Thursday, February 28, 2008

Winning Story

Not that long ago I came across a story that I wrote for my high school magazine.

It was actually part of a competition they had running to get students to contribute to the annual booklet that came out at the later half of the school year.

I remember very clearly being in the library and seeing the notice about it. The prize was a $20 voucher from a local art shop. I sat down a quickly wrote up a story and shoved it in the entry box.

I did win the competition and when I read the story now, I think it is quite amusing. I was a few months short of 17 years old when I penned it. So, it was my last year of school. 1980.

It was mid-morning on a hot summers day. The sky was a vivid blue, not a cloud showing. The sun was glaring fiercely down at the crowds on the beaches, whilst the sea was so vast, so motionless, that it seemed to never end. In the far distance was a small boat: motionless and still. Certainly today was going to be a heatwave.

There were sounds of laughter and talking. A shout came from amidst the crowd and silence fell all around. All eyes turned toward the calm blue sea.

Suddenly she rose from the water like an alien goddess, so breathtakingly beautiful that she was forbidding. Her body that had been kissed by the sun by island resorts and sunny coasts was glistening from the sea and droplets of water clung like diamonds as she broke the mirror surface with a silent splash.

She was clad in a green bathing suit that sucked on to her body revealing movements of her skin underneath. Her hair was long, dark and shone like oil in the sun.

Her movements out of the water were long, slow and deliberate. Her thighs pushed hard against the water, leaving small bubbles trailing behind. Lazily her fingers brushed the water and made little ripples.

Beads of water hung like delicate pearls on her face and her head was held high. Her eyes were dark and challenging and gazed ominously around her. At intervals her ever watchful expression would be interrupted by her tongue flickering out to lick salty water from her lips.

All eyes were upon her as she took her final step out of the water. She walked as an aristocrat: proud, exact and defiant. Her thighs brushed softly together and her hips swayed gently side to side. A thread of hair swept into her face and her hand moved up to brush it away.

With a slow, provocative movement she turned and looked into the camera lens and said in a husky, sultry voice:

"Balvare sunscreen lotion stays on in the water."

A voice from the distance shouted, "Cut those cameras. Edna, your bloody lips are cracked, get back and do it again."

"Bloody Hell," she muttered angrily as she rubbed Vaseline into her lips. And with a silent oath she jogged back into the water for the seventeenth time that morning.

When I read it now, I can see a level of sexual overtones in it.

All I wanted was that first prize.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

My Austin

Many years ago I was the proud owner of the most lovely Austin 1800. I think perhaps it was about a 1969 vintage.

I remember when K and I went to have a look at it with a mind for me making a purchase. The owner led us both to the garage where it was parked. He opened the door and there, sitting in the semi darkness, sat the little two tone blue car.

It was mine. I took it for a test drive, but to tell you the truth, it could have driven like a truck and still it would be coming home with me. It was love at first sight.

The Austin 1800 was about as basic as a car could be within. No radio, no air conditioning, no modern safety features and no back seat belts. The very austerity of the car was so delightful to me. The steering wheel was exceptionally large and when I drove down the freeway I would be able to lean on it quite comfortably. Making a three point turn required many rotations.

After I purchased this little gem, everything that could go wrong with it did. The first six months that I drove the car, the most disconcerting noises would appear and cause me great anxiety. My husband came to dread the words "my car is making a weird noise". The truth is, so did I as each noise meant I had to dig deep in my pocket for money.

Firstly went the cv joints. That is, the constant-velocity joints. Knock, knock and more knocks started on one side. It had to be taken to the mechanics to be replaced. As with all classic cars, mechanics are always over the other side of the city and the trek to him took almost an hour. Not long after, the other cv joint went and off we trudged again to have it replaced. After that, the "nut" that kept the joints tightened had a nasty habit of loosening itself now and then and I was forced to keep in the car a spanner to tighten it. The spanner was about 18 inches long and correspondingly thick.

Then the power booster expired whilst I was on the way to work. A "power booster" is somehow tied in with stopping the car so I think it was important. The final insult was the clutch dying on me on the way to work. My husband decided that he was going to fix it this time, and he did so. He also put in a second set of cv joints which, if I remember correctly, put an end to having to tighten that stupid nut with the giant spanner.

After those episodes the car ticked along beautifully for me. Well, generally. I do recall that the alternator died. Then there was the problem that in wet weather the water would sometimes splash up from the underside of the car, wet something in the engine and causing the car to stop at the most unfortunate times - like in the middle of an intersection.

It took about eighteen months for me to allow a radio to be installed in the car as I was so reluctant to have a hole drilled in the front guard to allow for the antenna. Finally I accepted that there was no avoiding it and left the house whilst "operation antenna" went ahead. After that, driving that car was even better. Smooth ride, nostalgic smell of vinyl seats and the radio blaring out my favorite music.

Sometimes I would come home and have a sleep in the car. The seats folded back to allow for a snooze.
Eventually though, things changed and it was time for a different car. I am not sure what brought about the change. I had left work and was suffering from corporate burn out, K and I were going through a tough time and I was struggling with the concept of embarking on IVF and into the unknown.

Anyway, I gave the beautiful little blue car to my younger sister, who at that time was not the most reliable person. I thought it would help her with work and getting around. To cut a long story short, she ran that car down to the ground in no time at all. In the end I believe she sold it for $700 and used the money to buy dope. We don't discuss it these days. She feels awful about it.

I felt like I had betrayed that car. That lovely, loyal and graceful little blue wren had a sad end to it's life and I felt ashamed. For about two or three years I could not talk about it or look at a photo without wanting to cry.

Of all the cars I have had, the old and the new, that Austin 1800 was me through and through. There has never been a car that filled me with a such a long lasting thrill since. My new car is lovely and I enjoy it totally but nothing could ever replace the bond I had with my Austin.

Wherever it may be, I hope it forgives me for being so thoughtless when I gave it away. It was a shabby end, to a special car.

I am so sorry.

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