Sylvia Petter

Overload #31

Death by De Facto

The angry afternoon sun was locked in a smoke haze and the charred wattle trees stood there like stick men. Chris looked out of the window at the burnt bushland and tears pricked her eyes. She wiped a hand over her cheek and saw the grime on her palm, and rubbed it clean on her jeans. Two crumpled fists of paper were already on the floor as she again took up her blue ballpoint pen.

“Dear Monsieur Montalbon,” she wrote.

Too formal. She crumpled up the paper and began once more.

“Dear Pierre, …”

Too familiar. Email would have been so much better but he had no email that she could tell.

She scratched through the words. How was she going to tell the husband of her father’s de facto that his wife was dead?

“Dear Mr Montalbon,

We’ve never met, but I’m sure the name ‘Springwood’ means something to you. You may have seen the candles and the tiny — how to describe them? — gourd-like receptacles my father marketed under that name. He advertised his products in pamphlets and on the Internet …” She stopped and switched on the desk lamp. This was too much. Pictures and words couldn’t hope to show what went into her father’s work. He’d made the gourds from Eucalyptus, from silver-top stringy bark. Springwood was full of it, and full of wattle.

“He made essences from wattle and eucalypts. The fragrances fuelled his dreams.” She scratched out ‘dreams’ and then the whole sentence.

“Gabriel Lacroix only ever worked with what was already there.” Chris propped her head on her hand. I’ll just write it as it was, she thought. I can always go back and cross out the things I can’t tell him.

“The dark brown receptacles he carved resembled the bud cups of the stringy bark gum, and he smeared them to the top with translucent pastes that were, in fact, the trapped scents of eucalyptus and wattle.” Her eyes were now wet but she kept on writing, scribbling across the page. “I’m telling you all this so that you understand what really happened. It’s about Lucia. As you’re still legally her husband, you are her next of kin.”

Chris sat back in her chair and let her hair fall into her face. Then she pushed it away. She had to go on. “You may know wattle as acacia. Your acacia – my father told me that you call it ‘mimosa’ — seems to be of a singular kind. The moment you place it in a vase, it begins to droop. Not even a Lalique vase can keep it alive.” She wiped her eyes with her left hand. I have to get a grip on myself, she thought, then sniffed deeply and continued to write.

“The town of Springwood clusters around a Blue Mountains highway and is split by the rail line from Sydney to Katoomba.

“This was where we lived. My father built our house just one mile from the highway, out by a ridge looking over Clarinda Falls. He knew every sandstone block, every beam of our home. The verandah posts were made of ironbark, a timber hard as its name, and so were the doors and the shutters, which he painted a rich bottle green. These shutters might remind you of the South of France, which would be deceptive. The shutters in France do not do the same thing as ours in Australia. Our house had a verandah to keep out the heat; the shutters kept out the cold snaps of our mountain winters.

“My mother died in that house just after my birth. And I grew up there with my father, surrounded by the scents of the bush: the sweet honeyed fragrance of golden wattle, the tang of gum leaves, the rich warm aroma of rain-showered soil. The smell of smoke would at times cut through those scents when gusts whipped the trees and the heart-shaped leaves of the mountain gum became brittle in the hot wind.

“This year it’s been hot and very dry. Strong winds have raged and torn through the bush. But there was something else. The fires this year were deliberately lit. An explosive mixture. I know. I am a volunteer with the Fire Brigade.” Again she sat back and gazed out of the window. She stared at the bushland and, as if in a trance, watched the past days spool through her mind.

Fires forged through the gullies, the high winds doubling their spread and the oils of the gum trees vaporized so quickly that even the air exploded. Waxy leaves crackled and spat as the flames danced like devils through the mountain treetops. Backburning was difficult in those conditions. She and her helpers, two gangly boys, trained the muzzles of their drip torches onto the brush, but the winds were strong and kept changing direction, forcing the flames back upon them. All they could do was train the hoses from their tanker truck onto the ground at their feet and just beyond, keeping it moist until the wind died.

Chris had just dropped off her helpers back at their homes behind the station. Those grey fibro houses would have been tinder had they been on the outskirts of town. The tanker had to be refilled with water for the next shift and she had to wrestle the gears of the MAC 5-ton truck to get it back to base. She’d just got into her old Corolla and was in the centre of Springwood by the old corner pub facing the station when the radio call came about the fire on the ridge over Sassafras, just three miles away. The news meant the fires were close to her house.

Ridge Road ran right out there and tapered off into three unsealed bends up to the house. She phoned through to the central and tore off past the pedestrians clumped at the corner. She went up through the gears, peak revs in each one, until she was doing seventy miles an hour down a patched and pitted bitumen road. The car rattled and shook as it clanked over the potholes and the muffler kept hitting its underside. Swerving to avoid one of the potholes, she put the outside wheels onto the road’s soft edges. She swerved, lost control, then regained it. Looking into the rear-view mirror all she could see was stirred-up dust.

Thick smoke was coming from the ridge over the gully. Her father used to take her for picnics in Sassafras Gully and he taught her to swim in the swimming holes down past Clarinda Falls. Water. If only there was more of it now, she’d thought. But the wind brought no rain, it just bent the boughs of the bordering gums and she had to keep her eyes fixed on the road and not think of him. She had to get home. Get to Lucia.

A bend was ahead. She knew the road backwards, and was going as fast as she could. But every bump on the muffler made her slow down for fear that she’d lose it, not really knowing if that was serious or not. It had to hang on for just one more bend. Suddenly, to her left, racing down from the crest of the hill, a chain of exploding flames crashed through the treetops.

The smoke was getting thicker and she could smell tar, and burning rubber. Then she saw the house. A sheet of flames veiled the one-storey structure that shimmered ghost-like through the hot orange red. Black smoke billowed in ugly thick coils from the rubber tyre that ringed the bed of a transplanted waratah. The wildflower bush was ashen white; the once red tough petals now petrified.

She slammed on the brakes and got out of the car, pulling her cotton scarf over her nose and mouth. Her eyes were smarting and she had to squint in order to see. She began coughing.

The shutter doors were black with strips of glowing orange where the wind fanned them. The old sofa on the left side of the verandah was smouldering and blotches of black blistered their flickering edges into the upholstery. She was standing just metres away when the verandah roof crashed under the weight of a falling stringy bark gum. Her father had made the roof from shingles and tar and now the supporting beams were collapsing onto themselves. The tree and the wind-whipped embers had done their work as burning slats crashed over the three-step stairway to what was once grass. Then she saw the body.

A certain terror of things moving beyond control must have blocked her perception. But it was a human body: white, singed and inanimate. She put her head down and ran at it. The smoke singed her eyes. Through the haze, she gasped for air. It was Lucia.

Her father had met her on one of his trips to France when he’d tank up on new scents. Chris hadn’t seen it straight away, but something must have been planted back then that drew them together despite the great distance. After his death Lucia came out to Springwood, an angel of sorts, but the last thing Chris wanted. She moved into the house and they lived side by side in her father’s home, their roots gradually entangling.

Lucia was lying face down, that wonderful red hair singed to the scalp. Her legs were charred white and the muslin at her shoulders was like ragged black lace where the skin had been burned. Her arms were coated in what looked like soot, except for the parts that exposed livid flesh.

She must have been trying to run. Must have tripped on that awful old-fashioned skirt of hers. It had been the blue of a clear sky but now its crisp pleats were blackening in a dying glow. Chris beat at the fabric and it crumbled away. Coughing, she touched Lucia’s throat. Then she grabbed her mobile from her belt and called through to emergency.

“I’m out past the rifle club, end Bee Farm Road. Got a third degree here. Still got a pulse.”

“You’ll have to get to Katoomba.”

“Katoomba? Jesus Christ.”

“The ambulances are out. Springwood Hospital’s cut off.”

Chris touched the soft white skin of the woman’s legs, but it didn’t blanch. Lucia didn’t seem to feel pain so Chris thought her nerve endings must have been destroyed.

“I’ll give it a go.”

“Good luck, love.”

Chris rolled the woman onto her back and then picked her up. She was birdlike in her arms. For a split second Chris stood there. This woman had tried to take her mother’s place. And her father had gone down in flames on the way to her. Down in a 747, along with two hundred others. That was when Chris had joined the fire brigade, her way to fight her own fire demons. It hadn’t been Lucia’s fault that he’d died in the flames. He had loved Lucia. Chris had learned to love Lucia, if acceptance could be called love. And now the flames had got her, too.

Lucia’s head lolled, she was slipping away. Chris eased her onto the back seat of the car, but Lucia’s head bumped against the far door. Sorry. Sorry? Yes, sorry. So sorry. Chris slammed the door, threw in reverse gear and spun back towards the road. The stringy bark boughs along the embankment were drooping, their leaves singed. The wind had died down, but there was still a fog of smoke, too heavy to be pierced by an angry sun. She raced back past the cemetery and the fire station. The tankers were all out. She veered onto the highway towards Katoomba.

Cars with orange headlights were fleeing towards Sydney. Katoomba was the other way, but she feared she’d never make it. She jammed her foot on the accelerator, ignoring the banging muffler. Suddenly it clanked one last time, but she raced on as if driven by the engine’s loud throaty roar.

In Katoomba Chris got Lucia into emergency where they took her away. Then she got back into her car and backtracked to the house, slowly, the engine rasping.

As she drew up two fire fighters were training their hoses onto what was left. The sandstone walls rose from a sloppy debris of everything they had: her father’s work, Lucia’s new life, her own hopes and dreams, all reduced to a smouldering rubble. She just stood there.

There was a public shelter in Katoomba they’d converted from a school gym and Chris spent the next few nights there. Families huddled in the corners. Empty mattresses lined the walls. The wooden floor gleamed with fresh polish and the sweet acrid odour made her want to retch. But she couldn’t. She breathed in deeply and coughed as the smell of ammonia burned the insides of her nostrils. Bottles of water were passed around, but she couldn’t get rid of the taste of smoke.

All night there was coughing. Here and there kids were crying. Chris opened her eyes. A woman in the corner was rocking to and fro, but what she saw was Lucia, prostate on the ground.

The next day she was out again with the brigade and she tried to block Lucia from my mind. She’d hated this woman, but she didn’t want her to die. Lucia had loved her father. Would he have lived had there been no Lucia? The thoughts spun round and around.

Chris had the gangly boys with her again and had to give them her full attention. But every blackened stump, every new coil of smoke brought the vision of Lucia in front of the house. She needed to know how Lucia was, but she couldn’t go yet. So they worked on and she tried to keep her mind off anything but fighting those flames and saving what they could. It was three days before Chris saw Lucia again.

She had been moved to a small two-bed room with a window. The first bed was empty, almost a buffer for that of Lucia. A translucent cuff covered her nose and was linked through a tube to a box with a dial and blinking red dots. Her head was bandaged and so were her arms which splayed out over the sides of the bed. From her right wrist she hung on a drip. A sheet covered her loosely from her neck to the foot of the bed. The room was pale grey like the wisps of smoke in the sky outside. A watercolour calendar picture was on the wall – the bush as it used to be.

The doctor came in. Was Chris the daughter, he asked? She said no, that the patient was her father’s de facto. Good enough, he said. Her burns were serious. He looked at the sheet and Chris’ eyes followed his. She’d need grafting, he said with a voice as flat as the covers of the empty bed he now leant on. Chris couldn’t bear to think of what Lucia’s sheet hid. Then his voice cut in again. The urgent thing was to stabilise her breathing. The ground transport had taken too long, he said. There was a risk of renal infection and the prognosis was not good. She was delirious, he continued and moved closer to Chris. “Delirium’s a funny thing,” he said softly. “All sorts of stuff starts spilling out. Then there’s silence, and here and there a flash of lucidity.” He said it could help if Chris came by again.

All of a sudden Lucia opened her eyes and stared straight at the young woman. She opened her lips and as Chris knelt down beside her she smelled the thick wet odour of burning tyres. “Gab”, said Lucia and then closed her eyes.

The next day Lucia said Chris’ name, but then she said “Gab”, and then Chris lost her.

When Chris came the following day they’d taken the cuff from Lucia’s nose and the tube and machine were on the night table. Chris had taken it as a sign that she was improving, that there was still hope. Lucia’s eyes rolled. It was as if she was waiting for something. Then all of a sudden she thrashed with her legs and the movement dragged the sheet from her neck, exposing her shoulders and breast. The skin of her shoulders was red and dry, and large blotches of white ran from her clavicle over her chest. Chris gingerly pulled the sheet back to cover her. Lucia did not flinch. But then her head crashed from left to right. Her eyes stared and those lashless eyelids flickered wildly then stopped. Chris’ pulse raced and just when she thought Lucia had calmed, the woman jerked her arm with an unexpected movement that pulled at the drip and sent the stand crashing to the floor. Chris grabbed for the bell which was caught in the bedclothes. Pressed the button. Kept pressing.

Now she knew what panic was. She was jamming the bell, wanting to rush out, but not daring to leave Lucia alone, when a young nurse rushed in. The nurse righted the stand. Lucia became still. The nurse grabbed the nasal cuff and fixed it over Lucia’s face and set the ventilator in motion. Then she signed that Chris should leave. Outside the room Chris leant flat against the wall and tried to steady her trembling hands, regulate her breathing, but she knew Lucia was dead.

Chris sat at the desk, her head in her hands. An eerie glow was tingeing the sky as if letting night fall at last. Her eyes were dry. Is it now that I say “sincerest condolences”? Believe me, they are, she thought.

“Lucia died last week,” she whispered. “Two weeks since the fire at our house. I was not her next of kin, but as the doctor said, it was good enough. I knew she wouldn’t have wanted a funeral, so I asked if I could have her ashes. I didn’t want to leave her with strangers. And you, you were so far away, and what were you now to her anyway?”

Chris felt her eyes moisten. “They gave me a plastic grey box in a stiff white carry bag and I kept it next to my mattress in the corner of the gym.” Silent sobs now punctuated her words. “My mother is buried in the cemetery up the road, my father’s remains are beyond place and time. I had to do something that would let me move on.” Chris took a deep breath and wiped her nose.

“In a bed at the end of our land, overlooking the gully, I planted seedpods of wattle and sprinkled them with Lucia’s ashes. I still don’t sleep much, but I’m learning.”

Then she took a fresh piece of paper, picked up her pen and wrote:

“Dear Monsieur Montalbon,
Your wife passed away last week. Please accept my sincerest condolences.
Christine (Chris) Lacroix
Blue Mountains Volunteer Fire Brigade”

Tony Page

Overload #31

Poems fom Bangkok

The Wave

(Although gravity was the first of the fundamental forces to be explained,
it remains today the least understood of all)

This strand of mystery, long and silent.
Two figures crouched in the sand,
Calculating as if their lives depend on it.

While the sun is in eclipse, both greyheads
Scribble diagrams and formulae,
Equations super-seding each other.

Much hangs in the balance: Newton and Einstein
Travel from opposite ends of theory
To hammer out the force of gravity.

In shadow behind the Cambridge don, Euclid
And his geometry, adequate for millenia.
Common sense Greek echoed by the 17th century:

The Earth is flat, parallel lines never meet.
Last of the alchemists, Newton defined gravity
As a force exerted by mass, proportional to distance.

The theory performed like clock work, ticking
For three centuries. His laws became parameters,
Christening much of the modern world.

Riemanns ghost hovers opposite (19th century
Geometer of curved spaces), guiding Einsteins
Hand, he slips a revolutionary clue.

Idling in the Basel Patent Office, shaggy-locks
Guessed gravity was not a force, but a wrinkle
Distorting the fabric of Spacetime itself.

He predicted it would bend light, hence
The masterminds meeting: to measure
If the eclipse deflects stellar sightlines.

Sir Isaac completes his tally, conceding
Defeat like a Restoration gentleman.
General Relatitivity stands unopposed.

It was Attraction which formed the seeds
Of galaxies. So too, it could collapse them
Into the Apocalypse of a “Big Crunch”.

Look at the cats cradle of formulae!
Fruit of physics for three hundred years,
Both agree: if they could detect a wave

Mass sending a ripple direct from the Big Bang,
Corrugating Spacetime itself, theyd be sure at last.
They freeze, waiting for the signal:

A gravity wave tolling
Through the hypersphere,
Hatching its shadow
In four dimensions

One million years ABT (106 yrs)

Energy and matter powerless
To individuate.
Amorphous because of the heat
Spellbound because of gravity,
Photons and electrons
Absorb each other
For a million years;
Swapping the same identity.

Conditions now less suffocating
And the strands relax, decouple.
They diverge as two insular forces
With tempers all of their own.

“Let there be light!”
Shout photons as they break free
And the cosmos becomes transparent;

Blinding anyone
If they had been there
To see it.

Laurence Overmire

Overload #31

Portland Poems

Sand in the Mouth

The hot Earth blisters
Opening to the unwitting tear of
Man’s insensitive hand

The glaciers crack and crumble
Centuries plunging into
Too warm waters

Fish and bird
Too soon entombed in
The rising wave

The frail creatures who
Cannot protest lie
Twitching in the gathering dust

Dry are the bones of
A million lost hopes
Broken in a desert of mind

But bland machines
Continue to grind and shake
Dollars making heroes out of

Plaster and Paris who
Fancy themselves


Those things we see in Hollywood movies
Impossible to believe
Imposed by some idiot of a producer
In the mistaken notion to improve
The Bottom Line

Money is always bigger than Truth
In the masquerade called Tinsel Town

Problem is some people think schlock is
They try to ingest it into their french-fried cheeseburger lives
Only to find it doesn’t go down
Easy, bit greasy

Leaves a bad happy-sappy aftertaste
And makes reality really hard to


Die Andere

children grow in other people’s houses
collecting bits and pieces of nuance and unrhyme

sponging feelings left in turbid air to dry
no wonder to be left alone to fend

with latch unkeyed, they wander through
blank hallways tripping over unmet

obligation, horrid disciples of impotent
gods, leftover sympathies strained by

circumstance, immobilized, till one day
the leaking of stagnant water passes through

the crevice in the center of the floor.

Pig Heart

People are getting uglier
All the time
Have you noticed?
Is it so hard to miss
The self-serving secrets in a
Deceiving eye
The jowls fat with pleasures
Sucked out of a dry well of
Insufficient solitude
The crack of our egos whipped
Into the crippled backs of
Taking the stage with flat-footed
Saber wits cutting holes in worn
Fabrics, too weak to darn
The needing sock
How foul the odor from our
Reeking tongue
The hairy shirt we wear
Laced with maggots
Throws us back in a reap of penitence
To the Darkest Ages of our once
Subliminal past.

Jobber Wocky

The Con

Walked onto the job
A smile for the ladies
A knife in the backs of his mates
Doing as little as possible
Pawning responsibility on dupes
Too dull, or incorrigibly nice
To recognize the twisting screw of his
Usury, yet always the
Exemplary employee when
The boss was near
Eager to please, willing and impeccably
Able, his promotion though
Completely undeserved, should have come as
No surprise, when those who were
Dedicated, qualified and reliable
Were unceremoniously passed over in service of

The Con.

Old Dreams Die Hard

Refusing to let go
Their fingers white and bloodless
Hanging on the edge of

One heartless thrust of
A heel without soul and

The dream falls
The cry receding into the depths of

A thud at the bottom
Barely audible
When the eyes are closed.


Overload #31


If Maggie knew one thing it was how to take a punch and if that taught her anything it was how to give one. Violence had long lived close to Maggie, violence had left its hideous mark upon her. She’d grown accustomed to its presence.

Violence defined her.

Born she was from and into violent acts. Wanton mother lust conceived Maggie, a child forever unloved, torn from suckling dead mother breast as that pummelled corpse, face crushed, sex brutalized with fire and steel, lay days upon the killing floor in a remote shed hidden by compost.

Dead mother delivered into catastrophe by the hands and feet of the husband, not father, never father, who from his furious impotence murdered lust mother as the child’s eyes watched and beheld all he could contrive upon this woman. A man who paused but briefly, considering if the child should survive, before he crawled and dragged his worthless life under the steel wheels of the never slow eastbound express.

Maggie forever hated weak women.

Irma, blond angel, wasn’t weak.

Maggie/Irma weren’t weak women.

And for Maggie there came opportunities to turn violence inflicted away, to guide its destructiveness. All she had to do was wait, patiently wait for those opportunities to arrive and they always did.

Maggie only takes the afternoon through evening shift at the call centre. Victimizing the elderly, shut ins and the vulnerable in the early hours of each day is something that she has long lost any enthusiasm for.

The same can’t be said for Jane. For her every call made is a mark, the easier the better. Hook ’em and reel ’em in; is how she describes her efforts and the older, the more frail, the better. They can’t remember shit, Jane would brag tossing the list of the fallen at Maggie as they exchange places in the booth.

On this night, a cold, blustery, and thoroughly miserable time, Maggie was down to her last two calls. She glanced again at the text of her hustle script, “Good evening, my name is Margaret and I am calling about a carpet cleaning service unlike any other. Could I…” and she would drone on.

The collision against the back of her chair startled Maggie.

“The fucker is monitoring all the calls.” Jane was leaning against the partition, she was drunk. Maggie’s anger at Jane’s dissolute state faded quickly. Jane’s coat was unbuttoned, her blouse, untucked had a dark stain down the front. The partition seemed all that was holding her upright.

Maggie looked about quickly. No one seemed to notice Jane. Pulling a chair from the next booth she pushed it toward Jane who fell into it heavily. She belched, the sour stench of liquor wafted between them.

She looked at Maggie with watery unfocussed eyes.

“You knew that didn’t you?” Jane slurred the words, struggling to tuck in her blouse. She stops for a moment looking at the stain before unbuttoning the last two buttons pulling the shirt open revealing her abdomen. She lays her open hand upon her whiter than white belly flesh.

Maggie glances toward the supervisors office and between the cubicles, no one cares as the others at their phones engage, enrage and disturb the anonymous at the end of the phone lists.

“Yeah,” Maggie snaps, “so the asshole listens, so what.” Maggie just wants the night over with and glances again at the two remaining calls she has to make.

“You don’t understand.” Jane undoes a third button revealing more of herself. “It’s you he listens to, the things you say that’s what he listens to whenever you’re working.” Jane leans toward Maggie, drawing her closer, “He showed me that call you made two days ago, the man in the apartment, remember, the guy with no carpets. Maggie, we listened to it as we were…”

Jane pulls back into the chair, a lascivious grin distorting her face.

“Shit, Maggie you called the guy three times.”

Maggie removes the headset. “They all like listening, all the supers, they like to sit in their offices and if something gets interesting they… listen.”

As she finishes the sentence she rests her open hand on her crotch. She pauses watching Jane sitting slumped in the chair her belly exposed.

“They fired you.”

Jane doesn’t need to say anything.

“Even after you slept with that little prick, he fired you, right?” Maggie’s tone is unsympathetic.

“I don’t feel good.” Is the best Jane can muster in response.

Maggie leans over and begins buttoning Jane’s blouse. “It’s going to be ok. Go home and I’ll call you later.”

Jane seems to have froze, not refusing, just failing to respond, to even look up.

“Fuck it. Here’s the key to my place,” Maggie shoves her apartment key into Jane’s coat pocket, “you know where it is two streets over three down, left side, groundfloor, 101. You got that?”

Jane nods and pulls herself to her feet.

“He likes to listen,” Maggie glances toward the closed supervisor’s door. “and he thinks he’s safe in there.”

She gives the door the finger.

“Go.” She gives Jane a gentle nudge toward the exit.

Jane takes a step, her feet leaden from the liquor, stops, drifting in place and turns to Maggie, shaking her head, holding the key out.

“I don’t want to go there.” Jane is frightened. “Here”, she tries pushing the key back to Maggie.

“Whoa.” Maggie pushes Jane’s hand with the key aside. “Why don’t you want to go?”

“She’s there. That… that beast.”

Maggie laughs, leaning back in her chair.

Jane stamps her foot, angry. “Don’t laugh. She’d dangerous.”

Maggie laughs again. “She’s dead. Janey its a, a photograph. She’s not real.”

Stepping back toward Maggie, Jane leans against the desk and into the woman still smiling up at her. “She’s fucking real to you Maggie. She’s real to you.”

The key to Maggie’s apartment is set firmly on the table. Jane still stands idling, drunk and waiting in front of Maggie who has not taken her eyes off Jane.

“Sit down,” Maggie pulls at Jane’s sleeve and the woman drops into the chair, legs akimbo, arms dangling over the side of the chair as if she had passed out.

“Then sit here.” Maggie glances toward the supervisors door. Nothing.

Jane suddenly shifts, pulling herself close to Maggie and whispers, conspiratorially, “I think your full of shit, Maggie. Those aren’t really her boots, the one’s you keep locked up in that closet. Come on, tell me the truth.”

Maggie turned ever so slowly toward the woman in the chair beside her, the expression that met Jane was one of controlled ferocity at being challenged, questioned, suspected.

“You’ll go to my place and you’ll go right now.” Maggie takes the key from the desk, opens Jane’s left hand and pushes it firmly into her. “I’ll be home later. “

Jane says nothing, staring blankly at Maggie.

“I want to wear them. The boots.” Jane’s voice has gone cold, “Irma’s boots, I want to wear them.”

“You?! You little snot! Not you or anyone like you!” Maggie snaps, angered. “And you know why, don’t you?”

Jane starts to shift herself with the intent of getting up only to slump back in place.

She knows.

It had been a long night of drinking. Maggie tended to do everything with an over the top aggressiveness, including Darlene’s 40th birthday party. As Maggie stumbled to a halt in front of her building, searching for the key to her apartment with Jane in tow she continually mumbled that she didn’t even like Darlene, her friends, her family or her little fucking dog. Jane needed to use the bathroom, that’s all, just let me take a leak and I’ll be on my way. If she said it once, she said it half a dozen times, dancing from one foot to the other.

Maggie, key in hand, straightened, and with both arms around Jane’s shoulder whispered quietly, “I’ve something to show you. You’ll be….” She laughs stupidly, “fucking blown away.”

Inside the ground floor apartment Jane was struck by the spartan appearance of the place, almost like no one actually lived in it. She wanted to but didn’t comment on the fact that she could practically count on one hand everything in the room; cot, small table, two chairs, and floor lamp. There was only two other doors, bathroom and one with a heavy padlock. There was no bedroom. On the wall next to the window, framed behind glass were the embroidered words in a language Jane didn’t recognize, at first: Tode durch den strang. On the faded wall beneath were the words written in a black hand: Death by the rope. Jane took the latter to be the translation of the former. She pretended not to notice.

On her way to the bathroom Jane couldn’t resist an observation, “You really need a raise Magg’s. I mean look at the place.” She stops at the bathroom door, snaps on the light. “Furniture baby, ambiance. You need ambiance.” Jane hikes up her coat and dress, pulling her nylons and underwear down and with a sigh of serious relief, settles onto the toilet.

Maggie says nothing, locking and latching her door. The blinds are down and secured against intrusion.

On the peg behind the door she carefully hangs her coat.

Jane hasn’t closed the bathroom door as she noisily relieves herself. She farts heavily into the bowl, giggles, and closes the door.

It took some effort but Jane finally managed to work the warped bathroom door free finding Maggie sitting crosslegged on the floor next to the open closet door. She was polishing a heavy black boot with a red and black rag, the mate of the boot sat upright next to her. The padlock was hanging on the lasp on the door.

“Feel better,” Maggie kept working the rag over the boot without looking up from her labours.

“Yeah,” Jane pulled her coat off and was about to toss it over the back of one of the chairs.

Maggie pointed quickly toward the door, “There’s a hook on the door.”

Jane followed instructions.

The closet door was ajar and inside hanging on the single rail were a short sleeved white blouse, a sleeveless dark sweatervest and a plaited checkered skirt. On the back of the door was a black and white photograph of a woman dressed in the clothes on the rail.

For a moment Jane looked at the photograph. The woman in the oversized photograph was not pleasant to look at and did not appear to be enjoying the fact of having been photographed. The woman, Jane noted, wasn’t looking at the camera, she stood as if stopping to observe an incident which clearly displeased her. Her left hand, almost formed into a clenched fist. The expression she wore told of a woman who smiled rarely. Everything about the photograph was belligerent, hateful.

“Irma Grese.” Maggie said, setting aside the first and picking up the second boot. “Ever hear of her?”

Jane slid down next to Maggie, “God no.”

“You have heard of the Stanley Milgram?”

“That him in drag?” Jane giggled.

Maggie ignored her as she got to her feet and set the two boots down inside the closet directly beneath the clothes on the rail.

“Come on, you know, Milgrim and his experiments in violence?” Maggie stood before the photograph. “If you haven’t heard of him, well, forget it.”

Maggie stood silent for a moment. Jane weaved without moving. Both women were looking at Irma Grese not looking back.

“Irma, dear Irma.” Maggie seemed happier at that instant.

“Milgrim spent his career devising little experiments to prove that if you had an authority figure taking responsibility you could turn anyone into a killer. But Irma, she was ahead of Stan, way ahead of Stan and she’d have scared the shit out of him.”

Maggie slipped her left hand under the skirt, her fingers skittering over the fabric.

Jane finds a spot on the floor where Maggie had been working on the boots and sits down, relieved and dizzy.

“They hanged Irma for what she did,” Maggie turned as she pressed into the clothes on the rail, “and for getting off on it. She was Auschwitz’s blond bitch. The quintessential angel of fucking death.”

Maggie glances down at Jane against the wall as she nervously smoothes the creases of her dress.

“Irma,” Maggie sighs the name, “healthy, Aryan Irma had the license Milgrim only got paid to confirm in little boxed labs grinning his way into journals of academia. Irma, sweat and muscle Irma, she could live what most of us are too terrified to even entertain as nightmares. She revelled in her sadism, her the perversions, they weren’t curbed, they weren’t left unslaked, they were approved, fucking well licensed by everything that was legitimate in her world.”

Maggie steps to one side of the closet, leaning against the wall, gazing reverently into the woman on the door.

“She had free reign to inflict, she could be the extreme of herself, she could live her own exaggeration as few people let alone women anywhere at any time can.”

“What’d they do to the bitch again?” Jane sounded foggy but had had enough of looking at this malignant woman.

“What’d the cowards do to Joan of Arc?” Maggie pushed herself from the wall, proud before her Aryan love. “They hanged the wench, with her grinnin’ back at them.”

“Fuck, Maggs!” Jane wanted to laugh, thought better of it, “Joan and Irma, where the fuck is that lineage at? You…”

Maggie, turned toward from inside the closet. “Fear is what happened to both women. The fucking bed wetters and pant pissers, that’s what happened to both of them.

One talked to God, the other was Satan herself, walking among us, free and powerful. Janey, you gotta kill ’em both, they knew that and they still know that.”

At that moment Jane makes a mistake, she is afraid and its as palpable as heavy traffic that for the first time she’s afraid of being alone with this woman whose last name she has never heard. Maggie inhales now refusing to take her eyes off Jane, refusing to release her.

“You can despise everything this fucking creature did,” Maggie waits to see if this might placate Jane, but doesn’t really care if it does. “But baby you have to envy her. I mean think of the things, think of the weirdest, most bizarre things you ever wanted to try, to inflict, to get off on and she could do them, any fucking time, and she did. “

Maggie giggles, he hand under the skirt again. “There are some who said she didn’t do anything, just watched. Just watched.”

Maggie is quiet for a moment.

“Betcha she creamed this skirt right down to her fucking boots.” She pulls the fabric of the skirt to her face and sniffs. “Lucky bitch.”

“They hanged her, fucking right they had to. She’d get off on beating them, putting her fucking dogs on them, and all the time jerking herself, right there, right in front of them as they got ripped to shit.”

“Opportunity, that’s what this fucking beast had. Opportunity. All any of us need, require, desire, you dig this shit!!? Oppor-fucking-tunity!”

Maggie is out of the closet, hand on the door knob.

“Opportunity gives you a face like hers, don’t you think? Perpetural scowl, greased hair, heh what you say she used, sure as shit weren’t any mousse we ever heard of, right. And those eyes, ain’t nobody smiling back at those.”

Jane was on her feet and looking toward the door. Her lower lip trembled, slightly, obviously, and Maggie was on her, grabbing her, pulling her toward the closet door.

“Come on baby, tell me, would you make love to her, would you be the girl to wait for Irma? Would you lie on her cot watching this beast prepare herself to have you? Would you be hungry enough to press yourself into her Swastica pussy? Would you have the courage?”

Maggie pushes Jane aside.

“I would.”

Maggie steps to the photograph, kisses the dead lips if Irma Grese, Oberaufseherin of Auschwitz.

“I would.”

She kisses Irma’s breasts, both of them.

“I would.”

She kisses Irma’s plaited skirt beneath which Irma’s sex flushed only for the cries of pain and terror.

“I would.”

She kisses the heavy dark boots.

It is only then that Jane notices Maggie having unfastened her jeans had slipped her left hand inside as her right arm in rigid extension rose above her.

“I want to.” Maggie is crying, barely audible.

“Tode durch den strang.” Maggie weeps the utterance, slowly until her left hand triggers a vicious body wrenching shudder. “Tode durch den strang.” The right arm drops, lifeless and Maggie is quiet.

At that instant Jane knew Maggie for something she had never imagined. Knew her to be both terror and passion and knew she could not pull herself free of Maggie, who could not pull herself from making love to Irma.

In spite of a fear beyond any she’d felt before Jane could not and would even if she could, break free from Maggie.

Even on this night when she returned to Maggie, in desperate trouble, knowing how she feared facing the beast again, she knew in the end she would do as Maggie ordered. She knew she would wait for Maggie, she would polish Maggie’s boots as Maggie stood above her in white blouse, sleeveless sweater and plaited skirt, her hands coiled in tight fists. And Jane knew that even then, on her knees beneath the beast, she would wait for Maggie.

With the key to Maggie’s apartment she stood in the aisle between the booths, letting Maggie fasten her coat.

“Now go,” Maggie gave Jane, for the second time a gentle nudge toward the exit.

As she watches Jane’s progress she feels nothing toward the defeated woman, now hopelessly pregnant and terrified.

Maggie is at her best when she feels nothing, not fear, not anger, not loss and not need. Just as she does at this moment, as she dials up the last call of the night. The supervisor’s door closed and waiting.

The phone rings a couple of times, it rings past the usual point voicemail kicks in and Maggie lets it ring.

A woman answers, breathless, abrupt. Maggie smiles to herself, a hard ass case, on a night like this she looks forward to pissing somebody off.

“Hello!?” The woman is genuinely angered.

In the background, another room it seems an argument between a man and a woman can be heard building. The words they are saying have failed to negotiate their way into the phone, but the tone is exciting.

Maggie says nothing, listening past the woman on the phone into the room beyond.

“Hello!?” The woman demands an answer.

In the other room, the shouting has coalesced, both voices melding into a singular malignant energy. Something crashes to the floor, a small table Maggie imagines, pushed over, not thrown down, someone was pushed into it.

“I’m looking for…” Maggie, eyes closed pushes the script aside as a male voice, saying something about “that bitch…” is heard rising from the room beyond the woman on the phone.

The woman on the phone has turned toward the voices behind her, Maggie can feel her shift toward them.

“What?” The woman yells into the phone, above the rising violence.

The voices, the man and the woman, are moving closer to the woman and phone, closer to Maggie, vicariously involved.

“How many times I gotta tell you,” His is a bully voice, the voice of a man who dominates through bluster and bullshit. Maggie knows him as a typology, the coward who creates an aura without substance. But in that place with those women he is apparently terrible, “the bitch,” he thunders, “your fucking worthless sister, the bitch is outta here and right fucking now!”

The woman on the phone, stays on the phone, “Heh,” she yells past the receiver and Maggie’s ear, “I’m on the phone!”

“I don’t give a shit,” he zeroes in on the phone woman although still in the other room he has moved closer and is moving in, “I don’t care what you are on and…”

“Come on man,” the other woman, phone woman’s sister intervenes verbally and then, from the sounds of shuffling feet and angry grunts, physically by putting herself between the man and his target. “One more night ok.” She is pleading her sister’s case. “Just let her stay until…”

Phone woman retaliates, “Fuck you Roger. You want me out, fine you miserable little bastard!”

Maggie senses the woman’s anger has over come her fear.

“Your sister loves you.” Maggie carefully enunciates each word, recognizing that the nuance of each word has incredible meaning.

A scuffling is heard across the room, the man grapples with the woman.

“What’s your sister’s name?” Maggie draws the woman on the phone back.

The scuffling dies down, Maggie feels the woman’s attention is on the phone again.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” The woman is after Maggie.

“She loves you,” Maggie replies, pushing the script into the garbage pail next to her cubicle, “your sister loves you. What’s her name?”

“Come on, Roger!” Phone woman’s sister pleads.

“Denise,” the woman on the phone replies, “my sister’s name is Denise.”

A lamp shatters, a picture frame is dislodged from the wall.

Phone woman wheels around facing the other room, phone in hand, “Asshole! Leave my shit alone, I’m gone, satisfied, I’m leaving and…”

“Damn right,” Roger blusters, sensing victory, “and I’ll help pack your worthless crap.” The remnants of the lamp are kicked from the room, shattered porcelain skitters across the floor toward the woman on the phone.

Maggie holds headset close to her mouth, “Denise is fighting for you. Listen to her.”

Drawers are pulled free of the dresser in the other room and they fall one after the other onto the floor, the contents scattering over the floor. The voices of Denise and Roger are lost in incoherency again, their voices rising and falling among the sounds of breaking furniture and rifled clothes. Words are irrelevant to the tone of violence and the physicality of their expression.

A window is pulled open and Roger is in front of it.

“Heh, bitch,” he is shouting past Denise to phone woman, “consider yourself packed and gone, out your shit goes…”

Denise is grabbing at Roger, “Stop it! Stop it! What the fuck are you…” The sound of tearing fabric overrides voices and violence.

“Denise loves you,” Maggie is holding the woman to the phone, “you’re sister loves you and you aren’t going anywhere.”

The room goes silent for a split second as if Maggie’s voice had carried beyond the woman holding the phone.

“What did you say?” the woman is surprised, “What the fuck are you talking about…” the woman is annoyed, “who are you and…”

Maggie leans into her cubicle, her every fibre focussed on the woman on the other end of the phone.

“Listen to me,” Maggie’s voice, cold and fierce in its certainty, “Denise is fighting for you. She is fighting to keep you. Fight him. Don’t hang up, put the phone down and fight him. She wants you to, your sister, she wants you to fight him. Listen to her, she’s fighting him, she’s fighting him and she is doing it for you.”

The supervisors door opens just a crack.

Maggie doesn’t pause, knowing the supervisor’s fear has caused him to zip up.

From the room beyond the struggle continues. Denise says nothing as Roger attempts to further destroy her sister’s life. Defeat is the third presence in that room and is crippling Denise.

Maggie whispers into the phone in a tone barely audible, “Put the phone down, don’t hang up and fight him.”

The receiver is gently placed on the table and the woman’s footsteps can be heard receding into the room beyond. Maggie sits back in her chair, pressing the headset closer. She closes her eyes.

Suddenly Roger’s voice rises above the fray, “Heh, you tore my fucking shirt, you stupid…”

Denise cries out as Roger’s fist connects with her cheek.

At that instant Roger is heard to cry out as the phone woman flails into him with fists and feet. In the fury of violence Roger topples over a small table, breaking it as the woman follows him down.

Denise joins the attack on Roger who can be heard pleading, crying out that he’s been cut, that he’s bleeding.

The supervisor is peering from the crack in the door, staring at Maggie. From inside his office Roger’s defeat can be heard and Maggie watches the supervisor watch.

Facing him in her chair as they listen together she leans back and slips her left hand into her pants, between her legs, and closes her eyes concentrating on the sound of Irma’s victory.

The room around her is filled with the sounds of two women kicking and punching into soft tissue. Listen, listen she thinks as Roger makes no sound and Irma smiles at the end of a rope.

Barbara O’Connor

Overload #31

3 Stories

Duty First.

She was small and slender and the shadows under her eyes bespoke a tiredness that couldn’t be cured by a good night’s sleep. We had flown in the night before and she had met us to repay a courtesy. When dropping us at our hotel she had apologised for not being available to show us around as she was working and could not afford the time. We arranged to have dinner at her home the following evening.

When she called for us she was simply dressed in western clothes, and the car she drove was small and far from new. When she turned into the Palace gateway and drove down an avenue of palms amid luxurious gardens, we were expecting to be driven to a cottage in the grounds. Instead, she pulled up at a wide, shallow set of steps leading to an open verandah.

Murmuring come, she led us up the steps, across the verandah and into the first of a series of enormous stately rooms. Immediately I thought that simply walking from one room to the other would be enough to make anybody tired and I wondered at the number of servants it would require to keep it spotless.

Our meal was served in a modest room the size of a family home and while not sumptuous it was far from the fare of a street hawker’s stand. As the meal was drawing to a close I offered our apologies for keeping her away from the rest. She smiled wanly. Why, I asked, throwing civility to the winds, do you work, when you seem to have so little need? Her eyes remained gentle as she replied. I work, she said, because that means one less American in my country.

The end.

Why Cousin Ivan Died.

Do you answer your grandchildren, when they ask why did we go to war? Well, it was like this. John Howard, our Prime Minister, was in the U.S.A. Yes, that is the United States of America, on September eleven, oh you have heard all about September eleven, good good, well shortly afterwards John Howard had a meeting with Colin Powell, yes I am sure you know who he is too, and Colin Powell was leaning towards John Howard and you know how big Colin Powell is, and he is the, oh you know that too, well you know how powerful the United States are and when Colin Powell said you’re either with us or against us, what could John Howard do?

Yes, yes I realise he could have said how sorry he was and how he felt for all the people who were killed and their families and he did that too, but first of all he said, yes yes that is exactly right, our Prime Minister cowered before the schoolyard bully and said, we’re with you we’re with you, and that is why we went to war, yes, yes I realise little Johnny could have said he didn’t mean it quite like that, yes the other Prime Minister did say all the way with L.B.J. who was also an American President, yes the Americans do have a base at Pine Gap that is off limits to Australians, yes I know it isn’t far from Alice Springs, no no I don’t know how many Americans are at Exmouth, no I don’t know why Cousin Ivan had to die, he was in the army and that is what people in the army do, go to war. Yes the army trained him. No we didn’t have the money for that. Yes he was a helicopter pilot, he always wanted to fly.

Yes I suppose that is why Cousin Ivan died. I never thought of it quite like that.

The end.

Mystery Guest.

My husband died a long time ago. His big old chair on the verandah remains unused and unloved except for the odd stray cat taking refuge on a cold winter’s night. This morning, there was a child curled up between the arms, cold and frightened and feigning sleep. A girl child, slender and unkempt, tangled hair and dirty feet, shivering in the chill morning air.

I spoke to her and her eyes screwed tight, so I walked inside to find a blanket and a pillow and perhaps a toy. There was a teddy in a box in the kitchen, beneath a doerner and some old theatrical clothes. It was more than a moment’s work to find it. On the big chair in the main bedroom was a blanket, soft and brown with the edges frayed and a head of a horse in the pattern of the weave. In a cupboard at the rear of the house was a pillow, thirty years old, filled with tetra bark and covered with lemon lawn with a red rose bud embroidered in the corner.

I took all three to the verandah, and lay them blanket first, then pillow, then teddy on one broad arm of the chair. The child remained curled in position and I spoke to her and asked if she would like the bear to hold and the blanket to keep her warm and the pillow for her head. She didn’t speak, so I left her and went to the kitchen and prepared toast and tea for myself and a slice of toast for my guest. I found my sons’ old plate with the nursery rhyme of Tom Tom the Pipers’ Son running with a pig under his arm, and made milo in a cup with three men in a tub and carried them on a tray and set them on the table on the verandah.

The child was clutching the blanket to her and the pillow and the bear, but she didn’t speak or move toward the food, though her eyes seemed mesmerised by the steam rising from the cup. I sat in my accustomed place at the desk by the window and ate my meal. When I had finished I took my crockery into the kitchen, leaving the cold toast and the cooling milo where they were.

My hand reached reluctantly for the telephone, and dialed triple 0 and so I began the journey through the official maze of automatic voices and referrals and repetitions. Someone, somewhere, loved her dearly I hoped, though it was very heard to understand how anyone could mislay a child, even one so silent, so guarded. When I returned to the verandah she was sleeping. There were crumbs on the plate and dregs in the cup. Minutes later, a Police car drove slowly up the street.

The end.

Christopher Mulrooney

Overload #31


discourse I


the armory stands office tall
glooming in all the orifices
of every face gaping

this is every nervous breakdown
in all the finest hours gown to
town calling and back
have sires we’ll call to
wire them back and have
to call them back to the
point of order the
point of order

the orange fizzyjuice dispenser all the
way down into the faucet into the
spigot is scrutinized
cleanly it is
jurisprudentially cleanly
it is or would not be otherwise
if by a diffidently by a logic
would-all becomes a new-all
becomes a new try-all

for a new tryworks it represents
as a sort of dictum or a mystical new
re-appraisal of a new
consequence sincerely meant
and not to be abrogated
and surely not to be
obbligato’d and too few notes
sparkle on the too few new
pages that you write

discourse II

poisson d’avril

I fashion all the license plates!
screams the sudsy headline
sommerwind in all the
durchführung and
radio work compromising

you remark all the
time thusly incriminations
and barking dogs
new science incommunicadoes me
all the new day too new long

if all the new long pishers
all day
the tears
if all the
if it

discourse III


such pompous freres
to have to contend with
and the lurking malarkey
cheesing for a grand worth
of tidbits to nibble on
the grand concourses of
the whole circuit where you made all of your money
going around and around
best seats inside
outside it’s death
sometimes the spinning wheel
flies through the air
reaming the buckets
ducats and all

the heap of few someones margin calls
the great investment
in the great futures
made up of no-one
parsimoniously a tiring
rant at the mobile
curtseys and targets
of a fine picture show
let them go
let us rather wangle let us renew
our old acquaintance
old happenstance

discourse IV

Mr. Whiskers

yo I’ll heave myself clear of this bric-à-brac clearly go

at his very far limits the screech-owl howls
over the perched fowls’ hanger and dagger and sheath

far-seen persimmons

is to be seen the same since red fruit ripened in the sun streaming

is it the same since the fowls’ lair became a hopeless pinch

at a puncheon round the cushions go for a dipper boll and doll at the
Maine seaboard of clamorous contentions

how is at full ream over the cart on steersman and deploys the
anti-skid brake chute

thane chant can uninstall me all your uninstalling history
mind to the right blanks to the left history

musics made in twister helo canary land’s-end to this Andover

Heliogabulus made this point fabulously
we have the surviving records
which is to say the journalism

to turn into any account
the fabulous wretch establishes a dictum of counter-intelligence
this is to say the what do I know or how do I that

discourse V


the disturbed sleep wrinkles
the deeps’ peace how unimaginable
goes the funamble in two

history or deceits
up to the mark of the twine on the rope
a dope beguiles the time with
on the town hall
belfry making play with the wind
chasing the clouds for thunderclaps with greedy rain sacks

all over the bouillabaisse
wangling the grand demise
of the shinned skinflint
in the marmorean angst
of the whole movie scene
en masse in the grand style
disobligingness refers to as
might lonely to drive home his point

farce night at the Old Bailey shifts his comeuppance to the foremost
throes of a belted earl
at the dawn of history molded cakes
feeble circumstances rotund oratory

malicious gospels out the back door
fly to the roots of malentendu and malodor

Gregory Paul Mineeff

Overload #31

Just Two Images


Walking over, across grass, the dirt, mud, our feet bang bang on the planks of the jetty; our hollow reverberation a tuned wood block. Two of us coming, casually to greet another: younger, bored with our contemplation and talk. Look, look can you see them? he says, pointing. I can’t at first but then I look more and wait and then I see a flash and a flash and a twist and then a fish. I see the black fish amongst the reeds only a hand from the surface. Their bodies sit still beside reeds, their mouths locking onto what they want and then their bodies twist and: dislodge. They sit still again and eat or chew slowly and then go again: Lock, twist, dislodge. The weeds or reeds waver in the breeze of the water and the blackfish gleam like stars. Some are smaller, some are bigger; faster, flashier. Twinkle, twinkle: the sky below us lights up, the trees hang towards us, our reflection adds coloured gloss to the surface. But we ignore ourselves. Wavering in the breeze we falter.

The colours are dull brown: kelp, for reeds; clear reflections, refractions for water; stringy wood for jetty, dark; grey, gloomy grey for sky; and grass green: your grass green for the grass. The colours combine moodily to heighten each of us, the grass, the trees, the breeze, and the day. Overcast. But not cold.

Above The Earth, Amongst the Stars

‘If you do not make yourself equal to God you can not understand Him. Like is understood by like. Grow to immeasurable size. Be free from every body, transcend all time. Become eternity and thus you will understand God. Suppose nothing to be impossible for yourself. Consider yourself immortal and able to understand everything: all arts, sciences and the nature of every living creature. Become higher than all heights and lower than all depths. Sense as one within yourself the entire creation: fire, water, the dry and the moist. Conceive yourself to be in all places at the same time: in earth, in the sea, in heaven; that you are not yet born, that you are within the womb, that you are young, old, dead; that you are beyond death. Conceive all things at once: times, places, actions, qualities and quantities; then you can understand god.’

The Corpus Hermeticum, Book 11. 20

Once, at night, I was standing outside gazing at the stars. The night was cool, but a breezy warmth caressed my body. There, as I stood on the night-tinged grass, I became aware of the immensity of the world around and above me. The stars, the space they exist in, is what I gulped. This is what I knew. Without warning, I felt my mind surge forth, up, into the everything, the eternity of the water-like nighttime sky! For a moment, I felt myself, or had the perception of myself zooming away from the earth. I felt the land beneath my feet drop away, I felt the night become colder or more immense or dense, like water does the deeper you go. Above the earth, my, and our home, I felt frightened that I was so high. I was scared that I would fall. I was terrified of the insignificance of not only me, but the earth I had just left. I was horrified. I felt my body cringe and falter as with real fear; as one does when they peer over the side of a huge cliff. What can this feeling be referred to as? It is not really fear. Perhaps, it is a giddiness. It is a craving to zoom over the edge and feel what it is like to be engulfed by the height and the flight that escapes all humans with only their fundamental body. I have felt this. But I did not zoom over the edge of anything. Perhaps understanding, but that is all. I think it was a clarity, a focus of the imagination, a depth, that caused me to feel what I felt. It was an experience I felt, if only because my mind envisioned it so deftly, expertly. I wish I could have this experience again. I have tried. But it does not happen. The pure essence and innocence of the process has been stolen from me. I know it is possible. Perhaps I could do it again if I could somehow remove myself from the memory of it. Or, perhaps, I just need to believe it can happen again…

Malte Meyer

Overload #31

Die große Wut in kleinen Schuhen

Von einem Versuch

Der Junge schwamm, war sein ganzes Leben lang geschwommen, tauchte viel und ging nun endgültig an Land; er war des Schwimmens überdrüssig, setzte sich auf einen Stein und fühlte sich ganz wohl. Als er Hunger bekam, baute er eine Angel und wartete geduldig, bis ein Fisch anbiss, dann noch einer und noch einer. Er schlug sie tot und aß sich satt. Jetzt, da er soviel Zeit an Land verbrachte, wollte er die anderen Jungen treffen. Also machte er sich auf den Weg durch den Wald und sah schon bald einige Kinder auf einer großen Wiese spielen. Der Junge wurde schnell aufgenommen, hatte er doch die Regeln sogleich verstanden, und spielte mit den anderen. Nach einer Weile mochte er die Regeln nicht mehr und spielte so, wie ihm beliebte. Die Kinder wurden zornig und mahnten die Befolgung der Regeln an. So spielte der Junge wieder wie die anderen Kinder, doch blieb ihm die Freude, die sie hatten, versagt. Schließlich wurde er müde und beschloss zu gehen. Die Kinder wurden wütend und warfen ihm Steine hinterher. Verwundert lief der Junge durch den Wald, zurück ans Wasser. Nun saß er unterm Mond und dachte, dass das Spielen doch so schlecht nicht gewesen war. Traurig, dass die anderen ihn so grob verjagt hatten, ging der Junge ins schweigend dunkle Wasser, schwamm, tauchte viel und endlich nie wieder auf.


Den Hasen zu fangen war mäßig schwer gewesen, doch hatte der Junge große Mühe, ihn totzuschlagen. Der Hase wollte nicht sterben, schien den großen Stein kaum zu spüren, den der Junge immer wieder auf seinen Kopf niedersausen ließ, erst mit der stumpfen Seite, dann mit der Spitze, sodass nach der wahnsinnigen Tat kein Kopf mehr war. Nur Blut und Fell, blutiges Fell, wenig Weißes in den Trümmern, die der Junge jetzt ungläubig anstarrte. Er packte den Hasen an den Pfoten und machte sich auf den Weg zum Marktplatz, wo die schönste Frau, die er je gesehen hatte, schon auf ihn wartete. In der Stadt sagte man, wer ihr ein Geschenk bringe, dürfe ihre Brüste berühren, und so überreichte der Junge feierlich den Hasen. Die Frau lächelte liebenswert, nahm den Hasen, legte ihn in einen Korb und knöpfte ihre Bluse auf. Spitz ragten ihre kleinen Brüste empor, die Warzen schienen hart und fest, streckten sich der Sonne entgegen. Gelähmt stand der Junge da, konnte nichts mehr wollen und sah nur, was man sehen musste, weswegen er gekommen war. Schnell war die Bluse wieder geschlossen: der Preis war gestiegen; um den letzten Schritt zu tun, sollte der Junge ein Rätsel lösen. Er zog aus und dachte nach, voll Freude und glücklich wanderte er durch das Land, um den Schlüssel zu finden. Als ihm die Lösung nicht einfallen wollte, dachte er daran, vielleicht jemanden zu fragen. Aber der Junge schämte sich zu sehr und war noch lange auf Reisen, bis er schließlich einen Geistlichen nach des Rätsels Lösung fragte. Der Vater war empört, klagte, die Arme ausgebreitet und den Blick in den leeren Himmel gerichtet, klagte so sehr, dass der Junge lieber gehen wollte. Da zog der kleine Mann ein silbernes Messer und rammte es dem Jungen kräftig in den Rücken. Viel lauter als dessen Schmerzensschrei war die donnernde Predigt des Vaters. Wie im Traum schleppte sich der Junge zum Marktplatz, ein wenig gekrümmt, wusste nicht, ob schlief oder wach war. Die Frau empfing ihn ein zweites Mal herzlich, nickte ihm bestätigend zu und öffnete sogleich ihre Bluse, ohne die Wunde des Jungen zu bemerken. Vorsichtig und mit allem Gefühl der Welt, mit letzter Kraft, berührte er die braunen Knospen und streichelte sie sanft. Schnell hatte er genug, fühlte sich ganz komisch. Zufrieden brach er vor der Frau zusammen. Jetzt war die Rückenwunde sichtbar; sie blutete kaum, war gar nicht groß. Der Junge aber war tot.

Jürgen Marschal

Overload #31

Dorfdetektiv Bordo Stokkkholm

Die Sommersonne schrie laut vom Himmel auf die schwitzenden Dächer des Bergdorfes hernieder. Alles roch nach normaler Normalität und nichts war wie es noch nie war, denn alles war wie immer. Bis gleich jedenfalls.
Eigentlich gab es ja auch gar keinen mächtigen Berg, welcher die Straßen und Grundstücke im Ort über sich aufwölben hätte können, um jedoch das eher häufige Geficke innerhalb der Familien zu rechtfertigen, ob der zivilisatorischen Aussätzigkeit und der dorfeigenen Trunksucht, wurde die kleine Siedlung eben einfach Bergdorf genannt.
Doch jäh wurde die Inzestidylle beschnitten: Der 27-jährige Sohn der lokalen Fußballplatzhure war verschwunden. Spurlos noch dazu.
Tränen streichelten schmerzhaft die Eiterkrusten ihres geschlechtsbekrankten Körpers, und ihre kebabförmigen Oberschenkel versuchten verzweifelt aber chancenlos aus der engen Hose zu fliehen, als sie im Takt mit ihrem Pulsschlag den Verlust des Sohnes beschluchzte. Sie war traurig, halbalt und nun auch noch ohne Sohn. Vor allem aber war sie die Nachbarin von Dorfdetektiv Bordo Stokkkholm. Und der war sogleich zur Stelle…

„Das ist ein äußerst offensichtlicher Moment“, murmelte der junge Bordo in seinen Mehrtagesbart und sein investigatives Herz blühte vor Freude über seinen ersten Fall ever auf.
„Schnell zum Fleischer! Der hat die meisten Messer. Und sein Beruf sei der Mord, sagt man.“ Stokkkholm glasierte seinen Leib in einen Second-Hand Detektiv-Anzug und hievte seinen großen schwarzen Zylinder auf sein Haupt. Seine einzige Waffe war sein Verstand, aber die war ständig geladen.

„Ich bekomme einmal 2 Semmeln mit ohne dieser Wurst hier und dann noch 2 Kilo nicht diesen Schinken da. Bin nämlich Vegetarier. Kann Tiere nicht ausstehen.“ – Der alte Fleischer packte das Gewünschte ein. „Sonst noch was?“ – „Ja. Haben sie den jungen Hurensohn ermordet, respektive entführt?“, Bordo Stokkkholms Unterkiefer trat vor das obere und er bließ sich seine fettigen Haare vom und dem kopfschüttelnden Fleischer seine Alkoholfahne ins Gesicht. – „Nein“ – „Gut. Das war’s auch schon wieder.“ Der Fall schien schwieriger zu sein als angenommen. Die Nacht fraß bereits den Tag auf, und Bordo beschloss, dass er für heute genug detektivte und widmete sich der Schnapsflasche in seinem Lederrucksack.

Am nächsten Morgen zierte ein tadelloser roter Ausschlag den dürren Anti-Adoniskörper des restalkoholisierten Detektivs. Seine Neoleichenallergie – ein wahrhaftiger Segen für jemanden in seiner teilmorbiden Branche – machte wieder einmal auf sich aufmerksam.
„Irgendwo in diesem Dorf reiht sich gerade ein erst vor kurzem abgelebter Körper vorbildlich in die faire Nahrungskette ein.“, und also funktionalisierte Stokkkholm seinen Körper in eine Art auf Leichnam geeichten Geigerzähler um, und streifte langsam durch die engen Gassen des Dorfes. Er starrte auf die Veränderungen seiner Haut und kam je nach Allergieintensität dem Wohnort der Leiche näher und näher.

„Sie verbergen tote Menschen. Meine Haut sagt’s mir.“ – Bordo Stokkkholm schob den zwischen dem Türstock stehenden Beschuldigten zur Seite, und drang in dessen Wohnung ein, während Bordos Ausschlag rhythmisch pulsierte und seine Haut glühte.

„Wer ist da, Poldi? Wer ist das?“, krächzte es aus einem Rollstuhl in der Zimmerecke. Dorfdetektiv Stokkkholm schritt – Eleganz vortäuschend – mit höflich gekrümmter Wirbelsäule zwecks Begrüßungsformalitäten gentlemännisch zur Großmutter des vermeintlichen Leichenversteckers.
„Tag! Für jemanden, der bereits in der Zielgerade seines Lebens ist, sehen sie ja eh noch ganz –“ plötzlich unterbrachen ärger arge Schmerzen seinen Redefluss, denn Bordos Haut schälte sich bereits fleißig von einem seiner Arme ab, die er der Alten zum Gruße entgegenstreckte.
„Aufklärung! Aufklärung! Ich verlange extremste Aufklärung!“, brüllte Stokkkholm, während er vom Rollstuhl einige Meter weit weg hechtete. „Sie! Sohnsohn dieser ihrer Oma hier! Was geht da vor?“ – Der Verdächtige zog der rollstuhligen Frau die Decke von ihrem Körper, und plötzlich wurde auch dem Dorfdetektiv so einiges klar.

Seine Allergie wies ihm nicht den Weg zum toten Vermissten, sondern zur alten Frau im Rollstuhl, welche bereits halbtot war. Aus ihren Waden krochen herrliche Würmer und bis zur Hüfte aufwärts war sie bereits sehr gut abgestorben. Diesen Zustand so ausharren zu lassen, wäre natürlich fahrlässig gewesen. „Bis diese Frau eine vollständige Leiche ist, kann es noch Monate dauern. Ich hingegen reagiere allergisch auf frischen Leichnam, habe nur gering Zeit und darf nicht von Halbleichen irritiert werden.“ – „Wollt grad sagen.“, pflichtete der junge Mann dem Detektiv bei, da hatte Stokkkholm auch schon aus sicherer Entfernung die alte Frau erschlagen.
Schon in wenigen Tagen, wenn die Leiche das Anfangsstadium der Verwesung hinter sich gelassen hat, würde sein Ausschlag nachlassen und er wird die Suche nach dem Verschwundenen Sohn fortsetzen können. Der Enkel, der nicht ganz unfroh über die Tat war, meinte, dass es so ohnehin besser für Oma sei und bedankte sich anständig.
Auf dem Weg nach Hause stellte Bordo fest, dass er bereits seit 4 Stunden nüchtern war. Aber er wusste von Anfang an, dass dieser Fall ihm einiges abverlangen würde.

Bordo kam schließlich die auch nicht gerade schlechte Idee, dass er vielleicht doch einmal die Wohn- und Arbeitsräume der Fußballplatzhure nach Hinweisen absuchen könnte. Gesagt, getan:
„Los, lesen Sie mal vor“ – Stokkkholm hielt der Sohnsuchenden ein von ihr selbst beschriebenes Briefpapier hin. „Ach, sie wissen doch, ich kann ja nicht lesen, bloß schreiben.“ – Der Detektiv seufzte, quälte sich schließlich jedoch selbst durch die schmierigen Zeilen und begann zu lachen.
„Aber das ist ja ein Abschiedsbrief, den Sie selbst ihrem Sohn geschrieben haben.“, erzählte er der Hure, deren Gesicht vor Freude plötzlicht leuchtete: „Ach ja. Der ist ja zur Armee gegangen. Ich hatte glatt vergessen, dass wir gerade im Krieg sind. Na, bei den vielen Kriegen heutzutage kann man das schon mal vergessen“. – „Meine Red’. Wir machen uns hier Sorgen, dass Ihrem Sohn was zugestoßen ist, während er sich einstweilen im Krieg amüsiert und seinen Spaß hat“ – Bordo Stokkkholm verabschiedete sich, schnappte sich als Lohn für seine Arbeit ein paar Flaschen aus der Bar, und beschloss, zu Hause zu warten, bis endlich einmal ordentliche Kriminalität im Dorf einzieht und er richtige Arbeit bekommt.

Jonathan Lyons

Overload #31


Graveyard, regular people working regular jobs and regular hours call it: the time my part of the population operates. It’s something much more disconnecting than punch-in and punch-out times that separates graveyarders from regular-hours folk. Something hard to touch.

I think maybe I understood the first time I took a pull from a beer on the front porch of my apartment, chirping birdsong already piercing the air of a 5:30 a.m. sunrise, the go-getters and Type A’s of the new day shuffling blearily by. I think maybe I understood when I tipped the bottle their direction in greeting, watching them head downtown to begin a work day I’d just finished. The ones who noticed my salutation looked away quickly, even nervously, as though I’d surprised them, personifying a vision that didn’t mix well with the start of the work day – I’d disturbed their Protestant-capitalist work ethic. Everything – changed. The next time I bothered with an exhausted after-work brew on the porch that first night summer, it was a 40-ouncer in a plain, brown bag. For effect, you understand. For distance.

Graveyarders dig in at the opposite end of existence, dark Yang to the regular world’s sunlit Yin. We’re the ones with the worn, end of the day funk about us when everyone else is freshly showered, shaved and scented, hair perfect, people perfumed. We’re the ones who notice when the “CBS This Morning” news show gets off to a bumpy start at 5:30 a.m.

We know when the paper kid’s running late.

Our days end with the heavily pancaked Ken and Barbie of the earliest newscasts beaming out at us, freakish David Lynch-lensed pop-news exaggerations. Our days end clammy, steeping in the weird, wet, weighted cold the air takes on before the sun’s return.

That sense of detachment goes with the territory. To interact with the daylight world, we have to meet it on its own terms: We have to get up in the middle of our sleep cycle – after two or three hours’ rest, say, to go to a bank during business hours – and then make our way back to our shaded chambers for another hour or two of rest. It’s always OK by community standards to do any jack-hammering street work after about 8:00 a.m. – down time for many of us.

It’s kind of surreal. To most folks, sunrise symbolizes energy, vigor – the beginning of a new day. To the graveyarder, it’s the wallpapering of the quieter part of our day – the time to wind down, take a load off. The gorgeous morning chorus of awakening birds becomes a soundscape readily incorporated into the weary, gravelly hallucinations that evolve into dreams.

When the workday ends early, the denizens of the night cycle sometimes beat the sun home. Where people of the waking world see sunrise as a dazzling, beautiful time of day, that same brilliance hurls the most excruciating javelins of pain back through the eyes of graveyarders, whose pupils have been dilated wide nearly since awakening late the previous afternoon. Blasting-shield shades are donned in the morning after work by many of us when cloud cover isn’t dense enough for protection.

Daylight-oriented people call our time third shift. But we know that we’re the ones whose schedules happen in the first hours of the day; that ours is the first shift – the shift that happens first, that is. Most daylight dwellers don’t like thinking that way. It seems to make them sort of … uncomfortable … considering our dusky lives.

And while we’re at work, or banking by ATM at 3:30a.m., we know that the rest of the world is down; out cold; helpless, really.

It’s like you’re sneaking up on it.

That weird, out-of-the-loop feel becomes the state graveyarders identify with. They come to see themselves as the most insidious Trojan Horse troop of outsiders: the ones who are always there, only glimpsed as they retreat into the shadows, seeking shelter from an oppressive morning sun. They’re nocturnal – night creatures enmired in only a few of the entanglements of the waking world.

It’s a tough cycle to break, once you’re into it. A few months to settle into the routine and some never so much as look back. They decide to spend their lives as living metaphors, living analogs of characters from gothic literary traditions, cloistered away in their twilit daily grind, watching from the edges of the waking world’s itinerary, coming out occasionally to tip a 40 in greeting and gaze hazily through a pair of heavy-tint shades at a shocked sunrise passerby.

This essay first appeared in Altar Magazine issue #3 in Spring 2004.