Lost 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. In this week's remix, Cate Kennedy, gathers up and stitches back together the story flattened and blown off the screen by Ryan O'Neill. Use the tabs to flick between versions of the story. The source of the remixes is an original memoir piece Cyclone Dragitsa by Krissy Kneen. Read it here.
[tabs style="boxed"][tab title="Cyclone Dragitsa 3.0"][dropcap]T[/dropcap]here is a cyclone coming like a bat out of hell from the coast up north, a battlefield left in its wake.
Outside the rain starts up. On the long ride up here we were racing into it. Dark clouds, distant, then closer. Driving back down to Miriam Vale from the funeral place in Gladstone the clouds had begun to chase us.
‘That’s that cyclone,’ my husband said, ‘or the beginning of it.’
‘Cyclone Dragitsa’ I said, invoking her name, and he laughed, nodding in agreement.
I must put her in the ground before she wreaks havoc.
The tap will not stop dripping and the enamel is discoloured, light green, a deeper blue at the centre of the stain. A scab of salt on the scrubbed white of the bowl.
I showered when I arrived here at the motel. I put her ashes down on the ceramic sink and stepped under the crusted shower rose and bathed my body in the harsh bore water knowing what would happen if I did.
As a child I would wash myself in a bucket of rainwater drawn from the tank. In winter I would shiver between handfuls of warmth from water that was heated on the stove but always cooled too quickly. My hair was lank and limp with residual soap. I was jealous of my sister, my mother, my grandmother—all of them stepping lightly from a shower, pinked with the heat of it, clean and sweet with suds. But my skin would rebel against the hard groundwater; my arms flushing red, my chest flaring, itching. Naked and weeping in my bedroom I would dab at the spots with calamine lotion, replacing the red patches with splotches of white.
There was never a mirror in our house - which was lucky because I might have been turned to stone by the sight of my own skin – and my grandmother never allowed them. She would never approve of all these mirrors crammed into one tiny motel room; the full-length one in the bedroom, the one on the inside of the cupboard door.
And this one above the sink, throwing my own face back at me, sheened with sweat. I look damp and overblown. There is a raised red patch of skin on my neck.
‘Did we bring any skin allergy stuff?’ I call to my husband.
‘What’s it called?’
‘In a blister pack. It’ll say antihistamine somewhere.’
I hear him searching; clothes falling to the carpet.
‘No, but I could go to the chemist.’
‘There’s no chemist. Or there is, but an hour away.’
I scratch my back and my nails leave fine red lines.
He is glued to his phone. I can hear him talking.
I lift my grandmother from the sink, and shake her. She sounds like a tub of sand. They have clothed her in a red velveteen bag with a gold pull cord, as if this is theatre. I imagine her climbing out of the container, pulling the cord like a magician. Reassembling herself in a puff of smoke. I long for and fear this in equal measure.
I can hear two people talking in the next room. A voice raised, a woman’s voice. Then softer, a man. They are having an argument. I stop and listen but it is just the drone of voices like two bees trapped in a bottle. The lid of the container has a circle in the top. The woman who handed it to me at the funeral place told me to pop it off with a knife. There is no knife. I push at it with the rounded end of a teaspoon.
The rain comes, sudden and hard. It drowns out the argument next door despite its escalation. I wish they would stop. Whatever petty little detail caused their fury, nothing matters because I am holding her in my hands and she is both too heavy and too light and I am certain that now, at the death-end of things, she will come back to take us all out with her.
I turn the spoon around. The seal pops. I prise, and it comes off entirely.
I look inside and it isn’t sand, it is coarser, and a strange pinking grey in colour. A chemical, synthetic reek.
There is nothing of my grandmother in here.
Still, I pour a small measure into a plastic vial.
I dip my finger in, touch it, pick a pinch up between my thumb and forefinger.
I place it on my tongue. I swallow.
She used to crack walnuts in one trembling fist, strong as an ox.
The wind picks up, howls. The corrugated awning outside the motel room rattles violently. The people arguing next door are silenced by the sound of it. We are all a hush.
‘Are you OK in there?’
The sound of my husband’s voice.
I give a nod he can’t see.
‘That storm’s going to be a beauty,’ he calls.
I have to get her in the ground.
[/tab][tab title="2.5"][/tab][tab title="2.0"]
Category One Cyclone
First person narrators begin to show signs of unreliability. Some instability may be expected in the present tense. Verbs, and occasionally adjectives, become prone to tautology. However, a well-constructed story will suffer no substantial structural damage.
The tap will not stop dripping, dribbling, leaking, splashing, plopping. The enamel is discoloured, light green, a deeper blue at the centre of the stain. A scab of salt on the scrubbed white of the bowl. (All this took place many years ago, and yet I remember such small details with perfect clarity. Don’t you recall the exact colour of the basins in the motel rooms you have stayed in throughout your life?) I scowl, frowned, glare at the wound briefly. It is the result of hard water pumped up, driven, forced, pushed, transported, from an underground bore.
I remember bathing and washing myself in a bucket of rainwater drawn and extracted down from the tank. The rest of them could use and take the shower. There are six of us then, two from each generation. There was a kind of balance to it that you usually only find in stories, but I was not to know or comprehend that way back then. In winter I would shiver, tremble, shake, quiver between handfuls of warmth. The water was heated and boiled on the stove but it would cool and become less hot too quickly. I was always sticky (or was it gummy?) with a fine layer of soap still clinging, adhering and gluing to my skin after the sponge bath. My hair was lank, lustreless, limp, lifeless. I was jealous of my sister, my mother, my grandmother, all of them stepping and prancing lightly from a shower, pinked with the heat of it, clean and sweet with suds. There is nothing to be done. My skin would rebel and revolt against the ground-water. My arms flushed and blushed red, my chest flares, blazes, flashes in patches. Naked, without clothes and weeping and shedding tears in my bedroom I would dab and pat and blot and mop at the spots with calamine lotion, replacing, swapping the red patches with splotches of white.
Category Two Cyclone
Words are peeled from the page, revealing the lexical category beneath. Longer sentences may be snapped in two, or uprooted. Adjectives can come loose from their moorings and be blown across the page. The story begins to show signs of structural damage
There was never a noun in our house, which was lucky because I might have been turned to stone, transfixed by the sight of my own skin. Rebelling against this poisonous landscape. pale
My grandmother never allowed nouns. She would never approve of all these nouns crammed into one tiny motel room. There is a full-length noun in the bedroom, a noun on the inside. Of the cupboard door, another above the sink throwing. My own face back at me. I look and overblown. My skin is with a sheen of sweat. My nightmares have verbed me in both eyes and there is a shadow of a fist mark above each cheek. I modal verb have put on weight. She would have noticed. She would have told me I needed to verb. damp
I put her on the ceramic of the sink. She is heavy, . They have clothed her in a red bag with a gold pull cord as if this is a theatre. I can imagine her climbing out of definite article plastic container, pulling the cord. Interjection! She is a magician and she. Reassembles herself in a puff of smoke. velveteen
I fear and long for this in equal measure.
I am she is gone. I am she is gone. I am certain that now, at the death-end of things she will come back to take us all out with her.
Category Three Cyclone
Text alignment breaks down. The story is flooded with clichés, leaving areas of the narrative isolated. Extensive erosion of dialogue. The story shows signs of serious structural damage.
There is a cyclone coming like a bat out of hell from the coast up north, a battlefield of the dead; wake up and smell the coffee, and the rotting in its wake. Still, every cloud has a silver lining. This is not of her doing, and yet it is also her hand at work. She used to crack walnuts in one trembling fist, strong as an ox, she was. She will cross the coast like an avenging angel at Cairns tomorrow morning or perhaps by lunchtime, proving there is no such thing as a free lunch.
I must put her in the ground before she wreaks havoc, warms the globe, raises tide-lines and steals whole continents out of the frying pan and into the fire.
There is a raised red patch of skin on my otherwise flawless, bronzed neck. I showered clean as a whistle when I arrived here. I put her ashes to ashes, dust to dust down on the bed and stepped under the crusted shower rose and bathed my body in the harsh water knowing what would happen if I did.
‘Did we bring….......... stuff?’ I say.
‘What allergy ……….?’ He says.
‘You ………. the ………….?’
I can hear my other half searching in the overnight bag, the crinkle of a blister pack.
‘What‘s ……. called?’
‘Fexo-s………………? It will say anti-histamine ………….. somewhere.’
The soft wamp of clothes falling to the carpet.
‘No. …………..could go to the chemist.’
‘……………... Or there is, but an hour away.’
I scratch my back (and you scratch yours) and my nails leave fine red lines.
I give a wink and a nod. He couldn’t see, but I hear some music, voices. He is glued to his phone.
Category Four Cyclone
Large areas of the text are flattened. Irreparable damage to paragraph structure. Sentences are carried a considerable distance. Extensive structural damage to the story
The lid of the plastic vesselhas a circle inthe
top. The woman who handed it to me at
the funeral place told me to pop it off with a knife. There is no knife. I push at it with the
rounded end of a teaspoon. It’s tight. It seems like it might be sealed shut.
I can hear two people talking
in the next room along. A voice raised, a woman’s
voice. Then softer, a man. They are having an argument. I stop and listen but it is just the drone of voices
like two bees trapped in a bottle.
I lift my grandmother and shake her.
She sounds like a tub of sand.
Outside the rain starts up. On the
long ride up here we were racing into it.
Dark clouds, distant, then closer. Driving
back down to Miriam Vale from the
funeral place in Gladstone the clouds began to chase us.
‘That’s that cyclone.’ my
husband said, ‘or the beginning of it.’
‘ CycloneDragitsa’ I said,
invoking her name, and he laughed, nodding
Category Five Cyclone
Absolute destruction of the story.