What Are Mates For?

Re-take on Albert Square

“Thanks for coming Linda. I could really do with a friend right now.”

“You look terrible Sharon. What’s up?”

“Well, just as I’m getting back on my feet after Phil hired two thugs to smash my spleen, and Shirley nearly killed Phil on our wedding day and I found out he’d slept with her, and Phil was arrested for the crash that killed Emma and put Ronnie in a coma, and Ben handed over the Arches to Max, and Abbie moved in and rifled through my drawers, the scriptwriters have dug up my real mum to haunt me.”

“I’m just gonna knit my eyebows and pout for a bit, but carry on Sharon.”

“Well, I’m in a pickle now. I’m not likely to get work elsewhere – not like Ian who’s got some decent acting under his belt now he’s been given some believable scenes to play. Except Bobby being the killer of course. God knows where that came from.”

“True Sharon. But you’ve got a better deal than me. I admit I used to have it easy, looking glamourous with Mick following me like a lapdog. But that’s all changed. I’ve been raped by my brother-in-law and now Mick’s done him over; I can’t hold a wedding at the Vic without a shoot up, babies born in the loo, or the bride and groom disappearing while we carry on celebrating; and worst of all, I’m pregnant and it’s spoiling the line of my dresses.”

“That’s what I like about you Linda.”

“What’s that?”

“You’ve got a knack for helping me see when I’m well off.”

“Well, what are mates for, eh?”

Miscarriage

 

Silent rows of empty seats, no comfort here
White coat exudes sterility, dictates efficiency
Ultrasound eye coldly penetrates, threatens to confirm
Black screen darker than a moonless sky, endless
Sentence passed with alarming deficiency
No room here for sentiment or sympathy.
Scarlet statistics stain the whiteboard, blaming maturity
Expectant eyes pleading for leniency, helpless
Textbook theory delivered with tactless timing
Guilty of dancing too fast. No music now.

Lemon Muffins

Tea with Lemon

Jane carefully measured two and a quarter cups of self-raising flour into the bowl. She had made these lemon muffins so many times before. Half a cup of white sugar…. a pinch of salt – where had she put the salt? It was the only time she used salt in cooking. It wasn’t healthy. In the other bowl, one cup of semi-skimmed milk, half a cup of canola oil, one free-range egg and the grated rind of two large lemons.

She loved the smell of grated lemon. It was a feeling-alive smell. Tears swelled, slipped and dropped into the bowl. Jane shook the dry ingredients into the wet and folded gently, turning over her loneliness with each spatula of mix. Her mobile phone cut through the rhythm of her folding.

She had a text message. “Hi Mum. Social tomorrow night at the business school. It’s $6. Can I go.“ Of course he could go. Money was tight, but he mustn’t miss out.

William was often on a healthy eating mission, but his share of muffins rarely lasted to the next day. Not like Eleanor. She would leave at least one in the tin and then forget. It had been a family ritual. Lemon muffins with mugs of tea on the front porch. With William at university, it was only the three of them now. But Eleanor was often away too.

Jane sprayed the muffin tin with canola oil and scooped up twelve equal spoonfuls of mixture. Twenty minutes in the oven. She had enough time to wash. It was early afternoon and changing out of the clothes she had slept in might give her reason not to waste the rest of the day.

Image credit: Tea with Lemon via Pixabay CC0

Iced Coffee

Well stuff you, Kerri said under her breath as she strode back to the coffee machine.

Would you believe it? Kerri pushed hard on the lever of the coffee grinder. I stick her Iced Coffee on the table and she goes ‘Where’s my straw?’ No bloody manners. Rude as hell. Duh, open your eyes, it’s in your drink, I wanted to sayBut I didn’t. The boss’ll go crazy if I speak my mind.

“It’s in your drink madam.”

“Where’s the cream?” she snaps and she’s poking the blob of ice cream with the straw now. I want to say, You’re fat enough as it is. I’m doing you a favour. But I bite my lip. I’m doing really well with my anger management. My boss had a go at me about customer service, so I’ve been working on it.

“We don’t make it with cream according to our recipe, but you can pay for cream if you like.”

She’s staring at me with eagle eyes. “You charge for cream? That’s outrageous. I don’t charge for cream in my cafe.”

I’m keeping my cool. “I’ll give you some cream and I won’t charge you, but we do usually charge.” The boss is gonna be real pleased with me. I’m pretty proud of how I’m handling this. I take the Iced Coffee away and I squirt a bit of cream on top – not much coz she hasn’t paid – and I take it back. “Enjoy your drink madam.”

I’m just clearing a table nearby, grabbing soggy wet wipes and sugar sticks that’ve been ripped open by some shit-bag, when she yells out, “This is disgusting,” at the top of her voice, so other customers can hear – that’s what really gets me. I go over to see what the hell’s wrong this time. I’m feeling like she’s just come in for a moan. We get them sometimes. Whatever turns them on, it sure does piss me off. I smile.

“Sorry madam. What’s wrong?” She fixes me with those eyes again and I don’t feel so confident.

“This isn’t real cream,” she says.

“Can I get the manager for you?” I ask, but she waves me away with her craggy claw saying she’s never coming here again.

“Good riddance!” I call after her. “Go feast on some other sucker.”

Creative Writing

A few years ago, I discovered a new pleasure – creative writing. I’ve found it rewarding on a personal level even if my work is never published. I did make the long-list for the 2015 Fish Publishing Short Memoir Prize with Searching for Ruru, and the short-list for the 2016 Fish Publishing Short Memoir Prize with Happy as a Pig. Pretty exciting!

Thank you to my creative writing tutors Dr Thom Conroy and Mary McCallum for your teaching, feedback and enthusiasm that led me into the wonderful world of short stories and memoirs, to Dr Jack Ross for an unexpected and eye-opening journey in travel writing, and to Dr Doreen D’Cruz for her literature of women paper that helped my own writing.

My favourite short story authors are Andre Dubus and Amy Bloom for their precise language, and for the way they draw me into their character’s worlds, predicaments, and minds. I’ll keep writing and revising, holding them up as my light to work by.

I’ve included some vignettes and poetic attempts for a quick read here.

I’ve also written short stories – Broken Wing and Top Dog, and memoirs – Searching for Ruru, Happy as a Pig, and Dressed Down.

Image credit: Tracy’s Bookshelf  by David Brighten

Free Range to End Range

 

While stocks last,
Choose from our new menu of free-range birds,
Sourced and slaughtered in the wild.

To start
Stitchbird soup with garlic croutons

For main
A little cautious perhaps, then try
Matured tui tossed in flaxseed oil with fries and catsup sauce
Skewered silvereye served on cat’s tongue cookie drizzled with cranberry coulis
Peppered pukeko served in Huntsman’s sauce
Poached South Island kaka caged in lattice pastry
Fillet of sole on scrambled dotterel eggs with wine reduction
Pan fried local penguin served blue in squash surprise.

More adventurous, less conscientious, then try
Marinated Australasian gannet wings drenched in oil on sea-salt couscous
Seared line-caught royal albatross with dashi agar agar jelly and tangled carrots
Rare fairy tern with sterlet caviar steeped in sorrel jus
Sun-dried yellow-eyed penguin with bitter-sweet squid garnish
North Island kiwi bled overnight served shredded on green leaves
Medallions of moa cooked to extinction.

To finish
Our speciality dessert – Death by Complacency.