GR Online Banner alt

Welcome to GR Online, a series of short-form articles that take aim at the moving target of contemporary culture as it’s whisked along the guide rails of innovations in digital media, globalisation and late-stage capitalism.

The kiss 

With ears plugged and eyes closed, she felt safer. The sensations that did reach her were muted: the melodic ring of the seatbelt light being switched off, the rattle of the dinner trolley, the smell of food being warmed in microwave ovens – a heady aroma reminiscent of canned soup and sausage rolls. But above it all she heard something else. The rumble of a voice – low, male, foreign.American. 

The green gold grassy hills

I’d missed her fiftieth birthday party the year before due to the usual restrictions of time and money. But as I stood at the window scrubbing vegetables, I wondered what had been so important that I hadn’t been able to make an exception for someone to whom a year could be a lifetime. Under-eights soccer game? Kids’ sleepover? But my partner could have done that on their own, couldn’t they?

Lost decade

We were given a list of verified addresses that we could pick from: Leonardo DiCaprio, Quentin Tarantino, Taylor Swift. I began my tours at Las Palmas hotel, where Richard Gere climbs the fire escape in Pretty Woman. Then I drove up Highland, past the church where Sister Act was filmed, and into the hills. The passengers were sunscreened and hopeful, leaning to the windows. My passengers, I reminded myself. I hadn’t even seen Pretty Woman then.

Apocalypse, then?

Writing took almost everything from me. Most afternoons, I’d arrive home from teaching classrooms of uninterested students, have a little Henry time, defrost a ready-to-eat supermarket meal, open a bottle of shiraz and write until midnight. Most weekends, I’d start writing once the hangover wore off, break for lunch, and then write again until dinner. It wasn’t just punishing on my physical health, it ruined my relationships, most recently with Greg, who said I’d die miserable and alone if I maintained my grim routine. And for what? The occasional acceptance from an obscure journal read by twelve other short-story writers?


He hasn’t caught one in twelve years or more, not since just before Ritchie – Hayley’s oldest – was born. The deboning alone can take half a morning and you have to strip that tail to its cartilage very carefully because there’s a layer of green resin, bitter. In small doses it ruins the meat; poisonous if you eat too much.

Mother of pearls

But we are more animal now than we’ve ever been. We read the water that leaps into our pools; we filter all kingdoms of life through our gills. We understand that the tendrils connecting one life form to another run much longer and deeper than you might expect. And we can entertain the notion that our strange tasks were like the fateful beats of a butterfly’s wings, and maybe the witch was a rare genius, able to perceive how the purloined dog, the pawned bird or the swapped cats would, in the mysterious rippling of the universe, lead to our deepest desires coming to pass. 


Together we were drawn mechanically across the road, boredom/fate reeling us in. The lawn sprawled over the grey-brick kerb. The house was painted green. Sellotaped to the windows were rows of pressed aster. The feeling of something too large to explain was heavy in the air. The door squeaked, swinging open, the main door ajar behind it, and through the gap we glimpsed a white hallway, a pile of discarded shoes on one side.

Hump day

The day they discover the meaning of life, Prue wakes with a headache. Across the kitchen table, Sam says I can’t believe it over and over again.
Prue sips her coffee and only half listens. ‘They what?’
‘See here, it says they’ve finally discovered the meaning of life.’ Sam thrusts the screen in her face.
Prue glances, seeing only bold text and underlined paragraphs. ‘Who is they?’
‘That group of geniuses. Genius Inc. The ones who got together and cured cancer.’
‘Ah. Genius Inc.,’ Prue says. ‘The ones claiming to solve all the big unanswered questions.’ How could she forget? It was all anyone could talk about for months.
‘Yeah. And I mean, they are. They cured cancer. They’re clearly capable.’ Sam buttons his shirt with shaking hands.
‘Curing cancer is one thing. Discovering the meaning of life is quite another.’

Lying on grass

Jamie wishes he could be more like Todd. Not because Todd’s excellent, but because he figures out what he wants and does it. As they pull out bits and pieces from the skip to build their drum sets, Jamie thinks about how he wants to be free, but doesn’t know if that’s something a person can ‘do’. After a while they’ve constructed two sets side by side at the front of the driveway. They’re not buckets, tins or lids: they’re tom drums, snare drums and cymbals.


We are absorbed in our work until we are not. Mostly we take breaks together, sitting outside in the sunshine waiting for our thoughts to settle, waiting for our lives to begin. Gus and I have both applied for the same scholarship. We’ll find out at the end of the month. Eve is organising a group show and wanted my latest painting as the centrepiece, but I won’t finish it in time, so I drop out.  ‘I’ve got something ready,’ says Gus. Easy enough to find someone to fill my place.

All the boys she ever loved

Lacey complained that she wanted to show him the new books we’d gone and bought together the day before, to which I said he could wait by the door while she went in and got those books, and then she could show them to him no problem in the living room, or the hallway even, if that was what she wanted to do, and so she said – in a tone I knew would only become more prevalent three months down the line when she turned thirteen – Fine.

Open water 

Brenda clasped her whistle as she waited. She had a special let camp begin call that only got used once a year. The newbies would learn quickly what Coach’s unique calls meant. Brenda contemplated if she would join in this year’s campfire singalong. With her whistle, she had been practising a rendition of ‘Eternal Flame’ by the Bangles. She knew the girls went wild for their coach’s dorky antics.

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.