Saturday, April 26, 2008


Yeah, sorry to those who are hooked - I've gotta revise my masters for the next little while, but anyone wanting to read THAT can drop me a line....

Sunday, April 20, 2008


The first time they visited was shortly after the party, Rory came too – he and Sasha holding hands as they navigated the sandstone path to the door. Eddy glanced at Elise, wondering if she thought they made as strange a pair as he did, but she had thrown herself into catering for the six of them, and was enclosed by her own concentration. The tiny kitchen allowed for only one person to be in it at a time. It was a kitchen Elise’s grandmother had not allowed to be changed in all the time that she had holidayed at the house, cooking for sometimes ten or more people. But now she was gone, her generation passed on, and her granddaughter spun between the stove and the sink and the cupboards painted a dark green. The wind came up and blew the dust along the floor and out the door. When the westerly got going, Elise’s family legend had it, any rugs would be lifted off the floor, the cracks between the boards were so wide. The air was cleaner out on the veranda, and Eddy carried salads and eggs and bread out onto the table there, brushing the layer of leaves aside.
‘There’s a broom here!’ Elise called as she opened the cupboard near the door.
‘This is paradise,’ Sasha sighed, coming in from exploring the garden.
‘And part of it is yours.’ Rory added.
‘Yeah, I spose it will be, but it’s still being sorted, there are lots of us in the wills.’
‘Wills?’ Rory popped an olive from the salad into his mouth. Eddy was right, he and Sasha did make an odd couple. He was tall and thin and had grown his moustache to dangled over his lip. It made Elise think of his Mongolian ancestory – while Sasha was smaller all wide eyes and laughter. It took a bit to make Rory smile, but he was actually smiling now. Eddy turned to look at the view so his old friend wouldn’t see his amusement.
‘Yeah, it’s complex.’ Elise said as she dressed the salad, concentrating on the last few drops of oil in the jar. She didn’t want to talk about it much. It wasn’t so much she didn’t want people to know what was happening with the wills, she just had a great sense of guilt over gaining out of the unexpected death of her aunt. That her dead aunt had not inherited her share of her own father’s – Elise’s grandfather’s – estate, meant months, perhaps years of sorting out the various elements. She mustered up some of her bravado, wanting to be honest with her friends, and said: ‘I feel guilty about it, you know.’
‘No, I don’t. What’s wrong with having relatives who were canny at investing in property?’ Sasha wasn’t listening to Rory, she was enjoying leaning on him. She could lean right into him and not throw him off balance. She could feel the way his voice vibrated through is body.
‘Nothing, I ‘spose, I’m still adjusting to the idea.’
‘You could come and live here.’ Rory said. Eddy turned back around.
‘I’d be a long way from everyone.’
‘Who’s everyone?’ Eddy asked.
‘Not from you, anyway.’ Elise licked the vinegar from her finger.
‘Well, you know, it is an idea.’ He didn’t want to push it.
‘All by myself?’
‘Look, you hate your PA job in the city, you want to write, you have this house that no-one is using.’ Eddy knew he was talking her into it. He was mildly surprised he was doing it in front of Rory and Sasha.
‘Well, it seems like a good idea. Feel as though I should have thought of it myself.’ But, she knew she had, even as she turned back into the house. It was the whole idea of bringing them here. To see what they said. To see what Sasha said. She had been feeling the pull out of the city ever since Eddy had got the scholarship in Melbourne, the old house had never been too far from her thoughts. It had started to make its way into the poems she was writing. The romantic notion of the isolated cottage on the coast, even though it wasn’t isolated, there was a sense in which the house focused out into the bay and onto the bush of the national park on the other side of the water. The road, the other houses, even the hundreds of yachts in the Clareville bay didn’t impact on the feeling the place had of being miles, hundreds of miles, from anywhere.
Maya and Venus arrived later that afternoon, and as the wind had dropped they all found themselves following Elise down onto the pontoon of the jetty. The sun was hot, the water swayed the splintery wood structure, maybe it was Elise who took off her shoes first. Then, they all had their shoes off, Sasha keen to show how comfortable she was with these new friends – the writers and photographers that inhabited Elise’s life – that she undid the buttons of her shirt, Rory’s look pleased her, and she basked in his watching her as much as in the sun as it pelted off the water at them.
Eddy finished the article he was reading at looked up. Elise and Sasha sat with their shoulders bare, their toes just touching the deep green water.
‘If you don’t just do it,’ Elise was saying, ‘If you hesitate, thinking that it will be cold or that there’s a giant squid down there or something, then you don’t. And then you regret it. You always regret not swimming more than you do if you go in.’
‘Is that true?’ Asked Venus looking up. Her hennaed hair was shimmering in the sun.
‘Yes.’ Elise answered.
‘Well then,’But, before Venus finished what she was saying Elise stood up, stripped off her shirt and shorts and stood in just her undies at the edge of the pontoon. Rory was reaching for his camera, Venus had her own shirt over her head. There was a splash, as Elise disappeared, Maya was sitting up, Rory was taking off his own shirt.
‘You coming in, too?’ He asked Eddy.
‘I’ll have to now, won’t I?’ He said, over the spash of Venus into the water, and Elise’s laughter.
Sasha was still sitting on the edge. She couldn’t move, even when Rory asked her for his camera, waist deep in the water. She couldn’t smile back at Elise and Venus. She felt Rory’s disappointment, and she watched him watching Eddy and Elise as they embraced.

SIx (point one)

The house had been in the family for something like 50 years when they decided they would go and live there. You could find it now, though it has been renovated. You follow the road out of Avalon, along what seems to be a suburban street. When it suddenly narrows and twists as you come over a crest in the hill and you are smacked with the view of Pittwater glittering in whatever light is available, the house is just below you, on the right, down the bank behind that huge tree.
Then, it was a beach cottage, one of the last on the peninsular. The floorboards were made from the spotted gums that had been felled to make room for the house and they had been scuffed by the sandy feet of so many yachts-men, fisher-men, holiday makers that their smoothness seemed unnatural. Out on the veranda to the west the boards had been weathered turning a shade of grey and they seemed to suck the moisture off your feet. The fibro walls were stained with mould, the paint on the windows peeled gracefully in the extreme light thrown at them by the water. And out below the veranda the water itself seemed to be too close, lapping at the foundations, eroding at the sandy soil and the wooden trusses that held the house in position.
Either side of the house the land had been cleared to make room for the pools and trim gardens of the neighbours. Their houses leaned in on the cottage with the swathe of gums, their speckled trunks standing guard, the untidy bushes that crawled and cascaded their way down to the sandstone platform at the bottom of the garden, where the tide was eroding the bank.
Sasha worried about this. She agreed with Elise’s collective of aunts, that something should be done, but there was such a complex knot of wills and various contests that Elise had rolled her eyes and walked out of the room. Sasha noticed herself twisting the bangles on her wrists, upset – or was it irritated – by Elise’s silence.
Sasha wanted to repaint, to tidy, to hack and neaten the garden. She looked at the houses next door and caught herself admiring their order, the paths clear of leaves or gum blossom dropped by the screeching lorikeets. But, there was a part of herself that loved the sound of the house settling into the night, the bandicoot scratched under the foundations, the possum thumping on the galve roof, the sound, or so it sometimes seemed to Sasha, of old wood twisting in the humidity of the night. Crickets. A car passing, and the slap of the water, boats on their moorings, the hiss of the tide rising.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


The ecstasy had started to work. Elise could feel it under her skin, making her limbs feel light, her mouth feel wet, her face and heart at the same time seem to be smiling. She answered the door to more people; they smelt of cologne, hair gel, she could even tell which of them was wearing which deodorant. They saw her eyes, and squeezed her hands. Stew had set up decks in the front room; Eddy and Bella were down in the laundry pouring ice from plastic bags into the sink and buckets. Elise just stood, listening. And for a moment, the volume of the music, the swaying dancers, the blue light of the evening, which was actually the darkness falling, seemed to come together in such harmony such wide arching wonder that she had to pause, still holding the hands of the two new guests and whisper ‘Listen, just listen to that.’
But they couldn’t hear what Elise heard; all the echoes of the past and the future winding themselves into the night, around her senses and into the air.
Eddy had a long glass with condensation on the outside. Patience stood next to him, her fingers in her own curly hair, feeling its texture. Bella and Stew moved onto the dance floor. Elise couldn’t tell what the music was, but Stew had been working on the decks, now was taking a break, it was a CD, the rhythms complex and strong. Paul and Luke and Yeo were on the couch, crowded into their conversation. Millie and Jane were dancing together, so closely, their hands on one-another’s backs, moving up and under their silky clothes. Everyone seemed more beautiful, even Rory, poised with his hands out, explaining to Violetta why country life suited him, why he didn’t come and live in the big smoke.
Elise noticed she was still holding Mark’s hands, so she smiled and slid away. Out in the back courtyard Steph, Jo and Pia were doing tequila shots. There were a crowd of people watching, laughing. Their faces shone, each one of them had an attractive feature, each one of them clearly beautiful. Elise felt that she’d accessed a way of seeing only the good. She looked up when she heard the fruit bats overhead, above the noise of the party their high-pitched conversations. She saw them flit against the moon, a dozen of them flying together, so nonchalantly, even slowly through the sky. Eddy was there with his arm around her waist, breath in her ear. He was so warm, smelling sharp, like spirits.
‘Here’s your drink.’ He said as he, too, looked up at the bats against the sky, and put the cool glass in her hand.
Elise had been worried about what Sasha would think. Whether she should invite Sasha, all clean and crisp and somehow so naive about the word. But, now it doesn’t seem to matter too much. With the house full of people, the music beating its way through the air, the night so clear and full of scents, Eddy’s warm hand on her hip exactly where it was always meant to be. Her hip had been made with this hand in mind; that weight and pressure. Sasha hadn’t arrived, and Elise found it hard to keep track of her own thoughts.
‘How are you, love?’ Patience smiled, lit from behind with the light from the kitchen,‘How the chemicals treating you?’
‘Lovely, yes,’ Elise sighed.
‘Venus and Maya have just arrived.’ Patience told her. And Elise was off. She was like a child again, running to greet a beloved aunt or grandmother. Her step sure and light she felt herself full of love and the pressure of it pushed her through the dancers and into the arms of her old friends.
Venus was wearing scarves and a velvet jacket, she smelt of apricots in a familiar and powdery way. Elise held her tightly, letting her friend’s hennaed hair tickle her neck. Maya stood to one side, blinking in the crowd. They were sober, stiff from travelling, their clothes slightly too heavy for the October night. Elise, unwilling for the hug to end made fists in her jacket, but Venus gently extracted herself, to hold her at arm’s length and examined Elise slowly, as if able to read on her skin any new events, any changes anything that they couldn’t say there in the doorway with the crowd pressing against them.
Maya opened her mouth to say hello, but was overpowered by Stew on the decks starting a new track and hitting a volume that made the dancers jump. Pulling off her bags and scarves, Elise had Venus on the dance floor, among the writhe and heat of bodies in the small room. Maya waved to Eddy who stood near the lamp, and he signalled he would make drinks.
It was just then, when Venus was beginning to relax, realising her friend was on another plane and the dance was just part of that – when she felt in tune with the excitement that was Elise at that moment -– that Sasha arrived.
Venus didn’t know Sasha – it was that night that Sasha met Will and Rory and all the others – but she registered the look of shock and apprehension that crossed her face. The wide eyes widened, the hair seemed for a moment to almost leap with shock - though that could just have been the breeze from the open back doors - and her mouth curved in a way that Venus wasn’t sure about.
Elise didn’t see Sasha straight away. She was lost in the whirl and touch of the dance. She was absorbed, thinking that this was all she had ever wanted, to lose herself completely in the music and the dance and have nothing else to care about. Sometimes it felt that too many cares crowded into her life. All she wanted was to dance, to smell the collective sweat feel the beat buzz her spine, her whole body, and know that the people she loved, that they were close by. Millie had her by the shoulders, Jane was stroking her stomach, Venus had moved away and was dancing near the edge of the crowd, sipping a drink with Eddy and Bella.
And there was Sasha.
Elise met her eyes, saw the lost look among the confidence of the smile. Just then, she knew something about Sasha that she hadn’t seen before, and that she would forget by morning.
The dark had truly set in when Elise, mid dance, noticed it was hard to see. And she remembered the tea-light candles. She carefully lifted Stew’s lighter from his unguarded pocket and one by one she started to fill the house with candle-light. Four at the front door, lit with a sort of solemnity that quietened the boisterous conversations there, moving through the dancers she put some on the mantle pieces. And, as each candle lit, a small piece of the mood that she caught in Sasha’s eyes is lifted. She went to the courtyard where the drinkers, Eddy among them, had started to sing and she gives him a lit candle, catching the eye of Mark’s girlfriend Hilda-the-witch. Together they put a candle on each of the stairs, on the windowsills, and in her room where Sasha and Rory are lying on the bed, talking. They stop their conversation as Elise comes in. Hilda waits in the doorway. Sasha looks up, waiting for Elise to say something, to give some explanation, or to demand one from her. Rory is quiet. The silence in the room is almost tangible to Elise, who savours it. She balances the last two candles on the chair and lights them lovingly, remembering the story candles of her childhood. And then, she leaves the room, pulling the door to, as Hilda takes her hand and they go onto the balcony and sprinkle glitter on the police at the front door.