The Brown Parcel Collection

ONLY TEN BUCKS (AUD) or a few rolls of three-ply…
Laugh, cry and wipe away your fear!
The Brown Parcel Collection for a limited time!
More information below: http://tiny.cc/prh4kz

Illustrated literature to make you laugh, cry and think a little bit longer! Collection includes:
– Unexpected Life Blues in the Key of E (Compact Edition). Illustration and verse. A tale of new life discoveries.
– This Time Today (Compact Edition). Illustration and short story. Can twelve hours produce a worthwhile story?
– Solitude (4 x Postcard series). Illustration and literature on solitude in Melbourne, Tokyo, a café and the dining room.

Victoria

Part 1.

So still did she sit. Waiting for her imagination to dismantle reality. However, reality persisted on remaining in its current state. At least, that’s how it seemed.

Victoria, thinking of better days, watched as a caterpillar ascended a blade of overgrown tussock grass. A breeze swirled its way across the grassy hills, causing a refreshing coolness to surround her as she sat on a mound in the Spring sunshine looking across the paddock. Often there were sheep milling about, on other days there were rhythmically chewing cows passing the time away. Today, however, the paddock was empty. It was just her and the caterpillar. 

Victoria often stopped here for moments of solitude on her way home from school. Although, you could say her whole day was an abundance of solitude seeing as how no one spoke to her. Not in a friendly manner anyhow. The other girls often shouted, laughed and made fun of her. As annoying as it was at first, Victoria soon learned to take it in her stride. Anyway, she quite liked being by herself, she was used to it. Her mother worked in the medical clinic all day and studied at the library in the evening, leaving very little time to spend with her.

Her father had left almost five years ago, which she thought was unusual as he was her best friend and always made her laugh and smile. They’d play silly games, make mud-pies and tell imaginary stories full of adventure and intrigue. Her mother would get angry at them because of the mess they made, especially when they painted together as they often ended up using each other as a canvas.

She remembered the day her father went to the high school to help with setting up the equipment in the new science lab. He was always playing around with his own scientific contraptions and when they asked him if he could assist, he was very excited. As he walked out of the house he said to her, 

“Victoria, you’ll have the best equipment in the world when you go to high school. In a few years, you’ll be able to experiment, discover and invent the most wonderful things!” She spent the day drawing up plans and illustrating step-by-step instructions for her future experiments. He never came home to see them.

Now that she was almost a teenager and had spent three months at the Humbleton High school for girls, Victoria wasn’t that impressed by the science lab. A few bunsen burners, some cracked beakers, stained test tubes and a wonky microscope were hardly worth shouting about. Mr Loom, the science teacher, was nice to her. He was the one who had knocked on the door and asked the then eight year old Victoria if her mummy was home all those years ago. Back then her mother was often singing as she prepared meals or tidied up the family home. Mr Loom and her mother sat in the kitchen as Victoria finished off her detailed plans for an experiment. Hearing her mother sobbing, she walked to the kitchen door and stood watching as Mr Loom handed her mother tissues. She doesn’t remember much more from that day apart from a lot more crying. Her mother never explained what had happened, all Victoria knew was that her father had gone.

The caterpillar slowly swayed in the breeze as it gripped the tip of the blade of grass. Victoria closed her eyes and breathed in the air. The smell of freshly cut grass, pollen and the unmistakable aroma of dried cow manure brought back memories of long walks with her father. She could feel the warmth of the sunshine on her closed eyelids, causing a smile to spread across her face. Smiling wasn’t a frequent occurrence these days. With a mindful exhale Victoria slowly opened her eyes, the glare from the sun caused an exhilarating blindness.

For a brief moment she thought there was someone standing in front of her. As her sight adjusted to the light, she peered around but couldn’t see anybody. A trick of the light she thought to herself. Stretching out her arms, Victoria looked towards her companion only to find a blob of chewed pink bubble-gum stuck to where the caterpillar had previously resided. “How unusual,” she said to herself as she moved closer and sniffed the gum. “Cherry flavoured.”

The breeze was picking up as the afternoon sun began descending to make way for the anticipated arrival of the moon. Victoria brushed strands of grass from her dress and adjusted the shoulder straps of her school bag as she wondered whether her mother had remembered to prepare any dinner. She considered purchasing fish ‘n’ chips but on second thought decided she would pick a few fresh tomatoes and cucumbers from the vegetable garden and buy a loaf of freshly baked bread.

The sky had become a collective of blue, orange and crimson. Victoria made her way across the hills towards the township. The mound where she sat remained in the moment until a seemingly rambunctious young girl carrying a well-worn soft-toy rabbit bounded upon it and encased a bewildered caterpillar into the glob of cherry flavoured pink bubble-gum. Pleased with her effort, she smiled at the caterpillar and said, “HELLO!”

***

Waking Up (Part 3)

Two Weeks Ago…

Dr Felix Broadlynch was frustrated. The plastic tray stacked with patient files ascended through the air, attempted a somersault, reacted to gravity and distributed its contents across the floor of the small office of the Director of the Hillbury Aged Care facility. Felix slammed the phone back into its cradle, “Bastards.” 

Watching the remaining airborne paper fluttering towards the well-worn Art Deco carpet, Felix attempted to exhale a long calming breath. He looked at the bloodied cut on his right hand, the result of lashing out at the document tray, and wrapped his handkerchief around it. A double-knock at his door caused him to look up as Nurse Jones looked in with concern. 

“Felix? Is everything alright?” Looking down at the paper scattered everywhere and then at Felix, Letitia noticed his bloodied handkerchief,  “What happened?” She stepped into the office and closed the door. 

“Letitia, it’s fine,” he calmly responded. “Just a moment of frustration. The Federation just informed me that they’re cutting our funding, taking effect from the first of next month,” Letitia removed some of the scattered paper from a chair and sat down. 

“What?! But I thought we were protected from the Federation? This is a private facility funded through the original founder’s estate. When I started here five years ago, you explained to me there was a 90-year exemption from Federation governance.”

Felix looked towards the cracked plaster ceiling, “Unfortunately those 90-years ended in 2017, we’ve been surviving for the past three years purely by their funding. As the Hillbury facility has remained independent, and we only have 12 residents populating a facility that can accommodate 500, they have decided from a business perspective to end the support. There’s very little we can do.”  

“But that’s less than a fortnight, they can’t do that. What will happen to our residents?” 

“They have no known family or next-of-kin, I guess they’ll be placed in Federation administered facilities.”

“Surely there is something we can do?” Letitia sat forward with a look which would have intimidated a docker.

“The Federation emailed me the criteria for funding, without residents who are classified as ‘relevant for ongoing research purposes’, we have no hope of obtaining further endorsement and funding. Let’s face it Letitia, as much as it pains me to say it, our residents are just elderly folks who have lived their lives and are now waiting to depart. There’s no love, care or financial support from family so the powers that be consider them a burden. With no one to pay the bills, the Federation treats them as statistics. In today’s world, they’re just unimportant data to be discarded.”

Letitia slumped back into her chair. “Let’s think this out, they’ll fund us for research purposes?”

“That seems to be the main criteria item.” Felix leaned forward, “Letitia, we have 12 elderly people aged between 75-98 years old, all with normal degenerative conditions. There’s very little remarkability amongst them. Unfortunately being able to defecate oneself twice in as many minutes isn’t considered remarkable in today’s competitive research arena.”

Another double knock at the door caused Felix to sit back. “Yes?”

Dr. McIver entered the office, “Felix…” Looking at the mess and then at Letitia in bewilderment, “What’s going on?”

“James, it’s fine. I accidently knocked a tray from my desk, Nurse Jones was helping me to sort the files out.” Felix lied in a confident manner, “What can I help you with?”

“Barry is awake.” James said, “It’s almost four days since he was last conscious, he’s got a story to tell so I thought you’d want to know. Maybe Nurse Jones can look in on him?” He shifted his view from Felix to Letitia. “If it’s not too much trouble?”

Letitia, turning towards James, smiled in response. Felix shifted in his chair, “Thanks James, I’ll send her out in a few minutes.” Dr. McIver backed out of the office, watching Letitia with a look of distrust as he slowly closed the door. Felix looked at Letitia like a father looking at a daughter who has been out all night.

“Is there something I should know? What’s with the tension?”

“It’s nothing. Honestly. I think we have bigger issues to deal with than a clash of personalities and the suppressed paranoia of an incompetant psychologist.” Letitia stood and straightened her uniform, “Felix, we need to come up with a solution.” She walked briskly out of the office without closing the door. 

Rain started pelting the thin glass window of Dr. Broadlynch’s office, a sudden loud crack of thunder was followed by a flash of lightning. Felix looked at the bloodied handkerchief on his hand, then at the paper scattered around the floor before looking thoughtfully through the open office door at the century old corridor. From outside the window, a louder clap of thunder rumbled, followed by a series of lightning flashes. Felix sighed and began searching through his computer documents for Barry’s file. He typed in Barry_Unknown.

***

A Different World (Part 2)

This Morning…

Letitia Jones was proud. Proud of the one pantsuit she owned, it was a stylish navy blue combination which had cost her a bomb from a fancy Collins Street boutique. She considers it her lucky outfit. She knew it was an impulse buy which immediately transformed her euphoric rush into guilt, regret and self-loathing before she’d arrived home. She spent the following hour circulating her garment steamer over the fabric surface and seeking a suitable height to hang it from before Maybelle arrived home from school with the obligatory sticky fingers of a 7-year old. The next day, sitting as upright as she could and hoping the dark material masked the perspiration swarming from her armpits, Letitia and her lucky outfit were hired by the Hillbury Aged Care Facility. Finally after three years as an unemployed nurse, not to mention the struggle of being a single parent, she had secured a job. 

Seven years later, she was wearing her lucky outfit for the second time. Just because Letitia was three years shy of the big half-century birthday didn’t mean she’d lost her identity as the ambitious and gung-ho healthcare professional she had portrayed herself as throughout her career. Global events may have changed the normality of 21st century life but Letitia was still the empathetic, focused and often outspoken warrior for the socially ignored. She made her way through the grandiose auditorium of the Health Services University at the Aged Care Research Symposium, the pantsuit might have been a little tighter around the hips and the material of the jacket not quite flexible enough for the buttons to meet their respective holes, however, it still managed to give her a confidence boost, especially in a room full of men, who quite honestly looked as if they should have been recipients rather than enablers of aged care services, dribbling their mochaccinos down the front of well-worn and rarely laundered custom made suits. 

“Here you are, Miss,” the second year psychology student mumbled as he casually waved an arm in the vicinity of the third row. “You’ll find the female amenities in the basement should you require them. Today’s presentations will be followed by an afternoon tea. Should you decide to stick around.”

Obnoxious little prick. She wasn’t going to stick around anyway, the last thing she needed right now was to be small talked by a collective of puppets unconsciously spruiking the opinions and agenda of the Federation. No. She was here to support her boss, Dr Felix Broadlynch, as he presented his research and evidence of Autonoetic Consciousness in order to save the residents, the Hillbury Aged Care Facility and her fucking job from a future of bureaucratic oblivion.

“Thank you,” she responded with a courteous smile as she entered the aisle. “You’ve been very helpful and about as charming as a hemorrhoid.”

The psychology student, oblivious to her response, checked his phone before walking away. He was the stereo-typical over-privileged son of some well-to-do hedonistic prat with connections in all the right places which Letitia had grown accustomed to over the past few years. She made her way along the row of highly inconvenienced patrons who were already seated. They looked away, with a certain amount of irritability, from their phones as she made her way to her designated seat. She sat and rearranged her jacket and was momentarily bewildered by an articulate female voice speaking calmly in her ear. 

“It’s quite overwhelming to say the least isn’t it?”

“The irritation that comes with senility and incontinence shouldn’t be underestimated, luckily I deal with it on a daily basis,” Letitia responded as she turned and thought better to make an ally through humour than cause an absolute stink by speaking her disdain towards the event, its organisers and the scared servants that made up the audience. “I’m Letitia Jones, from the Hillbury Aged Care Facility.” 

The woman looked early thirties, dressed in a tailored charcoal grey pantsuit and possessed an immaculate bobbed hairstyle without a single hair out of place. Leititia noticed the confident and reassuring look the woman had on her face and surmised that this well presented lady was definitely higher up in the pecking order than herself.

“Meredith,” she extended her hand. “Meredith Lacey, pleased to meet you. I’ve read Dr. Broadlynch’s latest research, it’s rather fascinating.”

“Oh, I wasn’t aware the paper had been circulated?”

“Let’s just say I’m a keen admirer of independent research.” 

Letitia wondered how this unknown and perfectly groomed woman had managed to read the report as they had only finalised it yesterday, and as far as she knew, there were only two printed copies in existence. Could Felix have emailed the file? Highly unlikely she thought, as Felix was a digital-sceptic and didn’t trust file sharing servers. Had Felix somehow got lucky after leaving the facility? Had he called into the supermarket on his way home and hit it off with this woman whilst browsing the organic fruit and vegetable section in his pursuit of the perfect papaya and spent the night wooing her with his research paper before indulging in an all night session of tantric discoveries? Realising the avenue her thoughts had journeyed, Letitia surmised that she was either jealous or simply plain old lonely. Meredith smiled, aware that she had stirred something in Letitia.

“Let’s see how it goes down with this lot,” Meredith looked towards the stage. “Isn’t that Dr. Broadlynch now?”

Letitia turned and watched as Felix, looking nervous, was escorted to a seat on the stage by Dr. Rudolph Cruikshank, the striking seven-foot tall leader of the Health Services Federation. He had been appointed by the consortium known as Eighth Day, who took control of global governance and social infrastructure after an unprecedented strain of severe acute respiratory syndrome wiped out a third of the world’s population, crippled poorly managed government operations, caused a global financial recession and left society insecure and isolated. Considered as the much needed rejuvenation to worldwide health care services, Rudolph was admired, respected and feared for his radical ideas, definitive decisions and his relationship with the mysterious philanthropists of the consortium who brought civilisation back from devastation and utter despair after the pandemic.

The lights in the auditorium dimmed, phones were pocketed, chatter ceased and all eyes watched as the naturally quaffed grey haired leader approached the lectern. His stride resembled the majestic movement of a giraffe, long legs with head held high. As he strutted, all heads turned. His presence demanded attention, it was hard to look away. Letitia could sense her breathing as she, like everyone else, fell into a state of anticipation and wonder. 

“Welcome all,” The dulcet tone of Dr. Rudolph Cruikshank spread across the auditorium, “Normally, we’d gather here to witness the latest findings in Aged Care research and practices. Normally, funding would be allocated to develop a select few of the proposals towards fruition. Normally, we would all leave after the proceedings with confidence that the decisions and choices made will continue to advance our specialist services. However, today is not a day for normality. Today, as you will soon discover, is a very special day indeed.” Rudolph, out of habit rather than necessity, straightened his already perfectly adorned silk tie. “Today, ladies and gentlemen, you will witness an astounding development in the cognitive neuroscience of aging.”

Chatter made its way through the auditorium like a symphony of kazoos. Letitia, surprised by the reaction, sat a little higher in her seat. She looked across to where Felix had been seated only to discover that he wasn’t there. Instead, there sat the charcoal grey pantsuit with the immaculate bobbed hairstyle. Letitia turned and looked at the empty seat behind her. What’s going on? She wondered.

“To present these remarkable findings, please welcome the Executive Director of the Health Services Federation, Ms Meredith Lacey.” Rudolph started off the applause which soon spread throughout the auditorium like firecrackers during Lunar New Year celebrations. Letitia was momentarily stunned, watching as her newly acquainted fellow pantsuit wearing ally turned out to be the second biggest fish in the pond. Shaking herself back into the moment, Letitia slowly applauded. Unsure of where this was going, she started looking around for Felix. He was nowhere in sight and apart from herself, nobody seemed to have noticed that he had disappeared. She turned to look at the formerly occupied seat behind her and was completely surprised as a large man in a very nice suit shot her.

***

Beginning (Part 1)

Malay Peninsula, Singapore, February 1942…

Barry was lost. Droplets of perspiration were beginning to merge into creeks as they flowed down the contours of his face. The air stinks, he thinks to himself. It’s the humidity. Keeping as still as he can, under the circumstances, he moves only his eyes. Listening. Always alert. And the dampness of the overgrown jungle. The rodents, reptiles and insects. All feasting on whatever they can scrounge. Barry licks sweat from his upper lip. The salty taste reminds him he is alive. Not to mention the stench of gunpowder and rotting corpses. The air stinks. The sound of water lapping against the shore picks up tempo. I wish I was back in Australia. Watching the telly or simply wasting time on YouTube, he thinks as he calms his breathing. But I’m not. Because none of that lot exists, Barry lifts his Lee-Enfield rifle and slides his finger over the trigger. It’s 1942 and I’m lost in a jungle trying to survive. Could be the basis for a new reality tv show, I’m in a war, get me outta here!

Barry crouches down, like a dog taking a dump, making sure his shadow isn’t evident. Peering through the savage growth of mangroves on the shore of Singapore, he looks to see if any boats are approaching across the Straits of Johor. I’ve only ever fired a rifle twice. Both times were during training. I missed the target but was still classified as competent, he swipes a mosquito from his cheek. This whole scenario seems to be confusion on a major scale. Singapore will soon fall. Not sure what they expect a 15-year old to do. Survival is high on my agenda. Wish I was back in Clifton Hill. Wish I’d asked Nellie Jones to go to the dance hall… Barry crawls further into the dense growth of the jungle. I don’t know where I am or where everyone else is. Bullets flying in all directions. Explosions, confusion and blood everywhere, he closes his eyes for a second. Suddenly I’m alone. Or am I?

The crackling of branches intrudes on the soundscape he’s become accustomed to over the past 24-hours. Pushing himself into the dampness as much as he can with the heavy load of his uniform and supplies, Barry bites his lip and tightens his grip on the rifle. Call it paranoia but I don’t believe I’m the only one trying to be invisible here, The crackling stops. I reckon the sons of the rising sun are just as scared as I am. Looking up at the murky night sky, Barry can feel his heart jumping around like a lamb in a sack. The eerie sounds of the Southeast Asian jungle are soon silenced by the sharp crack of a gunshot. Barry can hear his breathing as he lay against a large tree, his rifle is no longer in his hands and his left shoulder feels like it is on fire. Struth that smarts, he grasps his shoulder and looks at the dark flow of wetness forming on his uniform. That’s a lot of blood.. Stay calm Barry. Stay close to the ground. Inhale the foul, damp and rotten earth beneath you.

Barry slides himself towards his rifle and lays close to the earth as he peers through the gun sight and makes out a figure in the distance. I’m so sorry mate, it seems we’re in a do or die situation. There’s a burnt aroma in the air as Barry aligns his sight between the head and heart of the silhouette, Focus, relax, ease and squeeze… He fires two consecutive rounds causing wildlife to squark and flutter. A cloud of smoke ascends through the humid atmosphere as Barry squints to see if any movement occurs. He stands and wipes sweat from under his eyes and raises his head to peer forward, from between his legs a large monitor lizard wildly makes a run for it. Barry takes a deep breath and allows himself a moment to confront his situation.

Like a kangaroo caught in the headlights of an oncoming semi-trailer, Barry stares as multiple bursts of white light flash before him. The loud cracking echoes through the damp terrain as smoke starts to spread in front of him. He stands still in wonder as a burning sensation spreads across his torso. His breath leaps from his lungs and a bitter taste floods his mouth and nose. He wants to raise his hand to his mouth to contain the sudden urge to vomit but he doesn’t seem to have control of his arms. He looks up towards the rising dance of smoke in the sky and attempts to inhale. His legs give out and he falls face down into a puddle of muddy earth. He wishes he could smell the stench of the jungle or even better, the lavender scent of the beautiful Nellie Jones. But he can’t smell anything because of the tubes stuck in his nose.

***

Passing Time.

Took a long walk down a winding path

One foot before the other, keeping off the grass

Quite some distance before she was near

Her scent danced sweetly all the way here.

Distracted she seemed, by what who knew

Lost in seeing whether her post was viewed

Say hello if you want the truth

Not one to judge, I’ll smile at you.

Carrying his bags he walked ahead

The journey home, so his family got fed

Wishing he could be someone new

Caring old man, honest and true.

Aching hips and calloused feet he sure had

Pass him I did whilst feeling quite sad

With a nod and smile ever so cheerful

Should he be late, he’ll be in for an earful.

Dressed up to the nine, she made her way

Along the bridge as the heavens turned grey

Cloaked as she was under her brolly

I couldn’t help but think, she’d regret her folly.

Sunglasses so large, her lips tightly pursed

Same direction, who would reach first

I made a fast break with determined pace

Clickety-clack was out of the race.

This Time Today (5:55 PM)

TTT_Thumb_11

5:55 pm
Shadow of a Man

Starting to feel overwhelmed with a sense of underachievement. Expressing life experiences seems to be an even more difficult task than experiencing them. I guess that’s why writers take so long to produce new books. It’s not like the movies or television programmes where there’s a team of writers adding their own take on the story along with some snappy dialogue. You have to work alone, isolated, for the most part, plotting out bits here and there, making sure it all ties together somehow and hopefully not missing the bit that could have taken it forward in an unexpected direction. The twist.

Tomorrow Never Comes

Hopefully, the boy will be back soon, another day of new learnings, adventurous exploits and one step further away from childhood. One day he’ll look back on the days of unrealised responsibilities, uncluttered hopes, and daily adventures and wonder how he made it through. I guess we all continue to walk, run or even swagger on life’s journey to live up to our potential and achieve something worthwhile, no matter how big, small or trivial it might seem. Stop, look around and take it all in. You don’t want to miss a thing, especially an opportunity that will bring something new to your existence.

Looking on the Bright Side

Looks like I’ll have to start fresh tomorrow. Perhaps a children’s book or simply a cartoon strip. More dialogue and less obstacle building. I just don’t seem to be able to get a momentum going for a serious narrative, maybe I’m not experienced enough in the complexity of life. I should have paid more attention. All I’ve got running through my head is that little ditty they dish out to you when you’re growing up, ‘You’ve got your whole life ahead of you…’