Bath Road


The five boys shared a house on the Bath Road; a large Victorian building that smelled of cigarette smoke, marijuana and bacon fat. The kitchen had a skin of cold grease and the worktops were smeared with globs of ketchup and barbeque sauce. On Fridays Charlotte went there after work. They moved around her in swirls, in vests or bare-chested, pulling on ironed shirts and running gelled fingers through their hair, eating quickly—bowls of Coco Pops and Frosties—as they moved about the rooms pulling on trainers and checking wallets and keys.

Blue


Blue bottles. All shapes. No bigger than a child’s hand. But blue.
They are lined up at eye level under the house. Wooden stumps have been topped with tins like pie dishes turned upside-down on the drainer. A cool, earthy smell hangs in the slatted sunlight as the afternoon wears on.
One squat-shaped bottle has patterned sides. She wonders if its darker blue holds a trapped shadow and rubs her thumb over the decorated relief. Round and round.

Cringe Control


I. waterlogged
Have you ever wondered what's in the bottom of the lake?
The scummy clumps of algae floating on the surface are only a disguise for what lurks beneath. They told you it was toxic so you would stay away—did you never think to question? Assertions are proof of nothing.
So tear away those clinging curtains and scrape the plant weed from your eyes. Delve beneath the surface and discover what they've been hiding. An artificial lake is still a lake and all lakes are one; a man may be an island but these are all connected by narrow subscape channels straining through hard-packed dirt and stone with the patient work of centuries. Do you doubt me? The groundseep swells up from the deep and replenishes the blood of rivers. The earth is mostly water, they say, and if we peel off its blistered skin we expose molten roiling currents.
Delve beneath.

Home Visit


‘Women are strange,' Jill said. 'Strong and brave when you least expect it. But weak and selfish too,’
Rose nodded. A story was on the way.
‘Like this one woman. Four kids. The oldest at school – about seven – and the littlest one in nappies. The other two wandering round asking questions and being precocious. Smart little tykes. There’s been a stoush and the woman’s comin’ with us to the safe house. We’re at her place packing some things. Fella’s nowhere to be seen. Could’ve been watching us from up the street for all we knew. The cops were there, but fat lot of help they’re being. Just hanging around out front, telling us to hurry up.

Music for Two


I sat in the pews and looked around me. Stained glass windows and a vaulted ceiling. In front of the altar a small stage with a grand piano. No performers in sight yet. In the row in front of me, a family of three looked up together and I realised that two players were walking onto the stage. They acknowledged the audience and took their places. The pianist adjusted his chair and the cellist played a quick scale. As the Schubert piece started, I was less than engrossed. I knew the piece well but the cello sounded flat. It was a cold room and the instrument clearly hadn't warmed. I looked at the family in front. The father sat heavily, fleshy, Slavic features like a putty mask. The mother was still young and pretty though her features had started to show some age. As the music warmed she began to sway her head in time. The son sat between the two, clearly bored by the music. He was about thirteen, handsome with soft, smooth features. He looked up at his mother as she swayed, eyes closed. Then he reached towards her face and began to touch it.

Postcard Home from Christmas Island


We began the beach clean-up at ten. It was a public holiday, after all. The beach was idyllic: palm trees and warm breeze. Not as hot as Canberra where everyone had just baked in a run of 39 degree days.
It didn’t really make sense for people to concentrate on particular kinds of rubbish: we just spread out and worked a little patch each. There was more rubbish in the dunes so most of us were up there. Kate and Sue were by the shore; the tide moved slowly in, like a child, soft and timid.

Quaint: a bromance in narrative duologue


‘Ben, why must you insist on poisoning my heart with this swill?’
‘Mercutio! Well met, my coz.’
‘I’m not your coz, coz. My mother is no relation of yours, thank the gods.’
‘But could we not be coz’s all the same?’
‘By no gods shall we be coz’s.’
‘Not even by the god of wine?’
‘The god of wine? He that has left this place for truer minds? No, the god of wine has thus been defeated by bland tongues and forsaken all such hipster haunts, Ben. I wish the same of your beard.’

The Flight of the Frill Necked Lizard


The charismatic power of my profession––past profession?–is still weaving its spell over my girlfriend’s friends. The sexy obs and gyne specialist thing. At least I was one til the good old AMA struck me off after my conviction.
No-one at the party seems to want to think about that. They’re prepared to consider me one of them, for Irena’s sake. Someone who buys shares and goes to the theatre and all that sort of thing.
I wolf down another spicy piece of barbecued chicken. I forgot the green sauce so I pile it on this time. Damn. A gob of it splats on my Bali shirt front, the silver thread soaking it up.
‘Oh, yes!’ says a chap with alcoholic rosacea, ‘I thought I’d heard your name somewhere.’ It isn’t surprising really, his forgetting, I’ve been in jail for five years. There are agonised laughs at him. ‘Quiet! Todd!’

Christine McPaul

Author photo Christine McPaul
Christine McPaul is a Canberra writer whose crime fiction manuscript was selected for the ACT Writers Centre HARDCOPY2014 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. Her new adventure, Mullum to Mumbai, details her current writing journey.

Christine tweets@christinemcpaul. 

Elise Janes


Author photo Elise Janes
Elise won a place in HARDCOPY2014 with her novel, Vision, an adult dystopian thriller. She currently lives on an island in the Whitsundays, which she finds rather distracting. With a background in music and theatre she’s performed as a contemporary singer, classical violinist and band musician, and worked behind the scenes as a writer, director, conductor and teacher. Elise is a managing editor of The Cringe, an online literary journal to which she contributes regularly. Now completing the Vision trilogy she balances writing with eclectic pursuits, piña coladas, and long walks on the beach. Online at elisejanes.com & thecringeblog.com

Lesley Boland

Author photo Lesley Boland

Lesley has a Bachelor of Communications in Creative Writing from the University of Canberra. Her poetry, short stories and articles have been published in journals and anthologies, including Quadrant, Block, First, Burley, Winds of Change, and lip magazine. She is also an editor for Blemish Books, a Canberra-based small press. With Blemish Books she has edited three collections of poetry, three novellas and an anthology of fictocriticism. Her unpublished manuscript, The Lesser, was selected for the HARDCOPY2014 professional development program.

Lynne DePeras


Author photo Lynn DePerasWhen Lynne, as a 14 year old, met a Polish refugee on a Perth train, she began to champion Poland. But it wasn’t till she obtained a BA in Literature and History, a Polish fiancé and later, a Polish husband, that she finally visited their country. There, in 2008, during the breakup of her marriage and in a shocked, vodka haze, she learned the reality of Polish loss and annihilation. Afterwards, she re-created her Polish myth in The Vodka Cure, her first novel. Apart from that she has been short-listed in four short story competitions. Her favourite authors are Margaret Atwood, Dostoyevsky and Patrick White.

Sam Baran


Sam Baran is a scifi enthusiast, community radio host, and a lover of physics. His stories have been solemnly passed on by word of mouth to tolerant friends and national radio audiences. Sam is known to pass inexcusable puns in polite society, and when out in public collects interesting expressions from passers-by for his own use. You can find his disparate thoughts at www.sambaranmedia.wordpress.com or find his musings on Twitter @NoGoodStoryEnds

Steve Maloney

Author photo Steve Maloney
Steve Maloney has dabbled in short prose and poetry most of his life and started to write more sustained fiction in the last few years. Currently he’s writing the third in a historical fiction series set in Australia in the latter half of the 19th Century. Another in the series was shortlisted for the UK 2012 Impress Prize. He’s also grappling with a contemporary verse novella. Steve was a keen participant in the HARDCOPY2014 program.

Tanya Davies


Tanya Davies is a Canberra-based writer. Her short stories have been published in various anthologies. Sarah’s Song, her self-published children’s novel, won the ACT Writing and Publishing Award 2013 (children’s category).

A Perverse Sort of Liberty


I.
Kinky died. You have to die to become a superhero, so Kinky dies, pukes herself inside out. She’s been sick for years, but now she’s throwing up razor blades in a meaty jelly, snakes, old weak lovers. Heaving them up at two in the morning – waking with a howl because she thinks there’s someone in her room again, but there’s no -one. Just Kinky and her vomit. She went to the doctor but he pulled the waistline of her pants down too far when he felt her stomach and she knew he was one of them.