Happy Halloween! Here are two more samples of works from Logan Writers for your reading pleasure. Keep an eye out for the Special Halloween podcast with a spooky reading by Mitchell Tierney.
Halloween and the Day of the Dead – By Dallas Berge
The third time. The third knock on the door, the third group of costumed children (could you call these costumes?) expecting free sweets, despite the “Trick or treat?” ‘question’.
Jemima tried to be polite. “I’m sorry, we don’t celebrate Halloween here. We’re Seventh Day Adventists.” It was a lie, but it was better than losing it and telling the children, with their wide eyes and smiles, what she really thought.
Every year it was the same. This year would be different. After carefully closing the door (rather than slamming it), Jemima found a piece of paper on which she wrote ‘Sorry. We don’t celebrate Halloween here. Please do not knock. We wish you good luck in your door-to-door visits.’
It wasn’t always like this. Some years ago, Jemima had accompanied her own children, going from door to door, saying “Trick or treat?” to whoever opened the door. This was done through slightly gritted teeth, but just as Jemima had feigned excitement at seeing ‘Santa Claus’ in the local mall, and tried to interest, if not excite her children in visiting ‘Santa Claus’, she was not keen at that time to dampen their spirits with her personal disdain.
But her children were grown-ups now. There were no grandchildren yet. She hoped there would be soon, but she’d already tried to plant the idea in their heads and it hadn’t been well-received, especially by daughter Frances and her husband Joe. Frances was hell-bent on advancing in her career, (what for? wondered Jemima… isn’t being a mother the most fulfilling experience a woman could have?); son Dean meanwhile, always looked daggers at her. She had no idea Dean and Emily were having problems conceiving.
The phone rang. Who could it be? thought Jemima.
“Hello, Jemima speaking.”
“Jemima Stubbs? It’s Jenna Fairfield from Crown School of English. We were wondering if you were still interested in hosting a student?”
It had slipped Jemima’s mind that she had signed up to be a homestay parent some months ago, and anyway, why would they want her, a widow in her 50’s, to host a student anyway? They had been very nice, of course. They seemed to like her, but that was back in April, and she hadn’t heard from the school since.
“Um, yes, of course”, Jemima replied.
“Well, we have a Mexican student arriving in a few days’ time. We had a host family but they had to pull out at the last minute. She’ll be arriving on November the 4th because she has to celebrate the Mexican ‘Day of the Dead’ with her family first. Would you be available and interested in hosting a student from November 4th – November 20th?”
“I’m definitely available then…”, Jemima began, “but if you don’t mind my asking, what on earth is the ‘Day of the Dead’?”
“Ah…”, Jenna replied. “It’s an important celebration for Mexican people. Look it up online. It could be a useful topic of conversation if you choose to accept the student.”
“I would love to host this student. Will you simply send me the details or is there something else you need?”
“Nothing right now. We’ll send you the details and the contract, and if you are happy, just sign and return it.”
“This sounds good. I look forward to receiving your email and I’ll be in touch.”
“Thank you, Jemima. I’m sure both you and the student, Pilar, will get along well and it will be an enriching experience for both of you. I’ll email the details to you now. Goodnight.”
The call had been quite a surprise, so Jemima didn‘t know whether she was happy or perplexed at her own response. She had been hoping for a Japanese student – she had heard they were very polite and, as she was no longer accustomed to sharing her space, could only hope the student would be considerate and respectful.
Such short notice had left Jemima with little time to prepare, but the spare bedroom was always ready for the odd visit from her children, so there was not a lot to do. Apart from finding out what on earth the ‘Day of the Dead’ might be.
What Jemima read on Google astonished her. Preparing for a visit from the deceased? Expecting to go to a graveyard to laugh and enjoy memories of them? Nothing in Jemima’s church school education had prepared her for this. To Jemima, it seemed disrespectful. Who goes to a cemetery and has a party?
Although she hadn’t yet signed the contract, it was too late to back out now. She knew she was a last-minute choice, but if she didn’t host the student, who would?
And so Jemima took a decision. Not the decision to host the student – she had already made that, but a decision to visit her father’s grave, ready to celebrate, all on her own, without sadness but in a spirit of joy. She prepared some mementos of her long-passed father, bought some marigolds from a local florist’s, and went to the grave of a man she felt she had hardly ever known.
It was a lonely vigil (was it a vigil?) yet somehow Jemima managed to recall times of laughter, and although it was not something she would normally do, she stayed all night at the cemetery. Sometimes she laughed; other times she felt wrapped in sadness, almost overwhelmed by it, as if she had donned a very heavy coat. She went home, as the sun was rising and casting a tint of pink upon the sky.
Three days later, there was a knock on the door.
“Good morning, Jemima”, said Jenna. “This is Pilar. Pilar, this is your host mother, Jemima.”
Pilar simply smiled shyly.
And Jemima knew now that every decision she had made in the last 5 days had been the right one. There would be plenty to talk about.
Untitled by Alison Strachan
The moment he stepped through into the shopfront he knew something was off. The warm downlights usually made the store homely but the room was tense.
The nod of Peter’s head as he talked to the man in the suit near the front of the store told William who he was talking to. He clenched his jaw and turned from them, making his way to the counter in the centre of the room. His own son couldn’t wait to sell the land from beneath him but he wasn’t going to give in. Not while he was alive at least.
To make matters worse, the cursor blinked at William from the computer amidst a half-finished sentence in an email to Macquarie. He closed the window. It was easy enough to blame his age and poor eyesight for the loss of whatever information was held in that conversation.
He pretended to be busy when Peter joined him behind the counter.
“Playing solitaire?” His son gibed. His attempt at lightening the situation was betrayed by the way he rubbed the back of his neck.
William ignored him. It was childish, but it also felt good.
“The bookstore is not booming. In fact the profits for the last two years running have declined.”
“We are a long way off going under. I would’ve thought you of all people would understand the value in this bookstore,” William said.
Peter reached out for his father’s arm but hesitated. “I see the value it holds for you. That’s why it’s hard – ”
“Is it?” William asked. He met his son’s gaze noting how much like his mother he was. Their green and gold eyes both betrayed such intelligence and ambition.
“The industry is changing, Dad. Digital books are making things difficult.”
William stared at his son. He didn’t have the strength to argue about this again. When Fiona appeared, she gave the steaming mug to William and Peter walked away.
“Snow’s not letting up. There was a year,” she paused, retrieving the information from the story he’d once told her. “It fell thick an’ heavy for weeks. They had to break the ice in the canal… nineteen fifty-six wasn’t it?”
“Fifty-five,” William corrected. He knew what she was doing and he loved her for it.
Her smile warmed his heart and he wrapped his arm around her.
Indeed it snowed almost constantly for weeks on end, preventing the usual amount of customers from coming in. Peter would most certainly see a turn for the worse but William knew his customers. They would be back.
Fiona had her finger on the pulse. She’d organised a mic night with a local author, Jean McLelland. She’d set a microphone on the gallery level overlooking the centre of the room, now filled with an assortment of beanbags. Jean’s latest title, ‘Everlasting Summer’ was neatly stacked on the counter and filled a stand near the door.
They would sell hot chocolates for the young ones, and tea and coffee for the adults and raise funds for the homeless shelter. Fiona had gone above and beyond and it was sure to be a success.
It was looking bleaker than ever when the time came for the patrons to begin arriving. The world outside was covered in a blanket of grey. The doors thrashed on their hinges as the wind beat against them. It was hard to believe anyone would go out in that weather.
William gripped the cold handle tight. He wanted to be ready to usher anyone brave enough inside out of the cold quickly.
The minutes ticked past and the darkness deepened.
The trill of the telephone exploded in the silence and Fiona grabbed the receiver.
William knew before she said anything.
“Circa nineteen fifty-five, the weather has decided to work against us,” she mused. William said nothing. He didn’t even turn in her direction. “Jean just couldn’t get here.”
His fingers fell from the handle first, before his knees gave way.
A flash of red took his attention but he had to shield his eyes from the sunlight, though he couldn’t see the sky. The ground beneath him was porous and cold, the sound of water lapping beside him echoed through the space.
He listened, finding peace in the void. He didn’t know where he was but his heart swelled as if he were breathing in air saturated with hope.
His thoughts drifted as though he were in a dream and his eyes shot open. He didn’t want to leave this place just yet.
The ache that had settled in his lower back had dissipated so he pulled himself up into sitting position with ease, feeling younger than he had for a very long time. The shock at finding his feet in icy cold water was lost in the wonder of the place.
Light filtered down from an open shaft in the rock around him, dancing on the water. He leant forward to see down into the depths of the crystal blue and a single drop of blood sullied the blue depths before him.
Instinctively he wiped his nose to find blood smeared across his hand. From the corner of his eye he caught a shock of bright red, as it flashed through the water again.
A gasp escaped him as he reached out, teetering on the edge. And when he opened his eyes, not having realised they were closed, Fiona peered down at him tears streaming down her face.
“Will. Will,” she sobbed. “Stay there, the paramedics are on their way.” She clutched his hand tight, sniffing snot as William lay on his back inside his bookstore. The familiar smell of dust and chai brought him little comfort as he thought about the ethereal cave.
He frowned, as Fiona clucked at him and pulled a tissue from her pocket. She dapped at his nose and as she pulled it away he saw the blood…
Trespassing the Fairyland by Tatiana Efremova
“Do you like it?” my mum is looking at me expectantly.
“I like it,” I reply rather convincingly.
Our garden is glittering with tiny lights now, and it is kind of pretty.
“The boogie man has no place to hide anymore,” my mum is saying, this time enthusiastically.
“Yes,” I am confirming with a nod. I can see that now there is no room for a boogie man to hide.
“Can I play in the garden at night now?” I am asking.
“But at night it isn’t our garden anymore,” my mum is explaining while still smiling, “it is a fairy land. When the lights come on and the people go inside, all fairies come alive and come out to play in this garden. If you play here at night, the fairies won’t be able to play here. Do you want the fairies to have their play time?”
I am looking around for the fairies, and yes, my mum is right: my pink fairy is sitting under the bush. I am lifting my fairy and turning to my mum, “Can she play too?”
“Of course,” is my mum’s answer, “I’m telling you, they come to life when we don’t look.”
“Can I bring my blue pony to the fairy land?”
“Of course,” my mum is smiling kindly.
“Can I ride it when it is alive?” I am asking.
“You see, darling, they can’t be alive while you are looking at them,” my mum is explaining.
I am looking at the pink plastic fairy in my hand.
“Do they die when we look at them?” my eyes are starting to fill with tears.
Have I just killed my fairy?
I hope you enjoyed it.
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