Vote Now for November 2020 (Pamela Miller Prize)

Voting is now open for the People’s Choice award for The Pamela Miller Prize. The prize is $100 for the best Flash entry for November 2020, as voted by the Ballarat Writers Committee! The people’s choice winner will receive a BW pen.

To cast your vote, please read all six entries and complete the poll at the end of this post. The poll will close on Wednesday 25th November at 6.00pm

The winners will be announced at the final online Member’s Night on Wednesday 25th November.

Find out more about Pamela Miller here.

Prompt: Write to the theme of “Improvise”. You must also include this word, in any tense, within your piece.
Style: Write in any style you please. Including but not limited to fiction, poetry, playscript, non-fiction and creative non-fiction. Anything goes, as long as it fits in the given parameters for the month.
Limit: 300 words.
Entries Close: 11.59pm Wednesday 18th November
Voting Closes: 11.59pm Tuesday 24th November


Entry 1: Willing Spirit, Weak Flesh

“Bloody hell Snow. I just ain’t got the strength to climb, so, how am I going to get from here all the way up to the top of that friggin’ water tower?”
“Beats me cobber.”
“Well, you’re a bloody drongo then aren’t ya? Standin’ there like a bloody galah with your mouth hangin’ open like youse waitin’ for someone to stick some birdseed in it. You’re about as much use as a hat full of old farts. Call yourself me mate? Shit, with mates like you I’d be better off on me friggin’ own.”
“Sorry Bluey. You was always a better thinker than me.”
“Tell that to me shiela when she finds out what you done.”
“Weren’t just me cocko. You coulda stopped me if youda wanted to.”
“Yeah, right. You’re the one what thought it’d be smart to stick it in a slingshot an’ fly it over to me. Bloody smartarse.”
“Well, it woulda been okay if I hadn’t a put new elastic bands on the flamin’ thing. The old rubbers got too old an’ broke. The old ones woulda just lofted it to ya, nice an’ soft.”
“Lofted? flamin’ lofted! You sent the bloody thing smack bang into the old water tank. You’re a flaming dipstick! A wing-nut zombie is what you are! Jesus wept! What am I gonna do mate? Seriously, what am I gonna do?”
“You’ll hafta improvise me old cobber. Hang on, I know!”
“Grab your kid brother. He can climb up there. An’ he can swim; not that there’ll be any water in it; there’s no roof on it. But if there is any water, he can dive in an’ grab it out for ya.”
“Yeah, right! Drop kick can do that easy! Hey Spider, git ere!”

Entry 2: Spontaneity

They told her to improvise,
to make it up as she went along,
to not have a plan.
But she always had a plan,
a plot, an idea, a strategy.
She always knew her next move,
knew how everything would end.
But she took in a breath
and blew her plan away.
She blew away her preconceived notions,
her preformed ideas,
her preplanned moves.
She breathed in spontaneity,
thinking on her feet,
and flying by the seat of her pants.
She surrounded herself with uncertainty,
with change, with new.
She followed her impulses,
her whims, her fancies.
She ran ahead
with no idea where she would end up.
She ran ahead
with no plan for the future.
She ran,
and ran, and ran, and ran.
But because she didn’t plan for the end,
she didn’t see the end until it was too late.
And in the end,
she didn’t see at all.

Entry 3: Pretending To Be Well

Dept. of Human Services

To CRN 123 456 789H,

Personal and Confidential.

Dear Client&3#@2,**
Again our office suspects that you are playing our system. Our CCTV recordings show that you were drinking a weak latte, no sugar and laughing in [REDACTED] cafe with [REDACTED] last week.

Unfortunately for you, because of this activity, your benefits must@* be& repaid to us. The fact that, in your last letter, you claim that you need to improvise when out in public to appear ‘normal’ is quite ridiculous. Do you expect us to believe that you were acting?

You must attend our %2offices to demonstrate how you improvise in public appearances. This will include performing laughter, chatter and hand gestures. If these are convincing your benefits will stop. If they are not convincing your benefits will stop. One of our automated staff will call you. You can make an appointment with them using your keypad.

Please wear comfortable daytime attire, particularly your slim dark blue jeans with that nice linen shirt and your navy leather loafers. And please bring the receipt:?8 for those shoes as they are not from Kmart and we suspect they are actually from Country Road. How did you afford these? Sales and loyalty points are not admissible in court.

We believe your &3#claim to have PTSD, Anxiety and Depression is nonsense. Get over it! And please stop taking those medications. We know you are happy and do not need them.

If you are seen with again [REDACTED] having merriment and mirth we must force you to isolate at home and wear a tracking device if you continue to insist you are unwell.

Have a nice day,
‘Creating Jobs For Computers
Dept. of Human Services.’
*Classified information is redacted.
**Do not reply. This is an automated service.

Entry 4: The Last Room (For Dad)

The width of your life has narrowed to an arrow’s point
shot into this room
where I wait for your body to sort and shift,
for your stratum to marshal together and go.

There’s no script or autocue, no app, no mnemonic
for this time,
and adjourned from my life’s flotsam and jetsam,
I shuffle and deal stories, hoping they will sift into you.

I lay out the pillars of your life:
your small Buddha on the bedside table;
its jade belly touching the frame of a photograph of us—
you, still with strength and reach in your body, your mind soaring,
and me, a wee white-haired girl, eating meat pie from a foil shell.
I throw the rug, patterned in the colours of your clan, on your tired feet,
and place your watch down, ready, as if you will wear it for leaving
this room I have fashioned,
your last home.

I was in a netted bassinette last time we shared a room
and now at the end of your life,
troubled by sharp pebbles of memory,
I improvise sleep on a narrow mat
in penance, in abstention.

I stay in the sac of your room—too cautious to leave
while your breath climbs a steeper mountain, resting more often,
the void lengthening and the anticipation of the next breath crippling
as I poise to jump into the pool of your passing,
recognising it will be final.

Entry 5: Dad’s Old Tricks

We’ve been travelling hours before eventually seeing the sign “last stop for 300 km”
Pulling into the service centre, we join the throng of RV’s, grey nomads, cattle trains, 4WD’s and hippie vans.
Thirty minutes later we’re back on the road, relieved, revived, rehydrated.
It’s thirty minutes later that I first notice the temperature gauge rise. I ease back on the acceleration hoping this will allow the temperature to get back within normal range. But thirty minutes later the temperature’s still rising, and I know we have an issue and help will be hard to find.
Pulling over, I hop out and see steam starting to rise from the front of the vehicle.
Cautiously raising the bonnet I’m met with a face full of steam and bubbling.
“What’s the matter Dad?”
“Looks like we’ve got a problem with the radiator”
“Should I ring for help?”
“No, I’ve got this”
Once the steam dissipates, I grab an old rag and slowly twist the cap.
The radiator was barely half full I observe as I gradually fill it with water from the jerrycan. But as quickly as I fill it, the water begins spraying out through a hole near the base of the radiator.
“Now, should I call for help?”
“No, now we improvise” I said “Grab me the esky”
Waiting for the remaining water to drain out, I begin separating eggs.
With the dozen egg whites safely in a jug I slowly begin pouring them into the
“Dad, are you crazy!!!”
“Just watch and learn”
“Man, that’s awesome”
“Your old dads still got a few tricks left up his sleeve”
“But I’m sorry that we won’t be having scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast”
“That’s fine Dad“ the boys laugh “we don’t really like your scrambled eggs anyway”

Entry 6: Double Act

Orange red streaks flare across the western horizon as the day fades into the ephemeral green marking the onset of night. Distant low hills mark the edge of pale salt bush scrub and twisted clumps of Mallee gums. Small mobs of white corellas fly across, calling to each other, and mosquitoes rise in clouds filling the still hot air with high pitched whining.
Two people sit together outside the sprawling hotel, elbows leaning on the scarred outdoor table. Behind the lighted fly screens the bar is already full of the sound of drinkers, the red dust staining the Utes parked outside. There is a burst of laughter and someone whistles mockingly. Outside, a
phone screen glows blue as the woman looks at her phone, her face lit for a minute.
They should be here.
The man sitting opposite her glances down the single wide street that dissects the shamble of buildings that make up the township-post office, grocery store, bank. The footpaths are empty at this hour, the only movement the flickering light of a single street lamp over the bus stop.
In the fading light, a pair of harsh stars as headlights appear, the slow kerb crawl of an approaching car, expensive engine purring as tyres whisper across the tarmac. Even at this distance the woman feels like she can smell the familiar tang of aftershave from the interior.
You know what to do. The man gets up and walks into the shadows.
She reaches under the table and pulls out a large brown envelope. Her whole life is an improvised double act with him, she thinks, short notice, if any, for every scenario. Soon they will have enough money to get out of here, but first, the show must go on. She lights a cigarette, exhales and waits.

Entry 7: Esivorpmi

Would I have started the year by making myself deliberately homeless if I knew what would happen during 2020? Breathing in bushfire smoke every day was an interesting way to start the year. But that wasn’t the plan. The original plan was travelling overseas. Exhaustion threw a spanner in those
plans. Though it’s a bit unfair to only blame the exhaustion. If the characters in that love story dealt with the exhaustion better, maybe that trip could still have happened.

Breathing in bushfire smoke multiple days in a row gradually takes it toll. Now on a foggy morning, my brain debates if it’s fog or smoke until my nose tells my brain to shut up. With the library shut as the council staff helped elsewhere, I was thankful for the hospitality of friends as I sheltered inside
away from the smoke for a few hours on the worst day.

When I booked myself in for a few weeks of rehab I thought the year ahead was going to be my best year yet. Discovering the nurse was more interested in me than my rehab, I checked out as quickly as I’d checked in. What to do when your plans change again? Call friends until you find one
you can crash with while rescheduling travel plans.

All this before the world shut down. How different my year could have been if locked down away from home. It’s still been a year of improvising. Living without refrigeration or heating has made 2020 an interesting year. Using three power leads to run the laptop while accessing free wifi to write
saw a few people joking about adapting. Yet 2020 will always be treasured as I made friends unafraid to hug their fellow man, who kept their homes as open as their hearts.

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