October 2016

Arts & Letters

6 × 100

By Paul Connolly
Six stories of 100 words

 

THERAPY

On account of what happened at school, Andy’s mum suggested he see a therapist. The therapist, Annabelle, recommended he keep a journal to help manage his anxiety. “Anxiety? What anxiety?” he said. “Interesting,” she mused. Andy was pleased to have interested Annabelle; she seemed nice. Later, Annabelle yawned, apologising profusely. “A long day. It’s not you.” This pleased Andy, too; interesting and not boring. Afterwards, his waiting father put his arm across Andy’s shoulder. The air outside was cool, the sky apricot. Andy sighed contentedly. “Don’t worry, mate, it’ll all be OK,” his dad said. Worried? Andy thought. Who’s worried?

 

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

Before he’d even finished Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Jared decided to become a Buddhist. And a motorcyclist. He told his family over dinner. Immediately his dad began singing “Everybody was kung fu fighting!”, with his two brothers joining in when they saw Jared was not only perplexed but also annoyed. “What’s kung fu got to do with anything?” he said, but they continued – “… fast as lightning!” – and chopped the air theatrically. When his mum began giggling, he nearly exploded. But he doused his fire and walked away. He was on the path to enlightenment. Unlike those fuckers.

 

SALAD DAYS

Frannie met Jasper at a rally. Nine years her senior, he was strong-jawed, clear-eyed, ethically scrupulous and, he disclosed, soberly, highly sexual. Soon she was hearing his post-coital dissertations on Marxism and cycling, and not minding it one bit. But five years later she’d grown into herself: a witty, flexible, unashamedly whimsical woman ravenous for meat and a car. With aircon. But Jasper was still Jasper. She admired his convictions but, worryingly, every time she saw him sitting straight-backed, diligently chewing his big salads, she had to fight the urge to punch him in the face.

 

SATURDAY AFTERNOON

Slumped on the couch, Wayne looked disapprovingly at the scimitar of gut erupting between his T-shirt and jeans. Ironing, his wife Amanda caught her reflection and was startled by her floppy triceps, exact replicas of her mum’s dreaded bingo wings. Upstairs, young Jai stood shirtless, bending, vigorously, this way and that, looking for evidence of a sixpack. Down the hall, his sister, Kaitlyn, dressing to go out clubbing, self-consciously stuffed tissues inside her bra. Meanwhile, outside, Brutus lay on the grass and licked his testicles as the afternoon sunshine bestowed its warmth and blessing along his fat, hairy flanks.

 

UP, UP AND AWAY

Clutching her daughter, Evie, and hollowed out by impending loss, Marian blamed herself. Her first mistake, 18 years earlier, was putting that world globe lamp in Evie’s room – its warm light drawing the eye, irradiating Earth in an inviting glow. After that, well, where to begin? With Marian’s romanticised re-tellings of her youthful adventures overseas? With the listing yellow towers of National Geographics in the study? With bookshelves brimming with Newbys, Chatwins, Brysons? With a radio hardwired to the BBC World Service? God, she’d all but dragged Evie here, to this ugly departures lounge. What a bloody fool she’d been.

 

DEATHBED REGRETS

The sun blazed through the window of Harriet’s “homelike” suite, engulfing her face, and no one thought to draw the curtains. Not her son, Max, who sat reading in a chair. Not her eldest, Joan, who bickered with her husband on her mobile. Not even her youngest, Tamara, the one she’d almost got right, arranging the beige blanket on Harriet’s bed instead of at least tilting her head away from the infernal light. God knows she couldn’t do it herself. What she’d sacrificed for this lot. Her death imminent, eyes streaming, Harriet wished she’d spent more time at the office.

Paul Connolly

Paul Connolly is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist and author, and is the editor of the essay collection Father Figures.

Cover

October 2016

From the front page

Chalmers fires up

A scrapper from Brisbane’s backblocks won’t be lectured on aspiration

Illustration

At home in the Antarctic

The screenwriters living with the crew of Mawson station

Image of the University of Sydney

Flat-earthers

The Australian’s crusade on free speech in universities

Image of Quarterly Essay 74, ‘The Prosperity Gospel’, by Erik Jensen

Everymen don’t exist

On the campaign trail with Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten – a Quarterly Essay extract


In This Issue

Illustration

The mystery of Malcolm Turnbull

What does the prime minister stand for, and when will we find out about it?

Self effacing

‘Mike Parr: Foreign Looking’ brings the anti-institutional artist to the National Gallery of Australia

Illustration

New students

Welcome to the Collingwood English Language School

Please stand

National anthems reflect all the complexities – and oddities – of the countries they represent


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Photo of Blackpink at Coachella

Seoul trained: K-pop and Blackpink

Trying to find meaning in the carefully formulated culture of K-pop

Cover image of Underland by Robert Macfarlane

The chthonic realms explored in Robert Macfarlane’s ‘Underland’

Cave systems, mines, urban sewers, mycelial networks, moulins and more

Still image from 'High Life'

A master’s misstep: Claire Denis’ ‘High Life’

The French auteur chooses a sci-fi film to start over-explaining things

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Unfinished business: A short story

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Alphabet

Sinkers

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Read on

Image of the University of Sydney

Flat-earthers

The Australian’s crusade on free speech in universities

Image of Quarterly Essay 74, ‘The Prosperity Gospel’, by Erik Jensen

Everymen don’t exist

On the campaign trail with Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten – a Quarterly Essay extract

Image from ‘Fleabag’

Falling for ‘Fleabag’

On the problematic hotness of Andrew Scott’s Hot Priest

Image of Costume at Dark Mofo

Dark Mofo 2019: Costume

The Tasmanian electro-orchestral pop artist makes a beguiling debut in Hobart


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