The Mist

In the beginning
Mist;
Bitter air pushing against laboured lungs
Forcing themselves apart
In angst
Against the grain
The Middle.
Mist; rising to meet its ally in the sky
Of silver-gray basket weaves
Tying knots in our minds eyes.
The End
Mist; rolling off rolling out
Squeezed between layers of mud, memories, hopes
And dreams
Escapes unscathed.

©Cath Piltz 2017

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Review: Nathan Curnow: The Right Wrong Notes

Nathan Curnow: The Right Wrong Notes

Published 2015 ASM & Cerberus Press, with Flying Island Books

Reviewed for The Rochford Street Review: A Journal of Australian & International Cultural Reviews, News and Criticism.

This is a collection of 59 selected poems from previous and recent publications including No Other Life But This, The Ghost Poetry Project, RADAR, with recent works appearing in The Rialto, Meanjin and Land Before Lines.

Curnow displays an interesting ensemble of moments, memories, and experiences through prose form, traditional stanza and some nice extended prose like Gently Against the Grain (pg 76). There are some very tender moments in the poems dedicated to his daughters, his wife and his father – an overarching theme as he reflects on fatherhood, or the implicated fatherhood, family and life. I particularly enjoyed Goal Cat (pg 32) for the characterisation of the cat in question. As a performance poet you can feel the message in a lot of Curnow’s prose. His pacing and rhythm delivers a sound punch and gentle ebb purposefully placed with such gems as Broadarrow Café, Port Arthur (pg 49), The Doctor Asks the Elderly Poet to Read the Eye Chart, and Norman Lindsay upon visiting the Ballarat Art Gallery to discover that the entire family room he grew up in has now been donated and is now on permanent display (pg 74). Curnow’s writing is skilful and fluid, organising imagery so much without trying. His observations in Violent Light (pg 78), Slip Ice (pg 76) and I am the lion on the edge of your bed who has come to eat your heart (pg 72) delivers fascinating insights and snapshots surmounted into a short, sharp glimpse of the individual’s lives he portrays. An honest, reflective account of moments, memories, and experiences. Thoroughly enjoyable.

 

https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2016/11/15/skilful-and-fluid-cath-piltz-reviews-the-right-wrong-notes-by-nathan-curnow/

 

Fact vs Fiction

Fact and fiction in: The Hours, by Michael Cunningham and Joe Cinque’s Consolation, by Helen Garner.

 

Fact and fiction are two distinct concepts used to define and analyse texts in a nonfictional literary context. Issues pertaining to fact and fiction include concepts of identity, authenticity, truth, objectivity. Fiction, in a nonfictional context surmounts to creative writing strategies that are relevant insofar as readers of biography are greedy, with an insatiable appetite for detail and [story] (Lee 2005). Modernist discourse contributed to literary techniques of stream of consciousness writing, interior monologue and free indirect style. For the scope of this essay the abovementioned elements will be discussed with reference to Joe Cinque’s Consolation (Garner 2004) and The Hours (Cunningham 2006).

Author, and journalist, Helen Garner is introduced as one of Australia’s best-known writers (Conway-Herron, 2015, p. 72). Identity of the author is connected to authenticity and truth in nonfiction. Helen Garner’s material is so refined that meanings emerge from the accumulated detail rather than from exhaustive explanation or description. (Conway-Heron, 2015 p 73). This represents a wholeness or certainty, or the desire for truth (for the reader) as stable ground from which to know what to believe (Nolan 2004) p. xvii). This foregrounding of the author’s credibility as a ‘best-known writer’ of nonfiction texts signifies a faith that in what we read in Joe Cinqué’s Consolation will be an accurate and truthful account of a real person’s life. Garner herself states, “..a reader of nonfiction counts on you to remain faithful to the same ‘real’ world that both reader and writer physically inhabit.” (Garner 1996), p. 6). Conversely, memoirs A Million Little Pieces (Frey 2003) and Forbidden Love (Khouri 2002) are examples of literary imposture. Australian literati labelled these hoaxes, which immediately conjures the idea that the reader must connect the identity of the author with the text in order to read the content in the way that it was intended (Conway-Herron 2015), p. 52). Interestingly, publishers are now more wary of author as celebrity when procuring their tales and promoting them as authentic (Nolan 2004). Cline (2010, p. 44) sums this point up brilliantly with the question; When is a fact not a fact? When it is fake.

Facts give us the foundation and from that concrete base we build up a picture of how each person became who they became (Cline 2010). Hecq (2011) criticises Garner’s work based on Booth’s Ethical Principle of purpose, stating that Garner has ‘conflict between a voiced ethics of reportage, and a demonstrable, compromised exploitation of its subject matter’ (Hecq, 2011, p. 4). Hecq’s criticism that Garner delivered a biased ‘construction’ of Anu Singh based on Garner’s own personal agenda and feminist attitudes may present some influence in the finished text, however Cline (2010) stipulates that as we tell the story of an individual (or group) we need to think about identity, [subjects] what constitutes a self. Facts cannot do that for us (Cline, 2010, p.43). In Birch (Birch 1993) the demonization of Myra Hindley over Ian Brady could be construed as a bias ‘construction’ also, within the signification system of a male point of view. Patriarchal paradigms of feminine and meaning of woman produce other views of reality too. As Cline suggests, there are many versions of reality (Cline, 2010, p. 43).

There are two points at which life writers are reduced to speculation: when there are gaps in the evidence about facts; and when speaking about the inner life of anyone but themselves (Cline, 2010, p. 18). Garner makes a lot of personal assumptions about Anu Singh where there was little or no direct evidence; in which Hecq (2011) criticises relentlessly, citing failures under Booth’s Ethical Principles, the author/reader contract, and in particular, Garner’s portrayal of Singh from both the perspective of objectivity in creative nonfiction and the representation of mental illness (Conway-Herron, 2015, p. 75). Most of Garner’s accounts of Anu Singh are based on her personal opinions and assumptions, and those of others. In Gaita (2011) on his memoir Romulus, My Father,  he quips that should one succumb to the distorting effects of fantasies and projections on our own thoughts about ourselves and others, that this would lead to descriptions that cannot lay claim to represent things as they ‘really’ are (Gaita 2011), p. 104). Garner has been criticised for taking real people and doing the novelist’s thing; running metaphors and finding patterns etc (Simon 2004, p. 256). Garner admits that the psychiatric evidence of Anu Singh was a cop out. She says she can’t bear it when [women] try to dodge responsibility for their actions (Wyndham 2004, p. 4). (Peard 2009) makes an interesting point stating that when writing an investigative, non-fiction or true crime book, an author has the freedom to approach a story differently from the factual reporting of a print journalist. Hence, one can capitulate to fictional strategies in order to fill gaps in evidence or to flesh out the inner life (supposed or imagined). “Everything one invents, is true.” Flaubert (Cline & Angier, 2010, p.13).

Fact and fiction in Michael Cunningham’s work The Hours (2006) present modernist notions of the inner self as reality; adopting Virginia Woolf’s writing style of revealing characters by installments combined with the application of stream of consciousness. His text is pastiche yet he asserts the ‘moral’ right to be identified as the author of the work (Cunningham, 2006, publishing & copyright notice). Cunningham admits that he has fictionalised actual people, yet has tried to render as accurately as possible the outward particulars of their lives as they would have been (Cunningham, 2006, p. 229). His credibility for truth in his depiction of Woolf stands firm as there are many accounts of her life and the more accounts of the same person or event there are, the more they begin to converge (Cline, 2010, p.15). Furthermore, Virginia is a character in another writer’s novel, where the stream-of-consciousness style so carefully emulating Woolf’s own writing gives The Hours an uncanny authenticity (Conway-Herron, 2015, p. 79).

One characteristic of modernism in literature, being an emphasis on impressionism and subjectivity in writing; an emphasis on how seeing (reading, or perception itself) takes place, rather than on what is perceived (Klages 2011, p. 165) conforms to the writing style of The Hours. From this perspective, reality (as fact in this sense) was increasingly located in the private, subjective consciousness of individual selves; that stream of consciousness writing is the literary expression of solipsism (Lodge 1992, p. 42). One could presume characters in a text written from this interior view could be seen as factual – from a modernist point of view. Indeed, the reader is privy to the inner worlds of the main characters in The Hours as their thoughts portray concrete details in their everyday of the one day. The scene where Clarissa is spotted by Willie Bass on the corner of Eighth Street, the reader is suddenly made aware of his thoughts as he considers her “certain sexiness” .. followed by, “She must have been spectacular twenty-five years ago” (Cunningham, 2006, p. 13) and then, as the light changes, walks on, unnoticed by her. There are many examples where a character is speaking to another character, as in where Virginia Woolf is talking to her husband Leonard, the reader is abruptly cut into his thoughts, ‘She may be the most intelligent woman in England,’ he thinks ..  transitioning in and out of indirect speech in places, amidst the formal grammar of dialogue encased in parentheses. This element blurs the line between fact and fiction, as inner thoughts, when they are about another character, are opinions; arbitrarily based on the subjective experience of the individual projected upon another (as in the case of Willie Bass mentioned above). Stream of consciousness writing serves a narrative purpose more so than a factual ‘real life’ account as it primarily dwells in the unconscious memory, which memory has been noted to be unreliable; no more an objective recording machine than we are, it is a living thing that changes with us (Cline, 2010, p. 14).

In summary, Booth’s Ethical Principles can determine a set ground for truth and authenticity in a nonfiction text. The identity of the author is another determinant for credibility in nonfiction citing literary imposture as its nemesis. However, speculation and creative strategies are often employed to discover the truth about the subject’s identity and story, often where there is a lack of evidence. With The Hours (Cunningham 2006), modernist theory of solipsism is the primary motivator for extracting a real world of real people and fictionalised ones through their consciousness, as such, techniques of stream of consciousness, interior monologue and indirect speech have been suggestive of concrete details in the everyday as well as inciting memory which cannot be completely relied upon for real life truths.

Reference List

Birch, H 1993, ‘If looks could kill: Myra Hindley and the iconography of evil’, in Moving targets; women, murder, and representation, Virago, pp. 32-61.

Cline, S 2010, ‘Reflections on telling stories, telling facts’, in The Arvon Book of Life Writing, Methuen Drama, Great Britain, pp. 42-7.

Conway-Herron, DJ 2015, ENG00401 Issues and Themes in Contemporary Writing, 5th edn, Southern Cross University, Lismore, Australia.

Cunningham, M 2006, The Hours, Harper Perennial, London, UK.

Frey, J 2003, A Million Little Pieces, Anchor Books, New York.

Gaita, R 2011, ‘Truth and Truthfulness in Narrative’, in After Romulus, Text Publishing, Melbourne, Australia.

Garner, H 1996, ‘The art of the dumb question’, in H Garner (ed.), True stories; selected non-fiction, Text Publishing, pp. 1-12.

—— 2004, Joe Cinque’s Consolation: A True Story of Death, Grief and The Law, Picador, Pan Macmillan, Sydney, Australia.

Khouri, N 2002, Forbidden Love Random House.

Klages, M 2011, Literary Theory: A Guide for the Perplexed, Continuum International Publishing Group, London & New York.

Lee, H 2005, ‘Introduction: Writing about Lives’, in Body Parts: Essays in Life Writing, Chatto and Windus, London, UK.

Lodge, D 1992, ‘Excerpt from The art of fiction: illustrated from classic and modern texts’, in The art of fiction; illustrated from classic and modern texts, Penguin, pp. 41-51.

Nolan, M, & Dawson, C 2004, ‘Who’s who? Mapping hoaxes and imposture in Australian literary history’, in M Nolan, & Dawson, C (ed.), Who’s who?; hoaxes, imposture and identity crises in Australian literature, University of Queensland, Queensland, Australia, pp. v-xx.

Peard, A 2009, Book Review: Joe Cinque’s Consolation 18 June 2009, <http://sometimesmelbourne.blogspot.com.au/2009/06/book-review-joe-cinques-consolation.html>.

Simon, M 2004, ‘The woman with the hammer in the kitchen drawer’, in M Ricketson (ed.), The best Australian profiles, Black Inc., pp. 254-62.

Wyndham, S 2004, ‘Femme fatale’, Good Weekend: The Sydney Morning Herald, pp. 1-6.

 

 

The Secret Castle

An abandoned Castle lies on the mountain peak a mile or so from the port village of Shoalhaven. It is surrounded by a Pine forest with thick Birch and Spruce trees. From inside overlooking the eastern balcony is a steep ravine that leads into the Mediterranean Sea. Outside, its bent towers skew into a turquoise sky. It has missing shingles that poke light inside its vast caverns like a kaleidoscope of what it wants to reveal. The interior of its many rooms and halls expand into what was once vast opulence. There are hidden stairwells that ascend and descend deep into the mountain. At the bottom of one, a large dome yawns over a platform where smaller boats can moor. There are openings in the rock where the ocean swirls around large boulders and amongst thick sea grass. Large fish from the Atlantic skulk past. Sometimes she stops to look at the fish; big, big fish, larger than her mother’s trawler. The ovals of their eyes shimmer and she sees her reflection in them.

She wanders upstairs in the tower rooms, with their desks and bookshelves.  One has many intricate glass ornaments. Another, large wrought iron lounges are covered in thick sheets. She picks up a brass goblet. Daylight glistens across its eight faces. She muses into the milky glare, twisting the goblet in her hand so the reflections animate. She sees reflections of her Mother and then her Father, an older man she later thinks was Grandfather. The goblet is returned and then the rank of fish scales in her overalls reminds her of the shimmering eye of the giant cod from below. She has left work undone back on the docks.

Great Grandfather was a fish monger before he died in a storm at sea. Locals say a Cetus was angered when the boats took too much from its feeding grounds. In return it ate them, and their boats. Mother, being superstitious of the weather, the water, and of course their bounty always returned one-tenth of the catch.

“We must give back to the sea,” the daughter imitated, walking from the room. Father wasn’t superstitious like Mother. The big fish got him too. So local legend says. “Fairytales.” She mutters.

She frequents the Castle to explore it, to open its doors to other worlds far removed from the stench of dead fish and demanding work. Among the many Pines, Birch and Spruce trees, the mountain mist and clouds conceal the ancient building. Great vines have grown up through some of its structures. Sunlight juxtaposes the bright crumbling sandstone archways against its dark overgrown paths; its obscure windows like abandoned railway tunnels are covered with moss and little white flowers. Her fishing basket waits alongside her boots when she is inside. The entrance houses handcrafted wooden arches which sprawl out in all directions. She runs inside following them, spinning around like being lost in the sun then collapses onto a plush rug when the dizziness makes her fall.

One afternoon in late spring after another row with Mother, she left for the forest. Mother’s angry voice spat bitter and resentful arrows that followed her up the mountain through the onion grass. Soon she was dreaming of fantastic adventures; of Castles with secret passageways, magic fish, and treasure. Enough for her to finally get out of this place. She didn’t notice the unusual winnowing of Jasper in the meadow. It didn’t even strike her as odd that the small owl was out of his nest in the afternoon. The mountain breeze was balmy, lifting the sound of crashing waves and water from far below. She crept around a rough Spruce tree and there it was. The afternoon sun placed a brilliant golden ink wash over the stones and rocks, running seamlessly through the carvings in the sandstone archways and gates. The Castle was warm and welcoming. She ran inside.

Outside the sun had sunk behind the canopy, its last  rays bouncing off the large slabs of sandstone. The grand ballroom was illuminated. Bright golden light splashed against the ceiling and rained down its splendour upon every surface and nook like molten gold. Tiny light faeries twinkled in the shattered chandeliers. Rays streamed across the vast hall in cumulous beams. She ran through the hall to the first floor balcony with the echoing of her feet slapping against the marble floor.

The Nanjahn waterfall poured with a rushing sound on the right, its silhouette breaking violently against the cliff edge. She could see her village a few miles along the coast. She leaned into the sandstone railing. “I am free!” she yelled out over the waterfall. And then it was dusk. She slumped against the rail and followed the waterfall down its long journey into the sea. “There are no sea monsters up here.” She thought about the giant fish. Her Mother’s ranting about mythical sea monsters and how we should watch the signs. Her Father scoffing at Mother’s superstitions. Soon the mountain mist would settle into the woods. The first stars appeared as the last layer of pink sky faded into the deep.

Jasper was perched upon a stone statue in the courtyard, hooting.  She saw him and smiled. He blinked and hooted softly. She craned her neck for one last look at the Castle. The cool night’s presence had already woken the shadows. Jasper flew ahead of her pausing to land on different branches throughout the wood. “You are my lucky charm Jasper,” She thought out loud. The mountain air exhales as mist begins to swirl about her ankles. Soon it will be overhead and too dense to see through. She searched for the small owl. His large eyes found hers. At the edge of the forest they watch the ocean fog bubble up the mountain. She scans the sky for stars to guide her. Her gaze returns to the field, she squints. There are boats in the sea of mist; trawlers – with fishermen casting their nets. Jasper soared out toward them to vanish from sight. Fog and mist collide in the field swelling to waist height. The stars splashed a silver highlight upon the tips of the onion grass, some of their long reeds like loaded brushes waiting to colour the canvas of white cloud beneath them. She waved her hands amongst the fog trying to find a path. Reed tips sway in the thick white when she sees a mass moving in the field. Her legs tensed. As it drew closer she began to mutter incoherently of her family’s superstitions. Wild cats and wolves stalk these mountains. As the creature approached she is relieved to see it is the giant fish from the sea beneath the Castle. It swims through the ocean of mist to meet her. Its large shimmering eyes watch her; its gills pumping the thick white mist like it was still deep underwater. Slowly it turned, parting the fog to reveal the path for her. She followed it down the mountain to the outskirts of the village; the fog opening and closing around them like an oar through deep water. Thick beads of condensation had settled on the fence railings. Her clothes slipped and threw her against the damp earth. Through the rails she watched the giant fish frolicking before the fishermen reel it in. The next roll of fog crashes over them and she sees them no more.

The morning light is bright as Mother pours tea. Her silhouette an abstract inkblot against the harsh backlight through the kitchen window. The water laps at the docks with the usual waterbirds cooing amongst themselves.

“Bird’s are flying up the mountain,” the old woman says. “In the middle of the day.”

“Are the fish not biting?”

“Perhaps the change has come early.” Mother stood at the sink watching the tide. “The nets must be moved.”

“What must we sacrifice this time Mother?”

They drink their tea. The old woman plonks her mug on the bench and walks out the door, leaving it open. She is half way to the docks when the daughter joins her. She does not tell Mother about the boat in the mist, or the giant fish. Soon Jasper visits and Mother gives him his daily fish scraps.

“That owl is good luck,” Mother says.

At Your Service

Twilight in Nightcap National Forest had passed when I first saw him on the fence stump in my front garden.  He wasn’t trying to get my attention, though plonking my teacup onto the kitchen sink with a clang didn’t stop the strong feeling of presence. Something in his eyes made me look, and then again. He perched upon the old stump demurely, his scruffy thick fur and whiskers gently shimmering in the underexposed picture I was staring at. How did he do that? There were no stars, moon or magical tripwires set out tonight. Cats cannot glow in the dark. I blinked. He was grooming himself, the shimmering gone. I was reaching for another teabag when a deep, well spoken voice asked me if he could come in, if I would be so kind.  I peeked around the breakfast bar. The TV was on mute. I stole a glance out front. A swift glimpse into the swirls of my seeing-bowl. Nothing. I backtracked to the laundry to scan the yard. All was quiet. The Tom sat proud upon the stump, his brilliant black fur draped about his shoulders complimenting his white undercoat. He was very handsome. We eyeballed each other. Then he leapt from the stump and stood up on his hind legs. My mouth agape he swaggered on over to my door. Dumbstruck, I unlocked it. This night was most peculiar.

‘Felix, at your service,’ he announced with a bow, continuing right into my lounge room.

*                                                                      *

I took a breath. I should take precautions. You see, witches are not ordinary folk. We may look like everyone else, but I can assure you that we are very, very different. And there was something very, very different about this cat. Along my hall live my thousands of books. I poked through some pamphlets and popped out my book of protection spells. My silver banishing flask came too.

The cat sprawled in my recliner. His presence had not affected the chessboard. An enchanted game, it was gifted to me by my circle. Practice they insisted, will keep me on my toes. The dratted thing had beaten me twice already yet Mr Cat was having much more luck. Like the Cheshire Cat with a good dollop of Huckleberry Finn mixed in.

“Ha Ha!” he swished his tail and sent the black knight galloping in to devour the White King. Oh the nerve! Felix looked up at my astonishment. With one hand clawing into the book of dispelling and the other in a vice grip around my flask I readied myself.

“You won’t need those,” he said, sitting up.

“Who are you?” I barked. “What, are you?”

*                                                                      *

We drank our tea as Felix conversed about labs, chemicals, tests and trials. Flashbacks of news reports about explosions, car crashes and ASIS crowded the warm air. My head began to swim with information overload. How extraordinary I thought. I must be mad.

“You are not going mad,” he purred, placing his teacup in its saucer.

His calm green eyes rested on mine. Then I began to see. Such a very long time ago, I had …

“Sam sent me here.”

“… a granddaughter.”

I did not need any protection from him. Felix was not a mage’s scouting minion or a trapped witch or cursed entity. He was my Granddaughter’s secret science experiment. Sam was wise to send him here. The Forest has lots of hidden nooks and crannies.

“Hmm,” I said, “We will need to change your name.”

“Indeed.”

“The name, Felix, it means ..”

“Lucky?”

“Lucky.”

 

 

Published in Northern Rivers Writers Centre Magazine, Northerly Jan/Feb 2016, page 14.

©Cath Piltz 2016

The Butterfly Girl

CHARACTERS

MAGGIE: 6yo ghost: frilly pink & white dress, open top black shoes with white socks. Blonde piggy tails platted and held with bright coloured ribbons. MARCUS’S daughter.

MARCUS: 40 something medium build collar length bed hair, 5 o’clock shadow, chino’s, polo shirt, rykers sneakers. Rolly hanging out the edge of his mouth. Associate Lecturer Science, divorced. MAGGIE’S Father. Rather Introverted.

SUSANNA: Late 30s, self-employed, stylish. Business dress. MAGGIE’S Mother. Quite extroverted.

SETTING

Maggie’s bedroom: federation style timber room painted pastel lemon with large sash windows (white architrave), lace curtains, polished timber floor (light). A dbl base single bed adorned with a thick white doona with a gumtree print pattern across one end is made neatly. Two big pillows rest against a white bed head with a large fluffy stuffed teddy bear in the middle. A white dressing table with a mirror hosts a ballerina music box, a brush and assorted clips – all neatly in their place. Glow in the dark butterfly stickers are stuck around the edges of the mirror. There is a similar desk, with shelves containing photos, fluffy toys, trinkets, pencils, paper. A hanging mobile with brightly decorated butterflies hangs above the bed. A large rug with cartoon butterflies lies in the middle of the room. A butterfly theme is evident in the room with decals on the walls, trinkets on the window sills and shelves. A small chest of drawers next to the bed has a butterfly lampshade on its light. A wind chime with small butterflies hangs in one corner of the window.

 

SUSANNA is selling the house after a bitter divorce where we find MARCUS who has come to collect some of his deceased daughter’s belongings. MAGGIE’S ghost is in the room.

 

SCENE 1

                                        1-1

                                    AT RISE:

(MARCUS stands in the room with a cardboard box. MAGGIE is sitting on the rug, making a large bright butterfly.)

 

 

MAGGIE: Do you like my butterfly Daddy?

(MARCUS surveys the room, thinking how he is going to fit what into the box HE has.)

 MAGGIE (cont’d): What do you think I should call her?

(SUSANNA storms into the room. SHE throws an empty box onto   the floor at MARCUS’S feet.)

SUSANNA: I found one. (MARCUS ignores HER.) That’s two. That should be enough.

MARCUS: (to himself) Enough ..

SUSANNA: (points to the ornaments on the desk and the windowsill) You can put everything in these, then get out. I have people coming to look at the house.

(MARCUS goes to the desk and starts to place MAGGIE’S trinkets into the box HE is holding. SUSANNA notices the cigarette hanging from HIS mouth.)

SUSANNA: What the hell is that?

MARCUS: (A beat. Continues to pack his daughters trinkets.)

SUSANNA: Don’t you Goddamn ignore me MARCUS. What are you smoking again? You think you’re the only one who’s suffering here?

MARCUS: We don’t see Phil or Barb anymore.

SUSANNA: I wonder why that is.

MARCUS: I didn’t mean ..

SUSANNA: Oh?

(MARCUS thumps the box onto the desk and lights up his cigarette. MAGGIE holds up her butterfly to the window and it catches light that shines throughout the room. Neither MARCUS nor SUSANNA notice, see or hear MAGGIE.)

MAGGIE: Pretty.

MARCUS: Of course, everything is my fault.

SUSANNA: Goddamned right it is. You and your work. No time for your son. You let your daughter go to the park by herself. She was 5 years old!

(MARCUS picks up a photograph of MAGGIE playing with butterflies in the back yard.)

MAGGIE: I think I’ll call her Lilly.

SUSANNA: Not that one. (Snatches it from HIM.) Maggie loved butterflies.

MARCUS: Lilly ..

MAGGIE: (giggles happily)

(SUSANNA goes back to the dresser and begins to unpack clothes from the drawers. MARCUS takes a long drag on his cigarette, then resumes slowly, packing MAGGIE’S things. MAGGIE gets up and starts skipping around the room. SHE takes her butterfly across to the window and opens it.)

SUSANNA: About time you learnt some manners.

MARCUS: Give it a rest.

SUSANNA: You’re smoking is not one bit offensive.

MARCUS: I’ll open the window. (Surprised it’s already open, MARCUS & SUSANNA exchange an awkward look. MARCUS looks to see if anyone else is in the room. A large white butterfly flies into the room. SUSANNA sees it and tries to kill it.)

MARCUS: Wait! Don’t kill it! (HE throws the cigarette out the window.)

SUSANNA: No more fairytales!

MARCUS: (grabs the butterfly tenderly in two hands.) White ones are special. They carry souls of dead children.

SUSANNA: You’re unbelievable!

(The phone rings, SUSANNA leaves STAGE RIGHT to answer it.)

MARCUS: To see you one last time, little Maggie .. (HE releases the butterfly out the window. A beat then goes to the wall and starts removing the wooden butterfly decals. MAGGIE is watching HIM. SHE starts humming the song from HER ballerina music box. For no reason, MARCUS starts to hum the same tune. A few beats, MAGGIE’S ballerina music box opens by itself and starts playing its song, “Somewhere over the Rainbow”.)

(MARCUS stops.)

SUSANNA: (off stage VOICEOVER on phone) Yes, the house is open for inspection today. I’ll just get your details, one minute.

MAGGIE: (Plonks onto the bed near the lamp and butterfly mobile.) Lilly wants to play.

(MARCUS approaches the dresser and picks up the music box. HE starts at MAGGIE’S reflection in the mirror. MAGGIE is sitting on the edge of her bed, swaying her legs and humming. Light from the window casts a gentle glow over her with reflected butterflies on the walls and ceiling. MARCUS turns. A beat. HE approaches MAGGIE. Gently, HE kneels in front of her.)  

MAGGIE: Hi Daddy.

MARCUS: Hi baby.

(SUSANNA returns, stops at the door. MARCUS is kneeling at MAGGIE’S bed and appears to be talking to someone.)

SUSANNA: What the hell are you doing? (SHE charges into the room, swipes up the box from the dresser and dumps the music box into it.) Time’s up. I have people coming to look at the house and I don’t want you here.

MARCUS: (Holding MAGGIE’S hands.) Susanna, can’t you see her?

SUSANNA: This isn’t funny Marcus.

MARCUS: She opened the window.

(SUSANNA stomps over to the bookshelf, hurriedly packing the remains into the cardboard box.)

MARCUS: I heard Maggie’s music box song in my head – the music box starts all by itself. Maggie turned it on –

SUSANNA: Goddamnit Marcus! Enough! Our daughter is dead! Dead!

MARCUS: The butterfly Susanna. It was white. I made a wish.

SUSANNA: Get out! (SHE approaches HIM and grabs his collar) Get out!

(THEY struggle, SUSANNA falls on the bed.)

MARCUS: She is here! Look! (MARCUS grabs SUSANNA’S hand and places it in MAGGIE’S.)

(MAGGIE’S presence gently appears to SUSANNA. Lights on MAGGIE; pure, soft and ethereal. SUSANNA, in shock, stumbles off the bed next to MARCUS on the floor.)

MAGGIE: (Smiles warmly at her parents) I don’t want to go .. but I have to. (A beat.) I just wanted to see you both ..

MARCUS: (tear in HIS eye) .. One last time ..

SUSANNA: One last time ..

MAGGIE: (Giggles happily) This is Lilly. She wants me to play in the garden upstairs. (SHE jumps off the bed into THEIR arms. THEY embrace. A few beats.) I have to go now ..

MARCUS: We love you baby girl.

SUSANNA: I love you angel .. (wipes tears from her eyes)

(SPOTLIGHT on MAGGIE with smoke effects and string orchestration suggestive of transcendence, redemption and hope. The set fills with light, MAGGIE disappears into this light. A few beats.)

(Lights down neutral on set, MARCUS & SUSANNA stand and regain their bearings.)

SUSANNA: (To MARCUS) What just happened?

(THEY sideways embrace. A few beats. FADE TO BLACK.)

 

The End

© Cath Piltz

The Speculum

It wasn’t in the mirror this morning. It had been cleaned out. The sponges and spray bottles were still on the sink, that’s what was odd. After the nightclubs had closed and all the drunks had meandered into the deadly blackness the cleaners came in to mop up.

A few regulars went missing some time ago. If it was just one drunken sod the tales probably would have stopped. Yet next week Sam Bates vanished. Then the rum loitered in the glasses and lips smacked about monsters.

Returning from the ladies I jumped at Sam’s face screaming in the mirror.

© C. Piltz 2014

http://www.monstralian.com/monster-drabbles

 

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What strange sorrow should befall this fine morning,

As an imploded star’s deepest blackness should seek to draw out

all of life’s joy from me?

And what sealed box that no key would unlock

Should steal my heart

that forever yearning could never touch

nor hope to possess?

Her eyes her eyes her eyes.

©Cath Piltz