The Bridge


You crossed the bridge, into dark.

They say it is light there, but I know it’s not. The bridge dangles in two parts, like a snipped string. Today, I’m buying a hammer and nails and rope to make the repairs and bring you back again.

Will you speak to me from the other side of the bridge? Will I hear your voice or will you hear mine?

At its edge, between the hammering of nails, I shout into the void but you are not there. The darkness gushes below and above. It steals away my words and throws them back at me, filling my unending silence.

I loop the rope around rope, around wood and wood, and piece by piece pull up the bridge.

When night falls, I sleep on the planks I have repaired so far and dream of your face in the light.

I wake in the dark and drink the wind and hammer more nails in, tap-tap-tap. I listen for your call, thundering towards me across the void, but I hear nothing.

When the I am halfway done, it begins to rain. The bridge sways and bucks lightly, swinging and groaning. The planks I have repaired stretch out across the chasm, waiting to join hands with you.

The next day, I’m trying to untangle a portion of rope that has become lost around a plank and I drop the hammer. It tumbles and twists away, sinking into the darkness below. I wait, listening for the sound of landing, but there is only stillness.

I sit down and cry. I pound the planks and try to keep going, but without the hammer, it is useless. I look for a rock, but I can’t pry any from the ground. I go back to where I got the first one from, but there are no more.

All I can do now is go down, into the deep chasm, to find it, but I’m afraid that I will never return.

 

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Writing Prompt: The Detective’s Last Case


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The circular glow of orange street light. Rain. Night. The perfect setting.

Hanover pulled up and got out, his steel-tipped boots rapping on the cement floor, echoing all around him as he strode across the carpark towards David Leppie.

Leppie stood next to his car, his hands in his pockets jiggling nervously. Jesus, the guy was always so bloody nervous. His child-like face – it was that of a kid, really – was filled with deep lines, and the purple bruise on his right cheek was turning into a bitter yellow. Years of worry and drinking at the Barn Yard had aged him, but it was his mouth that had gotten him the bruise. And all because of this. This case. The death of his supposedly beloved Allison.

‘Leppie,’ he said, approaching fast. He flapped his coat and put his hands on his hips. ‘How are you?’

‘Look,’ Leppie said, hands still fluttering, ‘I’m not here for small talk. Alright? Just tell me what you want so I can get the hell outa here.’

‘You know what I want, Leppie. I want to talk about that sexy dish you called Allison.’

Leppie’s face seemed to sink in on itself even more, if that was possible. ‘What about her?’ he said. ‘I told you, I don’t know anything.’

It was a fruitless lie, Leppie knew, one filled with the scent of a man who knows everything but refuses to admit it. He hated these conversations with Hanover. He did all he could to keep out of sight, out of mind, he even stopped going to the Barn Yard as often. But everywhere he went, there he was, this goddamn detective. Like a dog with a bone that he knows will turn out to be a winner.

‘I’ll ask you again. And again and again, for as long as it takes, Leppie. When was the last time you were with her? And don’t tell me it was at the Blue Light Bar because I know you were at Max Price’s party and so was she.’

Leppie shot him a confused, flustered look. ‘If you know, why the hell are you asking?’

Hanover said nothing. He sat himself down on the hood of Leppie’s car, lit a smoke and waited.

Leppie watched as the curls of smoke drifted away into the night. Finally, he said, ‘Alright, I was there, okay? I showed up around eight. She came about nine.’

‘She have a date or did she slink in with some hangers-on?’

‘Came with that prick she calls a husband.’

‘And?’ Hanover said. So far, so good, he thought. So far, Leppie was telling him the whole truth and nothing but. He wondered how long that would last.

Leppie shrugged. ‘I tried to talk to her, but she wouldn’t have a bar of it. She said, not now. Not in front of him. And she didn’t know why I wanted to talk to her anyway, because…’

‘Because she’d already broken up with you.’

‘Yeah,’ Leppie said, eyes down. ‘So, I went out back to talk to some others. To drink and forget about her. Then I left about an hour later.’

‘And then what?’

Leppie looked up at him, ready to blow, and Hanover almost smiled. He was getting to him, which was the way he wanted it. ‘And then what? And then I get a bloody knock on my door at six a.m., two days later, with your pretty face asking me what I’ve been doing and when and where and telling me that she’s friggin’ dead. That’s what.’

Now, Hanover did smile. Just a little. He took a drag on his cigarette and said, ‘And you have no idea who did it?’

‘No,’ Leppie said. ‘The husband, probably? He knew she was getting around on him and I don’t think he liked it.’

‘Well, you and her were pretty cosy, weren’t ya? He ever say anything to you about it?’

‘No,’ Leppie said and Hanover could tell from the scared shine in his eyes that this was another lie.

‘What about Max Price? Was he getting it on with her?’

‘Geez, man, I don’t know!’

‘What about David Lulee? Peter Ford? Jimmy Rollers? Any of those guys getting it on with her?’

Leppie was raging now. ‘No! None of them! Christ, you make it out like she was some sort of paid whore! She wasn’t like that, okay? She was just … easy going. Unsure of herself, who she wanted to be with. But other than that she was real sweet.’

Yeah, sweet as a candy bar dipped in poison, Hanover thought. He wondered how so many men could become besotted with such a danger of a woman. Looks, he knew. It was all about looks. ‘So, who was she afraid of then, Leppie? Other than her husband? Must’ve been someone.’

‘I don’t know,’ Leppie said. He looked away and then back at the detective. ‘Wait. Maybe there’s someone. The guy before me.’

‘Yeah? Who was that?’

‘Some banker. He worked with her husband. She called it off on him, she said. He was getting too rough, she said. And he wasn’t happy about it. When she and I first met, he was having her followed. That’s what she said.’

‘Someone was following her?’

‘Yeah. I asked who, she said probably one of those beefs who worked for her last beau.’

‘But she didn’t know? For sure, I mean.’

Leppie shrugged. ‘A woman like her, she was beautiful, you know? Men probably tail her around all the time, just to look at her. But … no, she didn’t know. She assumed it was one of the banker’s men. But I think, now that I look back on it, that you’re right. Damn right. It coulda been anyone.’

* * *

(Image credit: j4p4n @ openclipart.org).

Writing Prompt: Weekend at the River – A Bricolage 


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The dogs had been barking at the edge of the gully for a full hour, an ominous nerve-racking sound, for it echoed down the gully and from the caves on the other side. Some kids are skipping stones on the river down river. I wish they’d float away with their bellies up.

Over the balcony and off into the flooded square where gulls would swoop and snatch them away. A theory of everything. There are simply too many characters.

Again I hear these waters, rolling from their mountain-springs with a soft inland murmur. I have grown up in the sound of guns like the child of siege.

When I was a kid, my pop used to take me fishing here. One day him and my mama were out on our boat and so I yanked down my shorts and plopped myself down in the sand and pissed. We all grew up with myths. This is, in part, what gives my life its own moral particularity.

Now the things you gotta make way for are the details, cause it’s the details that sell your story. We must stir our way onward, mixing as we go, disorder out of disorder into disorder until pink is complete, unchanging and unchangeable, and we are done with it forever.

Out of sight, beyond the frame, two people are sitting in the dark interior. It is like a strange picture, he said, and a strange sort of prisoners.

The ordinary-sized stuff which is our lives, the things people write poetry about – clouds – daffodils – waterfalls – and what happens in a cup of coffee when the cream goes in – these things are full of mystery. For him, they were not fictions, but how he suddenly saw, or interpreted the world.

I ran into the sun room where the lavender curtains were drawn and the moon was bright and half full. The waves are the loudest sound in the room at night.

Rivers of light live inside your head. It’s like love, don’t you think?

What Is a Bricolage? 

In any art form, a bricolage is a creation made from other available creations, forms or sources. When writing, a bricolage is a fantastic way of creating and shaping meaning through intertextuality and understanding the importance of the intertext, even when it’s evidently “on the surface” and to push the boundaries between original and new.

In my bricolage, I’ve taken phrases and sentences from other short stories, from movie scripts and plays, from poetry, and from other short stories I’ve written myself to compose a new text that makes its own meanings and offers commentary on the ways in which we see the world growing up.

Writing Prompt: Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game”


Petra plonked herself down in the commander’s mess, next to her toon leader. Her legs ached from the morning battle against Rabbit Army, which they’d won, but only by a fluke at the last minute. Two of her mostly frozen soldiers and had managed to get their helmets onto the last two point of the gate, with another sailing through just in time.

She pulled her tray closer and forced herself to eat the gloop they were serving today, knowing she would need the energy for tomorrow. Or even later this afternoon.

Word had gone around the school fast that the Dragon Army was up for two battles a day and Petra figured it was only a matter of time before the rest of them were scheduled to do the same.

Bastards, she thought, though would never say it out loud or to anyone else. Something was going on, though, something she couldn’t put her finger on. Maybe the buggers were getting closer. Or maybe they were trying to push Ender until the end, until he quit or died or begged to return to Earth.

She gazed over at him, sitting at one of the far tables, spooning food into his mouth like a robot, his eyes fixed straight down. He looked worn and alone, and where he had once seemed curious and willing to learn and grow, he now only wore the resilient, hard stare of a commander. She was one too, of course, but she was nowhere as brilliant as Ender.

Somebody tapped her on the shoulder.

‘Ho, Dink,’ she said. His hard, towering form stood over her.

‘There’s trouble,’ Dink said and for the first time, Petra saw something different in Dink’s pale face. Normally, he didn’t care about anything. He walked around with the strut of a jock too big for his skin, badmouthing the teachers and the games, but going along with it all anyway. Like they all did. But now she saw something different. What was it? Anger? Fear?

‘What’s wrong?’ she asked. ‘The teachers?’

‘No,’ Dink said. ‘It’s Bonzo. He’s gone off the end for sure.’

‘Did he get iced?’

‘No, worse. Listen up. I need you to get a message to Ender.’

Writing Prompt: Write a short scene from the point of view of a character in Ender’s Game that covers an incident or moment not in the original narrative.

The Chair


ID-100147878 chairHe was back in the chair again. It had taken – what, all of two days?

He slapped his thick palms against the scratched wooden frame and dug his nails into the red velour beneath his thighs.

Outside, he could hear the other kids playing and shouting. The regular thud of a basketball on the asphalt. Birds cawing in the distance.

The chair was deceivingly uncomfortable. It creaked and groaned whenever he moved and one of its legs felt like it was about to twist right off and fly across the room. The back of it was loose, too. One simple slam and the whole thing would probably smash into shrapnel.

The witch came in. Finally. Taking her bloody time. Her green face hovered beneath her quintessential hat. Warts peppered her pointed chin. They were green, too.  As she sat down, he wondered where she kept her broom. His gaze wandered over to the cabinet at the back of the room.

‘Eric, you are in very serious trouble.’

‘How’s that?’

‘What you did… And the fact that you showed it to the other children…’

‘It was meant for a laugh, you know. Cackle, cackle. A joke.’

Cropped cat

‘It was a sickening joke, Eric. I don’t understand why you thought something like that would be funny.’

‘It was hilarious. And it was just a cat. Who cares if there’s one less cat in the world?’

‘Everyone cares!’ As if this was the most logical explanation ever. ‘What you did was malicious and abhorrent and this school will not stand for it. We’ve called your mother and your father. They’ll be here within the hour to discuss your punishment.’

He snorted. As if his parents could punish him. They, along with all their fancy doctors, had lost control long, long ago. He loved his parents to a certain extent.

‘I didn’t do anything wrong,’ he said, shooting her a defiant, garish smile. ‘The cat was already dead when I found it. All I did was tie it up. Who’s to say it shouldn’t have been flayed? The guts were particularly interesting.’

She recoiled, then corrected herself. She began berating him in her whiny voice, her crooked, wart-loving chin bobbing up and down.

‘Eric, we accepted you into this school on the condition that this kind of behaviour would not take place. After your fight with Bobby Franklin, we made it perfectly clear that…’

He looked at her hands as she spoke. They were green too, long and gnarled, like you would expect.

They reminded him of the branches of the old jacaranda tree that used to grow in his back yard. Before his father had blown his top and chopped it down. The bastard.

She waved her hands in some kind of unimpressed gesture and he noticed for about the twentieth time that each of her yellowed nails finished into a point. Like claws. She didn’t file them that way, he knew. They simply grew that way, as they did for all witches.

He crossed his legs and the chair groaned under his weight.

Just for a thrill, he thought about telling her that the cat had been alive. Not only when he’d found it (caught it) but for the entire experiment (dissection), including the grand (flaying) finale. The look on the kindergarteners’ faces had been spectacular.

‘Are you listening to me, Eric? I said, how are you going to explain this to your parents when they get here? Have you even thought about the things your doctors have said to you?’

He pulled the chair closer and leaned in, placing his elbows on her desk. A paperweight that looked like a crystal ball sat on top of a pile of student files. The placard displaying her name glinted at him. He nudged it aside.

‘I know what you are,’ he said, his voice soft and controlled, just the way he wanted it to be. He smiled a little.

‘I beg your pardon?’

He waved a hand in her face. ‘All this, masquerading as a responsible School Principal. When you damn well know you eat children for breakfast. Where’s your broom, huh? Your spices and dead frogs? Bubble, bubble and all that shit. I know my fairytales, you beast, and I ain’t going to let you terrorize this school.’

‘Eric, now calm down. Please. Your parents will be here shortly.’

‘You can’t fool me,’ he said, leaning back in the chair. ‘I see your green skin, witch. I know who you are. And if it’s the last thing I do in this life, I’m going to expose you. Innards and all.’

ID-10078889 witch

The Prompt: Write a 500-word fiction piece based on a mundane, inanimate object. The truth? There are no mundane objects in fiction. This prompt is part of the series: The Inanimate Object Chronicles.  

(images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / Just2shutter (chair) / vlado (cat) / Victor Habbick (witch))  

The Lamp


The lamp lay in shattered, jagged bits on the floor, scattered into the far corners of the world.

ID-100246695 lamp

He couldn’t remember his dreams from the night before, but he knew he had done it. The shade was torn, too. Slashed vertically in a dozen places with a knife that had since disappeared.

Before that it had been a smashed pot plant, soil, leaves and all. Before that, a half-full Chinoiserie tea cup hurled at the wall. A snapped broom handle. Once, it had even been a rat, its head severed by a bloody boning knife that had still been there on the table in the morning. Whether the rat was dead to begin with, he didn’t know.

The experiment had been over for two weeks now. Whatever they had done to him, his memories, he knew it had worked. After years in that horrid facility, of which he could remember nothing but The White – white walls, white-clad doctors, white meals, white water, white dreams – he’d finally been set free.

Yet here he was, a prisoner in his own home. Afraid to leave. Unsure how to interact with the world. He could cross the borders into another country or jump on a plane or drive off in his car or even… it didn’t matter. He wouldn’t do any of it. He would stay and wait.

The worst of it all was that he didn’t know why.

Every few days, he tried something new. Jumping off the balcony. Shooting himself in the chest with his six shooter. Piping a hose from the exhaust into his car. And every time, it failed. The flight from the balcony ended in no blood, no broken bones.

The gunshots had hurt a little, as if someone had slugged him in the gut. But that was all. The force had hurled him backwards, into the kitchen cupboards, and afterwards he’d only scrambled up again and made himself a cup of tea, kicking the gun to the side as he did so.

And the last time, well… wasn’t that fruitful? He’d sat there for over an hour, waiting, humming a B.B. King tune and tapping his fingers against the steering wheel. Wondering it if he’d gone about it wrong or if the hose had somehow become loose. But as the space filled with fumes, he began to get excited. Here we go, he thought. After an hour and a bit, he’d simply gotten bored and gone back inside.

He put the kettle on the stove now as Mash, his cat, coiled about his legs, pawing at his skin under the pyjama pants. He was sure they were watching him now, spying on his every move through hidden lenses throughout his apartment.

Cropped cat

Perhaps even Mash was a spy, meowing messages back to them in code. He looked down at the butcher’s knife in the dish rack and realised he had had enough. His tricks were never going to work. He knew that they could hurt him, but he wasn’t sure how when he couldn’t even hurt himself.

‘I’m ready for the next stage, you swines!’ he shouted up into the ceiling. ‘Did you hear me? Give me whatever you got!’

For effect, he smashed something else to the floor: the cutlery tray. It clattered on the wooden floorboards, knives and forks scattering. ‘I’m ready! Come and get me, you bastards!’

There was a knock at the door.

 

The Prompt: Write a 500-word fiction piece based on a mundane, inanimate object. The truth? There are no mundane objects in fiction. This prompt is part of the series: The Inanimate Object Chronicles.  

(Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / olovedog (lamp) and Vlado (cat))