Tag Archives: ideas

Things she wants to say

Every morning on the train the same thing. The thin guy, all angled limbs like a praying mantis, doing his best to discretely ogle her chest. She thinks she really should tell him she’s a wake-up. Wonders how would he’d react if she raised her voice and labelled him a perv in front of the whole carriage.

On the station platform, where Joanna buys her 8am latte, the same woman always pushes to the front of the queue. Ferret-face, Jo calls her. In her mind. The routine is so familiar Jo has taken to stepping sideways as the woman burrows into her peripheral vision. It’s the only way to avoid the bruises dispensed by Ferret’s bolstered shoulder bag.

In the office, umpteen emails announce yet another procedural review or a new subcommittee to probe the nuances of a report commissioned by a sister panel. Departments with increasingly overlapping empires burgeon like mistletoe, sucking the life out of the host.

Jo rolls her eyes at yet another communique announcing that external consultants are surveying staff about job satisfaction, morale, workplace efficiency and employee retention. She’s tempted to speak her mind this time, to give it to them with both barrels. Tell them that good ideas and genuine initiative are suffocated beneath mountains of bureaucratic manure and drowned out by the snarls of territorial middle managers. She won’t say it though. Her rebellion goes no further than selecting the neutral button that signals neither approval or disapproval. She gives them nothing.

During her lunch break, Jo goes to the same cafeteria every day. Even though they know her by name and greet her with Mediterranean ebullience, they continue to load her salad roll with onion, despite her repeated requests to the contrary. Jo has stopped reminding them. Instead she sits at a corner table, forking out allium slivers and flicking the pages on a magazine nine months out of date. It passes the time.

At home, she tries and fails to make eye contact with her 12-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter. Nathan rarely lifts his gaze from his gaming and Bianca only communicates by texting. Jo despairs that her children are so conditioned to constant electronic and social media stimulation that they’re effectively suffering from ADHD. If she denies them their screens at mealtimes, they don’t know where to look. Hey, in their minds, converse is a trade name, not a verb. They’re bored in 30 seconds. They lack the imagination to generate their own fun. Flick the news on and they complain, apparently devoid of curiosity about the galaxies beyond their own immediate orbits.

Tonight though, trouble is brewing. She asks for the fourth time for help setting the table and mashing the potatoes. Nothing. Nathan responds by placing headphones over his ears. Bianca keeps messaging her mates. Jo doesn’t bother speaking again.

Leaning over the couch, Jo snatches Bianca’s phone and throws it into the pot of boiling spuds. Then she strides across the living room and unplugs the television. The invective hurled at her barely registers – apart from Bianca’s, “I hate you, Mum!”

As Jo grabs the dog’s lead and slams the flywire door behind her, a wondrous thought occurs. Perhaps Bianca is capable of speaking her mind after all.

Unwrapped

They met in the cafeteria. She’d winced as she dragged a chair out from a table. He’d leapt up, chivalry personified, to lend her a hand. Through an unexpected swirl of dizziness, he could tell she was impressed and grateful. She asked him to join her.

They sat together. Laughed when neither of them could get a latte to their mouth with any accuracy, due to the bandages impeding their movements. “This is my first drink without a straw for two days,” he grinned, gingerly wiping froth from his tender upper lip. She’d nodded, carefully, “Me too.”

It turned out they had different surgeons but surgery the same day. They’d both paid for extra time in recovery, partly for rest, partly because they were putting off answering annoying questions from friends and colleagues. Neither wanted visitors.

She found him straight forward, no nonsense. She liked that he’d taken steps most men wouldn’t bother with, even though his mates were bound to give him stick.

He savoured her profile. Fantasised about what was beneath her bandages and loose button-up shirts.

They reconvened in the cafeteria each morning, lingering longer over each coffee. As they became less sore and the bruising faded, he proposed a short stroll to the park, a block away. Somehow they felt they stood out from the crowd less as a matched pair with cardboard shields over their noses. They waited until the afternoon sun was less vicious. Turned an afternoon coffee into an illicit chardonnay and then dinner.

After eating, they dawdled back to the clinic. He stood in her doorway, making small talk and joking that they’d never recognize each other without their array of sticking plasters, bandages and nose shields. She told him she’d be leaving the following day and needed sleep.

He returned to his room, frustrated. He kicked the padded armchair, flicked through the cable television channels disinterestedly. Standing abruptly, he strode to the tiny bathroom and flicked on the fluorescent lighting. Wedging a manicured fingernail under the surgical tape, he eased it up and away from his skin. What harm could it do? The surgeon would be removing it tomorrow, anyway.

The lasered sections were pink as Christmas ham in contrast to the sunbed orange of the rest of his face. He couldn’t wait to see his new nose. An idea skidded into his mind like a late train.

The flowers and chocolate were from the gift shop downstairs but he was impatient. Incapable of subtlety.

She answered the door in a bath robe, bandages visible in the V pointing at her cleavage. He delivered a flurry of words: can’t wait, unique opportunity, must share, connection that no one else could ever understand. He eased his way into the room.

She said nothing but reached forward and pushed the door closed. Then, stepping backwards, she undid the bathrobe and let it fall open.

They saw each other for exactly a month after they checked out of the clinic, meeting at “their” restaurant in the park or an inner city hotel. When she phoned him to call it off, she found herself appalled by the tryst. Relieved she wouldn’t see him again.

He was the vainest man she’d ever met; he couldn’t pass a mirror or window without checking his reflection. He seemed to have few male friends but a phone full of female contacts. She was sure he was seeing several women now the surgical blotches were fading.

He couldn’t care less it was over. It freed up his diary and hell, what was the point of getting work done if not to open up more opportunities, more good times? To be frank, she had disappointed him. She was older than he’d thought, older than him AND married with a teenage daughter. And she was hypercritical, too. Nothing was ever good enough, food, wine, anything.

He scoffed at her memory as he deleted her from his contact list. What was he thinking, hooking up with her? She wasn’t the person he’d expected. Shit, the more he thought about it, they had absolutely nothing in common.

Time travel

I’m looking to 2012 to be an author again. Why? because this year I’ve done a lot of talking about writing. Actual writing, not so much. There are reasons and excuses aplenty for this but none of them change the year that was and is. All the more reason to look ahead.

In looking ahead though, I had reason to look back. I was recently approached about ideas I have on the go. That’s a rich vein to tap into. There are a couple of would-be novels percolating, one of which could possibly end up a graphic novel… or a spec fic series. There’s a junior fiction idea or two (part written) and a handful of children’s books. All of these need some time and silence to come alive.

It also led me to delve back into old hard-drives to check out stories I’ve begun, abandoned and long forgotten. Why? Because I wanted to see if any of the lost characters still spoke to me. Whether they had gone off and had other adventures since I last occupied their headspace.

There was the piece from 2003 about a boy reluctantly attending a Christian Revival event and feeling massive peer pressure to go up front and lie that he believed. That character lives on, still mired in unrequited love. I’ll revisit him down the track.

There was the 2005 project, all 12,000 words of it, that was conceived as an adult novel rather than YA. It centres on a love triangle and is quite sad. That’s another one I plan to re-read and re-think in the very near future. Given that I remember very little of it, apart from the central character’s name and inability to sleep, I wonder how I’ll react to what I read.

Stack

No, I haven’t crashed anything with wheels recently. I’m referring to a midden of materials that have caught my eye, piqued my curiosity and provoked my thinking. A pile of clips and cuttings that doubles as a smorgasbord for local silverfish.

Yesterday, I tackled the stack. After a sifting session, that is. Drastic steps were required because the ideas sheaf and the “I think this is important so I better review it soon but I can’t be stuffed now so let’s keep it handy although it’s probably not so pressing I should cart it around with me” heap somehow merged. De-merging (?) is never fun.

On the upside, the reply dates for a couple of member surveys and special offers had long since passed. Excellent. Saved myself some time not reading those documents. Memo to would-be wealthy entrepreneurs: How about inventing paperwork that spontaneously dissolves into the atmosphere after the reply dates have expired? A Mission Impossible style self-combustion would be cool, too. As long as this didn’t ignite adjacent parchment.

Because those scraps and remnants are important. Among them I found foundations for two novels, several character back stories, settings and more. Viewed individually, they’re random and make little or no sense. Viewed collectively, they’re like sedimentary rock – historic layers of references and scrawled notes. (Anything that didn’t trigger an “Aah, yes” in my memory got sent straight to recycling.)

Part of me was excited to rediscover the thinking behind the collection. The ideas felt close to the surface and ready to explore, Indiana Jones-style.

Another part is frustrated that my current timetable means that’s unlikely for quite a while.

But hey, at least the cuttings are neatly grouped now. They’re not going anywhere … unless the silverfish digest them before I do.