Welcome to the PROSE page...

I have been writing off and on for many years but haven't always kept my writing. It's been lost in moves or I've outgrown it and thrown it away. Time to start again, and this is the perfect repository for it.

I joined the Queensland Writer's Centre in early 2013, about the time started my website www.itsokaytobeangry.com and my second blog, linked to the website. During 2013 Queensland Writer's Centre had events on a Friday morning once a month called "What's the Story Morning Glory?" Held at the State Library Cafe, the idea was to take a card on which is a photo, and to write a story about that photo. Whatever came to mind. The first two stories came to me during these early morning sessions. "Purple Meditation" came from a picture of a tree laden with purple flowers, with purple flowers carpeting the ground beneath the trees' wide spreading branches. The second, "Vanity of the bag lady" was a photo of an old lady, down and out, with bags hanging around her legs from her withered hands.

These stories and others similar are "flash fiction" - stories of extreme brevity. I find them quite easy to write, but it is a challenge fitting sufficient information in a story between 400-1000 words to build a "future" in the readers' mind.

Other contributions on this page are an eclectic mix of a variety of my writing styles.

Time to forget

22 July 2016 - I wrote the poem "Time to forget" back in February 2014. It's included in this prose. Does this sound like someone you know?

She had nothing important to think about. Everything which had been valuable to her had gone. Including her children. They didn't even talk to her now.

Lee could remember her history, but it no longer meant anything to her. She remembered her childhood. She knew that she had loved it, but now her parents were dead. Her husband had vanished, wherever she didn't know and didn't care. She had never disconnected the bond between her children and him; she had - then - felt that was important. However they now took him in, she didn't care about.

Her only friend was her dog. Beautiful, she thought. She was 13 human years old, but in dog years she would be 91. Or maybe a bit older. Jess would die this year. Maybe.

But Lee'd read a poem. She opened her favourite internet website, found the poem. She had loved it. Maybe it was written about her, she'd thought. She read it again.

The old lady rocks her chair in place, myriad lines etched into her face
She's not long for this life, she's done her time - she remembers long ago when in her prime
Young and pretty, so full of life, met a young man, became his wife

Meeting her husband had left an indelible mark on her body. And in her brain, she thought. Why had he walked out? Why had he left her in debt? Hadn't she helped him, during the years they were married?

But fairy tales aren't real, they're all in the mind - from then on her life was not very kind
Four children and sags on her body to show the pain and the stresses that no man could know
And her husband, once her valiant prince, grew tired of her, left - hasn't been seen since

Lee wandered through her unit, saw the boxes where she held her history. She touched each one, but couldn't open any of them. She looked at the photographs on her shelves, her walls, her dressing table, her desk. She had put a photo of herself on her desk - something she knew never took any important place in her daughter's home. She sat down and looked at it, not touching it. She remembered where it had been taken, and who was blacked out of it. She used to love him. Not any more. Her tears ran down her face and dripped from her chin. He'd left her. She didn't know why.

Always a struggle to feed her brood, but she battled on whatever her mood
Clothing them, loving them, reading them books, ignoring the neighbours' judgmental looks
As she let another man into her door, work of kind, so they wouldn't be poor

She'd helped her children, definitely. Why weren't they even talking to her now? Did they believe what others said?

She knew of the whispers, she knew what they said, ignored it, let it go over her head
I'm not a whore, she said to herself, as she hid a few dollars at the back of the shelf

She had paid for her children until they grew up. She raised them alone. She didn't worry about what men said about her - she laughed inside; men liked her! She had wanted her children to work very well to get into great lives. She supported them. She had thought, back then, that she would have a very good life too.

As her babes grew and flew from her nest she gradually felt weight lift from her breast
She'd sacrificed much to help them grow and enter the world with their pride on show
"You are who you are", she told them anew, "Don't ever let anyone walk over you!"
As years passed and age lines pitted her face, she watched each one winning their own personal race
Now she can relax, she's earned her time out - isn't that what this life's all about?

Her friend struggled up to her, rested her chin on Lee's leg. Lee bent over and kissed the top of her head, stroked her head, felt her ears, ran her fingers softly down her back.

"Go and lie down again sweetheart," she whispered. Jess looked lovingly at her, turned and struggled over to the mat, lay down.

Lee had to forget too. Forget that her children wouldn't talk to her any more. Forget that she no longer had any friends. Except for her dog. Forget that she was still ill, no matter how anyone thought. She laughed, a sad, weak sound. Anyone didn't care.

The blinds were almost closed across the windows, but no-one ever looked in. This was supposed to be a village, but many years ago she'd thought villages were friendly. Nowadays they were just... well, shut up. Many of those who lived here had similar lives to hers - ignored, turned off by people who didn't need to live here. Many of those who lived here were the same age as she - or younger or older. Many of those who lived here never went out of their own unit. They lived their own life, the same as Lee was, liked it or didn't. If they had died, Lee thought, it would take days before they would be found.

Just like me, she thought.

She stood back from the blinds but could see out the little crack where it had been opened. She watched a parade of tiny ants along the edge of the path outside her door. They never came inside. She glanced down at Jess. Now she was just waiting for her beautiful friend to die. She could see it getting closer, every day. Jess slept differently on the mat than she had used to. She didn't even climb onto Lee's chair, the way she had used to. Lee's only time out of her unit was with Jess to the garden, for Jess to go to the toilet. Maybe, she thought, she should have set up a sand box inside a year ago when they'd moved in, but Jess would have asked to go outside. She was so good, Lee thought.

She looked again out the crack in the blinds. The sky outside was grey, heading to rain. That didn't bother her, because she wouldn't be out there, not today.

She looked back at Jess. She looked different. She was curled up, the way she was before, but something wasn't working there. Lee moved closer, knelt beside her, put her hand on Jess's chest. Nothing happened. Nothing. She wasn't breathing. Lee sat down beside her, felt her tears begin. She began to stroke Jess's chest, her head, her tummy, along her back. She scratched her ears, stroked her head again. Still no breathing. And Lee's tears fell, large, unstoppable. There was not even any residue out of Jess's body because they'd been outside for her to go to the toilet not long ago. Now she had nothing.

Lee's tears kept coming for a long time. She made no move to stop them or wipe them up; they dripped down her clothes, onto Jess. It seems like a long, long time before Lee stood up. She walked again around her unit, looking at the things she'd looked at before. She reached out at her own photo on her desk, touched it, felt so sad for that time - when she'd been happy.

Now she needed to do what she'd planned. She went into the bathroom, opened the cupboard, took out the two jars she'd made up. She took them into the kitchen, opened the fridge and got her bottle of juice out, poured a drink from it into a large glass. She opened each jar, spread the pills on the bench and began to take one each with a small drink. When she'd finished the first glass of juice she poured another, until she had finished the pills. She was starting to feel tired. She needed to lie down with Jess. She knew she would be doing this.

She opened her desk drawer and pulled out the envelope she'd left in there, sat it on her keyboard leaning up against her screen, then reached for her cushion, lay down beside Jess and put her arm around her.

She takes a deep breath, rocks slowly in place, and a smile creeps over her old craggy face
When her time is up she'll have no regret - it's time to move on, time to forget

She slept until she stopped breathing, just like Jess.

Time to forget. That was what she had planned.

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Perpendicularity

25 January 2016 - I think I've done similar to Tura, the person this story is about. Read on and see how you have felt.

Nothing ever seemed okay today. Tura sat in the lounge chair with her legs tucked under her, and concentrated on her coffee. It was black, no sugar, and half-full. Or half-empty, she thought. But almost cold now. She finished it and looked into her cup for the stains that served after her coffee.

"They should definitely be here," she said quietly, but no-one seemed to hear her or to show how they felt about watching her or listening to her. No-one else sitting inside with her. She put the cup onto the table, making sure that the pad was perpendicular and the cup could always be trusted for staying there.

The electric fan sat at 180 degrees from her and blew at her face. Her short mousy hair occasionally flicked up towards the ceiling and returned down, almost touching her ears. She ignored it. Watching the blade on that fan was almost hypnotising her, she thought, and with a struggle she lifted her eyes to look at the wall across the room.

She counted the photos there - she'd done that once every single week, she knew. She shouldn't ever have forgotten how many pictures hung, obligingly, on that wall. But she felt she just had to count them again... and again. These things just weren't perpendicular! They had to be!

With a loud sigh she untwined her legs and stood up, concentrating on the pictures with a furrowed brow whilst irritation etched lines into her face. The first one she moved 2mm, the second one was just a tiny bit more - 3mm. She finished them all and started again. They had to be perpendicular.

It took her a long time. When she thought it was done she turned around and looked throughout the lounge, her eyes catching a very thin layer of dust on the stereo speakers. She felt impatience flick through her body. She needed to clean.

She went into the kitchen, her eyes darting side to side and catching anything she felt needed attention. She retrieved a duster and a bottle of spray from the kitchen cupboard under the sink and walked slowly back into the lounge, straight to the stereo speakers. Nothing would decorate the top of these because every week she had to dust them. Clean them. She couldn't let the dust get thicker. No-one should ever notice it, she thought.

She sprayed the cloth, felt it, sprayed it again, and wiped the speakers from the bottom to the top and back down again, the left one first and then the right one. No dust when she'd finished. She moved the left just a teeny way towards her, stood back and looked at it. How on earth had that one gotten wrong, had needed to be straightened?

She sighed again and took the cloth back to the kitchen, rinsed it out, folded it and hung it on the rack on the right hand wall. It hung properly, straight and clean. The spray bottle went back into the cupboard, in its correct place.

She felt disappointed. She slowly turned around and looked at everything in the house. She'd cleaned and straightened. Everything was regimental - no dirt, no dust, no item leaned over and would, today, stay perpendicular. Perhaps that meant that she needed another coffee. She could always have one when she'd done... something. But no-one else was inside with her.

She felt her pulse growing, getting faster, building her anxiety, making her feel wrong. It wasn't good: she had to breathe slowly, drag it back down, but this time it wouldn't give in. She sat down where she'd been sitting earlier with her coffee, closed her eyes, thought of anything which meant something to her, but it wouldn't stop. Her head seemed to grow bigger, she heard a high whistle, tried to stop it with her hands over her ears, but it was taking over. She squeezed her eyes shut, counted the seconds as she breathed in, breathed out, again.

She felt herself fading out of reality, moving into the dream that had always scared her. The blackness in her head crept in front of her closed eyes. She felt herself shutting down. She tried to scream but no sound came out.

No-one seemed to hear her or to show how they felt about watching her or listening to her. She'd never said goodbye.

She never realised how much she'd slept for, but when she woke up, fought her way out of this dream sleep, she thought she had to stop doing that! She focused her gaze around the room. She shook her head, felt tired but felt okay. She stood up, checked everything in the house. She sighed. She'd finished, she had to go. It would stay clean for another week. She turned back and looked through it again as she stood at the doorway ready to go.

I need a real job, she thought, and shut the door on her way out.

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Sinister sickness

18 October 2015 - I had to wait 293 days from diagnosis in July 2013 before I got into hospital for my brain aneurysm operation in April 2014. My stroke, with that, had left me such a long way behind where I used to be, with no-one to live with me to care for me. I seemed to me that I had lost "old" friends, and had gotten to know many other people who were ill, with whatever they had. One has chronic illness, another has prostate cancer, quite a lot have stroke problems, a few have also had brain aneurysms, and I have recently met a large group of breast cancer women. The story on here today is about something different than brain aneurysms. Read it and see whether or not you know anything about it.

She felt very grumpy. She had to go up to the local hospital for another test, but she didn't really believe that they would find anything unless they did the real tests. She knew, she thought she did, what might be in her body, but she had sighed, got frustrated, even got angry, when she'd been up there before. No, they didn't find anything, and yet she could tell them why her stomach was painful, why she had backaches, why her legs cramped, why there were hours when she couldn't even see.

Every single day she woke up early in the morning in sharp pain, curled up with her stomach feeling like it was due to burst out, her head feeling like a migraine after putting up with the rest of her body for so long - and she believed that! She would lie on her side and concentrate on breathing in, breathing out, long slow breaths which she hoped, every day, would relieve her pain at least a little bit. It was a week since she'd last gone up to the hospital, to Emergency. She'd given them her own details - female, 50, not smoking - when she couldn't breathe very much at all. Short breath. She'd fought for it. She'd broken out in sweat, but the EMT department ignored her and worked around her, leaving her just to lie there.

She'd been there for 4 hours, and perhaps because she'd dozed - more coma, she thought - the EMT had just sent her home because she wasn't sweating any more and wasn't in pain. Or they thought that. If she hadn't been so weary that she had dozed off - gone into a coma - she would still have experienced the most dreadful pain! They'd given her a different out-patient appointment in a week.

Right now she couldn't even see properly because of the migraine, yet she still had to have her shower, get dressed, and watch out for the taxi which was her only way to get to the hospital.

It seemed to be forever, but it arrived and she crouched out to it without help, feeling like she was in a stealth mode. Getting into the taxi was hard, and even sitting in that meant she had to lean forward over her knees, keeping her stomach tight. She concentrated on breathing in, breathing out, long slow breaths. It seemed to take forever to get to the hospital. She couldn't even watch the scenery, which once she normally loved. Getting out of the taxi was even worse than getting in, and she crouched again as she went in to the out-patients clinic. She gave them her name. They didn't even look at her. She'd have to wait, again, she thought.

They wanted her to have a seat, but if she sat down now she knew she couldn't even get up again, so she leaned on a wall. And waited. She concentrated on her breathing, short but it had to go in to her lungs.

Her eyes were closed when she finally heard the doctor call her name. She glanced at her watch. It was now 30 minutes after her appointment time; she'd been waiting again, same as last time. She took a deep breath in slowly and stood up, tried very hard to walk straight but she knew that she had to crouch. She followed the doctor, along the passage, into his office... and there she collapsed onto the floor. She could hear his sigh, his grumbling. She was definitely in pain, couldn't breathe properly. Her back felt like it had been stabbed, like they'd stuck in a knife and had turned it round and upwards, and her stomach... well, that would burst. Or would have. She was sure. Then she blacked out.

Her eyes opened, finally. She had no memory at all of what had been done to her. She lay flat on her ICU hospital bed, looked up and saw the curtain rail, saw the medical drug lines, saw that her stomach was stitched together, saw that she was alone. No pain that she could actually feel. She felt pretty drugged up. And yet, as she began to understand what had happened, there was a smile which grew on her face. She couldn't control it, it made her feel that the day she had blacked out had been funny. Yes, she thought, they'd made that joke, and now it had back-fired on them.

They told her. She hadn't heard anything else when she had collapsed. She hadn't realise that they had taken her into a different emergency ward. She hadn't known that she was injected with anesthetic drugs. She hadn't know she was going to be operated on. She hadn't known that her abdominal aortic aneurysm had burst. But she had expected it. No-one else had expected it.

She still had her grin on her face when the doctor came round to check how she was. She didn't care about how he now felt. She felt much, much better.

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Prelude

20 June 2015 - I recently got back into reading. It had taken me a long time since my brain aneurysm operation, but my book collection, over the years, grew, got sold, grew, got given away, grew again. My latest book was called "Dreamer" by Peter James. It told a tale about a dreamer woman who would prelude what was going to happen in her life. My tale is a very short story about a woman who preluded what happened to her.

It was a volcano, waiting to erupt in her body.

Her vision was getting blurry. She started to lose her balance. She knew something was terribly wrong, but she didn't know what it was. It felt like a volcano. It must have been.

Her double vision crept over. She could not walk or write. She couldn't pick up her mobile. She looked out of the window, trying so hard to see what she could have seen every day. She couldn't. It vanished, into somewhere that she didn't know.

She felt scared. Her blood pressure rose. She was angry. She felt rage. Her body curled up, and she couldn't stop it. She felt a tremendous headache that wouldn't stop. Please, she cried to herself, please, I will lose consciousness!

She lay down on the floor, closed her eyes, tried to regain her breath. Tears ran out of her eyes, across her face, onto the floor. She hugged herself, tight, tried to get her mind away from this volcano, tried to remember joy in her past. Her memory went black. She shuddered, knew that she was going. Now.

She felt taken over by the cold, let go of her hug, felt she was dreaming. Relax, someone said, unknown to her. Breathe deeply, they said. She breathed in, counted, breathed out, counted again. A warm very slowly returned to her body, relaxing her. Her head hurted, her body jumped for every thump, but she slowly controlled it. Very slowly. Pain faded to a low.

She opened her eyes, tears dried on her face. It felt like a volcano. It did. She thought, why? It felt like a very long period that she had laid here, but the wall clock told her the real time. Only 5 minutes. Why? No-one else in her room, only spoken to by her own mind.

She sat up, blinked her eyes, realised that she could see like she always had. Pain was gone, now. She stood up and looked out of the window, looked out at everything that she always saw. With two extras. The man and woman came through the gate, with a letter in the man's hand. For her. He knocked. She went to the door, opened it slowly. He spoke gently to her, handed the letter to her, waited for her. She already knew what it was. She could understand their uniforms, why they were here.

"Dear Jennifer, I am so sorry to tell you that your mother Andrea was killed in a car accident this morning. I will bring her home. I love you. Tony."

The black danced around in her memory, in her mind. It was a volcano, waiting to erupt in her body. Her vision was getting blurry. She started to lose her balance. She knew something was terribly wrong, she knew what it was. It felt like a volcano.

She had known this was happening.

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No alcohol

Recently I was in PA for an aneurysm surgery. My Discharge Summary recommended I was to give up any alcohol for 2 years. I had come across a Conversations website which had printed a point from Michael Vagg, Clinical Senior Lecturer at Deakin University School of Medicine and Pain Specialist at Barwon Health, which is "one of the largest and most comprehensive regional health services in Australia, providing care at all stages of life and circumstance." I feel I could have my own point - very interesting.

No alcohol, she was told. It was not compliant with her medical prescription. She was told.

Or at least, she was told in her medical letter. Patients were "advised to abstain from alcohol" until their own doctor allowed them to drink. Trouble was, this had come since 1950. Into 2000. Now 2014. Surely that wasn't right? She'd checked out some websites, found out what she thought, found some truth.

She looked at one of the bottles which had sit in her cabinet since before she went into hospital for whatever she had had to put up with. What was it - some surgery? Oh yeah. With a mistake. Leading her into some lock ward. Kept her for too long, and no-one really wanted to release her. But she'd finally talked herself out of there.

She looked again at the bottle. It seemed to talk nicely to her. "Open me, girl. Have a drink, I'm sooooo good!" She smiled. She knew. And besides, her letter was - supposedly - only "recommendations". Was this alcohol, small, not often, to repeat patient conditions? She thought not.

She unscrewed the bottle lid and took a deep breath of the scent of the red wine. Oh yes, it was sooooo good. Why would that be non-compliant with her medicals? She wasn't even on medicals. Now. She'd stopped them a couple of weeks ago, and felt so much better now than she had been when she was on them. She pulled out her medical discharge letter again. "Do not consume alcohol for a minimum of two years." Why? What would alcohol do to her body which some stupid surgeon had done? He'd made her un-wrong, un-normal, sort of... different. Why would her alcohol be some real enemy? Wasn't he?

She fetched a glass out of her cupboard, a proper wine glass, large. She poured half way into it and sat it in front of herself. She didn't feel completely good, as if she was doing some bad practice. After all, wasn't she doing something that her letter told her not to do? Or wasn't this not illegal?

This was silly though. She wasn't really taking any medicals, especially not the stuff that was supposed to interfere with her whether or not she was going to drink. So if she wasn't on medicals, why couldn't she drink? Occasionally. Once or twice a week.

She picked up the glass, smelled inside it, felt good. She breathed deeply, taking the smell deep into her lungs, licked her lips, tipped the glass just a tiny bit. Until she got a small sip. Oh, that tasted so good, felt so good, casted away her memory of her letter. She rolled the sip around her mouth, over her teeth, down her throat. She closed her eyes, breath deeper. She remembered her wine, drank so well. Now again.

She was doing the "okay" thing. Yes, she thought. She put her recliner out and listened to her music, while she had a - small - glass. Only one.

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Alice goes to the circus

I had the very good fortune recently to attend a Gunnas Writing Masterclass with Catherine Deveny. Catherine's irreverant and humorous presentation makes this a must-do day for new and existing writers alike. During the day we had timed writing periods, and for the last one of these sessions we selected picture and word cards, not unlike QWC's "Morning Glory" sessions and wrote for 10 minutes. I happened to draw the words "Alice in Wonderland" and a picture of two entertainers in an old-fashioned balancing act with two bicycles. This is my "10 minute fiction", which has also been published on Catherine's website.

21 Mar 2014

Once upon a time in Wonderland, Alice was sitting quietly under her favourite tree, reading her book, when she looked up and saw the Mad Hatter bouncing down the road towards her.

"Whatever is the matter?" she called out.

"The circus," he shouted. "The circus is here and I'm going to be late!"

Alice closed her book with a *pop* and stood up excitedly.

"Circus?" she said. "Where?"

"At the castle!" cried the Mad Hatter as he bounced past.

Alice fell into step beside him, skipping to his bouncing, her long legs allowing her to keep up. Every day she had practiced her skipping, so she was now just as fast as he... and she looked a lot more graceful!

"What do they have in the circus?" she asked. "Animals?"

"No!"

"Clowns?"

"Pah!"

"Trapeze artists?"

"Oh good gosh, no!"

"What a strange circus!" declared Alice. "One day this silly land might learn to be normal!"

"Harrumph!" huffed the Mad Hatter. "Wonderland is normal, it's you who is strange."

As they got closer to the castle Alice could see the bright flags flying from the top of a big tent, and she could hear the sounds of a fair. Because of that sound people were streaming in from all over the countryside. Alice saw the White Rabbit and Bill and Ben, and the Cheshire Cat leapt from branch to branch above her, not at all his usual gruff self. Even the Smurfs had come out of their village for the spectacle!

So many people, and because of that the castle grounds were filled to swelling and the noise was ginormous in Alice's poor ears.

She put her hands over her ears and shouted "I wish this wasn't so loud!" and immediately everything went quiet.

"Thank you," said Alice, graciously, as she made her way through the crowd to get her ticket.

The acts were already lining up inside the tent but this was not like any circus Alice had ever seen, it was all back to front! There was a rabbit which pulled a man out of a hat, the top and bottom of a person who had been sawn in half waddled into the ring and were magicked back together by a Bearded Lady, and two jugglers rode in on a push-me-pull-you bike and juggled each other. Alice thought it was all very strange.

Then it was time for the final act.

"I wonder what it will be," said Alice to no-one in particular, and, of course, no-one answered her.

The Ringmaster spoke but Alice, because she hadn't unwished the silence she had wished for earlier, couldn't hear a word he was saying, so she just had to sit quietly and wait.

And, just when she thought she was going to see something spectacular...

She woke up under her favourite tree, with her book still in her lap.

"Oh well," she said, "I suppose in Wonderland even dreams have no ending!"

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Love in the dog park

During a QWC workshop with Anna Campbell on building a writing practice we were given some subjects and encouraged to just write for 20 minutes. Very similar to the "Morning Glory" sessions.

15 Feb 2014

There was another dog in the park today. My kelpie, Ralph, began his customary whole hind quarter tail wag as he spied it through the fence. It looked to me like a spaniel crossed with something - Labrador maybe? I unlatched the gate and let Ralph off his leash.

That was all the invitation he needed. Still wagging his entire back half he dashed madly over to his new friend, tongue lolling, ears waving. I watched nervously at first and was relieved to see the other dog was also wagging its tail - not as madly as Ralph, but still friendly.

They sniffed each other front and back and up and down, adding the strange new smells to their doggy database for future reference. Then the game of chase began. I grinned, and looked around for the other dog's owner. He was at the far end of the park, a phone to his ear, while his gaze flicked between me and the dogs racing madly round. I headed towards him and he finished his call, pocketed his phone and began walking towards me.

"Hi," I said as we got closer.

"Hi back," he grinned.

"Haven't seen your chap here before?" It was a statement more than a question.

"No," he agreed, "we've only just moved over this side of town. Baz hasn't got many friends yet. Actually," he looked at me sideways with a crooked grin, "neither have I."

I smiled. I wasn't yet ready to take the bait.

"So what is Baz?" I asked.

"Cocker spaniel - golden retriever cross. His dad was a bit naughty." He grinned again. His face lit up when he did that.

"I figured something like that. I'm Caron." I held out my hand and he shook it, his grip firm and warm.

"Alec."

We stood silently for a while watching our dogs chase each other over, under and around the obstacle course. They both decided at the same time that it was time to relieve themselves. "I've got it!" said Alec, heading down the park with two poop bags in hand.

"Thank you," I said when he returned. I picked up the conversation where it had left off. "Where did you come from?"

"The coast. Moved to this side of town for work."

"Which is?"

"I'm an engineering consultant. You?"

"I write by day and play by night." I laughed

"Oh. Published anything I would know?"

"Depends on what you read." I gave him the names of my three books.

"I've read 'Cookie'!" he exclaimed. "So that was yours?" I nodded and smiled.

"Well Ms Caron Fellson, I would be honoured if you would join me for a coffee tonight so I can give you a full and honest review of your book."

I looked into his open, friendly face. Someone who smiled that much and who would pick up another dog's poop couldn't be bad. "Thank you Alec, I would enjoy that."

I felt a little shiver of anticipation. I had a feeling that our dogs were going to be friends for a very long time.

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The dog's diary

I met a wonderful group of women in early 2013 when we performed The Vagina Monologues together. In an effort to keep the friendships alive we began having monthly "story telling" meet-ups. This was my first contribution, a tale told on the voice of my beautiful rescued Johnson bulldog that I had adopted from RSPCA.

31 May 2013

2002: Dear Diary, I don't know this place. I thought I was going to a nice home with humans to love me, but this place is concrete and dirt and cramped. I don't like it. Maybe it will get better.

Dear Diary, I've been here a while now, I've had to stake out a bit of territory for myself because there are quite a few other dogs here. Sometimes I have fights over food - they don't really give us enough, I am hungry. I have to bury my bones in the dirt so I have something to chew on later. My nose hurts from all the digging. My shoulders ache because I never get to stretch properly in a run. The yard is very dirty because they never really clean up the poo. I'm sure it will get better.

Dear Diary, today there was a storm with thunder and lightning. I was so scared, but I had nowhere to hide. My bed is in a small area only just out of the rain, and the thunder made me cry. It had better get better soon!

2003: Dear Diary, today the humans came and got me. I thought we were going for a walk, but we only went a short way to another caged area and then they put me into some kind of stand thing. A male dog came in and was allowed to mate with me. I couldn't fight, I was held in the stand thing. I didn't enjoy it. It has to get better soon.

Dear Diary, my tummy is really fat now with my puppies inside. The humans have put me in a separate cage because I was fighting too much. I don't think they did it for my welfare, but maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt. I'm waiting for it to get better.

Dear Diary, my puppies were born a few weeks ago and the humans have already taken them away from me. I miss my babies. I don't know where they have gone. I am now back in the old cage and had another fight over a bone last night. In the end I let the other dog have it. The scar from my last fight still hurts sometimes. My nose is getting sore again from looking for my old bones. Someone took them when I was away. I'm not sure it will ever get better.

2004: Dear Diary, I have been here too long. Today the humans took me out and put me in the stand thing again. It was a different male dog this time, he was very rough. I've given up thinking it will get better.

Dear Diary, after all this time I guess I should be used to the thunder and lightning when there are storms, but I hate it so much. I am so scared and all I want is a hug and to be warm and dry. But I have more puppies in my tummy, so I have to be strong for them. Maybe it will be better for them.

2005: Dear Diary, my puppies were taken away from me again. I loved having them with me, being close and warm and feeling needed. I am so lonely and scared and sore. It won't get better.

2006: Dear Diary, so much has happened since I last wrote! The humans mated me with yet another dog, I got pregnant again, but this time something very strange happened. One day there were a whole lot of human voices that I didn't know, very soft and gentle. Some humans came and took all of us out of the cages and put us into vans. We went for a drive! Wow, I had never been in a van before, amazing. So many new sights and smells, my sniff database was almost overwhelmed! And guess what, Dear Diary, best of all, I got to see some of my puppies again! They are big now, but I knew them straight away. We were taken to a place called the Black Tag area at the RSPCA where we all had baths - I had never had a bath before, it was lovely!!! We got checked over by a dog doctor, and we had comfy, clean, warm, dry beds to sleep in. There are so many dogs in here who have come from places like I came from. That's so sad, but I think it is definitely getting better for all of us!

Dear Diary, the humans here are wonderful, they hug me and pat me all the time. I never have to fight for my food. I had my last lot of puppies two weeks ago, and I heard someone say that I would be speyed when they were weaned. I don't know what that means, but so far it's been lovely here so I am not concerned. I even get to go for walks most days on grass, and there are so many new sights and smells to explore and take in! I love it. It gets better every day.

Dear Diary, this week I spent some time with a foster family, in a proper house! I am in doggy heaven! Next week I am going to go to school for the very first time, and learn how to sit when I am told, and learn that it is bad to bite a human or another dog. Could it really ever get better?

2007: Dear Diary, today was a very, very special day. I was moved out of Black Tag and into another area where humans come and look for dogs to adopt. I was only there for a very short while when two human females came into my pen. They sat with me, kissed me, hugged me, and I am in love! I think they want me to come live with them! This is just the best!

Dear Diary, today I went to my new forever home with my new human mum. I had to walk up stairs - I had never walked up stairs before, ever! It was scary but I will try very hard because I will need to go up and down those stairs a lot. I love my new home, I have my own bowl, I don't have to fight any other dogs for food, I get cuddles and hugs and kisses and love every single day, I get to go for walks and upload so many new and interesting smells to my doggy database. I can't walk far or fast because my shoulders and legs are pretty much ruined from being in such cramped quarters for so long, but my human mum is very patient. I have my own big soft pillows, I get to sleep in front of the heater when it's cold, I sit up with mum in a chair at the coffee table on the porch so I can watch the world go by, and sometimes I even get to go in the car to the beach or to the dog park to meet other dogs! Now THIS is life! I just knew, if I held on and hoped and stayed strong, that things would get better.

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Vanity of the bag lady

2 March 2013

No! I do not give you permission to take my photo! I am not dressed for it. I have no make up. My nails are not done. My hair is unkempt from hours of walking, searching for what I have no idea. I have pride, can't you see that? Don't divorce me of it with a quick, candid snapshot that could never capture the real Me.

I had no choice this morning, I couldn't find matching socks - hidden as they were in some forgotten nook or cranny. I know pink and red don't match. I'm not stupid. That doesn't make me a target for your camera lens. Turn it away! How unfair you are. Do you not see how uncomfortable I am?

This cardigan needs an iron, yes, I know that. I had no time. Do you have time? You have enough time to be here trying to capture me in your little black box. I don't want to be captured, don't want to be shut in. I am free, let me be.

My hair is a mess. Can you just wait while I comb it - or smooth it down at the very least? Why do you want to snap me looking so unkempt? Who would be interested? Is it fair to me? I am not a joke, have some respect.

I ran out of lipstick a while ago, can't remember really. Doesn't seem to be important any more. But if I had known you would want to photograph me I would have made the effort. You never told me, never said, never asked. That is so unfair. I don't do photos without makeup. Haven't for... more years than I care to remember. More years than you have been alive.

Don't they teach young people respect these days? Please, just ask. I might say yes. I probably won't. I no longer carry the cross of vanity, it doesn't make me Me.

And yet I have no make up on, I am not dressed for it, my hair is not done. I need to go now. I should probably go home and get dressed to have my photo taken. I know you would not wait though - it would take too long.

Do you know where my home is? I don't even think I have a home any more.

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Purple meditation

2 March 2013

Purple was my colour. The colour of my pain but also of my future. Petals carpeted the ground in front of me, leading me to their source just as purple was attaching itself to my source.

I knelt into this purple carpet and scooped a handful of damp satin, held it to my nose and breathed in the musk of recent decay. It was like my life in my hands. I spread my fingers and watched my life filter through them.

The old tree looked naked in the half light, a reflection of my soul laid bare. This tree would recover in spring, sprout new life, brown and green and white and purple. Could I do the same? Could I shed my pain and be reborn, start anew?

The silence, so oppressive when I first approached, now wrapped me in its depth, pulling me into my own thoughts, inviting me to meditate. I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing, inhaling long, slow breaths and exhaling the pain. I felt a warmth beginning in my chest and radiating outwards, to the tips of my fingers and toes, within my loins. I tried not to focus on any one thing, no single event or person. This was all of my life, the good and the bad, rolling through me, feeding my heart.

I felt all of the love I had ever experienced, I felt all of the pain that had ever held me back. I gasped aloud and my body shivered, but the pain receded. It had to. It could destroy me.

I held another handful of purple to my nostrils. The scent was different this time, fresher somehow, a perfume for new beginnings?

All around me shimmered behind my closed eyes. I could feel a pulsing - in my head, in my body - and the half light became a bright radiance, delving into my darkness. Still I kept my eyes closed, not wanting to lose my now.

Solace, warm and welcoming, met me. I felt wanted, needed, loved. I didn't need someone else to tell me, it was me who mattered. Love yourself, be free, don't be ashamed, no need for shame, no room for it, you didn't invite it in, send it away!

I became aware of my breathing again, concentrated on relaxing every muscle, every joint, every inch of my physical being. I felt my pulse slow, felt the warmth cooling, bringing me back to my Self. I opened my eyes, gazed for a long time at the purple carpet, imprinted it on my memory. This was such a wonderful, special place, the starting point of my journey to Me.

I was not afraid any more.

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Dark Lady

8 August 1987

When Anna came into my life, it was like a fresh breath of spring. My being came alive, pulled back from the abyss of my own creation as I failed to accept divorce from a wife I thought was my world.

I didn't eat properly; the weight I had lost had only increased the age of the reflection staring back at me, hollow-eyed, from the mirror. Routine had become automatic, which was probably the only anything domestic got done. But I had my work, and in that I lost myself, becoming obsessed with making a dollar any way I could. Even though I had no-one on whom to spend my accumulating wealth.

Anna appeared in my office one overcast day, in answer to an ad I had placed to rent out the room over the shop. She was not the first one to apply, but she had a presence, a strength of personality that made itself felt despite her shy manner.

I found myself examining this woman as she filled out the forms. She was not pretty, as a model might be, yet she had a grace that pervaded her essence, and lent her a unique, timeless sort of beauty. She wore no make-up, and yet needed none to accentuate her fine features and full lips. When she smiled sunshine filled the room. I had selected her to be my new tenant before she even completed the application.

She moved in quietly the next Sunday while the shop was closed, and, but for the things I began to notice around the place, I could likely have forgotten she was there.

I guess most men, when left to their own devices, are untidy creatures, and I was no exception. I often neglected to sweep the shop or even do my few lunchtime dishes. Yet now I would arrive in the mornings and the little kitchen would be tidy, every dish washed and regulated to its correct place. The floor would be swept, and only the tell-tale remnants of a fire in the yard incinerator would alert me as to the fate of the rubbish.

Anna left each day at 8, with a shy wave, and arrived home at 4, quietly make her way up to her room, and shut herself in. I didn't neglect to thank her for her contributions, I simply didn't find the time. And yet she continued.

One Saturday, after she had been there two months, I found a plate of freshly baked scones on the kitchen bench. Peter. My assistant, and I enjoyed them for a late lunch, and, as he locked up to leave, I took the tray upstairs. I knocked cautiously on her door; it would be the first tangible contact I had had with her since she had moved in.

Her smile was warm and genuine, and she invited me in for coffee, blushing slightly as I complimented her on her baking. She moved conservatively around her kitchen while I took in the decor of her room. She liked quality, and it showed in her choice of paintings and ornaments.

She had a single antique sideboard, full of books, and on which sat, incongruously, a new stereo, though I had never heard her play it. The remaining furniture consisted of two rattan chairs covered in silk fabric, a small antique coffee table and a bed with wrought iron bed ends. Pot plants filled the gaps, luscious ferns and oversized pots of ivy cascading down from hooks screwed into the exposed beams.

She handed me my coffee, and we sat in a pregnant silence.

"How long have you had the shop?" she finally asked.

"Only about 18 months," I replied, feeling the tension lift immediately with her quiet question. "It's one of a few enterprises I'm involved in, but obviously the main one."

"Is that your trade?"

"No," I smiled. "I never bothered to get a trade behind me. I haven't really found the need for one. Things seem to have fallen right for me. Except for my marriage."

I found myself laying out my pain for this quiet woman. She had a compelling nature; I felt she would listen without judging. She sat watching me, sympathy or laughter or understanding in her eyes at precisely the right moments. I felt comfortable.

Now that the ice was broken we often had coffee together. Peter joined us occasionally, and I could tell that he, too, watch taken with Anna.

She gave, but never asked for anything in return. She sat quietly often, watching us go about our business, and, when the need arose, would assist ably and without being asked. Then she would vanish back into her room; yet I still felt her presence.

I began to compare other women to her. While many compared more than favourably for looks, most seemed of shallow personality. I didn't enjoy their conversation, and I didn't enjoy their company. My Saturday night out 'with the boys' became tedious, yet the isolation and silence of the large house which only I occupied phased me. I couldn't face it.

During my marriage I had never slept with anyone except my wife. Now I had become celibate.

I began finding excuses to go to the shop, and would often end up in Anna's room with a coffee, listening to instrumentals in the background and discussing anything from marriage to politics to the sharemarket to religion, and dozens of other subjects besides. Our conversation occasionally became heated, but she would always halt them with a soft little laugh before they could become bitter. Then she would place her hand on mine, say "Friends?", and how could one continue to argue?

I began to concede that what I felt for Anna was more than friendship, but I was unaware if she felt the same. I had to find out.

That night, over coffee, I kissed her for the first time. She responded, her lips gentle, as I knew they would be. We made love on her white silk spread and lay quietly afterwards in each other's arms. She was everything that my wife hadn't been.

I have never forgiven myself for that night, nor have I ever found out the reason for her actions, for after I left she took her own life.

The note the police handed me the next day told me everything except why.

"My darling David, I waited so patiently for you to love me. Tonight was a dream fulfilled. Do not hate me for what I have to do. My life is nothing, and I have nothing to give you, but I shall keep your memory with me, wherever I go from here."

That day I felt the chill of winter.


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