September 10, 2014 at 3:52 am #114prUneParticipant
I never could stand the sight of it. For as long as I remember, which is no more than 6 years, admittedly, the odd-looking fish had been preserved and placed above the fake stucco fireplace. It’s been here for much longer, though. You can tell by the thickness of the dust covering it. My friend Bert, that old chap, told me so.
He has told me many other stories about the town, about my family, and their glorious past. It could just have been no more than stories, but I believe him —for no reason, really. Maybe only because my sisters find him slightly creepy and old. Anyway, I like him.
In his stories, the fish had fallen many years ago from the sky. There had been rain this summer day, which was, in itself, even less believable than some oddly shaped flying fish falling from the sky. And that fish had fallen in front of what was the private mansion of the Curara family. Our ancestor found it, and decided to take it as a sign of the Almighty that they would be blessed with abundance forever after… But then, everything went downside with fantastic speed. The gold rush stopped in its tracks, the town slowly got deserted, and since then, our family started to believe that it was more a curse than a blessing. However, nobody ever bothered to get rid of the fish that once flew.
Maybe they were waiting for another one to appear to break the string of unfortunate events. I always think of all the amusing ways I could get rid of it without anybody noticing. April’s fools wouldn’t do… Too easy. But having it served at dinner would be a start. Sadly, with Aunt Idle’s poor cooking skills, there was no chance a fish could come unnoticed.
So it was on that particular day when I’d found and written down on my secret diary a 222nd way of getting rid of the fish, it was on that particular and fateful day, that everything changed again for the Curara family.
November 21, 2016 at 2:39 am #4187
“Sometimes you don’t know who you really are, but your story does.”
That was a strange fortune sesame ball. Janel’s parents had brought us to their favourite restaurant in town. Well, apart from Bart’s, it was the only other restaurant in town. The Blue Phoenix had this usual mixture of dimly lit, exotic looking run of the mill Chinese restaurant. But the highlight of the place, which surely drove people from miles here, was its owner. She liked to be called The Dragon Lady with her blue-black hair, slim silhouette, and mysterious half-closed eyes, she was always seen scrapping notes on bits of paper, sitting on a high stool at the back of the restaurant, near the cashier, and a tinkling beaded door curtain, leading to probably even darker places downstairs.
“How did you like the food kids?”
Janel’s father was nice, trying his best. I confectioned the most genial smile I could do, not my greatest work by far, “it was lurvely!” was all I could get out in such short notice.
The Dragon Lady must have felt something, she had apparently some extrasensoriel bullshit detector, and moving unnoticed like a cat, she was standing at our table, already not mincing words. “What was it you didn’t like with the food, young lady?”
She managed to cut all attempts at protest from the clueless adults with a single bat of an eyelash, and a well-placed wink of her deep blue eye.
For worse or for worst, the floor was all mine.
“Are glukenitched eggs even a real thing?” I managed to blurt out.
“Oh, my dear, you have no idea.”November 21, 2016 at 7:37 am #4192
I just shook my head and carried on digging the new bed for the broad beans. Wasn’t no point in trying to tell her, just let her grumble on. Never bloody satisfied unless they’ve got something to moan about. Women! And granny’s in particular, never satisfied. She wanted the place to herself, that’s what she always said, wanted a rest from all the commotion and noise. So what does she do when she has a nice bit of peace and quiet? Spends the whole bloody time wittering on about how quiet it is.
I’d have enjoyed the chance to get on with me gardening if I didn’t have to listen to Mater going on and on about how quiet it was. I said to her yesterday, “Aint so quiet ‘round here from my perspective, with you going on and on about how blasted quiet it is,” but she just snorted at me and carried on grumbling.
I haven’t told her Idle called to say she was on her way back home. Let her enjoy the sound of her own chuntering a bit longer.
Suddenly Bert saw the funny side. Perhaps it was the early morning sun turning the whitewashed walls gold that lightened his mood. Perhaps it was the birds twittering and fluttering from tree to tree. Perhaps it was the feeling of warmth as the slanting sun bathed his wrinkled brow. But he laughed out loud, for the sheer joy of it all.
“Daft old coot,” muttered Mater, who was watching him from the kitchen window. “What is there to laugh about? Silly old sod.” She turned away from the window with a derisory little sound, but a smile was hovering about her shriveled lips.November 22, 2016 at 3:36 am #4197
Bert seems to be digging a very large hole. I mean, good grief, it’s just a veggie garden. I don’t think my cabbages warrant all that effort. I pull open the window—the latch wobbles precariously on its single screw—and call out to him.
“What are you doing, Bert? Digging a grave or something?”
My humour is clearly lost on him. He glances over in my direction, distractedly, before placing his spade on the ground. He then kneels down in the dirt and leaning right inside the hole begins scrabbling with his hands.
I pull a jacket on over my pink floral onesie. The onesie was a birthday gift from the girls and was accompanied by rather a lot of silliness and giggling. However I was privately rather taken with my gift and with summer over and a cool chill in the air it was very handy to put on in the mornings. Completing my ensemble with an old pair of gumboots by the back doorstep, I go and join Bert in the garden.
“What’s that, Bert? What’s that you’ve found in there?”
“I’m not sure yet,” he replied. At least, I think that’s what he said. It was hard to hear him when he was hanging upside down in a hole.
I crouch down beside him, no mean feat at my age, and take a look.
All I can see are some bones.
“What is it? A dog or something?”
“Too big for a dog.”
“Oh my goodness!” I gasp. “Are those … people bones?”
Bert gently extricates an object from the dirt and pulling himself back up he perches down beside me. “Not unless they have a beak for a nose,” he says, gently dusting off the dirt and holding it up for me to see.
It was a giant skull. Like a strange giant bird.
“Dragon skull,” says Bert with a satisfied smile.November 22, 2016 at 9:24 am #4203
My work was done. The new guru had found her feet and was up and running. My behind the scenes supporting role was over, so I booked a flight back home. I called Bert and told him and he informed me that Mater had been grumbling about being left on her own and how quiet it was. I was under no illusion that she’d welcome me back with open arms ~ not outwardly, anyway. The first thing she’ll do is start complaining about the racket and the chaos, or so I thought. Such is life with the aged ones.
So I was astonished when Mater rushed out on to the porch when my taxi pulled up outside the Inn, and flabbergasted when Bert rushed out after her holding a large box. Stunned by the strange sight of such animation, I simply watched open mouthed as Bert ran back into the house, clutching the box, as Mater furiously admonished him and gave him a shove, looking over her shoulder at me. As if I couldn’t see them!
“I’m home!” I called gaily.
Mater giggled nervously (giggling at her age, I ask you! and wearing a pink floral babygro, it was almost obscene) and ran a withered hand through her sparse locks.
“What’s Bert got in that box?” I asked, in what I hoped was a neutral and cordial manner.
“What box? Er, nothing! There is nothing important about that box, I expect it’s just some old boring rubbish,” Mater replied, a trifle hastily, and altogether unconvincingly. “You must be parched after your journey, I’ll go and put the kettle on.” And with that she rushed inside, failing completely in her vapid attempt to allay my suspicions.
One thing was true though, I was parched, and Bert and the mysterious box would have to wait until after a cup of tea.June 8, 2017 at 7:17 pm #4354
Mater trundled in with the tea, carrying a slim parcel under her arm. She handed me the steaming mug, and then held the package up to her chest with both hands, and a rather theatrical expression of rapturous glee on her upturned face.
“It’s for you!”
I was beginning to wonder if she was starting to get worse, what with the dementia setting in, and took the parcel off her and started to open it.
“Look at the postmark! The stamps! The handwriting!”
I felt my hand fly to my mouth as my jaw dropped. Could it really be true, after so long?August 26, 2017 at 3:28 pm #4379August 26, 2017 at 9:08 pm #4380August 27, 2017 at 5:24 am #4382
Devan came back from Brisbane to help them plant the sale sign in front of the Inn. He was not sure how his sisters would take the thing, but the twins have been gone, and Prune was planning to go to Mars, her latest fad since she had seen a TV program about the Mars mission. Devan couldn’t believe they were talking about colonising Mars, but he couldn’t believe his family has stayed so long taking care of the old Inn.August 27, 2017 at 7:12 pm #4383December 11, 2017 at 9:27 pm #4399
FLACY TROVE COMMENT
“I have no idea what you are talking about!” said Mater backing away from Bert nervously. “And you will have to excuse me but my bladder calls!” And Mater sprinted inside at great speed. Faster than the speed of light, said Devan later when he recounted the story to Prune.December 15, 2017 at 5:39 am #4400
He was an inquisitive, depressed, tea drinker with skinny ears and tall sheep. His friends saw him as a moaning, mashed monster. Once, he had even saved a nasty old lady that was stuck in a drain. That’s the sort of man he was.
Bert walked over to the window and reflected on his brooding surroundings. The rain hammered like jumping dog.
Mater glared with all the wrath of 1553 honest hilarious hippo. She said, in hushed tones, “I hate you and I want information.”
They looked at each other with annoyed feelings, like two delicious, damaged donkey laughing at a very free house sale, which had piano music playing in the background and two sanguine uncles shouting to the beat.
Mater looked puzzled, her emotions blushing like a loud, little letter box.
Then Mater came inside for a nice cup of tea.
THE ENDDecember 15, 2017 at 2:34 pm #4401
Amazing how you can change your mind about things in the twinkling of an eye, and as I said to Bert (when he’d come down off those mushrooms or whatever was in those brownies that passing hippy gave him on the way to the guru camp over at the old copperworks place), I said to Bert, Bert I said, if you own the place lock stock and barrel, our financial worries are over. He said don’t be daft, you can’t eat the windows and doors, and what about all these dogs to feed, they can’t eat wooden beams, and I said, no listen Bert, I’ve had an idea. We don’t like banks, that’s true, and we don’t like debts, but why stand on principle and shoot yourself in the foot, I said, and I’ve heard about this thing with old people like us, that you can get the bank to give you loads of cash, and you don’t even have to pay them back until after you’re dead, and then he said, don’t be daft, how can you pay them back when you’re dead and I said Exactly, Bert! This is the beauty of it, and who knows if there will even be any more banks by the time we kick the bucket anyway, why not have our cake now and eat it, that’s what I said to Bert. And so he says, Well go on then, tell me why the bank would give us cash an I told him that they give you money because you own a house, and then when you snuff it, they have their money back. So Bert says, Yeah but they take far too much money, it’s another bank scam! And I said, Who the fuck cares, if we get the cash now when we need it? And then he said, Yeah, but what about the kids? I was gonna leave it to the kids, and I said, and I’ll be quite frank here, Fuck the kids! Who in the hell knows what the future will be like for the kids, and I told him straight: You can’t plan you’re own future, let alone trying to plan the kid’s future. Now is what matters, and right now, I need a new camera, and I need to get those tax hounds off my back. Then Bert started to smile and said, Hey, I could get me them new false teeth.July 14, 2019 at 1:39 pm #4665
I was looking forward to it, to tell you the truth. Things had been so dull around the Inn for so long, I’d started to feel that the old place had slid right off the map. Maybe things would have been different if Bert had remortgaged the place, but he’d refused, and there was no persuading him. So we’d bumbled along managing to keep the wolf from the door, somehow. It was quiet with the twins gone to college, and Devan who knows where, off traveling he’d said but had not kept in touch, and lord knew, Mater wasn’t much company these days. And there were so few guests that I was in danger of talking them to death, when they did come. Bert said that was why they always left the next morning, but I think he was pulling my leg.
Then out of the blue, I get a request to make a reservation, for two reporters here to cover the story, they said. I almost said “what story, there is no story going on here” and luckily managed to stop myself. If they wanted a story, I’d give them a story. Anything to liven the place up a bit.
On impulse, I decided to give Hilda “Red Eye” Astoria room 8 at the end of the corridor. Now there was a story, if she wanted one, the goings on in room 8! And to make it look like the inn was a busy thriving concern, I gave Connie “Continuity” Brown room 2, next to the dining room. Connie Brown was doing a report for the fashion column, and had inquired about the laundry services, and if there was a local dressmaker available. Of course I assured her there was, even though there wasn’t. But I reckoned Mater and I could manage whatever they required. Fashion shoot at the Flying Fish Inn, I ask you! What a joke.
I asked Bert what story he thought they were here to cover. He shifted in his seat and looked uncomfortable.
“We don’t want then digging around here, you don’t know what they might find.”
I looked at him piercingly. He asked me if a gnat had got stuck in my eye and why was I squinting. I wasn’t sure which dirty dark secret he was referring to, and frankly, would be hard put to recall all the details myself anyway, but I had a sneaking suspicion the old inn still had plenty of stories to tell ~ or to keep hidden awhile longer.July 14, 2019 at 8:51 pm #4667
“Oy! I did it! I’m here!” I laughed and laughed like I was mad, I couldn’t stop for words, too happy to be there I felt like cryin’ over the fire.
Two fat bungarras roasting here, clubbed hard to be tender, a good hunt for the day.
I don’t know what got into me, but I jumped on me feet, and told the other girls
“They roasted good and crisp. Now I want to take these bungarras to the old lady and her family in the inn. Their old chap was always good to us, and I think they don’t eat lots of meat these days.”
The others looked at me strange, but they let me take the lizards. And I went, not knowing how or why, but happy to be on the dusty road, on my way to the local Inn.July 16, 2019 at 8:36 am #4679
I could still smell the ounces of pecksniffery I got from the commiserating board during the review for the renewal of my scholarship.
My family background did its part; I guess it actually helped wet a few eyes.
A year ago, I was elated when I learnt I was accepted in the boarding school I applied for in secret. It is the only one in the country with an equivalence for astronaut programs. They don’t really advertise, but if you search, you can find them. Guess that’s how they select the motivated ones. I still have high hopes to get selected for the Mars program. They’re launching the first commercial travel in 2 or 3 years they say. That’ll give me time to prepare.
Almost didn’t get the letter though, between the nosy sisters and my messy aunt. Hard row to hoe, like they say. Thankfully Mater was still strong as a bull when it comes to holding this family together.
I guess it’s mostly for her that I come back from time to time. The fish’s still here on the fireplace, stupid as ever. I sure don’t come back for it. I think I’m missing Devan too, but he’s never kept touch. Can’t blame him, must have been hard to be the first born, that sort of things.
I had a dream last night; Mater must have sent it. We had to entertain guests —that’s how I knew it was a dream, must have been ages we had guests in the inn. I was doing a little cabaret show, then we all went for fortune cookies at the Chinese local restaurant, like old times.
Guess with the summer break coming, I don’t have much better things to do anyway, and bus tickets are cheap. As cheap as Aunt Dodo’s barmecidal crackers luncheons.July 16, 2019 at 8:48 am #4680
I could smell trouble as soon as I entered. And it was not because of the lizards, i can tell ya. Lizards, once roasted, they smell delicious. They taste good too, a blend of chicken and fish, is what they say. But don’t get me started on food.
It smelled trouble for sure. There was a convergence happening, something dark and twisted over the place. At times, I feel strange, like the Dreamtime speaking through me.
The lady didn’t come down to greet me, of course, bad hip and all, at her age. Their maid, Finly took the offering by the tails with a painful look, I almost regretted bringing them. Maybe she’d have liked roasted gator’s paw better.
“I think it all comes from your bathroom.” I said almost without thinking.
“What about the bathroom?” snapped the Finly, with pride and outrage on her sweet wizened face.
“There is some bad juju there, the Fish was a talisman to protect you from the evil eye here, but it has worn off, and your family ties… won’t do no, not strong enough, no. Evil seeps in, not good, not good at all.”
At times, I like to make a ton and play the local madwoman, it helps seal deals, you have no ideas. But truth is, something’s amiss in that bathroom. It’s in serious need of magical help.July 18, 2019 at 10:09 am #4692
The old secrets are going to get me in the end. But you know what, it’s still better than choking on the goddamn lizard’s stew.
I tried to protect the family from all the bloody secrets, but they’re working against me, Dodo for one, who doesn’t like secrets, the sweet twat. Time is against me too.
Of course I didn’t want to sell the Inn, even if it wasn’t for what’s hidden there, and all the secret entrances to the old mines, it was still Abby’s legacy. Her mother had to endure that sorry abusive husband of hers for years, it’s only fair she got something in return. The bastard didn’t know it, but the best thing in his life, his daughter Abscynthia wasn’t even his, she was mine. In the end, I’m glad she buggered off this town, her so-called “disparition” that made everyone run in circles for months. For her own sake, wherever she is now, she was better off.
Only probably Mater knows now about our crazy ties, and she’ll take this secret to her grave I’m sure. But I still want to take care of my grand children, the little buggers. Even had founded that smartass Prune for her dreams of university. Good for her.
All those sudden booking at the Inn? Don’t trust ‘em. Be here for the spiritual voodoo is one thing, but me, can’t fool me with that. The package, it never arrived. I’m sure it’s no coincidence, they’re onto us.
And they’re here for one thing.
The chests of gold.July 20, 2019 at 9:11 am #4701
I’d never have thought I would come back to the Inn. I had left believing I could make a fortune out of digging opals in Boulder, you know, finding the big one worth thousands. I didn’t miss my family and their odd attachment to the dead Fish. I guess except Prune, she had an ambition, of sort, meaning she wanted to get out of that black sucking shithole. And she always had crazy ideas. She knew how to think differently.
In Boulder, instead of fortune I found dust, sweat and booze, also lots of suspicion and jealousy when anyone found something. I was sucked in the local habits. Bad habits if you ask me, the kind that suck the life out of a man. But I did it anyway, there was not much to do. It soon felt as suffocating as the Inn, and it was not because of the dust. It was just another shithole, ‘tis all.
I was saved from dying from boredom when that strange man arrived on his Harley Davidson. He stayed for some times always telling stories. Crazy mad stories. I think he was a little paranoid, always believing he was followed or that some people were in danger. I asked him once why he was speaking so loud if he feared he was followed.
The man laughed and said: “It is a mean of self preservation son. They won’t dare make me disappear or it will prove I’m telling the truth.”
The kind of self explanatory stuff that you can never prove wrong or false, would have said Prune. Well with a better choice of words I’m sure.
Anyway, the man and his stories are part of the reasons I came back because he talked about that Dead Fish Inn, and a goldmine.July 20, 2019 at 1:04 pm #4702
What the dickens are you doing, Bert Buxton, I asked him. I mean really! So much to do and he’s messing around down there with things that don’t need to be done! I gave him a list a mile long of repairs that needed seeing to before the guests arrive: sort the sink out in room 8, have a look at the electrics in the dining room and stop that annoying strobing ~ what if one of these new guests is an epileptic, I said, and he said Oh alright then, he’s pretty good on the whole, old Bert. Then there’s Mater’s old sewing machine seized up and rusty and I’d promised a seamstress, and all the rest of it, not least that god awful stink coming from god knows where in Mater’s bathroom.
So why, I ask you ~ and I asked him straight out, I said Bert, what the dickens are you doing changing all the locks down there? Now, of all times, when there are so many jobs to do!
He didn’t tell me though, he said You do your jobs, and leave me to do mine, that’s what he said. And I thought, well, he’s right, I got more than enough jobs of my own to do, and left him to it.July 21, 2019 at 2:01 am #4704
The vegetable garden has provided a dismal crop this year. And what the heat hasn’t shrivelled, the insects have put paid to. Most weeks, I’ve had to send Bert to Willamonga to buy us veges from the Saturday markets. Or I will send him in to town to buy some of the bush food the Aboriginals sell from the store. “Yeah, yeah, Mater,” he says. “Don’t worry about food. There’s plenty.”
Of course I worry about food! We’ve all got to eat, don’t we? And look at my poor excuse of a garden; that won’t be feeding us!
There’s been some rain, not much, not enough to do more than dampen the surface of the ground. It’s down deep the soil needs water. There are secrets down deep.
“Bert,” I say. “You remembered there’s folk coming to stay? We’ll need extra food for them. Better go to the market on Saturday, eh?”
“You make sure there’s enough food for them all, Bert. We’ve not had this many booked for a long while. And Dodo can’t organise herself to get up in the morning, let alone look after others. Is she still drinking?”
“Don’t fuss, Mater,” he says with a smile. “All under control.” And he speaks so loud, like I’m hard of hearing or something.
People are always telling me not to worry, nowadays. Telling me to sit down and rest. Do I want a nice cup of tea? they ask. Telling me I’ve earned it. Treating me like I’m halfway in the grave already.
Except for that Finly. She turned out to be a godsend when I hired her all those years ago. Smart as a tack, that one. Not much she doesn’t see. Makes me laugh with her little sideways remarks. Works like a horse and honest as the day is long.
And my god, the days feel long.
Anyway, I won’t be going to the grave any time soon. There’s things need doing first. Wrongs which need putting right. Things the children need to know.
The grounds so dry. The worms have all gone down deep to find water. Better remember to put out food and water for the birds. And does Bert know to buy food? There are secrets down deep. The earth’s held them close long enough.
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