Thanks for your awesome discussion on blogging in my last post. I learned so much about your likes/dislikes, but overall I think blogging continues to be more than worthwhile. Those of us addicted to blogging need to find ways to reduce our blogging time, which means being more selective on which blogs to visit. Most of us agreed that we now only visit those who reciprocate. I am constantly amazed by bloggers who simply post and are rarely seen in the blogosphere. Anyway...
It's time for Write...Edit...Publish again. On the third week of each month writers post to a prompt. The July prompt is A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words. I have found a fantasy picture and crafted my flash fiction to encapsulate the two lovers.
Do you have a photo you'd like to share? A story? A poem that uses a picture as a prompt? Entries can be posted anytime between July 23 and 25. You are most welcome. Sign up in my sidebar and we'll be around to read your entry.
I hope you like my story. I based it on my mother and father who began their married life living and working in the bush. I hope you find it interesting and that you leave a comment for me.
‘Let me out, driver.’ Charlotte applied her bright red lipstick, then checked her hair in her compact mirror. She caressed the gold fob watch in its velvet pouch as the bus came to a shuddering halt.
‘Are you sure, lady? If you wander into the bush, there’s a good chance you’ll never wander out again.’
‘I’ll be fine.’
‘No luggage, love?’
‘Not this trip.’
‘Are you meeting someone, then? It’s not my business, but all the houses were bulldozed years ago.’
Charlotte slipped a pill under her tongue. ‘Yes.’ She stood up.
The driver held out his hand like he was partnering her in a quadrille.
“Thanks for bringing me this far.” She gave him a tiny red rose from the posy she carried.
He twirled the flower. ‘I could come back.’
‘Thanks. No.’ Charlotte marched away, tugging her bright red coat around her shoulders. She shivered in the balmy evening as she began the last leg of her journey.
Long ago, the track was a gravel road. There’d been shacks amongst the trees. The Baker’s cabin was the first to be razed. That unspeakable brute shot his wife, then disappeared into the bush. Could he still be out there, a hoary old hermit with filthy grey hair down to his waist?
She walked on to Gulliriviere, named by Irish ex-convicts. How flummoxed they were by a river that bore nothing but gravel year after bitter year.
Further into the bush, she saw the desolation of the little street where houses were sacrificed for a lumber mill that was never built. Logging. Controversial even then. The eucalyptus trees rustled their arms in salute.
But home had left. Only the scraggly beauty of nature remained. Where once their petite cottage stood smugly, framed by its white picket fence and fragrant flowers, there was … nothing.
‘Jack, there’s no clue we ever lived here … oh … but I’m wrong ... look!’
Charlotte creaked to her knees before her tatty old rose bush. She pulled out weedy grasses, revealed tiny closed buds. Ah, that earthy smell. ‘Not everything’s gone, my darling.’ She lay the posy beside the rose bush.
Charlotte stared at the red roses and recalled the twenty-three-year old girl who’d followed her love to his rough-hewn shack in Outback Queensland—a few hours’ drive to the nearest town—a light plane to Brisbane twice a year. She loved the koala who lived in the tree that shaded their cabin, she loved the solitude and yes, she even loved the big red kangaroos who desecrated her garden.
The Australian bush was a great career move. Setting up her easel amongst the trees she would paint until the sun set on the far horizon. When she’d left Paris, she was a fledgling painter. Now she was the foremost Australian painter of miniatue bush flora. Her paintings would hang in art galleries in Australia and the Musée du Quai Branly long after she was gone.
Living in the bush had been good.
Leaving it had not.
The summer of 1975. She was fifty-three years old. They’d moved to Byron Bay after their cabin was resumed. Jack flew in and out to work each week.
‘Hello, Madam Charlie,’ Jack would greet her at the airport. Tossing his duffle bag in the *boot, he’d hurry to the passenger door, wrench it open— ‘Come here my Parisian beauty,’ he’d growl, kissing her while the security guard looked the other way.
Then the arguments began.
‘No, Charlotte, I won’t retire. I’m only sixty-one. Our experiment with the new Droughtmaster breed is ongoing. When it’s done…’
She understood. Nothing would stop her painting. Her week was taken up with bushwalks, gathering specimens, then painting all afternoon and into the night …
Midnight. Phone call. Frank Mangin, Jack’s boss.
‘I’m sorry, Mrs Sandilands ... Jack’s gone ... Heart attack.’
The bed caught her as she fell.
‘He wasn’t alone.’
‘Can I call someone?’
She and Jack had been tight. Just the two of them. Riches enough. ‘Um, no.’ A weight pressed her to the bed. Clunk! The phone hit the floor.
‘Mrs Sandilands? I must call someone.’
‘No!’ She yelled into the phone. No one could put her back together again.
She chanted in French—
Un petit d'un petit S'étonne aux Halles…( Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall)
Un petit d'un petit Ah! degrés te fallen…(Humpty Dumpty had a great fall)
Indolent qui ne sort cesse…(All the king’s horses)
Indolent qui ne se mène…(All the king’s men)
‘Mrs Sandilands! Jack had a message for you.’
Qu'importe un petit d'un petit…(Couldn’t put Humpty)
‘He said, and I wrote it down—’
‘Tell Charlie to come to the shack.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes. I know your home at Gulliriviere is long gone. But that’s the message.’
If Jack wanted her at the shack, then to the shack she would go…
Kneeling at the rose bush, she reached for the gold fob watch. She’d bought it years ago to give it to Jack when he retired. She took it out of its velvet pouch and let it drop into her palm. It was a work of great artistry, with minute patterns painstakingly etched into every chain link. She read the inscription: To Jack, my wild Colonial Boy! Yours ever, Charlie. XX
She brought it to her lips, kissed it. The first pain hit.
The rose bush bloomed with blood-red roses. The fragrance enveloped her as it mingled with sweet summer smells.
With the sweet fragrance of roses whirling around her, she ran through the tall grasses, trailing her fingers over the white, silky flowers. The creek was just ahead, beyond the grey houses.
She hesitated at the stand of weeping willows, their lush tendrils like dishevelled hair as they caressed the surface of the water.
She saw him—her Jack—running through the willows, pushing aside the graceful drapery. He hurried towards her—arms outstretched—welcoming her home.
She held out the fob watch and beckoned her love.
They gazed into each other’s light-kissed eyes, marvelled at their sun-painted limbs, overjoyed at the beauty they saw in each other. He took the gold object from her soft, smooth hand, then they strolled away across the sparkling water, fading from sight in a gentle swirl of silvery mist.
Tout Gai de Reguennes. (Together Again).
And in case anyone is put off by the MC's use of the French language, I've heard that when in distress or dying, a person returns to their native language.
And here is the August challenge:
Photo courtesy of Artist Liz Hess