Thursday, 16 November 2017

Will to Choose




Sarah Howlett 

mulled ale


I sat between my two younger sisters, returning home from a busy day out. I was squashed and constantly being elbowed by them bickering around me.
“Girls, stop it, leave your brother in peace,” Mum turned from the passenger seat, tiring of the constant whining.
“Stop it now,” Dad snapped in frustration. He looked around to help police his daughters, he only took his eyes off the road for a moment but that was enough. When Dad looked back, the car had veered across the road. Dad tugged the wheel but lost control of the car. I felt sick as the car spun down the embankment, we all screamed so loud. Then finally the car came to a stop, I sighed with relief, the car was the right way up and no one was hurt. Then I found myself drawn to a bright light on our left. It was a train; we were on the track right in its path.
I tried to get out, but I couldn’t get my seatbelt off. It didn’t matter, the train was going to hit us.

 In a heartbeat, there was nothing. I blinked rapidly, puzzled to find I was no longer in the car. Had I been dreaming about the train? No, somehow, I was on a train; I could feel it vibrating beneath me as I lay on the cold floor.
“Are you going to lie there all day?” Dad offered out his hand.
“Where are we?” I looked around; we appeared to be in the cargo carriage of an old steam train.
“We're on the train, silly,” Mum laughed
She sounded so matter-of-fact, like it was obvious we should be on a train, but I clearly remembered being in our car.
Our day out had nothing to do with trains, old or new. Was I dreaming? I had never had a dream like this before.
My parents were acting very odd. My Mum was sitting on the ground, cuddling my sisters, and my Dad was looking for something. Even my sisters were being strange, for one, they were quiet, sharing Mum's embrace with no arguing or bickering.
“Are there any seats on the train?” I frowned, Mum couldn't be comfortable sat on the cold bare floor. “I'll go and have a look”
“No” Dad called quickly, “we have to stay together”
“Come and have a hug, honey, we’re fine where we are.” Mum offered.
“I won’t be long.” I decided I would go and look for seats anyway. These old trains always had more seats than passengers. There had to be some, somewhere.

I crossed the gap onto the passenger carriage. The train was old-fashioned, click clacking along, but the people were all in modern clothing. There were one or two empty seats but not enough for my family.
“Tickets please.” A voice called from further down the carriage.
I walked towards the ageing ticket inspector, dressed in old-fashioned clothing that seemed to match the age of the train.
“Ticket please,” the man asked me.
“Oh, I don't have one.” I quickly checked my pockets just in case.
“If you don't have a ticket you'll have to leave the train” the inspector warned.
“I'll ask my parents for it,” I promised. “Are there any seats further down the train?”
“Of course,” The man replied, “There are enough seats for everyone with tickets”
Two passengers on the left handed over their tickets for inspection and one passenger on the right hunted everywhere but couldn’t find a ticket.
“You have to get off at the next stop Sir” The inspector told him before turning to me “You too, Sonny”
“My parents have the ticket,” I insisted.
“You have to get off sometime, Sonny.”
“Where is the train going?” I frowned.
“The train goes to its destination” The ticket inspector replied bluntly.

I followed the inspector down the train, on my way back to my parents.
“Tickets!” the man called to a mother and her young child sitting together counting cows out of the window.
The mother hunted everywhere for her ticket, while the daughter found one with relative ease, screwed up in her pocket with other rubbish deemed important to five-year olds
“You need to leave at the next station.” The man spoke kindly to the woman.
“We'll be ready” The woman replied.
“Your daughter gets to stay. She has a ticket.” The man explained, something sympathetic and at the same time, serious in his tone.  “Station approaching”
“I can't leave my daughter. Can I buy a ticket?”
“I'm sorry, you have to move on.” The man placed his hand briefly on her shoulder.

As they walked on back down the carriage towards my parents, I was surprised so many people didn't have tickets
“Station approaching.” The ticket inspector stopped at the end of the carriage.
“What about my parents?” I protested “They're in the cargo hold”
“No one travels in the cargo carriage,” the man replied in a very matter-of-fact tone.

The train screech to a halt, throwing me forwards to my knees. Surprisingly, very few other people noticed the rapid deceleration of the train.
Outside, everything was a bright yellow light, I had to shield my eyes as I looked out, trying to find any signs of a platform but I couldn't find anything. Three passengers stood up, all of them had been unable to produce tickets earlier, and they each calmly left the train, disappearing into the light.
“Where are they going?” I asked. “What's going to happen to them?”
“They are moving on,” the ticket inspector explained.

I stood and watched the station filled with light and then it dawned on me.
“The accident!” I groaned and lifted my hand to my head as I remembered “We caused the accident. All these people are dying and it’s all our fault”
“Ticket please, Sonny.”
“My parents have it,” I snapped, feeling frustrated and confused. Had my father's lapse in concentration caused an accident and all these people had been involved?
“Where exactly are we going?” I persisted.
“To our destination,” the man explained, unhelpfully.
“Unless you go towards the light,” I groaned “Those people, we killed them”
“Ticket please,” the man said.
“My parents have it. I'll go get it”
“Your parents are holding you back.” The inspector grabbed my arm, holding me still for a moment. “Don't let them ruin this for you”
“OK.” I frowned.
“Only three more stops left until our destination.” The inspector raised his eyebrows at me and then released my arm.

I glanced outside, fields were whizzing by once again as the train continued on its destination. I crossed back over into my parent's cargo carriage.
“Thank goodness,” Dad hurried over to me “We've been so worried about you”
“I was only looking for seats in the next carriage.”
“I'm glad you're back, we were getting worried” Mum called.
“Why didn't you look for me?” I asked. Was I the only one who thought this whole thing was odd?
“Did you find any seats honey?” Mum called, still hugging my sisters as though she would never let them go.
“No. The Inspector said there were plenty if we showed him our tickets.”
“Do you have a ticket, Will?” Dad asked.
“No” I replied, frowning “Do you have a ticket?”
“Ask your mother” Dad replied.
“Mum?” I turned to the woman.
“I have them somewhere.” Mum began emptying her handbag. She carried so much stuff in it. She struggled to find anything.
“Mum, Dad, I think we had an accident. I think we hit the train and now we're in some kind of limbo. I think we're in this coach because we weren't on the train, the real train. People are dying and then they don't have tickets so they have to leave the train.”
I paused and waited for my parents to react to my ludicrous idea, but my Dad just made a "hmm sound".
“Found one,” Mum called, finally finding a single ticket in her now empty bag.
“Where are the others?”
Mum continued looking, unmoved by my comments.
“What do you think Dad?”
“Whatever you say, Will”
I looked at the one ticket and frowned so much it hurt. Only one ticket? The inspector had said about my parents holding me back. Was this what he meant? As silly as it all seemed, I was beginning to work it out. The ticket was mine, but if I didn't have it on me when the train reached its destination, I would count as having no ticket. Would that mean I didn't get to live? Did that mean my family didn't get to live? Was that what he meant by my family holding me back?
“I think you need to get off at the next station. I think that ticket is mine and you have to pass over.”
I may have believed it, but I didn't want it to be true. I didn't want my family to die, but I didn't want to be stuck in limbo with them, forever sitting in the cargo carriage of an old train.
“Why do you think the ticket is yours, Will?” Dad called. “It could be your mother's, she's the one who has it”
“True.” I shrugged “Then the rest of us need to leave so she can live.”
“No, we all have to stay together,” Mum ordered “No one is getting off the train until I find all the tickets”
“Don't worry, Will, we all have tickets.” Dad smiled comfortingly “You know your mum's bag swallows things. So many pockets.”
I sighed. Maybe I was over thinking things.
“I'll go back and ask about seats.” I decided I needed to talk to the Inspector some more.
“Please stay with us,” Mum called “We can all stay together.”
“I won’t be long.” I turned, why my parents weren't doing anything about our strange train journey.

I looked around for the inspector and found him at the far end of the carriage.
“Excuse me.” I headed down towards him.
“Not another word until you show me your ticket,” the inspector called back.
“I found it. It was in my mum's bag.” I smiled confidently. “Can you tell me what you meant about my family holding me back?”
“You see that lady there?” The inspector pointed to the lady I had seen earlier with her young daughter. I nodded, remembering all the bits the girl had found in her pocket.
“She doesn't have a ticket, but her daughter does. She needs to get off the train, and her daughter gets to stay”
“So if she doesn't leave the train, the girl doesn't get to leave the train at the destination. So, what happens when the train reaches the destination?”
“The girl will be unable to move on. They will stay on the train.” The inspector shrugged
“Forever?” I gasped
“Station approaching,” the inspector announced, and pulled on the long silver chain. I stumbled backwards as the train came to a standstill.
“Are they dying?” I muttered as two people left the train, stepping without hesitating into the blinding light.
“They are moving on,” the man replied. “Only two more stops to go.”
“So my parents need to leave the train before the destination, is that what you've been trying to tell me?”
“All I've been saying, Sonny, is tickets please.”
I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath. Was an eternity in limbo better than losing my family? I walked down towards the mother and child.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Can I ask a question please?”
“Of course,” The mother replied.
“Did you know that you have to leave the train for her to live?”
“All I know is I can't leave her,” the woman replied. “I would rather spend an eternity on the train than be parted from my child.”
“But you'd be keeping her on the train. Is that better than allowing her to live?”
“I don't want to leave my little girl. How could I?”
“Isn't it better to let her have a future?” I was trying to understand my parent's feelings “You're denying her a life of her own”
The woman looked down and sighed, I realised she was starting to cry.
“I'm sorry, please don’t cry!” I gasped.
“You're right.” She sobbed, putting her arm around the girl to give her a quick hug. “I have to leave the train for her move on”
I paused for a moment. I knew I had to face my family before the train reached its destination.

My parents were delighted to see me return, greeting me with big hugs like I had been gone forever.
“We found them.” My youngest sister waved a ticket in my face.
 “Great.” I grinned, I didn't have to lose my family after all. “That's fantastic. Where's my ticket?”
I longed to actually hold it and show it to the inspector. “We can get some proper seats”
“I don’t have your ticket honey,” Mum explained. “It seems I was wrong. I only had mine”
“Seems we all had our own.” Dad laughed as though the lost tickets were highly amusing.
“Wait!” I gasped, pushing away from my mum “That means I don't have one.”
If I was the only one without a ticket, it meant I had been wrong the whole time. It wasn't my family stopping me from living, it was me stopping them. I had to leave the train so they could live. The ticket inspector had been telling me the whole time.
“I'm the only one without a ticket,” I explained “I have to leave the train”
“No!” Mum grabbed my arm in the same place as the inspector “You aren't going anywhere. We're all going to stay here together”
“I can't.” I pulled away. As wonderful as staying with my family sounded, I couldn't deny them a future. My sisters had their whole lives ahead of them. “I know what I have to do.”
“No Will,” Mum begged. “Stay with me.”
“I can't.” I hugged my mum tightly and for the last time, sobbing into her shoulder. “I love you but I have to do this.”
“Oh Will, I love you too.” Mum gripped me so tightly.
“I love you guys.” I hugged my sisters next. I grinned through my tears as I thought I would actually miss them “Even if you are the most annoying sisters going.”
“It’s her fault,” the older one whispered in my ear.
“Only because she started it,” the other one added.
“Promise me you'll try to be nicer to each other when I'm gone."
“For you!” the girls replied, hugging each other as I left them.
“I don't think we brought anything with us,” I told my dad, unsure whether I should hug him. We hadn't cuddled since my twelfth birthday.
“You know you don't have to go.” Dad held out his hand to shake mine.
“I have to.” I shrugged dismally, shaking my father's hand “But I don't want to.”
“Oh come here.” Dad pulled me into him and hugged me like never before.
“I love you, Dad,” I muttered.

I couldn't stop crying as I made my final goodbyes, they wanted me to stay but I couldn't do it to them; I couldn't condemn them to an eternity on the train for my sake. I wondered if they would remember these final moments after the train reached its destination, then I turned and walked away without looking over my shoulder. It was unbearably hard to walk away from them, if I looked back I would change my mind and then I would ruin their lives forever. 

The Inspector was waiting for me as I stepped back onto the passenger carriage.
“Ticket please," the man called instantly.
“I don't have one” I confessed.
“I knew it!” The inspector chuckled. “Station coming right up”
I inhaled and nodded as the inspector reached for the chain. I clung onto the rail as the train came to a stop and I looked out at the light.
“Will it hurt?” I hesitated.
“Yes” The inspector nodded. “But only for a while”
I nodded and drew in a deep breath, finding no comfort in the man's words.
 “Together,” a voice stammered behind me and a hand slipped into mine. It was the mother who I had convinced to leave her daughter. I gripped tightly and we both stepped into light.

The light was warm and peaceful as it enveloped me, the woman melted away from my side into the brightness. I leant back and relaxed, thinking it hadn't been too bad. Then came a whooshing pop and the calm was gone. The inspector was right, everywhere hurt, a tight pressure seemed to stop my body from moving. It was noisy, beeping, voices and scraping all around me. I curiously opened my eyes and looked at a blurry world of flashing lights and an overcast night sky.
“Hello.” A woman in a green uniform appeared in my line of sight “Don't worry, you're going to be fine.”
I frowned, I tried to talk but only managed a groan. I closed my tired eyes and thought about the train and the passengers on it; unaware they were in fact journeying to the afterlife.  That was the destination; death. The light was life. I had chosen to live, I hadn't let my family hold me back and keep me on the train. But I knew there was still hope for my family. There was one stop left on the limbo train's journey. They could decide to leave, if they wanted to, couldn't they? The inspector hadn't seen their tickets and they had been so keen for everyone to stay together, they might follow me. They might... they just might...!


















Wednesday, 15 November 2017

SPRING 1993

Glenn Bresciani

banana smoothie 

I am an Australian who is a factory worker by day and a writer by night. My partner and I have been caring for foster children for seven years.  My articles on foster care have been published on the websites Parenting Express, Next Family and CafeLit.
The beverage I have chosen for my short story is: banana smoothie

Yours sincerely
Glenn Bresciani


                                      SPRING 1993                                                                                                             
      Okay, I confess: I am a twenty-two year old male devoted to computer games. Indulging myself in this passion brands me as a ‘Nerd’ or ‘Geek,’ particularly by those whose idea of a quality lifestyle is being out in the midst of a sunny day involved in some sports or other. Although my high self-esteem shields me from such insults, it does little to prevent me from getting annoyed whenever I am told to ‘get a life.’
      Get a life, indeed! I am attracted to computer games because they divert my mind from life. And, believe me, I need the diversion. Each day is filled with complications. Joy, sadness, anger, in fact every emotion available to humans is incited by the many situations I find myself- leaving me in a heightened state of aliveness. So it's no wonder I use computer games to distract my mind from daily dilemmas and stimuli.
      Last Saturday morning is a great example to demonstrate how really intense my life is. My mate Kovka and I were linking our computers together so we could network a computer game. My mate Kovka is a portly giant, measuring over two meters tall. With Kovka one gets the feeling one is in the presence of a cheerful, talkative Goliath. However, I’m not impressed by his dress sense. He always wears faded army pants and a stretched, moth-eaten woolen jumper.
      While we connected the computers on the dining table of my flat, we discussed the hassles we each endure with our jobs. I’m a representative for a shop that sells automotive paints, and Kovka is employed as a security guard for the city's entertainment center. Exhausted by another frenetic week at work, we were both eager to plunge our minds into the pixilated sci-fi horror of Doom, a game painstakingly built by computer programmers for our enjoyment.
      But before we can begin the game, Kovka wants to go and buy bags of chips and a bottle or two of soft drink. Our sessions on the computer are long, sometimes up to six hours, so Kovka likes to keep food and drink close to his computer.
      We’ll have to visit the service station to get the provisions, and once the computers were set up, we got into my car to begin our mission.
      At the service station, I pass the time by browsing through magazines while Kovka selects bags of chips and pulled bottles of lemonade from the fridge. Can you see any problems emerging from this mundane task? Of course not. Thousands of people do it every day with minimum fuss. So, what I want to know is this: if it's so basic for everybody else, then why does it have to become an ordeal for Kovka and me? I wish I had stayed in my flat and told Kovka to forget about the food, just play the damn computer game.
      Our predicament presented itself in the shape of a distressed bride. No point in describing the bride as they are all the same, stunning in a flowing white dress. Although, I guess the young lady's clear blue eyes and her dark hair falling in tight ringlets down the sides of her face are worth a mention, as I found them attractive. Accompanying the bride was an exasperated woman in a wheelchair wearing a leather vest. Her bare arms- biceps bulging from having to wheel herself about- were decorated with Celtic style tattoos.
      Hope vanquished the lines of anxiety on the bride's face when she saw the pay phone next to the freezer. Her relief was killed by disappointment when she noticed the piece of paper taped to the phone with OUT OF ORDER printed on it.
      The attendant, standing behind the counter waving Kovka's choice of chip packets through the scanner, apologized for the inconvenience that only a dead telephone could provide.
      "I have to phone NRMA," said the bride, "my bridal car has a flat tire.”
      The attendant whistled. "Talk about unlucky. Is your car outside?"
      "Nope, it's sitting on the side of a road three blocks away. Lucy and I have spent ten minutes searching the streets for a phone booth. We didn't see one but we found this service station- not that an out-of-order phone will do me any good."
      "Typical," the attendant said, "if it wasn't an emergency you can bet the phone would be operating."
      The bride put her hands on her hips and began to pace. "And to think I was running on time too. If my bridal car hadn’t had a flat tire it would’ve been the first wedding where the bride was punctual."
      "Why can't the driver change a flat tire?" asked Kovka, leaning against the counter. He was intrigued by the bride's plight.
      The woman in the wheel chair glared at him. "I'm the driver. Do I look like I can change a tire?"
      "Point taken," Kovka muttered, deciding to shut-up.
      "I'd change the tire myself," the bride said, "but you can imagine how obvious dirt streaks are on a white dress, plus the effects sweat has on make-up? It's taken me two hours to transform myself into a bride, so I'll only change the tire as a last resort. Not even my father can change the tire. He's recovering from a stroke."
      It was a tragic story, and I reckon that if the bridal car was parked outside, the attendant would have jumped the counter and changed the tire for the bride. All he could do to assist her was to offer her his phone behind the counter. The bride picked up the offered phone and dialed, waiting for a response.
      "Hello, I'm ringing for a road service . . . the bridal car that’s taking me to the church has a flat tire and none of us can change it . . . bad luck, tell me about it . . . what's that? You want the number on the membership card?" She pressed the phone against her chest and spoke to the woman in the wheelchair.
      "Lucy, quick, what's your NRMA number?"
      The paraplegic was more composed than the distraught bride. Already she had her wallet in her lap, slipping the plastic card out. She read the number out to the bride.
      "The number is LC44 2789," the bride repeated into the phone.
      While Kovka placed his change in his wallet and picked up the plastic bags, I continued to eavesdrop on the bride's conversation over the phone.
      "It'll take an hour for a road service to reach the car? That's no good to me; the wedding ceremony was supposed to start ten minutes ago. . . this is urgent, I need assistance right now. . . isn't there any mechanic available?. . . There's no one! Well then, your service is no good to me!"
       I watched the bride slam the phone on the receiver and cover her mouth with her hand. Seeing her inflicted by trepidation, it became obvious to me that she was considering changing the tire herself. The thought of her walking down the aisle with dirt and grease on her hands and dress appalled me- I would not allow it. As I opened my mouth to speak, Kovka sensed the compassion I was feeling toward the bride and nudged me in the ribs. He shook his head, pleading silently for me to be indifferent, to not get involved in the bride's predicament and go back to my flat to play Doom.
      "Excuse me," I said to the bride, ignoring Kovka, "If you want, my friend and I can give you a ride to your car and fix the flat tire."
      There, I have spoken; I have committed myself to her problem. The bride was at first suspicious, studying Kovka and me until she registered my concern. She and the paraplegic looked at each other, then, realizing my charity was genuine, gave me their consent to aid them with a nod of their heads. The bride became excited, treating Kovka and I as if we were a godsend. And so, the two women in the backseat, the food and drinks in the luggage compartment with the wheelchair, we exited the service station in my station wagon.                                          
      While I drove Kovka frowned at me, making it clear he was frustrated. He didn't have to frown; I knew how he felt because the feeling was mutual. Life had, once again, refused to let us escape its grasp by delving into a computer game.
      As we drove, determination to prevail over this difficulty was a strong emotion felt by all of us. It seemed wrong to share this potent feeling as strangers and so we used talk to unite us as friends. It didn't matter how trivial the talk was, as long as it gave us some sort of bond.
      "I can't thank you two enough," said the bride, "my name is Sonja, and this is Lucy. She’s the owner of the car that was hired to take me to the church."
      "Hey," grunted Lucy. In the short time I had spent with her she was in a foul mood. Considering her car decided to have a flat tire on Sonja's most special day, who could blame her?
      "I'm Todd," I said, "and this is my mate Kovka."
      "That's an odd name," Lucy said, her tone of voice implying it was a statement rather than a question.
      "I was born in Russia," explained Kovka. "My family moved to Australia when I was about five."     
      "Russia?" Sonja gasped, "You’re the first Russian I've ever met. What's it like living over there? Do you remember much?"
      "No, not really. The only thing I can recall is the color white. Everything is white from snow-and cold too. Each morning my mother used to dress me in big heavy coats. I'm glad I don't have to wear such thick clothing in Australia."
      "What sort of car did you hire for the wedding?" I asked. I was curious to know; judging Lucy by her 'born to be wild' image, I doubted she drove a BMW.
      "A Monaro," answered Lucy. "Sonja and her fiancé approached the Monaro Club that I'm a member of and offered a fee for the use of one of the cars."
      "My fiancé is a Monaro fanatic," said Sonja, "He was so enthralled by Lucy's beastly machine that he pleaded with her to drive me to the church."
      "I was honored to do it," grumbled Lucy, "it would be the first time my Monaro had ever been used for a wedding. But now I'm fucking humiliated because my car decides to be an inconvenient bitch." 
      Speaking of the Monaro, there it was in Rowan Street, parked on the side of the road. Looking at it, I had to agree with Sonja that it was indeed a magnificent vehicle. With its long, solid body and sleek contours, it appeared to be moving rapidly despite it being stationary. Its panels were as smooth as glass, its black paint work polished to a high sheen that reflected everything surrounding it.
      As I parked my station wagon behind the splendor that was the Monaro, I could see a man's face peer out of the Monaro's back window. The left-hand, rear door opened and Sonja's father stepped onto the side walk. His face was haggard and his posture weak, but I guess a stroke has that effect on a person. Sonja hurried out of my car, lifting her dress up with both hands as she ran to her father, embracing him.
      "Dad, these two men have offered to fix the tire."
      "Couldn't you get in touch with the NRMA?" asked her father in a deep, croaking voice.
      "Oh, I rang them, but it would’ve taken them an hour to arrive."
      While Kovka and I held Lucy's wheelchair next to my station wagon so she could lower herself into it, Sonja's father greeted us with a nod of his head.                                                                                          
      "Thank you," is all he said. I could see that he wanted desperately to be the one to assist his daughter, but could not because of his weakened state. His shoulders slumped forward to take the strain of the heavy weight of inadequacy he was feeling.  Sympathy towards this dejected father was the next emotion to engulf me- in my opinion, sympathy is the worst sensation one can experience. I was now emotionally synchronized with him, sharing his shame and broken pride.   
      "Hey Todd!” Kovka said at me, he already had the Monaro’s boot open and was dragging out the spare tire, "grab the wheel brace and start loosening the wheel nuts." 
      Removing the flat tire, I had a sensation of being someone of great significance. Only through my decision to make the Monaro drivable was Sonja's wedding directed away from disaster. I radiated pleasure with the knowledge that because of my kindness and my willingness to help, I had turned a crisis into a minor setback.
      The spare tire attached, I unwound the jack so Kovka could put his weight behind the wheel brace as he tightened the nuts. On the opposite side of the car, Lucy sat in the driver's seat then folded up her wheelchair. At the flick of a switch a chrome rack, bolted to the roof above the driver, folded outward and swung down on motorized arms. Lucy strapped the wheelchair to the rack and it ascended back on to the roof.
      The job completed, Kovka and I studied the dirt and grease that stained us, grinning with amusement. Oh well, better us being soiled, than the bride.                                                                                                
      Once the flat tire was placed in the boot of the car we received gratitude in abundance from Sonja. 'Thank you' after 'thank you' was verbally placed upon us like gifts. Even as Sonja's father said goodbye, shook our hands then sat himself in the back seat of the car, his daughter still continued to express her gratefulness.
      "You'd better get going Sonja, you're husband-to-be must be getting worried," I reminded her.
      The mental image my words put in Sonja's head forced her into action.                                    
      "Oh that's right, poor Steve, he'll be so concerned. He's probably standing at the alter thinking I stood him up. Have to run, thanks again," Sonja kissed me on the cheek then did the same to Kovka who had to bend his neck so that she could reach his face.
      She paused, as if recalling something. Then she hiked her wedding dress up to her thighs, slipping her garter off. She placed the lace circlet in my hand.
      "Look, I want you both to have this as a token of my appreciation."
      Kovka and I gaped at her, eyes bulging and our jaws wide open. I'm sure if we could see ourselves we would have been embarrassed by the blatant look of shock on our faces.
      "Yeah, I know it's ridiculous but it's all I have," explained Sonja. "Please except this garter, I will only end up throwing it at a group of single men at the reception. I would rather you two keep it." 
      My body suddenly felt as if it was filled with helium as ecstasy overwhelmed me. Receiving Sonja's gift- ludicrous as it was -plus her gratitude had put me on a high. I was elated, thrilled . . .
      I've got to disconnect myself from all this stimuli before it gives me mental fatigue. If only I had the imagination to give myself instant relief from the stimuli through daydreaming instead of relying on computer games. Is it becoming clear why I spend my spare time gazing at a monitor instead of being outdoors? It has nothing to do with me being unsociable or disinterested in life.
      You see, I have this theory that each individual’s response to life can be measured on a scale of one to ten. At the lowest point on the scale you will find all those reckless, adrenalin junkies who embrace slogans such as 'no fear' or 'live life to the max.’
      This kind of person is unresponsive to life, very little stirs their emotions. They consider their lives boring and crave the stimulation their low response to life denies them. The only way they can overcome their stoical handicap and invigorate all their dull senses is by participating in dangerous, furious activities that raise the adrenalin. Bungee jumping, skydiving, abseiling, jet skiing- you get my point.
      At the highest point of the scale you have poor bastards like Kovka and me. We're so sensitive to life, that even a simple thing like searching around the house for misplaced car keys, or the joy expressed by a school kid when buying one of their fund raising chocolate bars is enough to incite us. Just an hour of living and everything happening around us has invoked every emotion possible. No wonder Kovka and I need to retreat into a computer game where reality's assault on our minds cannot reach us.
      Kovka and I waved goodbye as the Monaro pulled away from the gutter then sped off down the road, the V-8 engine under its polished bonnet screaming. The beautiful bride and the Monaro were, at last, on their way to a church. In unison we sighed, long and deep, glad the complication was corrected.
      "Quick Todd, get into the car before a little girl wants us to get her cat out of a tree or something worse."
      "I agree Kovka."
      We got into my car and drove back to my flat, secure in the knowledge that a computer game was waiting for us to delve into it. 


About the author 

Glenn is Australian who is a factory worker by day and a writer by night. He and his partner have been caring for foster children for seven years.  His articles on foster care have been published on the websites Parenting Express, Next Family and CafeLit.