Here’s a short story I wrote for a friend earlier this year. It was entered into the Takahae Short Story competition but did not place.
An audience with the Pope
From Runanga to Rome is a bloody long way.
Especially when you’re a wet behind the ears twenty four year old seminarian, embarking on three years of Theology studies before ordination.
From the moment I arrived jet lagged at Leonardo da Vinci Airport I felt like a fish out of water; just as I had felt in the preceding five and half years of seminary life and study in NZ.
I never set out to become a priest, although in many ways it was preordained that I would eventually be ordained. I was the second son in a line of five growing up in a traditional Catholic mining family.
My eldest brother Patrick was destined to become a lawyer, or a Doctor; he chose Law.
Desmond the middle brother was earmarked for the NZ Police.
Kevin a teacher; followed by Breandan, who regularly fell foul of Des; then having to use the services of Paddy to get off charges of petty theft or affray. That was until youthful exuberance spent, he followed Dad into the mine.
My sisters Colleen and Rosaleen; before becoming mothers, studied dental nursing and teaching. Oonagh joined the Sisters of Mercy Convent and Shonagh worked bars, my parents never knowing she was lesbian.
So there I was, Terrence Seamus Iain O’Guire, living and studying in the heart of Catholicism, Vatican City Rome.
My long journey started in my last year of school.
‘Have you ever considered a career in Christ?’ My stern humourless School Rector asking me at my Sixth Form Retreat.
‘No Father,’ I answered, ‘I want to be a professional musician.’
Father Scanlon with his dreary sun-spotted face peered over his diminutive spectacles, ‘it’s great to have dreams Terry, but a musician’s life is no life for a young man of your talents. For every thousand wanting to become a musician; a Beatle, or an Elvis, only one will ever make it, that’s if they’re lucky! Most will struggle and end up doing some meaningless thankless job for the rest of their days.
I’ve spoken with your parents; they’re keen for you to take up the cassock. And after your misadventure with Miss Rita Moffatt earlier this year, some religious study, piety and chastity will do you no harm. After all, you do not want to disappoint your parents, your Parish and your School again, do you?
Besides, if you want to be a musician the Church can offer you the world, all without the need to worry about lodging and food. You have talent Terry, it would be a sin to waste it on unfulfilled dreams. Offer it to the Church, give yourself to a life with Christ, you will be well rewarded both in this life and the next.
Two weeks later NZR, the Catholic Church and my own parents railroaded me straight into my future. Taking the Railcar to lyttelton, embarking on the Rangatira, sailing to Wellington and then catching the train to Hastings. My final destination; the Society of Mary Seminary in Napier. I was about to become a Marist.
Rita Moffat…Rita…; Rita and I were mates from way back. We had kicked around together for as long as I could remember. Raven hair with eyes the colour of a Karamea Nikau, Rita had the attitude of a brush tail possum. As a young fella I used to deliberately kick my ‘Ka Mate,’ (rugby ball) over our back fence into her section, just so I could see her.
‘Your shorts are so baggy,’ she used to laugh, ‘I can see your dak’s when you climb over the fence. Don’t get your nuts caught; you might need em’ one day!’
‘…Well,’ I would answer, fumbling for my words, ‘my mum says that one of these days, your mouth is going to get you into a load of trouble.’
But it wasn’t her mouth that got her into trouble; it was me and my nuts.
In the summer of 1972 and 1973 Rita and I, along with her two cousins Ted and John formed a band, The Dilettante’s. I played lead, Ted bass, John on the drums. Rita was our vocalist and man what a vocalist she was! But it wasn’t just her voice that brought people in. Her on-trend geometric hair style, her penchant for short black shift dresses and knee high leather boots always bringing gasps from older women, adoring jealous stares from younger women, and bawdy lustful grins from the guys. Grizzly older men would stand at the back, hands on hips with funny looks plastered on their faces; perhaps remembering that female flesh need not be as lumpy dumpy and comfortable as their wives overworked scones were.
And when Rita danced the world caught fire, the dance floor sizzled, sweat pouring off anyone even attempting to keep up with her. From the Hollies to the Beatles, from Stevie Wonder to David Bowie we played em’ all.
From Haast to Karamea and everywhere in between, we played every Pub, every Working Mens ‘ Club and RSA, travelling in style in the Runanga Four Square delivery van which Ted was allowed to use on the weekends. In the twelve weeks of the school holidays we must have travelled over 2,000 miles and played at least thirty gigs. Halcyon days which came to an end all too soon with the peeving call of the late January school bell.
‘You’ve knocked me up Terry,’ Rita told me one day six weeks after we had returned to our schools. ‘I’m up the duff.’
‘Fuck, fuck, fuck,’ I cursed. ‘I’m so sorry, I knew we shouldn’t have.’
‘But we did,’ she spat, ‘so shut up you dick.’
‘What are we going to do?’ I asked nervously.
‘It’s already done; tomorrow I’m catching the Rail car over the hill to Christchurch. I’m being sent to live with my Auntie. I’ve been enrolled in the Secretarial College and when the baby comes it will be adopted out. Then, I will have to find a job.’
Without a goodbye she turned and walked away out of my life.
It was many years before I saw Rita again; and during all those dark years the memory of the resigned look of hopelessness on her once carefree face haunted me.
Me, circumstance, parents and Church had all but extinguished Rita’s light, a light which had flickered so brightly but way too briefly.
I sat by the edge of the green rocky pool staring at the Fountain of the Eagle; this was my favourite fountain in the Vatican Gardens. Its size and sound resonating deep within; bringing back memories of dense verdant bush, of waterfalls and Rita. It was September 1978, Rome had just experienced a wonderfully long and hot summer. The Vatican and the Church were buzzing, a new Pope had been elected, Pope John Paul 1. For most, Rome was the place to be, but for me it was torture.
It was 6.30am on a fine Saturday morning; I had thirty minutes free time before morning prayers. I sat day dreaming, my acoustic guitar resting between my legs; so lost in thought I didn’t see a man in white flanked by two Swiss Guards approach.
The man in white stopped in front of me. ‘May I sit with you my son?’
I looked up and gulped, ‘Your Holiness, yes of course.’
‘You play?’ John Paul asked, glancing at my guitar.
‘Yes’, your Holiness.
‘Where are you from young man?’ the Pope asked smiling.
‘New Zealand your Holiness.’
John Paul continued to smile, ‘I see, a Marist I presume.’
I smiled back and nodded.
‘Well play for me Marist man, perhaps something from New Zealand.
I thought for a moment then nervously picked up my guitar, hoping I could remember all the chords to Pokerekere Ana.
My own private audience with the Pope!
I played the best I could; closing my eyes attempting to sing my best vocal ever. As I finished the Pope touched my shoulder, a beaming grin lighting his eyes. It was the smile that could win a million hearts and subsequently did.
‘You play very well, my son, sang so beautifully. You have real talent. Please tell me what it means?’
I played it again, this time singing in English.
They are agitated
the waters of Waiapu,
But when you cross over girl
they will be calm.
return to me,
I could die
of love for you.
I have written my letter
I have sent my ring,
so that your people can see
that I am troubled.
return to me,
I could die
of love for you.
My love will never
be dried by the sun,
It will be forever moistened
by my tears.
This time the Pope clapped loudly ‘belissimo!’ He exclaimed.
‘I do not want to withhold you from your prayers my son, but tell me who is your Confirmation Saint?’
‘St Anthony of Padua,’ I answered.
‘I knew it, I knew it,’ he laughed, his hands slapping his legs, his eyes twinkling, smile infectious. ‘I knew you were playing and singing for something lost! So young Kiwi, as you have played for me, now let me pray for you.’
He bowed his head, I followed his lead.
‘O blessed St. Anthony, the grace of God has made you a powerful advocate in all our needs and the patron for the restoring of things lost or stolen. I turn to you today with childlike love and deep confidence. You have helped countless children of God to find the things they have lost, material things, and, more importantly, the things of the spirit: faith, hope, and love. I come to you with confidence; help me in my present need. I recommend what I have lost to your care, in the hope that God will restore it to me, if it is His holy Will.’
‘My Son,’ he said, as he got up to leave. ‘Our Lord wants you to be happy; he wants you to live your life with all your talents in the way you choose to live it. He has no interest in making you feel sad or unhappy. And, if he feels that way, then who I am to argue with him? Go home Son, find what it is that you have lost. Then, when you have found it, make your choice. The Church will always be here waiting.
Bless you my young New Zealand friend; you have entertained me wonderfully well this beautiful morning. Go in love and go in peace.’
Back in NZ I found Rita easily enough. Although when I did she was already married and had two young children, Lorraine and Beverley. It took another fifteen years before she was free, her husband wanting a divorce after having an affair with his secretary. During my years of waiting I became a Music Teacher at Burnside High School.
Two years after her divorce Rita and I married. We managed to have one child together, Colin, he was born with Downs Syndrome due to our advanced age we presumed. Colin is a lovely loving lump of a lad and still lives with me today; he misses his Mum terribly, as do I.
Two years ago, we received a letter from a middle aged man called Warwick Stephen’s, he was the son we never knew, our son who was ripped from Rita’s arms when she was still a teenager. Rita enjoyed getting to know Warwick in the twelve months she had left, but last year, just after Easter, she passed from the cancer which had been haunting and stalking her for her last three years.
I never went back to the Church. Its doors forever closed for an ex Seminarian who married a divorcee. An Institution which had so much bearing on my life had ultimately turned its back on me. Although John Paul’s prayer to St Anthony came through for me, I often can’t help wondering whether he was actually praying for the Church.
Kia Ora Roly
‘Please let me stay with you,’ pleaded the strawberry blonde with pounamu eyes.
I’d met her two hours earlier and although she was only eighteen, of beautiful figure and face, I hesitated.
I wasn’t single; although technically there were only seven days separating a love lost cohabitation from emotional freedom. I was twenty eight and my long term partner of seven years and I were splitting.
‘I’m sorry,’ I replied, draping my arm over her shoulder, leaning in closer. ‘I’m staying in a hotel room with three other guys. It just wouldn’t be right.’
‘Please,’ she insisted. ‘I need to be with someone, I feel lost. Sorry, I don’t want to have sex with you, I just need to be held.’
I felt fragility in the wavering warm arm she’d wrapped around my waist. I saw the brittleness of her gaze, the pain behind her eyes. When she spoke I heard the emptiness of her heart.
‘But this is a rugby trip, the guys are going to assume the worst. Tomorrow morning, at breakfast, girls taken back to the hotel tonight will have to be introduced and presented to the rest of the team. It’s pretty degrading.’
She looked up defiantly, ‘I don’t care.’
Just as she finished someone grabbed my right shoulder.
The hand on my shoulder guiding me to the right, toward the bar, away from my bemused new acquaintance.
‘Roly, you sly dog, have a beer. C’mon, come and have a beer with the boys, c’mon get it down ya!’
A shaky hand passed me a spilling pint.
‘Jesus Pat, you bastard, I was in the middle of something over there!’
‘Yeah, getting far too cosy for my liking, what would Megan think?’
‘Pat, you don’t know anything alright, I’ll finish this drink, then I’m going back, okay.’
‘Whatever you say Skip,’ Pat replied, a mischievous smile painted all over his cheeky and annoying face.
Two of my team mates were snoring nearby, another was trying unsuccessfully to make love as quietly as possible from the bed closest to the door.
We lay together on a single bed, her curves and closeness welcome relief from the hard mattress and thin pillow. Her freckled face barely an inch from mine we kissed, her thin lips warm and inviting, her eyes now smiling.
‘You’re sweet,’ she murmured.
Under the sheet my hand traced the contours of her firm shapely body.
‘Please, no,’ she asked politely.
‘Let’s talk,’ I whispered trying to distract my mind from fervent physical desire. ‘What’s your story angel; how the hell did you end up here with me?’
She paused, spoke slowly, deliberately; ‘well two months ago my boyfriend killed himself, hung himself from a tree. I didn’t see it coming and I don’t know why he did it. Now I don’t know who I am. Now I don’t know anything. I can’t feel anything anymore. I’m lost.’
Instantly my erection died; instinctively I drew her closer.
‘Jesus,’ I replied. ‘Fuck! Have you spoken to anyone about this? About how you feel?’
‘I’ve tried but no one understands,’ she answered. ‘They try to, but they don’t get it; not my family, not my friends, no one. But honestly, if I don’t understand it, how the heck can they?’
‘I get it,’ I volunteered nervously. ‘I understand.’
Her body stiffened, she looked at me sceptically.
‘My younger brother topped himself six years ago and I’ve been struggling ever since. Afterwards, I didn’t know what to feel, I didn’t know what to think. Was it my fault, was I somehow to blame? Did I miss something?’
‘And you know what, I still feel that way. It’s been like I’m on a never-ending journey. A journey I never wanted to take and a journey I want to get off but can’t. So I really do understand and I do feel for you. I am so sorry.’
She hugged me tighter and kissed me. It wasn’t a kiss of passion, it was deeper than that. It was a heartfelt kiss of empathy and tenderness.
We didn’t sleep much. I spooned her back, occasionally she rolled over and we kissed. There was no touching beyond this.
Saturday morning rays of sun started peeking into the smelly room of four boozed up men and two young women. The concoction of stale beer, sweaty bodies, menthol cigarettes and sweet cheap perfume overpowering everything. I jumped up, pulled the curtains and opened the window.
A chorus of blasphemy and cussing erupted within the room. I walked over to the bed closest to the door.
‘Jimmy…, Jimmy,’ I said louder, shaking him. ‘Wake your girl up. It’s seven o’clock. Get her up and I’ll take her downstairs with mine, get them into taxi’s before the other guys are up. Breakfast is at eight, she doesn’t want to be here then.’
‘Fuck off Roly,’ Jimmy retorted curtly.
‘Yeah fuck off mate,’ came a raspy shrill voice from beneath Jimmy’s sheets. Swearing quickly replaced by giggling as Jimmy reached down, grabbing something soft and ticklish.
I led my bed buddy out of the room into the hallway. As we were about to make our way down the stairs an adjacent bedroom door opened. Pat strode out wearing only his y-fronts.
Standing in the hallway he scratched his balls, then his head.
‘So where are you two going?’ He asked sarcastically, ‘you know the rules Roly, any overnight guests need to be presented to the team at Breakfast.’
‘Not this one,’ I spat, ‘fuck off Pat.’
When we reached the street I handed her twenty dollars, grasped her hand, kissed her cheek and said goodbye. For unknown reasons last nights’ intimacy evaporated into clumsy daytime awkwardness. Out of courtesy I asked, ‘will I see you again?’
‘Oh yes, ‘she smiled, ‘sooner than you think.’
I turned away quickly, walking back into the hotel and making my way to the dining room. There were already a few guys there sitting heads in hands, all of them looking worse for wear. How were we ever going to play rugby today I wondered?
Sporadically small groups of hung-over men scuttled and shuffled into the dining room. Jimmy and three others had brought girls back to the Hotel, as each one entered the dining room they were introduced to the team. After every introduction howls of laughter, hoopla’s and whooping exploded, the girls turning red hanging their heads in sober and sombre humiliation.
At the customary court session after breakfast I was charged by Pat for failing to adhere to the Law of Respect by not introducing my overnight guest to the team. Pat insisting the judge make an example of me; I was fined $50.
The game was fierce. Playing against country boys on their home ground always bringing an extra edge and extra bruises. The experienced country boys wanting to demonstrate to the city slickers, the ‘townies,’ that manual labour resulted in bigger, fitter, stronger bodies; bodies practiced in the art of handling and administering pain.
Hangover’s aside, we won, barely. The ‘townies’ speed and agility eventually gaining the upper hand.
At the after match function, I unexpectedly felt a tug on the back of my shirt. I turned. To my delight it was my companion from the previous night.
‘What are you doing here?’ I asked enthusiastically.
She smiled, ‘my father is the captain of the team you played against.’
‘So you knew last night but didn’t say anything?’ I quizzed.
‘Yep,’ she smiled again.’ At first it wasn’t important, I hate rugby, but after you were so nice to me I thought I’d turn up today and surprise you.’
‘Well you’ve certainly done that,’ I replied, smiling, then nervously running my fingers through my hair.
We were interrupted by someone speaking on a microphone, calling the two captains to the stage.
I made my speech; thanking the opposition, thanking the referee, the linesmen and the ladies in the kitchen. I nervously shook hands with the opposing Captain, presenting him with our club badge. He reciprocated.
After the formalities I shared a drink with him. He was a nice guy. A big guy. It was civil, it was pleasant, and it was going well; then Pat came over.
I introduced Pat, small talk following until Pat recognized my affaire de coeur standing at the bar.
‘You see that lovely piece of arse over there,’ Pat motioned, gesturing luridly.
No! I screamed silently, no!
‘Well Roly here,’ Pat started, ‘our captain, well he shagged her silly last night, then tried to sneak her out of the hotel first thing this morning, but I caught ya didn’t I Roly?’
I watched the big man quake. I felt sorry for him, I felt for his daughter. I wanted to tell him the truth, but knew he would never believe me.
I looked at him, he looked at me, we stepped apart and backed away.
Within a crowded noisy club room suddenly we had both become lost.
Immediately below is my entry into the Colm Toibin International Short Story Competition (Ireland). There were over 350 entrants from all around the world. Unfortunately my entry did not make the long nor short lists, however, good experienced gained and after all, this only my third ever short story.
After visiting Frank and Dolly, I made my way from the Cemetery to Lakeside, the tedious mid-afternoon traffic making a sombre journey seem even more arduous.
As usual she looked confused, ‘so who are you here to see again?’
‘I’m here to see you Carol, I come every Sunday.’
‘So you don’t want to see Tom then?’ Carol asked in agitation.
‘No, no I’m here to see you.’
‘Oh, so what’s your name again, I’m sure I don’t know you?’
I was about to answer when Tom came out of the bathroom, he sauntered up smirking; put his arms around Carol’s waist.
It was nice to see her smile.
‘Tom,’ she said, ‘this man says he’s here to see me.’
‘Tell him to fuck off,’ Tom spat gruffly, before spinning her away, escorting her down the corridor.
I watched them walk away; at least they look happy I thought. After a moment I turned away almost bumping into Dr Fielding.
‘Sorry Andrew,’ I said, ‘my fault entirely, I wasn’t thinking.’
He smiled kindly, no apology necessary; actually I’m pleased we ran into each other Bob. You gotta couple of minutes?’
‘Sure,’ I said.
I followed him to his banal little office opposite the Nurses’ station.
We sat knees up around a tiny coffee table in a space which could easily have had an alternative use as broom closet.
‘Bob,’ he started, ‘Stratford-Barnett the drug company are developing a drug which they say can stimulate the Hippocampus; the theory they’re working on is that memories are actually not lost with Alzheimer’s, but simply unable to be retrieved. They believe that if the Hippocampus can be stimulated, it may be possible to retrieve lost memories. Pre-clinical studies of this drug, along with Stage One and Two trials reveal promising results. So they are now moving to Phase Three.
They would like to study some residents of Lakeside, and I would like Carol to be included in this trial. I don’t think Carol will ever be cured, but I do think that there is a chance her Alzheimer’s can be slowed, and possibly for some of her memories to return. I think it’s pretty exciting and well worth exploring. What are your thought’s Bob?’
‘Jesus, Andrew, talk about dropping a bombshell,’ I answered completely stunned. ‘You mean there’s a possibility she will get better?’
‘Only a possibility Bob, you see she may end up in the control group, or the drug might not even work. To find out, all I would need is for you to use your Power of Attorney and give consent for Carol to participate in the trial.’
‘Sounds like an ethicists dream and a Rest Homes nightmare,’ I muttered before leaving.
During the drive home my head spun; confusion, indecision reigned. I had undertaken to give my response to Dr Fielding by Wednesday latest. That only gave me a couple of days to get my head around it. What the bloody hell was I to do?
I met Eve two years before Carol went into care. I met her while measuring her house for new carpet. He husband had recently died and she was having renovations completed. Over a cup of tea she broke down, telling me how horrific it had been watching her husband of nearly thirty years endure Pancreatic Cancer then suffer a slow and agonizing death. Afterwards, I shared my story of Carol’s battle with Alzheimer’s; the creeping death.
Neither of us wanted it to happen, but it did; and we soon fell into each other’s arms. It wasn’t love, and it isn’t now; it was just comfort and understanding. We don’t live together, but we are a couple. We’re sure our families and friends are blissfully unaware that grief and grieving has thrown us together, and that within each other we have found our own private refuge, a keep strong enough to withstand almost anything.
And it has. When Frank and Dolly died last year, there was no way I would have been able to continue without the kindness and support of Eve. It was tragic and devastating enough with her being there for me, let alone me handling it on my own.
Last year my son Frank and my only grandchild Dorothy were killed in a car accident, driving home from Lakeside. Dorothy was only seven and always refused to be called Dorothy or Dot, so she became Dolly. Elaine, my Daughter in Law was driving and had no chance to avoid the accident. A drunk driver charging through a red light, smashing them into the path of another car. Frank and Dolly died instantly, Elaine spent thirteen weeks in hospital.
Now I don’t hear much from Elaine, she moved back home to her Mothers up north. But at least once a month I leave a voice mail message extending my love and sympathies, but to date these messages have gone unanswered. Everything in its own good time I guess.
Carol doesn’t know Frank and Dolly are dead. She never asked, so there seemed little point in telling her. It would only cause additional confusion, concern and upset. I remember two years ago picking up all her photographs from Lakeside. Evidently Carol had become angry and didn’t want them in her room. Complaining and insisting she did not want to be surrounded by people she did not know.
Before her illness Carol was never stroppy; she may have been prim and proper but never stroppy. Tall, slender and elegant, posture perfect and refined, Carol was the archetypal School Mistress, and she played her part to the tee. I look back now and wonder how we ever got hitched.
I was a rough around the edges ‘tradie’ when I first met Carol. Despite major differences in our social standings, differences in intelligence, we seemed to click. I guess I was a bit of rough for her and she was my bit of posh. Opposites attract they say and they certainly did with us. We shared over twenty five years of happy contented marriage, until the Carol I knew and loved started to slowly disappear.
By that time we had had two children, Jennifer and Francis. Francis or Frank as I called him followed me into the flooring business, while Jenny studied law and finance, becoming a Capital Markets Lawyer. She now lives in New York with her Merchant Banker Husband. I never get to see her and it is unlikely she will ever have children. Career, money and success being far more important.
When the time came for Carol to go into care, I had three vans on the road, ‘Bob Bushell and Son,’ emblazoned on them all in bright red letters, ‘Carpet’s and Laminates our specialities.’ My knees and back had long given up the ghost, so I was in charge of measuring, quoting and business development. Frank was in charge of the day to day running of the business.
If I thought getting over losing Carol was hard enough, it was nothing compared to getting over Frank and Dolly. I never have and don’t suppose I ever will.
It was Tuesday evening. Sitting down, a long scotch resting on the chairs arm, I dialled Jenny’s number again.
Straight to voice mail.
‘Jenny, it’s Dad, how are you and JJ? Hope you are both well. Look, there’s a new drug being trialled which might help your Mum get some of her memory back. Lakeside want her to trial it. What do you think? I need to let Dr Fielding know by tomorrow. I appreciate its short notice but I have been trying to get hold of you by email and mobile as well. Can you please get back to me before tomorrow so we can discuss it?’
I knew she wouldn’t.
Jenny fought hand over fist to stop me putting Carol into Lakeside and she has hated me ever since. And of course when Frank and Dolly died, it was somehow my fault, because if Carol wasn’t in Lakeside then they would never have been killed. They would never have been visiting Carol.
Alzheimer’s may have taken Carol, but a drunk driver killed my Son and Granddaughter then stole away my daughter.
I had one more phone call to make.
Theresa was the Executive Nurse at Lakeside and was the life and soul of the dreary place. Doctors, Nurses and carers looked after the residents, but it was Theresa Sio who nourished the families; the friends, lovers, who called without reward every day, every week only to see their loved ones slowly but ever so surely slip away, meaning that they themselves would eventually become lost in a fog of obscurity and oblivion.
‘Theresa, its Bob Bushell, you got a few minutes to have a chat?’
‘Of course Bob, she replied happily, how can I help?’
‘Tom…, Carol’s new beau, what’s he like?’
‘Oh, he would never hurt Carol, if that’s what you’re asking Bob,’ Theresa answered sympathetically. ‘He’s a bit rough, definitely not from the same side of town as Carol, but they seem to hit it off. They seem happy; it must be so hard for you Bob.’
‘It is a little, but so long as she’s happy. Theresa, can you tell me a bit about Tom and what he used to do, if you’re allowed of course?’
‘I’m not allowed, but will anyway Bob, just between you and me alright?’
‘Agreed,’ I answered.
‘Well Tom’s surname is Clouston, he never has any visitors. His case is interesting, evidently he became clinically depressed and it is his depression they think brought his Alzee’s on early. He was a Truck Driver and killed some people in a road accident, which is bad enough, but he was also over the limit and ended up doing time for it. From there everything spiralled out of control.’
‘Thanks Theresa,’ I said, ‘that helps a lot.’ I said goodbye and hung up.
I sat at Andrew’s Fielding’s miniature coffee table waiting for him and my coffee.
He appeared smiley but flustered. ‘Apologies Bob, got caught up.’
‘No worries,’ I answered honestly, stalling this decision was a good thing.
‘Andrew, I have a couple more questions, sorry.’
‘Shoot,’ he said as our coffees arrived.
‘Is Carol happy?’ I asked.
‘Happiness is hard to define in a setting like this Bob. However, if you were to ask me if Carole is safe? Then, yes she is. Does she lead a relatively low stress life? Then, yes she does. Is she in good general health? Yes, she is. Is she active and stimulated? Yes she is. Is she well cared for? Yes she is. Does she have personal freedom? Yes to some degree. Although due to health and safety reasons alone, she can never leave this complex. So Carol is shielded from a lot of the pain that everyday life can bring Bob; but is she happy, you tell me?
‘Thanks,’ I said.
‘Another question I have relates to the drug trial. What memories are likely to be able to be retrieved if the drug is successful?’
‘No one can be sure exactly Bob,’ Andrew answered earnestly, but earlier indications suggest it is memories associated with deep emotional events such as falling in love, weddings, funerals, births etc. these are the ones that could be retrieved.’
‘Accidents,’ I asked?
‘Yes, I imagine so; so long as there were deep rooted emotions attached to the memory, then yes I suppose it could.’
‘That’s great Doc,’ I smiled, ‘that’s cleared up a few things for me.
I think you guys have a saying Primum Non Nocere, so it’s for this reason I do not want Carol to participate in the trial and therefore will not give my consent. I’m sorry. However, I would very much like for her position to be given to Tom Clouston.’
As I left Dr Fileding’s office, I bumped into Tom on the way out.
‘Morning Tom,’ I smirked before striding down the corridor smiling.
This year I have decided to enter into a few competitions.
Over the last few months I have entered 3 short story competitions. I have never really written short stories before, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the process and the format. Until the competitions have been judged I am unable to publish them on my blog. Rest assured though at the first opportunity I will publish them here. The competitions I have entered so far include:
- The Page and Blackmore National Short Story Competition (NZ), my entry was titled ‘Lost’
- The Takahe Short Story Competition (NZ),my entry was titled, ‘An audience with the Pope.’
- The Colm Toibin International Short Story Award (Ireland) (Part of the Wexford Literary Festival), my entry was titled, ‘Remember.’
I have also entered my Novel ‘The cry of the Kuaka’ into:
- The International Rubery Book Award (Great Britain).
Throughout the year I intend to enter a number more competitions and will post my entries and results (maybe,hope so, fingers crossed, pretty please) as soon as I am able.
Kia Ora Roly