Archive for the 'Short Fiction' Category

Fiction #48 Cry Baby

Fiction #48 Cry Baby

‘You will respect Margaret in the same way as you speak to Mr. Ewing,’ my father announced the day before she commenced. ‘Teachers deserve your utmost respect.’ His deep gravelly mallee farmer’s voice rang in my ears as I meandered through the green-grey foliaged mallee scrub on my way to school for the new school term.

Already the north wind was whipping up snakes of dust curling along the ground and as I followed the railway line through the cutting the blast of hot air brought sweat patches to my shirt like some bizarre way of wetting myself. By way on contrast the sweat beads on my skin dried almost instantly.

I went to a small, one-teacher school in rural South Australia. Well, most of my primary schooling was with the one teacher, Mr. Ewing. For one memorable year it became a two teacher school. The assistant teacher was Margaret, who just happened to be my second cousin. That relationship gave me no advantage in the classroom. Margaret treated us all the same, even handed, fair, authoritative and with good humour.

Rodney hated her. And he hated me for being related.
‘She hates me,’ he hissed at recess on the first day. ‘Tell her to stop, ferret face.’ He thrust his pimply face towards my nose until I could see food scraps on his teeth that had not been brushed in weeks. His foul breath washed over me like a salami tsunami threatening to drown me in the detritus of Rodney’s disgusting diet. I knew his diet was disgusting; he’d sat next to me at lunch time too many times.

I tried to move towards the play ground. Rodney shoved me against the wall. He had received dozens of reminders from Margaret in the first two hours of the school year, to the point where Mr. Ewing had to intervene.
‘This is your last warning, Rodney Henschke,’ he said leaning over his desk. ‘One more step out of line and I will be forced to call in your parents and tell them what a pain you are.’
‘You don’t scare me,’ sneered Rodney. ‘My father is chairman of the school council – and don’t you forget it. He’ll get you sacked, he will.’ His smirk spoke volumes. I remembered how he took exception to a detention the year before. A two year old would have been proud of the temper tantrum that resulted. The very next morning Mr. Henschke was on the door step of the classroom.

I had just arrived at school; others were still drifting into the school yard. Pre-school games were starting to get under way in various parts of the yard. One group of older girls sat giggling in the shade under the old peppercorn tree on the northern side of the playground. Three of the younger children were having races across the crusher dust covered area next to the classroom. They all stopped in their tracks as Rodney’s father launched into a vitriolic verbal attack on mild, well mannered Mr. Ewing.

The teacher backed defensively into the classroom. I could still hear the irate parent shouting, but now the words were muffled by the thick stone walls of the classroom. Leon and I sneaked around to the southern side of the building and looked in through the window. The adults were sitting at the teacher’s desk. Rodney’s father was still shouting but I didn’t take any notice of what he was saying. He stood up and towered over the figure of Mr. Ewing. His blotched face bulged with veins I thought would burst any second, and with a greasy finger he poked the teacher’s chest so violently Mr. Ewing’s shoulder moved with each jab. I was just waiting for the follow-up punch; his other fist clenched and unclenched threateningly.

I eventually managed to escape the attention of Rodney. The new school year seemed to be off to a sour start. I was looking forward to having my relative as another teacher in the single classroom. She was mainly attending to the younger students while Mr. Ewing taught the older classes, including mine. This was to be my final year at primary school. High school beckons, but first I needed to complete the seventh grade. In my class were my cousin Greta, my neighbour’s daughter Suzette, Leon another neighbour and Rodney. We’d been right through primary school together.

This recess time was no different despite being the first one for the year. The younger children gathered at the sand pit, groups of girls took over the playground equipment and the boys headed for the open area affectionately known as the oval. It was a square shaped patch of dirt bounded by mallee trees and the southern part of the school building. Unlike true ovals it boasted no grass except after rain, something we didn’t see much of in this part of the country.

Many of the boys had quickly organised a game of cricket. John and Martin were batting, Ken was the current bowler and the younger students had fanned out across the dust bowl as fielders. Some of them were quickly bored with the game and were already fidgeting and ready to start chasing one another as an alternative game. They knew from past experience that their chances of having a bowl were slim; their chances of batting were even slighter.

Leon and I, now free of the attentions of Rodney for a few precious moments, wandered into the game. We chatted about our holidays. Leon, with his slow nasally drawl, droned on and on about motor bikes, the new tractor, harvesting the wheat crop and the farm animals in his care. He sounds just like a slightly shorter version of his father, I thought. And just as boring.

While we were the best of friends we had few things in common. It was a strange relationship brought about mainly through lack of other potential friends. In a small rural school in a small town there were few opportunities to make friends; you put up with what was available. Leon was the only one my age; I certainly didn’t want to make the effort to befriend Rodney.
‘Move over wombat arse,’ yelled Rodney as he strode across the oval. ‘I’m batting.’ He snatched the bat out of John’s hands and shoved him forcefully. John staggered backwards, his mild protest wasted on Rodney.

‘Rotten Rodney rules again,’ muttered Leon who usually never said anything negative about anyone. For Rodney he always made an exception. The fights between Leon’s and Rodney’s father were the stuff of legend in the small community, and had come to blows on more than one occasion.

‘Send down ya best – and it’ll head over the border,’ he taunted.

Ken hesitated for a second. He took a few extra steps back before commencing the run in to bowl. For a ten year old he had a superb action – and he was fast. He bowled a super ball right up in the block hole and to Rodney’s dismay, the ball thudded into the stumps, sending the middle stump cart wheeling away.
All the fielding students cheered and danced wildly in celebration.

‘You’re out!’

‘Shut up ferret face!’ Rodney glared in my direction. He turned, picked up the fallen stumps and set them up again. Ken reached out to take the bat to have his turn batting. School rules dictated that whoever bowled, caught or ran out a batman had the right to replace the dismissed batsman. Rodney shoved him away.

‘Get lost Ken! I’m not out – ya hear?’ He took guard again. ‘Now get back and bowl again – and this time wait until I’m ready, ya stupid mongrel.’

Ken was about to complain but thought better of it. He sullenly walked back to his mark in the dust and prepared to bowl again.

‘Are you sure you’re ready this time?’ Ken waited for a response. ‘Ready?’

Rodney looked around at the fielders, checking to see where he could hit the ball. He thumped the bat into the ground five or six times, swatted an annoying fly from his nose and then nodded at Ken.

Ken commenced his run. This time he steamed in even faster, grim faced and gripping the ball firmly. He came to the crease and let go and absolute screamer. The delivery was short and faster than I’d ever seen him bowl, but the beauty of it was lost on all the watchers by the result. The ball thumped short into the dry pitch creating a wild puff of dust before it reared up wildly. Rodney reacted with a jerk of his left arm, raising it up to protect his face. Everyone watching heard the loud crack as the ball crashed into his arm.

Rodney instantly dropped the bat and clutched his arm. ‘Mummy!’ he cried. ‘Mummy! Mummy!’ he ran off towards the classroom cradling his broken arm in his other arm, screaming as he went. ‘I want Mummy!’

We all stood around stunned by this sudden development. I glanced back at the disappearing figure of Rodney. I wandered over to the bat still lying where it had dropped. The ball had rolled only metres away.

‘That was a ripper of a ball Ken,’ Martin said. ‘I’m pleased you didn’t bowl like that at me.’

‘It’s what he deserved after I bowled him fair and square the previous ball,’ Ken said. ‘Still – I hope that I’m not in trouble with his old man.’

‘Who would have thought?’ I said.


‘That tough bully boy Rodney would be such a cry baby,’ I said. ‘I’ll never forget this day.’

‘And we can all make sure that bully boy never forgets it either,’ Ken added with a sly wink.

The new school year had suddenly taken on a much more positive feeling.

© 2015 Trevor Hampel

All rights reserved.


  • Although I have listed this piece of writing under fiction, some of it is true, based on a real life. Mine.
  • This piece was originally written as a warm-up writing exercise.
  • You can read more of my stories here.

Short story starters

Here is another set of short story starters.

Just choose one of them and use it as the first sentence in a short story. In fact, you can use more of them if you wish.

1. Fiona straightened her dress, gently brushed a hand over her hair and knocked confidently on the door.

2. Her life was never the same after that first encounter with Harry on the train.

3. It was the start of a series of exciting events, but Geoff didn’t know it at first.

4. It took Joan a few seconds to realise that she was in terrible danger.

5. On his fourth attempt Ken finally made it up the steep bank of the river.

6. “I had no idea that Peter felt that way,” said Lauren.

7. It was not until Monday that Maureen realised that she had made a terrible mistake.

8. Nancy knew at once that she should have reacted differently.

9. How could Peter have foreseen the immediate consequences of his simple words.

10. Rowena saw her changed situation as a wonderful opportunity to get back at her “friend.”

You can access many more short story starters here.

Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above. Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your web site or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.


Fiction #47 Leon

Fiction #47 Leon

Leon wasn’t the sharpest chisel in the set, but he was my mate in primary school. His father farmed the property a mile down the road. Despite being so close Leon and I rarely played together out of school hours. I didn’t have a bike – in fact I didn’t have a bike until I was married with two children – and Dad never saw the need for me to have a bike. And Leon couldn’t come over to my place to play because he had so many responsibilities around the farm.

His father was so disorganised he needed Leon to tend to various animals on a daily basis, feeding and watering as required. He was expected to do the rounds of the animals from a very early age, starting before going to school each day and continuing after school.

They had about a dozen chooks that laid the odd egg or two for breakfast, a family of ducks that pooped all over the paths and lawns, four pigs being fattened for eating someday but never reached the slaughter house, three cows, a horse that no-one could remember the last time anyone had ridden him, and flock of almost wild geese that roamed the farmyard around the sheds and the adjoining paddocks like they were the sole owners of the entire countryside. No-one ever messed with those geese if they wanted to remain unscathed.

I was in the same classroom as Leon. In fact, all of the children of the district shared to same room in the one teacher school. We were also in the same class in Sunday School in the local – the only – church in the small mallee town where we grew up. Most of the community were Lutherans; the few who weren’t Lutheran worshipped nowhere as the distance to the next town was too great to travel to church. People weren’t as mobile in the 1950s as they are today.

On one infamous occasion the teacher’s wife, a wonderful woman who never said or even thought ill of anyone, came to a church service one Easter. Being of the Churches of Christ denomination she was not only astonished but somewhat offended when she was refused permission to receive Holy Communion in the Lutheran Church. That was probably a watershed event which led me to one day abandon my membership of the Lutheran Church.

Leon’s faith was as simple as mine was complicated. He simply believed in God and took to heart all the stories about Jesus and Noah and Samson without question. God was God and was to be obeyed and feared. My faith by way of complete contrast was a convoluted expression and awe inspired mixture of love and fear and amazement. God was indeed to be feared, but he was also, through the expression of his son Jesus, an amazing example of love, a God who desired love in return. Fifty years later Leon still has an uncomplicated faith while I still have a cocktail of faith elements swishing around in my mind. I might manage to work it all out – providing I live another thirty or forty years. I am a work in progress.

Leon was a truly laconic Australian boy. I think he was the one they had in mind when they invented the word. He spoke with a deep, drawn out drawl, never getting excited in thought or speech. He could lull you into slumber with a drawn out description of wrestling with a reluctant bull for an hour when trying to load him on to a truck. After every sentence or two he would throw back his head and laugh, the deepest laugh I can ever remember hearing; slow, deliberate and taking delight in the memory of his misfortune and seeing the funny side of everything. It was the laugh which kept you from nodding off during one of his recounts of farming life.

Student life and Leon never became close friends. He never made it to high school; he was needed as an unpaid farmhand from an early age. In fact, I believe he even had to regularly ask his father for money when he eventually married. Leon survived primary school as best he could. He barely learned to read and write, but then, farmers didn’t need those skills to succeed on the land in the 1960s. He never excelled at anything academic in complete contrast with my levels of success. I managed to set new levels of excellence in all subjects attempted during the examinations in my final year, records which still stand because the school closed its doors for good several years later when all the children were taken by bus to the nearest large town.

Our friendship was a strange one; opposites attract they say. Intellectually we were poles apart, spiritually we saw life quite differently, emotionally I was a see-saw while he was a solid rock and physically he was tall, strong and stocky while I was short, thin and weak. Yet there was a bond that drew us together, a bond usually only felt by close brothers.

I cannot explain it, yet it was real, tangible. And long lasting. Only last year we were at a funeral and met up again after many years apart. He took one look at my bulging waistline and commented in a way only Leon could, ‘Looks like you’ve been in a good paddock.’ Only a friend like Leon could get away with a statement like that and not offend me.

© 2015 Trevor W. Hampel

All rights reserved.


  • Although I have listed this piece of writing under fiction, some of it is true, based on a real life. Mine.
  • This piece was originally written as a warm-up writing exercise.
  • You can read more of my stories here.

Short story starters

Today I have added another set of short story starters.

Just choose one of them and use it as the first sentence in a short story.

1. As Don turned the corner, he was surprised to see who was standing next to his car.

2. Fiona stopped and stared at the bush in the corner of her auntie’s garden.

3. In the rush to get to the football ground in time for the match, Harry had quite forgotten one, extremely important detail.

4. On reflection, Joel should have seen this argument coming.

5. As Lorna hobbled up the path to her front door, she pondered on the events of this important, life-changing day.

6. Twelve years ago Nola would not have reacted in this way, but things had changed – and not for the better.

7. Peta had quite forgotten her father’s advice and blazed ahead regardless.

8. Without a moment’s hesitation Ross slipped the envelope through the slot in the door.

9. As Toni walked across the stage to the lectern, she was sure about only one thing.

10. The clock ticking on the wall reminded Wendy that her time was slipping away rapidly.

You can find more short story starters here and more writing prompts here.

Conditions of use:

  • Feel free to use any of the story starters listed above. Change anything to suit your needs.
  • Give it your best shot.
  • Edit your work carefully before sending it off to a publisher or posting it on your blog.
  • Let me know in the comments section how it went.
  • If you publish your story on your web site or on your blog let me know so I can make a link to it for others to read.

Fiction #46 Fig Trees

We had several fig trees in the garden on the farm where I grew up. This was in the Murray Mallee area of South Australia. It was dry, dusty country for much of the year. Winter and spring rains were few and sparse, sometimes coming just at the right time, often at the wrong time. Farmers like my father eked out an existence somehow. It was a tough life.

A feature of our farm was the vegetable garden and orchard. It was like an oasis in the parched desert. Water came from the Murray River about twenty miles away but the pressure was never good. Dad made a large storage tank near the vegetable garden which filled slowly during the night and when other taps were switched off. This water was then used to water the garden as needed.

But back to the fig trees. We had at least two of them, perhaps three –my memory dims a little after all these years. Lovely lush green leaves a bright splash against the surrounding drab grey-green leaves of the mallee trees. In season the branches bowed under the weight of the luscious fruit. The rest of the family gorged themselves on the fruit when ripe, and mother gathered the leftovers for fig jam.

I was the odd one out. I didn’t really take to fresh figs and still won’t pick one up to eat. Not sure where this phobia came from. I cannot ever recall even tasting a fresh fig. Strange that, seeing I love and devour most fruits. I do occasionally eat fig jam, but then, very few people actually make fig jam like when I was younger. In fact, most people don’t make any jam these days. The only jam you see offered these days are those insipid globules of stickiness grandly called ‘conserves.’ They are so far from the taste of true home-made jam they deserve a different name.

No – fig trees and their fruits do not make the list of my favourite things.

Now – home-made strawberry, apricot or peach jam – well, where do I start? Fortunately my wife has excelled in making these jams over the span of our married life.

Pity I have diabetes.


© 2015 Trevor W. Hampel

All rights reserved.


  • Although I have listed this piece of writing under fiction, most of it is true, based on a real life. Mine.
  • This piece was originally written as a warm-up writing exercise.
  • You can read more of my stories here.