My brother David was a cat.

Cats, unlike dogs, don’t pursue your affection. They won’t sacrifice their own dignity for your attention, and they will refuse to engage in anything that endangers their ego, pride or public-facing image. And it will always, always, do whatever the fuck it wants.

A cat won’t sully itself for your love. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t want it. A cat will sit by the window sill, on a perch, somewhere removed, yet still present. Does it hide away under a bed? Does it escape and run as far away as possible?

No, it stays nearby, but just out of reach. Aside from food, engagement with you is on its terms, and only on its terms. And if food is involved, if the cat’s very survival is in your hands, well then yes, they’ll engage with you. A cat will harass you, make noise, follow you and be in your face, even giving you loving attention, because they want food. Once they get it, they are ungracious and ungrateful, going back to doing whatever the fuck they want. You haven’t earned their love simply because you control their survival, you’ve only earned engagement.

But you can earn their love. It just takes years, and you’ll only ever know because they haven’t run away. It won’t be something that you feel every day. A cat’s love is something you’ll only know by its proximity to you. If it stays near you and allows you to love it, then you’ve earned your place with them.

A cat cannot change its nature, nor would it ever want to. It is what it is and it doesn’t even have pride in what it is because that would suggest it has built itself into something or gone through some sort of transformative process. No, a cat is the most supreme arrogance. A cat doesn’t change or grow into anything that you’ll be able to quantify. They’ll never be or do anything purely for someone else’s benefit.

A cat is self-serving, self-absorbed, arrogant and removed. But you can love a cat. You can love it with your whole heart, regardless of anything it is, or does or doesn’t do. You can give all your love to a cat and at the end of their too-short lives never really know the depths of their love for you, or if they even did at all.

Loving a cat is more about you than it is about the cat. It says more about the person you are, the heart that you have that you choose to open up and give to this animal that is incapable of giving back equally in return.

Often, there are even multiple households that will love one cat. If that cat shows up at just the right time in any given window sill, sliding glass door, or even front stoop, they’ll receive a greeting and be welcome in some random home. They’ll come when called, no faster or slower than anywhere else, regardless if they’re being called “Bootsie”, “Bonbon”, “Banjo” or “Buttons”. They’ll show no more love or loyalty to their original “owner” than the retired gent two doors down that puts out the expensive tinned food and then goes inside and leaves it the hell alone.

A cat doesn’t want to be around you if you’re too affectionate, smothering it in your love. A cat will seem to want to be around someone who doesn’t want it around at all, finding the random in the crowd that’s allergic, or claims to not be a Cat Person. They sense the challenge, and pursue it. The same as having to earn your place with them, they’ll endeavour to earn favour from someone removed from them. Someone that’s not a push-over. Someone that’s not going to make it easy on them. Someone that doesn’t need them.

Because that’s the easiest for a cat. To not need and to not be needed. Then everything that happens in the relationship is more dignified. The transactional nature of their interactions will be to feed their ego, if not their bellies. They’ll respect you more the more you respect them.

For these people, the cat will appear to have more affection, loyalty, love. But at the end of the day, no matter who you are, or how you are, none of you will ever truly control a cat. It will always do whatever the fuck it wants, serving its own interests first and foremost. And if it appears to be doing something for you, be that a gift of a dead mouse or gentle licks on the back of your hand, it’s ultimately for the benefit of the cat. The gift is so you’ll keep feeding and housing them. They lick your hand because they want you to pet them. They follow you around the house until you feed them. They are always, always, looking out for themselves.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t love you, and it doesn’t mean you’re a fool for loving them. Because while you can’t know what their love truly looks like, you know what your own does. How it feels to love that cat. Even how it feels to share that cat, to know that others are loving it and it might be loving someone else despite the depth and breadth of the love you give.

Loving a cat says more about you than it does the cat. But if something can be said about the cat that all of you loved, it’s that this particular cat seemed to find pretty good people who gave their love. Even if every memory shared is in some way an example of the aloof, removed, self-absorbed nature that is inherent to a cat, the fact that whomever sharing it had such an open heart and so much love to give says a lot.

And it says more about you than it does the cat.


I was with Stan Grant, until the bit about “God”.

I’ve always respected news media types that stick their neck out there. That talk shit and back it up. Stan Grant’s always been a favourite of mine for these very things.

When it came time to crown a new king, I was surprised at how excited everyone was for it, while completely ignoring the fact that the coronation represents hundreds and hundreds of years of colonisation and subjugation of the indigenous peoples of many lands.

I mean… that’s not a small thing. The indigenous peoples of Australia are still feeling it, all day-every day. There are many that are scarred, traumatised, broken for life, by having been ripped from their loving parents arms under the White Australia Policy. Same as the Apsalooka tribes of my homeland in Montana, being taken to Government Schools, cut their hair and wash their mouths out with soap when they spoke their own language. It was common, it was The Way You Did Things.

And the monarchy is where all that started. It came from the top and trickled down. To me personally, the Royals have been little more than tabloid fodder for the entirety of my life, doing nothing notable in any practical way. Then all of a sudden there’s this New King and everyone’s paying attention like the royal family is still relevant.

Which is fine, if they are, I have nothing to say about that. Except for what they represent to the people that are still hurting from their lasting effects. Every continent in the world has been affected. So it IS relevant and Stan Grant was RIGHT.

He was right. And he got shit on for it. And his detractors were WRONG.

Then they were worse than wrong, they were racist and wrong. Then they were wrong BECAUSE they were racist. F*ck’s sake, that’s as obvious as the problems with colonialisation.

And Stan had a gutful of it. Not just that, but the very organisation that employs him and gives him this Huge Voice, didn’t support him. He wrote articles on it, they had heaps of coverage on it, but his voice was alone coming from the ABC. They have many First Nations presenters, yet they didn’t stand up for ANY of them, let alone Stan.

So he quit. He walked away. Or is “taking a break” or whatever term we use so as to not make things TOO final.

And he wrote a good and powerful and scathing One Last Thing.

And I liked it and I supported it and I was Standing With Stan all the way until…

*record scratch*


I am not perfect. But I try to live a good life. I try to be kind. I love my family. I love my people. I love the idea of what our country could be. I am a person of God and I know God is on the side of justice.

Sadly, it seems there is no place in the media for love, kindness, goodness or God. There is no place in the media for respect.

The first reference to “god” didn’t set me spinning. I have no interest in someone’s beliefs provided they don’t infringe upon others. It’s the second reference that shits me off.

“No place in the media for God”?!?

I’m sorry, Stan, but are you out of your f*cking mind?

You’ve got a huge brain, a huge personality and a huge voice. You are a man of power, a man of conviction and someone with influence. An integral and vital representative to your native Wiradjuri and First Nations people EVERYWHERE.

Yet you, yourself, can’t even see what you’re doing. Let’s assume you’re not just talking about the Abrahamic Religions, let’s say you’re talking about Christianity. Do you REALLY think that Western Culture is lacking in representation of Christianity?

I grew up being inundated with Christian teachings. I’ve read the Bible and completed Confirmation in a Protestant Church. Love, kindness and goodness are not separate from the concept of “God” in the context of the media.

I’ll put it simply: “God” has no place in media. Because we’re not all Christians, Stan. Most of us aren’t. “God” gets plenty of f*cking airtime, Stan. In EVERYTHING. “God” isn’t missing a place in the media, Stan. That’s not how this works.

Now’s when things get uncomfortable.

Also, Stan, I have a problem with your Christian god. I have no interest in changing your beliefs though. I simply want to point out  a few things you might be missing.

You’re against colonialisation. You’re not happy with the monarchy’s role in that. You’re against White Australia and I’m going to ASSUME that you’re against the systemic and systematic attempted genocide of your people’s culture.

Do you realise that the Christian god came along with that?

Literally, you can’t have one without the other. Colonialisation, subjugation, systematic genecidal racism… and Christianity.

They ALL go together. ALWAYS. EVERYWHERE.

I am a white dude and I have ZERO AUTHORITY to speak on the matters of First Nations peoples and their belief systems. But I will say, on a personal level, it makes my skin crawl to hear a First Nations person mention their belief in the Christian god.

65,000 years of your culture were overwritten by 200 years of subjugation, and you’re against that. But they brought along this New God, so that part’s okay?

That part, for me, simply doesn’t compute.

TLDR; I stand with Stan Grant, until he brings “God” into it. Then I point out that his god came along with all the shit he purports to have a problem with and is arguably as bad as the rest of it.

I used to be aspiring, but I’d limited myself.

It was posts like this one: Aspiring Writers Need to Quit NOW that used to make me feel super-emboldened and legit, but I could never seem to follow it up in execution. I ended up writing neither more nor less as a result.

It was only when I was doing the usual, trying to carve out writing time during an otherwise busy life, and Wifeage called me out. I can’t remember if I was complaining about not having enough time to finish a novel or not (though I probably was) but she sat me down and said only this:

You’re a writer. And writers, write.

I have never looked back since. I’ve finished two sci-fi-esque novels as part of a series and have outlined and plotted out at least 4 more in that universe. I’ve just passed the 50% mark in the Coming-of-Age/YA novel that’s sort of a reimagined memoir about a young man moving from Montana to Perth, and I’ve got about a third of the way through a crime novel set in the same universe too.

Not to mention at least a half-dozen other novel ideas based on awesome dreams I’ve had, and at least a dozen short stories that I’ve either submitted or plan to for various contests. Only two have won/shortlisted in anything, but still, that’s alright.

Anyway. thanks to people like Kristen that Rah-Rah all us writers. And thanks to Wifeage who remains my muse, my motivation, my biggest supporter.


Israel Folau Was Wrong

And he can get fucked.

It’s a tale as old as time: He’s good at sport, therefore we should just let him do as he pleases.

The ABC is clearly a fan of his with the first in a two-part documentary getting masturbated all over their website and social media. An article about a documentary that is undoubtedly full of the same. Worship of his athletic accomplishments.

He’s good at running with a ball on a field. Awesome.

He also tweeted hateful shit. The article, and all his supporters, are all about Free Speech and Freedom of Religion. Those things are great, but nowhere did they mention the gun to his head that forced him to write that all homosexuals will burn in hell.

I don’t give a rat’s ass about your religious beliefs, but Hate Speech is an easy one. If what you’re saying is actively HURTING OTHER PEOPLE in a marginalised group, then it’s Hate Speech.

And he got fired for it.


How can you call yourselves good people when what you spout from your mouths at others actively hurts them, causes them pain, and even kills some of them?

Read, and believe, anything you want from a really old book. Just don’t post it. Simples.

Not doing great.

How Am I Doing – 30/04/2023

[EDIT: 3.35pm 01/05/2023 – Originally a text file on my desktop, I have put it here.]
Not doing great, if I’m being honest. Still get sad, but now am feeling more and more removed and cynical and untrusting of others. Email from Cathie didn’t help. She makes me FEEL like I want to care, like I want to get closer to her. But then I remember all the times she’s made me feel like I did something wrong, like I am/was somehow wrong.

She just never missed a chance to remind me of that. The whole time Jo was there in her house, it would be Jo saying “Wasn’t he just wonderful!” or “Oh, what a cute little guy!” and Cathie would always, ALWAYS follow with “Oh, he was no angel!” in her firm voice.

Man, fuck that. I was a good fucking kid. And what the fuck did she know about it anyway? Did she ever pick me up from school for being naughty? Did my dad? Did either of them sit in a Parent-Teacher Conference and have to hear about anything awful I’d done?

What did I ever do to HER? I was stuck at her place for hours, days sometimes, with no other kids to play with and nothing to fucking do. I was stoked when I got to play on the computer, but the “Emergency Teleport” button was the space bar, and it was quite far away from the arrow pad that moved the little space ship. So when an asteroid was about to smash me, I had to quickly reach across and try and hit that space bar to teleport. It sounded hard, because space bars make slightly more noise than any other key.

Did she come in and politely ask me not to bang on the keyboard because computers are expensive? Did she come in and ask me why I’d banged on the keyboard? Nope, just a medium roar from the next room, “DON’T BANG ON THE KEYBOARD.”

I got one warning. One. If it happened again, in any manner, I was kicked off the computer for the rest of that visit and the entirety of the next one. For hitting the space key too hard. Because I was trying to emergency teleport.

But she never knew that, because she never cared. She never showed any interest in anything I did, ever. She never came to a concert, nor a football game (not even the ones in her town). I was shoved in the corner of her house and expected to play quietly. The toys there never got better as the years went by and I was absolutely, categorically NOT allowed in Jamel’s room in the converted attic. I was one told I could play with her brand-new Rubik’s cube and I got so close to solving one side but I just couldn’t figure it out. When I saw that the stickers were basically layers of plastic laying on the squares, I got my fingernail under one and it came off clean. Then the other one did too, so I swapped ’em. I felt guilty and stupid, but then forgot about it.

Jamel, being brilliant, came home and took one look at it.
“Did you swap the stickers?”
I wanted to lie. “Yes.” I hung my head.
“K, don’t… do that again.” She was pissed and went all quiet.

I wasn’t allowed to play with her stuff ever again. Not even shit she’d outgrown that sat in bags or boxes in the spare room. That stuff was for other people, promised to other kids. Not me.

Fuck I hated going to Cathie’s. And she never came to ours. Stepped foot in our house once in 1988 when we bought Denny’s truck and gave him a Going Away Party before he left for Perth. Other than that, I think she was there briefly when I graduated, but I don’t really remember that either.

So yeah, I’m a bit… sensitive these days. And I’m feeling quite bitter at anyone in my family. I still can’t believe Becky’s post. That was such shit and made me feel like complete shit. They’re all such shit, my family. Why are so many people such shit? *I* don’t think *we* are shit. I fucking love my little family. They’re wonderful people and I think they’re the best around.

Anyway. I’m not doing great. Pretty sensitive to things. Pretty sad sometimes, melancholic, then overly-sensitive. Trying so hard not to be too bitter, to be to reactive or sad or grumpy or shitty.

Kind of feel like shit today. Hate Mondays like Garfield, but hate bad sleep and bad wakings worse.

And all I’m doing is fucking whinging about it now. Just too… nostalgic isn’t the right word. Thinking about the past, I guess. Fuck that shit, and fuck all of them.


I *did* try

I’ll never know what it is that others might have thought about my feelings toward my only sibling. Perhaps that I was too harsh. Unforgiving. Maybe that I’m as much to blame as he for our relationship breakdown. I’ll never actually know.

What I know, is that I did try.

When we were kids, and most of my friends had an older brother around the same age, I watched how they interacted. I paid close attention to what they did to receive a positive reaction from their older brothers. Everything from Gordie Lachance in Stand By Me to Farmy calling out to his older brother as the High Schoolers crossed our playground to the cafeteria, “Danny, you’re stupid!”

Farmy would do this in a stage whisper, as if he were quietly trying to get Danny’s attention, hissing “Danny… Danny!” and then when he’d turn his head, “You’re stupid.” Danny would get a look of annoyance, then chase his little brother down and cuff him across the head, laughing as he’d get back in line on the way to lunch.

I did try.

But when I did it, he didn’t react. Not at all. Well, not until later, that is. Days later, when we’re both alone at home or the subject has come up of us at school and he’s looked at me coldly, as if deeply betrayed. Squints his face up as if he’s repeated the worst thing he’s ever heard. “Dave, you’re stupid? Don’t… ever, talk to me at school.” Nothing more said. And no, I didn’t ever talk to him at school again.

When I was a child, I did try.

He loved his Levi 501s. Button-fly and popular. They didn’t sell Levis in our town, only Wranglers. You had to go to Billings, where Mom lived at the time, to get Levis. When I asked for them too, Mom was quick to tell me that they didn’t have Levis in Child sizes, so that was that. I had blue jeans and corduroys for my only pants, so naturally I wore only the jeans. They weren’t Levi 501s, but they were blue jeans, and I wore them all the time, just like he did.

But I loved nature and playing outside, especially near water or up on the untamed hillside behind our house. And I got dirty. And I didn’t think anything of it. Hell, if I noted a patch of dirt on my jeans, I took it as a note of pride. Someone would look at that and clearly see a child that enjoys the outdoors, living and playing and being free as a bird out in the dirt, right?!

On one of the rare mornings I was ready at the exact instant he was and Dad was needed on some emergency or otherwise, I was lucky enough to get a ride in my brother’s car. He asked with derision, if that’s what I was wearing to school, and since I knew if I said “No, of course not!” in the way that he wanted, I’d get left at home while I changed. So I said “Yes.” because it was actually true, and I thought that rather obvious. He said nothing else.

Until later, that is. Another moment where it’s just the two of us, and he lectures me on how we’re “the Doctor’s kids and we have an image to uphold” and how I’m bringing shame on the family for wearing dirty clothes. I was asked who I thought I was, wearing the same jeans every day that week until they were covered in dirt, and didn’t I ever consider what that said about our family.

The answer was “No.” of course. I was 11 years old. I considered riding my bike, fishing and hiking the mountain hills behind our house with our giant Labrador dog. The washing machine was big enough to fit me inside of it, and I knew nothing more than that. I’d never considered the rest, and my brother was clearly disappointed that I hadn’t.

But I did try.

When I was in High School and he was in College, I went with my mother down to A&M to visit him once. He even brought me with him on his motorcycle to visit friends, zooming around College Station, Texas and feeling like the coolest little brother ever. With each stop and subsequent introductions, I felt more and more awesome. At one point, we’re at someone’s apartment and he and the guy are having a prolonged chat.

I’m a hick, fresh from the sticks, and every single thing is leaving me in awe. I’m in a Real College Kid’s Apartment, right near the campus and a bar and there’s a huge party building upstairs. It was all amazing, so I’m wandering around wide-eyed and excited. We’re back on the motorcycle and finish our tour as he drops me back with mom and we clean-up before dinner out with him. Which is the usual, where he and my mother circle each others’ planetary orbits and I simply try to be a moon here and there.

Later, when Mom’s otherwise occupied and the conversation has just been about my visit with him, I’m still feeling awesome. He addresses me directly for the first time all day by telling me that I can’t just wander in and out of rooms in someone else’s home. He tells me that now he’s going to have to uncomfortably approach those people, if he’s lucky enough to ever be invited to a party there again that is, and apologise for my behaviour. He asks if I’d never considered how it would reflect on him, skulking about like some sort of burglar, scoping out his next score.

The answer was “No.” again. I was 13 years old and had barely been out of our tiny Montana town of 700 people, plunked down in College Station, Texas, meeting and greeting real-live College Students at one of the biggest and best Universities in the Known Universe. I’d been standing outside Kyle Field thinking about how my entire town could fit inside the football stadium and how I’d never seen a structure that tall in person before. I was in utter awe at everything, so no, I hadn’t considered how that would reflect on my brother’s public image. He was clearly disappointed that I hadn’t.

But I did try.

When I was going off to college, I was elated. Nervous, anxious, but so excited to be getting on with living my life. Finally. He’d already made arrangements with our parents that I’d be living with him for at least my Freshman year. I couldn’t believe it. I’d finally arrived. We were finally going to be brothers.

My father, true to form, handed me an envelope full of US Treasury Bonds and wished me luck in my future University career. A short hug, and David and I piled into my truck and headed off to Texas A&M. Brothers. College Students. I was in his hands now. I trusted completely him with everything I owned, everything I was. If he told me to be a certain way in college, by dog I was going to be that way. If he’d said we were going to start a business of buying wrecked cars, fixing them up and flipping them for a mad profit, then that’s what was happening.

Ever the salesman, he pointed out that I had reasonable, and expected, options of course. I could just hang on to that money, pay for school and books and room and board for two semesters, sure. But at the end of it, all I’d have to show for it would be way less money than I had going in, and no real prospects of getting more. If I chose instead to invest that money in his idea, of buying cars from the salvage yard that he helped manage, paying friends of his to fix them up, and then selling them to Rich Texan College Kids, well then I could be making real money.

He spent the entire journey through the top-right corner of New Mexico outlining his plan. We could buy, fix and flip up to two cars a month. If I gave him $2000 for the cars and another $2000 to fix ’em, we could sell them for $3000 each and pocket two grand a month. He excitedly told me that after my first year of college was over, I could be sitting on $18K in profit, and what Freshman at A&M has ever run into that kind of deal?

Stars in my eyes was an understatement. Not only was I going to be his brother, live with him in an apartment, and be taken by the hand through this strange new world, but I had the opportunity to be the Chief Investor in a business idea that he’d had simmering. With my money, we could finally make this dream he had happen. I couldn’t have been more excited. I trusted him implicitly.

Sure, he’d ‘borrowed’ money off me my entire life, and maybe he’d never paid any of it back or even loaned me any when I needed, but that was the past. We were equals now. Both College Students. Real brothers. Finally.

We definitely weren’t kids anymore, like when I was 10 and got a shiny new Rossi .22LR pump-action walnut stock rifle for my birthday and he was 16 and took me aside to outline all the ways that his single-shot, bolt-action, pine stock 40-year old .22 rifle was a far better, more appropriate, rifle for me. And our trade wouldn’t be permanent, just until I was ready. A point in the future that he would determine after repeated shooting outings together. The prospect of being assessed by him while still owning my own rifle was wonderful to me, and I excitedly told Mom about how I thought that the rifle she’d given me was “too much gun” for me and that I was going to trade David for his old bolt-action “until I was ready”.

I hadn’t even finished the sentence before she exclaimed “Oh no you’re not!” and explained she got that rifle for me, and it wasn’t to be his, ever. I felt special. Loved. He was pissed. Hissing at me about how could I have gone straight to Mom and told her what we were doing, it being a deal between us and didn’t need to involve her.

But no, we weren’t those kids any more. He was a man, 24 and established there in the area. He had many friends and so many connections. This was a mother lode just waiting to be mined. He’d put on the hard sale, but he hadn’t needed to tell me how smart it would be to trust him with my money, I was in.

Besides, I told him from the passenger seat, I’d heard from mom about how it made him feel when our father had cut off financial support when he’d gotten bad grades and how I really didn’t agree with that decision. I took a hold of the moment, making sure I had his attention, and I took out the envelope of Savings Bonds. I held it up in front of him and said that I believed I probably got preferential treatment by being Dad’s biological child and that I thought that was shit. The truth was that had never, ever, occurred to me until Mom had suggested it, but it made such sense that I was infuriated. I showed him the envelope and told him in all sincerity that I considered what was in it to be half his. That I’d planned on sharing what Dad had given me with him anyway, but if it meant that we could start this business, chase this dream, then that was all the better.

Plus, wouldn’t that stick it to ol’ Dad if we were making so much money that we were paying for college on our own after a few years? To be financially free of him meant that we didn’t have to suffer his judgemental lectures for any bad grades, or anything really. We’d be truly independent.

I was so excited I could barely sleep the first few days after we got there. I was sleeping on their couch, which didn’t help when his roommate got up early for work. A tiny 2-bedroom apartment didn’t leave a lot of room for shifting around, it was explained to me, but he’d had a plan to build a bunk bed so that we could share a room. There was a slight shrug and muttered apology that the apartment was filled with someone else’s bags, boxes and stuff, but the guy’s wife just threw him out and what were they supposed to do? Roommate Carl had taken the bunk bed instead, as they certainly couldn’t turn the guy out on the street.

Besides, my brother assured me, he’d keep his bedroom window open so that he could hear if anyone helped themselves to my belongings sitting in the back of the truck and parked one floor below. That might’ve contributed a bit to my lack of sleeping as well.

But that didn’t matter, because every gas station sold fountain drinks that were like a gallon jug of milk, but Mountain Dew instead, and he was taking me to meet all of his automobile repair contacts the next few days. We were going to get this plan in action, and first thing Monday morning, we had a date at the bank, where we were going to deposit all $25,000 of Savings Bonds into a joint bank account where I would have control over my own set of finances and be able to track how the rest of them were going. For every withdrawal, he promised me there would be an equal or larger deposit not long after. His plan was perfect.

Savings Bonds don’t work on face value until a certain number of years passes though, and we were informed my father had purchased 30-year bonds. So if it said “$100” on it, it would have to be 30-years old before it was that value. These bonds weren’t more than 5 years old. This was all something it would have been nice to know, and we ended up with a little over $10K instead.

Not a problem, he’d assured me, we could still make this work. First and foremost, of course, we’d get tuition and books out of the way first, and I shouldn’t worry about keeping track of the checks because the balance would never be low enough to be a problem. Because we would be selling so many cars, of course, our balance would only ever grow.

Oh, and ignore if he’s taken large amounts of cash being taken out, some of the better bookstores only accept cash, and when you get into the higher classes like he was in, pre-Med and all, most students kept their textbooks because they would remain relevant in their careers, so there were never any used textbooks available. I’d been told to get used textbooks if I could, because they were about 10% of the price, but alas, he’d be forced to get new ones. The fact that you’d get up to 50% more when selling them back at the end of the semester had nothing to do with it.

Plus, I was reminded when writing the checks out for our tuition, I had promised that I’d considered half that money to be his, for the college money we both believed he’d be cheated by our father. I was honoured to have been able to write checks for both our educations with the money Dad had given me for college. It was a nice bit of defiance, a middle-finger in the air from the two sons that had both been shorted by his penny-pinching over our lifetimes. Wouldn’t we be showing him when the business was rocking and we didn’t need his money any more.

He’d scouted our first car, had cleared it with the salvage yard and the repair guys, and were were off. A Honda Protege, barely a few years old, trashed by some co-ed with a rich daddy that just bought her a new one. We got it for $1500 and only needed to put another $1100 into it to get it in sell-worthy condition, which was no problem with the money we had in our joint account. We were doing this thing, and it was going to make us rich.

Life moved on, I got stuck into my studies and we eventually built a bunk bed with a shitty foam mattress so that I had a place to sleep. It was cheap and shit, but I was in heaven. I was sharing a room with my brother, in college, out on our own, soon to be making our own money.

Months in and we were having too many adventures for me to worry about what was going on with the car. The unavoidable delays kept it from being finished, then there were some issues with getting it listed in the For Sale Ads. Then the phone calls came rolling in, but since he’d insisted that we were flexible in the price so we weren’t going to list the price, we got a shitload of calls. Most of whom hung up as soon as I told them what we were asking for it. I was assured it would sell soon, and not to worry.

In the meantime, I’m the designated Phone Person, because he already kind of had a girlfriend, Diane, that he’d had for a while. They weren’t a “thing” any more, according to my mother, since he’d made it clear he’d prefer to marry her and she made it clear she wasn’t going to marry someone who “worked at a junk yard.” He also had a friend, who’d started as just a friend, a study partner, but was now something more than that. So if she came over to “study” I was to stay out of the bedroom. There was also a bartender at the place we liked to shoot pool at, and they had a thing a while ago and she was still sort of hanging onto it and he didn’t want to be a real asshole and just cut her off and break her heart, so for her sake, he’d let her come around occasionally too.

Oh, and aside from working at an Auto Parts Store, Roommate Carl also owns a duplex that he’s rented out to a developmentally-disabled person who thinks there’s the owner, Carl, and the maintenance guy, Gibson. Carl is never around, being the busy entrepreneur that he is, but Gibson was usually available after a minute of prep. See, Carl Gibson was both, so he needed to get into character. Also, Gibson is Australian, so he’s got kind of a funny accent. I could tell stories of Roommate Carl for days.

So David is dodging every phone call and entertaining every female expressing interest while I’m trying to sell our car that no one wants. One guy took it for a test drive only for me to find out later that I wasn’t supposed to let him come over and he was really only there because he’s an old friend and gay and in love with David and sort of stalking him.

By the time the semester ends, we go home for Christmas and I’m still riding the high of us Being Brothers. Finally. I’ve done hardly anything to embarrass him or bring shame on our family, because you’re damn straight I’ve learned those lessons. And my only mistake came when we were out drinking with David’s Best Friend, Bret Green, and while he was trying it on with some girl and lamenting that he should know better than to try and hit on a girl when David is around because they always only have eyes for him, I commiserated, pointing out that David had plenty of attention. Oh, I’d said absently, forgive my delay but Marna called earlier. Again, and her message was the same as the last message. That it’s been two days and she would really appreciate him calling her back.

Bret Green had turned with shock and bemusement to my brother and practically shouted, “Who the HELL is ‘Marna’?!” David, flustered and missing the 8-ball during his turn, waved him off and took him aside from the pool table to explain in very believable and sincere ways that we were trying to sell the Protege, something Bret Green knew as he’d test-driven it too, and sometimes his little brother got confused as to when women would call and had assumed that she knew David, and instead was likely just a prospective buyer. He told Bret to look on the bright side, giving me a look, that we’d surely be selling that car soon.

Later, when alone, I was dressed down for my mistake and how I hadn’t considered that Bret Green, despite being David’s sworn Best Friend and Closest Confidant, was also roommates with Diane. How could I be so stupid as to go and mention another woman’s name to the roommate of one of the main women? There would surely be some explaining to do later, and was clearly all my fault.

But somehow that was my only real transgression for the entire semester. I’d done real good, I figured, and we had money to spare on nice presents for friends and family. I did, at least, as he was so busy with Finals, and we were such a tight unit by the end of the year, that he not only valued my judgement, but trust me with the finances necessary to get our parents presents for Christmas. Oh, and could I get something nice for Diane too? And something small for Marna, nothing too big, maybe a CD or something because I’d know by now what music she likes. He’d handle the present for this new girl, Anne, because I hadn’t met her yet and he didn’t want to fuck it up.

I’d gone into the 2nd semester of my Freshman year almost as confident as the first one. Financially-stable and still free and easy and able to pay for both my tuition and books, but for all of David’s fees as well. The first day of classes approached and I was finding that my truck’s gas tank was almost always hovering around empty when I took it to school in the morning. Granted, I’d told David to use it whenever he needed, having sold the Saab that Dad had given him two years before and his Buick always being worked on, but he’d promised that he’d never, ever take it out without putting gas in it.

When I came in with the mail one day I found a letter addressed to both of us from the bank. It wasn’t like the thick ones with our statements in it or ads for other services, it was a bright yellow inside. Roommate Carl commented that he recognised that as a bounced check fee. $50 please, do not pass Go. I said that was impossible, we had thousands in there, room and board for both of us couldn’t have cost that much, and it surely must be something else. Roommate Carl laughed, and said that he’d used the same bank for years. We owed them for the overdraft fees, $50, and the cancelled check fees, another $50. A cool hundred had disappeared like a fart in the wind.

David came home and I’d waited to open the envelope, as per his instructions, because since both our names were on there, we had to open them together. And if he’d opened them without me, it was just because he always got so much mail that he hadn’t noticed. And we didn’t need to open this one together because yes, Roommate Carl was right, this was a bounced check on our account. But it was all just a simple mistake, easily rectified. He’d moved some money over to a different account so that he could pay for some unforeseen repairs on the Protege, which were obviously why it wasn’t selling, and he’d straighten everything else out with the bank, and I wasn’t to worry about it.

As the semester moved on, he was seeing more and more of Anne, and I was seeing less and less of the other girls that came through. Anne’s parents lived a few blocks away, it turned out, in the rich people’s section of Bryan, instead of the crackhouse section, where we lived. They had a big, fancy house, with a pool and everything. Not that I would have known though, never having been invited over.

Anne also lived in Houston, which made it hard to see her, but thankfully he had a little brother that wanted to support his pursuit of love and would loan him the truck whenever he needed it. Never two weekends in a row though, he respected my need for my own freedom and didn’t want to monopolise my wheels. He’d fill it up every time, he promised.

This lasted one month before it turned into every weekend, but it was because it was her birthday, then her friend’s birthday, then the Dave Matthews concert, then their six-month anniversary. I knew my math wasn’t bad enough to think that it had been more than a few months since he’d spent the night at Diane’s or the bartenders, but maybe the anniversary in question was retro-actively agreed upon after their relationship was deemed mutually exclusive.

Then came the time for me to meet Anne, and she was not what I was expecting. I was told on the way to the bar that I was not ever to mention his recent nights at Diane’s and never Marna, let alone the bartender or anyone else. No other women, that was the rule. I knew the score by now, I knew how to avoid his disappointment. I didn’t even let on that I didn’t know about recent visits to Diane’s.

The evening was fun and he seemed pretty smitten, giving in to every one of her ballsy, brassy, bossy little demands. I did fuck up though, making some joke about how she was the reason that my truck was always out of gas, to which he reacted defensively when she gasped and turned to him accusingly, chastising him for leaving me high and dry on Monday mornings when I was late to class and he’d run into traffic coming back up from another weekend’s visit and I’d miss my first few classes because I’d have run out of gas too. I knew I’d get in trouble for that later, probably when she went to the toilet with her girlfriends, but the evening had a happy vibe, a good energy, and I felt the Stay of Execution.

Later, I nervously tried my hand at smooth-talking her and trying to fix things on his behalf. I wanted to prove to him that I could play this game too, where you lied to someone’s face to make the situation better. To make it so nobody got hurt and nobody had any problems. They’d come back from the bathroom and she’d plunked down on his lap, looping her arms around him and commenting that she was tired of yelling over a table and she liked that I was so funny like he was and she wanted to have front-row seats to the both of us.

I waited for a lull and got her attention, explaining that my faux pas earlier was because that model of Ford Ranger has two fuel tanks, with a simple toggle switch on the dash, and silly me, I’d simply confused the two tanks, believing the truck to be empty when David had, in fact, put gas in the other tank. And he was never the cause of me missing any classes, everybody always skipped first thing Monday morning 8am classes, and that I was exaggerating to give him shit because I wanted to see for myself how he handled it in front of her. Because, I told her, I could see how much he likes her, and I wanted to put her through the paces to make sure I was looking after the fragile heart of my only brother.

She was miffed at the suggestion that anyone would need to suss her out, and lowered her already husky voice to another register while aiming her power eyes at me to clarify that she wasn’t somebody that needed sussed out, thank you very much, she wouldn’t go around breaking people’s hearts.

Fearing I’d fucked up yet again, I prepared to retreat completely and ready myself to eat the inevitable Shit Sandwich that I’d not only get from him later but from her every time after, should I ever be allowed around her again. All I knew was I definitely wasn’t getting invited into her parents’ pool now.

Then something surprising happened. He took her chin in his hand, aiming her fiery little gaze at himself instead, and said, “Hey, you know when he said that he ‘could see how much he likes you’?” He slowly shook his head while gazing into her eyes and said, “He was wrong. ‘He loves you.'”

She melted into his arms, of course, her eyes suddenly as big as dinner plates while wobbling wetly at him instead of drilling holes into my skull. As we were leaving and they’d said their goodnights, I remember thinking that I’d thank him for the save. But the evening didn’t have that kind of vibe. He was happy, content, and I wasn’t going to remind him of anything that would bring up the subject of his disapproval of me, so I stayed silent, and enjoyed the moment.

The semester ended, I failed Chemistry 102, and my truck never got refuelled again even though it was gone from Friday midday to Monday middayy. The occasional envelope from the bank rolled in with yellow paper in it and Roommate Carl occasionally hassled me about how late we were with rent, even though I told him repeatedly that wasn’t possible given how much money we surely still had.

I told him not to worry about it anyway, as I’d be taking my truck back north with me for the Summer, and would be seeking other arrangements when I got back. Nothing amiss, completely amiable, but it was time I live on my own. He was happy for me and wished me the best, but could I pretty please, with sugar on top, remind my brother about rent?

A day or so before I took off David woke me up while he was leaving for work. He was happily informing me that it wasn’t so that he could borrow the truck, as he understood I had planned on being in Dallas to visit Mom for an event she wanted me to go to the next day and then I was off to Montana for the Summer. He wanted to tell me, with a pause and a sigh for gravity, that he ‘was probably gonna get married.’ and what did I think?

“Aaaaaaaaaah!” was my reply, and I genuinely thought I was being funny. I mean, he was joking, right? Married? I didn’t even know if I should ask if that meant he’d stopped sleeping with the other women, because I was afraid that he’d have some way of explaining The Rules to me again. Was he moving to Houston? Fuck, I had no idea what was going on.

I laughed, a genuine laugh, because a bachelor is supposed to be upset when a fellow bachelor is “lost to the enemy” or some other bullshit that I thought I was supposed to say. He acted hurt though, and moved slowly out of the room. I called out to him but he left the apartment. I didn’t bring it up again, and I still wasn’t even sure if he was kidding about being hurt or not.

At the end of Summer I’d come back down through Dallas and had timed it so he’d be there, having caught a ride with his friend Steve, who had also coincidentally been the one who had finally purchased the Protege after David offered him a great deal on it. That the deal also happened to be about $100 below what we’d put into it was never mentioned. It was Summer, hotter than fuck in Dallas, and I’d just been driving for nearly 24 straight hours, pulling over only in New Mexico to sleep in the cab, just so I could get back to have a full weekend with my brother at our mother’s house.

Mom was never one for rules, ever, so we liked it that she put her foot down if we were to be coming up on the occasional weekend to have her cook for us and do our laundry, that one of us was going to mow her lawn each time, as they were months apart, and we were taking turns because we were both going to be doing it.

I was fucked from the drive and the heat and just didn’t have it in me. He’d already been there a full day, lounging in the air conditioning and having his favourite meals trotted out to him. When Mom brought up the lawn-mowing, I mustered up my courage and asked him if he could do me a favour and take my turn. He baulked, telling me that it was my turn, him having done it the previous time back in May (this was August). I told him that I was asking for one favour, just one, I would do the lawn twice in a row next time, and I asked him “How many favours have I ever asked of you? Can’t you just do this one for me? All I’m asking is for you to mow the lawn.”

The truth was probably about two. And he’d turned me down on both of them. So silly me, I figured he owed me. Instead he looked at me with that same hurt expression he wore that day in the apartment months ago and said, “And all I asked of you was for you to be happy for me…” and trailed out as his sentence trailed off.

I don’t know why, but I wasn’t having it. I sat in the air-conditioning and read my comic books, stubbornly refusing to hit the optimal time just before dusk to mow Mom’s spiny, spikey, hotass Texas lawn. I knew, I just knew, that he was waiting me out. The day would get too far past it and the window for mowing would be gone, and we’d have disappointed our mother, something neither of us ever wanted to do, ever.

He was at the computer desk, ostensibly working on his homework for Summer School, but really I knew he was just keeping an eye on me to make sure I knew he wasn’t going to mow the lawn for me. I could feel the tension coming off him, and when I suddenly got up, I felt it release. His relief was visible, as he believed he’d won. I hadn’t even known quite what I was going to do until that moment, I was probably going to buck up and just go out there and do it and resent the fuck out of him for every second of it.

But fuck it, I figured, I still felt like shit and it had really struck me at how little I’d ever asked from him and how much he’d asked from, and taken, from me. Having seen him visibly relieved that he didn’t have to do something as simple and mundane as mowing the lawn hearkened back to every single time he was ‘just being lazy’ and had me do his chores, or shirked his to-dos that Mom or Dad had drawn up for him. For all the times I’d run to the shops for him, gone to the convenience store for him for cigarettes or drinks, or Mountain Dew and Doritos when we were kids. He’d never done any of that for me. Not ever. And he wanted to be pissy at me for not getting excited that he was going to marry a girl that knew nothing about him? Who was one of three or four sharing his bed without her knowledge or consent?

Instead of going outside, I went to the fridge, grabbed a can of Mountain Dew, went over to the comfiest chair in the house, plonked down heavily, opened up a comic book and chook-hissed the can of pop open, my intentions crystal clear. I wasn’t mowing that fucking lawn. I put my head down and comic book up so that I wouldn’t be tempted to watch his body language or catch the inevitable dirty looks, so I was suitably surprised when I heard the back door swish open and shut, then minutes later the growling of the lawn mower.

I half expected him to come in and stand in front of me and tell me that he’d gotten it going for me and I better get to it. I would have expected that from him. Hell, I made sure I was scarce when he was halfway done because I still expected him to come in and tell me that he was doing me the favour but we were splitting this time and I still owed him for an entire full session as that would have been reminiscent of many deals we’d made before.

Instead he mowed the whole thing and nothing more was said about it. I wasn’t going to fake excitement at the prospect of something I found ill-advised, stupid and, quite frankly, wrong. And I wasn’t going to feel guilt about his disappointment either, or his displeasure with having to mow Mom’s lawn on an August day. He came in and I offered him a beer and he took it, and I considered that a win. Maybe one of my first wins with him ever.

We headed back the next day to College Station and at some point he asked me about how the Summer had gone in Montana. I told him bits and pieces, mostly stories about people that knew him and missed him as those were the stories he always wanted to hear. Then the ones about our Dad and when he was being a doofus, he always liked those too. Anecdotally, I threw in how the Savings Bonds didn’t add up to what was written on them, so when Dad mysteriously found another stack of them in the ancient Old West Solid Steel Safe that he had at his clinic, I didn’t expect them to add up to much, but at least it was something.

When we got back and I got most of my stuff moved out, I went to the bank and gave them the Savings Bonds, just like before. But unlike before, I had them put it in my own account, now that I knew all about how to open them, and I happily saw my balance of $1,200. By my accounts of the comings and goings of our joint account, there should have been exactly $1,012 still in there and I’d decided to leave it all to him. I figured that was a more than fair trade, and I’d feel no guilt in taking the money meant for my college education and actually spending it on my college education.

I was still coming and going from the apartment for the next week or so, moving stuff out and ferrying him around to various things. At one point I remember him asking me if I’d been to the bank to deposit those Savings Bonds yet, and I told him that I had. I deliberately didn’t tell him I’d opened my own account though. The way I figured it, if there was what there should have been in there, just over $1,000, then there was no way he’d be put out. Because he had no idea how much I’d have put in there and there was no way he’d write a check for more than what was in there. Right?

I’d picked him up at work one day and taken him home and the mail was sitting on the table, like it always was, and he picked up the white bank envelope with the yellow letter inside, like he always did, but instead of carrying it swiftly and directly to his desk, he paused and gave me a genuinely curious look.

“I thought you said you deposited that money.” he said, and I watched him regard me with more and more scrutiny the further he got through that sentence.

I squared my shoulders, made myself as tall as I could, looked him straight in the eye and said, “I did.”

And I didn’t say anything more. If he’d asked, if he’d been confused, I would have explained I’d opened my own account. If he’d felt betrayed, if he’d been pissed at bouncing a check based on the assumption that I was putting more money into our account after he’d drained it without my knowledge, then I would have pointed out to him that recouping our money recently from the Protege and accounting for his upcoming tuition and fees, we should have still had more than $1,000 in there, and that if was writing checks bigger than that without first checking that he had the balance for it, then he better rethink the responsibility of having a checking account. And if he was going to do that on an account with my name on it, then we’d do better to split that money and open separate accounts.

I had all that ready to go, stored up and primed and ready to be laid out in a way that would be impossible to argue against. If he’d come at me from any conceivable angle, I was covered, and I’d spent days preparing for any direction of attack. Emotional blackmail, sentimentality, you name it, I was ready for whatever he might throw at me.

But he didn’t throw a thing. He just nodded like he understood the entire situation and quietly took the envelope to his desk.

It turned out that I did still have some residual guilt for not telling him I was going to put those extra Savings Bonds in my own account, but I figured I’d paid my imagined debt to him.

I did try. For a whole year, I tried.

After that, our relationship went back to its origins, of us playing off each other and entertaining our mother, or whomever else we were around, but really we only hung out at Thanksgiving and Christmas, then again at he and Anne’s wedding in February 1995. Nothing about the car-flipping business, bounced checks or Savings Bonds was ever mentioned between the two of us again.


For the next 10 years, I only saw him for about one weekend a year, including all the time that I lived in the same town as he worked and the 8 years I lived within a few miles of Mom. He never came to my house except the one time and he never met my friends or my girlfriend/fiance. Even though I saw every single one of his High School Football games, he never saw me play an instrument or a sport, despite being of semi-professional status of both at different points.

The one time he came to my house he’d been drinking all day while he and I and our mother went out fishing in Colorado. We’d both been begging him to come up for a visit because it sounded like his mental health was suffering. Mom continually mentioned that Anne was rather hard on him from time-to-time, usually right around the time of month when they’d have to send a check to a small town in Texas to pay child support for the illegitimate child he fathered while working out there, and Anne was home pregnant with their first.

When he finally did come up for a visit, he was miserable and not terribly talkative, the drinking just made that worse. He tried to be a big brother at some point and acted like he was putting me on the spot and asking me about whether or not I was happy with the person I was with and if I was making the right choice in marrying her.

I wasn’t, and I wasn’t. I was miserable too, but stupidly did what people expected of me and thought that asking her to marry me might straighten her out and away from the drugs. But I didn’t feel like that was his place any more, and I looked him right in the eye and lied. Not very convincingly either. In fact, I deliberately did a poor job at my lie to force him to press on. To bait him into digging deeper.

He didn’t though. He nodded with smug self-satisfaction and went back to drinking, citing jet lag (after a 2.5-hour flight the day before) as the reason he was uncharacteristically tired at 9.30pm and having me drive him back to Mom’s to sleep instead of staying at the home I owned.

That would be the last time I’d see him, as I would be married to another woman and living in Australia by the same time in a year. I didn’t see him at our step-sister’s wedding, nor our grandmother’s funeral, and I didn’t hear from him on the 4th of July when our mother tried to kill herself and I had to ring 911 and spend the night in the ICU with her, keeping vigil over her bed as she woke every 15 minutes and flailed at her IV and connected cords, holding her hands tight and fighting her back into bed where she would once again pass out. I didn’t hear from him when I got married, I didn’t hear from him for the birth of my first actual baby (second child) or my second baby (third child, 4 years later).

I rang him twice the first few months I was married, in August 2005 and again in October. The first time was to introduce him to my wife, who he promptly announced, “If Judd loves ya, I love ya.” and then when she complimented me as a person, he said, “I taught him everything he knows.” When I insisted Anne meet my wife, and Jo mentioned that one of the kids wanted more breakfast, Anne replied “Oh! You got a kid?!” then signed off on the call by saying that if Jo were ever in the States, to “come on down to HYOO-stun TAY-yexas.”

The one thing I did get, in the 18 years I’ve been here in Oz, was a comment on something I posted on my website. The same website I’d had since 2000, He left a comment on the About Me page that read, “Pretty cool, little bro.” I replied to the email address supplied. I’ve never heard anything back.

But I did try.

I didn’t reach out to him again, and when Mom defended him by saying that he’d always been bad about contacting her, being a day or more late for things like Mother’s Day or her birthday, sometimes not even ringing her at all as he’d simply forgotten completely. I told her I didn’t need much, and I hated talking on the phone since all anybody did since I moved to Australia was make draw attention to how I talked.

He never emailed me. He never rang me. And if he did, he never left a voicemail, so I never knew about it. He never told our mother to have me ring him or email him. When he joined Facebook years after I did and became friends with both our parents and extended family, just like I had, he never sent me a friend request. I simply never heard from him again.

But I did try.

Because I would have answered the phone, despite my protestations. I would have listened to the voicemail and rang him straight back. I would have accepted his friend request and tagged him in pictures of us as kids. I would have answered his email and written him volumes on my life and family and kids and all the things that I was proud of. I would have asked him endless questions about the beautiful niece I once had and I’d have reminded him how special she once was to me. I would have asked to talk to the young nephew I never got a chance to know, and I would have tried to know him. I would have shown mountains of interest in his life and I would have done flips and twists to get him to show any interest whatsoever in mine.

But he never did. And now he’s gone.

And I did cry. Still do.


Political Correctness

Are you tired of political correctness?

That’s because you’re viewing treating others with respect and equality as something that’s politically-motivated.

It’s also because you don’t like being told to change how you think or what you call things, because change is scary. Your insecurity is so strong that you experience strong anxiety at the idea of learning New Rules because you’ve worked SO long and SO hard just to learn THESE rules and you’re not even sure that you’re getting those right! New Rules just mean more chances to get things wrong, and that might make you look bad, and that’s to be avoided at all costs.

That’s probably why you’re tired of Political Correctness.

Once you connect the changes in society with how we speak, act and regard others, and you really drill down into that until you get to the fact that “others” ARE actually people, just like you, then maybe that makes a difference. Maybe it’s not so tiring if you’d ask that others have a little patience for you too. Then maybe you’d feel better about you. Maybe you wouldn’t be so anxious, so insecure. Maybe if someone else was a bit easier on you, you would be easier on others.

But since you had it hard, do you think that means others should have to have it hard as well?

Is the whole point of all this… society stuff, to do better? To BE better?

Are YOU doing better? Are you BEING better?

No, seriously. I’m asking.

Me personally, I’d actually like to see this next generation, MY KIDS, have it easier. Have it better. I’d LOVE to see what they can do if they don’t have to have it as hard as I had it. If that means I have to learn new concepts about gender, and use pronouns, and get used to things that used to be weird or different or abnormal to me… I think that’s more than fair.

I’d like to think that if we give them room to grow and the space to feel safe in, they might have a better chance at being… happy.

That’s my goal, anyway. What’s yours?

Annabel’s Teapot

This is a short story for the Australian Writer’s Centre Furious Fiction December 2022 Contest for which I was longlisted.

In addition to being limited to 500 words, the other rules were:

  • Each story had to begin with a 12-word sentence.
  • Each story had to include the sale of a second-hand item
  • Each story had to include at least five (5) different words that end in the letters –ICE.

Curious, when the entirety of life’s endeavours is little more than junk. Curious and pathetic. A loose collection of knickknacks, collectable items, kitsch.
Annabel loved her crochet samplers, her porcelain miniatures, her creepily-staring dolls, but she worshipped her spoons. She bid them good night, every night, and she stopped and stared at them every single day, sometimes finishing a nice cup of tea whilst standing unsteadily in front of them.
Her life consisted of very few lasting things. No children, not a single loved one still alive. Those spoons were the only thing she cared about. For them to be here, in this shop, awaiting appraisal and an unfair amount of currency for them was an injustice. Annabel’s life should be worth more than that.
The shop owner regarded the spoons with slightly less disdain than he did the man presenting them. Both were of swarthy persuasion, older and greying, and had been granted citizenship many years ago. But their countries of origin had fundamental differences of policies, and now a prejudice against the other permeated their very cell structures.
Annabel’s spoons would never be here were she alive. The only way someone would get them off her and get them here, was if they knew she was dead.
The man presents a tea set, the shop owner shows even more disdain, pointing out that it hasn’t even been given a proper clean. The tea remnants stain the bottom and one of the saucers shows the striped imprint of a licorice Allsort that was unstuck from it at some point. They bicker, the shop owner doesn’t want it until I call out that I would like to purchase it.
“Fifty.” The shop owner didn’t waste even a heartbeat before turning to me with an outrageous price. The seller’s eyes light up until he looks into my eyes and there’s a flicker, but I don’t think he recognises me.
“Twenty.” It’s a stupid game to play, but play it I must.
“Thirty-five.” The shop owner goes instantly to split the difference but catches the look of excitement on the seller’s face, leans over to him with his hand held up and reminds him, “Fifteen to you.”
The man doesn’t like it, but relents. Perhaps bolstered by this early success, he then takes among the first offers for the spoons and hastily departs. He’s easy enough to follow home because he lives next door to Annabel. I’ve seen him several times, though I don’t believe he’s ever really gotten a good look at me. When he answers the door, his brow gives a crinkle that says he’s confused as to how I was at the shop earlier and now on his front porch.
“I don’t know why, but you got in there before I could finish cleaning up at Annabel’s.” I push into his house. “Now it looks like I’ve got a whole lot more to clean up than just the nightshade from the teapot.”
I pull the door closed behind me.


Part of the Writing Journey

I’m not sure why I don’t put more in here about my writing, especially since it’s such a significant part of my life. I think I’ve wanted to try and balance my interactions with the world in a one-to-one sense (like emails) and a broader sense (like Facebook or blog posts).

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there’s a rather high level of anxiety associated with the latter. Posting to a broader audience feels like it’s too one-sided. Like you get to know this about me, but I don’t know what’s going on with you. It’s like you’re cheating.

But I can’t say that’s why. If I had to pick something it’s likely Imposter Syndrome. Like I’m not sure when I’m going to feel like a real writer. I had a short story published in an anthology magazine, The Stringybark Stories. So everybody reading this, go buy that and write a nice review for them. David’s an awesome guy and does some really good work with Stringybark, and more folks need to tell him that.

Stringybark Stories

I entered a short story Crazy Witch Woman and while I didn’t get into the Top 3 prize winners, I did get a “Highly Commended” and included in the published book. So that’s pretty cool. Wifeage gave me a kiss and told me she was happy to be the first to call me a “Published Author”.

I rather liked that.

So I laboured over what to do with the book I’d written. It turns out it’s bloody hard to get people to read it and give you feedback. I sent it out to over 10 people and got actual feedback from 2. 20% is not a great rate. But I also worked really hard on my rewrites and after finishing the sequel, I went back and applied the knowledge I’d gained of the characters to the first book. I really felt like they’d come alive in the second novel and I wanted the love that had grown to be applied to them retroactively.

I think it worked. But I’m not sure. I’ve since gotten more feedback but it’s insanely disheartening when NOBODY* talks about how much they like the book and instead talk about it’s problems. And they’re all different problems. Some of them are even kind of genre-specific and I wonder if these people just don’t like reading thrillers.

* Not nobody. Family Matty really quite enjoyed it, and that was the very first draft. Which, to be fair, was not a very good book. But he helped me heaps with what could make it better and I’ll always have much love for him for that.

But my goal was to self-publish it by the end of the year. I’ve written these dystopian, sci-fi, speculative fiction thrillers under a pen name, one that I’ve built all of the online profiles for, and my plan was to finish the two other novels I’m working on (crime thriller and coming-of-age drama) and try and pitch those to publishers/agents and maybe get traditionally published.

Not that the plan was always to get The Council onto Amazon via self-publishing. I queried some agents, you betcha, but they all turned me down with either ignoring me or saying “Yeah, not really my thing.” Which is fair. I don’t know what’s wrong with it, I know it’s not for everybody, but it really seems to put some people off. Which is hard to hear, because *I* sure like it. I liked writing it, I liked reading it later.

So the plan evolved into just taking this one series and putting it on Amazon. Some brilliant advice I got from a great guy I know, one of those author-types, said start with the first book for sale, then tease the sequel, then when the sequel drops make the first book FREE to hook readers and tease the third one. I think it’s a goer, for sure. I’m just wondering if anybody will even purchase the book in the first place.

That will be something I’ll have to work on. Getting people to read it, then leave a review (a good one, preferably) to boost interest, and maybe I’ll get lucky and catch the algorithm in the right mood. Heh.

Anyway, the first book is up on Amazon, but it’s not finished yet so I’ve set it to “draft”. I’m still gathering feedback and some of it is so good that I can’t officially publish it until it’s ready. When your 15-yo daughter blazes through it and takes notes in the margins and draws pictures of the characters, you know ignoring that type of thing is for people with No Soul.

So if you want to read the 7th draft before the 8th (and hopefully FINAL) draft, and have your valuable insights calculated and most-definitely, not-at-all ignored, then drop me an email. Otherwise, just wait patiently, I’ll update here when it’s ready.

A little about what my life looks like.

I am crippled. Broken. I have various bits of my body that don’t work well anymore. Some of them are my doing, living the life I did. Some of them are an accident of birth, genetics, fate. Neither of those differences ultimately matter though. What matters is pain.

Getting out of bed is pain. Getting into bed is nice, but still pain. Making the morning’s first hot drink, for me or Wifeage, is pain. Needing to sit on the toilet for an extended time is annoying for its base reasons, but it’s also pain. Doing nearly everything always involves a level of pain. And I am sick of it.

Except writing. Writing isn’t really painful. Not usually anyway. A new malady in my left arm has hampered things, but I’m learning to work with it. But if it meant giving up writing for the barest hope that this new pain would lessen, I would not. Fuck that. I’ll fight through the pain, and I’ll let the tears fall later when I am confronted that this, my last vestige of pain-free sanity, is now tainted with the same niggling electrical pulses that fuck with every other aspect of my day.

I’ve done The Right Things. I’ve seen the GPs enough that they’ve sent me to others who purport to want to help me. One of them plans to cut me open, fix or fuse or replace the bits that no longer work, and I remain hopeful this holds an answer to all this pain.

For now though, I have only the pain, and the hope. There are no answers yet. Writing is my only answer, and I plan to cling to it forever.