The first peace … came in first moments of knowing the danger had passed. There would be other dangers but they were for another day. All clear.
For a while it had been scary. Could she leave enough for them if she had to go?
She wanted to see them through. Any mother would.
For a while she had been the angel of her suburb, a wonder, a miracle for coping so well, an inspiration, for taking it in her stride, for taking so much on at such a time.
Suddenly, she did not sweat the small stuff. How little they knew, and she made sure to keep it that way. But one day, on an institutional couch in a room with a square window filled by a swirl of leaves and branches, a word or two delivered with measured compassion tugged her and all that had been so neatly buttoned up poured out. A few minutes later she applied lipstick and stepped back into her bravado. She liked this feeling, that she might conquer anything, and of feeling that the normal irritations could not touch her, would wash over her, and of the many plans she had for ‘after this time’. She would achieve so much, and give so much, and never be ordinary again. But she was…
This is written on Mothers Day in some parts of the world. Happy Mothers Day to all and particularly those without their mothers today.
It was prompted by writing a prompt, “The First Peace…” from Writing From The Soul sent by Jane Brunette today. It is always a welcome addition the the in-box. I use prompts if my mind has been busy and my writer soul has been out of action.
The boys were restless all through class. Maybe it was the rocket launch they’d planned down in Tommy Jones’s back paddock. Maybe it was a combination of raging hormones and the moon being in Jupiter.
Adam felt just like them. He had to keep dragging his mind back to the classroom, away from the thought of seeing Shelly tonight. There were only a couple of hours to go before he’d be driving down to the airport. Shelly’s secondment in Sydney had ended up being much longer than they thought, and for three months Sydney had been replaced by Singapore. But they’d got through. There were on the home run now. We’re going to make it.
There was a lot of fidgeting going on at the desk in the back corner. Perhaps it was time to rearrange the class seating plan. “Dylan, you need to think about this revision I’ve set out. If you can work your way through this it will give most of what you need for the examination.”
“Come on Mr Hammo, it’ll be cool.”
“So Mr Hamilton, are you saying that the answers to the exams are all in this latest revision?” said Melissa Broad with raven hair and chocolate brown eyes, framed with long lashes, and seemingly oblivious of her own burgeoning power to break hearts.
“If you can work your way through that you’ll make it through the exam Melissa,” said Adam.
“Gee thanks Brain-box Broad. That’s all right then sir. I’ll just brush up on that the night before,” said Dylan slamming his book down on the desk.
“I’m serious Dylan, you do need to prepare for the exam in advance.”
“C’mon Sir, you’re just trying to make it easy on yourself so you don’t have to teach us.”
“He’s got other things on his mind,” said Dylan. The boys down the back tittered.
“Mr Hammo’s going to the seaside. He’s going to see his shell-leee.
“He’s going to have sex on the sand. He’s going to have a …
“Stop that now, Dylan Miller. Get out of this classroom now and go and wait by the principal’s office.” Dylan stood up and clomped out to the classroom raising his hand to wave to classmates.
“Ooh,” called a voice from the back. Perhaps it was Craig Brennan or Ryan Sharp. Adam was past caring.
“Look how pink Hammo’s face is,” whispered Narelle Flick to Melissa so loudly almost everyone could hear.
Adam knew she was right. And that now his face was turning brilliant red.
“I am going to miss you lot in the holidays,” said Adam, “particularly your humour.”
“No, you won’t sir. You’ll have your lay…..deeeeee.”
“Craig Brennan, would you like to visit the principal too?”
“No Sir, I’ll skip it today.”
“Now over the vacation, if you want to increase your chances at the exams you should be reading…..
The bell rang. Sweet relief. Lunchtime. Almost through. Adam had arranged an early cut to miss the last lesson. He was to drive to the airport, a journey of two hours, and take the afternoon flight to Brisbane.
But first he had to deal with Dylan Miller. Adam thought he might have bunked off, and to be honest on this day if he had. Adam might have let it go, and saved a stiff reminder for his first day of term. But Dylan was waiting, leaning by the wall outside Bill Cosgrove’s office.
“OK Dylan, I am just going in to see when Mr Cosgrove will be free, so just wait here please?”
“Mr Hammo, I mean Sir, do you have to?” said Dylan.
“Dylan, if it was the first time you’d misbehaved but you know as well as I do that you’ve been out of order a lot.
“Please don’t sir. I don’t want there to be trouble at home.”
“Well you should have thought about that before. Just wait here Dylan.”
Dylan slumped into a chair in the waiting room.
“But sir my mother’s really sick. My gran’ll skin me alive if I get into trouble.”
“What about your parents?”
“Mum’s sick, really sick,” he said.
“I’m living with me Gran,” he said.
“And your Dad?”
“What’s your Gran like?”
“She’s alright I guess.”
“Don’t give her grief Dylan,” said Adam.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean don’t make life any harder for your Gran than it already is.”
Dylan pulled a face. This was Hammo was in new territory.
“All right I won’t sir.”
The voices coming out of Mr Cosgroves office were clearly in a heated discussion.
“Dylan, go to your next class then go home,” said Adam. “And I’ll see you after holidays. And think about how you are going to behave next term.”
“Ok sir. Thanks sir. Have a good time at the coast sir,” said Dylan making for the door in case Adam changed his mind. Dylan would return home to Acacia Street that afternoon where his mother would be sitting in her shorts and t-shirt on the verandah with a cigarette on the go.
“Don’t tell me it’s the bloody holidays,” she’d say. “Always on bloody holidays, you kids, why don’t you go and get a job?”
If Adam took a cab from the airport, he’d just have time to get to the jewellery store. He liked the sound of the destination as he said it to the cabby. The best jeweller in the city. It sounded like the destination of a successful man.
By MJ Edmunds : I glimpsed the moonlit sky in the last hour of darkness. For this I give gratitude to the cat that found me at my early desk and brushed by my legs to say he had a night mission. As I slid the door open I spotted the moon just up there and liked how it glimmered on the roof of the house next door and onto the road. Barefoot, I crossed the deck and leaned on the railing to crane to take in the indigo sky. I drew in a deep breath at the pleasure of it. As light as it was, you (if lucky) could see stars still strewn across the sky, and what I call in all of my stories a dance hall sky. Some were dimmed by now. A car came up the hill, two white orbs showing the way although almost not needed. This driver was making an early start, a nurse heading for a shift, a lover stealing home before dawn, a traveller heading for the airport to go south for weekend, or a surfer racing to catch a wave at daybreak… The Paradigm Shuffle~MJ Edmunds
I once heard novel writing described as the writer setting themselves a puzzle or trap from which they must escape. Over the past few months I have been redrafting my novel Sapphire Day, one of several in progress, and am now 30 pages from the end. That makes it sound easy. And yet I only need to buckle down and finish it.
The bad news is that this 30 pages needs a bit of work as I seem to have switched styles. The first chapter was decided more or less five years ago. The world and me has changed a great deal in that time. For a year or so I had a new redrafted chapter but we are back at Plan A, albeit more sleek.
The good news is that there is still suspense 30 pages from the end. The story could end in a number of ways. It could be open or a neat bow.The lesson for the future is to have sorted the ending out first.
I planned to submit this redraft to a couple of publishers this week. But first I am going to have it proofread, again. I am lucky to have good support in this way.
When reading a novel, part of me wants a happy ending and part of me accepts that life is not like this, that happiness is for only a moment, and that the key to life is in having a good many good moments.
Do you like your stories tied up in neat bows or do you like to wonder about what might still happen?
/>Jonathan Franzen’s disdain for social media is well-known. He’s also careful not to let the Internet distract him from writing. I read somewhere that he superglued a computer so he could not plug in a modem.
In Nathan Bransford’s excellent blog on the topic of books and writing) he described hearing Jonathan Franzen speak and how this gave him a new understanding of where Franzen was coming from. Franzen thinks very deeply and social media is a distraction from that.
I heard Jonathan Franzen speak at Brisbane Writers’ Festival on the chilly afternoon on September 10, 2011. He spoke a lot about birdwatching. At the end of his talk during audience questions a young man asked if he could comment on the changes in the ‘American psyche’ in the 10 years since 9/11.
Franzen said no.
But then he said he’d explain why he was saying no. Part of the answer was that he did not like memorialisation of events being commoditised into an experience. After the talk I bought a Franzen book and joined the end of a long queue to have it signed. A young man lined up behind me. He worked at the excellent Avid Reader bookstore and was shivering, having set out that brilliant spring morning without a jacket. When we reached the signing table, I suggested he go first.
When I reached Jonathan Franzen I thanked him for his talk and said I felt much the same way about memorial celebrations. Then I said, “You and I have work appearing in the same anthology.”
It’s something I’m unlikely to be able to say again.
He asked me the title. It is City-pick New York I said.
“What's your story about?” said Franzen.
I described "Blue, blue sky". "Its a simple recollection of visiting the South Tower of the World Trade Center. It's a tourist's memory. Returning 10 years later I questioned myself about my resistance to interpreted memorials. I am also resistant to seeing tragedies as cultural events that I can choose like experiential tourism.
After he had signed his book, Jonathan Franzen handed it to me, then took my cold hand into his, shook it warmly and thanked me for being "one of us."
Later I realised I'd forgotten to get a photograph. The moment had passed. There would be no currency, no
'social object' – a la Hugh McLeod – on Twitter or Facebook or any other social media of me meeting Jonathan Franzen. It seems fitting.
Welcome to The Paradigm Shuffle. I had a newspaper column of my own when I was 19 years old, some time before blogging and the Internet ever existed (which is a mercy). I didn’t know how lucky I was. I write and edit business and corporate material and work with writers at The Writing Business. I write for major newspapers and had a long career with newspapers in Australia, Hong Kong and the UK. I am very glad of it and all that I learned, the places travelled to and within, and most of all the people. I occasionally write personal pieces in the newspapers that usually attract (positive) mail. I’ve co-authored a self-help book that can help you see that you are all as you are, if only you knew it! It is intended to help you see and enjoy this with very little reading and without a list of impossible rules.
In 2011 I wrote a memoir piece, ‘Blue, Blue Sky’ in the literary travel anthology, city-pick New York. It felt like an honour as my story appeared alongside excerpts from that Great Gatsby man and Jonathan Franzen and so many more. In April 2013, my tale of the Turkish bath ‘Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush’ appeared in City-pick Istanbul. It features Orhan Pamuk of course but it’s a great way to discover many of Turkey’s great writers all in one little book.
What else is there? I write novels and short stories this blog will explore that path of oh so hard work and my ongoing grappling with that. So this is my column circa the noughties. Welcome.
The P.S. Thanks to Monica Marcil for helping me to arrive at the title The Paradigm Shuffle.