Saturday, 23 June 2018

The Dreams

Chuck has us working on an X & Y kinda stories. We pick something from table X and one from table why and smoosh them together and - hey! - we get a cracker of a story! I chose Stephen King's The Stand and Indiana Jones (And the Lost Arc)... well... it was okay I guess. 


“No... no,, Stu, run!” her eyes snapped open to find him staring at her in the darkness of their bedroom. Tears brimmed and poured down her cheeks as she held him close, sobbing, “Oh, I dreamt you were ...”
“Franny, was it the same dream?” he turned on the bedside lamp on his side before looking back at her. She nodded and he lay against the pillows sighing, wondering what it all meant, “I haven’t had any dreams like that – not since Mother Abigail.”
Sniffing, she snuggled against him, wanting to be near him, “I don’t know what it means – I wish to god I did – but I don’t.”
Stu kissed the top of her head, knowing she was scared about what these dreams might mean. Could there be another Randall Flagg out there? Could there be another plague – much like the one they just survived – doing the rounds to kill off the rest of them? He just didn’t know; and he didn’t like seeing his wife in this much pain about not wanting to sleep, “We will find out what this is about, Fran, I’ll ask around and see if anyone else is having similar dreams.”
“I don’t like losing sleep, Stu, it’s starting to affect my health.” She said.
“Yours and mine alike.” He reached over and turned off the lamp, but didn’t let her go; instead pulling up the covers and holding her as close as he could to protect her as much as he could from what was going on inside her head.

Teddy sat on the front porch with Stu sinking a nice hot cup of coffee. It wasn’t quite as good as they used to be, but he was getting used to the taste.
“I’m sorry about the quality, but drying out the beans is something of an art form.” Stu smiled, “I’ll get it soon enough.”
“Nah, it’s okay, not everything is going to be perfect in the first few years. Remember Glen Bateman told us that.” He peered into the bottom of the cup for a moment before setting onto the table in between Stu and himself, “So you didn’t invite me here to discuss the quality of your beans, Stu. What’s going on?”
He ran a hand over his head of short curly hair, “I’m not sure. Franny’s been having nightmares about me; tellin’ me to run. It’s woken her up in the middle of the night for the past week.”
Teddy sighed, “Geez Louis man, I dunno what to say. I’m no doc.”
“I don’t want to talk to no doctor, they’ll just fill her fulla pills.” He leaned back in the porch chair, “I want to know if your wife has had any bad dreams like my Franny?”
The long-hair man adjusted his glasses, then pushed his hair back, “Nope, not that I can think of, or remember.”
“Shit. It looks like I’m taking her to the hospital then.” He shook his head, “I hate hospitals.”
She stood at the door, just out of sight knowing what was happening to her in her sleep was probably going to be something bad... it probably meant it they had to go away from Boulder for something important. Looking over at her lovely little baby girl, Abigail, Franny realised she’d probably had to leave her behind.

The doctor at the hospital sat in his chair with a worried expression on his face as they sat down across from him.
“Tell us what’s going on.” Stu said taking her hand.
“Franny, you’re fine. There’s nothing wrong with you. I don’t know why you’re going through these dreams; and if they’re like the ones we all experienced last year, I’d say you’re both in for an adventure.” He put his pen on the open file, “But you have to know something. You’re pregnant; and being pregnant can cause all kinds of weird things to happen... like nightmares.”
“I’m pregnant?” she smiled, “You could have opened with that, you know.”
“But this running dream, and you being in danger, Stu, it’s probably something I wouldn’t worry about too much.” The doctor smiled, “Besides, it may well be your hormones.”

Once inside the door, Stu watched his Franny opened up the rest of the house. He was going to be a Daddy... wow! Smiling, he saw her grab the kettle off the stove, fill it with water, return it to the stove and turn it on for a pot of tea.
“Do you think we should pick up Abbie from... what are you looking at?” she asked standing in the middle of the kitchen.
He walked over to her, took her hand, “You.”
“Stu! Franny! Are you both home?” Teddy’s voice called down the hall, “Where are you?”
Stu turned off the stove and walked out to where he saw Teddy was standing there with his rifle at the ready, “What’s going on, man?”
“Pack your shit, we have to bug out.”
“Aaw crap!”
“What’s bug out?” Franny asked.
Teddy looked at her, “Evacuate. Somebody has shown up from out west near Vegas, some stragglers who were the last to get hit by radiation... we gotta leave before they spread it to us.”
As they packed the last of their things into the back of the SUV, Franny tied their little sweetheart into her car seat, “Where are we going to go?”
“Rapid City.” Stu said.
“That’s a long way, and the petrol might not work in the cars anymore.” She said.
“That’s a risk worth taking. Get in and we’ll take turns driving.”

Rapid City looked pretty nice after the long hours on the road; but it was far from empty. Stu slowed the SUV to first gear and could feel they were being watched.
“We’re not alone, Fran.” He said, “They saw us coming from miles away and they think we’re nasty.” As the words passed his lips, a man stood out in front of their vehicle, levelling a twelve-gauge at the windscreen and Stu stopped without panic.
“Out!” the man shouted, “We’re not happy for new people to show up out of the blue sky here.”
Unbuckling his seat belt, Stu got out of the vehicle and Franny moved over to his seat. He looked over at her as he smiled and put his hands up, “I’m friendly, we all are, friend.” He said, “We were evacuated from Boulder.”
He lowered his firearm slowly, “Are you Stu Redman?”
“Are you going to fill me fulla holes if I say yes?”
“Hell dang it man. We ran out of vehicles to get to Boulder. You and your woman, you’re famous. Everyone knows you!” the man slung the rifle over his shoulder and put forward his hand, “Welcome to Rapid City. Sorry about the rude welcome, but we’ve had our fair share of Flagg’s people show up here.”
“Well, I’m glad to say we’re not in any way related to him.” He shook hands with the man, “Well, you know me, what’s your name?”
“Bill – everyone calls me Billster; it’s a mix of my first and last names.” He smiled, “Bring your people through, there’s plenty of houses and the power’s on too!”

Their new house was fully furnished and the garden needed work done to it – but Stu loved getting in and getting his hands dirty in that sense. Franny was quickly making the house a home as she started looking around the stores which were selling new and old items from the other houses not currently being used.
But she still suffered the nightmares; which bothered Stu to no end. This time, though she started writing them down, and seeing more in them the longer they stayed in Rapid City.
Stu soon found himself a job with a landscaping crew to help around the city to make it look like it did before Captain Trips came to kill off the population. The committee running this place was hoping to have this city up and running like it did before, to make it feel as though nothing had happened.
He came home one day to find Franny had gotten a map of the city and pinned it to one of the bedroom walls upstairs. She was looking through her dream journal and pushing pins into the map, making notes, pinning them off to one side, then taking string and playing connect the dots with it all.
It gave him the creeps to see her doing this.
“Honey, what are you doing?”
She turned, “I’ve been seeing more in my dreams, Stu; and it’s this city I’ve been dreaming of.” Closing her journal, she took a step back and looked up at the map on the wall, “It looks messy, but it really is what my brain is showing me.”
“And that is?”
“I have to ... we have to... go into the hills and find this.” She showed him a brass idol, “It’s there, and we must get it to protect the city.”
“Or you’re needing to work.”
“You don’t believe me.”
He put the book down and took her hands, “Honey, I love you and really hope your dreams stop, but really you need help.”
“We got help, and the doctor didn’t find anything wrong.” She said, “Can you please trust me?”
Taking a deep breath, he smiled, “Okay, what do we do?”
“We leave tonight.”
“What about Abigail?”
“She will be okay, we will be gone for only a little while.” She grinned, “I got a babysitter!”

In the dark, the hills looked like mountains looming over them with haunting, deep holes for caves. Stu had flashbacks to the nightmares he had last year in the cornfields for a moment and those dead, red eyes of...
“Come on, let’s go.” She took his hand and turned on her flashlight as they started climbing the well-worn tourist path up the hillside.
“Franny, it’s a tourist spot.”
“Yeah, for the first few miles, but there’s an area where we’ll go off on our own.” She smiled. It didn’t take long for her to prove to him how well she knew this hillside.
Soon, they came to a fork in the path, and the trees lined it upwards towards the top of the hills to a lookout; but where they were going was the other, unwalked, path. This was something Stu wasn’t too happy about, but Franny asked him to trust her.
She turned on her flashlight and he followed suit and they climbed up and into a huge, blackened hole of a cave which seemed to swallow them up whole. He turned back to take one last look at the city lights twinkling below and was surprised at how high up they really were; and wondered if they were going to come back from this or was going to be a big joke?
“Stu, come on.” Her voice echoed from the darkness within the cave. He turned and shone his flashlight into it and felt as though the light was taken up by the ink blackness for a moment; but it wasn’t, “Franny, this is creepy, honey.”
“I know. I need you near.”
They walked along a narrow pathway inside the hillside and came to a huge cavern inside the place. Looking down, they found they no longer needed their flashlights and so, turning them off, looked around from their vantage point.
She pointed down at a dais in the middle of the place, “Do you see it?” she whispered, “That’s what we need. We have to take it off the dais without altering the weight on it.”
“Or else?”
“Something bad happens.”
He regarded her, “Hon, that’s just something for the house isn’t it?”
“No. It’s to help us all.”
“Okay. I’ll see what I can do.”
The two of them found their way down to the staging area where the dais was and the idol sat in a pool of glimmering light. Stu pulled out of his pocket a plastic bag he normally had on him in case he found a tree in full fruit, and he started filling it with sand from around the area. He found a few rocks and pushed them into the bag, wrapped it up, felt the weight and thought it was about right.
He walked up to it, the bag of rocks and sand in one hand, the other hand ready to take the idol. In one swift movement, he swapped them over.
Franny grinned when it was the right weight and walked to him, “Oh you did it! Thank you, sweetheart!” As they looked it over, the bag on the dais moved and two stones fell out onto the floor, A grumbling started up and they stood, looking up towards the back of the cavern where a massive rolling sound thundered around the cavern, “Oh no! The weight shifted!”
“What the ...” Stu looked up to find a huge white ball catapulting towards them, “Holy crap! Franny! Run!”
“No... no,, Stu, run!” she screamed as they turned and ran away from the huge ball, along the only way out – a huge tunnel – with the ball coming after them, destroying anything in its path.
Side by side they ran with the idol in their possession; and when Stu spotted a clearing to their left, he grabbed her arm and pulled on it, she knew exactly what he was saying. They both jumped the side wall and made it into the nature reserve alive just as the moon rose over Rapid City and that massive ball rushed past them leaving a cloud of dust in its wake.

The next morning, Stu and Franny sat at the breakfast table with the idol between them. She still didn’t understand what it was or what it meant; but when she went to bed the night before, she didn’t have any nightmares.
“So, Fran, what does this thing mean?”
She smiled, “It’s a bigger mystery than I thought... I’m not sure. But wasn’t that fun?”

Saturday, 9 June 2018

The Food Connection Network

Chuck wants us to write about food and its connections in a tribute to Anthony Bourdain today... so here's my connection to food. I hope you all enjoy it. I've used my real memories and real names. 


From when I was a little girl, I remember my Granmother’s house being a place where there was always something to eat, something of grand smells emanating from the kitchen, of learning how to cook, stir, taste and enjoy the end result of at the very gentle and experienced hands of a dear, plump, and sweet old lady in a blue house dress and an apron.
Yes, my Grandma’s house was the place to go when you wanted to be fed to the very brim, the pussy-bow, to the state of almost being sick, because my Grandma Killips was one of the best cooks in my family ever! From the moment the door opened, you inhaled that delicious scent of her baking – yes, she had been baking all morning just for us grandkids with Grandpa in the front parlor reading the paper (well, making out he was) and hoping he’d get a good feed of the freshly turned out Date Roll or at least one or two of the Sticky Cornflake Biscuits (which he loved but they stuck to his dentures and he had to go and run them under hot water to get the honey off them).

And it was those Sticky Cornflake Biscuits which were always made for me – especially for me – as they were nice and soft, filled with peanuts and chewy, warm sultanas and sticky all over with honey and treacle, binding the cornflakes to each other, and to the tray; as well as to anything that came in contact with them... oh yes, they were so yummy as they came off the tray and were laid out one by one on the grease paper-covered wire trays lining the counter along the wall, where Grandma kept her old Tupperware containers of tea and coffee and drinking chocolate. In the above cabinet were cups, saucers and the dinnerware as well, all nice and old and hard-wearing, with an old-style carriage on the plate itself being pulled by four grand horses.

It wasn’t just her sweet foods which made the visits to Grandma’s house all the more fun. She used to make a roast lunch to die for; I mean, the roast vegetables alone were a meal within themselves! The potatoes were gorgeous and crunchy on the outside and lovely, light and fluffy on the inside – all the way through! – and even more delectable when you added butter! And the pumpkin was cooked so well, you could eat the skin; which was so sweet, nobody left that on the plate; and if you did, Grandpa gave you a horrified look and took it off you!

The one thing I didn’t like eating there was Brussel Sprouts. No matter how Grandma cooked them I would gag on them; and they smelled horrible. My brother and I were not allowed to have dessert or leave the table until we ate our brussel sprouts. So, Grandma would tell Grandpa that she’s stick around and make sure we ate them; and the minute he was in the living room down the hall, she’d scoop them off our plates and eat them and plop down our bowls of triple-layer jelly with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream in front of us and whisper: “A secret between us three, okay?” and then she start clearing the table. I think deep down inside, Grandpa knew all about our ‘secret’, but didn’t let on, but really, I never liked those little cabbages – even now in my forties – they just smell and taste horrid.

Cooking has been a big thing in our lives because of our Grandmothers. Oh, yes, I also had a Nanna who was alive when I was younger. But she wasn’t as liberal when it came to us kids with food as Grandma Killips was. Nan Parker was always one who kept the sweets hidden high and out of reach, told us to not eat the plums in the fridge (and yet they vanished without us touching them) and wouldn’t let us eat so much as a Milky Way before dinner. She forced us to wait the whole six hours between lunch and dinner, thinking us kids – who lived most of our lives on pure sugar and junk food when we were at school and at home in between meals – could survive the afternoons in the back yard, when really we wanted to be running around half of Moorooka and Annerley with the other kids.

It was nice to be around Nan Parker, but she had her ways when it came to food. If you didn’t eat your carrots one meal, when you were 16 years old, you never got them again for the rest of your life – ever! It happened to me. I love my honeyed carrots – especially Nan Parker’s honeyed carrots (I still don’t know how she did them to make them ooze honey on the plate, and wish to hell I did) – and one night, I didn’t eat the honeyed carrots, some potato and beans because I was full. Well, the next meal, I didn’t get any carrots... I thought she didn’t have enough. But nope, I never saw another carrot grace my plate for the next decade. When I asked her about that, she said, “Oh! I thought you hated them! So, I took the hint and didn’t give you any.” I was stunned! I shook my head, “Oh your honeyed carrots, really??? I love carrots! I was full and couldn’t fit in another bite that night; that’s all.” After that, Dad said to his Mum to ask people about why they left things, or if they’re full, not just assume they hate things.

Cooking in Nan’s kitchen was another thing too. I asked if she’d like me to bake a batch of scones in her kitchen; and Pop Parker jumped at the chance that somebody else was going to ‘have a go’ at making something in the place! He was all for it and sat at the kitchen table watching me eagerly as I pulled out my cookbook I had brought with me (I had gotten it for my birthday that year) and Nan followed me around like a bad smell, double guessing my measurements, turning down the oven when I turned it to the correct heat (then Pop went and turned it back up for me when her back was turned and put on some tea). Well, as I was washing up and cleaning the counter, with the egg timer going, Nan just wouldn’t leave the oven door alone! She kept opening it and checking on them, letting the heat out! Pop ended up leading her out of the kitchen and telling her that I was baking, not her. The kitchen wasn’t going to catch fire and they were scones, not a huge experiment going awry. She was so flustered that somebody was using the kitchen and not her that I ended up just letting the scones be the way they were – not adding on any time as I should have – and when they came out of the oven, they were undercooked and Nan blamed me for it. 

I never cooked in her kitchen again.

That’s not to say I never cooked again.

At high school, we had a great catering course which my brother took up... but I was just as good at Home Economics. We had to make an apron before we were allowed in the kitchen though. And once we all did – or most of us did – we were asked to cook our first meal; and for a lot of us, it was the first time we had ever been in a kitchen. I learned a lot from my Home Economics teachers; and since then, I have learned a lot from my brother and my Mum as well.

My brother went in and started out as an apprentice chef at some of the big and snooty restaurants around Brisbane, like Two Rooms (both locations) and there’s a nice little place in West End he worked at as well. And, he may not have finished his apprenticeship, but he learned a lot about cooking and how a kitchen runs.

So, when I moved out home, I started out with the crappy powdered food and eating take-away food, all of which made me very sick. But over the years, I’ve learned how to cook through recipes in great books. I started buying recipe books I wanted to learn from, writing my own recipe journal and relishing in the moment when I have adjusted a recipe enough to call it my very own.

I have learned a lot through experimentation, looking at herbs, and working on my own recipes and what food goes with what herbs and seeing how far I can push the culinary envelope. My Cold-Buster Soup is one my family has tasted often; and I have made for them when they’ve really needed it. It wards off the harshest cold, and busts the flu out of their system. My vegetable soup is a great stodgy soup filled with everything I can get my hands on along with pasta - and occasionally chillies for a great kick, or some curry powder as well. My favourite foods to make are Italian foods; as they’re the most delicious and rich. My Pumpkin, Spinach and Mozzarella Cannelloni is the best one I’ve experimented with – even when I’ve changed it to eggplant, tomatoes and zucchini.
My brother has often phoned me just as I’ve put something into the oven and asked me, “Hey, sis, what are you creating for dinner?” I’ve told him and he’s written it down and made it; then called me later on asking where in the hell I got that recipe. I’ve told him, “Aaaw, well, I made it up last week, and wanted to see if it was the same this week; and it was.” Yep, gotta say, experimenting with your cooking with great, fresh food is always a fun thing to do! But you have to have the previous knowledge of what food goes with which herb beforehand, or it’ll all taste like dirt.  

Food connects us all – from the youngest of our memories to the time we have had with each of our family gatherings – it will always be there to pull us together in one way or another. It’s a connection no matter where you are in the world, what language is spoken, what culture you’re emerging yourself into – food is the connection to everyone and everything everywhere. I have learned that the best food in your life takes more than an hour to prepare; and only minutes to eat. Prepare with the best ingredients, and use the best utensils on hand. Your kitchen need not be a massive one, but it must be a useful one; and that’s all which matters; as I’ve made the best vegetarian stews, pizzas, soups and tofu burgers in my very own kitchen; and yet it’s not the best place in the world to cook, it’s not very impressive, and it’s not filled with character, or the most expensive equipment around... but it’s got me as it’s cook with my cookbooks – and really that’s all my kitchen needs, that’s all I need in my life as a writer. So long I know how to cook good food, I’m going to be okay; and considering my Grandma, my Nanna, my Mum and my brother are all great cooks, I think I’m going to be okay. It’s the connection to these people which I can pass onto my niece and onto my friends as well – the food connection network.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

The Dreamers Door

Chuck gave us 10 different titles this week to pick from. I picked this one and wondered what would happen if I took us on a journey of where we went before we hit the REM status of sleep? Well, it was weird... strange really. 


The duvet was nice and warm as my mind relaxed, the chill of the night was kept out and the humming of the neighbour’s air-conditioner started up. My last momentary thought was: ‘How in the hell would somebody need an air-conditioner on a freezing night like this?’
Then, I was walking along a forest pathway, with the tallest trees vanishing into the mists above, the moonlight pushing through the grey mist overhead and greenness of the surroundings seeping into the pores of my soul. The pathway crunched under my feet, a cool wetness pushing up through the souls of my feet making me shiver as I took each step towards a sound.
It wasn’t as though I knew where I was going, but I didn’t feel in danger of being eaten by anything. I knew nothing was hiding in the fern surrounding me and spreading around to my left, downwards into the darkness where I couldn’t see too far.

Water was gurgling off in the distance.

Turning away from it, I kept walking along the path. 

My feet were no longer cold and I looked down to find I had my favourite shoes on – how did they get there? I didn’t put them on. Shrugging, I didn’t worry too much about this too much – I wanted to find the sound I was walking towards. It seemed to be moving further away from me as I moved towards it.

Was this a dream?

Was I actually in a forest?

Was I still in bed under the safety of my duvet on the freezing cold Winters’ night?

I wasn’t sure, but I was really beginning to wonder where I was as there were no sounds coming from the forest: no birds, no night creatures – nothing. This was putting me on edge as I picked up my walking pace and looked behind me to find there was darkness in my wake.
As I took a step forward, the forest and its path, the moonlit mists above and everything surrounding me vanished into a pitch darkness of nothingness which seemed to vanish off the face of the planet....

Was I still on planet Earth?

Was this a dream?

Was I still in bed under the safety of my duvet on the freezing cold Winters’ night?

Was I...?

I stopped walking.

I was dreaming, but this dream wouldn’t end or begin unless I...

Looking around to my right, I saw a door carved into the darkened shadow of a tree trunk. Exactly how long it had been there, I didn’t know, but – I broke from the path, stepped through the greenery on the side of the path and started towards it.
My jeans were soaked by the heavy dew all over the plants, twigs snapped under my shoes and I pushed branches out of my which fell down in front of me to block my view.
But I didn’t take my eyes off the tree trunk or its shadow-filled doorway; and I knew if I even so much as blinked, it would vanish and I’d be lost forever in this pre-dreamers landscape of nothingness, darkness and surrealism forever – well, until I was awoken by my alarm in the Real World.
I stepped into the shadow of the doorway and found I was right! There was indeed a door carved into this tree!

But ... was it the right door to the right dream for this night?

Was this Dreamers Door mine or another’s to use?
Well, I’d never know until I tried it out, right?
I grabbed the carved wooden handle and gave it a good, hard shove.