When I grow up (and some regulation trivia).

Responding to Emily’s Writers Reveal prompt, ‘When I grow up’, my piece is told from the perspective of a teenage girl, Summer Black, a fictitious yet real narrator. Unfortunately there are too many Summers in our classrooms and playgrounds. And the world isn’t always kind to them.

When I grow up

Our theme this term is ‘growing up’. Miss asked us to write an essay on what Scout learned in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, as well as a story beginning with the words, “When I grow up”. It’s an easy topic for me because I’ve already thought about it. A lot. It’s the only thing stopping me giving up. It’s my dream…I hope it will happen.

My new room has a view, a vista of the railway track. It’s bleak (trains aren’t pretty and they’re noisy, cutting the quiet with their dull clatter), but at night my window’s view transforms. When I lie in bed and look up, I see the opaque sky is remote and its vastness dwarfs me. On the sky’s black velvet carpet, silver gems are spread and sometimes they smile at me. When I stare long enough, I seep into the blackness – the dense infinity. The night sky makes me wonder, gives me hope.

When I grow up I’m going to be happy, I’m going to be skinny, I’m going to be happy. When I grow up I’m going to be happy and I’m not going to be me.

Miss Martinello gapes, “Summer, can I talk to you about your story…are you okay?” I meet her gaze with a perky shrug. “Perfectly, Miss. It’s fiction, right?

“Right.” She hesitates, touches my hand, a bird-like caress revealing her feather kindness – like a bird’s wing. I like Miss.

When I grow up I’m going to be happy. I’m going to shed the layers of fat, eviscerate the lard to the hard muscle and bone below. No one ever sees my muscle and bone. Not yet.

“Summer Black, Summer Black, she’s a slut, slut’s so fat!”

It’s Recess and I eat my apple, nibble at the carrot. Rabbit-like. My teeth are large – straight and white but they’re swamped, diminished, in my fat cheeks. No one sees my perfect teeth.

Mum wants to pack treats for school, choc-chip cookies, doughy rolls with cheese, but I won’t let her. I can’t eat at school. Fat people can’t eat in public, it’s a universal truth. Not unless they want to be vilified. Miss said ‘vilified’ was a good word – “expressive” – but it’s an ugly word for an ugly past-time.  So while my stick friends pile in chips, sausage rolls and pasta – hot and tempting from the canteen – they judge me.

“Summer Black, Summer Black, she’s a slut, slut’s so fat!”

“If they’re your friends, Summer, what the hell’s going on?” She doesn’t swear, my mother.  ‘Hell’ is about as bad as she gets. She believes one needs to lead by example. But she’s tall and slim while I’m my father’s daughter. Ex-father. So WTF?

“Summer Black, Summer Black, she’s a slut, slut’s so fat!”

I shielded Mum so long but not forever. All through my fat days, I tricked her. But when I started to purge, when the weight dropped and I resembled one of the wraiths from my favourite zombie movie, she gleaned something.

“Sweetie I’m worried about you, you don’t look…yourself.”

She means I look ill, crap. It’s the black arcs below my eyes, my pasty skin.

She clutches at straws, my dearest mother. “You’re not staying up all night on Facebook?” She has a vague but prevalent unease about social media. It’s a valid point. The schoolyard taunts were nothing to the trolling…

“I’m fine, Mum, and by the way, goths pay good money for this look!”

She laughs but it doesn’t reach her eyes.

“Summer Black, Summer Black, she’s a slut, slut’s so fat!”

I never should have let Jed touch me. But he was popular and I thought I’d be popular by association. Stupid girl! Stupid girl! Too clueless to know he was Claudia’s. Well not yet, but she had her eye on him…she’d baggsed him. I should’ve known he’d post it – thinly-veiled, no names – but they knew it was me. He even used alliteration, probs thought he was clever. “Fingering fat-girl totes not fun!!” Oh the irony, I didn’t even like him. I would blame the vodka shots but that’d be the coward’s way. It was me, Summer Black following Jed into the dark, enticing room.

All my problems coalesced after that. My group, of which Claudia is the leader – Queen Bee of the second coolest group in the Year 10 playground – led the pack. And deer-in-the-headlights-me was such an easy target.

“Summer Black, Summer Black, she’s a slut, slut’s so fat!”

It’s why we left, Mum and I. Left the neighbourhood. New school. At this school no one knows about my dark days, my fat days, my slut days. Except Miss, now. But I can trust her, even though she’s alarmed by my story. I’ve said it’s fiction but she knows. Some say going to a new school is just shelving your problems as you take them with you. But I see it as a fresh start. Everyone thinks I’m weird though, coz I hang in the library most lunch times. If the truth’s known, I’m scared. The steely bluffness is all front.

I still purge, but not as often and I hope one day I’ll stop. I closed my Facebook account but maybe I’ll open again soon. You miss out on a lot of stuff without FB. I’ve kept my Instagram but I only ever post skies. I like skies, they give me hope. They let me see that the world is beautiful, underneath.

 

Now for something less heavy – some regulation trivia:

I’m having a little break from blogging because I want to finish editing my manuscript. Even if it’s never a book, I want to finish. I’m halfway through but keep getting side-tracked into work and other frivolous things such as social media, coffee with friends, painting my nails. Oh and eating cake. Marie Antoinette has a lot to answer for.

But before I say my temporary adieu, I’ll post some pics. First a food-selfie. Love this self-indulgent genre. As if the world cares what I (or anyone for that matter) eats! In this case, it wasn’t even me. It was a random stranger’s breakfast trifle…and it looked so pretty.

Stranger's breakfast trifle.

Stranger’s breakfast trifle.

Blossom update. It’s official, I hate Blossom. She ate my berry muffin. Losing shoes I can cope with, losing triple-berry muffins I can’t. 😦

Contrary to appearances, I'm bad.

Contrary to appearances, I’m bad.

Note from Blossom: Please don’t tell my Queensland boyfriend Pablo but Freddy proposed and he’s already organised the cake… As well as ho-bagness, polygamy possibly runs in my family. 😉

Artist's rendition of Blossom and Freddy's wedding cake.

Artist’s rendition of Blossom and Freddy’s wedding cake.

And speaking of ho-bagness, this photo is from a new flirtless dog park. It was a bit boring.

No dogs to flirt with here...

No dogs to flirt with here…

Teaching Stuff:

One of the advantages of teaching is the longer you’re in the profession, the more you’re beyond embarrassment. As a new teacher I stepped terrified into my delinquent difficult Year 7 and 8 classrooms, with only a strong coffee and flailing courage to fortify me, as I plastered my steely ‘Sergeant Major’ face on. Over the years, I’ve made quite a few errors on the black/white board, (pointed out gleefully by stuents), worn non-matching earrings, different coloured shoes (it was dark when I got dressed), walked into class with my zipper undone halfway down my back and on another occasion with my dress caught up at the back – Jennifer-Hawkins-style (but without the fetching view).  I don’t think it’s possible to shock or humiliate a teacher after a while. You have lots of things said to you – a couple rude or mean – but mostly nice, weird, endearing and funny…or hilair.  The big perk of teaching is, it is always entertaining (Pinky’s latest post on Hector’s ear is a case in point!) Working with kids isn’t ever boring. When naughty challenging Year 10 student Jay said, “Hey Miss, does my neck look buff?” I, naturally, replied, “Yes, Jay, very buff.” The class cracked up but Jay looked quite pleased to have a buff neck. They didn’t get back to work for a while but it broke up the boredom of deconstructing a poem. 🙂

These moments mightn’t be as good as as expense accounts, free lunches or fancy company cars, they’re better. 

And as far as reprimands go, I pick my battles, carefully. I’ll never say to a gum-chewing student as one teacher did once: “If you don’t stop masticating, Thomas, I’ll castigate you!” (Kids aren’t aren’t great with sarcasm or malapropisms). 🙂

Finally, a sunrise. No photo-shopping, au naturel.

View from my room.

View from my room.

So enough about me, what about you? Did you ever embarrass your teacher?

Linking up with Essentially Jess for IBOT and joining Grace and FYBF. 🙂

 

Advertisements

The Appointment.

 

It’s been months since I wrote any fiction in response to a writing prompt, but inspired by Lydia (Where the Wild Things Were) and her ‘first of the month’ writing prompt (and as a nice foil to my current regime of editing), I embraced this creative little project and wrote a short piece of 100 words entitled ‘The Appointment’.

 

As Miranda stepped outside, a blast of air tussled her carefully blow-dried hair. Buttoning her jacket, she wound the scarf twice around her slender neck.

Winter had arrived. Breathing in deeply, she lifted her chin and strode the well-worn path to the train station. Her calm gait was at odds with the thoughts in her head, which ricocheted like the remnant gold leaves flung high by the helter-skelter wind.

The appointment. A fifty minute slot (they were precise), could make such a difference to her, to everyone. Its power loomed and Miranda dipped her head and repeated her newest mantra.

 

Some clever person once said something like, “It’s not about originality, it’s what you do with it that counts.” What prompts you? External stimulus or do you have a fertile imagination, just bursting with original ideas? 🙂

Flogging today With Some Grace and FYBF.

I still have my marbles…

Jack Nicholson’s face encapsulates my attitude to blogging lately:

Image courtesy of smashinglists.com

Image courtesy of smashinglists.com

 

Recently, I only seem to be able to write with prompts. This is bad because it shows an unimaginative and lazy character, and good because there are prompts to lure me from my slothfulness. So hopping on late to Anna Spargo-Ryan’s flash fiction prompt “they ate grapes together in the fog of afternoon”…

I Still Have My Marbles

With a deft motion, Arthur slipped the small beige pill into his jacket pocket while the nurse poured his cocoa. What was her name? A person couldn’t keep track of the staff nowadays…always changing, barely any time to stop for a chat. So busy.

“Don’t forget to take your pill, Arthur.” He nodded a bit too vigorously, to hide his guilt. My legs might be gone but not my marbles. They’re all I have left.

He sipped the bile-coloured liquid – lukewarm and too sweet. He’d complained once, politely requesting more chocolate, less sugar, but the nurse – one of the new ones – made tsk-tsk noises and spoke to him as though he were a wayward schoolboy. Arthur, it all comes out of the same pot, you silly thing. We don’t have the time to go making special drinks for everyone. We’re not baristas, Arthur! She’d laughed as though her comment were witty, when all it did was make him feel small, troublesome. He understood now that the senior citizens were all a generic bunch at the facility, individuality and preferences were left at the gate.

Arthur thought of Marianne’s cocoa, rich and dark like Marianne herself. It wasn’t too much trouble for Marianne to make him a separate cup, once she’d noticed he wasn’t drinking his communal cocoa. It’s no trouble, Mr Mackenzie, I like it this way myself, she’d said, her singsong voice making him think of wind-chimes.

Arthur tried not to be offended that she hadn’t said goodbye. So busy, everyone is so busy these days. But if the truth were known, he was a bit hurt. He’d grown attached to Marianne, to their little conversations punctuating his day. He’d learnt all about her family, the few that made it to Australia, the rest still in the Sudan. He’d even contemplated making her a gift, just a small sum to help ease her life here…perhaps pay for music lessons for her little girl. But that would have meant running it by Steven and Arthur felt Steven wouldn’t have approved.

He was due for a visit from Steven, who confined his appearance to special occasions – birthdays, Christmases, Father’s Days and perhaps at Easter, if they weren’t going away. Belinda rarely came. Too busy with the children. How many are there now – two or is there a third?

Arthur gazed at the photo of Millie and him beside his bed, their smooth faces sublime under the purple mountains, grazed with afternoon sun. Why do they call it the Blue Mountains when they’re purple?

Arthur’s thoughts meandered. You’re batting for the Ashes with Millie, Arty, not the local club, said his mate Bill, who applied cricket metaphors to every contingency. But Millicent O’Grady had accepted him on that foggy afternoon. There was a bit of a mix up as he fumbled with the camera in one hand, the ring in another, down on one knee. Please get up Art, I don’t like my chin from that angle! Millie had thought at first he was taking a photo, before he’d begun his stilted proposal – suddenly inarticulate, shy. They’d laughed and laughed about it later, as they ate grapes together under the fog of afternoon.

As fortune had it, there was a photograph. A lone bush-walker happened by and seeing their bliss, captured the moment forever.

Ten o’clock was the lights-out curfew but all the residents – they called them that instead of patients as it sounded more respectful – dozed off earlier. It was the pills, and the boredom. Arthur was lucky having his own room, where he could read or watch television whenever he liked. Steven had organised it at great expense (and frequently reminded him of the fact). Arthur had resisted the urge to tell him that it was his money, after all. Increasingly, he was glad he hadn’t signed that document Steven waved before him at regular intervals: Power of Attorney.

Arthur refused to wear his pyjamas until the very last minute. It was a rule of his – one of the few he had left – a kind of last bastion of independence. And tonight he was especially glad he’d hung onto that rule.

A faint knock at his door, a mark of civility not often afforded, and a woman quickly crossed the room.

“Hello Mr Mackenzie…Arthur, I hope it’s not too late to pay you a visit…my new hours are so long.” She lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “That new nurse was very disapproving.”

“Marianne!” Arthur couldn’t manage any more words, just a grin that bisected his face and sparked his eyes.

 

Do you have trouble thinking of blog topics? What inspires you?

Linking up today With Some Grace and FYBF

Walking on leaves, rustling…

Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

For the second time I’m joining in with Anna Spargo-Ryan’s Flash Fiction, writing prompt.

Walking on dry leaves, she veered away a little and the rustling deepened, as though a new stridence had entered her step. But it wasn’t enough to drown the whispers, the sporadic peels of laughter. There was no joy in the squeals, only malice and a quite deliberate intent to wound.

Samantha quickened her pace, separating herself from her friends, though to deem them friends was to attribute a virtue to the epithet that reality lacked.

“Sammy, you’re out of bounds, you’ll get sprung!” cried Georgina. “Come back, you don’t want a detention, Sammy!” Feigned concern at her welfare abounded in Georgina’s tone but Samantha recognised it for what it was. They knew she hated Sammy, that she only liked to be called Sam. Sammy set off a train of memories she wanted to forget.

Ignoring them, she continued wending her way down towards the large piece of land that dipped into a kind of field, adjacent to the sports oval. Trees lined the path, old trees, and Samantha gazed up, allowing the shards of sunlight through the thick leafless branches to warm her face.

*****

Her mother had taken on an extra job to pay the fees at St. Clare’s Senior College, making it a total of three jobs. She barely saw her mother now. She was either cleaning houses a few suburbs away, at the office in the car-yard or in the seedy bar, where she was the perfect employee because she was cheap – a cash-in-hand, no-questions-asked member of staff.

Her mother announced the school switch, presenting it as a fait accompli. “It’ll be good for you…get you away from that nasty crowd, now that Bianca’s gone.”

“I can cope. I’m not going to a new school. Again. It’s not the school, Mum, it’s me.” Her voice had a steely quietness, belying her certainty that her mother had already won the fight.

Ignoring her daughter, she continued, “I want you to focus on your school work…the academic standard is much higher at St. Clare’s. And I want you to do well in your final year Sam, unlike me…” She trailed off.

There were some further arguments but her mother had already paid the fees and starting mid-term, almost inviting stress and misery,  Samantha walked through the school gates. The elegant tunic had a matching blazer, which in spite of her misgivings she rather liked, but the hat made her feel slightly ridiculous.

*****

“Sa-man-tha!” shouted Elissa, “Mr Sante is coming now…you’re in major trouble. So don’t blame us!”

The girl’s voice suddenly changed, becoming a sychophantic whine as she directed her attention to a tall athletic man, wearing John Lennon glasses.

“We tried, Sir.”

“Back to the in-bounds area, girls. Seniors have a few privileges but you’re pushing it.”

“Sammy wouldn’t listen,” simpered Georgina, with a hint of the coquette.

Samantha’s feet were weighted to a spot on the path. She wasn’t scared of detentions. In fact, few things frightened her.

“Samantha…or do you prefer Sammy?”

“I hate Sammy.” She couldn’t keep the petulance from her voice.

“Well, Sam then…” He smiled, cool and business-like, “I have a proposition for you. Our debating team is short one member and we have a comp at the end of…”

“I haven’t been on a debating team before,” Samantha cut him off.

“It’s settled then. I think you’ll like the topic: “School days are the best years of our lives.” He smirked a little but there was no meanness in the grin, more an ironic arching of an eyebrow under the small round spectacles and a tilting at the corners of his mouth. “We’re the affirmative.”

“Affirmative..? It’s not possible then.”

“Oh, I don’t know. It’s a jungle – we all know this – but I think you’ll be up for the challenge. I marked your essay from last week’s exam…I’m confident you’ll rustle up some strong arguments. We meet most lunch times – Room 43. You can bring your lunch,” he added, as though the matter were settled.

As they walked back up the leafy path towards the quadrangle, Samantha was already thinking of things to say, constructing sentences about the quality of friendships forged in the classroom and playground; respect and kindnesses initiated and lasting; life lessons and challenges. Perhaps she might fudge it.

“They’re up there now, if you want to join them. We still have some time left…nice group of girls.”

Samantha nodded, not noticing the expressions on the faces of her friends, Georgina and Elissa. The spite remained but some of their triumph had dissipated.