Archive for November, 2007

Short Story: “Blue Skies”

“Blue Skies”

Frank opened his eyes. He struggled to wake up fully. He heard a strident noise near his left ear. After about fifteen seconds he groaned and rolled over.

“Stupid alarm clock,” he muttered as he thumped the little monster into silence. His eyes felt as heavy as bricks. His parched throat screamed for moisture. His muscles ached and his legs seemed tied to his mattress.

Frank raised his head a few centimetres and then let it flop back into the softness of his pillow. It felt warm, comforting, inviting and had an alluring softness. He lay there looking at the ceiling. The small black spider mesmerised him for several minutes.

“I must get up and get ready for work,” he thought. His eyelids drooped and he felt himself drifting off into a light slumber. He was suddenly jolted awake again by his watch alarm. As he sat up he swung his legs around and sat on the edge of his bed. He raised his hands to his head. Dizziness washed over him with a surge of nausea. His temples felt as if a knife was piercing through to his brains. He sat there for another five painful minutes. He yawned loudly at least a dozen times, his eyes watering with the effort. His jaws ached as if he’d been chewing all night. One of his back teeth ached. Reluctantly he dragged himself to the bathroom.

The soothing warm shower helped him to wake up a little. Still the yawns come frequently, endangering his face as he shaved. Thankfully he endured no cuts or nicks from his razor. As he dried his face he noticed several patches where he had missed some whiskers. He didn’t care. It was too much effort to lather up again. “Must buy an electric shaver,” he thought. As he dressed he realised he had no ironed shirts. He felt too tired to bother about ironing another one, so he scrabbled through his shirts until he found one with only a few creases. “My jumper will cover them,” he muttered.

He had no energy to make himself anything for breakfast. He stared at the shelves in the fridge. He grabbed a cold sausage. He took only a few bites before throwing the remainder in the bin. He sipped slowly at his coffee. It tasted foul and he left half a mug to grow cold. He sat staring out the window at the back garden.

Weeds grew profusely everywhere. Frank had lacked the energy for so long now that his garden resembled a wilderness. Every time he thought he had the motivation to attack his backyard jungle, his energy lasted barely ten or at best thirty minutes. “That jungle needs a week of weeding, mowing, cutting, digging and a mountain load of energy.” He hadn’t had enough energy for even an hour of effort now for many months.

He turned his stare at the wall clock. He had to leave for work now or he would be late. Ten minutes later he was still staring as the second hand swept around repeatedly. “Just like my life,” Frank snapped. “Just going round and round and getting nowhere.” He felt glued to his seat. He tried the coffee again. It was stone cold. He knew he must move, but the muscles wouldn’t work. He sat for another ten minutes. Only the sudden urge to relieve himself gave him the impetus to move. He sat on the toilet seat staring at the large spider in the corner. It had trapped a fly and was beginning to eat its victim. “Just like me,” he thought. “Trapped in a web of no escape. Life is about to consume me. I might as well be dead. Nobody knows, nobody cares. Even I don’t really care any more.”

A few minutes later – it felt like hours – he found himself in the lounge room. He curled up in his favourite chair. He stared at the television screen. It was blank. His mind was blank. His headache was much worse. He couldn’t remember if he’d taken a painkiller. His jaws ached too. He tried to relax his jaws. It lasted fifteen seconds and the aching returned, the teeth grinding together creating a horrid crunching noise inside his head.

“I must leave for work now,” he thought. He tried to get up. Instantly he flopped back into the chair. He noticed that his legs were twitching. He looked at his hands; they were shaking violently. He tried to stop them but without success. Waves of nausea engulfed him as the knot of fear twisted in his stomach. “I can’t, I can’t I can’t,”  he kept mumbling. “I can’t do it.” His whole body was now shaking violently with his silent sobbing, the crying inside of him trying to release all of his fears. He felt like screaming; no sound came forth. He curled up into a ball on the seat, rocking gently in his agony.

About an hour later the telephone rang.

All rights reserved.

(C)  2007 Trevor W. Hampel.

This story was first published in “Studio” Issue #102 June 2007.

Readers’ comments and responses are invited. Use the comments section below.

The Adventures of Nancy – home again

Nancy on her Mum's lap

Nancy on her Mum's lap

Hi there,

Nancy here again.

Sorry – it has been a while since my last blog entry. I have been very busy. My Mum finally came to pick me up from Grandpa Trevor’s home. Wow! Was I glad to see her after so many weeks! I was pleased to see her – and sad to leave Grandpa.

Since then I’ve been busy checking out everything at home. I had to check all the rooms of the house to see if Mum had been looking after everything. Then I had to check out the garden to make sure everything was secure. I had to bark at a few birds. They take such liberties when I am not there, so I had to straighten them out. Then that nasty cat from across the road keeps coming over and parading on the front verandah. The cheek of him.

Anyway, everything seems to be in order so I can now relax a little.

Talk to you again soon.

Nancy – the dog with attitude.

PS – if you would like to read more about me go to the archives here.

Setting goals for your writing

“One way to have more successes is to set yourself more modest goals.” Ashleigh Brilliant.

While this is a somewhat flippant and whimsical approach to goal setting, I do not fully agree with it. I find that so many people do not achieve anything of significance in their lives because they set no goals. Or they may set some goals but never seriously attempt to achieve them. And near the end of their lives they just wonder what happened and where their lives went.

On the other hand, some people set goals that are lofty, admirable and worthy of pursuing. Then they get discouraged because they cannot attain those goals. They had an unrealistic level of their own abilities.

Set realistic goals

I prefer instead to work hard at setting – and then achieving – realistic goals. Know thyself – analyse your goals and be honest with yourself, acknowledging your strengths and being aware of weaknesses. Take into account times and circumstances which can drastically impinge upon your goals. Know through trial and error what you can achieve. And then work hard at achieving your goals.

Writing goals

I have three crucial goals regarding my writing:

  1. I set firm targets for the number of hours of writing I do each week, month and year.
  2. I set firm targets for the number of words I write each week, month and year.
  3. I set firm goals for the number of blog posts I write each month.

I do not always achieve these goals, but I sure work hard at reaching them. Sometimes there are major interruptions, like recently when I was asked to work full time in a relieving capacity for three weeks. You have to work around life events and their demands.

Stretch yourself

I prefer not to set modest goals, as Ashleigh Brilliant suggests in the quote above. I would much rather set realistic goals that I know I can achieve if I work hard at them – and they stretch me a little. The satisfaction of achievement is therefore much sweeter.

Good writing.

You know you are getting old when…

I guess we’ve all read those lists of things that indicate that you are getting old. Such lists include such witticisms as “You know you are getting old when you back goes out more than you do.” These lists are supposed to be funny, but for the people who show some of symptoms mentioned in these lists, they are not all that funny. In some cases there is a real sadness or even distress about the aging process occurring in their formerly supple, healthy bodies.

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I recently celebrated my 60th birthday. In reality, it staggers me that I’ve reached that age. Mentally I certainly do not feel that old. I guess that is the result of working with 7 to 10 year old children for most of my life. Physically, many people tell me I look ten years younger. That’s always encouraging to the ego. When I do hard physical work (like gardening for example) I am starting to feel that the years have taken some of their toll. And I know I do not have the endurance to keep working long hours or to stay fully alert late into the evenings like I used to.

In all of this I did something this morning that made me realise a new truth about aging. You know you are getting old…when you send off an application form to obtain a Seniors Card. [Sigh] Here in Australia we have some generous discounts and concessions for those over the age of sixty, so I should not bemoan the fact. It’s just that the realisation crept up on me suddenly. [Another sigh]

Good writing.

One problem with Christmas and books

When it comes to birthdays and Christmas I have a problem. This problem was highlighted by a catalogue inserted in yesterday’s newspaper.

I like getting new books as gifts. That’s not the problem, however. When family members ask me what I would like as a gift I usually request a book or two (and sometimes more). And I often get what I ask for. Isn’t it nice to have such a compliant family?

Aiding and abetting this process are the numerous book catalogues inserted in magazines, newspapers and sent in the mail. Then there are those lists you read about this time of the year recommending several hundred books you ought to read before you shuffle off this planet. Such interesting titles in those lists and in those catalogues, too. I’d love to buy them or receive them and read them.

Ah – there’s the rub. I have so many unread books on my shelves it is becoming embarrassing. Add to that the growing piles of unread magazines in various rooms in the house and I have a major problem.

I think I might need to take a year or two off and just read.

Now which is the most comfortable chair in the house?