was nothing earth-shattering and it didn’t affect me directly but a piece of news that hit me at my weakest in terms of creativity and my own writing progress because over the past few months my writing time has suffered due to work commitments, and the ability to find the mental and emotional energy was sorely lacking. And it manifested itself in frustration and, if I am at all honest, jealousy.

I hit up a creative friend and simply vented in private. In the words of John Farnham, to “take the pressure down.” And it felt better to whinge about my own predicament and celebrate the success of others.

Over Saturday I was playing around with my phone, a new notebook and my fountain pen, to take a photo.

The first result was this:

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 10.03.38 PM

Aside: The fountain pen was a gift from my colleagues for my 40th birthday a couple of years back and the inscription reads, “When your heart speaks, take good notes.”

And every writer knows this feeling. However, in my current feral state of mind about getting stuff done, it was a challenge, an affront, a curse, a mockery.

But, shaking off the negativity, I changed the photo to this:

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 10.03.18 PM

Comparing yourself to others is a sure road to bitter disaster. Pursuit of your own goals and dreams is the correct path.