Free stories

I've included a couple of free stories here. One for young adults and the other for a slightly older audience. If you like them you can always help keep me alive and writing by visiting Hot Read or buying my novel from Jacobyte Books. In theory I'll be changing the stories here every so often.

 

Bart Simpson Killed My Brother – Well Almost.

My brother, Micko, is small. I mean small, always the one stuck at the end of the front row in the class photograph. Always the one chosen to crawl into tiny places to look for a lost ring or coin. Don’t get me wrong though: the rest of us aren’t giants either, his family, I mean. Mum’s the tallest, and she’s only 157 cms. In our family that makes her feel superior.

Dad’s a runt. He says so himself, so I’m not being mean. He also says things like – ‘Good things come in small packages,’ and "Small in stature, big in brain.’ He’s an engineer so I s’pose he’s right. Mum’s an architect so she’s not short of the odd brain cell either. And me (I just knew you were wondering), I’m okay too. I can run fast and I figure I’m reasonably pretty, I open the batting in our cricket team (yes, girls can play cricket too), I always come in the top three in class, I’ve got lots of friends (and one of them’s even smaller than me!), so…

My brother – he feels his smallness. It hurts him and he does crazy things. Like, well, the way he plays football. He’s a rover, of course, but he’s one of those looney ones. He goes into packs like he’s wearing armour and nothing can hurt him, and he figures it’s his business to tackle every other player on the field that’s bigger than him (and that’s everyone), including every ruckman that’s ever lived. So of course he’s been knocked out about a hundred times and Mum says we paid for the orthodontist’s new Porsche. Even his coach sometimes winces at some of his crazy death-wish stuff and tells Micko to take it easy… It doesn’t stop him; he just keeps on throwing himself into it in order to prove he ‘aint small’.

If there’s a dare on, Micko’s in it. Like the time he swiped poor old Mrs. Tattersal’s knickers off her line and then shimmied up the school flagpole with them one night so they’d be on display on the next morning’s parade. Unfortunately someone spied them before school and took them down. ‘It would have been sweet,’ Micko said.

He’s addicted to those manly shows on TV. You know, Hercules and Zena and that stupid show with people dressed up like warriors and doing crazy stunts to win points. That show was all the rage for a while with Micko’s mates. They made dumb costumes with cardboard and built these crazy lances and clubs and formed teams. Micko ended up with a broken arm because of that game.

You want to know who my brother’s biggest hero is? Bart Simpson. As the English teachers all say, he identifies with him. Bart’s small, he’s lippy, he’s always got a scheme – Micko loves that.

So how did Bart Simpson almost kill my brother? Easy.

You remember that episode where Bart cuts off the head from the statue of Springfield’s founder? It’s a dare. Of course.

Well, we’ve got a statue of some lame old gent from two centuries back who’d opened a duck pond or something in Federation Park. This old guy is holding a red torch that lights up at night, when it’s working (which is not very often). The statue’s got pigeon poo all over it and it’s favourite target of kids who are bored on Saturday afternoons. Which is most of us here is Hicksville.

Brett Miller, who is Micko’s principal mate, is over watching The Simpsons the night that episode comes on. He says that Bart couldn’t cut the head off that statue even if he tried three nights running.

‘It’s TV ____’ says Brett, who’s about to use the ‘ap word but then realizes Mum and Dad are probably listening in from the dining room. So he says, ‘rubbish’.

Micko reckons he could and they argue about it for a while.

I guess the dare came out of that. Anyway, here’s what happened.

They were sleeping over at Brett’s place and snuck out of there about midnight. Micko was carrying the bag. What was in the bag? A hacksaw and two spare blades. Brett was the look out.

Up Micko climbed. He’s happily hacksawing away for a while – very happy because the dude’s torch is not working and so it’s nice and dark - while Brett asks him every twenty seconds how tired he was getting and whether he could even see a scratch in the metal….

Micko told me later he was crowing because the metal was in fact really quite soft and the blade (he’d made sure he had really new sharp blades) was cutting through it beautifully. Then wham!

Brett says he heard a bang and Micko disappeared in this shower of sparks and then he was lying on the ground.

Dead still.

Brett went haring off towards Dr. Lacey’s, who fortunately lives on a street just opposite the park.

So, pretty soon there’s sirens and Micko’s in hospital (alive but badly burned down his right arm and a bit fuzzy about everything that had happened) and the Newspapers get the story and there’s talk of a police charge…

A councillor gets up in the council and says that Micko is proof that youth is being negatively influenced by the media. He wants a special petition drawn up requesting more control over TV content, he wants the government to do something…My dad says that what happened was Micko being Micko. It was his son’s fault, not Bart Simpson’s or Channel Ten’s or Rupert Murdoch’s (whatever that meant.)

Micko blamed the electrician. "What sort of lame workman runs the power for an arm up through the neck,’ he says.

Stephen Kimber, 2000

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Here's a story for a different audience:

Conception and Rescue

 

On the night of the day that the floods began to recede his wife was convinced they'd conceived. She'd adopted her by now familiar position: resting her naked legs up along the white wall while lying flat on her back across the bed. Daniel found it tiresome. He was tetchy. He perceived her naked legs as white columns in the guttering candle light - they rested on a surface made lunar-barren by that same candle. Some woman had told her it helped the sperm progress up the womb. "What bullshit," Daniel had said the first time. "That's an old wives' tale. Or an old wife's..." "An old wife with five children," Dianna retorted. She was smug about it; fecundity was its own proof.

Over her past two cycles she'd slipped into this crazily tilted L after they'd made love and held it, for ten minutes, fifteen minutes, sometimes half an hour. And she talked, where once there'd been warm, cozy silence. Oh yes, he'd been amused at first. Perhaps mildly alarmed (because of the insight it offered into how single-minded she'd become), then it aroused his indignation. Her position was so exclusive. She took up most of the bed and he felt condemned to its edge. So this night, as she moved into the position, his body adopted a counterpoint; a stiffness, still, rigid as a board, his mind willing them not to touch, an electric tension in his skin that he wished would communicate itself to her. Without luck. She was oblivious of him, even with her head resting on his chest, a hand idly musing on his thigh, chortling happily, exhorting his sperm - in that gusty parody of Marlene Dietrich he'd always associated with their sex life - to "svim, svim you liddle buggers."

Part of Daniel's problem lay in his inability to reconcile this contemporary Dianna with the version of her he'd always carried in his head. In his head she was swift-footed huntress, free spirit, the lover of her husband on a blanket in a wheat field. In his fantasies she sometimes ran through Arcadian woods, half naked, throwing come-on laughter over a shoulder. He'd bought that saucy poster showing the tennis-dressed blonde idly scratching one buttock, about to bend for a ball near the net: it reminded him of her, even though Dianna was dark.

Once, she'd been explosive with sexual ambiguities. When had she slipped and become Earth Mother? A rabbit hutch she'd filled with wondrously multiplying guinea-pigs two years before, the sudden proprietal interest in what had been his chickens (no more meat birds, all layers), vegetarianism.

Finally she went to the toilet. He heard the flush and wished all those genetic bits of himself a futile trip around the S-bend. She came back in, blew out the candle, kissed goodnight the top of his head and was soon asleep.

He couldn't sleep. The floodwaters had begun to recede a little earlier in the day but it was again softly raining. The bedroom was very muggy. Late summer. He hated late summer. Daniel looked at his wife, asleep. She lay on her back. Every now and then a ragged little snore escaped her. He had used to love lying and watching her sleep but there was no comfort in it now. He wanted a cigarette but he'd given it up a month before, after years of Dianna's relentless nagging. He wanted a coffee but that would keep him awake. But he didn't want to sleep, anyway.

He crept from bed and did not turn on the hall light until he'd gently closed the bedroom door.

It was cooler in the hall. Daniel ran his fingers through his pubic fuzz then lifted them to his nose. He still loved the acrid sea-smell of lovemaking. He felt better. Even the sight of Dianna's latest purchase on the dining room table, a book called "A Baby, At last", only temporarily disenchanted him. He caught sight of himself, wearing what Dianna called his disappointed little boy's look, in a window's reflection and turned his snort of disgust into a sigh of enjoyably melancholic resignation - "Oh well Sisyphus," he told it.

He made coffee, strong, black, percolated expresso. It was a vice, he drank too much of it. He rummaged in the odds and sod drawer and found his secret cache of cigars. He was equipped and enjoying himself. He wanted suddenly to write in his diary, which he hadn't for a long time.

Daniel felt wicked. He'd be very tired in the morning, going to work would be a chore. Maybe he'd have a day off - in honour of conception, he added as a joke. He was just as suddenly surprised that the joke did not panic him. This abandonment of good sense, this lapse into youthful impulsive folly, pleased him. Even, he added, if he was burlesqueing it.

Daniel went by his wife's new book without a glance, into his study. He sat at his desk, opened a drawer and took out his diary and an old clean saucer he used as an ashtray. He got his cigar going. It pocked sensuously as he drew on it. He blew a smoke ring. He took a sip of his coffee to which he'd added a dash of brandy. He opened his diary to a fresh page and wrote the date. On a sudden impulse he asterisked it. A vision; his son, dandled on his knee, and he, Daniel, showing him the asterisked date - "That, son, was the night you came into existence."

He was just as suddenly terrified.

What should he write? His diary was not particularly personal; it was filled with newspaper clippings, budgeting ideas, quotes from books, tide and weather information related to fishing trips, notes on bird sightings. It was almost a public document, an eclectic record. He'd told Diana she could read it any time she liked but was not aware of her ever having done so. (His wife laughingly accused him of an English reticence, which wasn't a bad distance feat for a boy born in Gayndah.) Daniel distrusted the idea of laying bare his emotions on paper, it struck him as a gauche overvaluation of ephemera.

He sat and mused. His mind was playing tricks - a series of visions, chronologically arranged, that he found pleasant: he and his son at the cricket. His son is… what?… seven, eight, and Daniel is explaining the finer points of back foot offence. Then he's eleven, maybe, or twelve and he jubilantly rejoices in a back foot cover drive (Steve Waugh on a good day). Then he's eighteen, bringing back beers, one for his old man and another for himself.

Daniel recognised the visions as fraudulent romanticism. He shook his head and smiled at himself.

He still hadn't written anything. The voice of the small boy dandled on his knee asked "What'd you do that day? and he remembered the echidna. He wanted to be honest with this maybe boy so he let his memory play it back and he wrote it down.

`Rescued an echidna drowning in 6 Mile Creek today. Remembering is always slow motion. So...We're wading, Jenny and Dianna in front, across the bridge. The water's pulling at our legs. Jenny calls out something, then Dianna points. I'm not sure what is going on. I've been day dreaming. Suddenly I see the echidna drifting along, like an oily rag, a sort of slick around it, and I muse that panic has caused it to exude some essence of echidnadom. Jenny attempts to grab it but she's carrying her toy dog (a yapping Shitzu or some such thing that I detest) and her fingers keep slipping on the echidna's slick quills. It's already bobbed past D-. My reactions are ludicrously slow. I'm still standing where I was. Afterwards I make some pathetic excuse about not wanting to surge up and thus drive the echidna from Jenny's grasp. Her dog's struggling. The echidna bumps the middle railing of the bridge and slips under it and into the creek proper. So easy, gone. Then it reappears, pathetic little snout snorkling air. Suddenly I'm the man of action. I've stripped off my shirt, handed D- the camera. I have in my mind a picture of a distant crowd, applauding. Approbation awaits me. I slip between the railings and pause. I look and see the white ripple lines of current and the half trees sticking up through the flood. There's a log-jam downstream. I think the current will be strong but I can use it to push down to the log-jam and then across to dry land. I drop off the bridge. The water isn't cold like I thought it would be. The echidna is a metre and a half, or two metres away, still ponderously floating. I catch it in one or two strokes and instinctively slip my hand beneath it. It lies there, doggo. It doesn't struggle. The current isn't strong enough to stop me turning and dog paddling back to the bridge. Jenny wants to take the echidna but I don't want to give it up. I find it easy to climb back through the railings with the echidna which is still not struggling. It's simply clinging onto my hand. Jenny laughs, "Look at it panting." We all say things at once. We feel good. We smile like indulgent Gods when we let it go up on high ground. Who cares what reasons I had for going in after it?'

Daniel wrote the last sentence because he saw his son, at some time in the future, sitting down and skimming his father's diary. He wanted his son to have a sense of ethics. He wanted him to be good.

He dumped his cigar stub and ashes in the refuse bin outside, washed off the saucer and replaced it in his study drawer. He felt tired. He went back down to his bedroom, turning off lights, and slipped quietly between the sheets. In a little while he was asleep.

Stephen Kimber, 2000

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