Home' Focus : 2014 College Yearbook Contents 84
Creative Writing competition winners
Winner: Sophie Jones - Origami
Runner-up: Gracie Cowell - The Pilbara Story
My organs are origami
My paper heart folded so small
Sometimes I completely forget that it’s there.
My brain, so uniquely crafted,
Has many deep crevices
Down which I fall.
All my parchment is crumpled;
A little ragged and torn.
And I’m tired of being folded
Into what others wants me to be.
But we are all finding ourselves,
And what better way,
Than following a new pattern,
Trimming our edges
And swapping familiar creases for new ones.
Being turned inside out can be a little scary,
But don’t all the big things hurt?
Aren’t we all recovering from paper cuts?
And isn’t it true
That paper has always beaten rock?
My skin may be fragile
And I know,
They’ve all told me,
That paper ignites.
But that’s ok.
It’s better to burn out
Than fade away.
The Pilbara Story
Red dust billows around me, smudging the weathered ground of the Pilbara.
Few plants survive the untamed weather.
They stand alone, proud.
It’s the in between of seasons in Dampier.
The sparkling sea reflects an impossibly vast, bruised sky,
two endless blue bodies never to meet,
broken by the red land
in beautiful contrast.
A mild breeze flows in and out of consciousness,
indicating the last breath of the dry season,
the last days of endless sunshine,
of scorched, dead landscape.
Cool nights by the ocean are over for another year.
As deep thunder rumbles in the distance;
my mind overflows with recollections from past summers:
a boab tree filling with rainwater;
me running, late evening, into the sea,
before the night storms tear at the thriving land;
mid-January, in sweltering heat,
lying under a sky pressing down upon the land,
listening to the distant, calming rumble of waterfalls deep within the ancient
bleeding into the muddy lagoons,
spilling onto the valley floors.
The sharp taste of impending rain bites the air, pulling me back to the
The whole Pilbara has taken on an electricity,
as if Mother Nature is waiting, anticipating the rebirth of her world
from the droughts that have scratched at the landscape;
waiting patiently to be transformed into the muggy chaos that is the wet
waiting for her wilderness to be drowned in surreal summer storms
waiting for rain that pounds at the land again and again,
a land that yearns for more and more and more...
This is the time when animals come out of hiding,
hungry and ready to spend their days roaming the wild once again,
enjoying the refreshing downpours,
warm on their backs.
This is the time roaring waterfalls come alive,
carving beautiful patterns into the ancient rocks
in this forever-changing landscape.
The air is filled with the heaviness of storms and heat all mixed as one,
the freshest of breaths,
filled with life.
There are no skyscrapers here tearing at the sky.
Nature is exposed; at her best; unpredictable; untamed.
The rain comes now,
lightly at first,
gradually becoming heavier and thicker;
the unsettled, dusty ground turns dark with droplets.
I make my way home as the elements take control of the land,
As I walk, I notice the ruggedness of the rolling hills,
stained a deep red now,
a flock of cockatoos flying overhead,
screeching in delight
as the rains replenishes them.
I share their delight in the raw beauty of this timeless landscape.
I went back to my Dad’s old man’s farm last week; Guwiyang. The place is
up for sale – it’s been out of the family for years now, some young city slickers
thought they had a chance of making it out in the country. They didn’t, of
course, though they stuck it out for a while, and now it’s back on the market.
Surprisingly, they didn’t do too much damage to the place; the big brick
farmhouse was still there, as familiar as ever, as my dusty Land Rover crunched
up the gravel driveway and shuddered over the sheep grate. I didn’t expect going
back there to be so emotional. But sitting in that big old kitchen, at that big old
table, feeling the rough cedar under my hands, so different from the smooth
varnish of the Macquarie Pub’s bar that I’m used to, I was overwhelmed.
There was always something eerie about late nights in that high-ceilinged
kitchen. Eerie in a good way though; the sort of creepy that gets your blood
pumping and adrenaline rocketing through your veins, like a fire through the
bush. I’d always thought maybe that was just a by-product of the night’s hunting;
that’s what these nights were all about, but sitting there the other day, despite
my age, despite the morning sun, I still felt that thrill of energy and apprehension.
I’ve been visiting Guwiyang since before I can recall... my best memories of
that house, of that kitchen, are scraps of smells and sounds and feelings. I think
I’ve compressed years’ worth of events into only a handful of memories. It’s
funny, knowing my mind is letting me down, but not being able to do anything
about it. It’s not the drink, by the way, it’s just the passing of time and probably
the suppression of some of those earlier days. The days before everything went
to shit, when I was happy; or naïve at least. It was those jumbled stories that
came back to me last week.
It was a good night for a hunt. Pa clapped his warm, strong hand onto
my shoulder. I nodded, familiar with the routine, and headed to my room to
get changed. Pa’s old, scratchy woollen jumper was more than 3 sizes too
big, uncomfortable and smelt of mothballs. Dirt, sweat and blood clung to it
obstinately. I wore it every time we went out for a hunt.
“Can I get a hand with the rifles?”
It wasn’t a question, not really, but I nodded anyway, following Pa out into the
shed. It was cold already, our breath lingering before our mouths in foggy, white
clouds. The smell of this shed, of oil and gunpowder, was as familiar to me as the
scent of Pa’s whiskey and Ma’s lavender soap. We didn’t talk much. Working side
by side was fine; was connection enough. My role was oiling the barrels while Pa
realigned the scopes. My youthful impatience drove me to fidget a little; eager to
be out in the night. I always wondered why we didn’t do this preparation earlier. I
never asked though.
I shouldered the rifle. Felt its weight and power, and felt my muscles tremble.
I tucked the stock into my shoulder, letting it press uncomfortably into my fading
recoil bruises. I’d been shooting since I was 7 and hunting since I was 8. These
bruises were as much a part of me as the birthmark on the back of my neck.
We were after roo only. The .22 was all we needed and I was glad. It’s got less
kickback and has always been my weapon of choice. It’s not as powerful as the
Carbine used for deer hunting, or the shotgun used for the birds. It’s a beautiful
weapon though, all about poise, marksmanship and skill. A well-placed shot
could fell a wallaby, trip up a roo or drag a possum down from a tree. Of course,
a poorly aimed shot would thud loudly into the animal’s rump, or send a puff of
fur or a cloud of dust into the night sky, but I liked to think I was better than that.
I pressed my cheek firmly against the rifle, reducing my vision to the tiny window
of intersecting cross-hairs. My thumb pressed against the safety switch; the
resulting click sending a thrill of danger down my spine. The first shot was always
my favourite. I fired.
The eyes were the wrong colour. I should’ve known. It was perhaps my
thirtieth shot of the night and it felt the same as all the rest. The bullet loaded
into the chamber easily, my arm was steady, and on my outbreath, I fired. I didn’t
realise what I’d shot until I was slogging blindly through the dry grass toward
it. In the shaky torchlight I could tell by the way it had collapsed that it wasn’t
what I wanted. Roo and wallaby stretch out when they’re shot; like they’re taking
that final leap into death. A lamb though, crumples up, curls its legs inward.
I’d administered a decent head shot which was nearly worse than botching it,
because the lamb still looked alive; like it was simply napping. At least it wasn’t
still bleating. I carried it by its hooves, the heavy, oily smell of wool filling my
nose. I heaved it into the tray of the Ute.
“I’m sorry... I didn’t realise.”
“But how could... no, never mind, it happens.”
Pa’s disapproval was bad enough. But the worst part was seeing my lamb
next to the night’s haul; a fluffy cottonwool cloud surrounded by dark, bloodied
12 year old me sat cross-legged on my creaky chair, hands clasped tightly
around my steaming mug of Milo. My chilled fingers throbbed painfully from
the extreme temperature change and return of feeling. Ma made my drink with
all milk, a real treat, microwaved for so long that a thin skin formed on the top
and had to be scooped off. My nose dripped and I sniffed self-consciously,
determined not to draw attention to myself. As soon as Ma directed her attention
my way I knew it would be the end of the night, knew I’d be reminded of my
youth and sent to bed. So I stayed quiet. Most nights my grandparents bickered
about politics, made plans for the rest of the week and commented again and
again on the night’s hunt. This night though, they communicated in hushed
tones, raised eyebrows and shared, adult looks. The kitchen felt bad-eerie that
At the time, I just felt bad for killing Pa’s sheep; I’d grown up on the farm and
watched him nurse every injured animal, watched him take each dying creature
to heart. I knew the price of those beasts and could recognise the beauty in
them. I guess the roiling sick feeling in my gut persists even now for the same
reasons that my grandparents were subdued on that night. I guess I realise the
power in a gun. I guess I realise how easily it could’ve been something even more
innocent than a lamb.
TCE poetry winner: Sophie Jones
TCE poetry runner-up: Gracie Cowell
TCE short story runner-up: Sophie Jones
Winner: Tahlia McKinlay – Casement
Runner-up: Hannah Wolfhagen - Memory is a Funny Thing
Runner-up: Sophie Jones - The Hunt
The way he said my name always froze me. The name caught on his bristled
lip hair before spluttering out, uncontrolled and accented. Gemma. Catching
the G and lengthening the A to a sigh, as if the mere mention of my name was
a disappointment. I was a giant disappointment that couldn’t be disguised. I
would stop and turn to face him. His desk sat hard against the far wall, so instead
of catching his watery blue eyes I’d stare out to the industrial area of Angelus.
The solid grey block of the meat works would contrast with the setting sun in
winter and the lure of hot, fresh air in the summer. The sky was ever changing,
enough for me to imagine that each window pane showcased a different place.
Three windows, identical in shape with the same pale yellow flowered curtains
which exhibited evidence of years past. There was a burn mark on the bottom
of the middle curtain, slight fraying on the far left, the curtain on the right wasn’t
marred by misuse but hung on a slight angle that caught my attention each and
every time I stared out. I wanted to nudge the railing into place but it meant
stepping closer to his place, so instead I stood back and let the windows take me
someplace else. A clear blue sky in the middle window took me to Alice Springs
where burning heat sucked the moisture out of my body. The grey in the left
window, loaded heavy with clouds, so thick they sagged in the sky, reminded
me of the coast and fishing at White Point. My favourite was the right window
when it displayed the sun setting over Angelus. My house was visible until it was
swallowed by friendly shadows that caressed and moulded themselves to walls,
gutters and chimneys.
The early darkness was welcomed during winter. I was able to hide from the
imagined stares of neighbours and the cool air rolling off the Pacific allowed my
clothes to stay dry. In the summer every shirt became damp with perspiration.
He was colder in the winter too. His emotions solidified as the temperature
dropped across the country. His voice no longer cloying, commands were given
as sharp rasps as I was directed here and there. This behaviour would slowly
thaw and the fanatical dislike would come back again. Our time together would
grow in length, spanning hours instead of impassioned minutes. Hands bruised
me for all to see in the summer, thick circles around my arms and small purpled
dots littered my inner thighs. I grew too hot in the long shorts and jackets that
become necessary to hide his summer hunger. Winter meant protecting my skin
as well as my excuses, he was done with me so quickly that most nights I made it
home before my father.
It was the beginning of winter in 1993 when he changed. The mild weather
lingered despite the expected frozen blast. His fury loitered and our time spent
next to the three windows and tattered curtains remained long. He began with
small wheedling comments. After the sweat had dried to a cool shimmer and
the aching began he would tack on a suggestion to stay. Asking to hang around,
offering to drive me home, and eventually pleading for me to come back to his
house. I answered these offers in the same way, I can’t Mr Archer, and he reacted
accordingly. First came the gentle coercing, then snide fury. My name was spat
out repeatedly, slung between frosted words and rhetorical questions. You are
nothing without me Gemma, nothing. You think those grades go up without my
help? Do you Gemma, do you? His favourite was to lean close and let a spider
web of saliva to splatter my face as he questioned my ability to function without
him. He always left me feeling small and useless.
As he spoke he would grip my chin, stopping my eyes and mind from leaving
the classroom. The curtains began to be dragged shut as if he realised that he
hadn’t possessed me fully before. Petulant clouds and skies of faded denim were
inaccessible. It was only now, one month into the winter that had just turned
cold, that I felt caged. Fluorescent lights and the exposed bulb of his desk lamp
had no beauty. These inanimate objects only transported me further into the
depths of my mind, and I never felt at peace in there.
The cold began making up for lost time, coming from all directions like an
omnipresent fog. His time with me began reducing, late into winter, as recurring
headaches distracted him from his vicious fascination. I took these headaches
as retribution for my previously worsening condition. He no longer begged for
further contact after our meetings and I began arriving home early. Despite this
the windows remained covered by the curtains that once framed them. The
walls had never felt so close. He had finally furrowed deep into my skin and I was
tearing at myself trying to get him out.
My scarf was tied looser around my neck, there was no colour blooming
around that column of skin. Under my jeans laid an array of bruises, his
persistent headache doing nothing to stop the wrath of clenched fingers. It
was the day after a blow to the back of my head when he began complaining
of blurred vision. His eyes were unfocused. Before the cut had time to clot
his speech became accented with a sloping slur. The G no longer caught. My
name was thrown out as one garbled complaint as he unsteadily covered my
skin in disjointed aggression. The precision of his attacks weakened with every
encounter. Hands would grab at flesh the colour of a violent sunset. Indigo and
midnight blue splashed upon the canvas of my thighs. His body may have been
crumbling but deep under my flesh he was growing in strength. Inside my head
I fought his grip for the first time. I was no longer looking for a window. I was
searching for a lockable door.
By the first day of spring blossoming bruises littered his thighs as furniture
seemed to hit him each time he moved. It was the 8th of September when he
fell. Our time had barely begun when the uneasy shake to his movement become
uncontrollable. He fell back. Hand clutched slightly above the burn mark on the
third curtain. His knuckles turned white and the worn material could no longer
support the weight of this fully grown monster. With a cacophony of rips the
curtain gave way, leaving him to fall to the patterned carpet below. My eyes did
not track this descent. He slipped from my periphery as easily as he left my mind.
All I could watch was the newly exposed window, and from it I could see more
than I ever had before.
TCE short story winner: Tahlia McKinlay
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