(Ext. Afternoon. Market place next to a pier in Sandakan, Malaysia. Gwen, theatrical Grandmother, 60; Wendy, fitness fanatic Daughter, 40; and Tabitha, terminally ill Granddaughter, 20, on a holiday to Turtle Island.)
SOUND: Three panting women drag suitcases on wheels through a busy Asian seaside market. There’s a hiss from Tabitha’s oxygen tank.
MUSIC: Fast-paced Asian market music.
Oh, God. We’re going to miss the boat.
Here, Tabitha, give me your suitcase, Sugar. Or we’ll miss seeing these turtles lay their eggs tonight.
SOUND: Boat horn signalling departure and labored breaths.
It’s too late. Oh my, the boat’s left the pier.
You push with palms flat to my skin,
and it stings.
You push till my heels meet an edge,
and I think to step on air.
You push with the cruelness
of a lightning strike.
But, in that final second, I step aside.
And it is you who descends into the chasm,
dumbfounded, and scratching the air at my feet.
This is the first few chapters of a fan fiction story inspired by Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. It’s a rough draft set in 1970s coastal Australia that I started last year with quite a lot of enthusiasm but now I’m not sure I’ll finish it. So here’s what I’ve done so far.
‘We’re here now. Safe and sound,’ Mr Yorke coaxed, pulling the Kingswood into the driveway. They had driven for over twelve hours straight and the small boy hadn’t slept a wink.
The sun had recently set and stars flickered in the night sky. Dillon stretched out his matchstick legs, tingling from the long drive, and unclipped the seatbelt. In the distance a dog barked, disturbing the chickens asleep in their coop. From the front seat of the car Dillon’s eyes adjusted onto a sandstone farmhouse, illuminated in the blue moonlight like a forgotten shipwreck. Two ghostly white chimneys stuck out at either end as if they were naked masts, while a windvane slept at its centre. At the base of the chimney was a lean-to, stacked with piles of chopped wood. An outside light flicked on, revealing a cobbled path leading to the single story farmhouse. It was as long as two school buses, with a slanting roof and three shuttered windows either side of black door. The window to the far right glowed orange. A verandah travelled the building’s length and faced an ocean Dillon could hear but not see. A minute later another light snapped on in the window beside the front door.
There was no breeze. Everything was fixed in place like it had been a hundred years earlier, except for the multiplying lights. The lights meant people inside. Strangers. Dillon made no effort to move.
Mr Yorke opened the car door. ‘Now, I won’t let anything happen.’
The cricket clubrooms swelled with chatter. At the heart of the room, Leigh sat with several other mothers in a circle around their infants. Their babies rolled and kicked on pink or blue bunny rugs, while their mothers discussed trying to open paracetamol safety caps in the middle of the night. Leigh glanced at her twin daughters, Ruby and Eloise, chewing their rubbery teething rattles. Seated beside her, Fiona produced a glossy pamphlet out of her nappy bag and tentatively handed it to Leigh. Leigh recognised the coloured blocks of the Playschool logo but the words swirled like water dancing down a drain.
my daughter is a trusting canary
outside she whispers
lullabies to the moonlight
her eyes unblinking
innocent as angel-shaped snow
my daughter is an intuitive butterfly
remodelling herself inside
each commercial trend
her eyes glossy
inquisitive as unsettled dust
my daughter is a puissant tigress
cleaning – petting – chiding
her charges of tomorrow
her eyes alert
mindful as reclaimed air
in an eon I will not see
my daughter is a supernova
bursting the barriers of the body
into a space where inequality
is an antiquated myth
her eyes warmed
sated as windowless sunlight
I had forgotten about this story, until recently when a funny thing happened. It was written as a POV exercise, during a creative writing certificate. Afterwards I posted it on a self-publishing website. Then, a while later, I took it down because I’d started this site and was happy to post my stories here as a hobby. However, I didn’t realise the cover had remained online on various other sites. Now the funny thing is, some people took the title as fact and I’d been oblivious to this for years.
The story is actually loosely based on the tales a young woman told me when we were working for a sports company in the 1990s. She had been a stripper and would have us all in stitches over her fabulous adventures as an exotic dancer. She was a brilliant storyteller and I’m sure my story does not do hers any justice.
So, I generally prefer not to annotate my stories but I wanted to clear this up. Although, I still wonder if it’s possible for any of us to never judge a writer by their covers…
I was an Uncoordinated Stripper
Seriously, can’t believe I was ever a stripper. I was a decent enough softball player as a kid, and could’ve played for Victoria if I’d had someone to drive me to practice. Dancing wasn’t my thing. Didn’t even score a red-nosed-reindeer role in the grade six calisthenics concert. Anyway, I left high school and got a job at Safeway, night packing. That’s where I met my boyfriend, Chuck. I was twenty and old enough to know better. But I’d never had a boyfriend before, so …
There once was a magician who spent a year dreaming her nightmares and waking to another. Then in a series of fever dreams she discovered the answers to the universe and carefully catalogued them until needed. She was the last human and was tired of sleeping alone in the crumbling, sunken shopping centre. One day she had the impulse to paint, and in a dusty arts supply shop she found the necessary equipment. By dim torchlight she painted a pink rose on the concrete floor of her makeshift alcove. With a few spoken words, recalled from a dream, she conjured the rose to life and cradled its perfumed petals in her dirt-cracked palm. In the following months she conjured a rose garden amongst modernity’s ruins, then slept for another year.