Tag Archives: Short Fiction

Literature Short Stories

Joan Didion’s Recipe Book by Ashleigh Watson

ashleigh-watsonJoan smiles at the camera. Her hands hugging a full bowl, short hair low in two pigtails with blue ribbons falling waist length long, white peasant blouse, blue jeans. The kitchen with clear jars and olive lids full of salt and brown sugar and Japanese green beans, mismatched oven gloves, a range of orange Tupperware and a red cast iron pot on the bench.

        The candid colour photo is page two of Joan’s recipe book. Joan’s favourite recipes and menus. It pinged into my inbox earlier in the afternoon while I sat drinking black coffee at the kitchen bench. The slick PDF was a kickback for donating to a documentary. I slid through the pages on my phone screen, finishing my coffee, ignoring two text messages, waving away a fly.

        Fall is the first season of food. Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer, then a final section for Sweets. A roast garlic recipe photocopied from a 1992 Williams-Sonoma Grande Cuisine magazine is first. Page five is a journal note: dinner January 30 2003, J & J, Q & Jerry Micheal. John and Joan and their daughter, Quintana and son-in-law, Jerry, ate smoked salmon with capers, lemon and chives. Chiles and scallions and olives. They finished with clementines and chocolates. Page six is a Borscht recipe, handwritten on a LIFE magazine notepad. Page seven is dinner: October 17 2003. Roast chicken with rosemary, goat cheese and brie. Chocolates and almonds. J & J with Sharon Delano. And so the book goes.

      My J, James, came home at four from having his hair cut and I asked him what he felt like for dinner. We already had fish in the fridge but I scrolled past the artichokes and stopped at a winter recipe, Lamb Navarin. A full, meaty French ragout method only four sentences long, typed on a typewriter. I drank in the page and the smell of it, the taste, the heady warmth came alive like the blue does in her books. It was hot and late in the afternoon but the shops were open for another hour so I picked my wallet and keys up from the bench, pulled some shoes on and headed out for the ingredients. The fish would keep till tomorrow.

Navarin (for six outside)
Brown three pounds leg of lamb cut for stew, deglaze pan with brandy, roll lamb in flour, place in casserole.
Simmer an hour with white wine & beef broth to cover, three tomatoes pureed or tomato paste, garlic & parsley chopped, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf.

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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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