Featured

Writing about writing a book – Day 2

Hang about.  Didn’t I read somewhere you need to plan your novel, create an outline setting the plot points, and flesh out the characters?

I’m sure it didn’t say, sit down and start writing!

Time to find a writing pad, and put my thinking cap on.

I make a list, what’s the story going to be about? Who’s going to be in it, at least at the start?

Like a newspaper story, I need a who, what, when, where, and how.

Right now.

 

I pick up the pen.

 

Character number one:

Computer nerd, ok, that’s a little close to the bone, a computer manager who is trying to be everything at once, and failing.  Still me, but with a twist.  Now, add a little mystery to him, and give him a secret, one that will only be revealed after a specific set of circumstance.  Yes, I like that.

We’ll call him Bill, ex-regular army, a badly injured and repatriated soldier who was sent to fight a war in Vietnam, the result of which had made him, at times, unfit to live with.

He had a wife, which brings us to,

Character number two:

Ellen, Bill’s ex-wife, an army brat and a General’s daughter, and the result of one of those romances that met disapproval for so many reasons.  It worked until Bill came back from the war, and from there it slowly disintegrated.  There are two daughters, both by the time the novel begins, old enough to understand the ramifications of a divorce.

Character number three:

The man who is Bill’s immediate superior, the Services Department manager, a rather officious man who blindly follows orders, a man who takes pleasure in making others feel small and insignificant, and worst of all, takes the credit where none is due.

Oops, too much, that is my old boss.  He’ll know immediately I’m parodying him.  Tone it down, just a little, but more or less that’s him.  Last name Benton.  He will play a small role in the story.

Character number four:

Jennifer, the IT Department’s assistant manager, a woman who arrives in a shroud of mystery, and then, in time, to provide Bill with a shoulder to cry on when he and Ellen finally split, and perhaps something else later on.

More on her later as the story unfolds.

So far so good.

What’s the plot?

Huge corporation plotting to take over the world using computers?  No, that’s been done to death.

Huge corporation, OK, let’s stop blaming the corporate world for everything wrong in the world.  Corporations are not bad people, people are the bad people.  That’s a rip off cliché, from guns don’t kill people, people kill people!  There will be guns, and there will be dead people.

There will be people hiding behind a huge corporation, using a part of their computer network to move billions of illegally gained money around.  That’s better.

Now, having got that, our ‘hero’ has to ‘discover’ this network, and the people behind it.

All we need now is to set the ball rolling, a single event that ‘throws a cat among the pigeons’.

Yes, Bill is on holidays, a welcome relief from the problems of work.  He dreams of what he’s going to do for the next two weeks.  The phone rings.  Benton calling, the world is coming to an end, the network is down.  He’s needed.  A few terse words, but he relents.

Pen in hand I begin to write.

 

© Charles Heath 2016-2019

The cinema of my dreams – Was it just another surveillance job – Episode 15

I’m back home and this story has been sitting on a back burner for a few months, waiting for some more to be written.

The trouble is, there are also other stories to write, and I’m not very good at prioritising.

But, here we are, a few minutes opened up and it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.

Was I working for a ghost?

 

The question that was foremost in my mind was whether I should call Nobbin, and let him know that I’d met Severin and that his ‘information’ was on a USB.

When I’d mentioned the fact O’Connor said the evidence was somewhere, I knew this evidence was on a USB and could be in one of the hiding places O’Connor had set up with Nobbin.  If not, then it had to be somewhere else, somewhere only O’Connor would know about.

Somehow, I got the impression O’Connor had not trusted either side.  Yes, he was about to tell me where the evidence was, but if that was the case, it meant it was not anywhere where anyone else would know about.

Severin should have curbed his desire for execution a little, and taken O’Connor into custody, and then interrogated him.  It made me wonder, briefly, why Severin would want him dead.  In cases like that, it was because Severin didn’t want O’Connor to talk to me, or anyone else.

Still, he could have tranquilized O’Connor.  I would not have known the difference.

That meant I had to find out more information on O’Connor.

Of course, in just saying that out loud, over a half-full glass of scotch, just to steady the nerves after seeing Severin again, made it sound almost like a running joke.

As if I would be able to find someone who was, for all intents and purposes, a ghost.  That was how we were supposed to be, ghosts, to everyone we knew, including family.  We could no longer talk to anyone because they might become a target used as leverage against us.

That part of my training had been the scariest.  I didn’t have any friends, not real friends anyway, and no family, other than a half-brother who hated me.  I had toyed with the idea of meeting him, after I’d completed the training, just to see if anyone would try to use him as leverage, and then tell them he meant nothing to me.

It was an idea, I doubt if I could do it in reality.  But the thought of it gave me some measure of revenge for all the bullying he had inflicted on me when I was young.  Perhaps that was why I took this job, to prove I was nothing like the person he considered me to be.

Enough of the delving into the shadowy past.

I had a problem that needed solving.  How to find O’Connor.

After a long night of fitful sleep, I woke the next morning with the shreds of a plan.  I’d go into the office and use their computer system to look for him.  Of course, I didn’t expect that there would be any information available to an agent with my security clearance, which was basically to get in and out of the front door and log on to the computer to fill out reports and a timesheet.

It was a surprise, after what Nobbin had said about my employment, that my pass got me in the door.  It did, but I had no doubt somewhere it had register my name in a log somewhere.  I figured I had about half an hour before someone came checking up on me.

The same went for the computer system.  There was a bank of about a dozen computers in a room where the agents could do information searches, and private work, such as reports.  Three others were occupied, and none of those using them looked up when I entered the room.

Not a surprise.  We were taught to keep to ourselves and say nothing about the missions we were attached to anyone else.  In our line of work, secrets were paramount.  We were to become consummate liars because we could never tell anyone the truth about what we did.  If we wanted a cover story, we were to say we were international confidential couriers of documents for legal institutions.

It sounded interesting, but it was quite boring, or at least that was how I described it if anyone asked.

So, ignoring the others, I logged in and found I was still on the employee list.  And, I still had the same level of access I had before.

I ran a search on the name O’Connor.

It came back with five documents, the first of which was his personnel record.  First name, Donald.  A date of birth that made him 27 years old, and an address, in Putney.  I wrote it down.  Marital status, single.  Status, deceased.  Section worked for:  Eight.

There were supposedly eight sections, and the one I worked for was Seven.  Out of interest, I brought up my records.  It was how Severin had found me because my address was on file.  But more interesting was my status, transferred, and my section, three.  Was Nobbin’s section three?

I would ask if I got an opportunity to.

The other four documents were reports, most of which were redacted, or marked restricted.  Or above my pay grade, whatever that was.

But, at least one thing was clear, I had not been fired, just transferred.  I guess I would have to call Nobbin after all.  After I visited O’Connor’s last known residence.

I wasn’t holding my breath expecting to find anything.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

Searching for locations: Smith Street, Fitzroy (Once part of what was known as Marvellous Melbourne)

Of course, it could easily be Collingwood depending on who you barrack for in the local football competition, as it is Fitzroy, but the map and my GPS tells me the street is, for all intents and purposes, in Fitzroy.

Not that there is a football team for Fitzroy any more, that moved north to Queensland a long, long time ago.

But…

Going for a wander up and down the street shows two or three very different sides to inner suburban living, and the effect that comes from a diverse range of cultures, the city has acquired over the past few decades.

Once viewed as almost the slums of Melbourne, these inner suburban areas have moved upscale to become havens for the more wealthy middle classes and a home for many diverse outlets, not the least of which are eateries.

And. In just this small section of Smith Street, there are a lot of eating establishments, from the Old Kingdom Peking duck restaurant to a small place selling Falafel, and then everything in between. It says a lot about how Australian eating habits have changed in a single generation, where back in those infamous old days you would be lucky to have a fish and chips/ hamburger shop and one or two Chinese restaurants.

Now, intermingled with gourmet bakeries and cozy coffee shops, there are a plethora of other eating establishments that cater to any cuisine you can imagine.  In fact, it’s possible to dine out on a different cuisine every night for a fortnight and only traverse about half a kilometre up and down the street.  It could be ideal if you lived in one of the small fronted houses just off the main carriageway in a leafy narrow side street or laneway.

And, as you would expect in an inner-city suburb,  the streets are narrow and made more hazardous for traffic because of the trams, a familiar sight in many of the streets in this area, and a much-used form of transport for workers making the short trip into the city.  It’s almost possible to take the extra half hour, and walk.

The street is lined with old buildings, some dating back to about 1868, there’s around the turn of the century, but most are not inhabited except for the street level where there is an eclectic mixture of furniture, haberdashery, and clothing stores catering to a particular group of people, what some call yuppies or upwardly mobile men and women who are between 25-35, with high paying jobs, and preferably no children.

Then there a subgroup walking there streets, homosexual men, some wheeling adopted children in pushers, others walking hand in hand out for a Saturday afternoon stroll where they can feel safe among many others.  It’s very different from other places I’ve been, but one can imagine there are places like this in every city all over the world.

But as a backdrop to the appearance of wealth, the shopfronts that cater to those upwardly mobile upper middle classes, there’s that exact opposite in full view, the homeless, and beggars, sitting on the ground outside the more run down shops soliciting alms, asking for a spare dollar, and even one asking for a cigarette.

Everyone walks past them, imagining no doubt there are not there, or that if they ignore them, they will go away.  I think not.  And, I suspect, more will come out of their daytime hiding places and take up residence in Smith Street itself.

The only surprise is that the local council has not asked the police to move them on. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of inhabitants in an area that no doubt can only attract the upper middle classes, as anything and everything is relatively expensive, particularly real estate, and permit driven parking spaces.

Would I live here?  No.

Would I come here to wine and dine?

Maybe, if I could get parking, which there appear to be very few spots or any other form of parking such as under the local supermarket which can be very expensive.  And if you are lucky enough to find a spot, who has the time or the memory if continually feeding a parking meter every two hours, particularly if you’re having a good time.

Equally, it’s a place I would not feel comfortable, even if it was once a safe haven, which up to a few years ago, I’d probably think it not.  In fact, at times I was not sure what to make of some of the people on the street, but I guess if I lived here, it would no doubt be the norm.

Would I recommend people to come here?

Of course.  One of the more interesting places in Melbourne to experience grassroots cuisine that is incredibly diverse in it range and price, and even from a place with tables and chairs that may have seen better days, but you haven’t come to see the furniture.

And to my mind, the dining is definitely better, here than perhaps Carlton, which in itself is Mecca to a plethora of university types, both teachers and students alike, and the coffee culture that pervade that area of Melbourne.

I have no doubt you will come and leave with a very good opinion of the place.

As for me, I came here for an engagement party held at the Hotelito de Jesus, a Mexican restaurant, serving a variety of Mexican dishes.  As I’m no expert of that particular cuisine, everything was going to be new.

It was.  It’s spicy but not too spicy, the pork belly excellent, the canapés delicious, and both the mushroom-based and shredded beef based mini tacos were equally scrumptious.

All of this was washed down with two particular Mexican beers, two of several available in bottles, cans, or by the glass.

Oh, and you can get sangria by the jug too if you like.  I would have, but my passion for trying different beers won out.

A photograph from the inspirational bin – 21

Looking for something to suit my mood.

I’ve been reading the headlines and it seems that nothing else is going on except COVID 19, bar a plane crash, and residual fallout from the explosion in Beirut.

All bad news unfortunately, so I need to find something uplifting.

There’s nothing like a walk in the park on a bright sunny day.

Is there?

What could possible happen?

I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 21

There’s no swashbuckling for the captain

I turned, and saw what appeared to be a relatively unkempt man standing behind me.

Jerome Kennedy. Astro physicist.  A man who was mocked rather than revered for his theories on space, and in particular, space travel.

And those theories were, to put it mildly, interesting.

It was probably why the Admiral conscripted him for this voyage into the unknown.

“I though that was only in the imagination of television script writers.”

“Possibly, but we just witnessed something that none of us can rationally explain.  One minute they were there, the next, poof.”

“That’s why you are along for the ride, to find explanations for the unexplainable.  I look forward to your report.”  Then, turning back to the navigator, “are we still in touch with the original alien vessel?”

“Just, and still heading towards Uranus.”

“Then let’s get after it, maximum speed when possible.”

I left the newly promoted number one in charge and went into the captains day room.  I was still getting used to the idea of actually bring captain, because the aura of previous inhabitant of this room was still there.  And it felt like he was in the room watching everything I did.

I shook my head, as if that would cast off the jitters I felt, and sat down behind the imposing desk, one thathad been made over a hundred years before, and from a vessel with the same name. 

I still didn’t have a lot to put in any report to the Admiral, but had a lot to think about.

I brought up the navigation screen and looked at the suggested path from where we were to Uranus, and the time it would take.

There was a buzzing sound, and a face appeared on my screen.  It was the Captain’s personal assistant for want of a better name, Louise Chalmers, an ex Lieutenant Colonel from the military, but not by much.  She had retired into this position, and, I suspect, another was for the military to keep up to date on the Captain’s decisions.

“Come in.”

The door opened, she came in, and it closed behind her.  There was no open door policy on this ship.

“Sir.”

“What can I do for you?”

“I’m not sure if you are aware, but I am here to serve whomever the current Captain is, and since Captain V is not here, that would be you in his stead.”

I had read that she was his choice for P A, and that it was a personal matter, as usually Captains didn’t have such staff members.

“I thought you were on board to serve only the previous captain “

“Not so.  If you read standing order 207615, you will realise my position was ratified as general crew member, serving the ship rather than an individual.  My job is to make your job easier.”

While she was speaking, I fetched the standing orders, and the one she referred, and a quick scan proved such to be the case.

“In what way?”

“Paperwork, the vane of any officers existence I’m told, and to organise all activities of a non urgent nature, like bring the daily reports to you.”

I knew that captain had to be appraised of everything that happened on board, just not every day.

“I take it you have the reports?”

“I have, and unfortunately, as per regulations, I have to make sure you have received them.  Your predecessor wanted me to summarise.  I can do the same for you.”

There would be no escaping it.  “Please.”

© Charles Heath 2021

The cinema of my dreams – I always wanted to go on a treasure hunt – Episode 71

Here’s the thing…

Every time I close my eyes, I see something different.

I’d like to think the cinema of my dreams is playing a double feature but it’s a bit like a comedy cartoon night on Fox.

But these dreams are nothing to laugh about.

Once again there’s a new installment of an old feature, and we’re back on the treasure hunt.

In a cave, Nadia is a surprise

Now the helicopter had gone, the sounds of the sea had returned, along with the muffled sound of the wind which had picked up, along with swirling clouds that looked like they would be bringing rain.  I’d heard how the weather could change suddenly, and dangerously along this coastline.

I saw the lightning, and a minute or so later, the cracking of thunder.  We were about to get very wet.

‘Look for the big A’.  It had been there, heavily underscored in Ormiston’s notebooks. It had also been on the cliff face, crudely, but there.

“We need to go,” I heard Nadia say, over the ambient noise all around us.

Her words were being swept away by the wind, and I could barely hear her.

Another glance up at the cliff to confirm what I’d seen, and, yes, it was a big A, I went over to her.

“We can’t outrun it.  And it will be treacherous on those rocks in a downpour.”

“We also have the tide to contend with.”

I could see the high-water line, and it didn’t leave much to the imagination.  We needed higher ground.  It was one of those situations where we might get caught by the tide.  It was a pity there wasn’t room for two of us on the helicopter.

Back the way we’d come I remembered seeing an outcrop that looked like it might provide shelter from the rain.  “We should go, there’s a spot a way back that might save us from getting too wet.”

It was about a hundred yards, not far from where the shore rocks started and would require climbing back up.  At the very least, we could stay there until the tide dropped.  We collected the metal detectors and made it to the base of the rocky outcrop just as the first drops of rain fell.

The overhang I’d seen turned out to be a shallow cave, going back into the rockface about 10 yards or so, carved out by the sea over a very long period.

Then the rain came, so heavy, we could not see through it.  Every few minutes a gust of wind blew water into the cave, but standing back from the entrance basically kept us dry.

Nadia sat down and looked despondent.  I’d never seen her like this, she was normally more cheerful.

I took a few minutes to explore inside using the torchlight on my phone.  I could see the layers of sandstone compressed over the years, and if I had remembered more from the geology part of science at school I might have been able to make sense of it.  Was I hoping for fossils, like from long-extinct dinosaurs?

Or perhaps I could imagine this was the entrance to Aladdin’s cave, also reputed to have hidden treasures, and briefly wondered if I’d found a lantern with a genie, what my three wishes might be?

“They’re only walls, Sam.”  Nadia had come silently up behind me, and was just behind my left shoulder, the sound of her voice so near startling me.

Also noted, when my potential heart attack passed, she called me Sam, not Smidge.  I was not going to write anything into it, she didn’t seem herself.

“You never know.  If I say open sesame, or whatever the password is…”

It sounded lame.

I could hear rather than see her shake her head.

“What do you think Boggs was doing climbing up or down that particular rockface, and for that matter, poking around The Grove?”

I turned around to look at her.  If I didn’t know her better, I might have said there was at that moment an angelic quality about her.  It only reinforced the notion that she was very much out of my league, and whatever we seemed to have going, it was more in my head than hers.

“I think you can make as educated a guess as I can.”

“He thinks the treasure is here?”

“Somewhere in The Grove, yes.  His approach might have been different from ours, but the conclusion is the same.”

“We didn’t find anything.”

“That doesn’t mean it didn’t come ashore somewhere near here, or somewhere along the coast despite the reefs because they might have once been navigable in an abnormally high tide.  And those coins found near the old marina tells me that they landed somewhere there, but it was not the final resting place.”

I was going to say anything was possible.

“I can assure you my father and his cronies spent years turning over this whole property, one way or another, and found nothing.”

I believed her.  Had he not won the bidding war for the property, sold by the remaining Ormiston’s to settle the debts racked up by successive treasure hunts, Benderby, or anyone else for that matter, would have done the same.  Everyone was aware of the obsession, and the possibility of making a fortune.

But, my money was on the fact it was in The Grove, somewhere.  The question was, would I be completely honest with her?

When I didn’t say anything, she added, “you think it’s still here, don’t you?”

I shrugged.  “Why else would Boggs be here?  I’m sure his deductions from the resources he has, and I’m sure he hadn’t told me everything for obvious reasons, told him when all else has been eliminated, the last possibility however improbable must be true.”

“Occam’s razor?”

“Ish.  When we can get back to the cabin, I’ll go and see him, see what he has to say.  If he wants to see me, that is.”

I could see her processing what I just said, and thought perhaps I could have said it better.

“He doesn’t trust you because of me?”

Again I shrugged.  “I got that impression when I last spoke to him.  I don’t think he quite understands the nature of our friendship.  I’m assuming that’s what it is because I’m hardly the sort of boy your parents would consider suitable for you.”

“My parents have no idea what I want or care about.  It’s why I left.”

“Why did you come back then?”

“My mother said she had cancer and wasn’t expected to live.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.  It was a lie.  Their whole life is a lie.  I’ve always known about the family, I just chose to ignore it, even bask in some of the glory of it, until it got a friend of mine killed.  Vince did it, I know he did, but they all lied.  It’s just one of many reasons I wanted to getaway.  I was going to go back to Italy until you popped up.  I always liked you, you know.”

I didn’t.  I thought I was just another pawn in a game of terror and ridicule she played on all of us boys.

“You had a funny way of showing it.”

“I was stupid back then, but that was no excuse.  If it’s any consolation I’m sorry, but words never seem to be enough, and besides that, no one I’ve apologized to really believes me, and I get it.  My name is a curse.  That’s why when I go back I’m going to disappear, a whole change of identity.  That’s how much I trust you, Sam, you’re the only one I’ve told.”

“You shouldn’t tell me anything.  I’m sure if you disappear, I’ll be the first one your family will come after.”

I didn’t need to know, I certainly didn’t want to know.  If she did disappear, I’m sure my doorstep would be the Cossatino’s first stop, and I’d easily fold under pressure.

“Maybe you could come with me, then you wouldn’t have to worry about them.” 

Perhaps she could read my mind.  Even so, it was an interesting thought, not that I could just up and leave my mother, or worry the Cossatino’s would come after her if I went missing.

“I don’t speak Italian.”  Lame excuse.

“I could teach you.  We could work in the vineyard, and live a simple life.”

It was hard to tell if she was serious or not.  I had to think she wasn’t.  I don’t think I could handle someone like her, that anyone could.

© Charles Heath 2020-2022

‘What Sets Us Apart’ – A beta readers view

There’s something to be said for a story that starts like a James Bond movie, throwing you straight in the deep end, a perfect way of getting to know the main character, David, or is that Alistair?

A retired spy, well not so much a spy as a retired errand boy, David’s rather wry description of his talents, and a woman that most men would give their left arm for, not exactly the ideal couple, but there is a spark in a meeting that may or may not have been a set up.

But as the story progressed, the question I kept asking myself was why he’d bother.

And, page after unrelenting page, you find out.

Susan is exactly the sort of woman the pique his interest. Then, inexplicably, she disappears. That might have been the end to it, but Prendergast, that shadowy enigma, David’s ex boss who loves playing games with real people, gives him an ultimatum, find her or come back to work.

Nothing like an offer that’s a double edged sword!

A dragon for a mother, a sister he didn’t know about, Susan’s BFF who is not what she seems or a friend indeed, and Susan’s father who, up till David meets her, couldn’t be less interested, his nemesis proves to be the impossible dream, and he’s always just that one step behind.

When the rollercoaster finally came to a halt, and I could start breathing again, it was an ending that was completely unexpected.

I’ve been told there’s a sequel in the works.

Bring it on!

The book can be purchased here: http://amzn.to/2Eryfth

Writing about writing a book – Day 5 continues – The complications of life

I hate it when other characters are drawn in, and without a proper introduction, the reader gets confused.

Well, let me tell you, the writer can get confused too.

The introduction of Jennifer cannot go without the introduction of Ellen Bill’s ex-wife, and we have talked a little about her background before.

She has a role, one that will have a major impact later on, but every now and then she is going to appear, adding to the backstory between her and Bill.  There is no real animosity between them, their parting amicable because both knew it was time to end.

Bill’s problems were brought about his military service, and her father has a part to play in the story, though I’m not sure how to weave this in yet.  But it’s not so much what Bill remembers of his service, but of what he has forgotten, or more to the point buried.

That will eventually rise to the surface.

However, at this time, it’s still at the part where the narrator has to introduce Jennifer.

There are three distinct stages to this relationship between the two most important characters, and as it happens it’s Ellen unknowingly that brings Bill and Jennifer together,

 

Then Ellen, my estranged, and sometimes difficult wife decided she wanted a divorce.  I had no objection, and that was most likely the problem.  Perhaps she had expected me to fight for her, but she had made it clear, many years before, that she was no longer interested in preserving the marriage and was only keeping it up until our two daughters were old enough to fend for themselves.

That time had come.

I found myself in a situation where I needed someone to talk to.  I was not one of those people who made friends easily, nor did I spend much time seeking the company of other women.  I had my work, and it had been enough.

But Ellen’s request for a divorce, for some reason, had shaken me, and the day I got the phone call, Jennifer has bustled into my office as she always did, dumping the pile of log file printouts on my desk, and instead of leaving, perhaps she had seen my look of dismay, or more to the point, utter shock, and stayed.

It caused a slight change in our relationship.

 

I’m still working on it, but there will be more.

Or fewer words perhaps, after all, it’s only meant to be a brief introduction.

See how simple things become complicated, very quickly.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

Inspiration, Maybe – Volume Two

50 photographs, 50 stories, of which there is one of the 50 below.

They all start with –

A picture paints … well, as many words as you like.  For instance:

And, the story:

Have you ever watched your hopes and dreams simply just fly away?

Everything I thought I wanted and needed had just left in an aeroplane, and although I said I was not going to, i came to the airport to see the plane leave.  Not the person on it, that would have been far too difficult and emotional, but perhaps it was symbolic, the end of one life and the start of another.

But no matter what I thought or felt, we had both come to the right decision.  She needed the opportunity to spread her wings.  It was probably not the best idea for her to apply for the job without telling me, but I understood her reasons.

She was in a rut.  Though her job was a very good one, it was not as demanding as she had expected, particularly after the last promotion, but with it came resentment from others on her level, that she, the youngest of the group would get the position.

It was something that had been weighing down of her for the last three months, and if noticed it, the late nights, the moodiness, sometimes a flash of temper.  I knew she had one, no one could have such red hair and not, but she had always kept it in check.

And, then there was us, together, and after seven years, it felt like we were going nowhere.  Perhaps that was down to my lack of ambition, and though she never said it, lack of sophistication.  It hadn’t been an issue, well, not until her last promotion, and the fact she had to entertain more, and frankly I felt like an embarrassment to her.

So, there it was, three days ago, the beginning of the weekend, and we had planned to go away for a few days and take stock.  We both acknowledged we needed to talk, but it never seemed the right time.

It was then she said she had quit her job and found a new one.  Starting the following Monday.

Ok, that took me by surprise, not so much that it something I sort of guessed might happen, but that she would just blurt it out.

I think that right then, at that moment, I could feel her frustration with everything around her.

What surprised her was my reaction.  None.

I simply asked where who, and when.

A world-class newspaper, in New York, and she had to be there in a week.

A week.

It was all the time I had left with her.

I remember I just shrugged and asked if the planned weekend away was off.

She stood on the other side of the kitchen counter, hands around a cup of coffee she had just poured, and that one thing I remembered was the lone tear that ran down her cheek.

Is that all you want to know?

I did, yes, but we had lost that intimacy we used to have when she would have told me what was happening, and we would have brainstormed solutions. I might be a cabinet maker but I still had a brain, was what I overheard her tell a friend once.

There’s not much to ask, I said.  You’ve been desperately unhappy and haven’t been able to hide it all that well, you have been under a lot of pressure trying to deal with a group of troglodytes, and you’ve been leaning on Bentley’s shoulder instead of mine, and I get it, he’s got more experience in that place,  and the politics that go with it, and is still an ally.

Her immediate superior and instrumental in her getting the position, but unlike some men in his position he had not taken advantage of a situation like some men would.  And even if she had made a move, which I doubted, that was not the sort of woman she was, he would have politely declined.

One of the very few happily married men in that organisation, so I heard.

So, she said, you’re not just a pretty face.

Par for the course for a cabinet maker whose university degree is in psychology.  It doesn’t take rocket science to see what was happening to you.  I just didn’t think it was my place to jump in unless you asked me, and when you didn’t, well, that told me everything I needed to know.

Yes, our relationship had a use by date, and it was in the next few days.

I was thinking, she said, that you might come with me,  you can make cabinets anywhere.

I could, but I think the real problem wasn’t just the job.  It was everything around her and going with her, that would just be a constant reminder of what had been holding her back. I didn’t want that for her and said so.

Then the only question left was, what do we do now?

Go shopping for suitcases.  Bags to pack, and places to go.

Getting on the roller coaster is easy.  On the beginning, it’s a slow easy ride, followed by the slow climb to the top.  It’s much like some relationships, they start out easy, they require a little work to get to the next level, follows by the adrenaline rush when it all comes together.

What most people forget is that what comes down must go back up, and life is pretty much a roller coaster with highs and lows.

Our roller coaster had just come or of the final turn and we were braking so that it stops at the station.

There was no question of going with her to New York.  Yes, I promised I’d come over and visit her, but that was a promise with crossed fingers behind my back.  After a few months in t the new job the last thing shed want was a reminder of what she left behind.  New friends new life.

We packed her bags, three out everything she didn’t want, a free trips to the op shop with stiff she knew others would like to have, and basically, by the time she was ready to go, there was nothing left of her in the apartment, or anywhere.

Her friends would be seeing her off at the airport, and that’s when I told her I was not coming, that moment the taxi arrived to take her away forever.  I remember standing there, watching the taxi go.  It was going to be, and was, as hard as it was to watch the plane leave.

So, there I was, finally staring at the blank sky, around me a dozen other plane spotters, a rather motley crew of plane enthusiasts.

Already that morning there’s been 6 different types of plane depart, and I could hear another winding up its engines for take-off.

People coming, people going.

Maybe I would go to New York in a couple of months, not to see her, but just see what the attraction was.  Or maybe I would drop in, just to see how she was.

As one of my friends told me when I gave him the news, the future is never written in stone, and it’s about time you broadened your horizons.

Perhaps it was.


© Charles Heath 2020-2021

Coming soon.  Find the above story and 49 others like it in:

The Perils of Travelling: Every plane trip is different

Brisbane to Melbourne – First time flying after the pandemic

So, it’s the end of the restrictions induced by the pandemic, and against my better judgement, we’re travelling again.

The pandemic is not over, it’s just we’ve moved it to one side and trying our best to ignore it.  Try as we may, it ain’t going nowhere.

But we can’t all stay locked up forever.

It’s been over two years since we’ve been to Melbourne where our relatives are, and it’s going to be a two-and-a-half-hour flight, wearing masks, and hoping against hope there’s no one with Covid on the plane.

It’s a forlorn hope, by the way.

These days people have it but aren’t isolated because they can’t afford to.  All the government handouts are finished, making it impossible for people not to be working.

Of course, the country had a very high vaccination rate, and I’m covered, having just had a booster.  If comes died to susceptibility, and so far I’ve managed to avoid it, even with my better half working in an office where nearly everyone has had Covid at some time or other, and at a stage where it could be passed on 

Perhaps it’s just been blind luck.

Going on this plane will be a good test.

We decided to park the car for the six days in the long-term car park.  We were going to get dropped off but it was wet, raining very hard, and the roads were a nightmare, with ghastly traffic jams.

Our driver would have been out recently licence’s granddaughter and it would have been too much for her, even though she wouldn’t say no.

The walk from the car park was long but direct.  Sometimes it can be convoluted when having to park on the higher floors.  We’re on the ground, and it’s easy just to jump in the car and drive out.

Inside the terminal building, its masks on.  This place doesn’t recognise the end to mask restrictions, so the threat of covid I’d very real.  I hope they got that memo on the plane.

It would be pre-flight entertainment if they had to bodily drag a dissenter off kicking and screaming, or dies that only happen in America?

The food choices are still as appalling as they were before the pandemic, and I still don’t get why all the reasonably good choices are down one end, and, you guessed it, not the end we’re departing from.

I go for a walk, but an angry customer returning half-cooked food puts me off everything until I got a chicken schnitzel roll, which after I got it failed to show any sign of chicken, schnitzel or otherwise.

It did have ham, slightly dry around the edges, cheese, tomato, and lettuce, sad the roll itself was quite tasty, so a three out of ten for trying.

The price, like all airport food, nearly broke the bank.  But here’s the thing, they wouldn’t charge it if people didn’t pay it, so it’s everyone else’s fault!

Of course, we wouldn’t need to buy food, if you could call it that, before getting on the plane if the miserly airlines weren’t cutting costs, i.e. food, to make that extra buck to put in the CEO annual bonus.

Once, the meal options were quite good, but over time, these have got less and less and less, until now if you get a cookie, you’re lucky.

It will be interesting to see how further the standards have fallen, anywhere hearing sane said CEO wailing about not being able to fly during the pandemic, showing that he is more concerned about profits than passenger safety.

All while everyone else is citing the mantra, ‘your safety is our priority’.  I guess one day the message might come from the top down, but I won’t be holding my breath.

I read up on the safety procedures they implement in between flights so I’m expecting to get on a disinfectant-smelling plane with shiny clean surfaces.  It would be a huge improvement over that which prevailed before the pandemic where planes could be anything from apparently clean to don’t look below the surface.

Like I said, having not flown for so long, and the fact the pandemic is anything but dead and buried, there are so many things that could go wrong.

Meanwhile, we’re sitting in the gate lounge ticking off the minutes before boarding.  No matter what changes Covid had brought, that will be the same, people ignoring the seat road loading instructions and others pushing in as though the plane might leave without them if they didn’t.

Good News!

The incoming flight is here, 20 minutes before boarding time, so we’re going to be late leaving.

Or will they sacrifice the deep cleanse?

Stay tuned.

News flash…  9ur crew is coming in on another flight which is running late, no, just landed, so they have to finish up there, and come on over, go through pre-flight, and then we can board.

Yep, we’re going to be late leaving.  Who would have guessed?

Boarding as always is amusing but it’s made even more so by the constant reminder to keep our distance from other passengers, and if you can’t, and as you know sardines have nowhere to go, we should rely on the mask.

Wow.  These people seem to think masks will save us.  Sadly, they won’t, but they know that.  But it looks good and makes them feel better while cramming people into their small planes.

We were supposed to leave at 6:15 pm.  The late arrival of the operating aircraft and waiting for the crew from yet another late-arriving aircraft takes its toll.  

Good news though.  More time to clean the plane.  It looks clean, but there’s no tell-tale disinfectant aroma, so what did they do?

6:37 push back.  Overall, it’s not a bad result, pushing back 22 minutes late.  It’s time, they say, they can make up in the air.

They allow 2 hours and 20 minutes for the end-to-end departure and arrival from and at the gate.  The actual flying time, give or take, is 1 hour and 45 minutes, so we have 45 minutes for taxiing.

6:47 take off, so 1 hour 45 minutes added means we have a touch-down time of 8:32.  Our scheduled arrival time was 6:15 plus 2 hours and 20 minutes, so it would be 8:35.  Three minutes from touch-down to disembarking at the gate.

I don’t think so.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

I must have dozed off for a few minutes because the next thing that happens is food service, and it’s going to be arancini balls, which I like, so it sounds good.  But it’s airline food so it will be interesting

Something else that’s bordering me, the woman on the seat next to me gas a persistent cough.  Mask or no mask this is a problem, especially if she had Covid, and doesn’t know it yet.  Or it’s symptomatic or something else. 

I’m immuno-compromised so anything floating around in that tin can I’m likely to be susceptible to.  Time will tell if it’s serious.

Past that fear, the balls were delicious, all four of them, and a coke for a drink.  We’ve moved on from tea and coffee, and polite flight attendants, because they insisted, that we keep masks on till after they passed handing out the food.

It shows the staff have no faith in the company’s health directives, so they know each flight they’re dicing with death.

Scary thought. 

But, all’s well that ends well, and we make up the time and end up being 7 minutes late which is acceptable in anyone’s language.

8:37 on the runway with a bang, the pilot or co-pilot has not fully learned the subtle art of getting the plane on the ground at the end of a gentle drop from the sky. Those asleep are unceremoniously wakened, thinking the plane has crashed.

8:42 at the gate. It’s always a short time from landing to gate, the pilot wants to get an early night. It would not be the first time we are leaving the plane and the pilots are long gone. One of the advantages of being at the front of the plane!

My take on travelling by plane in the post-pandemic world, it’s too soon and vaccinated or not, we are all still susceptible to getting the virus and it is killing us.  I have to travel home yet, but I have to hope the lady in the next seat hasn’t hexed me.

Not after dodging it for so long by keeping myself safe, a proper distance between me and the rest of the world, and keeping away from those in isolation, because those few I could trust would stay in isolation.

For the rest of the world, when money is the driving object to disobey or flout the rules, they become a serious problem, one that nothing is going to overcome, and therefore we will quite feasibly never get rid of the virus.

Let’s hope the trip back is less traumatic.

An excerpt from “Echoes from the Past”

Available on Amazon Kindle here:  https://amzn.to/2CYKxu4

With my attention elsewhere, I walked into a man who was hurrying in the opposite direction.  He was a big man with a scar running down the left side of his face from eye socket to mouth, and who was also wearing a black shirt with a red tie.

That was all I remembered as my heart almost stopped.

He apologized as he stepped to one side, the same way I stepped, as I also muttered an apology.

I kept my eyes down.  He was not the sort of man I wanted to recognize later in a lineup.  I stepped to the other side and so did he.  It was one of those situations.  Finally getting out of sync, he kept going in his direction, and I towards the bus, which was now pulling away from the curb.

Getting my breath back, I just stood riveted to the spot watching it join the traffic.  I looked back over my shoulder, but the man I’d run into had gone.  I shrugged and looked at my watch.  It would be a few minutes before the next bus arrived.

Wait, or walk?  I could also go by subway, but it was a long walk to the station.  What the hell, I needed the exercise.

At the first intersection, the ‘Walk’ sign had just flashed to ‘Don’t Walk’.  I thought I’d save a few minutes by not waiting for the next green light.  As I stepped onto the road, I heard the screeching of tires.

A yellow car stopped inches from me.

It was a high powered sports car, perhaps a Lamborghini.  I knew what they looked like because Marcus Bartleby owned one, as did every other junior executive in the city with a rich father.

Everyone stopped to look at me, then the car.  It was that sort of car.  I could see the driver through the windscreen shaking his fist, and I could see he was yelling too, but I couldn’t hear him.  I stepped back onto the sidewalk, and he drove on.  The moment had passed and everyone went back to their business.

My heart rate hadn’t come down from the last encounter.   Now it was approaching cardiac arrest, so I took a few minutes and several sets of lights to regain composure.

At the next intersection, I waited for the green light, and then a few seconds more, just to be sure.  I was no longer in a hurry.

At the next, I heard what sounded like a gunshot.  A few people looked around, worried expressions on their faces, but when it happened again, I saw it was an old car backfiring.  I also saw another yellow car, much the same as the one before, stopped on the side of the road.  I thought nothing of it, other than it was the second yellow car I’d seen.

At the next intersection, I realized I was subconsciously heading towards Harry’s new bar.   It was somewhere on 6th Avenue, so I continued walking in what I thought was the right direction.

I don’t know why I looked behind me at the next intersection, but I did.  There was another yellow car on the side of the road, not far from me.  It, too, looked the same as the original Lamborghini, and I was starting to think it was not a coincidence.

Moments after crossing the road, I heard the roar of a sports car engine and saw the yellow car accelerate past me.  As it passed by, I saw there were two people in it, and the blurry image of the passenger; a large man with a red tie.

Now my imagination was playing tricks.

It could not be the same man.  He was going in a different direction.

In the few minutes I’d been standing on the pavement, it had started to snow; early for this time of year, and marking the start of what could be a long cold winter.  I shuddered, and it was not necessarily because of the temperature.

I looked up and saw a neon light advertising a bar, coincidentally the one Harry had ‘found’ and, looking once in the direction of the departing yellow car, I decided to go in.  I would have a few drinks and then leave by the back door if it had one.

Just in case.

© Charles Heath 2015-2020

newechocover5rs