When she ordered books she gave one name, when she ordered food she gave another. She gave a different name again when meeting friends, and had another reserved for family. There was one she used only for book clubs, but many for when she went dancing. And one or two, slotted between, which she gave only to police.
She always paid cash; she possessed no credit card.
It was not easy to keep track of so many identities, but she managed. She did not see that she had a choice.
The list grew longer and longer, like a scroll in her head, and on her deathbed there was great confusion as everyone remembered somebody different, somebody more like themselves.
When I came home from work one afternoon, I discovered my aunt had turned into a carnivorous plant. Finish the story here.
This piece first appeared at Quart Short Literary Reading Nights in Adelaide, and was also performed at Salon REaD, an emerging literary salon in Brisbane (photos of the latter below).
Feel like one last sweet treat to farewell Easter?
Try listening to my short story, The Master Class, read by Holly Myers, as part of Quart Short Literary Reading Nights.
Something is not quite right at this bakery…
Even with the door shut I can smell the overpowering fragrance.
It resembles frangipani, only it is repulsive.
I have trouble getting to the door because of the smell, and when I grab the handle it flies open, propelled by the force of the vile stench within. I enter the room, moving through the still air like it is, in fact, a hurricane.
I locate the air freshener.
It’s a new device, in the shape of a Ferris wheel, with a big handle protruding from the centre. Around the sides are different holes, allowing for varying strengths of smell, and each strength has a label. I can now see why it smells so strongly: it is set to Oh, Lordy!
At any one moment, somebody is standing alone at a bus stop, ferry terminal or train station, silently panicking. They are terrified that they’ve slipped into a world between worlds, that the bus or ferry or train is not, nor will it ever be, coming for them, and they shall remain trapped here until the end of time.
When the granddaughter came to visit, the grandmother spent the entire time listing the people who no longer had time to visit her.
The first bust lost its nose and had another nose affixed to it.
Or, rather, the nose of a second bust lost its face and so was affixed to the face of the first bust.
Therefore there is both a nose without its face and a face without its nose somewhere in the world, and no matter how much each piece longs for it, they will never again be reunited.
Additionally, there is a nose and a face that will be wedded together for all of time, whether they like it or not.
‘That woman is a red pepper,’ was what he said.
‘A red pepper has such a strong flavour, that whatever dish it’s added to is overwhelmed, every subtle flavour supressed, and I have seen this woman often enough to know that every person who encounters her in conversation is, for a moment, totally absorbed by her presence, and while it can be interesting to lose oneself so completely in someone else, it isn’t long before you begin to feel smothered and afraid that you might never re-emerge at all—or, worse, that you will have to re-emerge by force, and because of this force, this obliteration, you will always carry something of her with you, like that one Tupperware container everybody owns, stained with pasta sauce, a sauce made of a dozen ingredients, and yet… smelling only of red peppers.
He tried to remind himself that the process of ageing wasn’t a disease, it wasn’t a contagion— it could not be caught.
And when he couldn’t do this, he tried to think of it as a disease that he had already caught. But it occurred to him that this made ageing a disease which was advancing on him at every second of every day.
Then he tried to tell himself ageing was a disease that everyone had caught. But instead of a feeling of camaraderie, he was faced with a feeling of inevitability, like when you’re driving on a country road and a deer jumps out and you know you’re going to hit it.
So he told himself ageing was a thing like hair growth, it just happened slowly over time and, like with hair, you should treat it all gently. And so he took extra good care of his hair, and was calmed.
She had trouble sleeping and typically didn’t drop off till after midnight but at least when she had fallen asleep, she stayed asleep. This made it all the more infuriating when she was woken by her husband as he tossed and turned because it was warm or a dog was barking, or whatever.
One morning she awoke before dawn to a light, fluttering sensation on her left foot.
When she looked down, she discovered her husband leaning over, tickling her toe with the tip of his index finger.
Later that morning, over brunch with their friends, she said that if she was in a bad mood it was because of the antics of her husband only a few hours prior, and she explained the tickling.
A friend said it could have been worse, he could have bitten her foot, to which everyone laughed heartily.
Another friend said, if a man bites your foot then I think you’re headed for divorce, shooting a look at her own husband who turned bright red and suddenly took a keen interest in the tablecloth.
The laughter, which had been so easy, died away as everyone stared curiously at the husband who continued tracing the pattern on the tablecloth, while his wife picked up a knife, and slowly began buttering her scone.