Conundrum: Sometimes, the More Answers Sought, the More Questions Raised

Conundrum: Sometimes, the More Answers Sought, the More Questions Raised

by Vicki Weaver

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504314824
Publisher: Balboa Press AU
Publication date: 09/26/2018
Pages: 154
Product dimensions: 7.50(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.33(d)

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CHAPTER 1

Innocence, 1970

"Right, lift your arms up," said the little girl's mother.

The young girl lifted them high and shimmied into her favourite flannelette jammies. She was tired. She'd had a big day with her mum and dad and two sisters. They were staying in a caravan in Sydney.

"Give us a kiss," said Mum.

"I don't want to go to sleep. I'm not tired," the little girl said.

What special things they had done that day! They'd gone over the big coat hanger that Daddy called the Sydney Harbour Bridge and sailed on the ferry. They'd also gone to Taronga Zoo and seen the lions and the funny chimpanzee that liked to smoke cigarette butts.

"Just hop into bed," her mother said. "You've got a big day ahead of you tomorrow. You don't want to miss out on any of that."

"No way," said the girl. "Perhaps I could have a little sleep." With that she jumped into bed, the flannelette sheets beneath her warm and cuddly to the touch. Then she snuggled up close to the hot water bottle.

"Warm enough?"

"Mmm," said the girl with a smile.

"Don't forget your prayers."

"Thank you, God, for the bestest day ever. God bless Nanny and Poppy. I hope they don't miss us too much. I pray they know I love them, even if I was naughty last time I saw them. God, I promise I'll make up for it though. I'll even get them presents. God, please look after them. Amen." Immediately after this rendition, she curled up and fell asleep before her mother and father left the room.

The little girl dreamed that Poppy was standing in the doorway of the porch. The door was the old wire screen door at his house. Poppy always growled if one of the girls banged it too loudly or didn't snib it. This time, he appeared much younger than she could remember him being. He wore the new knit cardigan that the girl's mother had given him for his birthday. It was his favourite.

She said to him, "You look really handsome, Poppy."

He responded with a nod and a smile. But as quickly as he made these gestures, he frowned and took on a look of deep sadness. He said, "Remember me, honey, by the way I rouse at you not to slam the doors and how I tell you to do your nails so that you can see the moons through them. I only do that because I love you, you know, not because I'm mean. It's so you won't get hurt."

"Of course I know that. I love you too, and those walks we have. I just get excited and forget."

"I know," Poppy said. "Don't be sad, but I've got to go away now. I won't see you for a really long time."

The girl began crying. "Why not? Don't leave! Did I do something wrong?"

"I'm going somewhere special, and you can't come along. I'm sorry," he said as he splayed out his hands and looked at them intently.

"Why can't I? I'll be good, I promise! I'll be more careful."

He looked up slowly and said to her, "It's not that. God is calling me."

"When will you be back?"

"Not until you are an old, old lady, but I'll always remember you." Pointing to his heart, he said, "I'll carry you with me inside, my sweet one. I love you. You did nothing wrong."

"Poppy, don't go." But with that her grandfather waved goodbye and walked through the open wire door, the door giving a little slap as he left.

She woke with a start shortly after that and saw in the yellow gleam of the cat's-eye clock that it was 4:00 a.m. She resettled and hugged her teddy.

Early that morning, there was an urgent rap on the caravan door, and it was followed by the sound of voices and then the little girl's mother crying. Through her mum's sobs, the girl made out that her grandpa had died at 4:00 a.m. precisely.

"Of course we'll go home immediately," said her mum.

CHAPTER 2

Friends, 1988

"It's so good to see you, Vicki," said Amelia, looking at her friend through wire-rimmed glasses.

"You too," I said as I nodded.

I helped myself to a generous serving of red wine and then leaned back and puffed on a cigarette. I loved Amelia's company. She was fun and witty, with an acerbic tongue. We sat at a rustic wooden table on wooden chairs. I am a tall, blonde woman, whereas Amelia is short and round. A sumptuous feast of curries, pakoras, brinjal pickle, and poppadums lay before us.

Amelia asked, "How's your work going?"

"Same old, same old," I said, yawning.

"Come on, Vicki. There must be something you like about nursing."

I frowned and was silent for a moment.

"Well?" said Amelia.

"Well what?" I said and laughed. "OK! I love the oldies and the multiple sclerosis clients."

"There," said Amelia smugly. "I knew that you'd find something positive if you thought long enough."

She gulped some wine and savoured the taste of brinjal pickle on her poppadum.

"Mmm. This curry is delicious."

I said, "Oh, and I forgot, it pays the bills."

Amelia looked back at me disappointedly. She was studying to be a nurse and was passionate about it.

"Tell me some stories about your theatrical days," I pleaded. "Please."

"There's nothing much to tell," said Amelia in a bored voice.

"Come on — a woman who did costumes for the Sullivans and who rubbed shoulders with famous actors and actresses?"

"It was just a job, Vicki, and it got boring waiting around, and all those shitty temperaments." Amelia's lips began to purse.

"What about that friend of yours? Mary some-kind-of-vegetable?" I said.

"Oh, you mean fruit," said Amelia. "Lime."

"That's it! Mary Lime."

"Yeah, she's fine. She's just done a play."

"That's exciting," I said.

"I really don't feel like talking about theatre now," said Amelia. She pointed her fingers down her throat as if to make herself throw up. "But I can tell you something strange that happened to her."

"OK," I said reluctantly. "What?"

"Well," said Amelia, "Mary was saying to me that she kept a journal, and she wrote in it every day. That's where she gets the ideas for her plays."

"What a great idea! I'm too slack to do it, though," I said.

"Anyway, one day she held the pen and let her mind go blank. She felt this pressure on her hand, as if an unseen hand were guiding her." Amelia paused for breath.

"And?"

"The pen started to write."

"All by its own accord?" I said.

"Yup." Amelia said and nodded.

I made the sound of the Twilight Zone theme. By now Amelia had my rapt attention.

"What did it say?"

"That it was her spirit guide."

"Never!"

"It did. She got scared and never did it again."

"You're making this up!" I said, sucking hard on my cigarette.

"True," said Amelia.

"Cross your heart and hope to die?" I said.

"Yes."

"Maybe she imagined it," I said. "Why would a ghost want to write to someone? I think this spirit guide stuff is shit. Why pop up in a pen when they can show up in a dream, like my grandfather did once?"

"I dunno, Vicki. I'm just telling you what she told me," said Amelia. "Try it for yourself sometime."

"I might just do that if I get bored enough," I said.

"Hey, what's that I smell for dessert?" I said, changing the subject.

CHAPTER 3

Love, Sweet Love

It was the beginning of summer and early morning. My grey-and-white cat, Ziggy, was trying to wrap herself lazily around my legs as I padded to the refrigerator and opened the door.

"Ziggy, shoo," I said somewhat shirtily. "You'll ruin my experiment." The fridge was jam-packed, and really there wasn't enough room for the experiment. "I'll drop it," I said as I tried to balance a tray of stoppered vials full of insects. It was unusual for me to see this time of day. Normally I got up at ten or eleven, not eight, but I'd stayed up all night. It was the end of term, papers were due, and I had this damn paper on the effects of climatic change on the mating habits of the Drosophila fly, otherwise known as the vinegar fly, to complete.

"I wish you'd stop mucking around with those bloody flies," said Georgie, who'd recently become my ex-lover. Georgie was thin, wore glasses, and was dressed in an old purple T-shirt. She pushed past me to reach the milk.

"You got in late," I said.

"Did I?" said Georgie in an absentminded manner.

I went into my room, which was my refuge. It was untidy, but amongst the jumble I could always find the bed. I flung aside clothes and pulled out the guitar. I began playing mournful love songs, allowing myself to become lost in the tragedy of it all. I had just begun reacquainting myself with my guitar. This made me take breaks from my rigid study regimen and helped me find solace in otherwise tricky situations. Dykes always seemed to try to be collected and rational, even when it came to such irrational things as lovers. I fought back the anger I felt. As a lesbian, I believed it wasn't cool to be jealous or to feel lost. I was doomed for failure on both counts. Did that mean I wasn't really a lesbian? I sometimes thought that.

Often hours went by while I played. I was oblivious to the pain in my fingers. In fact, they were so calloused that I couldn't feel much on my left fingertips. I felt lonely, despite all my friends, and terribly lost. So I poured all my emotions into the guitar.

Later that day, I handed in my last assignment for the year. I felt elated — a whole three more months until I had to go back to study! I wanted to play, to put on my party shoes and celebrate, but I felt too exhausted from the night before. So I settled for a couple of vids, a Star Trek and a good thriller, to keep me company. I dialled for a pizza and settled down for a night of sheer self-indulgence. I was dressed all cosily in my slippers and cotton nightshirt and was lazing on my grandmother's Victorian couch when Georgie exploded into the room with Amelia and a couple other women. The women were all happy and boisterous; they had been having a fun time at the women's pub. Some were a bit tipsy from drinking.

"G'day," they chorused.

"Hi," I replied, caught up in their infectious mood.

"Movie any good?" asked one of the women, nodding towards the TV.

"So-so. I'll flick it off if you like." With that I switched off the TV.

"Let me introduce you," said Georgie. With that she waved her hand expansively around the room. "To my right is Jay. She's from England, on holiday, and to my left is Elke." I nodded at Elke and said hi. I'd met her before. Jay, however, made me sit up and take notice. She was a brunette with a cowlick. She kept running her hands through it because it tended to flop forwards. Jay also happened to be wearing an unwieldy pair of red plastic-framed glasses that didn't quite hide gorgeous sherry-brown eyes.

I said in a cheery voice, "Take a seat here; there's plenty of room next to me." I sat up and shuffled along the couch to make room for both Jay and Elke.

I felt myself flush as Jay sat next to me. I became aware of the flimsiness of my nightshirt as I felt the bare skin of Jay's leg brush against mine. It had been a while since I had felt this way about anyone. Last time it had been with Georgie.

Brushing my thoughts aside, I asked Jay about herself. "So, you've just finished a social science degree. How was that?"

"Hard work. But I've managed it, and now I've shouted myself a holiday," she answered.

"Wow. Lucky you! I'm broke. Did you like uni? I hated it," I said, looking into Jay's face for the first time. It was then that I felt myself fall into a space in which all I could see and sense was Jay. I became aware of Jay's bright brown eyes. God I love those eyes! Theyare like liquid amber, I thought. I suddenly became self-conscious. I had to keep myself from staring at the contours of Jay's face. I thought I'd never seen such a beautiful complexion; it was smooth and milky with a rose-petal blush. Get a grip! I thought. You've just met the woman. I wondered whether others had noticed our connection. I hastily glanced around the room, but they all seemed engrossed in their own conversations about politics and the latest law reform.

"I didn't like uni much either," said Jay. "But I want to be a social worker."

"Cool. I've always wanted to be one. I like counselling and all that stuff. I'm doing psychology, and it's tough," I said.

"Not to mention on her flatmates," chimed Georgie. "You should see the fridge. It is full of Vicki's experiment. Vinegar flies — yuk!" I shot Georgie an evil glance.

"Just joking, Vicki," said Georgie

"Sounds interesting," said Jay "Tell me about it."

"There's not much to tell," I said sheepishly. "It's just finding out whether vinegar flies do their thing in the cold or at room temperature or in the heat."

"I reckon it would be the heat," said Jay enthusiastically. "That's what I'd do if I was a vinegar fly," she said without thinking. Then once it had registered what she had said, she blushed.

"Yeah, all the hot sweatiness of bodies locking in passionate sex," quipped Georgie. Everyone seemed to look at Jay and me. Then I wondered, had they detected the connection between Jay and me, or were they simply laughing at our discomfort?

"Can we change the subject?" I said with a yawn. "These jokes are getting so ho-hum." I spent the rest of the night trying to act normal. This was hard, because the more I talked to Jay the hotter she looked.

The night sped by. I couldn't remember feeling so good for ages. Of course, the flowing of red wine kept the night going. Before long it was 2 a.m.

Georgie yawned and said in a giggly voice, "Well this little black duck's off to bed. You don't mind kipping here, do you, Jay?" Jay nodded in the affirmative. My heart skipped a beat.

"Elke, you can bunk in with me, and Jay, you can share with Vicki. That's OK, isn't it?"

"Sure," I mumbled. I looked at the ground, hoping no one would notice my flush. What the hell am I going to do? She's gonna know I fancy her, I worried. I steeled myself for the long night ahead. I even went and put on cotton shorty pyjamas and made sure the buttons were fastened all the way up the front.

In the bedroom, Jay noticed my guitar on the stand and picked it up. "Do you play?" she asked.

"I'm not good. But I love it. It helps me relax, you know, forget about stuff," I said.

Jay nodded and said, "I know what you mean. Are you working on a song at present?"

"Yes," I answered, "as a matter of fact I am. 'Luka.'"

"Oh, by Suzanne Vega," said Jay.

"Yes. Do you know it?"

"I do," she affirmed with a nod. "It's my favourite."

"There's this tricky bit I can't seem to get in the rhythm in," I said.

"Here, I'll show you," said Jay, leaning over me, our hands briefly touching as she did so. With that interchange, we both blushed awkwardly and pulled away.

Jay and I stayed up for hours that night, time passing by as if it were seconds. Every now and then Jay would steal a glance at me. Next time it would be me looking shyly at Jay. I noticed the smoothness of her skin and the richness of her voice as she sang. I marvelled at the deftness of Jay's fingers on the strings and gazed at her sexy hands — they were fine, delicate, and very gentle. For a moment I wondered what it would be like to be caressed by those hands. If only, I thought and sighed.

"What's that? said Jay

"Nothing. Except you're a great player."

"Thanks," said Jay, and our eyes met momentarily.

I broke the mood by mumbling, "I s'pose we should get some sleep. Are you tired?" "Not really," said Jay. "But we could be keeping the others awake."

I put the guitar back in the stand. "Any preference for sides?"

"No," said Jay, and with that we both coyly hopped into bed.

Bed was unbearably hot. Both of us perched at the edges of our sides, not touching. "Well I suppose it's goodnight then," I said.

"Goodnight. I had a terrific night," said Jay.

"So did I," I replied. With that we both curled up on our respective sides. Needless to say, neither of us slept much that night. We both tossed and turned fretfully. I punched at the pillow and Jay flopped about the bed, trying to get comfortable.

I woke up early the next morning to find Jay still asleep. My heart skipped a few beats as I stole a cursory glance at her. To me, Jay looked even more attractive than she had the night before. Her hair was tousled about her, and her cheeks were rosy and smooth, like petals of a fine English rose.

I then quietly padded into the kitchen, where Georgie was hastily jamming down some cereal and gulping down the last dregs of her coffee. "Shit, I'm late," she said. "Good night last night, hey!"

"Shut up," I mumbled, determined to conceal the blush I felt rising up.

"I like Jay," said Georgie teasingly.

"Do you, now?" I said, trying to act nonchalant whilst inwardly feeling pissed off.

"Vicki likes her. Vicki likes Jay — you do like her?" taunted Georgie.

"Yeah, she seems sorta nice, if you like that sort, that is."

"Vicki's got the hots, ooh-hah. I think I'm going to ask her to stay. What do you think?" Georgie said pointedly.

"Sounds like a good idea. I'll do it. You're in a hurry," I said and then sighed. I was determined to remain cool in order to conceal the excitement I felt rising.

"Oh, that's good of you," said Georgie mockingly. "See ya, Vicki"

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Conundrum"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Vicki Weaver.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

PART 1 GROUND ZERO,
Prologue, ix,
Chapter 1 Innocence, 1970, 1,
Chapter 2 Friends, 1988, 3,
Chapter 3 Love, Sweet Love, 6,
Chapter 4 Sounds from the Ether, 13,
Chapter 5 Tangled Web, 18,
Chapter 6 Conspiracy, 21,
Chapter 7 Changes, 23,
Chapter 8 Road Trip, 26,
Chapter 9 Manyip, 33,
Chapter 10 The Mission, 38,
Chapter 11 Home, 47,
Chapter 12 The Psychologist, 49,
Chapter 13 The Now, 51,
PART 2 AFTERMATH,
Chapter 14 Prologue, 57,
Chapter 15 Taking the Plunge, 59,
Chapter 16 Twenty-First Century Disease, 60,
Chapter 17 My Diary, 63,
Chapter 18 Backyard B Lists, 73,
Chapter 19 Me and My Body, 79,
Chapter 20 Kay, 102,
Chapter 21 Immy, 116,
Chapter 22 New Directions, 121,
Chapter 23 How I Did It, 127,
Chapter 24 The Present and Bipolar Disorder, 138,
Epilogue, 141,

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