Twenty Things I Am Prepared To Talk About Other Than What You Want Me To Talk About

LTCLost In Track Changes is an ongoing literary remix experiment featuring Cate Kennedy, Fiona Capp, Krissy Kneen, Ryan O’Neill and Robert Hoge. Starting from a short work of memoir, the authors remix each other’s work in series, with changes tracked between.

Krissy Kneen this week applies the lightest of touches to Ryan O’Neill’s list, gently compressing the piece for its fourth iteration. Use the tabs below to jump between Krissy’s and Ryans’s remixes. Fiona’s original work is hereAlso, if you want to join in on the remixing, check out our companion project; Open Changes, now happening.

Twenty things I am prepared to talk about other than what you want me to talk about:

  1. I was driving to uni with T.S. Eliot, Ted Hughes and W.H. Auden piled onto the passenger seat. There was a tutorial on Auden’s Musée des Beux Arts at ten o’clock, and I wanted to get there early, because I hadn’t read it.

  2. At the end of the street was a main road with no traffic lights. Getting onto the busy thoroughfare, with cars and trucks hurtling down the hill and over the bridge across the freeway, was always difficult.

    It’s important you know exactly what it looked like when it happened, so I’ve drawn a diagram for you:

    x-marks-the-spot

  3. What does X stand for? X marks the spot.

  4. The truck was a bright dirty orange. The cyclist was wearing a green backpack and a yellow helmet. He was young; perhaps eighteen or nineteen. He looked a little like my brother.

  5. My brother lives in New York. He doesn’t ride a bike, but takes the subway everywhere, or walks. Because of this, he often sees celebrities and actors on the streets of Manhattan, and asks to have his photo taken with them. I have pictures of my brother beside Robert DeNiro, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Emilio Estevez, Mickey Rourke. But I don’t have a picture of my brother beside me.

  6. The truck passed me, blocking my view.

  7. Then… X.

  8. On the footpath on my side of the road were two teenage boys. They were crying.

  9. At first the driver of the semi didn’t appear to realise what had happened. A hundred metres up the road he finally stopped. He got out the cab and looked down the road.

  10. Last semester in Film Studies we had looked at the Wilhelm scream. It’s a sound effect of a man yelling as he falls from a cliff, recorded for the 1951 film, Distant Drums. The scream named after Private Wilhelm, the unfortunate character who died from falling. It’s since been used in over two hundred movies, when characters are shot, stabbed, blown up.

    The truck driver sounded a million times worse than that.

  11. I couldn’t go to my tutorial. I turned the car around and drove home. On the way I saw the man from the flat above us driving towards the intersection. I waved at him, shouted for him to turn back. He called out, ‘Hi!’ and walked on, towards the scene of the X.

  12. When I got back to the flat, I didn’t know what to do. I poured a glass of red wine then pushed it away. I stared out the window and watched for the flashing lights. I wanted to tell someone what I’d seen but you weren’t home. So I rang my mother.

  13. My mother is a psychologist. I could feel her nodding at the phone as I spoke, the same way that you are nodding now. All she could do was say how awful it was. She suggested that I get professional help to deal with what I had seen. I was indignant. Why did I need help? I was the lucky bystander. I was still alive. I told her to truck off.

  14. Yes, I said, truck off. And when I hung up I could imagine her standing there, thinking, oh my poor darling, that’s not even a Freudian slip. It’s a Freudian slide.

  15. I saw Barry, the drug dealer from upstairs coming up the front path.

  16. His face was puffy and he was swearing to himself, which was nothing unusual, except I knew what he had seen. I had no desire to talk to him. He went upstairs and I heard muffled, urgent conversation. A few minutes later, he was heading out again with his girlfriend.

    I was still on the footpath out the front of the flats when, some minutes later, their car reappeared having done the block and was about to turn back into the street. I waited for them. But instead of turning right, he headed back to the intersection for a second look.

  17. When I heard the knock I knew who it was. It wasn’t enough he had had three viewings and had shown his girlfriend. Now he wanted to ‘share’ it with me, too. I could imagine him standing in the hallway, shuffling on the spot, his shoulders hunched. I opened the door.

  18. Barry looked at me warily. He really wanted to talk to you, but you weren’t here. Yet he had something important to report and like the Ancient Mariner, he was compelled to speak.

    ‘You should’ve seen what happened up the road.’ He waved his arm in the direction of the intersection.

    ‘I was there,’ I said. ‘When he… When it happened. I saw you take Annie for a look. Why would you take someone else there? To show them?’

    ‘Hey, hey,’ he said. ‘She rides a bike, right? I wanted her to see what can happen.’

  19. Later on, there was a tentative knock at the door. Barry again. He apologised for upsetting me and handed me two Valium tablets in foil. He said they would help me sleep. I told myself he meant well. I muttered ‘thanks’ and quickly closed the door.

  20. When you came home, you saw my face and asked me what had happened. And I said I am not prepared to talk about that. And you said, what are you prepared to talk about? And so I told you.

    And now you are lying beside me in bed, and I still haven’t talked about what you want me to talk about. You are stroking my hair, but I feel nothing. I’ve taken Barry’s pills, but I still can’t sleep. Auden is on the bedside table, and I pick up the book and turn to the poem I was supposed to read for the tutorial.

 

Musée des Beux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along

 

And as I read on to the end, I feel tears filling my eyes, and I start to sob and you are holding me, and I say, ‘This. I’m prepared to talk about this.’

 

if-book thumbnail

 

Twenty-five things I am prepared to talk about other than what you want me to talk about:

  1. It was peak hour, and the afternoon was overcast. There was a breeze coming from the southeast, and the temperature was, according to the newspaper, twenty-two degrees.The UV index was—

    Yes, all that is important, but fine. I’ll go on.

  2. I was driving to uni with T.S. Eliot, Ted Hughes and W.H. Auden piled onto the passenger seat. There was a tutorial on Auden’s Musée des Beux Arts at ten o’clock, and I wanted to get there early, because I hadn’t read it.

  3. At the end of the street was a main road with no traffic lights. Getting onto the busy thoroughfare, with cars and trucks hurtling down the hill and over the bridge across the freeway, was always difficult.

    It’s important you know exactly what it looked like when it happened, so I’ve drawn a diagram for you:

    x-marks-the-spot

  4. What does X stand for? X marks the spot.

  5. The truck was a bright dirty orange, like a soiled sunrise. The cyclist was wearing a green backpack and a yellow helmet. He was young; perhaps eighteen or nineteen. He looked a little like my brother.

  6. My brother lives in New York. He doesn’t ride a bike, but takes the subway everywhere, or walks. Because of this, he often sees celebrities and actors on the streets of Manhattan, and asks to have his photo taken with them. I have pictures of my brother beside Robert DeNiro, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Emilio Estevez, Mickey Rourke. But I don’t have a picture of my brother beside me.

  7. How is this relevant? I told you. The cyclist looked like my brother.

  8. The truck passed me, blocking my view.

  9. And then… X.

  10. On the footpath on my side of the road were two teenage boys. They were crying.

  11. At first the driver of the semi didn’t appear to realise what had happened. A hundred metres up the road he finally stopped. He got out the cab and looked down the road.

  12. Last semester in Film Studies we had looked at the Wilhelm scream. It’s a sound effect of a man yelling as he falls from a cliff, recorded for the 1951 film, Distant Drums. The scream named after Private Wilhelm, the unfortunate character who died from falling. It’s since been used in over two hundred movies, when characters are shot, stabbed, blown up.

    The truck driver sounded a million times worse than that.

  13. I couldn’t go to my tutorial. I turned the car around and drove home. On the way I saw the man from the flat above us driving towards the intersection. I waved at him, shouted for him to turn back. He called out, ‘Hi!’and walked on, towards the scene of the

    He walked on.

  14. When I got back to the flat, I didn’t know what to do. I poured a glass of red wine then shoved it away. I stared out the window and watched for the flashing lights. I wanted to tell someone what I’d seen but you weren’t home. So I rang my mother.

  15. My mother is a psychologist. I could feel her nodding at the phone as I spoke, the same way that you are nodding now. All she could do was say how awful it was. She suggested that I get professional help to deal with what I had seen. I was indignant. Why did I need help? I was the lucky bystander. I was still alive. I told her to truck off.

  16. Yes, I said, truck off. And when I hung up I could imagine her standing there, thinking, oh my poor darling, that’s not even a Freudian slip. It’s a Freudian slide.

  17. I saw Barry, the drug dealer from upstairs coming up the front path.

  18. His face was puffy and he was swearing to himself, which was nothing unusual, except I knew what he had seen. I had no desire to talk to him. He went upstairs and I heard muffled, urgent conversation. A few minutes later, he was heading out again with his girlfriend.

  19. What kind of a name is Barry for a drug dealer, anyway?

  20. Car doors slammed and an engine started. I raced outside to see them disappearing toward the intersection. I shouted after them but they didn’t hear me. I was still on the footpath out the front of the flats when, some minutes later, their car reappeared having done the block and was about to turn back into the street. I waited for them. But instead of turning right, he headed back to the intersection for a second look.

  21. When I heard the knock I knew who it was. It wasn’t enough he had had three viewings and had shown his girlfriend. Now he wanted to ‘share’ it with us, too. I could imagine him standing in the hallway, shuffling on the spot, his shoulders hunched. I opened the door.

  22. Barry looked at me warily. He really wanted to talk to you, but you weren’t here. Yet he had something important to report and like the Ancient Mariner, he was compelled to speak.

    ‘You should’ve seen what happened up the road.’ He waved his arm in the direction of the intersection.

    ‘Fucking vulture. I was there,’ I said. ‘When he… When it happened. I saw you take Annie for a look. Why would you take someone else there? To show them?’

    ‘Hey, hey,’ he said. ‘She rides a bike, right? I wanted her to see what can happen.’

  23. He said Annie was often reckless. It wasn’t enough to tell her about it. He wanted to show her something she wouldn’t forget.

    Well, he succeeded.

  24. Later on, there was a tentative knock at the door. Barry again. He apologised for upsetting me and handed me two Valium tablets in foil. He said they would help me sleep. I told myself he meant well. I muttered ‘thanks’ and quickly closed the door.

  25. When you came home, you saw my face and asked me what had happened. And I said I am not prepared to talk about that. And you said, what are you prepared to talk about? And so I told you.

 

And now you are lying beside me in bed, and I still haven’t talked about what you want me to talk about. You are stroking my hair, but I feel nothing. I’ve taken Barry’s pills, but I still can’t sleep. Auden is on the bedside table, and I pick up the book and turn to the poem I was supposed to read for the tutorial.

 

Musée des Beux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along

 

And as I read on to the end, I feel tears filling my eyes, and I start to sob and you are holding me, and I say, ‘This. I’m prepared to talk about this.’

 

if-book thumbnail

 

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Ooh, I Don’t Know About This…

ifbook podcastOur guest for the August podcast is the inimitable Ryan O’Neill on what it was like to be Lost in Track Changes, the criticism inherent in remixing, and a suggestion for a new marketing angle for continued cancer research: saving lives and broadening Australian short fiction.

Our thanks to guest artist Musique De La Garde Républicaine de Paris who come to us all the way from 1898 with a beautifully preserved cylinder recording of En Pologne.

Stuff we talk about:

If you haven’t been reading The Drover’s Wives, then get cracking and keep following the updates. It’s essential.

Play

Podcast Feed // iTunes

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Twenty-Five Things I Am Prepared To Talk About Other Than What You Want Me To Talk About

LTCLost In Track Changes is an ongoing literary remix experiment featuring Cate Kennedy, Fiona Capp, Krissy Kneen, Ryan O’Neill and Robert Hoge. Starting from a short work of memoir, the authors remix each other’s work in series, with changes tracked between.

This week, Ryan O’Neill takes Fiona Capp’s The Accident to its third iteration via Robert Hoge. Use the tabs below to jump between Ryan’s and Robert’s remixes. Fiona’s original work is hereAlso, if you want to join in on the remixing, check out our companion project; Open Changes, now happening.

Twenty-five things I am prepared to talk about other than what you want me to talk about:

  1. It was peak hour, and the afternoon was overcast. There was a breeze coming from the southeast, and the temperature was, according to the newspaper, twenty-two degrees.The UV index was—

    Yes, all that is important, but fine. I’ll go on.

  2. I was driving to uni with T.S. Eliot, Ted Hughes and W.H. Auden piled onto the passenger seat. There was a tutorial on Auden’s Musée des Beux Arts at ten o’clock, and I wanted to get there early, because I hadn’t read it.

  3. At the end of the street was a main road with no traffic lights. Getting onto the busy thoroughfare, with cars and trucks hurtling down the hill and over the bridge across the freeway, was always difficult.

    It’s important you know exactly what it looked like when it happened, so I’ve drawn a diagram for you:

    x-marks-the-spot

  4. What does X stand for? X marks the spot.

  5. The truck was a bright dirty orange, like a soiled sunrise. The cyclist was wearing a green backpack and a yellow helmet. He was young; perhaps eighteen or nineteen. He looked a little like my brother.

  6. My brother lives in New York. He doesn’t ride a bike, but takes the subway everywhere, or walks. Because of this, he often sees celebrities and actors on the streets of Manhattan, and asks to have his photo taken with them. I have pictures of my brother beside Robert DeNiro, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Emilio Estevez, Mickey Rourke. But I don’t have a picture of my brother beside me.

  7. How is this relevant? I told you. The cyclist looked like my brother.

  8. The truck passed me, blocking my view.

  9. And then… X.

  10. On the footpath on my side of the road were two teenage boys. They were crying.

  11. At first the driver of the semi didn’t appear to realise what had happened. A hundred metres up the road he finally stopped. He got out the cab and looked down the road.

  12. Last semester in Film Studies we had looked at the Wilhelm scream. It’s a sound effect of a man yelling as he falls from a cliff, recorded for the 1951 film, Distant Drums. The scream named after Private Wilhelm, the unfortunate character who died from falling. It’s since been used in over two hundred movies, when characters are shot, stabbed, blown up.

    The truck driver sounded a million times worse than that.

  13. I couldn’t go to my tutorial. I turned the car around and drove home. On the way I saw the man from the flat above us driving towards the intersection. I waved at him, shouted for him to turn back. He called out, ‘Hi!’and walked on, towards the scene of the

    He walked on.

  14. When I got back to the flat, I didn’t know what to do. I poured a glass of red wine then shoved it away. I stared out the window and watched for the flashing lights. I wanted to tell someone what I’d seen but you weren’t home. So I rang my mother.

  15. My mother is a psychologist. I could feel her nodding at the phone as I spoke, the same way that you are nodding now. All she could do was say how awful it was. She suggested that I get professional help to deal with what I had seen. I was indignant. Why did I need help? I was the lucky bystander. I was still alive. I told her to truck off.

  16. Yes, I said, truck off. And when I hung up I could imagine her standing there, thinking, oh my poor darling, that’s not even a Freudian slip. It’s a Freudian slide.

  17. I saw Barry, the drug dealer from upstairs coming up the front path.

  18. His face was puffy and he was swearing to himself, which was nothing unusual, except I knew what he had seen. I had no desire to talk to him. He went upstairs and I heard muffled, urgent conversation. A few minutes later, he was heading out again with his girlfriend.

  19. What kind of a name is Barry for a drug dealer, anyway?

  20. Car doors slammed and an engine started. I raced outside to see them disappearing toward the intersection. I shouted after them but they didn’t hear me. I was still on the footpath out the front of the flats when, some minutes later, their car reappeared having done the block and was about to turn back into the street. I waited for them. But instead of turning right, he headed back to the intersection for a second look.

  21. When I heard the knock I knew who it was. It wasn’t enough he had had three viewings and had shown his girlfriend. Now he wanted to ‘share’ it with us, too. I could imagine him standing in the hallway, shuffling on the spot, his shoulders hunched. I opened the door.

  22. Barry looked at me warily. He really wanted to talk to you, but you weren’t here. Yet he had something important to report and like the Ancient Mariner, he was compelled to speak.

    ‘You should’ve seen what happened up the road.’ He waved his arm in the direction of the intersection.

    ‘Fucking vulture. I was there,’ I said. ‘When he… When it happened. I saw you take Annie for a look. Why would you take someone else there? To show them?’

    ‘Hey, hey,’ he said. ‘She rides a bike, right? I wanted her to see what can happen.’

  23. He said Annie was often reckless. It wasn’t enough to tell her about it. He wanted to show her something she wouldn’t forget.

    Well, he succeeded.

  24. Later on, there was a tentative knock at the door. Barry again. He apologised for upsetting me and handed me two Valium tablets in foil. He said they would help me sleep. I told myself he meant well. I muttered ‘thanks’ and quickly closed the door.

  25. When you came home, you saw my face and asked me what had happened. And I said I am not prepared to talk about that. And you said, what are you prepared to talk about? And so I told you.

 

And now you are lying beside me in bed, and I still haven’t talked about what you want me to talk about. You are stroking my hair, but I feel nothing. I’ve taken Barry’s pills, but I still can’t sleep. Auden is on the bedside table, and I pick up the book and turn to the poem I was supposed to read for the tutorial.

 

Musée des Beux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along

 

And as I read on to the end, I feel tears filling my eyes, and I start to sob and you are holding me, and I say, ‘This. I’m prepared to talk about this.’

 

if-book thumbnail

 

.

It didn’t happen. I wasn’t there. I can change the events – unfold their unfolding. The cyclist takes another route; the truck comes down the hill long before the bike. The road is wider. Or, or, or. Three wishes. That’s all I need. Three wishes that I may never be granted. But if not me, I like to think that someone else will.

 

Peak hour. An overcast afternoon. I was on my way to a tutorial, thinking about the preparation I should have done but hadn’t. At the end of my street was a main road with no traffic lights. Getting onto the busy thoroughfare, with cars and trucks hurtling down the hill and over the bridge across the freeway, was always difficult. Watching it flash by, I noticed a cyclist cruising down the far, outside lane. He was wearing a backpack. A semi-trailer passed, blocking my view. Then I saw a grey bundle caught up in the big wheels of the semi. It looked like a sack of potatoes – rolling between the wheels.

On the footpath on my side of the road were two teenage boys. They were crying because they could not believe their eyes. They were crying out of shock, out of horror. At first the driver of the semi didn’t appear to realise what had happened. A hundred metres up the road he finally stopped. Scattered behind his vehicle was a trail of what looked like intestines. Then, part of a body without a head. Next a patch of skin.

There was a whispering coming from inside the bubble of my car: ‘No, no, no.’ Then I became aware that the whispering was coming from me. What I was most aware of though, was the fraudulence of suburbia, its illusion of safety and security. I could not go to my tutorial.

I turned the car around and drove home. On the way I saw the man from the flat above me driving towards the intersection. I wanted to tell him to go back; to save himself but mostly to save me. A horror witnessed by someone you know is not to be denied.

When I got back to the flat, I didn’t know what to do. I poured a glass of red wine then shoved it away. I sat in the big armchair – the one that felt like it was giving me a hug but it felt like I was being smothered. I walked around the lounge room. I stared out the window but the flashing lights

I needed to tell someone what I’d witnessed but my partner wasn’t home. The urge was so strong I rang my parents. As I spoke, I still hoped that I might have got it wrong. People get ‘run over’ or ‘hit by a car’. No one told me that they get disembowelled or ripped apart. Perhaps I led too sheltered a life. I was still in my twenties and I wanted my parents to tell me that these things can’t happen, that the universe forbids it. Don’t happen. All they could do was say was how awful it was. My mother, a psychologist, suggested that I get professional help to deal with the shock of what I had seen. I was indignant. Why did I need help? I was the lucky bystander. I was still alive. It was the cyclist’s parents or wife or children who would need help.

I hung up and saw Barry, the drug dealer from upstairs coming up the front path. His face was puffy and he was swearing to himself, which was nothing unusual, except I knew what he had seen. I had no desire to talk to him. He went upstairs and I heard muffled, urgent conversation. A few minutes later, he was heading out again with his girlfriend.

Car doors slammed and an engine started. I raced outside to see them disappearing toward the intersection. Anger washed over my shock. I shouted after them but only my ears heard. I was still on the footpath out the front of the flats when, some minutes later, their car reappeared having done the block and was about to turn back into the street. I waited, ready to give Barry a piece of my mind. But instead of turning right, he headed back to the intersection for a second look.

When I heard the knock I knew who it was. It wasn’t enough he had had three viewings and had shown his girlfriend the remains. Now he wanted to ‘share’ it with us, too. I could imagine him standing in the hallway, shuffling on the spot, his shoulders hunched. I opened the door.

Barry looked at me warily. He really wanted to speak to my partner. I told him my partner wasn’t home but that didn’t stop him. He had something important to report and like the Ancient Mariner, he was compelled to speak. And to me it was.

‘You should’ve seen what happened up the road.’ He waved his arm in the direction of the intersection. ‘Gruesome –’

Normally I listened to his rambles, half annoyed, half intrigued by the unexpected things he came out with. This time, I didn’t let him finish.

‘Fucking vulture.’

‘I was there,’ I said. ‘When he… When it happened. I saw you take Annie for a look. Why would you take someone else there? To show them?’

‘Hey, hey,’ he began in his cool-it voice. ‘She rides a bike, right? I wanted her to see what can happen.’

He said Annie was often reckless. It wasn’t enough to tell her about it. He wanted to show her something she wouldn’t forget. Annie was crazier than he was, so I could believe she would be reckless on her bike. But she wasn’t thick. The reported details should be terrible enough to scare anyone.

Later that evening, there was a tentative knock at the door. Barry again. He apologised for upsetting me and handed me two Valium tablets in foil. He said they would help me sleep.

Dumbfounded, I took them from him. I told myself he meant well. A drug-dealer with drugs for every occasion. I muttered ‘thanks’ and quickly closed the door. I looked down at the tablets in my palm.

I wished to sleep.

And this one was granted.

But not without dreams. Of wheels and skin. And the punctuated pieces of a person, spread across bitumen.

 

if-book thumbnail

 

0

Crash

LTCLost In Track Changes is an ongoing literary remix experiment featuring Cate Kennedy, Fiona Capp, Krissy Kneen, Ryan O’Neill and Robert Hoge. Starting from a short work of memoir, the authors remix each other’s work in series, with changes tracked between.

Last week we rebooted Lost in Track Changes with a new original work from Fiona Capp. The first remix of the piece comes from Robert Hoge. Use the tabs below to jump between Robert’s remix, Fiona’s original and the tracked changes between. Also, if you want to join in on the remixing, check out our companion project; Open Changes, now happening.

.

It didn’t happen. I wasn’t there. I can change the events – unfold their unfolding. The cyclist takes another route; the truck comes down the hill long before the bike. The road is wider. Or, or, or. Three wishes. That’s all I need. Three wishes that I may never be granted. But if not me, I like to think that someone else will.

 

Peak hour. An overcast afternoon. I was on my way to a tutorial, thinking about the preparation I should have done but hadn’t. At the end of my street was a main road with no traffic lights. Getting onto the busy thoroughfare, with cars and trucks hurtling down the hill and over the bridge across the freeway, was always difficult. Watching it flash by, I noticed a cyclist cruising down the far, outside lane. He was wearing a backpack. A semi-trailer passed, blocking my view. Then I saw a grey bundle caught up in the big wheels of the semi. It looked like a sack of potatoes – rolling between the wheels.

On the footpath on my side of the road were two teenage boys. They were crying because they could not believe their eyes. They were crying out of shock, out of horror. At first the driver of the semi didn’t appear to realise what had happened. A hundred metres up the road he finally stopped. Scattered behind his vehicle was a trail of what looked like intestines. Then, part of a body without a head. Next a patch of skin.

There was a whispering coming from inside the bubble of my car: ‘No, no, no.’ Then I became aware that the whispering was coming from me. What I was most aware of though, was the fraudulence of suburbia, its illusion of safety and security. I could not go to my tutorial.

I turned the car around and drove home. On the way I saw the man from the flat above me driving towards the intersection. I wanted to tell him to go back; to save himself but mostly to save me. A horror witnessed by someone you know is not to be denied.

When I got back to the flat, I didn’t know what to do. I poured a glass of red wine then shoved it away. I sat in the big armchair – the one that felt like it was giving me a hug but it felt like I was being smothered. I walked around the lounge room. I stared out the window but the flashing lights

I needed to tell someone what I’d witnessed but my partner wasn’t home. The urge was so strong I rang my parents. As I spoke, I still hoped that I might have got it wrong. People get ‘run over’ or ‘hit by a car’. No one told me that they get disembowelled or ripped apart. Perhaps I led too sheltered a life. I was still in my twenties and I wanted my parents to tell me that these things can’t happen, that the universe forbids it. Don’t happen. All they could do was say was how awful it was. My mother, a psychologist, suggested that I get professional help to deal with the shock of what I had seen. I was indignant. Why did I need help? I was the lucky bystander. I was still alive. It was the cyclist’s parents or wife or children who would need help.

I hung up and saw Barry, the drug dealer from upstairs coming up the front path. His face was puffy and he was swearing to himself, which was nothing unusual, except I knew what he had seen. I had no desire to talk to him. He went upstairs and I heard muffled, urgent conversation. A few minutes later, he was heading out again with his girlfriend.

Car doors slammed and an engine started. I raced outside to see them disappearing toward the intersection. Anger washed over my shock. I shouted after them but only my ears heard. I was still on the footpath out the front of the flats when, some minutes later, their car reappeared having done the block and was about to turn back into the street. I waited, ready to give Barry a piece of my mind. But instead of turning right, he headed back to the intersection for a second look.

When I heard the knock I knew who it was. It wasn’t enough he had had three viewings and had shown his girlfriend the remains. Now he wanted to ‘share’ it with us, too. I could imagine him standing in the hallway, shuffling on the spot, his shoulders hunched. I opened the door.

Barry looked at me warily. He really wanted to speak to my partner. I told him my partner wasn’t home but that didn’t stop him. He had something important to report and like the Ancient Mariner, he was compelled to speak. And to me it was.

‘You should’ve seen what happened up the road.’ He waved his arm in the direction of the intersection. ‘Gruesome –’

Normally I listened to his rambles, half annoyed, half intrigued by the unexpected things he came out with. This time, I didn’t let him finish.

‘Fucking vulture.’

‘I was there,’ I said. ‘When he… When it happened. I saw you take Annie for a look. Why would you take someone else there? To show them?’

‘Hey, hey,’ he began in his cool-it voice. ‘She rides a bike, right? I wanted her to see what can happen.’

He said Annie was often reckless. It wasn’t enough to tell her about it. He wanted to show her something she wouldn’t forget. Annie was crazier than he was, so I could believe she would be reckless on her bike. But she wasn’t thick. The reported details should be terrible enough to scare anyone.

Later that evening, there was a tentative knock at the door. Barry again. He apologised for upsetting me and handed me two Valium tablets in foil. He said they would help me sleep.

Dumbfounded, I took them from him. I told myself he meant well. A drug-dealer with drugs for every occasion. I muttered ‘thanks’ and quickly closed the door. I looked down at the tablets in my palm.

I wished to sleep.

And this one was granted.

But not without dreams. Of wheels and skin. And the punctuated pieces of a person, spread across bitumen.

 

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I wish I could say that it didn’t happen. I wish I could say that I wasn’t there. Above all, I wish I could change the way events unfolded so that the cyclist took another route or that the truck came down the hill long before the cyclist, or that the road had been wider. Or, or, or. Three wishes that I will never be granted. But I like to think that someone else will.

It was approaching peak hour on an overcast afternoon. I was on my way to a tutorial, thinking about the preparation I should have done. At the end of my street was a main road with no traffic lights. Getting out into the busy thoroughfare, with cars and trucks hurtling down the hill and over the bridge across the freeway, was always difficult. Watching it all flash by, I noticed a cyclist cruising down the far, outside lane. He was wearing a back pack. A semi-trailer passed him, blocking my view. Then I saw a grey bundle caught up in the big wheels of the semi. It looked like a kind of sack.

On the footpath on my side of the road were two teenage boys. They were laughing because they could not believe their eyes. They were laughing out of horror. At first the driver of the semi didn’t appear to realise what had happened. A hundred metres up the road he finally stopped. Scattered behind his vehicle was a trail of what looked like intestines. Then I saw part of a body without a head. Inside the bubble of my car I was whispering, ‘No! No!’ What I was most aware of was the fraudulence of suburbia, its illusion of safety and security. I could not go to my tutorial. I turned the car around and drove back home. On the way I saw the man from the flat above me driving towards the intersection. I wanted to tell him to go back but didn’t know how.

When I got back to the flat, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I sat in the big armchair. I walked around the lounge room. I stared out the window. I needed to tell someone what I had witnessed but my partner wasn’t home. The urge was so strong I rang my parents. As I spoke, I still hoped that I might have got it wrong. People get ‘run over’ or ‘hit by a car’. No one told me that they get disembowelled or ripped apart. Perhaps I had led too sheltered a life. I was still in my twenties and I wanted my parents to tell me these things can’t happen. Don’t happen. All they could do was say was how awful it was. My mother, who is a psychologist, suggested that I get professional help to deal with the shock of what I had seen. I was indignant. Why did I need help? I was the lucky bystander. I was still alive. It was the cyclist’s parents or wife or children who would need help. Not me.

As I hung the phone up I saw Barry, the drug dealer from upstairs coming up the front path. His face was puffy and he was swearing to himself, which was nothing unusual, except that I knew what he had seen. I had no desire to talk to him. He went upstairs and I heard muffled, urgent conversation. A few minutes later, he was heading out again with his girlfriend.

Car doors slammed and an engine started up. I raced outside to see them disappearing up the street toward the intersection where it happened. Shock gave way to anger. I shouted after them but they couldn’t hear me. I was still on the footpath out the front of the flats when, some minutes later, their car reappeared having done the block and was about to turn back into the street. I waited, ready to give Barry a piece of my mind. But instead of turning right, he turned left and headed back to the intersection for a second look.

When I heard the knock on the door I knew who it was. It wasn’t enough that he had had three viewings himself and had shown his girlfriend the remains. Now he wanted to ‘share’ it with us, too. I could imagine him standing in the hallway, shuffling on the spot, his shoulders hunched. I opened the door.

Barry looked at me warily. He really wanted to speak to my partner. I told him my partner wasn’t home but that didn’t stop him. He had something to report and like the Ancient Mariner, he was compelled to speak.

‘You should’ve seen what happened up there.’ He waved his arm in the direction of the intersection. ‘This horrible accident –’

Normally I listened to his rambles, half annoyed, half intrigued by the unexpected things he came out with. But this time, I didn’t let him finish.

‘You fucking vulture.’

I told him I was there when it happened and that I saw him take Annie for a look. I told him that no one in their right mind would show someone else.

‘Hey, hey,’ he began in his cool-it voice. ‘She rides a bike, right? I wanted her to see what can happen.’ He said that Annie was often reckless. It wasn’t enough to tell her about it. He wanted to show her something she wouldn’t forget. Annie was crazier than he was, so I could believe she would be reckless on her bike. But she wasn’t thick. The reported details were terrible enough to scare anyone.

Later on that evening, there was a tentative knock at the door. It was Barry again. He apologised for upsetting me and handed me two valium tablets in a foil wrapper. He said they would help me sleep.

Dumbfounded, I took them from him. I told myself he meant well. A drug-dealer with drugs for every occasion. I muttered ‘thanks’ and quickly closed the door. I looked down at the tablets in my palm.

Maybe I did need help.

 

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Being Digital Writer in Residence

the noobz

Bonus n00b, Jennifer Mills adds a final adventure just in time for tonight’s Sydney launch of The N00bz: New Adventures in Literature, at Better Read Than Dead in Newtown. The brand new second edition of the book containing both Jennifer’s chapter and our crowd-sourced twitter-submitted blog post chapter is now available from Editia.

When Sarah Tooth from the South Australian Writers’ Centre approached me about being a “digital writer in residence”, I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. Over coffee, she explained her plan to have one writer from each of the six writers’ centres (those loosely connected by Writing Australia, for funding reasons) become a writer in residence online. The role was going to be three pronged: educational, experimental and community-building. I’d share tips on my writing process, try new things and build connections with regional writers in SA and beyond. There’d be a blog and maybe some social media presence and perhaps we could try to do something live. Although I had no idea what any of this was going to look like, I said yes. Correction: I said yes because I had no idea what any of this was going to look like.

Sarah caught me at a good time, because I’d just finished a novel. Writing books wrings out the imagination, and between them I need to do something that isn’t so draining but still releases excess creative energy. After my first book I built a dining table and a biscuit tin banjo. My second sent me on a complicated cross-platform residency. I am often seized with an urgent need to uproot myself, as if everything I’ve previously done and known has become suddenly irrelevant. It’s not the most convenient part of my character.

I’ve learned to mitigate the upheaval by incorporating a degree of experimentation in the work itself. I love short stories for the opportunity they provide to try new forms, structures and voices. In some ways, social media has many of those same attractions.

Our first move was to start a new twitter handle, @digitalwir. Although I’d been blogging since 2004, my social media uptake was relatively slow. I’ve never been on Facebook; I joined Twitter in late 2010 after a stint in Beijing convinced me of the political usefulness of microblogging platforms for sabotaging spin and “message”. I was quickly addicted to the neat, collaborative literary form and the community of writers that came with it – the people I’ve come to think of as water-cooler comrades.

Although I’ve started other accounts in the past (some have snagged and gone under in the rushing tweetstream; others, like @paythewriters, have found longevity in collectivisation), beginning again as @digitalwir felt like finding a whole new voice. The project demanded I pay fresh attention to the process of living online, and I wanted to tread carefully and find my way. Not to repeat what I do at @millsjenjen, but to really see it from the outset as a new perspective.

When I start a new story I usually don’t know how it’s going to end, or even what it’s about. I have vague ideas, images, shadows of feelings and characters. It always feels like walking into the dark. On the other hand, my non-fiction writing tends to be planned over time, collecting bits and pieces of data which are chewed over, given a shape through long attention. Twitter requires the shortest attention span of all the literary forms I use, and for that reason I find it already has an experimental quality. Twitter writers tend to be pro-trying new things. I thought it would be the best place to focus my energy in a daily sense. For everything else, we had a blog: writersinresidence.wordpress.com.

As the first of the six residents, I was charged with figuring out what shape the project would take for myself. In terms of content, I ended up releasing four formal fiction experiments, and accidentally finding a fifth, non-fiction form. Briefly, I’ll describe the four formal fiction pieces that I made, and why I chose those forms. Continue Reading →

1

The Accident

LTCLost In Track Changes is an ongoing literary remix experiment featuring Cate Kennedy, Fiona Capp, Krissy Kneen, Ryan O’Neill and Robert Hoge. Starting from a short work of memoir, the authors remix each other’s work in series, with changes tracked between.

Last week saw Cate Kennedy’s ‘In Front of Kmart’ deconstructed in its fifth and final remix. This week, we reset the remix machine with Fiona Capp’s original memoir ‘The Accident’. Also, if you want to join in on the remixing, check out our companion project; Open Changes, now happening.

I wish I could say that it didn’t happen. I wish I could say that I wasn’t there. Above all, I wish I could change the way events unfolded so that the cyclist took another route or that the truck came down the hill long before the cyclist, or that the road had been wider. Or, or, or. Three wishes that I will never be granted. But I like to think that someone else will.

It was approaching peak hour on an overcast afternoon. I was on my way to a tutorial, thinking about the preparation I should have done. At the end of my street was a main road with no traffic lights. Getting out into the busy thoroughfare, with cars and trucks hurtling down the hill and over the bridge across the freeway, was always difficult. Watching it all flash by, I noticed a cyclist cruising down the far, outside lane. He was wearing a back pack. A semi-trailer passed him, blocking my view. Then I saw a grey bundle caught up in the big wheels of the semi. It looked like a kind of sack.

On the footpath on my side of the road were two teenage boys. They were laughing because they could not believe their eyes. They were laughing out of horror. At first the driver of the semi didn’t appear to realise what had happened. A hundred metres up the road he finally stopped. Scattered behind his vehicle was a trail of what looked like intestines. Then I saw part of a body without a head. Inside the bubble of my car I was whispering, ‘No! No!’ What I was most aware of was the fraudulence of suburbia, its illusion of safety and security. I could not go to my tutorial. I turned the car around and drove back home. On the way I saw the man from the flat above me driving towards the intersection. I wanted to tell him to go back but didn’t know how.

When I got back to the flat, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I sat in the big armchair. I walked around the lounge room. I stared out the window. I needed to tell someone what I had witnessed but my partner wasn’t home. The urge was so strong I rang my parents. As I spoke, I still hoped that I might have got it wrong. People get ‘run over’ or ‘hit by a car’. No one told me that they get disembowelled or ripped apart. Perhaps I had led too sheltered a life. I was still in my twenties and I wanted my parents to tell me these things can’t happen. Don’t happen. All they could do was say was how awful it was. My mother, who is a psychologist, suggested that I get professional help to deal with the shock of what I had seen. I was indignant. Why did I need help? I was the lucky bystander. I was still alive. It was the cyclist’s parents or wife or children who would need help. Not me.

As I hung the phone up I saw Barry, the drug dealer from upstairs coming up the front path. His face was puffy and he was swearing to himself, which was nothing unusual, except that I knew what he had seen. I had no desire to talk to him. He went upstairs and I heard muffled, urgent conversation. A few minutes later, he was heading out again with his girlfriend.

Car doors slammed and an engine started up. I raced outside to see them disappearing up the street toward the intersection where it happened. Shock gave way to anger. I shouted after them but they couldn’t hear me. I was still on the footpath out the front of the flats when, some minutes later, their car reappeared having done the block and was about to turn back into the street. I waited, ready to give Barry a piece of my mind. But instead of turning right, he turned left and headed back to the intersection for a second look.

When I heard the knock on the door I knew who it was. It wasn’t enough that he had had three viewings himself and had shown his girlfriend the remains. Now he wanted to ‘share’ it with us, too. I could imagine him standing in the hallway, shuffling on the spot, his shoulders hunched. I opened the door.

Barry looked at me warily. He really wanted to speak to my partner. I told him my partner wasn’t home but that didn’t stop him. He had something to report and like the Ancient Mariner, he was compelled to speak.

‘You should’ve seen what happened up there.’ He waved his arm in the direction of the intersection. ‘This horrible accident –’

Normally I listened to his rambles, half annoyed, half intrigued by the unexpected things he came out with. But this time, I didn’t let him finish.

‘You fucking vulture.’

I told him I was there when it happened and that I saw him take Annie for a look. I told him that no one in their right mind would show someone else.

‘Hey, hey,’ he began in his cool-it voice. ‘She rides a bike, right? I wanted her to see what can happen.’ He said that Annie was often reckless. It wasn’t enough to tell her about it. He wanted to show her something she wouldn’t forget. Annie was crazier than he was, so I could believe she would be reckless on her bike. But she wasn’t thick. The reported details were terrible enough to scare anyone.

Later on that evening, there was a tentative knock at the door. It was Barry again. He apologised for upsetting me and handed me two valium tablets in a foil wrapper. He said they would help me sleep.

Dumbfounded, I took them from him. I told myself he meant well. A drug-dealer with drugs for every occasion. I muttered ‘thanks’ and quickly closed the door. I looked down at the tablets in my palm.

Maybe I did need help.

 

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1

Welcome to AusStories v2.6

LTCLost In Track Changes is an ongoing literary remix experiment featuring Cate Kennedy, Fiona Capp, Krissy Kneen, Ryan O’Neill and Robert Hoge. Starting from a short work of memoir, the authors remix each other’s work in series, with changes tracked between.

The story continues with this remix by Ryan O’Neill via Fiona Capp via Robert Hoge via Krissy Kneen. Use the tabs to flick between the most recent versions of the story and backtrack to version one (by Cate Kennedy) via this link. Also, if you want to join in on the remixing, check out our companion project; Open Changes, now happening.

Congratulations on purchasing AusStories v2.6!

In just a few moments, you’ll be writing your very own Australian masterpiece with the help of the AusStories database, which contains over nine hundred million possible novels, short stories, essays and poems.

Before we start, please take some time to setup the program for optimal experience.

Setup

Do you want to upgrade to AusStories v2.6BasicWinton for just $4.99?

Features include:

  • 750,000 + ways to describe the surf.
  • Over 500 damaged male characters to choose from.
  • A magical realism patch.
  • Guaranteed shortlisting for the Miles Franklin Award.

Do you want to upgrade to AusStories v2.6PremiumWhite for just $9.99?

Features include:

  • Exclusive Greek and European settings, as well as detailed, lyrical descriptions of the bush and the town of ‘Sarsaparilla.’
  • High Modernism find and replace function (All two-syllable words are substituted for four-syllable synonyms).
  • Dun-coloured journalistic realism detector.

Do you want to upgrade to AusStories v2.6SuperpremiumMurnane for just $149.99?

Features include:

  • One handed typing option.
  • Automatic removal of any distinguishing traits from characters.
  • Plot minimiser.
  • Journal to record bowel movements in exhaustive detail.

You have not chosen to upgrade AusStoriesv2.6 at this time.

Thank you for completing setup.

 

AusStories v2.6: Let’s Get Writing!

What form would you like to write in?

  • Essay
  • Poetry
  • Novella
  • Short Story 
  • Novel

You have chosen: short story.

 

What genre would you like your short story to be?

  • Horror
  • Fantasy
  • Metafiction
  • Legend
  • Tall Tale
  • Yarn
  • Humorous
  • Mystery
  • Satire
  • Apocalyptic
  • Campus
  • Experimental
  • Steampunk
  • Thriller
  • Literary realism (default)  
  • Crime
  • Science-fiction
  • Gothic
  • Erotic Western
  • Weird
  • War
  • Adventure
  • Ghost

 

 1 2 3………………………..25

 

You have chosen literary realism (default).

AusStories V2.6 offers over 300 different genres to work in. Are you sure?

Y

You have chosen literary realism (default).

 

Choose a setting.

  • Bush
  • Beach
  • City  

You have chosen ‘city.’

 

Please select from the following sub-menu. More than one option can be chosen.

  • Police station
  • Hospital
  • Kitchen
  • Dentist
  • Office
  • Kmart 
  • Factory
  • School
  • Park

You have chosen ‘Kmart.’

Input a time for the story to take place.

Time determines some of the default themes of the story e.g. Easter = death and rebirth. New Year’s Eve = new beginnings etc)

You have chosen: December 24th at 3pm.

 

Please choose from the following narrative modes.

  • 1st Person 
  • 2nd Person (Advanced Users Only)
  • 3rd Person Omniscient
  • 3rd Person Limited
  • 1st Person Plural (Advanced Users Only)

You have chosen ‘1st Person.’

 

Choose a tense.

  • Present 
  • Past

 

In order to determine the length of the story, please select from one of the following forms:

  • The Josephine Rowe (less than 1000 words) 
  • The Cate Kennedy (3000 words)
  • The Nam Le (10,000 words)
  • The David Malouf (15,000 + words)

You have chosen: The Josephine Rowe.

 

Choose additional themes (maximum five) from the list below.

‘Forgiveness’ and ‘Hope’ are mandatory for stories set on Christmas Eve.

  • Parental love  
  • Childhood 
  • Nature
  • Love 
  • Death
  • Memory 
  • Capitalism
  • Communication
  • Books
  • Disillusionment
  • Marriage 
  • Heroism
  • Temptation
  • Pride

 

1 2 3…………………………………….135

 

Choose your preferred form of imagery

  • Metaphor
  • Simile 

You have chosen ‘simile.’

 

Select similes (minimum two) from the list.

  • Like a swimmer in a rip 
  • Like a cat on a hot tin roof
  • Like a candle in the wind
  • Like a shag on a rock
  • Like black sludge from deep underground 
  • Like a dog with its bone
  • As white as snow
  • As pretty as a picture

 

1 2 3…………………………………………….948

 

Choose from one of the seven plots below.

  • From poverty to wealth
  • The mission
  • Rebirth
  • Defeating the monster 
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Departure and arrival

 

Input the number of flat and round characters to feature in the story. 

Round: 1

Flat: 3

 

Choose from the following plot points to complete the structure of the story.

AusStories26

A for Exposition

  • A woman’s husband has just left her on Christmas Eve.
  • A Kmart employee is working on Christmas Eve.
  • A mother spends Christmas Eve searching everywhere for a special toy for her child.
  • A husband and wife are Christmas shopping. ✓

B for Conflict

  • He spots a shoplifter and gives chase.
  • She tries to grab the last toy from the shelf, but another woman has seen it.
  • The woman snaps and shouts at her son.
  • The husband sees a woman shouting at her son and intervenes. ✓

C for Climax

  • The woman pushes at the other shopper, who hits her head on the floor and dies.
  • The husband tells the boy it is not his fault. ✓
  • He catches the shoplifter, realises she is an ex-girlfriend and lets her go.
  • The woman is shamed and humiliated by the intervention of a bystander.

D for Resolution

  • The woman spends Christmas in prison, awaiting trial for manslaughter.
  • The thief blackmails the man for letting her off, and he pays her $100 not to tell his supervisor.
  • The woman is left weeping and broken as her son tries to comfort her.
  • The husband reflects on his own childhood. ✓

 

 

Do you want the story to conclude with a moment of epiphany? (Recommended)

  • Yes ✓
  • No

 

Choose one of the following titles

  • In Front of Kmart
  • Cyclone Dragitsa
  • Things We Didn’t See Coming in Front of Us
  • My Father as a Short Story
  • Beside Myself
  • I’m not OKmart
  • Kmart Behind Me
  • In Front of Myself ✓
  • Walking the Walk
  • Me, Myself and I
  • The Accident

 

Thank you for using AusStories v2.6. When you are ready to write your story, press Start.

START

LOADING.


We were seated on a plastic bench outside Kmart in a shopping mall. Five days until Christmas.

A tired harassed mother near me was losing the plot with her young son. The boy was about three, rattled, exhausted, as everyone else trudging around.

Christmas muzak swamped the air. The Kmart staff sported synthetic Santa hats, stony-faced, manhandling boxes across registers.

‘Listen to me,’ she yelled, her face close to his. ‘That’s it. We’re going home now, do you understand me?’

She shifted her humongous plastic bags of Christmas shopping, gave him a good shake. The boy tried to direct his gaze somewhere else, out of the line of fire of her furious glare. Maybe she anticipated more resistance from him. Maybe she thought the idea of returning home, far away from this wonderland of noise and toys, would make him cry and plead. She tightened her grip on his arm and shook him.

‘Santa’s not coming,’ she hissed. ‘Santa hates you.’

The little boy went still. He withered down.

‘Mary’s Boy Child’ played inanely. He absorbed this, deafened, stunned, eyes wide, the world wrenched open.

I caught my partner’s eye. The idea of standing up and intervening hung between us. I felt like a swimmer in a rip. This boy and his mother were bit-players in a drama about a faltering marriage—the two of them no more than extras. Our private drama was so all-consuming that everyone else got driven out of the picture or relegated to a walk-on part. Or that’s how it felt at the time. As it turned out, the boy and his mother were much more than that.

I stood and walked to over the mother and her son. I barely glanced at the mother, only enough to register that she was so stunned by my sudden appearance that she was waiting to see what came next. I crouched down in front of her white-faced, trembling son.

‘It’s not you,’ I said to him. ‘Remember what I’m telling you kid. It’s not you.’

I thought I was making a difference in the boy’s life, helping him see it wasn’t his fault. But even then I think I knew that I wasn’t really doing it for him. I was doing it for me. In that boy I saw my young self, cowed and battered by my mother’s unpredictable moods and hair-trigger temper.

As I stood up again, the mother stepped towards me. I had never seen someone go purple with rage before. I had read about it in books but never seen it. She put her face right up to mine.

‘What the fuck do you think you’re doing? This is none of your bloody fuckin’ business, you interfering goody-goody.’

By this time, my wife had come up behind me. I saw the mother’s eyes swoop on her, as if she was going to give my wife a piece of her mind, too.

Helena touched me on the shoulder. ‘There’s nothing more you can do, Jay.’

I nodded to the boy, whose eyes were almost popping out of his head as they flicked from me to his mother to my wife and back again.

I like to think that when his eyes met mine the second time around, he gave a small nod. That he had absorbed and understood what I said, or that he would at a later date. As we walked away, I said as much to Helena. She said she hoped so, too, although she suspected the boy was too young. Who remembered anything much from when they were three?

I didn’t realise how worked up I was until I caught myself almost losing it with Helena, right there, out the front of Kmart, with Christmas shoppers all around us. I couldn’t look at her. Why did she have to say such incredibly stupid things? It didn’t matter if the boy didn’t remember. What mattered was that he didn’t blame himself. She was implying that what I done hadn’t been worth it. How fucking dare she? At least I didn’t sit back, like she did, and leave the boy to his fate.

It was all boiling around inside me, about to come gushing out like black sludge from deep underground, when I somehow stopped myself. She wasn’t denying it, she was just being realistic. The more important question was why I had over-reacted again. Why I was always hitting the roof over seeming little things? No prizes for guessing where that came from. The problem was that nothing ever felt small to me. Everything felt big, the way it does when you’re a kid. Every time I lost it with my wife I was four again, or five or six, bewildered by the way my mother was behaving and unable to make anything change.

But on this particular day, I realised things could change. I could change. And in that moment I felt more in command of myself than I had for as long as I can remember.

That mother and boy weren’t bit players, they weren’t extras. They were my childhood come back to haunt me. And for once, I didn’t fume and feel helpless and then take it out on my wife. I would never know whether or not my intervention made any difference in that boy’s life. But I knew, without a moment’s doubt, that it made all the difference in mine.

 

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The N00bz Book Launch in Sydney

the noobzOur own Simon Groth will lead a panel discussion with fellow n00bz Benjamin Law, Greg Field, and Keith Stevenson on literary experiments at the official launch of The N00bz: New Adventures in Literature. First published to this very web site, The N00bz is a collection of writing about writing in which authors experiment with their craft and document their quest to continually improve amidst rapid industrial change. The launch celebrates the second digital and first print editions of the book, including a new n00b adventure from Jennifer Mills and contributions from the talented crew of intrepid tweeters and bloggers who answered our call for a crowd-sourced chapter.

Location Better Read Than Dead 265 King Street, Newtown NSW
Time Tuesday August 12 6:30 pm
RSVP 02 9557 8700 or betterreadevents.com

Can’t make it to Sydney for the launch? Head over to the Editia site where you can order print and digital copies.

theN00bzeditiasite

An if:book Australia project edited by Simon Groth and published by Editia

Romy Ash |Ÿ Caroline Baum |Ÿ Carmel Bird |Ÿ James Bradley Ÿ| Jodi Cleghorn Ÿ| Emily Craven Ÿ| Duncan Felton Ÿ| Greg Field Ÿ| Raelke Grimmer Ÿ Simon Groth Ÿ| Charlotte Harper Ÿ| Sophie Masson Ÿ| Benjamin Law Ÿ| Elizabeth Lhuede Ÿ| Jennifer Mills Ÿ| Zoe Sadokierski Ÿ| Ronnie Scott Ÿ| Lefa Singleton Norton Ÿ| Jeff Sparrow Ÿ| Keith Stevenson Ÿ| Emily Stewart Ÿ| Sean Williams Ÿ| Freya Wright Brough

 

0

In Front of Myself

LTCLost In Track Changes is an ongoing literary remix experiment featuring Cate Kennedy, Fiona Capp, Krissy Kneen, Ryan O’Neill and Robert Hoge. Starting from a short work of memoir, the authors remix each other’s work in series, with changes tracked between.

The story continues with this remix by Fiona Capp via Robert Hoge via Krissy Kneen. Use the tabs to flick between the most recent versions of the story and backtrack to version one (by Cate Kennedy) via this link.

We were seated on a plastic bench outside Kmart in a shopping mall. Five days until Christmas.

A tired harassed mother near me was losing the plot with her young son. The boy was about three, rattled, exhausted, as everyone else trudging around.

Christmas muzak swamped the air. The Kmart staff sported synthetic Santa hats, stony-faced, manhandling boxes across registers.

‘Listen to me,’ she yelled, her face close to his. ‘That’s it. We’re going home now, do you understand me?’

She shifted her humongous plastic bags of Christmas shopping, gave him a good shake. The boy tried to direct his gaze somewhere else, out of the line of fire of her furious glare. Maybe she anticipated more resistance from him. Maybe she thought the idea of returning home, far away from this wonderland of noise and toys, would make him cry and plead. She tightened her grip on his arm and shook him.

‘Santa’s not coming,’ she hissed. ‘Santa hates you.’

The little boy went still. He withered down.

‘Mary’s Boy Child’ played inanely. He absorbed this, deafened, stunned, eyes wide, the world wrenched open.

I caught my partner’s eye. The idea of standing up and intervening hung between us. I felt like a swimmer in a rip. This boy and his mother were bit-players in a drama about a faltering marriage—the two of them no more than extras. Our private drama was so all-consuming that everyone else got driven out of the picture or relegated to a walk-on part. Or that’s how it felt at the time. As it turned out, the boy and his mother were much more than that.

I stood and walked to over the mother and her son. I barely glanced at the mother, only enough to register that she was so stunned by my sudden appearance that she was waiting to see what came next. I crouched down in front of her white-faced, trembling son.

‘It’s not you,’ I said to him. ‘Remember what I’m telling you kid. It’s not you.’

I thought I was making a difference in the boy’s life, helping him see it wasn’t his fault. But even then I think I knew that I wasn’t really doing it for him. I was doing it for me. In that boy I saw my young self, cowed and battered by my mother’s unpredictable moods and hair-trigger temper.

As I stood up again, the mother stepped towards me. I had never seen someone go purple with rage before. I had read about it in books but never seen it. She put her face right up to mine.

‘What the fuck do you think you’re doing? This is none of your bloody fuckin’ business, you interfering goody-goody.’

By this time, my wife had come up behind me. I saw the mother’s eyes swoop on her, as if she was going to give my wife a piece of her mind, too.

Helena touched me on the shoulder. ‘There’s nothing more you can do, Jay.’

I nodded to the boy, whose eyes were almost popping out of his head as they flicked from me to his mother to my wife and back again.

I like to think that when his eyes met mine the second time around, he gave a small nod. That he had absorbed and understood what I said, or that he would at a later date. As we walked away, I said as much to Helena. She said she hoped so, too, although she suspected the boy was too young. Who remembered anything much from when they were three?

I didn’t realise how worked up I was until I caught myself almost losing it with Helena, right there, out the front of Kmart, with Christmas shoppers all around us. I couldn’t look at her. Why did she have to say such incredibly stupid things? It didn’t matter if the boy didn’t remember. What mattered was that he didn’t blame himself. She was implying that what I done hadn’t been worth it. How fucking dare she? At least I didn’t sit back, like she did, and leave the boy to his fate.

It was all boiling around inside me, about to come gushing out like black sludge from deep underground, when I somehow stopped myself. She wasn’t denying it, she was just being realistic. The more important question was why I had over-reacted again. Why I was always hitting the roof over seeming little things? No prizes for guessing where that came from. The problem was that nothing ever felt small to me. Everything felt big, the way it does when you’re a kid. Every time I lost it with my wife I was four again, or five or six, bewildered by the way my mother was behaving and unable to make anything change.

But on this particular day, I realised things could change. I could change. And in that moment I felt more in command of myself than I had for as long as I can remember.

That mother and boy weren’t bit players, they weren’t extras. They were my childhood come back to haunt me. And for once, I didn’t fume and feel helpless and then take it out on my wife. I would never know whether or not my intervention made any difference in that boy’s life. But I knew, without a moment’s doubt, that it made all the difference in mine.

 

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I was seated on a plastic bench outside Kmart in a shopping mall. Five days until Christmas.

A tired harassed mother near me was losing the plot with her young son.

The boy was about four, rattled, exhausted, as everyone else trudging around.

Christmas muzak swamped the air. The Kmart staff sported synthetic Santa hats, stony-faced, manhandling boxes across registers.

‘Listen to me,’ she yelled, her face close to his. ‘That’s it. We’re going home now, do you understand me?’

She shifted her humongous plastic bags of Christmas shopping, gave him a good shake. The boy tried to direct his gaze somewhere else, out of the line of fire of her furious glare. Maybe she anticipated more resistance from him. Maybe she thought the idea of returning home, far away from this wonderland of noise and toys, would make him cry and plead. She tightened her grip on his arm and shook him.

‘Santa’s not coming,’ she hissed. ‘Santa hates you.’

The little boy went still. He withered down.

‘Mary’s Boy Child’ played inanely. He absorbed this, deafened, stunned, eyes wide, the world wrenched open.

I caught my partner’s eye. The idea of standing up and intervening hung between us. It drowned me in place like an undertow. This boy and his mother were bit-players in a drama about a faltering marriage – the two of them no more than extras.

I stood. I walked to the mother and her son. In this other story the mother—somehow, implausibly, allowed me to crouch down in front of her son, ignoring her, and bond to him.

‘It’s not you,’ I said to the white-faced, trembling boy. ‘Remember what I’m telling you kid. It’s not you.’

The moment hung there, the chance to write the narrative. I assessed the energy and grief and courage it would take, to thresh and flounder against that debilitating undertow and stand up and do it.

I looked over at my husband who would no longer be my husband a few months from now. I noticed his grief, nothing to do with this boy or his mother at all.

The boy would be eighteen by now and I think of him all the time. I can tinker with the sad script all I like but this is the story I’m left with. Had I risen then, I would have been the catalyst. I would have been someone else’s chief turning point.

Had I risen, I wonder if I would have had to write this now.

 

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Lost in Remixology

ifbook podcastOur favourite topic du jour gets another guernsey in this month’s if:book Podcast where Simon and Emily discuss if:book’s take on the remix in literature and some of the wider discussion around remix culture.

Guest artist is dotCommunism with a classic track from 2006—you know it well—’Untitled 4‘ from the smash remix EP Wizard Hat. Rock on, dude.

Stuff we talk about:

 

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This is the future of the book, but not the one you were expecting.