Firstly, welcome and thank you to my first guest in the challenge, Michelle Scorziello, whose short story Boiler Room has just been shortlisted in the Writers & Artists Arvon Short Story Competition. Its a great story so I'm sure she's on her way to winning it. This flash fiction she's kindly allowed me to publish on my blog really invokes that feeling you get when you live abroad and some days wake up and just feel really far from home but then find things that help make it better again. Please take time to leave some comments for her about her story.
Beatrice is introduced to Becky Sharp at Berkelouw Berrima Book Barn
By Michelle Scorziello
Beatrice lamented her lost London life. In tow with husband Toby she dragged her heels a full hemisphere. To Sydney. All she found was sun and heat and light and space - kilometres of red earth stretching away to the Indian Ocean – and a white-marble-floored apartment past the girders of the Harbour Bridge. Oh my. Mornings she woke churlish to chortles and screams; a string of fluffy-haired gentlemen kookaburras lined on the branch of an overhanging gum tree. Once a snake coiled itself to perfection on her bedroom balcony. In the garage she startled a reptile the size of a small dog; he scampered quickly, dewlap swinging in surprise. Cockroaches as big as Christmas dates loitered in the grey bedroom carpet, flat and fast; their brown hard shells clicked into wings before whistling past her rounding shoulders on warm January evenings. Frightened she was, what with tales of spiders, the fatal Redback that climbs up toilet pans, not like dear namby pamby English spiders. Wondrous creatures here: wombats and kangaroos and platypuses and koala bears and a strange word – marsupial. Not to mention Australians themselves with their bendy twangs, English voices melted by heat, malleable and stretched.
She followed Toby to the southern highlands, open land where the sky is bigger than the earth. How remote it is, she thought, how far from London and Georgian squares and green grass and grey rain. Toby had meetings in Bowral – a sort of working retreat for trouser-creased businessmen – so left her alone all Saturday. She squinted at the sun; a car, the long roads and the hard sunshine, all by herself. A flyer thrust under her nose, a small cardboard chit of a thing. Can there really be a barn, here, full to the brim with books?
Indeed. A barn, wooden and raftered, books piled and stacked and organized and cross-referenced. She gaped along narrow passages tracing her index finger along spines, searching. Why, all of England sat here! Dickens and Austen and Shakespeare, of course, and Donne and Wodehouse and Keats and Pinter and Charlotte and Emily and Anne. She bought an old green hardback, Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, ‘I’ve never read this.’
Monday, in Manly, she drifted up away from the sea-front crowds into the side streets of the piazza. A little place, all windows really, serving everything on toast, with tea in stainless steel pots. A knife and fork wrapped in a pink paper napkin, baked beans and a rock cake and a cup and saucer. She propped Thackeray against a bottle of brown sauce. The New South Wales sun poured onto her shoulder, warm as butter. Becky made a play for Jos Sedley in the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and Beatrice, in awe of Becky’s chutzpah, licked her lips. Perhaps, she thought, perhaps I shall manage after all.