Posts Tagged ‘Short fiction’


When I next came to my senses the first thought I had was that I had let my flint get wet. Why I’d ever be worried what those bastard officers thought important I’ll never know, but here I was; the words running through my head that I was “as good as fucking dead!”
Then I noticed the strange green flashes playing out in the strange gelatinous velum I was in, that I was unable to breathe, the multitude of black things trailing down around me and that never-fucking-ending headache that dogged me wherever I went these last… How long had it been? Weeks? Months? It was impossible to say.
January seemed years ago and yet only yesterday. Yet here I was, and this ever increasing high-pitched buzz in my ears that made the green flashes slowly fade to red and black, until it properly hit me. I was under water! This nauseating taste in my mouth was sea water and I had to move up, up, up or else I would be drowned.
To hell with the rummin’ flint! I didn’t even know where the musket was anymore. (more…)


The Press Gang. Those great servants to the Admiralty.
They were always going to get a hold of me someday. You don’t spend as much time as I had done, all those… How long had it been? It was impossible to say. Weeks? Months? Sodden and unconscious from too much drink. Rum, ale, grog, sky blue, it didn’t matter a hell of a lot what really. Lucky you go a week in some parts without those sadistic bastards getting their paws on you.
But the timing is a blur. I do not remember anything clearly. Nothing since that cold night in January anyways. In the middle of the journey of my life and I found myself within an impenetrable darkness where the straight way was lost, where I turned to grog houses and inns and in the gutter and worse I found my repose. (more…)

John Three offered a Rosy.
“Lay down, Lady. Lay down!”
I ain’t no Melanie, but Rosy speaks to me, and if it folds and Johns are a-wavin’ ’em I’ll put ’em in my pocket, no second thinky-think.
Winky-wink, “Oh Darla dear. You see me? See? See Johnny Three? Hee hee!”
John Three looked Marmaduke, droopy-drippy, weazlin’ for a wash, and I pinched my beak, told him “Pee-ew!”
Up in The Pit I pulled a Rosy-posy. No rushing in-out needed when Rosy’s flashed about. Unclipped, struck-a-strick, lit
a Lucky Strike.
Put a foot up on the sill, show leg to Johnny Boy while he preened and oiled. I sent clouds out over the street, carefully positioned elbow on knee, all contemplative sex-a-tative, window gazing Venus. Waiting-wanting-ready.
We all know Rosy means Johnny Three gets himself a show. And Johnny knows best.
I try a little harder, “Oh yes, Johnny! Yes!”

Sally was a silly bugger sometimes. Bloody lucky to be alive actually.
Took no shit, gave a bloody good dead-arm to let you know it, and had a mouth on her that would make a sailor blush.
Walking home from school one day, along the railway line as we did – because of course that was safer than walking on the side of the road – we saw the 3:20 train to Melbourne, as usual, come under the Thistle Street bridge.
All cool and nonchalant, Sally, the silly bugger, always left it pretty late to step off the tracks, hoping to get a rise out of the train driver, provoke him into blowing the horn.
But this day, as she went to step down, some ballast moved under her feet and she slipped, lurched, and almost fell into the path of the oncoming locomotive.
“Fark,” she simply stated.
Sally, the silly bugger, looked pretty sickly and pale, silent all the rest of the walk home.
And from that day on we would pointedly stop as we made our way home, and watch the 3:20 train to Melbourne go roaring by, from the safety of the roadside.

We whack, weaselin’ it away werrily, all merrily marmot.
On the black-top, bossing brothers to pull over to the curb left and right, pouring ourselves into the neon ticky-tacky night.
Don’t reach too far or we’ll roll over, Rover. Cracklin’, Jackie.
Sapphires and emeralds, sprack-a-sparklin’ out in the dark, diamond-trails all red and cherry, scarlet berries all a-garnet.
Stroll down West to the bottom o’ the Quay, shinin’ chrome and glass all slidin’ by. Passin’ Sally and Darla workin’ over some Joe, Darla looks, scales all shivery, hackles a-risin’ high and that looks clear as day;
“We don’t pass up no opportunity, don’t ya know? Not here, down low where the oily streets are littered and riddled.
Life or death, Lucille, so lick it up.”
Most people I know back home think I’m the whole bag o’ God-damn nuts, but I found my place here, with the crooks and the thieves and the crass, painted sluts and the whorin’ gold-diggers. My chips are cashed, coins ship-shape and safe in the bank, everything’s all Secret Squirreled.
Not long before I found a soft touch o’ my own. Yoo hoo!
Only gave me a little, gotta take my chances when I get ’em. Tell’ em “Gimme some more. I need a little more.” And if Joe walks away with his fists snug in his pockets then it’s “Well, God-damn you!”

Why do you whisper, green grass?
Why tell the trees what ain’t so?
Whispering grass, the trees don’t have to know,
No, no.

Why tell them all your secrets?
Who kissed there long ago?
Whispering grass, the trees don’t need to know.

– The Ink Spots, “Whispering Grass (Don’t Tell the Trees)”

Washed out. Every damned thing looks sick and pale. The clouds, passing cars, my feet on the footpath. They all move nauseatingly slow. But they’re so jittery and fast at the same time. It’s like when you go without breakfast, or high blood-pressure. I can feel it like nerves in my coronary artery, or the dizzy backwash of adrenaline after a shock.

Leaning against the door, hands behind his back, Raymond Cecil Jones looks genuinely sad behind the substantial bristling of his moustache. Here in front of him is the boy he had taken under his wing, educated, and moulded, so long ago. The boy that had bitten the very hand that fed him. He takes a handkerchief from his breast pocket and wipes his nose and eyes.

“All the dudes were in a flurry, for to catch him they did hurry,” he chimes. Someone makes a noise in the back of the room, something between a snort and a scoff. Jones has two hard-core gun-fighters among his crew – Wily “Utah” Vaine and Sam Vartana. It is likely to be one of them. Jones glances in the direction of the scoff and bares his teeth in a cruel grin, exposing his look of sorrow as perhaps just another piece of fakery, hinting at his penchant for theatre, at his talent for deception, and at his generally fraudulent ways.

“One who caught him now is sorry, poor little maid,” he sings, removing his waistcoat, unbuttoning his shirt cuffs. “Poor little Moses. Poor little maid,” he says as he rolls up his sleeves. “Moses?”

Moses Raleigh sits, blank-staring at the floor, at the bare floor-boards. His hands are tied behind his back, his ankles to the legs of the rickety-legged chair, his bottom lip drooping.

When Moses came home from Cripple Creek, gee whiz, he was in some spankin’ new kicks. We all thought he’d died somewhere down south, but he said he’d made his fortune out there in Colorado. Well, he came in flippin’ silver simoleons left and right. Been home less than a day and he plunked down for a new kitchen range for Mama and told her to fix us up for a Sunday feast. Told her to go see Mister Jones, said to tell him Moses sent her, he’d fix us up with somethin’ nice.


‘Twas ne’er a fight Young Bartram should ever ha’ got his-self into.
But there he found his-self.
I ne’er could tell how it didn’t seem a reasonable bargain to the man, bein’ in his position n’ all.
Myself? Why, I take that money an’ go an’ run. Tha’s wha’ I’da gone done. Note been no chancer I’da been ‘round fo’ no proposition ah-no beatin’ inner firs’ place! Yes, sir!



Unyoked from the stretcher, Hermano took off his blue Goodyear cap. The cap had made a red indentation across his forehead. Insect sounds sizzled and buzzed around him, but apart from the sound of his movements – boots scraping in the dirt and the sound of fabric rubbing on fabric – and those of the insects, all was quiet and calm. But this wasn’t a place to rest. Not here. Not yet.                                          (more…)