Hi all, here are the four entries that we received for our January Flash Fiction Competition. If they have not scrupulously followed the requirements, they may not be eligible to win the competition.
Your votes will be a guide to deciding the winner for this month and voting closes at 11.59pm on Sunday 26 January.
Cluster lived across the street from us in Fitzroy. Fitzroy East, according to Cluster and if he could have arranged it, would have done away with Hoddle Street and had us living in Collingwood!
He was a fanatical Pies supporter, went to all the games, and the training sessions! He had painted his fence pickets black and white, ate vegemite on de-crusted white bread in summer and an infinite number of dog’s eyes and dead horse, throughout the winter. He once explained his diet in terms of the pies and sauce, representing the defeated foes from Saturday’s match and the black and white sandwiches providing off-season “…encouragement to the lads!”
We loved Cluster, even though he was a bit of a mad bastard! There was a bit of a whiff to him too, if you got downwind. He umpired our cricket games, arguments as well, if needed. He found us a set of wickets to replace the battered rubbish bins. He had stories too, of Squizzy Taylor and the local Push. He sold newspapers at the home games, and that got us into the ground, as assistants – we learnt to deliver “Heresya ‘erald, Inya ‘argus” like pros!
On Sundays, Cluster appeared in a collared shirt, Pies’ tie, a frayed, food-stained sports coat, shiny-arsed pants and a pork pie atop his balding pate! I followed him once. He kept to the narrow, cobbled laneways but eventually, with a knock at a side door, entered the Empress of India pub.
There, old Ma Harris maintained a knowledgeable Sunday trade with the Coppers’ collecting a few bottles on the side. Everybody was happy, and Cluster emerged, clutching a paper bag with his couple of Richmond Bitters.
Towards the end of April, Cluster would go a bit funny. Late at night he could be seen marching up and down the street crying, screaming, ducking and weaving. On Anzac Day, with his chest of medals, he would be off early to St Kilda Road, comrades to meet, memories to relive, thirsts to quench, coins to toss! We learnt to steer clear of him until early May!
With the footy season’s arrival, he’d cheer up and became Old Cluster again. He was our mate and thinking back on things, everybody in the street had a soft spot for Cluster. He put bins in and out for the neighbourhood, did unbidden odd jobs, ran the Cup Sweep in November and with his grizzled chin, was often called upon to don the Red Suit!
Twenty years later, Mum sent me a cutting – the Sun’s Death Notices. At first, I was puzzled as I read “Members of the Collingwood Football Club are saddened to learn of the death of Scott Maurice Treblecock and …”
2 An Aussie Day at the Footy
Tom gathered the gear as Harry and Geordie scrambled into the car, excitement mounting. They were heading off to watch their team play at the MCG.
Sally waved goodbye; then hurried back into the house. Smiling, she grabbed a magazine, a glass of wine, and headed out to the patio. Sheer bliss!
They arrived at the carpark, and trudged through the crowd until they found the entrance. The boys pushed and shoved each other as they waited in line.
Finally inside, they located their seats in the balcony. The boys jumped around, swapping seats in their excitement. ‘Can we have a snack dad?’
‘Alright, but if you eat everything now, there’ll be nothing for later,’ he warned them.
They settled in with their snacks, and Tom sat back with a sigh of relief. The siren sounded and the game began.
The boys sat bolt upright in the seats – entranced as they watched their team playing.
The game was slow; by the end of the first quarter they’d only scored a few points.
The crowd became agitated, and vocal.
The blokes behind them were on their feet leaning over Tom and the boys, fists clenched, swearing and roaring.
‘Use your f**king eyes, you useless bastard!’ they yelled at the umpire. The crowd around them roared and booed.
‘Grab hold of the f**king ball you pack of pussies,’ they screamed.
The boys shifted in their seats; moving closer to Tom.
Turning around, Tom glared at a big burly bloke. ‘Hey mate, mind the boys.’
‘F**k off,‘ he snarled, leaning forward. ‘Which f**king side ya on anyway?’ he hissed.
Tom leapt to his feet. The siren rang for half-time, and the crowd rushed out.
‘Come on, let’s go for a walk,’ Tom said, feeling agitated.
‘Can we get a pie dad?’ Harry pleaded.
Tom laughed, and relented. ‘Well just this one time’.
They waited in the long line. ‘That’ll be $10,’ the woman said, passing over the pies.
“What, just for two pies?’ What a rip off, Tom thought, handing her the money.
Seated again, the boys got out the pies. Late comers pushed their way through the seats, banging into people.
Geordie lifted the pie to his mouth as a young girl flung past with a back pack and knocked it out of his hands. The pie splattered onto the concrete floor, and Geordie burst into tears.
Paper cups and rubbish flew down through the stand as the crowd got to its feet, swearing and yelling abuse at the players.
Tom looked around. ‘Time to go boys.’
Arriving home, Sally met them at the door. The boys looked downcast, Tom looked troubled.
Watching the boys drag themselves inside, he declared, ‘We won’t be going back there again!’
He broke. He kept going because that’s what Aussie’s do.
It was the start of summer and he’d just returned from a trip to Sydney to finalise his parents estate. He didn’t like the city. Each visit it felt busier and busier. More cars, more buildings, more people.
This land was were he loved to be. His grandfather had been born on the porch where he now stood. They were all gone now. He was the only one left and now he was about to leave.
Growing up on the land he never had much time for socialising. The neighbours daughter left for university and then she got a job in the city.
Now as he surveyed the horizon, thoughts of her turned his mouth up at the edges. They’d stumbled into each other. He looking at the piece of paper with the solicitors address written on it. Her trying to juggle her boxes of dresses she had bought to take back to Western Australia with her.
A dinner apology was all it took for him to be thinking about leaving New South Wales for the very first time.
Before Christmas he managed to lease the farm and sell all the livestock. It was too big a task for one to do alone but he was motivated by spending the new year getting to know her family and friends.
He was battling exhaustion as he rode his horse to the station to book his ticket when the fires broke out. January vanished in a smoky haze of ash and embers. He was so tired, getting dressed made his head hurt but neighbours houses needed saving. It had been a dry year. Everyone knew that fires were part of living on the land. No one could remember a summer this bad.
Sleeping in his barn wasn’t how he planned to start this year but a handshake had sealed his fate and the new tenants had already moved in.
Before the fires he would make a quick phone call to wish her goodnight. Now, so exhausted, he didn’t have energy to re-read the letter that came from her last week. She didn’t understand why he wasn’t there or why he no longer called her. He was struggling to fall asleep and yet felt like he needed to sleep for a week.
The fight against the fires was finally won on Valentines Day. It was a few more weeks before the community stopped feeling on edge day and night.
It was the end of summer before he felt well enough to travel and think clearly again. Now as he road his horse along the track he wondered what he’d do with the rest of his life.
4 True Blue
I am standing in front of the mirror trying to figure out what to say at the service. Over the past week I must have written over a dozen different versions of what I want to say but nothing seemed quite right. I mean how do you sum up a life in just a few sequences. I could talk about how I learned about fair play and standing by your mates from him. Or maybe I should talk about how he was always preaching about equality and tolerance. I just want to say the right thing and make him proud of me because I know he is watching over me. Just then I think of a song I once heard on the radio and I know what I am going to do. I will sing true blue by John Williamson because that is what my dad was, he was true blue.