Chamberlain Variations

Mother
Hours later, when her thoughts emerged from the daze, Lindy recalled the taste of metal seeping from her teeth. She could still taste it, silvery on her tongue. It was accompanied by a sound that was going to haunt her, dried branches breaking underfoot. She knew it was the sound of the ruthless jaws of the dingo crunching on her daughter’s tiny limbs.
She had been furious at Reagan. The dingo had stepped on his chest and woken him. She had demanded to know why he hadn’t stopped the dingo. She shook the whimpering boy until he screamed that he was sorry. That it was his fault his sister was gone.
The metallic taste seeped down her throat and settled below the pit of her stomach where her daughter once lived. It seemed to erode her from the inside. Since leaving the womb, Azaria hadn’t lived long enough to witness a full turning of the seasons.

Deconstructing Life and Coffee

How did it happen? One moment I’m a cool twenty-something, living large, partying, no responsibilities. Life is simple. When I order a coffee, it’s even simpler–‘flat white, please.’ No extravagant extras. Just cow’s milk and caffeine. Plus sugar of course.
Back then, offbeat or airy-fairy characters on TV or film had their eccentricity emphasised by ordering an outlandish or complicated concoction. The template for this was the decaf soy latte. Those three words would have audiences, and me, laughing and shaking our heads in disbelief.
Fast forward twenty years. With some trepidation, I meet the eye of the waitress and say the words I never thought I’d ever say.
‘Decaf soy latte, please.’

Eggshells

Under her bed, Grace covers her ears. Her hands press hard, forcing the cartilage to mould to the shape of her scalp. It stings, but not as much as the argument between her parents. If she presses her ears enough, the sounds of the ocean start to wash over the yelling, rushing around the angry words like waves filling holes dug into sand on the beach.
For a moment the argument seems over.
She imagines her father running his hands through his hair, or blowing air through the gap where one of his teeth is missing.
As usual, her mother will collect the empty beer cans with her mouth firmly set to keep inside the words she would otherwise spill all over the silence. She will tuck each can into the crook of her arm until there is a line of them running across her body. Grace hears her mother's wedding ring chink against them.

Half-dead Swine-babble

Saint George slew a dragon and I dunged on the footpath outside my ex-boyfriend’s apartment, congratulating myself on the bravery of the feat. In keeping with my misbegotten understanding of the tradition, I set fire to the building ensuring both his incineration, and my future peace of mind. My satisfaction was both immediate and non-existent.

I, Puppet

Pinocchio said he wanted to be a real boy, and I echo those sentiments.
***
I lean over the rail of the ferry as it cruises upriver towards the heart of the city. The water of the river is brown, and curdles over itself in our wake. It is like looking into a river of cold coffee.
I think about that little wooden puppet, and when I do, I don’t see a doll of timber pieces. I see me. I am strung up by strings that reach into darkness. I hang there, barely touching the ground. I look like a thing discarded. Ask me what or who discarded me.

Reset

She had been without him for three months, even though they hadn’t met yet. But tonight that would change. Tonight, she would decide whether to follow the path her life had been on, or to try something else and risk never finding him again.
Twenty-eight year old Lucy was stuck in her eighteen year old body. She still had her memories from her older life, but the time-warp which had landed her in her younger body was growing stronger. She didn’t know how it had happened or why, or even how long it would last. But she wanted to get back to her life. Her adult life.

Rue Bonaparte

Simone waited in the apartment she shared with Jean-Paul and Olga, feeling their absence like a weight on her chest. She consoled herself by sitting in her favourite spot, the chair by the window, from where she saw all the goings-on in the street below. The workers on their bicycles, the fashionistas on foot scurrying home. Busy bodies bustling in and out of caf├ęs and bookshops. A man smoking as he leans against a lamp-post.
She lit up her own cigarette, drawing deeply on the woody smoke before exhaling. She looked in her cup and gulped the little bit of cold coffee, half-gagging on the bitter grits from the bottom as they hit the back of her throat.
They were probably out having an aperitif right now, thought Simone. Olga’s coat and satchel were strewn on the sofa, so she couldn’t be far way. Why didn’t she ever hang things up? Just like a child, which I guess is what Jean-Paul likes about her.
An open relationship. She was starting to hate those words. It had sounded so daring, so exciting when he first suggested it. An adventure for the brave. But she didn’t feel like being brave any more. She just wanted to be happy.
She stubbed her cigarette out–she hadn’t smoked it anyhow–just a long grey fragile stem of ash.

The Back Blocks

I am walking–the path is a sandy cement and on either side it is banked by grasses so thick and green that they tendril across the way. Lush stacks of grass stems make it impossible to see the mud below, but I can smell it. Mangrove. Behind the grass, dark green trees clamber towards the smoky light. It is a landscape of dreaming. All at once I am always here and have never been here before. The air has a wetness, the heaviness before rain. I know I am somewhere tropical and it presses on my chest like a bad memory. It is always like this.

The Man Who Told The World

As they stepped up to the door, Haywood saw that Ronson had a small toothpaste stain on his lapel. When he reached into his pocket to find a tissue, his fingers skimmed the hard velvet box and he let out an involuntary smile.
‘Thank you, Sir.’ Ronson spat on the tissue and rubbed at the stain.
He was one of the newest recruits. In Haywood's view the job was better-performed by those with at least some life experience, but who was he to question the decisions of Head Office?
‘Presentation is very important,’ Haywood said. Ronson nodded his agreement.
Music was playing inside the house. ‘Although I wasn't there, he said I was his friend...’ Haywood could not place the song, but Lexi would know it. He made a mental note to ask her about it at dinner. But before or after he asked the other question–the most important question? Before, definitely before.

Trumped

(This article was written in the week following the election)

Early in the U.S. Presidential campaign, Donald Trump was a source of bemusement. The hair. The fake tan that proved incapable of traversing his under-eye bags. Fuelled by the polls, Trump quickly adopted other equally entertaining mannerisms. His mindless clapping, like a trained chimp, when he took the stage. His thumb to forefinger emphasis–two hands for added effect when he tried to spin vitriol into policy points.
On 8 November the joke was no longer funny.

Brian Craddock


Brian Craddock is previously published in the anthology Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed (Tor Books, 2015) and the shared-world horror anthology The Refuge Collection (Steve Dillon, 2015/2016).

He was also a writer and performer for the puppet web-series The Hobble & Snitch Show. In the late 1990s Brian wrote and illustrated eleven underground comics centred on the Goth subculture in Australia (including titles Crimson: Riot Goth at 7 issues and Alida: The Reluctant Goth), and contributed to several zines and small-press publications.

Christine McPaul

Author photo Christine McPaul
Christine McPaul is a Canberra writer whose crime fiction manuscript was selected for the ACT Writers Centre HARDCOPY 2014 professional development program.

She is a founding editor of the e-journal, Softcopy, launched in 2015. Christine has been twice shortlisted for the ANUTECH Prize, has published academic articles about literature and women’s writing, and more recently, book reviews, and a biographical piece for the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Christine was awarded a PhD from the Literature and Theatre Studies Department of the Australian National University in 2009.

Christine was Blogger in Residence at the ACT Writers Centre in 2015. She muses about writing, reading, and finding that illusive inspiration on her blog, Capable of Anything.

Christine is working on several writing projects including short stories and a novel. Christine tweets@christinemcpaul. 

Frances Chapman


Frances Chapman's short fiction and essays have been published in periodicals and online, including Bread Wine and Thou, Ampersand Magazine, Rag and Bone, Theatre People, Lip Almanac, and Famous Reporter . She attended HARDCOPY 2014, where her manuscript Chloe Kaplan Is Dead was selected as one of ten outstanding manuscripts for Round 2 of the program. She has since completed her second manuscript. She lives in Sydney with her partner and daughter, and a winsome hound named Roscoe.

Jenni Curry

Jenni Curry is a fiction writer from the Canberra region who discovered her passion for the written word over six years ago. She completed her Masters of Creative Writing in 2013, and was selected for HARDCOPY 2014.

Since then, Jenni’s work has appeared in a number of publications including in the How Higher Education Feels poetry anthology by Sense Publishers and the Time to Write anthology published by NMIT. She received a commendation for her work in the Nairda Lyne Award and completed Mark Henshaw’s Writer’s Toolbox course.

Online, Jenni was a Blogger in Residence for the ACT Writers Centre, Capital Letters, and regularly contributes to the international online site, My Trending Stories.

When Jenni is not working on her manuscript or reading through the vast number of books which take refuge in her home, she posts at jennicurry.com.

Justin Harding


Dr Harding holds the degrees of Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours and Doctor of Philosophy in the disciplines of constitutional history and political science. Those notwithstanding, he is a lover of the arcane, and the black-red-magenta silhouettes of that which we glimpse in the corner of our eye in our darkest dreams and imaginings. He also likes to cook.

Lucy Alexander


Lucy is a Canberra based poet and writer of fiction who is currently working on a poetic novel based in the region. Her manuscript Quarantine has been shortlisted for Varuna Pathways to Publication and as a finalist in HARDCOPY2014. She has 2 chapbooks of poetry Feathered Tongues and Liquescence and is the author of the blog poemation. Recently she has been writing a poem a day for Project 365+1. She reviews Australian poetry for Verity La and consults for feedthewriters.com.