Start writing!

Editorial

12th November 2017

As somebody who's spent the last few months looking at creative work inspired by roads,The Open Road was always going to be an interesting brief, promising as it does a wide variety of interpretations, and I was excited to see that several of the entries took the theme in an unexpected direction (pun unintended!). 

 

One of the most eye-catching interpretations of the theme was Entry 2830: The Navajo Legacy which touched on some painfully timely themes of choice and political action, whilst also connecting with the culturally laden touchstone of Roswell. I was also drawn to Entry 2823: The Open Roada story of personal liberation and bravery set in a very contemporary environment. As with Entry 2830I welcomed the wider resonance of this story, particularly in today's political and cultural environment. The idea of the open road, for me, always has to reach somewhere beyond the apparent limit of the story, and I felt that both Entry 2830 and Entry 2823 did this with success. 

 

The other entry which caught my eye was Entry 2822, a poem which sang into some tight, vivid imagery. Lines like 'cellophaned bunches of flowers' were handled well. I also enjoyed the dense yet acute imagery in the final stanzas of this piece. I returned to this poem several times to let myself fully understand and start to come to terms with the amibiguity and depth to some of the moments; a welcome task! 

 

I was immediately drawn to Entry 2819: Sometimes A Car Crashes and Nothing Else is Near and for me, this was a clear and definite winner. Sometimes when it comes to writing, less is more and the appealing tightness of this poem, with its self-contained stories and imagery, was hard to deny. The characterisation of space within the poem was well done, contrasting the idea of the intimate space inside a car with the wider locations of the service station and the 'tidy hedge'. I particular enjoyed the final stanza: 'The rear light of a small family / car flickering through the gap, / a tiny hedge' and how it engaged both a sense of visual movement but also time. 

 

My congratulations to everyone who submitted work! Reading your entries was a stimulating and interesting experience and I'm pleased to have been able to to do so!

 

 

Bio:

 

Daisy Johnson is a writer, researcher and a librarian and also the current A14 'Writer In Residence', at the Institute of Continuing Education at the University of Cambridge. Along with writing her own work inspired by the landscape, Daisy is looking for people with their stories to tell about the road, whether they're real, fictional, poetic, or avant-garde performance poetry... You can find her online at http://didyoueverstoptothink.wordpress.com and more about the A14 project at https://www.facebook.com/groups/A14stories


Ephemera

"Sir, when I grow up, I'll like to play cricket for my country."
"I meant a real job. What's your ambition?"
"To be a professional cricket player."
"You mean a professional cricketer. You got to pay attention to articles 'a' and 'an', Ginger. Ah, there goes the bell! See you all next week."

Rushing out of Mr Timothy's class, the children were soon outside the whitewashed Intermediate School building. Their sturdy legs carrying a globe of knowledge fuelled their senses with wonder while some dragged their thoughts and lumped them to the ground as soon as they saw their parents. Some got on an amber school bus while others were whisked off in their parents' cars. Ginger had to wait for her mother who was always late to pick up her and her brother, Jim. She had to keep an eye on her brother who loved to wander off. One minute, he was tying his shoelace and another minute, he was pretending to fly with his arms spread out. Ginger sat quietly on the swing reminiscing about her English lesson. She had to do a presentation on Monday. Parents were invited to the class to watch their children present, and Ginger felt unease thinking about it.

Her mind wandered. She imagined a commentary of a cricket match: here's Ginger taking a shot. Oh, what a shot! What a dramatic end! White Ferns wins the World Cup!

"Ginger, where's your brother?" The voice startled her.

Jim with a sunny complexion came running into his mother's arms. Ginger heaved a sigh of relief. Jim was talking endlessly about a puppet play at his primary school throughout the journey while Ginger watched her mother drive through a busy street passing by a sushi restaurant, Turkish cafe and Korean eatery. She loved the blend of international cuisine in this part of the town.

"Hey sweetie, how was school?"
"The usual."
"Nothing exciting ever happens, huh?"
"Oh, I've got a letter inviting you to my presentation on my ambition on Monday."
"I don't think I can make it. I'm on morning shift!"
Ginger's eyes sparkled with delight but said in a hoarse tone, "Oh, it's okay, mum. Not a big deal."
"Perhaps, I'll ask Wendy to switch shifts with me. Yes, I'll do that!"
"But mum, you need not do that. It would be over before you could even spell my name."
"Oh dear, you need to polish on your performance and practice and practice!"
Ginger mumbled under her breath that it was a presentation and not a performance.
"My daughter, Dr Ginger Oliver!"
Her mother was struck by excitement, while Ginger's shoulders drooped.


Back at the school, Timothy was munching a crisp Gala apple that he had bought at the Wellington Farmer's market. While marking his students' essays, he lifted up his reading glasses and made eye contact with the new physical education teacher, Lydia.

"Lydia, care to join me for tea?"
"That would be lovely. I like mine with milk."
"The pantry is all yours. There's fresh milk in the fridge."
"I thought you -- ah, never mind. I'll make you one if you like."
"I'm good here. I've already a cuppa here. You'll find biscuits on the shelf."
"Thank you. Timothy, how was your day today?"
"Well, there was an incident in class."

Mrs Meddlesome stopped typing an email and cried out, "Mr Timothy, you must tell us all about this incident!"
"Yes, you do know Ginger, don't you?"
"Of course. The tall girl with sun-kissed freckles who sits at the back of the class. Her mother never turns up on time! What did she do?" Mrs Meddlesome dropped her weight on the red sofa.
"She wants to be a professional cricketer! Imagine a girl wanting to be that!"

Lydia was flabbergasted upon hearing that. She sipped her tea before giving a resounding reply. She dropped her china teacup onto the floor, and it shattered into pieces. Mrs Meddlesome jumped up quickly to avoid the tea staining her white blouse.

"Oh, Lydia! You got to be careful with those cups. They're Mr Timothy's wedding gift."
"I'm sorry, Timothy."
"Don't worry, Lydia. My wife wouldn't need them in her grave! The mop is over there. You do know how to use it, don't you?"
"Yes, Timothy. I can certainly make tea and mop!"
"Sorry, Lydia. You remind me of my daughter. Her mother--bless her soul--had done everything for both of us and we are quite lost without her!"

Mrs Meddlesome cleared her throat. She had to get back to her email but since gossips nourished her day, she wanted to hear about Ginger.

"Mr Timothy, you were saying something about Ginger."
"Yes, Ginger has a presentation on Monday. All the children in the class have some decent jobs to talk about while Ginger could only think about playing crickets!"
"Goodness me!", said Mrs Meddlesome.
"Aren't teachers suppose to encourage their students to be whatever they aim to be?"
"Look here, Lydia. Teachers have to guide their students to be on the right path."
"I'm afraid I've to agree with Mr.Timothy. He's a senior teacher who has seen his students graduate from universities and take up high posts in the government sector and corporate world. Cricket has no future! I cannot imagine Ginger running around in a courtyard with a racket, hitting a fluorescent yellow ball to play and doing that for a lifetime!"
Lydia and Timothy looked at each other and said simultaneously, "That's not cricket!"

On Monday, Ginger was feeling nervous as she waited for her mum who was still not around. Her mother's absence had taken a toll on her that made her feel melancholic although the classroom was filled with enthusiasm, as children and their parents took their places. As Ginger started to speak, her mum wearing a black t-shirt with a white fern logo walked into the classroom. Ginger's eyes welled up in tears. She recognised immediately the logo representing the New Zealand women's national cricket team. In high spirits, she delivered her presentation of her interest in becoming a professional woman cricketer. Loud applause rained in the room. Mr Timothy walked up to Ginger and said to her, "I'm proud of you today! Perfect delivery. But, mostly I admire your courage in speaking what you believe in!"

"Mum, how did you know that I love cricket and that I admire White Ferns?"
"Oh Ginger, I received a call from Lydia, the cricket coach at your school. Lydia said you could join the cricket camp this weekend. I'm sorry I didn't ask you what you like and assumed that you still liked becoming a doctor. "
"It's okay, mum. I love you. Shall we move to Auckland where I could study at the secondary cricket school in Auckland?"
Chuckling, Ginger's mum said, "Did you say Auckland? We'll see about that. First, let's go home and watch a cricket match together while enjoying a sushi takeaway."
"Oh yes, marvellous!"









Need… To… Know

Last week's competition

Last Week's Winner!

Winning entry by Zanna
Shackles of Love

The tangerine smells heavenly especially when I peel the skin with my dainty fingers painted in henna. Each segment of the orange tastes sweet with the juice filling my mouth and running down my throat. I spit out the seed and it lands inside an empty pizza box. I drink up the remaining cold coffee just to feel its bitterness on my tongue. The aroma of the fragrant tangerine lingers as I pick up what is left of my life after Raj's betrayal. The reality of the fruit's sweetness contrasts with the bitterness I feel in my heart.

Tonight, I will leave the dishes undone. The greasy pots, pans, ladle, plates and glasses fill the sink. I will even leave the kitchen as it is with crumbs on the cutting board, bits of dough stuck to the side of a bowl and a wine glass rim stained by my ruby red lipstick. In the dining room, a table has been set for two. I had placed two plain white dinner plates and wine glasses on a white linen table cloth. An unscented white candle in a glass holder is in the centre of the round table. Its mellow candlelight on white rose petals in a glass vase elevates the romantic presence. I simply love the combination of white and glass. The dinner will be a pleasant surprise for my husband, Raj. I wait eagerly to celebrate my second wedding anniversary with him. The time is 7.00pm. Raj is not here.

A year ago, I caught him talking for hours on his phone and he said they were business deals. I believed him. But the calls at late nights became too frequent and I grew suspicious with the manner he spoke. He lowered his tone to a low pitch and sometimes his deep voice varied to be a sing-song tone.

I remember clearly it was the month of June last year. Raj was in the shower when a ring tone 'Hello' by Adele was getting louder. My heart beat faster when he came out of the shower with a bath towel tied around his waist. He grabbed a hand towel to squeeze his black hair dry. Then he dried his wavy hair with a hair drier while staring at his reflection in the mirror. Raj had well-toned muscles. He caught me staring at him.

'Sunitha, I need to head back to the office. I've a case to prepare for tomorrow.'
'Who is Lola?' My voice trembled.
'How do you know Lola?' His face flushed and he quickly turned back to face me.
'I answered your call while you were in the shower.' I tried explaining to him.
'Don't you know better than answering my calls? Don't ever touch my phone!' his voiced turned ugly, 'Now get out of this room!'

He shut the bedroom door with a loud bang and locked it from inside. He was conversing for a long time behind the door. Before I could apologize, he left home in a rush and I saw him driving off in his car. From the 7th floor of our apartment, I gazed at the silhouette of the night skyline of Kuala Lumpur where Petronas Twin Towers stood out. I was trying to make sense of the skyline, the neon lights, the black cat crossing the road and my life.

The drama did not end there. The next day after a long tiring day at office, I came home to a shocking sight of my bedroom with shirts, pants, socks, papers and coins scattered all over our bed and the carpeted floor. His closet and drawers were empty while his luggage and sports shoes were missing. It seemed like a hurried get away. His phone was dead. He did not leave me a note.

I called up my papa and asked him if I should lodge a police report on "missing person". Papa advised me to leave the matter in his hands after I told him about Lola. The detective whom papa hired reported to him on Raj's whereabouts. He was still in town and was commuting to work from a hotel. He was spotted with a woman at several locations in the city. Black and white photos of Raj and Lola were spread out on the coffee table. The close proximity shared made me cringe. Papa had made an arrangement to meet Raj at his hotel lobby to confront him on the matter. I did not want the meeting to turn ugly. I begged papa to allow me to join him but instead he asked me to prepare for my first wedding anniversary. I decided to celebrate it with a romantic dinner. Papa promised to bring Raj home. I told myself I could forgive Raj and take him back into my life.

I cannot believe a year has passed. Tonight is my second wedding anniversary. I braid my long hair, pin jasmine to it with the stringed buds falling slightly over my right shoulder. I wear a pink sari with gold embroidery and place a red bindi on my forehead. I look outside the window and see oil palm leaves rustling in the wind. This oil palm estate is miles and miles away from Kuala Lumpur. My eyes sweep across the untidy kitchen. I glance at the pizza box. I can still smell the aroma of the tangerines despite the musty smell of the dining room. Then my eyes linger on the white candles on the table set for two for the candlelight relaxes me. The wall clock shows 8.00pm. I am ready to meet my husband.

I walk downstairs to the basement where a step of the staircase creaks. It is not pitch dark as a faint light from a bulb falls on a figure behind iron bars. I meet my husband's cold eyes who takes some time to recognize me. His cage of bones jitters and his lips swear. His dark eyes were sparkling in fury.

Raj has been locked up for months now in the basement after he refused to come home on our first wedding anniversary. Celebrating our second wedding anniversary together seems deeply moving to me. But he looks so distraught that I cannot have a proper conversation with him. He chokes back tears while speaking to me. I stare at the shackles around his ankles. I glance around at the sunless room equipped with a wooden bed with no mattress, sink and toilet bowl. I feel overwhelmed by the severe condition he is in and actually feel pity for him.

'Let me out, Sunitha! It's been a year! Please forgive me!' he said. His voice changes from a gruntling harsh tone to a pleading tone.
'You did not come home last year! You humiliated my family by taking a mistress.'
'Lola is ..I mean.. was my girlfriend. I agreed to our arranged marriage because of my mother. It was her dying wish that I marry you. I had no choice,' he said.
'I need to know whether you love me.'
'No...,' he said.
Raj's reply came too quickly and he realizes to his horror his mistake.
'Well, I'll see you again next year. You're safe for no storms visit here and no man too except of course for the faithful workers whom I've hired to take care of you!' I said.
'Wait..don't go...please..please don't leave me here!' He cries in anguish.

I go up to the kitchen, peel a tangerine, put a fleshly carpel in my mouth, crush it and lick my lips. The flame of the candle has long died. As the clock strikes twelve, I leave the bungalow, drive out of the oil palm plantation and never return. No one needs to know that my husband is paying a price for his betrayal of my love and trust.




Featured Entry

by daddy
Edith

Steve was sitting inside the screened veranda of the hired cottage just short of Taho in California. Steve and Edith had rented this cottage to spend a month of summer among the beautiful surroundings of Lake Taho. Steve was now touching seventy and had retired from active life as an electrical engineer, Edith had also retired from her school where she used to teach maths. Steve could see the meandering trail in front of the cottage going down to the tiny valley. Fir and pine trees lined the path on both sides. Wildflowers like Yarrows covered the ground, Pussytoes and Arnica. He could see the dull sun just above the winding pathway in between two mountains. As he looked, he thought he saw a fried egg sunny side up kept on a vertical plate. A small boy ran past the cottage and headed down to the valley in his grey shorts and bright yellow tee, and he had a small cap with some logo and a bobbing red scarf around his neck. Behind him, was an old man, in a black jacket trying hard to keep the boy in sight.

He remembered the days when he had combed the beach at Taho and dared to swim in the strong winds that lashed the surface. Edith had kept a watch on him and had forbidden him to venture far from the shore. He recollected that a swarm of Lahontan trout had started chasing him and had even nibbled one of his toes before the rescue helicopter crew saved him. Edith had kept screaming at the trail of blood from his foot till the doctors reassured her that he would be fine in a couple of days. He was taken to a hospital but could not recollect its name. He looked around searching for Edith. He hated the crabs on the shore they always bit him, he could not remember a day when they had not had a go at his feet, the purple ones were nasty. He saw Edith just outside the house collecting the wildflowers to put in the clay pot on the dining table. He wondered why the water turned violet and even started bubbling when the flowers were placed into the bowl. Edith always made broth at night and put wild mushrooms and turnips in it along with small fish and eggs and served it with garlic buns dipped in butter. He wondered what had made so many silk moths fly around his house? It was not so dark yet, and he could still spot the roses five cottages away as they swayed hither and thither in the wind. The pattern on the ground made by filtered sunlight changed with the breeze, a bit troubling at times and it made him squint and wince.

He could see the yellow of the egg sliding down slowly as the plate turned dark. He wondered about the orange glow at the far end of the trail it did seem to get brighter and brighter. He wheeled his chair for a better view and realised it could be a forest fire, undoubtedly it was, as he could see the commotion among the Jays and Chickadees flying past his cottage. He frantically looked for Edith and manoeuvred his wheelchair out of the wicket gate shouting. He heard a low thunder as some raindrops slammed his face, what the heck! Hailstorm, relieved he rushed back to the safety of his veranda. He wondered if he saw a bear Crisscross among the towering trees….he shouted: “Verdammt Edith wo bist du!!”

steve...steve…he thought he heard someone calling him …

(Steve had been admitted to Westmead Public Hospital, Sydney, Australia for a neurological disorder, all his tests were normal including the dream mapping which had been done during the day. Sylvie was trying to wake up Steve from his induced dream state. Steve had never set foot outside Australia, he was being clinically investigated for a language disorder…he had started speaking German one fine morning, a language he had never learned. Sylvie had no idea who Edith was, during the past 51 years of their marriage she had never heard of her.)

There is a need to know what we ought to know about what we do not know…
My Notes