Monday, Monday

by Iris Carden

It was the kind of day where you could find out from a Facebook status update that the man you'd been planning your wedding with last night was now back in a relationship with his ex-girlfriend.

That's what happened to Sarah on her first day of unemployment.

"Only on a Monday," Sarah moaned as she unfriended both of them.

She looked at her phone, at the message he'd sent while she slept, only hours before the Facebook status update, telling her how much he loved her.

"I love you too," she said sadly. What she typed was, "Congratulations on your new relationship. Don't ever contact me again."

The ex should have stayed under whatever rock it was she'd crawled under years ago, and not just emerged last week to destroy Sarah's life.

Alone and jobless.

What had been wrong with her being happy?  She demanded God tell her why this should happen to her, but God didn't answer.

Life, it seemed, hated her. Life, or was it Monday?

Was 6am too early to drink? On a Monday like this, surely not. But she would not do that. She would eat her breakfast, take something for the headache that was bearing down on her and go back to bed.

She ate, mechanically, not enjoying her food.

Then she got the pills. All of them. She had been very sick. And the pills were still there. It seemed to take for ever to swallow all of them. But what else did she have to do with that Monday? So she took the time, and she took the pills.

Then she went back to bed, and waited for it all to be over.

Life Support

by Iris Carden


She woke slowly.  The pain at the back of her head was black, overwhelming, drawing her in, like a black hole pulling everything into itself.

"Open your eyes", she commanded herself.  She tried to obey her own demand.  Slowly she opened her eyes. Stark, white light burned its way from her retinas through to the black hole at the back of her head.

She closed her eyes again.

Where was she. She could smell hospital - the strange smell of disinfectants and medication.  It was a sterile plastic smell. There was a hum of some kind of machinery, a bip-bip-bip that could have been a heart monitor, a woosh, woosh that must be some sort of pump.

She wanted to rub her sore eyes, but her hands were stuck where they were, about 45 degrees from her body on either side.  She tried to pull at them. Her wrists were somehow restrained, they would not move. The restraints weren't tight, but they were secure. She was effectively trapped.

Was there anyone else around?  She wanted to call out, but there was something in her mouth, something she couldn't move. She was aware of something in her nose as well - and lots of something sticky holding this in place.

She slowly opened her eyes part-way, not to let in so much light, just a bit.

Definitely in a hospital room.  There seemed to be tubes attached to her every orifice, and some that had been attached in places the orifices had to have been created.

How long had she been here?  Had she had surgery? Had she lost the baby? Why couldn't she remember?

She so wanted to touch her belly, to feel where her son was growing.  Why must her hands be restrained?

"You're awake?" It seemed more a question than a statement. The quiet voice came from somewhere outside of her field of view.

In a moment, a young woman wearing pink surgical scrubs appeared and was looking down at her.

"Mrs Thompson? Mary? You're really awake?"

Mary tried to answer, but couldn't because her mouth was uncomfortably clogged.

"You've got a tube in your throat.  We'll have that out as soon as a doctor approves it."

Mary tried to move her hands, to show that she wanted her restraints removed.

"Your muscles have atrophied.  You haven't used them for a long time. It's OK, a physiotherapist will help you with that. You'll be able to move your arms and hands again, even walk again. It will take some work, but it will be OK."

How long could she have been here? What about her baby? She had been at 38 weeks, could she have been here so long he was due now?

"I'm just going to the other side of the room to phone the doctor," the nurse in the pink scrubs said.  "I won't be far away."

Mary struggled to hear the nurse's quiet voice becoming much quieter as she talked to someone else, somewhere out of sight.  She could not make out any words, just a sense of urgency. Was there something wrong? Had she lost the baby?

The nurse was back.  "Doctor says I can go ahead and take that tube out of your throat straight away. It's going to be a bit uncomfortable, I'm afraid.  Doctor Kayley will be here soon.  Oh, I'm Lisa, by the way. Just relax, this is going to be unpleasant."

"Unpleasant" and "uncomfortable" did not begin to describe the trauma Mary experienced, as it felt like the tube was being pulled from right inside her chest to the outside world.

Tears were running down her face by the time Lisa said, "That's it. Over now.  So sorry about that."  Lisa gently dabbed up the tears with a tissue.

Mary tried to speak, but what came out was a croak, her throat felt like it was being rubbed with coarse sandpaper.

Mary tried again. "Husband," she managed to rasp. She suddenly felt exhausted from the effort.

"I'll call your family as soon as Dr Kayley's seen you," Lisa said, smiling gently.

Mary tried to smile back. She wasn't sure she'd succeeded.  Even her facial muscles seemed incredibly unresponsive. Lisa would call Mark.  Mark would make everything right. Mark was the kind of man who always made everything right.  He was always so strong, so confident.

A tall, young, blonde woman in pink scrubs with a stethoscope hanging from her neck came into Mary's field of view.

"Hi Mary, I'm Sarah Kayley.  I'm the Registrar here in Intensive Care. Let's take a look at you."

The doctor shone lights in her eyes, listened to her chest, poked and prodded, and hit her joints with a small hammer-type device.

"I don't know what to tell you, Mary. You're a medical miracle.  I know you don't feel like it at the moment. You've been in a coma."

"Baby?" Mary croaked.

"The baby was fine.  He came through the delivery perfectly.  You were the one who had the problem. Your blood pressure went up out of control. You had a seizure, and you slipped into a coma.  You've been here in the ICU since then. It's OK. You're going to be fine now.  We're going to take care of you for a while, get you eating real food again, things like that, and then you can go to rehab."

Mary managed a very weak smile. She was exhausted, and found herself falling asleep.

When she opened her eyes again, the black hole at the back of her head was hurting a little less, and she found she could open her eyes a little more.

Two men were beside the bed.  They looked familiar.  One looked like Mark's father, and the other looked remarkably like Mark had done when they first met, in college.

The older man, gently put his hand over Mary's.  "I never gave up hope," he said, tears forming on his face and in his voice.  "Darling, I want you to meet David, our son."

Ding, Dong, Bell

by Iris Carden

Ding, dong, bell, pussy's in the well....

Glenda sat bolt upright. She was shaking and sweating. What had she been dreaming?  The well.... the well... from the little house they lived in on the mountain.

Pussy's in the well. She'd heard her older half-brother's voice.  That was never good.  He was older than her by enough that he'd been like an adult to her childhood. But in a childhood tormented with nightmares, he was the worst.

As an adult, she could rationalise that he was a psychopath, or was sociopath the current term.  He'd had all three indicators: lighting fires, torturing and killing animals, and sexually assaulting younger children. Of all the nightmares she'd lived, and suppressed, the ones about him were the ones that tortured her most when they returned.

It was 3am, and she did what the psych told her to do when the nightmares came back. She sat down and wrote about the memory in her journal.

Puss had been an orange ginger kitten.  It used to hide behind the fridge. Glenda had wished she could hide behind the fridge, too. No-one could get Puss where she hid. Puss ended up down the well in the back yard.


Ding, dong bell, pussy's in the well
Who put her in?


Glenda's big brother put her in. It was a lesson. He killed Puss, telling her that if she ever disobeyed him, he would put her in the well. He would put the wooden boards over the top and she wouldn't be able to get out, just like he'd done with Puss.

It was a rotten thing to be remembering in the early hours of the morning, but getting it down, remembering, was important. It was important to get it out of her nightmares, and be able to look at it as a reality.  She wasn't crazy, she'd been the victim of some terrible treatment, and her mind had tried to protect her from it.

Here she was, teasing at the edge of a memory, in the early hours of the morning. There was more. She could feel something at the back of her mind, Puss dying in the well was a part of a bigger memory, a worse nightmare.

Ding, dong bell, pussy's in the well
Who put her in?
Little Tommy Thin
Who pulled her out?
Little Tommy Stout.


Who pulled Puss out? No-one. But Bootsy appeared. Bootsy was an adult male, black-and-white cat. Mummy had told Glenda the wild little ginger kitten had grown up into the black and white cat. Glenda wasn't old enough for school yet, but even she knew girl ginger kittens didn't grow up into boy black and white cats. But Bootsy didn't hide behind the fridge. He became her friend, someone to share the traumas of life with.

Thirty years later, Mum still told the story of the wild ginger kitten who grew up into a black and white cat. She had retold the story so many times, she believed it was true.  But Mum had always been like that. All her stories were absolutely true, in her own mind. She imposed their truth on everyone around her. No matter how unbelievable the stories were, they were true, because Mum said they were true.

That well had been a source of horror for her as a small child. No wonder. It wasn't just the half-rotted timber cover, or Mum's constant warning to stay away from it because if she fell in she'd never get out.

It was an awful nightmare, but now she'd recognised the truth behind it, perhaps she could get to sleep. Except that it still felt unfinished... the rhyme was still going through her head.

Ding, dong, bell,
Tommy's in the well...


No that's wrong, Tommy wasn't in the well, it was Tommy in the rhyme to put pussy in the well and another Tommy to take her out.  There wasn't a Tommy in the well.

Ding, dong, bell,
Tommy's in the well....


Why did she keep getting the rhyme wrong in her head? And in her old nursery rhyme book, hadn't it been Johnny to put pussy in the well and another Johnny to get her out? So how does Tommy get to be in the story? She hadn't ever known any Tommy, had she?

Out of nowhere, another memory fragment pushed its way into her mind.

It was a visit from Grandma. Grandma was looking at a photo of a young baby asleep in a pram, and saying what a cute baby Glenda had been.  But Glenda could see looking at it that the photo was taken in the house on the mountain, the house with the well. Glenda had been two when they'd moved to that house, so she could not have been the new-born baby in the picture.

Her mind made a sudden connection between the photo and Tommy in the well. Had there been another baby? People had appeared and disappeared throughout her childhood. The baby could have been anyone, couldn't it? Although it was odd that Mum hadn't corrected Grandma and said, "Oh, no, that's a photo of so-and-so's baby."

Ding, dong, bell,
Tommy's in the well.
Who put him in?


No. It could not be. Mum would cover up her half-brother killing a cat, but a baby? It was unthinkable. There was a problem with recovered memory therapy wasn't there? That people imagined things that were later proved impossible? This was surely impossible. But so far, all the memories that had come back to her, all of the things that could be verified, had proved to be true.

Not this, surely not this. Surely it was just the realms of nightmare? Just a confusion between the rhyme, the nightmare, and the memory. It would take some work to clarify what was what.

It had been a strange thing, that house. Mum had sold houses that she had owned and lived in after that one, but she never sold the house with the well, and never rented it out or lived in it. Glenda had visited it as an adult - the yard was overgrown, the floorboards of the house rotting. It had been vandalised over the years. The wreck of a house had no longer looked scary. There was a mystery there - why Mum would not get rid of a house she wasn't going to live in.

Ding, dong, bell,
Tommy's in the well.


Was he? And who was he? If he was a baby, after all these years there would be no sign of him, so there was no point in calling the police with her crazy nightmare recollection.

Ding, dong, bell,
Tommy's in the well.


Glenda wondered if some of the memories were better left suppressed.

Review: Blacklisted by Luke Romyn

Blacklisted by Luke Romyn

Review by Iris Carden

Nightclub owner, boxer, former bouncer, and serial killer Mike Swanson, is broken out of police custody by a mysterious military group.

He finds himself subjected to a bizarre series of tests, before finally joining a group of other killers to be trained in weapons and military skills - without explanation.

Suddenly he finds himself in a world where it's impossible to tell truth from lies, to know who is right and who is wrong, but life and death hangs in the balance at every turn. One by one, the people he has come to look on as "family" are killed.

In a shady world of mercenaries, terrorists, and counter-terrorism, they are betrayed, but it is hard to tell who the traitor actually is when it's impossible to know which side they are actually on.

There are points where the reader's suspension of disbelief is pushed to its outer limits, but the narrative is too good to give up on it at those points.

It's a story that keeps driving forward, constantly challenging the reader to keep up with the twists and turns of a plot that can't stay still.


Book Review: If Music Be The Food of Crime by Marie Helene Visconti

Review: If Music Be The Food of Crime by Marie Helene Visconti

Reviewed by Iris Carden

It begins with some missing jewels, and quickly moves to murder, maiming and general mayhem.  Someone clearly has it in for the Orchestre Symphonique de Medianie, but who? With an entire orchestra as potential suspects, and as potential victims, there is no end of loose ends, and wild goose chases. And of course, there is the one clue that is overlooked and is the key to everything. (No, I'm not going to tell you what it is.)

There are some language and formatting issues which distract a little from this otherwise intriguing story.  Direct speech is indicated by dashes instead of inverted commas. Some of the translation to English left me wondering a little; it took me to chapters to work out that "rpat" meant "father".

Aside from those couple of distracting issues, I did find it possible to immerse myself in the story, to wonder at all of the behind-the-scenes intrigue in the dysfunctional orchestra, and to desperately want to know not only who did it and why, but who would actually solve the case.


Group Meeting Chapter 1 Monday Morning

Want to read the whole book? It's available at Amazon in both paperback and Kindle format, and at Lulu in paperback and epub formats.
Group Meeting

by Iris Carden



Chapter 1 - Monday Morning


They sat in their usual circle, in their usual varying attitudes of attention and inattention, waiting for the week to begin.

“OK”, Sarah looked down at her notes. “Well it's the start of another week. How did everyone go over the weekend?”

Residents looked from one to the other. No-one ever wanted to speak first.

“OK,” Sarah looked down at her notebook. “While you're thinking about it, here's our morning notices. Lifeskills this morning is in the kitchen with Kara – you're going to be making spaghetti bolognaise.”

Chantal shook a dirty blonde curl out of her face. “I can't have spaghetti bolognaise. I'm vegetarian.”

“When did that happen?” Bobby said, looking curiously at the fingernail he'd just been biting. “You ate sausages at the barbecue yesterday.”

“I've had an epiphany,” Chantal said, “I'm vegetarian now. I can't eat another living thing.”

“It's not living once it's meat,” Johnno laughed, that grating, annoying laugh that always made Sarah think of a cat having its tail pulled.

“Don't be disgusting,” Chantal said. “It's wrong to eat another living thing, or even something that used to be living.”

“Better not eat any vegetables then,” Johnno squarked as he laughed again.

“I think,” Sarah interrupted, “we need to respect Chantal's choice here. Chantal, I'm sure Kara can help you make yours without meat.”

“I don't want to be in a kitchen where people are cooking meat,” Chantal said. “The smell will make me sick.”

“Didn't make you sick when you ate five sausages yesterday,” Bobby was examining the next fingernail. “You were leaning over the barbecue saying they were taking too long to cook, and how good they smelled.”

“You can cope with the kitchen, I'm sure,” Sarah said.

“No, I can't. I absolutely can't.”

“Chantal, you know the condition of being here is that you take full part in the program.” Sarah tried to keep her voice calm, even. “You can't just leave out the parts you don't like. Lifeskills is central to the program. You committed to doing it when you came here.”

“So do it,” Johnno laughed, “or you go back up to the ward, and you'll never, ever, ever, get out.”

“That's enough, Johnno,” Sarah said sharply. “Chantal, you will go to lifeskills. You don't have to cook or eat meat, but you do have to go to the kitchen for a cooking session.”

“I'm going to write to the Health Minister about this,” Chantal pouted.

“That's fine,” Sarah said. “You have the right to write to anyone you like, but while you're here, you're sticking with the program.”

“It's all right Chantal,” Jilly said. “You don't have to smell the meat. If you cook at the end stove, near the door, you can't smell what's on the other stoves. That's what I do when it's fish.”

“Listen to Jilly,” Johnno laughed. “She knows so much about problem solving. What problem did you solve to end up here, then Jilly?”

“Johnno,” Sarah snapped, “that's more than enough. Jilly, thank you for your suggestion, I'm sure that will help Chantal a lot.”

Jilly blushed, looked down at her feet, brown hair falling over her face. Her arms and legs pulled tightly into herself. She rarely spoke, always afraid of drawing attention to herself.

“It's all a joke anyway, isn't it?” Johnno demanded. “We're never getting out of here. This is the best there is. It's only here or the ward, isn't it? Isn't that the truth? We're learning lifeskills, and communications, and we keep talking about when we get out of here. But we aren't are we? It's not just that we're crazy. We're dangerous and crazy. Nobody would let us loose. Not ever. If Chantal doesn't cook her spaghetti, you can send her back to the ward, but there's nowhere else she can go is there? This is it. This is our world. Here and the ward. There's nothing else.”

“Johnno, you've been told this before,” Sarah explained slowly as if to a child. “You are all at the half-way house, to prepare to live in your own homes out in the wider community. You came here from the ward because your medication and your therapy are working, you are well enough to leave the hospital. What we're doing here is helping to prepare you to be able to live away from the hospital without getting sick again.”

“We're so well,” Johnno said, “that's why we're caged. There's three metre tall fences all around us, with razor wire on top. We can't go out unsupervised. No-one can visit without signing in and out, and being searched for weapons or drugs.” Johnno wasn't laughing anymore. “This is a jail, and we're never getting out. We don't deserve to get out.”

“That's all just basic security, for your protection,” Sarah tried to keep her voice at a calm, professional level. She did not understand why Johnno always seemed to upset her. Perhaps it was because he was right – she certainly wouldn't want someone who'd done what he'd done living next door to her – maybe he would leave one day, but he should not. “People have been known to break into health facilities to steal medication, or money, or take advantage of vulnerable people. And as you pointed out, some people would view you as dangerous, or might have a grudge against you because of things you did when you were sick. Some people might want to use personal violence against you so they feel safer or as if they are protecting society or whatever.”

“Yeah,” said Johnno, “we need protection.”
“It's not a jail,” Bobby said, looking at a nail on the other hand. “We're not prisoners. We go out. We're not convicted of any crime.”

“Because we were found mentally incompetent to plead,” Johnno said. “So we were shoved in the ward, and then we were moved here when they couldn't say we were so sick we had to stay in hospital. Why is the half-way house only ever used for people like us? Why hasn't there ever been someone who just had depression or tried to bulimia or something like that? There's this whole facility, big enough for thirty residents, but there's only four of us here.”

“You're a trial group,” Sarah said, resolutely. “I've explained this to you before. If this program works really well for you, other people will be transferred here from the ward, or from other parts of the hospital, or even other hospitals.”

“Even the ward is only for people like us,” Johnno said. “I was there two years, and there were never more than two or three people there at a time. A whole hospital ward for two or three patients! And only ever people who've done really, really bad stuff, people who are thoroughly evil.”

“You are not evil,” Sarah said, with overstated patience, “you have just been very, very sick. You are getting better. Yes, the ward, and the half-way house are for extremely sick people, and there's not a lot of people who have been as sick as you are, but that doesn't mean you're in a jail. It means you have a lot of special needs. We're here to help you deal with that, give you the skills so you can live out in the community. When you've finished the program, you will be able to leave, to go to community accommodation, maybe with a bit of extra support.”

“I don't want to leave,” Chantal said quietly. “I belong here.”

“For now,” Sarah said, “you belong here. But when you finish the program, you can have a home of your own, and you will belong there.”

“How long before we finish the program?” Johnno asked.

“For always,” Chantal said. “This is my penance. This is purgatory. I'm being purified, so I can be forgiven.”

“You can't be forgiven,” Johnno said. “None of us can.”

“This isn't about what you've done,” Sarah said, “this isn't punishment. The program, and all the staff are here to help you, to help you get well, and to live independently. This is about the future, not the past.”

“We are being punished,” Chantal said resolutely. “We have to repent enough to be forgiven. That's why I have to give up meat – to show my repentance.”

“Chantal, I wonder if this is something you need to discuss with Doc, or with the chaplain? It just doesn't seem to be a real reflection of what's going on here.”

“No,” said Johnno. “It's more accurate than you're saying. We are here to be punished. But you can't repent. You can't be forgiven. You can give up meat or chocolate, or whatever you want – that doesn't change what you've done. You have to live with it forever.”

“But you did what you did when you were very sick,” Sarah tried to regain some control. “I think there's a lot of issues here that both of you need to talk to Doc about. Fortunately, it's Doc's day here. This afternoon you all have your appointments with him – Chantal, you've got the 1pm appointment, Johnno you're 1.45, Jilly you're 2.30 and Bobby you're 3.15. Everyone got that? Do you need me to repeat it?”

“So it's the same times as we always have on Doc's days?” Bobby's right index finger was now bleeding, from his constant biting.

“Yes,” said Sarah, “just the same as always.”

“Nothing ever changes,” Bobby said, “you could just put a printed schedule on the noticeboard – and not have to tell us every morning.”

“Would you like a printed schedule?”

“Not really.”

“Well, it's off to the kitchen now to cook with Kara. This afternoon you have free time except for your appointments with Doc. Is there anything else? No? I'll see you back here for wrap-up at four.”


Want to read the whole book? It's available at Amazon in both paperback and Kindle format, and at Lulu in paperback and epub formats.

Karlee. Part I. Introduction and Chapter 1

Want to read the full book? Karlee is available from Amazon in both Kindle and paperback format, and from Lulu in paperback and epub.




KARLEE

a novella

by Iris Carden








For all those who
dream
with the hope that
your dreams
do not become
NIGHTMARES


INTRODUCTION

The boy bounced the ball against the wall. He was bored and wished his mother had time to play. Dad was at work.

Mum, however, no longer seemed to have time for him. She was busy with the tiny, pink object which was his new sister.

When Mum had gone to the hospital to get the baby, she had said it would be anew playmate for him, but the baby was not big enough to play yet. All it did was eat, sleep and cry.

Worse than that, Mum had got a girl baby! He wondered if girl were ever interested in the same games as boys played.

The ball rolled away. He ran after it. Down the driveway and out on to the road, went the ball. The boy stood on the foot-path. Mum had told him never to go out on the road. Indecision gripped his young mind, as his favourite toy stayed just out of reach.

“I'll get it for you!” a voice called. A girl, who appeared to come from nowhere, ran out on to the road and retrieved the ball.

“Thank-you,” the boy said as the ball was returned to his possession. “Does your mum let you go on the road?”

“I can go wherever I like,” the girl replied.

“Gee, you must be old.”

“I'm older than you.”

“How do you know?”

“How old are you?”

“I'm almost five.”

“I'm older than that.”

That seemed to exhaust the conversation, but the boy did not want to lose his new companion yet. “Where do you live?”

“Around.”

“Do you like to play ball?”

“Sure, I do.”

So the two went to the side of the house and together they bounced the ball against the wall.

“Why are your eyes that colour?” the boy asked.


PART I.

Chapter 1


Terry re-read the chapter, selected the whole thing, took one final look and hit “delete”. Again. He slammed his fist on to the table. It was going to be another unproductive day, and one he could ill-afford.

The telephone rang. It was Neil, of course.

“How's the book coming, Terry?”

“It isn't.”

“What's wrong this time?” Neil had long ceased to sound concerned over Terry's mental block. He was now bored with the excuses.

“I've got the ideas, just no words will go with them.”

“I'll send you a dictionary.”

“Not funny.”

“No, it's long past funny. You know the contract expires at the end of the month and it's the twentieth now.”

“I know.”

“You've got ten days to get it in.”

“I know that.”

“I might be able to extend it one or two days for you, but there are people above me, so I can't promise anything.”

“What if I don't get it in until later?”

“Don't think of that as an option. The contract runs out. Then anything you submit has to go through the process of being accepted or rejected all over again. Only we've already paid you a fair bit of money – if it's rejected you get to pay it back. I assume paying it back won't be a problem?”

“You know it will be a problem.”

“So get it done.”

“Can you try to get me some more time? A couple of extra weeks? Have the contract extended or something?”

“Terry I can try, but I can't offer promises. I'll talk to a couple of people, and since it's you, they'll probably say 'no'. But I'll try, I'll get back to you.”

“Thanks.”

“Don't thank me yet. I'll call you and let you know how I get on. But work on the basis that the deadline isn't likely to change. Keep writing.”

“Yeah, I will, but there doesnt' seem to be much point in it.”

“So do it for the fun of it.”

“Fun?”

“You told me you enjoyed writing.”

“That was when I had a successful book on the market.”

“Money makes the difference?”

“When you can't pay the rent it does.”

“Sad story, pity you didn't, I don't know, save something, when your book was selling so well. I'll let you know what happens with the contract. 'Bye.”

“Yeah, 'bye Neil.” Terry put down the phone and thought about the money he owned Telstra for it. It would not be long, he decided, until he lost it.

While thinking of things he could lose, he wondered if Nettie would lend him the money for the rent again this month.

He dialled the number. A voice purred, “Good morning, Perfection Modelling Agency, can I help you?”

“Anette Dixon's office, please,” Terry responded.

“Who shall I say is calling?”

“Terry Dixon.”

The purr turned into a snarl. “One moment please.”

Terry tapped the desk with his fingernails. He did not enjoy asking his little sister for hand-outs, but it had to be done.

“Hello Terry,” Nettie's bright voice greeted him.

“Hi Nettie, I was wondering...”

“No, I'm afraid I don't have a job for you, unless you lose about five kilos.”

“Thanks Sis, but I don't think I'm the right type. I'm more intellectual than physical.”

“No, I'm serious. We need someone for a series of ads for a new brand of office equipment. If you could drop five kilos in the next three weeks, we could use you.”

“Well, it's tempting, but I don't think I'm all that photogenic.”

“It has to give you a better income than writing – which at the moment is paying you what? Nothing? How much do you want this time?”

“About three hundred.”

“Terry, you know, sooner or later, I'm not going to be able to support you.”

“I'm sorry, Nettie, but the rent's just gone up. There's nothing I can do about it.”

“How about getting a job?”

“I've got a job.”

“What you've got is a worthless piece of paper.”

“It's a contract!”

“They can still reject the book.”

“Only if it isn't up to standard.”

“Is it?”

Silence.

“Well, is it?”

“I don't know.”

“Look, Terry, I've got to go. There's a client on the other line. I'll call you tonight. Good-bye.”

“'Bye Nettie.”


Want to read the full book? Karlee is available from Amazon in both Kindle and paperback format, and from Lulu in paperback and epub.

Book Review: Embryo by J. A. Schneider

Embryo by J. A. Schneider

Review by Iris Carden


A obstetrics ward is supposed to be a happy place. Unfortunately, for some people it's not so happy. Bad things do happen. Sometimes what should be the greatest joy in a family's life becomes its greatest nightmare.

When one young doctor finds that there seem to be unusual number of what should be remarkably rare things going wrong, she begins to investigate her own hospital, and put herself at risk both professionally and personally.

A bit of mystery, a bit suspense, a bit of danger, a bit of romance, a doctor who knows how to use a gun, some icky medical details, and a contemporary Dr Frankenstein (and you will be surprised when you find out who that is), all add up to make this a thoroughly entertaining, and very well-written book.

What will really creep you out is when you finish the book, turn out the light and try to sleep, and begin to wonder.... "how far are we from some lunatic really doing this?"

 

Book Review: Fairy Potter by Luhra Tivis

Fairy Potter - A Boy Discovers His Gay Heritage by Luhra Tivis

Review by Iris Carden


This book was the first contemporary fiction book I bought on Kindle. I bought it because I had met the author on Twitter.

I need to confess up front that I'm not especially interested in parody. However, this is well written, and it's fun.

Paralleling the story of Harry Potter, as you would expect, Fairy Potter has been left with his very straight Uncle and Aunt after the mysterious death of his parents while he was a baby. His parents, who had married despite their objection to marriage, had actually arranged for his future.

Fairy is transported to a remarkable school which has lessons tailored for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and trans-gendered children. Drugs are a regular part of life in the school. Where Harry Potter and friends took on a troll shortly after arriving at school, Fairy Potter and friends take on a Narc.

It's fun to read to find out what Luhra's done with each of the Harry Potter characters and situations. Like most parodies, the book relies very  heavily on the reader being familiar with the original, so if you haven't read Harry Potter for a while, it might be worth a brief skim through first.

Spring Cleaning


by Iris Carden 

Out damn spot! Karen groaned, and rolled over. Lady Macbeth. She was thinking of Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth awake in the middle of the night, trying to clean away her guilt. How could you wash away guilt? Not when the red blood was running down the walls of the house of sin. Was that Lady Macbeth? No, it was another play, wasn't it? Agamemnon – it was the prophetess – what was her name? Iphagenia or something?

Could she wash away the guilt, the sin? How much could be washed away? Karen decided to try. She wasn't really sleeping anyway. Just dosing, and being nagged by thoughts of blood and sin and evil.

Perhaps she could wash it all away. She started in the kitchen. She'd heard on A Current Affair that there could be millions of micro organisms in the kitchen – e.coli and other disease-causing nasties. She pulled on her gloves, got out the “hospital strength” disinfectant, and began scrubbing.

She emptied cupboards, and scrubbed down the shelves, she washed and rewashed every pan, fork, dish. She threw all the tea towels and table cloths in the washing machine. She swept and mopped the floor. Then she got out a scrubbing brush and on hands and knees scrubbed every corner of the floor. She cleaned the oven, and emptied the fridge and cleaned it out.

Next was the lounge. She vacuumed, dusted, tidied and polished. She washed windows, cleaned the sills, washed fan blades. She found some sugar soap in the laundry and washed down walls.

Then it was the bedrooms. She emptied wardrobes, turned mattresses, vacuumed and vacuumed again. She washed curtains, and washed sheets. She hung quilts outside to air in the sun. When had it become daytime? It had been night when she started, she was sure of it. There was still so much to do. What was the time? She looked at the clock. Midday? How had that happened? She should eat something, breakfast, lunch, something. But that would dirty the kitchen, and she'd only just got it clean.

Karen went on to the linen cupboard, emptied everything out and started to wash shelves, and re-arrange linen. Was it clean enough? How clean was clean enough? If A Current Affair checked her house, would they find the blood dripping down the wall, the deadly e.coli, the house of sin? Out damn spot!

The laundry. She mopped, scrubbed, washed walls, sorted shelves, washed down the washing machine (between the constant loads she was running) and the dryer. Why was it dark when she went out to hang out that last load of wash? How late was it now? Seven pm? Seven? What time had she started? Two am? Something like that? Was the house clean yet?

The front patio was next. It was swept, tidied, the furniture re-arranged. Then everything was hosed down for good measure. When A Current Affair came with their cameras and their test kits, they wouldn't find the e.coli, the sin, or the blood. Not on Karen's patio. She wouldn't be the housewife caught out for everyone in Australia to see, and know that her drains were death traps, that her house was evil. Out damn spot! There were no spots in her house, or there wouldn't be. When the Trojan prophetess saw the walls, would she see the blood and the guilt? Not, if Karen could help it.

She was aware that she was hungry, but she couldn't stop, there was too much to do, and to eat would mess up the kitchen. She was tired as well. But if she went to bed, she would have to wash the sheets again. She'd have to hide the evidence, the guilt, couldn't let the prophetess or A Current Affair, or CSI catch her out. The spots would all have to be gone, then she could eat, then she could rest.

Next was the toilet. She knew the germs and micro organisms loved the toilet. She began by scrubbing the walls, and the floor, with “hospital strength” disinfectant. She the window. She cleaned the cistern – inside as well as out – it paid to be careful. There was no knowing where A Current Affair or CSI would look. A prophetess fresh off the ship from Troy, what would Appollo let her see? Wash it away, the germs, the e.coli, the blood, the sin. Out, out, out damn spot!

She scrubbed the bowl, flushed, scrubbed again. Then she carefully disinfected all of the pipes that were visible. Every nook and cranny.

That was it – there was only one room left.

Karen went into the bathroom. She began with walls, windows, curtain. Disinfectant, lots of disinfectant. Who knew what was lurking? House of sin. The red blood is dripping down the wall. Scrub, scrub.

She washed the mirror, and looked at her reflection. A woman in her pink satin nightie and oversized yellow cleaning gloves. Her hair was unbrushed, and there were huge dark semi-circles under her eyes, and a huge purple bruise beginning to show across most of the left side of her face. Two teeth were broken. She looked like some sort of tormented being, like Lady Macbeth. Out, out, out, damn spot!

What time was it? Through the window the sky had gone from black to glowing red, with black on top. Sunrise was coming soon. And she hadn't slept since when? She was tired, but she wasn't finished. No, she wasn't finished. They could come at any time; the prophetess, A Current Affair, CSI, the police. If she didn't finish, they'd find it all, the e.coli, the blood, the sin, the guilt. Out, damn spot! How much had Lady Macbeth had to scrub to get rid of that spot? The floor, time to disinfect the floor. “Hospital strength” disinfectant, was that the strongest you could get? Was it really what they used in hospitals? Hospitals had to be really clean, didn't they? You couldn't have micro organisms in hospital.

She'd left it to last – the absolute worst part. The bathtub. How could she deal with it? Clean it the same as everything else, she decided at last. Throw out the rubbish, and then scrub and scrub and scrub with her brush and her “hospital strength disinfectant”. That was how she would do it. She'd get rid of the blood, the sin, the guilt, the e.coli. She'd be ready when A Current Affair arrived, not like the woman whose house had the micro organisms in the kitchen for all Australia to see.

Garbage bags, that's what she needed – strong ones. She knew she should get the ones from the garden shed. (Why hadn't she thought to clean the garden shed? Who knew what evil, guilty, micro organisms could be growing in there?)

In the garden shed, she found the strong bags, and another thing she'd need: the ratchet-powered secateurs, the long-handled ones that Barry used to cut thick branches. That's how she'd handle the garbage from the bathtub, the same way Barry handled the big branches he'd pruned – but them down into smaller bits, put them in the strong bags, and then put them in the wheelie bin. Of course, after the garbage truck had been, she'd have to disinfectant the wheelie bin.

She took the secateurs and extra strong bags to the bathroom. Just cut the rubbish up, put it in the bags, and put the bags in the bin. Then she could scrub out the tub with her “hospital strength” disinfectant, and forever get rid of the sin, the guilt, the evil, the blood, the e.coli. Not even the prophetess, or CSI, or A Current Affair would find any sign of it.

Just cut up the rubbish into small enough pieces. How big a piece was small enough to handle? She positioned the extra strong, extra sharp, ratchet-powered secateurs at Barry's elbow. Half an arm, she should be able to lift, after all, most of the blood had gone down the drain by now, hadn't it? It had to be lighter than it had been when it had hit her that last time, and every other time. She cut, the thud was sickening. But suddenly, she knew it was going to be all right. For the first time, she really believed she could do it. The end was in sight. A few more cuts, take out the garbage, and it would be all over.

Then she just had to wash up. There'd be no more blood, no more guilt, no more e.coli, no more sin. She'd be ready when they came to the door: all of them, the police, CSI, A Current Affair, the Trojan prophetess. She would smile when they swabbed her drains and tested for micro organisms. All Australia would see she was ready, her home was clean. Lady Macbeth would wash away her spot.