Category Archives: Literary Fiction

Dangerous Writing Literary Fiction Literature

Rot by Laura Ellen Scott

Laura_in_Black_01__thumbnailBy way of introduction, I should tell you that when I was seven, my father took me and my little brother, Phil, on a car ride at three in the morning. We drove for hours and hours, stopping only for pop and potty. The next day, policemen took my Dad away when we pulled in for gas, and Phil and I went to live with strangers, separately, forever. Years later, I learned that Mom’s body had been in the trunk the whole time. My only memory of that night was the thrill of being out so late. They kept asking, but I didn’t remember a fight. Philly remembered nothing at all.

I am the most death-filled person I know, which makes me an ideal political operative. I can say no without looking back; saying yes makes me cramp up. My first wife said I had a rictus smile.

As Senior Aide to the City Manager of New Persia, Pennsylvania, I pledge to attend any and all funeral events. Also, I will give speeches to unpopular constituencies, such as the Sons of Confederate Bastards or the Association of Small Hardware Purchase Agents. I have three excellent suits, and I have no fear of small aircraft travel.

I loved my Dad. He was executed in 1967. He was guilty.

Currently I am married to my second wife, and we have two indistinguishable adolescent sons. They are possessed of jackal lust and hunger, and we plan to send them away for secondary school. They are eager to go.

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Literary Fiction Literature

My Life by Hasti Abbasi

They say they won’t admit you here, Dad whispers.Hasti Abbasi
“Ahmad, for God’s sake! I’m dying,” Mum shouts.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO?”
“Just do something! ― God.”
God is one of those words I’ve heard a lot since, I remember.
“Sakineh, stop walking,” Dad says.
“Don’t even mention my name you bastard ― A-Good-For-Nothing husband ― Nurse, please do something, my child will die if you don’t hospitalize me ― if you know God!” Mum begs.
“I’m so sorry but there’s nothing that can be done ― there’s no Gynaecologist in the hospital right now as Dr. Amini left two hours ago, and Dr. Karami won’t arrive until tomorrow morning. She’s in Turkey right now.”
“There should be something you can do. What do you mean there’s no Gynecologist in the hospital right now?” Dad has anger and depression in his voice.
“The private hospital is less than three kilometres away,” a quiet voice says.
“What don’t you understand? I DO NOT HAVE MONEY.”
Money is the second word I remember having heard, a lot.
There must be some relation between God and Money.
It’s getting hot in here.

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ANNUAL ANTHOLOGY NOW AVAILABLE

BAREKNUCKLE POET ANNUAL ANTHOLOGY VOLUME 001 2015

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BKP ANNUAL 001 2015
Edited by Brentley Frazer & A. G. Pettet
Publisher: BAREKNUCKLE BOOKS
IMPRINT: Bareknuckle Poets
ISSN: 2205 – 7218
PUBLISHED: 03/10/2015
Copyright: Bareknuckle Books & Contributors
Language: English
Extent: 345 pages
Binding: Perfect-bound Paperback
Interior Ink: Black & white
Dimensions: (inches) 6x 9
$25.00 + $8.00 P&H (global) AUD

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The first annual Bareknuckle Poet print anthology. This issue contains a selection of writers published here at Bareknuckle Poet during the past twelve months. It is NOT a ‘best of’ . . . it is a selection, and it was tough making that selection. If we included every author that we publish in the online journal every year (as much as we would love to), the print anthology would weight about forty kilos. Included in this first issue is a section dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the first reading of Howl by Allen Ginsberg. A. G. Pettet & Bareknuckle Books have organised a global celebration (check the details here) and we are publishing a selection of the poets who are reading at this event, alongside the full text of HOWL (under license) and a poem given to us by Gary Snyder himself. For those unfamiliar with the history of Howl and the Six Gallery read

AUTHORS: L. Ward Abel, Robert Adamson, Venero Armanno, Melissa Ashley, Lisa Marie Basile, Mandy Beaumont, Sally Breen, MTC Cronin, B. R. Dionysius, Maria C. Dominguez, Martin Edmond, Michael Farrell, Toby Fitch, Brentley Frazer, Claire Gaskin, Allen Ginsberg, Matt Hetherington, Eleanore Jackson, Anthony Lawrence, Alexandra McCallum, Tim McGabhann, Laura Jean Mckay, Corey Mesler, Reg Mombassa, A. G. Pettet, Mark Pirie, Rufo Quintavalle, Kris Saknussemm, Gary Snyder, David Stavanger, Todd Swift, John Tranter, Joanna C. Valente, Samuel Wagan Watson, Fakie Wilde, Mark Young, Ali Znadi + More

 

Literary Fiction

Lights Out by Sally Breen

If I told you to turn out the light would you do it?’Sally-Breen

‘Probably not.’ Cheryl yanks a stray thread from the hem of her boho skirt, starts twisting it round her little finger tight. So tight the bottom of her finger stays white, the tip growing purple. She pushes the purple bit back and forth like she wants it to drop off. I look away. Cheryl’s not at a lights off stage in the game. I’ve been here for longer.

We sip our tea and look out to the night through the slats hinged onto the veranda.

‘It’s a weird kind of building this.’ Cheryl says. ‘Comforting.’

I know what she means. The first level is three times the height of your average man. Not one and bit like some. There’s no easy swing up like you get in a ground floor unit. Or the bare faced walk up you get in a low set house. It’s not two times the height of a man like you might get in a townhouse or a block of flats with outside stairs. Here there’s no access point from the outside to the inside. You can’t climb up onto the ledges because of the way they’re shaped. You’d have to have legs and arms like Inspector Gadget. The slats help too because they can be moved with controls from far away – you don’t have to be standing near the windows to do it, you can have them wide open or you can have them close. Most of the new guests keep them together real tight so not even a cat or even a gecko could squeeze through. No man’s ever breached the perimeter let alone the building but when you get to pushing your steel venetians back stage that’s when you know you’re winning. All these things matter.

‘So when do I get my D Dog? I’ve heard all about them D Dogs.’

‘Depends what your case is. How long you’ve gotta wait. What happens after.’

‘Yeah.’ Cheryl pulls her legs under her skirt. ‘I heard they ate one guys face off.’

‘You hear lots of things. PR mostly.’

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Literary Fiction Novel Extract

Men without women, or, how at my local pub I’d sit and watch an ageing whore by Mandy Beaumont

She got that tattoo for that bloke she used to mess around with.

mandy-beaumont-3Can’t remember his name. Never wore closed in shoes. Always smelt of Chinese food. Smoked the blues. He hung around the edges of corners and seemed like he was always placed and waiting for me to walk past him. I always thought he was strange. Looked like he would fuck ‘em rough and then leave the toilet door open to piss. Think his name was Phil. Not sure. I remember one afternoon him rolling a smoke out the front of the corner bar in Annerley. Had a leather pouch with the name James on it. But I reckon they called him Jim. He had this crease on his left eyebrow where the hair wouldn’t grow. Looked like a brawl scar. I’m guessing it was. Never knew the real story. Made it up to entertain myself. She hung around for a while with him. Used to sit on his lap and grind her arse into him while he looked straight at the sports television. She’d always eye me off, point her finger and tell me to talk to her. Always some vile shit coming out of her mouth. Told me she liked to fuck like a man. Liked to see the bottom of a ball sack. Liked to drive to the East Coast at any chance she got. He would sit

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Literary Fiction

A beginner’s guide to book burning by Alexandra McCallum

alexandra_mccallum1

You don’t know why you built a fire. It wasn’t cold. And the strip of grass between the wooden house and the wooden fence was so narrow that you’re surprised you didn’t set something alight. You were talking. About movies probably. And the computer games you hadn’t played for years. And the disgusting instant tea from the vending machines at uni. And aliens. It was about that time you’d used a screeching, moaning internet connection to download SETI at home. Somehow it was going to use your tiny hard-drive to scan packets of data and look for messages from aliens. You didn’t believe in them.

‘Hey,’ he said.

‘Yep.’

‘Do you think we should burn something?’ You feel his fingertips on your cheek.

‘Like what?’

‘A book maybe.’

A rock is sticking into your ribs. You roll over.

‘We could burn my undergraduate studies book. It’s so useless.”

You want to say ‘It’s so fucking useless.’ But you’re weird. And you haven’t learnt to swear yet. Light is leaking out of the house. Bright steady light from the big bulb on the ceiling and the flash-flash of colour from the crime show on TV. It reminds you that your parents exist.

The ink smells fresh and addictive. You flick the pages – all the way from accounting to zoology. Truth is you’d be happy to read a book on any of these things. Well – maybe not accounting. But this isn’t a book. It’s a database from the pre-internet age. The name of the subject, a sentence and a half to get you interested vital statistics like subject codes, number of credit points and semester intakes. By the time you close the screen door and head back onto the grass you’re almost spitting.

‘Forty five dollars I paid. Because they said it was compulsory. And I’ve opened it once. Just long enough to see that those little two dollar handbooks can do a better job.’

‘It makes a nice noise.’ He says – flicking forward to journalism.

‘So does this.’ You grab the book, take a random number of pages and rip.

2

You look up. It doesn’t rip neatly. Rs and Ms and Js are ripped in half and for a second you think you see them shuffling towards the edge of the page and leaping off to reattach themselves in midair. And then you stop. Because his eyes trace a curve in the air. And you know he’s not thinking about his girlfriend.

‘You still haven’t….’. He pauses for a syllable or two and you throw the pages into the fire. ‘have you?’

‘No.’ you look at the grass, at the strange ugly sexy curve of his toes.

‘Do you want to?’

‘Now?’

‘No … but…’And now he is thinking about her. The girl who’s name you only remember when he mentions it. ‘But if by your birthday you haven’t…’

You rip and rip and rip and throw pages into the fire. “OK – yes.”

And we lie down again. The fire dies a little and you can see the curled, charcoal strips of pages and parts of words that didn’t make the jump in time.

You didn’t think once about how burning books. Any book. Was a tradition of dictators the world over. You remember being surprised at the force of your own emotion. You hadn’t known you hated anything. And now that you did you sure what it was you hated.

‘Which book would you burn?’ you said.

‘Mark the Martian. My mum got it for me as a kid.’

‘So that’s where it started? All this searching for extraterrestrials?’

‘No. Not at all. I mean SETI is real. Could be real anyway. But this is just the worst.’

“Come on, you read fantasy all the time. I bet you loved it when you were three.”

‘No. Never. It was just so. Eeeeeeeej.’

You realise Dad is walking towards you. Dad doesn’t give lectures. Not really. But then you’ve never burnt a book before. You sit up. That’s when the first strange thing happened. Because Dad holds out his hand and says,

“I thought you might want something else.”

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Dangerous Writing Literary Fiction Memoir

Dollarbirds by Melissa Ashley

Dollarbirdsmelissa-ashley

24 March

Early Wednesday morning my sister drives me to the private hospital. My name’s called in the waiting room and I’m led through double doors, shown into a small office. A nurse dressed in green questions me about fasting, allergies, former operations. I’m weighed, ‘so they give you the right amount of anaesthetic,’ and handed blue-green scrubs for my hair and feet. I remove all clothing except my underpants and am tied into a gown. The nurse clips a nametag around my wrist, joking about not getting me muddled up with somebody else.

‘It happens, you know.’

I nod, recalling a news item about a hand transplant in which the patient’s left hand was joined onto his right arm and vice versa.

She leans forward, intimate. ‘I worked in Saudi Arabia. The female patients can’t be seen by the male surgeons. They wait on the stretchers like dead bodies, completely covered. Once, we performed neurosurgery on a cardiac patient.’

‘How terrible,’ I offer. How feeble I sound.

She squeezes my hand. ‘You’ve made the right choice with Dr Knight. He’s very good. The best. Like an artist.’

I’m moved to a curtained room with Ronnie to wait. Dr Knight breezes in. That’s his air. I’m told to take off my gown (my sister steps outside) to pose for several ‘before’ photographs, shot with a digital camera, which I’m shown immediately on the LCD. With a felt pen, Dr Knight draws crude lines, circles, and dots on my breasts and nipples. Nervous, I’m prone to gush nonsensically, but I recognise this part of the procedure as crucial. I keep still and steady my breathing. Picture what my artist-surgeon sees. Make myself stop.

I’m helped to ease the gown back on. The rest of the team arrives; pressure stockings are rolled onto my feet and legs, my bag put in a locker, my sister sent home with a kiss. The anaesthetist introduces himself and asks about allergies and surgical history. He’s tricked me, painlessly sliding a cannula into the back of my hand and organising the tubing, lining up a syringe.

I wake up near the nurses’ station. They’re talking loudly and taking food from the fridge, spooning coffee. There’s a commercial radio station on—the offending machine sits above the microwave—playing easy tunes interspersed with talkback. Shush, I want to say. Can’t you see I’m trying to sleep? A hair-netted nurse checks how I’m doing. I tell her there’s a magazine in my bag, would she mind getting it out for me to read? I’m terribly bored. ‘You have to rest,’ she says. I’ve no idea of the time. After an age she returns, says my sister’s on her way. I’m supported to hobble into another recovery area, TV blaring, and supplied with a plastic triangle of ham sandwiches, asked how I like my tea.

 

25 March

 

For Ronnie’s house-warming present, I had a print of First Fleet lieutenant George Raper’s ‘Dollarbird’ watercolour professionally framed. I bought it at the National Library of Australia’s gift shop, while in Canberra to attend a symposium about Angela Carter and fairy tales. She’s hung it above the light switch in the guest bedroom, on the piece of wall jutting from the built-in wardrobe. I’m surprised. I really thought she liked it. She certainly behaved as if she did when she unwrapped the paper. She’s my sister; I know her expressions. Maybe she re-evaluated her enthusiasm when she got it home and found it didn’t quite match her city apartment’s wheat and linen colour scheme. The turquoise of the bird’s breast feathers and the indigo of its wing tips, I’d thought the perfect accent, given her rhapsodies on interior design’s reclamation of teal. Maybe the orange–red beak put her off. I’m confused. Aren’t birds all the rage in Better Homes and Gardens, Old World watercolours with that stiff, flat quality? Is the frame too ostentatious? Whatever it is, I’ve got something wrong. In my drugged-out state, disappointment transforms into rejection: I’ve failed her.

I stand at the half-length mirror in the bathroom. I’m general-anaesthetic yellow, like they’ve overloaded my liver. Powered me down and booted me back up. So sedated that if I sign something legal in the next twenty-four hours, I can’t be bound to it. I undo my pyjama shirt and unclip the hook and eye fastenings on the surgical bra. It slips off. Underneath, I’m wound with a thick bandage, over the top of gauze and surgical strips. I’m definitely smaller. The Elastoplast bandage is like the ruched bodice of a sundress, a signature item of femininity I’ve never been able to pull off. Strapless, I square my shoulders. I can’t quite express how minus two kilograms of breast matter feels—the tissue is mostly fat and glands and has always just been there, dragging at me, a saddle of flesh. I put the bra and my top back on, wincing at the tenderness in my lower right breast. I check the time in the kitchen but it’s another hour until I can take more pain killers.

I walk dazedly to the guest room and climb in bed. I rest and sleep propped on a pile of body contour cushions. On the bedside table are fibre supplements, zinc for the scarring, anica drops—I’m fiercely against homeopathy but bought it on the plastic surgeon’s advice—Di-Gesic, Diazepam, Panadeine, cold Lady Gray tea, tissues, Anna Karenina, Vanity Fair.

Raper’s dollarbird perches on a stub of branch that’s been stuck into a round of bare grass. The bird’s orange-red beak is parted, its short, thick neck inclined towards a large mosquito, which it’s about to pluck from the air, a style of representation common to the era. Apart from the open mouth, there’s little movement in the body, most likely painted from a corpse or skin. The library dates composition at 1788, but with a tentative, bracketed question mark. I forgive the image its flatness. These are early days in the field of ornithology, before Audubon’s wild arrangements of stuffed birds made to strike life-like poses using wire, branches, fruits and moss. Before British taxidermist John Gould, who classified camphor-preserved hummingbirds for twenty years prior to crossing the Atlantic to observe a living one. Not that you could tell from the lithographs he produced. The eyes of Raper’s dollarbird are large, almost black, with a gold-brown ring. The feathers under its neck are royal blue, as are its wings, except for the splash of white in the centre, from where it derives its name; apparently the spot’s the same size as an American silver dollar. The bird’s body is turquoise, in shades that encompass the stone’s pale milky teal as well as the Aztec blue more commonly associated with the colour. Here Raper’s brushstrokes are made with a single bristle. It reminds me of a schoolchild’s felt-tip colouring, where, instead of rubbing the pen backwards and forwards, the child creates a series of closely crabbed lines. The flat, stout tail is lifelike, but the orange claws and feet are too small for a creature that only expends itself at roost or on the wing.

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Literary Fiction

Afterwardsness by Claire Gaskin

Afterwardsnessclaire-gaskin

We sit in Cuppa Cottage looking at a photograph from twenty eight years ago. We both had kept a copy. Cuppa Cottage is in Sandringham and has porcelain tea cups hanging from a wooden ladder over the cash register. We sit at a corner table under a large red paper umbrella. I have a plastic bag full of photos to go through together.

We lean in to each other over the photo. The horizon is yellowing with age; I wear a sarong over bikinis, my arms loosely around his neck. We both look out at the camera, our eyes in shadow.

‘I think it’s Byron Bay’, I say.

Women sit with their mothers or in groups of three friends. The waitress comes in a floral apron with rockabilly hair. Everyone else in Cuppa Cottage has a slight variation on the style you get in one of the six hairdressers in Sandringham.

‘You can order a trifle in a tea cup,’ I smile. We order two pots of English breakfast tea.

‘By the way’, Kevin says, ‘I am sorry about what happened’.

We are one third of the photo standing to the right of the frame, two thirds is sky and sea.
The moment is blue.

‘I was confused’, he says.

We are standing on a cliff. There is no sign of what is to come. What is a photo but the refusal of the future?

‘I could have dealt with it better’, he says.

There was no space between us. We wore thongs on our feet. I wore thongs, he wore thongs. In the coming months I would learn the power in a pronoun.

I was nineteen. It was 1984. I had worked at Myers as a lift driver to save enough money to go around Australia. Was there something about being between that I liked? I liked bridges and verandahs. Travelling up and down between floors. Travelling up the east coast of Australia. Many times in my life I have walked the streets at night looking at the warmth of lit windows with longing. But not wanting to be inside. Why is my favourite fairy tale The Little Match Girl? Is it the freedom exclusion brings? Is it because something considered of no substance can enter where there is no space? My university place was deferred. Every day numerous people said, ‘This job must have its ups and downs.’ I would try to smile. When it wasn’t busy it was solitary confinement. Sometimes the young men from refrigeration would ride with me.

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