With an exhibition coming up in April, I thought this cheeky little piece, a 100-word challenge might fit the bill, so to speak. The actual incident of imagined “water/wine-theft” took place several years ago, but I believe the gallery involved still takes their rules very seriously.
‘Where can we get some water?’ my friend asked.
I pointed at the casket of spring water languishing in the gallery. ‘There’s some just there.’ A glass wall confined the well-watered and wined gallery guests. We had been guests, but this gallery was devoid of seats. We wanted to sit. And eat.
‘Sign there bans wine not water.’
I stowed into gallery, collected cups of water and walked to the door.
‘Where do you think you’re going?’ self-appointed wine-police snapped.
I placed the stolen water back on the table and left.
Transubstantiation. My first virtual miracle; turning water into wine.
[Sharing experiences from our school days at writers’ group this morning reminded me of learning in the 1960’s.]
I Threw the Book Back at the Teacher
Mrs. Cranky (not her real name), our relief teacher looked like she’d stepped out of a Dickens’ tale—that’s what I remember of her from when I was in Grade 1. At the age of six, to me, she appeared so old, as though she were prehistoric; all skin and bone and a scowl fixed on her face.
Mrs. Cranky’s methods of discipline matched her looks; old fashioned and mean. I started school in the late 1960’s in Australia.
The regular infant schoolteachers were kind and gentle. I loved school. I loved learning. I came from a home that valued education. The regular teachers perhaps tired of my constant hand-in-the-air to answer every question and tried to dampen my enthusiasm saying, ‘Give someone else a go.’ But I experienced no trouble until Mrs. Cranky took over our Grade 1 class for a term.
Mrs. Cranky seemed to have been buried in the education system and then dug up. I reckon probably as a last resort and I’m sure the headmistress must’ve done an archaeological dig in search of a relief teacher and come up with this old fossil.
I mean to say, if the department had known what archaic methods this woman was using to control the class of us infants, surely, she would’ve been asked to retire.
As Grade 1 students, we submitted to her authority with fear and trembling, not to mention a few toileting accidents on the classroom’s linoleum floor. I guess Mrs. Cranky’s colleagues congratulated Mrs. Cranky on her class of obedient and quiet students.
How was I to know, as a six-year-old, that a teacher shaking, hitting and shouting at children was not appropriate? But I sensed something was off.
So, on one dull winter’s day, Mrs. Cranky presided over her class from her desk. She’d taught us our arithmetic lesson which seemed to make her particularly angry.
As we finished our work, simple sums where neatness was prized over correctness, we lined up at the desk, our work to be marked by Mrs. Cranky.
I finished my sums and joined the queue which by this stage stretched from the desk to the door. Now I was not the most observant pupil and as work was too easy, I tended to daydream. My mind wandered out the window and floated to the clouds as I waited.
A mathematics exercise book flew past me. My mind returned to my body in the classroom. I looked from the book, pages strewn on the floor, and then at the teacher’s desk.
‘This is rubbish!’ Mrs. Cranky screeched and tossed another book across the room.
As I watched that book land in the aisle, one more book whizzed past me.
‘Go pick it up!’ Mrs. Cranky said.
My classmate scuttled over to the book on the floor, picked it up and slunk back to her seat.
Mrs. Cranky was on a roll. ‘Rubbish!’ she cried, and I ducked yet another book-missile.
‘What’s going on?’ I asked the boy in front of me.
The boy shrugged.
Mrs. Cranky glared at me and said, ‘Go to the back of the line, Lee-Anne!’
I took my place at the end of the line. I checked my work. Yes, one plus one is two. Yes, all my sums neat and correct in my estimation.
A book landed at my feet. I went to pick it up.
‘Don’t you dare, Lee-Anne!’
I straightened up and watched another poor pupil pick up his book, bite his trembling lip and shuffle to his desk.
This is not right, I thought. As I waited my turn, I imagined my counterattack if the teacher cast my sterling efforts across the room. It seemed to me I’d wasted half a lesson standing in line and watching the Maths books fly.
My turn. Surely Mrs. Cranky would see my superior efforts and not throw my book.
She did throw my book. And with much demented screaming and ranting that my work was the worst she’d seen in all her years of teaching. Considering how old she looked, boy, that must be bad.
Her implications that I must be the worst student in the history of the world sank in. What? How dare she! No, that can’t be right. I won’t let her get away with that. She had crossed the line.
I paced over to my wreck of a Maths book, plucked it up and then flung it back at Mrs. Cranky.
O-oh, bad move. Very bad move.
I’d stuck my neck out, executed justice for me and my classmates, but had not considered the consequences.
Mrs. Cranky’s face flushed red. Her eyes bulged from her bony sockets. She bared her teeth.
My situation was not looking good.
I fled. First, I scampered down the nearest aisle to the back of the class. Mrs. Cranky armed with a twelve-inch ruler clattered behind me. She screamed and raged. ‘Why you little…!’
I ran along the back of the class. Mrs. Cranky followed. She swatted the ruler at me. Missed!
I weaved through the maze of desks and chairs. I searched for refuge from the teacher’s rage and ruler.
I dove under a desk. But the boy with red hair swung his feet.
Mrs. Cranky gained on me. She growled. She waved the ruler at me.
I fell to my hands and knees and scrambled under another desk. More legs, more kicking at me. I crawled along the floor. Mrs. Cranky chased me into a corner.
I had nowhere to go.
Mrs. Cranky cut the ruler into my tender thighs. ‘There, that’ll teach you for throwing the book at me,’ she said.
Education, I decided was not so much for gaining knowledge as to learn to submit to the control of authority. The system taught me that to be successful and get good grades I must behave, be quiet, don’t upset the norm or challenge the people who had power over me. So, I learnt to be a “good” student, and when I grew up, a “good” citizen, minding my own business out of fear of that wrath, that punishment, if I question or challenge the status quo.
However, recently, as I’ve matured and seen injustice and oppression, sometimes suffered by those close to me, I have been challenged and I wonder: Have I allowed evil to prosper because I’m too afraid to speak up?
This is why I write. My words can be used to promote God, His love and goodness. They can also be used to speak out against deception and injustice. Part of me is still afraid of retribution, that figurative “twelve-inch-ruler” ready to strike because symbolically I’m “throwing the book back at the teacher”.
In the good book, the Bible, 1 Peter 3:17 says: ‘It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer doing good than doing evil.’
True, as a Grade 1 student, it was not the wisest choice to make and “throw the book back at the teacher”, but as an adult, it is my hope and intention to “throw the book”, that is, my words into the world and community for good; right the wrongs, stick up for the oppressed, defend the victims of bullying and make waves to change attitudes and thus generate God’s character and values of justice, truth, responsibility and love.
Grandma rarely locked the back door; not when home or if she ran short errands. The only times she did lock the back door was when she went away on holiday. Ah! Those were the days! The 1960’s—Adelaide, the front door greeted strangers and salespeople, the back door welcomed friends and family who didn’t knock, but walked straight in.
Grandma lived a ten-minute walk from my home in Somerton Park. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I walked or rode the route down Baker Street, across “busy” Diagonal Road, and into Panton Crescent. Then I trod down her gravel drive of her Trust home to her back door; a door always unlocked and without any ceremony of knocking, I pulled open the fly-screen door, pushed open the wooden door, and walked into Grandma’s small kitchen. I still dream of Grandma’s place, “Grandma’s Lace” as I used to call it as a child, her huge backyard with fruit trees and hen house.
The same as her home, Grandma had an open heart with time available to be there for me. From the time I was born, she was there. She bought and moved into her Somerton Park home nearby, about the same time my mum and dad with my brother and me, bought and moved into our home.
Every Sunday all the family which included mum’s brothers and sisters and their spouses, gathered in her tiny kitchen dining area for Sunday roast. The home filled with laughter as we enjoyed Grandma’s roast beef and crunchy roast potatoes—the best ever! Dessert of jelly and ice-cream followed, topped with a devotion, then the Sunday Mail quiz. Holidays held extra treats of cousins from Cleve, all five of them and Auntie and Uncle. Grandma fitted us all in, albeit us younger ones sat at the “kinder tisch” in the passageway. Often friends from church or elsewhere joined us for Sunday lunch. The door was open for them too, and somehow Grandma made the food stretch and the table expand for unexpected guests.
One of the first times I took advantage of Grandma’s “open door policy” was at two years old. I’d dreamt my cousins were visiting and no one told me. My beloved cousins were at “Grandma’s Lace” and I was missing out.
So early that hot summer’s morning, I climbed out of my cot, dumped my nappy, and naked, I navigated my way to Grandma’s. I streaked over Diagonal Road, not so busy at dawn, and then toddled down Grandma’s driveway. I pushed open the back door and tiptoed through the kitchen and passageway. Then I peered into the bedrooms one by one. Each room was empty. Where were they? Where’s my cousins? I was sure they were here.
I entered Grandma’s room. The mound of bedding rose and fell with each puff of breath Grandma made.
I tapped Grandma and asked, ‘Where’s my cousins?’
Grandma startled and her eyes sprang open. ‘Oh! Oh! What are you doing here?’
‘I come to play with my cousins,’ I said. ‘Where are they?’
‘Oh, my goodness—no dear—they’re not here.’ Grandma climbed out of bed and waddled to the bathroom. ‘Now, let’s get you decent.’
After wrapping a towel around me, she picked up the telephone. I stuck by her solid legs while she spoke to my mum. ‘Marie, just wondering, are you missing a daughter?…You might like to bring some clothes…’
As I grew older, Grandma’s open-door policy included her home-made honey biscuits. My friends and I visited Grandma on a regular basis. We’d enter through the back door and make a beeline for the biscuit tin. Then we’d meander into the lounge room. With my mouth full of biscuit, I’d ask, ‘Grandma, may I have a biscuit?’
Grandma would always smile and reply, ‘Yes, dear.’
Grandma’s open-door policy helped as a refuge when love-sick boys stalked me. Mum and I arranged that when I rode home from school, if my blind was up, I was safe from unwanted attention. But if the blind was pulled down, I would turn around and ride to Grandma’s place.
Grandma was there also when I had trouble at school. I remember at fifteen, having boy-trouble of the unrequited love kind. Grandma listened. She was good at that. She sat in her chair as I talked and talked, pouring out my heart, while emptying her biscuit tin.
When I paused one time, after exhausting all my words, she said, ‘Lee-Anne, one thing that may help—you need to have Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.’
Grandma passed on from this life to meet her Lord and Saviour in early 1981, less than two weeks’ shy of her seventy-fifth birthday. Her old Trust home on the big block with the fruit trees and chook-yard were razed and redeveloped into four units—front doors locked and no easy way to their back doors.
The Sunday after the funeral, it seemed to me strange not to gather at Grandma’s. Then Christmas, the brothers and sisters celebrated separately with their own family or partners. I missed the whole Christmas connection with my cousins, aunts and uncles. Time had moved on and our family had evolved to the next stage of our lives.
These days, leaving one’s back door open, even during the day, seems an odd and risky thing to do. Times have changed—more dangerous, or perhaps we’re more fearful of imagined dangers outside our castles. And now in 2023…Well, Grandma’s life and her “open door” policy in a more trusting time, has made me ponder: How open and available am I to others? How willing am I to listen and value others and their world?
[After last week’s gross and gory post, I received criticism that this story was too horror-filled and disturbing to be published. They felt that the warning was not strong enough. The truth about Evil, is that it’s ugly, it’s confronting, it’s something we shy away from; our innate human condition dictates that we have a bias to satisfy our own selfish needs to the detriment of others. As it says in the Bible in Romans 3:23: “All have fallen short of the glory of God.”
Part 1 of Boris’ Choice may look like I, as a writer have fallen short of God’s glory. What I was exploring, though was the pure evil character that Boris is.
In this story’s conclusion, I endeavour to show the opposite of Boris in the goodness of Joshua, the answer to the destructive consequences of evil. Boris, being Boris cannot tolerate Joshua.
Thus, the war on Boris, the battle between good and evil begins…]
Boris’ Choice (2)
Days passed and the promise of barbequed Joshua eluded Boris. Worse, he sensed Maggie slipping from him, enticed by the weird teachings of the man with no shell. By the third day Boris curled up on his nest of droppings, sucking his top claw and sulking. Now, that Earth creature had a following, a rag tag clutch of disciples and had the audacity to preach from the front steps of his castle. Thoughts of love, peace, law and order filtered through the atmosphere. Boris folded his antennae under his helmet attempting to block out the infectious purity. Still the cleansing vibrations penetrated. Boris’ intestines boiled with rage. He rose from his bed and then slamming the door, marched through his home to the porch.
His whiskers recoiled at the radiating goodness. ‘No! Get out of my life!’ He stomped his needle feet on the ‘Go Away’ mat.
The monolith of pale flesh turned and reached out to him. ‘Please turn over your life, Boris. If we start now, your world will be a much better place to live. If you keep on killing and destroying, you’ll end up—alone.’
Boris bristled. He turned, his armour facing the crowd. ‘Don’t care. At least I’ll be free to do whatever I please.’ A dragonfly skimmed the water of the fishpond filled from last night’s rain. Boris shuddered.
‘No!’ Boris spun round and with a wing stiff, hit Maggie hard so that she curled into a ball and bounced down the steps. As she straightened, he raised his weapon-arm.
Joshua stepped in front of him, blocking his aim. ‘What are you doing? Do you not love her?’
‘Pah! Never did.’ Boris pumped venom into Joshua’s unguarded chest.
The giant creature sank to his knees and groaned.
Boris waved his proboscis. ‘You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting to do that.’ The disciples recoiled and scattered.
‘Three days. He’s only been with us—’ Maggie raced to the prostrate Earth-being. She held his bulbous head and gasped. ‘What have you done, Boris?’ She looked up at him, her antennae twisting into an anguished knot.
He poised his needle-like mouth over the creature’s supple neck. ‘Only what must be done to survive.’
‘Kill me if you have to, but—’ the alien rasped, ‘—whatever you do, don’t touch my ship.’
‘You have a ship? Hmm?’ Boris said, his fangs twitched at the prospect of a crew full of large, tender, succulent prey.
‘Well, of course he has. How do you think he got here?’ Maggie combed Joshua’s fine white hairs. ‘But he said not to touch it, so—’
‘Shut up, female!’ Boris aimed and vaporized Maggie. He flapped his wings and cleared the cloud of particles from his prize, the alien. Sharpening his pincers, he examined the limp neck and shiny skin begging to be consumed. He lanced his fangs into the soft neck and chomped through the layers of skin, gristle and bone. By midnight, with his belly distended over his lower legs, Boris packed the last of the sealed bags of Joshua in the freezer. He gazed at his handy work stacked on the shelves and sighed. Then he nudged the door closed.
He patted his stomach and passed gas. ‘Well, nothing like the present. Before they get wind of it. And besides, I’m all fuelled up.’
Boris spread his wings and soared into the atmosphere. He banked higher, above the clouds lined silver with the moon. He closed the vents in his shell as he rose up into the icy stratosphere. The air thinned, not that it mattered to Boris as he didn’t breathe much anyway. He looked down, his hometown merged with the continent. He sailed with the solar winds, drifting with the rotation of the planet as he hunted for the alien ship. A speck glittered at the point where the curve of his world met the black of space. Boris powered up his rear booster rockets and charged towards the glint. As he approached the triangular-shaped chunk of metal, he magnetized his feet and plopped onto the frigid surface of the dark side. He set his weapon spike to maximum and cut into the hull.
Sharp spasms quaked from the surface through Boris’ legs. A shot of electricity jerked through his exoskeleton. ‘O-oh!’ Boris retracted the magnets and darted away. Boom! A wave of energy hurled him into space, rolling, flying, knocking against fragments of ship, and reeling like space junk towards the moon. As a ball he plopped into a lunar lake padded with dust. He straightened his body and watched as his world glowed red and vascular with lava and then in silence caved in on itself into a lump of coal.
Alone Boris orbited the moon, scanning the pock-marked surface. ‘There has to be a space station here somewhere. And when I find it, and get me a space craft, I’m going for Earth. That Joshua and his kind are not going to get away with what they’ve done.’ He watched his sun dim for a second. He knew he did not have much time.
[From my understanding about Gargoyles and a read of Wikipedia on the subject it would seem that Gargoyles from medieval times were used not only to drain water from the building, but their hideous animalistic forms were to remind the people that evil is all around, and that it’s in the church that one finds refuge from evil.]
Curious about what mischief and mayhem Boris will get up to?
Check out my new novel, fresh on the virtual shelves of Amazon Kindle—click on the link below:
[How the war on Boris began…on a planet hundreds of light-years away, and hundreds of years ago. Warning, this over-sized alien cockroach is not for the faint-hearted. The story is best to be digested away from meals. This story contains violence, gore and cockroaches.]
Boris crept towards her. She hunched over, back draped with a tattered shawl, picking rotting peel from the over-flowing garbage tin. Boris eyed the bundle of hessian rags and wrinkled flesh. She’s useless. Who would want her? She’s way past child-bearing age. Surprised someone hasn’t eaten her already. Old females were a specialty on his world, his favourite—boiled. Although he must admit, he’d never pass up the offer of a baby, cooked fresh out of the womb. Boris wiped the acid dripping from his crusty lips and scuttled closer to his victim. With his probe he stung this brown heap in the round of her back and she melted into a pool of oil. Boris extended his hollow proboscis and sucked the puddle, all of her black fluid on the pavement.
Boris thrust forward his abdomen swelled with this snack and waddled past his fellow Bytrodes. They smiled at him and nodded. ‘Well, done!’ ‘Ridding the world of waste.’ ‘I wish I had your guts.’
Boris grinned and with his surround optical vision guarded his armoured back as they moved behind him. No fellow Bytrode can be trusted.
Then Boris burped, lifted the flaps in his spine and unfurled his wings. A potent gust of gas enabled him to lift into the air and ferry through the ruined structures, once ziggurats with lofty peaks that vanished into the clouds, now a pile of broken stones. On a mountain over-looking a river of septic waste, his palace gleamed gold and white; his reward built on the shells of his competitors and any other Bytrode that got in the way.
Flying spent the fuel that was the old woman, and hunger gnawed at his ribs. He spied a neighbour, Gavin basking on the roof of a satellite wreck close to the foamy shore. He plopped onto the carcass of yesterday’s breakfast and sidled up to Gavin’s shiny black back. The heat of the metal roof stung his many feet, so he stood on the tips of his pointy toes.
‘Do you want a little something to help you on your trip?’ Boris purred.
His fellow rotated his bald head. ‘Sure. What have you got?’
Boris reached into the pocket of his armour and pulled out a plastic bag of white powder. ‘Here, try some. It’s fresh and clean.’
‘Thanks.’ With whiskers twitching, Gavin positioned his snout over the bag and absorbed the contents.
‘There, that will make you happy.’ Boris chuckled. ‘And me.’
Boris drooled and waited as the goo that was Gavin fried on the metal in the searing afternoon sun. At the crisp and bubbly point, Boris reached underneath the wreck, and pulled out a plastic spatula. ‘Ah! Neighbour biscuit!’ His tentacles wriggled as he snapped off a piece and munched. ‘A fitting entrée to dessert and the object of my lust—Maggie. A perfect end to a delicious day.’
Boris climbed the mountain of victim waste his shell splayed as a force field to protect against the attack of scavengers. His belly bloated, and home too close to wing it, he lumbered up the hillside of rotting corpses to his castle, his numerous eyes like surveillance cameras scanning for any movement of the enemy pretending to be dead. A hiss. Boris froze, antennae vibrating. In the crimson rays of the setting sun, a shell rose defiant. Boris charged his weapon arm and fired a stream of fusion energy. Puff! Ash of foe added to the mountain.
Boris folded his weapon prong into his scales, and exhaling, curled into a ball of hard silicon, rolled the final leg of his journey home. At the titanium steel door, he unfurled his body and then tapped the musical security code, using four of his six legs. The door Bytrode-body thick with reinforced steel and telephone directories, creaked open.
‘Were you successful, my lust?’ Maggie projected her thoughts to Boris. Her shell glowed auburn, as she flicked her long scales and caressed Boris’ aura.
‘Yep,’ he said waddling past her, and then brushing against her waiting claws. He sailed to his throne, the recliner rocker, inherited from yesterday’s breakfast, and planted his thorax on the leather seat. While his peripheral vision traced his female’s scuttling steps to his side, he aimed his proboscis at the shag-pile rug and regurgitated the mashed contents of his stomach, decorating the cream shag with a lumpy pool of umber.
Boris burped. ‘Gavin.’
‘That’s nice, dear. Never did like him,’ Maggie said. She extended her trunk, groping and fusing with his. She dug her hooks into his scales.
Boris quivered as the fermented juice of last cycle’s enemy pumped into his gullet. ‘Ah! Tyrone! That was a good victim.’ Swelling with victory, power and the ether of Tyrone’s spent life-force, he thrust his favourite female onto the shagpile and Gavin goo, his thoughts and intent on more pleasurable pursuits than feasting.
‘Boris, dear…’ Maggie retracted her spikes and slid from under him.
Splat! Boris’ raw flesh grated on the shag fibres, while is face kissed the blow-fly flecked stew that was Gavin. He lifted his head and sucked in a fly-flavoured morsel. ‘What?’
Maggie’s antennae twitched. ‘We have a visitor.’
Boris straightened up and smoothed his scales. ‘Why didn’t you say something before?’ His abdomen purred with the delicious thought of food killed and prepared by his be-lusted.
‘I was overcome by the moment, I suppose.’ Maggie picked at the bugs in the shag-pile stew. ‘He’s an alien, from a far-away planet.’
‘Mmm! Even better!’ Boris rubbed his stomach. ‘I haven’t had an alien in ages. Where is he? In the kitchen boiling?’ He used his eyes to zoom his focus into the kitchen.
‘But, dear, the lust of my life,’ Maggie said, her voice warbling, ‘this alien is different. You can’t eat this one. I won’t let you.’
Boris’ scales bristled. ‘What? You can’t stop me! I eat everyone.’
A slug-like creature twice the size of Boris, who was big by Bytrodian standards, emerged from the hallway and filled the living room. Boris studied the biped from the antennae-free head that scaped the ceiling, to his massive extensions of legs that disgraced the rug.
‘Okay, I guess it would be a challenge,’ Boris said, ‘although I’d like to know how he got this far without being harmed. He’s got no shell.’
‘Insect spray,’ the biped conveyed while making sounds through one of the holes in his face. Then with one of two hands, he covered this pink face hole and made low pitched grunting noises.
Boris and Maggie stared at the alien, their eye whiskers twitching.
‘Oh, pardon me,’ the alien said through his thoughts and vibration of the airwaves. He extended a thick rope-like limb to Boris. ‘I’m Joshua, by the way. I’m from the planet Earth.’
Maggie clasped her middle legs together and shimmered with an orange hue. ‘Oh! How wonderful! We’ve never had someone from Earth for dinner before.’
‘So you mean you’ve changed your mind, my dear Maggie?’ Boris beamed red as he stroked Joshua’s jelly-like hand and sniffed his salty skin.
‘No!’ Maggie snapped. ‘Why do you have to kill and eat everyone, Boris?’
Joshua tore his hand from Boris’ claw. He rubbed the scratches and wiped scarlet ooze on his white robe.
‘I’m a Bytrode, that’s what I do,’ Boris said, splaying his wings and then prancing around the room. ‘I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t trod on a few shells.’
‘But I’ve been talking with Joshua and he’s shown me another way, a better way to live.’ Maggie scuttled over the rug and Gavin puddle to her mate. ‘If we could be friends, and stop destroying each other.’
Filing his external fangs Boris fixed his beady eyes on this over-sized amoeba. ‘Friends? And end up like Gavin here? What planet are you from?’
‘A better one than yours. Seems like this one’s messed up,’ the alien said as he pointed a stubby tentacle through the window at the wasteland of crumbling shells, and the screams of Bytrode souls in conflict.
Boris planted his six hands on his scaled sides, his limbs akimbo. ‘Well, if you don’t like it, you can go back to where you come from.’ He wished this creature would stay, just long enough for him to execute a plan to over-power him, chop him up, bag him and store him in the freezer.
‘But dear, we can learn from this Earth-being.’ Maggie licked Boris’ feet. ‘He’s from the other side of the galaxy. Surely that must count for something in getting ahead.’
Boris rolled his thousand mini eyes. ‘Very well, then. He can stay in the garage.’ He rubbed his abdomen, and in a part of his mind blocked from scrutiny, rearranged the shelf space to fit bags full of Joshua flesh; so much of it, keep them going for weeks. He purred in anticipation.