ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Monday, 17 December 2012

Holiday Spirit Blogfest - Flashback - Cyclone - Christmas Day - 1974

This is my second entry in the Holiday Spirit blogfest -- flash fiction this time. Cyclones are a fact of life in the Pacific during the summertime. Australia has her fair share, but the current cyclone is to the north. As Samoa and Fiji are battered by Cyclone Evan, my story for the blogfest is completely relevant. As Wellington lawyer Janet Mason says right now from Lautoka (a coastal town not far from Nadi) --  the weather is extreme and dramatic...an empty house has flown through the air and landed beside hers. "Another house has completely disintegrated, its roof is in the trees." Debris is everywhere and much of it is flying through the air. "Everything is going, all the trees are being destroyed, there will be nothing left."
In her own home the roof was coming off and she was losing windows. "It's really bad, it never stops. The wind is howling so strong and it is raining, except the wind is so strong you cannot see the rain.”


Damage to Darwin  

CHRISTMAS DAY

 DARWIN, NORTHERN TERRITORY, 1974


Dawn peeps over the horizon, like a shy child coming late to a birthday party. Dawn’s light reveals crepe paper streamers—red and green dye trickling like blood, swaying nonchalantly in the morning breeze. Gold tinsel, ripped to tatters, is choking fallen timbers that lie on the soil like fallen soldiers. Balloons bobble and bounce across the streets—having a party all of their own—popped by exposed nails or sizzling electric wires that snake along the ground looking for someone to bite. Christmas presents lie spurned and broken like unwanted toys from the birthday child’s gift table.
Humans enter the dangerous landscape, looking as shell shocked as survivors of a wartime bombing raid. Puzzled—disorientated—stepping over a carpet of broken glass—dodging downed power poles—lifting twisted galvanized roofing, making sure no-one lies wounded beneath.
Houses that once stood proudly on stilts are lying crumpled in backyards, fallen on remnants of Christmas Eve barbeques. Odd sights like a car bonnet peep like a child playing hide and seek from under a pile of cement blocks. Rectangles of timber that once housed glass louvers gape emptily, propped like lazy drunkards against walls. The few trees still standing offer denuded fingers to the sky as if in surrender—battle over—battle lost.
Total devastation.
Mandy pulls herself from underneath the mattress that had landed on top of her during the long night.
The night—the darkness—the fear.
No lights—no radio—total terror.
She hurts. Her chest is crushed—her breathing labored—she cannot move any further.
 When will help come? The hideous sound of the wind blowing in from the sea is her only companion. She hears glass shattering, streetlights popping, neighbours screaming.
The long night is over. Dawn is breaking. It’s Christmas Day. Help will come, God willing.

©DeniseCovey2012


POSTSCRIPT:

Cyclone Tracy was not a fictional event. It struck on Christmas Eve, 1974,  practically destroying the city of Darwin. Darwin has been rebuilt and is today a thriving tropical city, the northern gateway to Australia. My account of events is of course, purely fictional, and based on my study of the event.

This is not the cheeriest Christmas story, but I hope it helps us to remember those less fortunate --whether affected by natural or man-made disasters -- as we approach the holiday season.

I hope your Christmas is wonderful!

Thanks for reading. Perhaps you have a story...fact or fiction...you'd like to share. 



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31 comments:

  1. Powerful imagery written in this Denise. Sad to have such a happy time ruined by Nature. My heart goes out to those affected in Samoa and Fiji.

    I hope you weekend trip was a happier time for you.

    ......dhole

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    1. Thanks Donna. Sadly, plenty of people have their lives ruined as we speak.
      The cruise was awesome. A lovely lunch onboard and a few cocktails always equals a great day!

      Denise

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  2. Hi Denise .. the thought of being in a place where it feels like the end of the world must be terrible. I wasn't here for the British hurricane of 1987 ... but I remember being shocked by the Boxing Day Tsunami .... and seeing the horror of it unfold, let alone the recent American storm Sandy ...

    To have it happen at Christmas time ...

    We, as you mention, should always remember others who are sad, lonely, unable to help themselves ... need that extra comfort - Christmas is for compassionate giving and reflection - not selfish hypocrisy ...

    Great post - Hilary

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    1. Yes, there's always cyclones (hurricanes, typhoons) and monster storms, but having it happen on Christmas Eve/Day was a double whammy. The city has been rebuilt much stronger so if it happens again, Darwin should be much more able to withstand it. All our homes where I live in the South-East are built to cyclone standards. I've been through a few!

      Of course our heart goes out to those in Newtown, CT, and the horror of their Christmas, as well as those in the Pacific Islands. I'm still waiting to hear from my dear friend Nas. The cyclone hit her town!

      Happy Christmas Hilary!

      Denise

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  3. Wow! What a spellbinding, powerful flash, Denise! Enjoyed the descriptions... apocalyptic...and also the ending on a note of hope. Fantastic piece!

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    1. Thanks Nilanjana. High praise coming from you.

      Happy Christmas

      Denise

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    2. The tsunami 2004 which affected southern India happened around this time too. Your story brought those scenes back very effectively.

      A very happy Christmas to you too

      Nilanjana.

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  4. Like waking from a nightmare only it's not over.

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  5. That was really powerful. Here we get hurricanes and they destroy lives overnight.

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  6. I remember my brother doing a school project on Cyclone Tracy. That's pretty much all I remember of it though.

    I loved your story, especially the imagery.

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    1. It was pretty horrible. We've visited since and it all looks amazing beautiful now.

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  7. I think it's great that you wrote about it here. Christmas is a happy occasion but it isn't exempted from the rude awakening of life's harshest blows. Events like these help us count our blessings at the same time, remind us that whatever little we think we have, we still have something to share and help others.

    A blessed Christmas to you and your family!

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    1. So true Anne. A blessed Christmas too!

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  8. I love your description, it's very detailed and clear.

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  9. I remember when that cyclone hit, a horrible event. But friends recently returned from Darwin and it is truly a thriving tropical city, a testament to those who worked so hard.

    Thank you for your comments about what happened at Sandy Hook. The majority population wants stricter gun control. However, it remains to be seen what Congress will do. The NRA lobby is like a shadow government and much too powerful. But unless the people speak up, life will return to same ole, same ole. We'll see . . . .

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    1. In this case then, Kittie,I hope majority rules!

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  10. Fantastic imagery! I love these two lines in particular: The night—the darkness—the fear. No lights—no radio—total terror.

    It says so much of the MC's state of mind.

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    1. Thanks for picking out those particular images, Cherie.

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  11. My goodness, the imagery made me shiver with dread.

    Jai

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  12. Hi Denise,
    thank you for a very powerful piece of fiction.

    Thank you also for you comment over at my blog, it is all too easy to lose touch in our busy lives.

    Have a Merry Christmas!

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  13. Beautifully vivid descriptions. My prayers and thoughts go out to those in Samoa and Fiji.

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  14. I love how this opens Denise. You've nailed imagery, the opening scene is almost poetical. All I can say to this is... Wow. As usual, I've had my head in the sand and had no idea about Cyclone Evan.

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  15. Wow..Wow...that's such a beautiful piece.Great imagery... Much of the joy of Christmas disappeared due to Tracy! So well narrated.

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  16. So well written, Denise. Very poetic with its vivid imagery. Yes, we do need to remember those who are suffering from storms or whatever. We do what we can to help.

    Love you, Sis. Have a wonderful Christmas!

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  17. Thanks for coming by Ann. Love you too!

    Denise x

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  18. I absolutely love the simile in the first sentence - so visual! What a great story.

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  19. Mother Nature is amazingly powerful. Earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, floods, fires, and mudslides. We stand in awe of her. Thanks for sharing. Your words reveal her power.

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  20. I linked in my Countdown to Kitschmas - looks like you needed some kicks and giggles ...

    thriftshopcommando.blogspot.com

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  21. Such devastation and happening at this time of year makes everything seems to be worse. Great writing.

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  22. A great post on that dreadful night in Darwin's history. We weren't here but many of our friends remember it all too well.

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