Saturday, October 31, 2009

Poem: Herbaceous Heart

A little poem I wrote for a competition at Positive Words was short-listed! I took a few risks with this poem, as you will see. The challenge was to write a poem of ten lines or less and it had to contain the word "vegetable". I give you "Herbaceous Heart".

Herbaceous heart

Peel me like a vegetable, pare back my dirty skin
Reveal the juicy flesh that is hiding deep within.

Strip away my outer leaves, slough off the grains of dirt
Grasp me with your farmer’s hands, but not so tight it hurts.

Sink your teeth into my pulp, caress my pithy core
Taste my juices sweet and sour, always wanting more.

Put me down then pick me up, it’s me you know you’ll choose
Handle me with care my love, you know I always bruise.

Friday, October 30, 2009

#fridayflash: Compulsion

This week's #fridayflash is the final installment of a three-part story. While each has been written so it can be read as a stand-alone piece, you might want to read Immersion and Emergence before you read Compulsion. On the other hand, you might just like to dive straight in!


By Lily Mulholland

Tom stretched like a cat and thought he might start to purr any minute. A pleasurable shudder hummed through his body as he remembered last night. He rolled onto his side and brushed Caroline’s cheek with his lips. She’d called him five minutes after he’d walked her home from the restaurant and asked to see him again the next day. He cleared his afternoon meetings and they’d spent the afternoon and evening feasting upon each other and rediscovering the unbridled bliss that awaits two perfectly compatible lovers.

He had wanted to dive deep inside Caroline as soon as he’d spotted her drinking champagne in the theatre foyer. He had noticed the empty seats around her and took his chances that no one else would arrive to claim their seat just before the play started. She’d disarmed him with her smile and he wanted to know everything about her. And after she had wept in his arms yesterday afternoon he wanted no other man to have her. She’d started sobbing, her face contorted and turned in on itself, as they fucked for the first time. He stopped, thinking he was hurting her somehow, but she’d managed to convince him, despite her distress, that she was fine and he kept going long enough to bring them both to a frenzied climax. When she’d composed herself, she told him that it had been two years since she’d made love and the built-up stress had opened like a floodgate as she’d started to orgasm. He was amazed he could have such an effect on her and that she was so open to him. He felt so protective. He wanted to hold her in his arms and never let her go. He did let her go, but only so that they could get inside each other again. And again. He was exhausted, but in the nicest possible way.

‘I have to go,’ he said. ‘I have an early meeting today and I can’t put it off, as much as I’d like to. That, and I think I need the rest,’ he said, smiling at Caroline.

‘When can I see you again?’

‘Well, I’m back next Tuesday. Shall we have dinner?’

‘I’ll cook for you. I want you here,’ she said.

He kissed her deeply, his dick betraying him and rising again to the occasion. He tore himself from Caroline’s lips and made a dash for the shower before he changed his mind.

Caroline stood on her tiptoes to kiss Tom’s cheek as he left. He bent down and buried his head in her neck and her hair. He took a deep breath and inhaled her scent. It drove him crazy.

‘I’ve got to go. See you Tuesday night.’

She watched him walk to the lift and closed the door gently.


It was a beautiful day. The sun was lighting up the new leaves on the oak trees that were the knockout feature of the park. The red tiled roof on the rotunda took on a new lustre and the pathways cut through the verdant grass like shiny white snakes. Children were playing, couples were strolling and all Tom could think of was Caroline.

She was extraordinary. He’d never met anyone like her and could feel himself falling for her in a way he’d never thought possible. He longed to feel her smooth legs wrapped around his back again as he pushed deeper inside her tight, warm flesh.


He was jolted out of his reverie by the sharp tone. He looked up and Clare was standing in front of him, hands on hips, blocking out the sun.

‘Sorry. What is it?’

‘In case you haven’t noticed, it’s going to rain. We have to get the kids into the car before they get soaked.’

He looked up at the sky. She was right. She was always right. The gorgeous day was being swallowed by a dangerous sky and they were about to be chased out of the park by a sudden spring deluge. He jumped up and started tossing the picnic things into the basket and shaking out the blanket.

Clare and the kids were already at the car when Tom saw Caroline. She was in running gear but was standing as still as a statue on the grass near the rotunda, shoulders slumped, looking toward him. He was paralysed.

‘Tom! C’mon!’

It was Clare calling for him to hurry. As he gathered up the basket and blanket the skies opened and heavy rain pummelled the skin on his head and arms. He looked over to the rotunda. Caroline was gone.

He turned and headed for the car. The drenching rain washed the tears from his cheeks but not the sudden grief that tore at his heart.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Submission accepted!

I'm so excited that one of my flash fiction pieces, 'Book Club', is going to be published in the Soft Whispers Magazine Halloween special. The magazine is a free PDF-only edition that will be released at 12:00am on 31 October. Don't forget to grab a copy for some spoooooooooky reading!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Reading: Runaway

I read/heard somewhere someone raving on about Alice Munro's short stories and recommending her 2004 collection, 'Runaway'. I ordered it from the Book Depository and it arrived a month or two back. I read the first story, also called 'Runaway', and wasn't exactly blown away. I put the book down for a couple of weeks, but then the 'New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year' gold sticker on the front kept calling my name. I figured if they thought it was THAT good then, perhaps, I should give it another go, so I did. The next three stories are fantastic. They're all linked through the central character and present different slices of her life. I am starting to see why Ms Munro is so highly esteemed. The world she has created in three 'chapters' is deep, layered and totally believable. I do, however, find the writing style to be a little disconcerting. The narrator seems to know too much, and sometimes I hear the author's voice coming through, which bumps me right out of the story. That being said though, the characters pull you back in. You want to know more. There are four more stories, not linked, from what I can tell, to those I've just read. If they're as good, I'll be very happy indeed.

Friday, October 23, 2009

#fridayflash: Emergence

By Lily Mulholland

Checking her teeth in the mirror, Caroline saw that, once again, her slightly protruding front right tooth had caught the lipstick. It didn’t matter how hard she tried, there was always an echo of colour where there should only be white. She carefully wiped it off with her finger and cleaned it on a towel. She ran her hands over her hair to tame the flyaways.

‘Not too bad’, she thought, ‘for someone who’s had three glasses of bubbly. No, make that four! I forgot the one I had before the play.’ She giggled nervously to herself and stopped. This was no time to be silly. Tom was waiting for her at their booth and she had been in here ten minutes already trying to calm herself down. The night was going well. Too well. Then the bombshell.

‘So, which part of Canberra do you live in?’ he’d asked her.

‘Actually I live just a couple of blocks down.’

‘Oh really? Do you work in town too?’

‘Well, sort of. I’m a freelance writer so I work from my apartment. I have lots of government clients who keep me busy, but my passion is fiction.’

‘Had anything published?’

‘Only a couple of short stories. I’m actually writing the first draft of a novel right now.’

‘Right now?’ he’d asked with a smile. ‘Does that mean I’m going to be in it?’

She laughed. A funny guy. That made her relax a bit. She’d been sitting bolt upright for the past two hours, trying not to speak too quickly as she felt the seductive tentacles of the champagne stealthily travel through her body. They’d been discussing the play and she’d tried not to be too obviously female in her criticism of The Taming of the Shrew’s storyline. Fortunately he’d said it for her and had agreed that the cast had done a great job of keeping contemporary such an anachronistic storyline.

‘And which part of Canberra do you live in?’ she asked Tom in return.

‘I don’t. I live in Sydney but commute here most weeks for work. I run a change management consultancy and most of my key clients are here.’

She’d tried to hide her disappointment.

‘So how did you come to be at the show?’

‘One of my clients, who’s also a mate, was supposed to come with his wife, but they’ve both got swine flu. He gave the tickets to me. I had no one to bring with me, hence the empty seat next to me.’


She must have looked disappointed, as Tom reached over and placed his hand over hers.

‘I do fly into Canberra most weeks.’

She smiled. That was something. It was at that point in the conversation that Caroline had realised she really needed to go to the toilet.

‘Will you excuse me a minute? I have to go and powder my nose.’

Tom had stood up as she’d left the table and watched her walk to the ladies’ room.

‘Right, Caroline, get a grip.’ She was talking out loud. ‘The man of your dreams is waiting for you. Get your butt out there and be interesting!’

Tom stood again as she sat down. He pushed her chair in for her and sat in the one next to her, rather than across the other side of the table where he’d been earlier.

She could smell his aftershave and see the pores on the skin of his neck. She tried to concentrate, but had an overwhelming urge to snuggle her face into him, as she had done for the second half of the play.

‘May I walk you home?’

Caroline looked up, startled.

‘Well, you live so close, it’s the least I could do.’

‘I, er, um, yes, that would be lovely.’

Her mind was racing. Was this goodbye, thanks for coming, see you later, or was this can I come back to your place? She tried to remember if the place was a mess but her train of thought was cut off by Tom standing up and placing two fifties on the table and nodding to the waiter. The waiter brought Caroline’s coat and Tom helped her into it.

‘After you,’ he said.

Outside the restaurant, Caroline was grateful she’d worn a coat. It was freezing. Tom saw her shiver and put his arm around her shoulder. She was enveloped by his scent and did her best not to actually swoon.

‘Which way?’

‘Down Constitution and two blocks up Allara.’

‘Which building?’

‘It’s called The One. Pretty pretentious, but it’s got a killer view.’

She winced. Perhaps she shouldn’t say ‘killer’ to a man she’d just met. A man about whom she knew very little other than he lived in Sydney and worked in Canberra. And he liked Shakespeare. A man she should probably not be inviting back to her apartment. But it had been so long since she’d felt attracted to a man, and so long since she’d had sex. She didn’t know if she could hold out if that’s what Tom was escorting her home for.

They walked along without saying much, and Caroline decided to just enjoy the moment. Before long they were in the foyer of her building. Before she could ask him if he wanted to come up, Tom reached into his pocket and pulled out his business card.

‘I would like to see you again Caroline. Here’s my mobile and my email. Please call me. Soon.’

With that he pulled her into an embrace and kissed her gently on the forehead. He walked her to the lift and pushed the button. Caroline was incapable of speaking as she stepped into the lift. Tom gave her a small wave and a big smile. She felt warm and wonderful inside.

Friday, October 16, 2009

#fridayflash: Immersion

By Lily Mulholland

The ‘new items in your inbox’ reminder flashed up on the screen and Caroline tried to ignore it again. She was immersed in writing her novel and, after a slow start, the narrative was finally starting to take shape. The tension was building in her neck and she realised she hadn’t taken a break for a couple of hours. Caroline straightened her shoulders and uncurled her fingers from the keyboard. She decided a cup of coffee was in order.

After a quick trip to the loo and to the kitchen, Caroline sat back at her walnut desk and placed her ringed coffee cup on its coaster. She didn’t want to mark the golden brown wood she’d so lovingly restored after rescuing the desk from a second hand furniture store.

Before picking up the thread of her story, Caroline remembered she had email to check. She skipped over the one from her mum; she knew it would be the same old story. Her eyes went to the ACT Writers Centre email with the subject line ‘Re: Shrew’. Her heart jumped and she double clicked as quickly as she could to open the message.

Dear Caroline, congratulations! You’ve won a double pass to The Taming of the Shrew at 6.30pm on Monday night at the Playhouse Theatre. Collect your tickets from the box office 30 minutes prior to the performance. Enjoy the play! Regards, Sassafras.

Caroline laughed. She never won anything, but had entered the competition anyway. And then she remembered she had no one to take. Mike was becoming a memory and her girlfriends were knee-deep in offspring. She didn’t think any of them would appreciate the start time anyway. Caroline sighed. She’d have to go by herself. If she went at all.

Monday rolled around and Caroline had made a lot of progress on her novel. Not that it was any good. She’d been trying to write it for years, but had always found an excuse to not start. But this year she’d signed up to NaNoWriMo, a crazy annual novel-writing concept where writers attempt to bash out fifty thousand words during November. This was the kind of stress she could handle, but only just. If she failed, the only person disappointed would be herself. She hadn’t nominated any writing buddies – that would be too much pressure.

Nonetheless, Caroline had dived in and started writing. She was half-way through, with two weeks up her sleeve. She decided to go to the play as a reward for being so good. She planned to get there fifteen minutes before show time so she’d have enough time to swallow a glass of champagne and get herself warmed up. The confidence that came with alcohol would be enough to suppress any embarrassment she’d feel at being there alone.


Caroline drained her glass just as the bells started ringing. It was time to go in. She held her tickets in her hand and realised she had two just in time to rip one off and ditch it before the usher could see she was on her own. As she slid into her seat, Caroline fought off a wave of humiliation. She was front and centre, six rows from the front. Everyone in the stalls and the balconies could see she was on her own – her neighbours hadn’t yet taken their seats. She studied the program furiously.

Engrossed as she was, Caroline didn’t notice the man trying to squeeze past her until he was almost sitting in her lap.

‘Sorry,’ he said.

Caroline said nothing but her cheeks coloured. She again found something very important to read in the program. Within minutes the lights dimmed and an actor strolled out onto the stage. Caroline eased her shoulders back and relaxed. She loved Shakespeare.

The champagne had done its work and loosened her up nicely. Before long she’d forgotten she was on her own and was laughing out loud at the antics of Petruchio and Cambio (also known as Lucentio). She didn’t laugh quite so hard at The Shrew. The unmistakable scent of misogyny perfumed the air and her feminist sensibilities refused to just enjoy the show. Caroline was pleased to see that the actress playing The Shrew was delivering her lines laced with sarcasm – surely a pointer to the cast’s understanding that the play, while hilarious, was an undoubted anachronism?

It was while Caroline was wrestling with these thoughts as well as trying to keep up with the machine-gun-fast dialogue that she felt the unfamiliar contact of flesh against hers. Her arm burnt at the touch of the man seated next to her. Caroline fought against the urge to whip her arm away. It had been so long since a man had touched her that it had shocked her. More shocking was that he did not remove his arm from her space; in fact he seemed to press it harder against her arm.

She snuck a look at him but he did not seem to notice; his eyes were sparkling as he followed the action onstage. Where her arm had been on fire moments earlier, it now seemed to be warm and felt good. Caroline dared to let her left leg move imperceptibly closer to the man’s. Soon they were touching. Caroline felt excitement course through her body from her toes to her crown. After a few minutes more the man placed his right arm around Caroline’s shoulders and gently pulled her in close. She laid her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. She knew how the play ended.

Friday, October 9, 2009

#Fridayflash: Dental Check

By Lily Mulholland

Eddie eased himself back in the chair. The squeaking noises coming from under his backside took him back to childhood, when his mother had literally forced him to come. She had peeled his fingers from the car door one afternoon and tanned his hide with such emphasis that Eddie never did it again.

‘Comfortable?’ peeped the dental assistant.

‘Ah, yeah, sure,’ he said. He was clearly uncomfortable – his nails were digging trenches in the vinyl armrests.

‘Great,’ she chirped. ‘I’ll go and let Dr Ron know that you’re ready. Back in a jiffy.’

‘Okayay.’ Eddie found himself unconsciously mimicking her singsong voice.

He stared up at the ceiling, taking in the thoughtfully placed laminated pictures of waterfalls and beach scenes. He realised he was holding his breath and made an effort to try to breathe normally. That made him think of the time Fiona had tried to teach him one of her new age breathing techniques she’d picked up at yoga. Or was it pilates? He couldn’t remember. She’d tried to convince him to meditate before he went to sleep. He’d rather have just fucked her – his favourite stress relief technique. Fiona, on the other hand, loved sex but it didn’t put her to sleep. It got her thinking, usually about what Eddie was thinking about.

‘You have to breathe in through your left nostril and out through your right,’ she’d said.

‘Are you pulling my leg?’

‘No Eddie, I’m trying to help you. Now concentrate.’

Eddie tried and to his complete amazement he found that he could actually do it.

‘I’m doing it Fiona!’

‘Good boy, Eddie,’ she’d said, her voice tinged with the slightest hint of sarcasm. ‘Now keep it going for the next ten minutes.’

Eddie was asleep in two. Fiona had pretty much given up after that. He hadn’t seen her in a while. He tried to remember how long it had been.

Eddie’s reminiscences were interrupted by the arrival of Dr Ron, in whose wake followed Chirpy and possibly her sister, Tweety.

‘Hello Mr Andresen!’ Dr Ron spoke in exclamation marks.

‘How are we today?’ And the ‘royal we’.

‘Fine thanks,’ mumbled Eddie. He wasn’t one for small talk.

‘So, we’re in for a root canal, eh?’ asked Dr Ron.


‘Well, I’d like to say it won’t hurt a bit, but I’d be lying!’

Eddie watched on as Tweedledum and Tweedledee buzzed around Dr Ron, fitting him with new gloves, a mask and goggles, laying out equipment on trays, and filling two large syringes with what he hoped was the good stuff.

Dr Ron seated himself and spun around with a flourish towards Eddie. He pulled the light down close over Eddie’s face.

‘Open wide!’

Eddie opened his mouth and closed his eyes. His fingers were interlocked across his chest, a tight bridge of knuckles. He tried to think of something relaxing as Dr Ron stuffed several cotton wads into Eddie’s right cheek. He settled on Fiona’s breasts. They really were something. That creamy white skin with two perfect little strawberries. He felt a familiar warm feeling in his pants until the prick of the steel needle in his gum killed it dead.

He’d already had a root canal on the left side, performed by a no-nonsense army dentist last year. Since he’d got out he’d had to pay for his own dental work. That had been a shock. So here he was, subjected to the blindingly white smiles of Dr Ron and his two bimbettes.

The smell of anaesthetic was overpowering and making him feel sick. Eddie watched as Dr Ron withdrew the needle and asked Chirpy for the second one. Dr Ron hovered the needle over the insertion point on the inside of the gum.

‘Are we okay?’

Eddie tried to say no, but with a face full of cotton and half a fist already in his mouth, it came out as a tortured kind of assent. Dr Ron pushed the needle deep into the gum. Eddie passed out.


‘Welcome back Mr Andresen.’

Eddie heard Chirpy’s voice.

‘You’ve been asleep for quite some time.’

Eddie tried to open his eyes, but the lids felt so heavy.

Eddie’s tongue felt its way along the teeth on the bottom right side of his gum. Everything felt normal, apart from the inevitable bruising. He tried to bring his hand up to rub his jaw, but he couldn’t lift his hand. Either hand. Eddie tried again and realised that his four limbs were held fast in restraints.

‘What the fuck?’

‘I’m afraid you’re in no state to go anywhere Mr Andresen.’ The voice had taken on a different tone.

Eddie tried to open his eyes again. He half succeeded. Enough to see that he was no longer in Dr Ron’s rooms, but was in a large oval shaped room devoid of any furniture other than the bed he was in.

‘What the hell is going on?’

‘We’ve harvested your X chromosomes Mr Andresen.’

‘My what?’

‘Your sperm Mr Andresen. But only those carrying the X chromosome. We require them for our breeding program.’

‘Breeding program?’

‘We have completed phase one of our absorption program and taken sufficient breeders for our start-up requirements. A major undertaking, but suitable young women were easily sourced by Dr Ron.’

‘We are now in phase two. We require human X chromosomes to mate with ours. Once mated, the embryos will be implanted into the breeders, creating the perfect beings.’

Eddie’s head was spinning.

‘Perfect beings? What the fucking hell are you talking about?’

‘It’s not important. You have served your purpose. Once you are fully recovered, you’ll be returned to your apartment. Don’t bother talking to the authorities. Your army medical file has been altered to show you were discharged due to paranoid delusion.’

Eddie stared at Chirpy with her sickening white smile. It was only then that he was struck with the terrifying thought of how exactly they’d stolen his sperm.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Story accepted at MicroHorror

As part of my experimentation in genre, I've written another dark fiction piece and submitted it to MicroHorror for its 2009 Story Contest. It's up on MicroHorror now. Click here to read 'Prisoner'.

Friday, October 2, 2009

#fridayflash: A Reservoir Dog

- Why am I Mr Yellow?

- Because you’re a faggot! All right?

- Why can’t we pick our own colours?

- No way. Tried it once. It doesn’t work. You get four guys all fightin’ over who gets to be Mr. Black.


- I just don’t think we’re gettin’ our cut, all right?

- But we’re not the lead act. We’re just the support.

- So you think I’m getting a big head then, do you?

- Nah, I just think you should realise that this isn’t about you.

- Yeah, but you’re gettin’ your own show. Bet you’ll get paid a lot more now.

- Well you need to pitch your ideas for your own show – that’s what I did. I’ve been working my backside off, brown-nosing Mr Blue for years.

- I don’t think he’d go for it. Mr Blue’s got it in for me.

- Well try Mr Purple. You know he’s got Mr Blue’s ear.

- Mr Purple? He’s a lightweight, always smoking ‘herbal’ cigarettes. Maybe I could have a go with Mr Red. He’s kinda goofy. Might be more prepared to listen to me.

- Well just don’t come over all aggressive. You’re a bit like a dog with a bone sometimes, you know.

- I know, I just can’t shake this off. I feel like we’re being stiffed. You know what I saw the other day? Our faces – yours, mine, Henry’s and Dorothy’s – on toddler wipes. Toddler wipes I tell you! That’s what the skivs think of us. They think we’re shit – literally!

- Well that’s what you signed up for when you got the contract.

- Sure, but –

- Hey Henry, you happy with your gig?

- Bahreebop Wags! Bahreebop Cap’n. What’s going on? I thought we were supposed to be rehearsing.

- Old Wagsy here reckons the fab four are scrooging him

– Dude you’ve gottta chill out. You get plenty of bones and there’s plenty of bitches in the crowd. I gotta tell you, I’ve got my eight hands full with those yummy mummies backstage every afternoon! Maybe you should get Dorothy to make you a cup of rosy tea – that’ll help settle you down.

- Henry, you’re such a fag. I’m outta here. You pussies can keep kissing those Wiggles’ butts, but I’m gone. Ciao ciao fellas.

Before Wags can get any further, Captain Feathersword unsheathes his blade.

- Have you lost your fuckin’ mind? I’m not gonna let you make a terrible mistake.

Wags, sensing a challenge, turns around and bares his teeth. Henry tries to intervene.

- Come on, guys. Nobody wants this.

Wags snarls at Henry. Henry starts to fidget and his trademark giggle consumes him. Wags advances on Captain Feathersword, who turns his sword on himself and attempts hara-kiri. He doesn’t get far; his sword is a fuchsia feather.

Dorothy, who has been watching from behind the scrim, rolls her eyes and worries for the future.

‘We’re supposed to be fuckin’ professionals.’


With apologies to Quentin Tarantino. The dialogue in italics is from the Reservoir Dogs script. The rest is mine :)