Category Archives: Work in progress

The Tree

Image by Kev Howlett
Image by Kev Howlett

Amanda was a domestic goddess. She loved order. She adored her weatherboard house, painted in heritage colours, and the lovely garden that flanked it. Her daughter was pretty and sweet, her son a karate champion. Her handsome husband was the owner of a successful printing business. The family dog, Misha, was the best behaved on the street. All this was neatly contained within a quarter acre block just eighteen minutes from the city.

Domestic bliss came easily to Amanda. She swept through her days with efficiency and grace; the tiled surfaces of the bathroom always shone. The little house was the family palace and the proudest achievement was the immaculate green lawn.

It was on a Tuesday that Amanda sat at her kitchen table looking out at the garden. Hugging a hot mug of tea, she squinted at the back corner, past the bungalow, at the golden oak tree. She was surprised at how tall it had grown. In the autumn afternoon, she realised that it was now blocking the sun, despite the fact that it’s yellow leaves had begun to fall. She muttered about raking up the leaves – her work was never done.

‘That tree has got to go,’ she said with conviction, immediately opening up the yellow pages at T. Her fingers traced the lines of ink until she found a suitable business: Tree Felling and/or removal, no job too big or too small.

On the hour, the next Friday, as arranged, the tree men arrived. Amanda had never experienced such punctuality from tradesmen before; she nodded her approval from behind the kitchen windows.

Through the side gate came four robust men in overalls, brandishing ropes, axes and chainsaws. Amanda watched in awe as they scaled the golden oak tree. Serpent-like ropes held branches then limbs fell to the ground in rapid succession. The chainsaw roared filling the yard with moans and squeals. Neat round logs of wood marched out through the side gate. Mounds of fresh sawdust carpeted the ground like ash and suddenly, the tree was gone.

In the silence, Amanda gasped. She turned towards the retreating men but they had already hurled the wood into the back of the truck and rumbled away. Approaching the barren place, shielding her eyes from the light, Amanda was shocked.

The afternoon sun streamed into the garden. The smell of oak permeated the air with a pungent fragrance that made Amanda take a deep breath. With her eyes closed, she felt a cool draught curl about her ankles and heard a very faint groan – or was it a whisper?

Why have you forsaken me?

Amanda’s body felt rooted to the earth. She could not open her eyes.

Why did you slay me?

‘No, please, I only wanted more light…’ Amanda whispered.

Fleeing inside to the safety of the kitchen, she looked out at the backyard with trepidation. The sun blazed through the garden, heating the glass in the kitchen windows. When she looked at where the tree had been, she imagined a ghostly image, shimmering in the heat. She frowned at it, willing it to go away.

That night, the family felt like they were in a different house. Everything seemed to be normal. Dinner was on the table; the children had their baths and did their homework. But Amanda carried an anxious face with her from room to room, causing everyone to talk in whispers.

The next day, Amanda rose from a sleepless night. Her world seemed re-arranged. What was normally important to her, such as the styling of her daughter’s curly hair, was now trivial because her mind was focused on the world outside the walls. She stood in the garden and felt an emptiness not known to her.

‘I’m so sorry,’ she whispered tearfully. ‘How can I make this up to you?’

A stiff breeze rose before her, disturbing the remnants of leaves and sawdust and already she knew what needed to be done.

***

Amanda is no longer a domestic goddess. She still loves her little weatherboard cottage and it is tidy enough. The floors are clean but not sparkling. Her family go about in clean clothes, slightly wrinkled. She is still proud of her children’s achievements and her handsome husband and Misha, the dog, is still well behaved. Actually, Misha is happy because Amanda is outside in the garden all the time. You will find Amanda now, if you visit her today, out in the garden with fresh dirt up to her elbows, planting something and talking to the trees.

[inspired by winter]
Blaise

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Lizette

Lizette stands in the doorway, the afternoon sun setting her hair ablaze. Faces look up at her, mesmerized by her firesome halo. She smiles, eyes crinkling at the corners, full lips pursed. She floats across the threshold, three silent children in tow.

She bends over the back of the couch and drapes her arms around Janet, whispering something in her ear, mouth moist. They both laugh conspiratorially while Lizette eases herself onto the end of the couch. The children disappear into the shadows of the room.

Jon leans forward to pick up a beer bottle from the coffee table, brushing Lizette’s upper arm. She tilts her head towards him, her mouth pursing into a small smile.

‘Where’ve you been Zette?’ asks Jon, leaning back into the couch.

‘Melbourne.’ She twists her body toward him, flicking her hair over her shoulders.

‘Good trip?’

Lizette shrugs and takes his beer bottle, tilting her head back to drink from it. Jon watches her mouth, his own slackened.

Janet straightens at the other end of the couch. ‘How long you back for, Zette?’

Lizette wipes the neck of the bottle and hands it back to Jon, one eyebrow raised at him. Jon takes the bottle but his eyes remain on her mouth.

‘Three months, maybe,’ says Lizette, holding Jon’s gaze.

‘Great to have you back, babe. We’ve missed you around here. Haven’t we, Jon?’

Jon fiddles with his beer, never taking his eyes off Lizette’s mouth.

‘Jon?’

‘Huh?’

‘We’ve missed Zette.’

‘Yeah. Yeah we have. Good to have you back.’ He breaks his trance and swigs from his beer.

‘Ouch! Mum! Sylvia won’t let m—’

Lizette bristles, turns abruptly and glowers at her youngest child. He shrinks back into the shadows.

 

Excerpt from the novel, ‘Lizette’. A work in progress.

Blaise

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