Wake Up and Smell the Humans by Sean Crawley

Thank you, The Fiction Pool.

The Fiction Pool

He was a lot older and drank too much. But there was no doubting his passion and sense of fun. Plus, he owned a house or six.

She was young and beautiful, legs up to the sky. But she had a brain. Plus, she was a renter with no hope of getting into the housing market.

His invitation to Paris didn’t require much thought.

They stayed the night before at the airport hotel. He ordered oysters and champagne and wore a purple G-string when he answered the door to room service. The young girl attendant was not amused. People were such prudes.

One dozen oysters and ten thousand bubbles later, the night duty manager appeared at the door to inform them that a complaint had been registered.

“Thanks for the update captain. Please duly note my attire.” He did a pirouette. “See? No genitalia visible.”

“Enjoy your stay Mr and…

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So Long Sixteen, So Long Seventeen

So Long Sixteen, So Long Seventeen

twenty stories

all written in 2017

all written for the Palmwoods Writing Group

The Palmwoods Writing Group meets at 10am on the second and fourth Friday of each month. Members critique each other’s stories that have been emailed to each other in the group prior to the meeting. We alternate between writing to an open theme (we call this a freebie) and writing to some prompt, theme or other stipulation.

What follows is an outline of my participation in the group for the year 2017.

Jan 27th, 2017

Prompt: Write a story which includes all of the song titles from an album of your choice.

My story: So Long, Sixteen

I decided to use the song titles from Leonard Cohen’s last studio album, You Want It Darker. It is a great album, yes dark, and prophetic. Leonard died three weeks after it’s release. I have used the song titles in the same order in which they appear on the album.

The story was published by Tulpa Magazine on 6th April, 2018.

Feb 10th, 2017

Prompt: Freebie

My Story: The ‘D’ Word

After an experience with a close family member being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016, I wrote “The ‘D’ Word” to try to make some sense of it all. It don’t have any answers, only a desire to remain fit and healthy in every aspect until the very day my number is up.

The story was published by Meniscus Literary Journal in October 2017.

Feb 24th, 2017

Prompt: Take the first line from page 100 of any book and use that to start your story.

Story: Azriella

To start my story, I used the line on the top of the 100th page of my paperback copy of Annie Proulx’s “Shipping News”. The line is “Eventually, I puzzled out something that I could build that would…”

Annie Proulx published her first book of fiction, a collection of short stories, at the age of 53how encouraging!

Mar 10th, 2017

Prompt: Freebie

Story: Wake Up and Smell the Humans

The issue of over population has been on my mind for many years. It is generally a taboo subject. Those who dare raise it are judged as racist and quickly reminded about China’s one child policy. The good thing about writing fiction is you can pretty much get away with writing about any subject you damn well please.

This story is soon to be published by The Fiction Pool.

Mar 24th, 2017

Prompt: Use the lyrics to the song “Did You Ever” (written by Bobby Braddock and most famously performed by Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood) to guide your story.

Story: It Happens All the Time

Use of song lyrics in a work of fiction, even just one line, can be a big issue for writers. I understand the need for artists of all persuasions to be paid for what they do. Bobby, if this story ever makes any coin, I’ll send you a fair portion.

Apr 14th, 2017

Prompt: Freebie

Story: Rocket Science

Every once and a while, I write in female first person. Is that gender appropriation? I’ll leave that debate for others.

Rocket Science is my take on the possible leap of humankind from off of planet Earth. For many people this endeavour confirms a common belief that humans are flawed and most of what we do is unnatural. I don’t hold that belief. If a plant seed, for example, somehow found its way from Earth to Mars and started a colony in the red dirt over there, would we call that unnatural?

The story was published by Bull and Cross.

Apr 28th, 2017

Prompt: ‘fan’ and ‘bun’

Story: Message in the Bottles

Sometimes in the Palmwoods Writing Group we brainstorm ideas for the next themed contribution. We were being silly one meeting and the words ‘fan’ and ‘bun’ came up. The word ‘bun’ materialised as it was Easter time, the word ‘fan’? – well that’s anyone’s guess.

May 12th, 2017

Prompt: Freebie

Story: Well Heeled, Well Travelled

Sometimes in the early morning, I write before I have spoken to anyone or glimpsed any news on the TV or internet. Often, this approach yields not only good results but also stories that seem to effortlessly spew out from some mysterious part of my subconscious brain. If I was superstitious I might even say these stories are out there in the universal ether and that I am simply a medium that channels them onto paper. But that is bullshit.

This story did flow easily and without deliberate thought, but I do have a strong aversion to snobs who look down upon people who have not travelled extensively overseas. It’s as though if you haven’t been to Europe you have no understanding of western culture or history. When confronted with this brand of elitism I think about the billions of people on planet Earth that will never have the privilege of leaving their homelands to explore other nations and cultures. How deluded it is to think that these people are somehow ignorant or less worthy.

May 26th, 2017

Prompt: write a birthday story

Story: Cutting Cake

While on holiday in Bali in 2017 I picked up a copy of Haruki Murakami’s first novel, “Hear the Wind Sing” and absolutely loved it. I also was impressed by his editing of, and contribution to, a collection of short stories about birthdays. So impressed that I suggested to the writing group that ‘birthday’ be a theme for this meeting in May.

Jun 23rd, 2017

Prompt: ‘rubbed’ and an 800 word limit

Story: Every Story must have a Beginning, Middle and End

Each person in the writing group interpreted the word ‘rubbed’ differently.

Julie, the resident logophile, used every definition she could find for the word ‘rubbed’.

Pauline wrote a story about a man who ‘rubbed’ a pile of lamps to find a genie.

Ruth’s story was like an old B&W Western movie, where a card cheat gets ‘rubbed’ out.

Mary 1 created a young child with magical powers who ‘rubbed’ out her cranky school teacher with an eraser.

Mary 2 evoked memories of yesteryear with a tale that involved butter being ‘rubbed’ into flour.

And me, as previously mentioned I went to Bali in 2017 and of course got ‘rubbed’ many times.

The story I wrote was published in The Dirty Pool.

Jul 28th, 2017

Prompt: photo lucky dip

Story: Plaza Life

For this meeting we had to write a story inspired by a photo that we had each drawn out of a lucky dip. After the writing group read my story Plaza Life, which was in response to a photo of Stortorget Plaza in Sweden, I posted it on my website. A friend of mine supplied the picture for the website as the one I had picked out of the lucky dip was a cutting from a travel brochure.

It was pointed out to me that this particular story could possibly draw hate mail. It didn’t, which is an indication of the page’s visitor numbers rather than the inculpate content.

Aug 11th, 2017

Prompt: Freebie

Story: Somewhere Down by the Coast

Someone pointed out to me that I have never written a love story. I tried to argue that all my stories are love stories but was unconvincing, even to myself. So I wrote one and submitted it as a freebie to the writers group.

Aug 25th, 2017

Prompt: ‘the box’

Story: Out of the Box

After writing a love story I realised that I have never written a ghost story, and isn’t being part of a writing group sometimes about writing out of your comfort zone?

Also, is it acceptable to have humour in a ghost story? Of course it is.

Sep 8th, 2017

Prompt: Freebie

My story: The Joys of Country Life

Being a white heterosexual male in 2017 was a lot of fun. No one wants to hear your opinion because so many white heterosexual males that have come before you have been total arseholes, if not certifiable psychopaths. Fair enough. Being ignored can be a great boon to writers. We get left alone and ignored so that we can improve our work. We can even step into the shoes of different genders, sexualities and races, even when some people deem that type of appropriation to be as inappropriate as being a white heterosexual male. Frankly, I don’t give a damn.

Sep 22nd, 2017

Prompt: ‘the glass half…’

My story: Homo correctus

Do you remember all the lies told by the Turnbull government in 2017? One of them was about how allowing the public to vote upon marriage equality was such a progressive and desirable way to run a democracy. Excuse me while I either vomit or punch the refrigerator.

It would be fair to hypothesise that some of the media hype surrounding the same sex marriage vote managed to seep into my writing brain and then out onto the keyboard at my desk.

Oct 13th, 2017

Prompt: Freebie

My story: Correspondence Dated 13th October, 2017

I mostly hate competition yet frequently enter short story competitions and submit work to literary magazines and journals. What’s worse than a proforma rejection email is a total lack of response, even after parting with an entry fee or a reading fee. Black holes are real.

I got some of this frustration off my chest with this month’s writing group freebie.

Oct 27th, 2017

Prompt: ‘cross that bridge’

My Story: All That Harbourside Jazz

Astute observers may note that I submitted this story to my writing group in October, the very same month Harvey Weinstein was outed for sexual misconduct. The same month the Me Too hashtag movement began. I checked my files and note that the first draft of this story was created in August.

The main character in this story (possibly misogynistic, definitely sexually promiscuous and unashamedly selfish) is not me, and not who I wish to be. This is fiction, OK?

Nov 10th, 2017

Prompt: Freebie

My Story: My Friend the Essay

I have a casual job that involves giving feedback on essays. This story served as both my freebie for the writing group and an opportunity to exorcise some work related jargon. And again, I touch upon content (sexual misconduct by males in positions of power) that dominated the airwaves and the information superhighway. Good, it all needs to be outed.

Nov 24th, 2017

Prompt: write a story where the setting is unnamed but is described in enough detail as to be obvious to the reader

My story: Times and Places

Once upon a time I internet dated. Once upon a time I worked in the suburb in which this story is set. Can you work out where it is?

Dec 1st, 2017

Prompt: 15 minutes free writing at the meeting using the prompt ‘secrets on the lake’

My Story: It’s All Arranged

For our last meeting of the year, just before our Christmas party, we sat down and wrote with pen on paper for 15 minutes exactly. The prompt, ‘secrets on the lake’, is the name of the restaurant where we went to lunch that day.

I hadn’t given the prompt much thought prior to the meeting, but I did want to make some reference to the fact that this lake was formed by a dam that flooded and buried forever an important indigenous cultural site. And that really shits me off.

December 2nd, 2017

The day after the last meeting/Christmas party of the Palmwoods Writing Group, I moved from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland to the Central Coast in NSW. Still Somewhere Down by the Coast.

So Long, Seventeen

I don’t really know how to be a man, only how to be a decent person.

Friday 23rd March 2018

4.55am

I don’t really know how to be a man, only how to be a decent person.

I have seen people get angry and in this state do harm to others and themselves. I have seen people ruthlessly exercising power to advantage themselves, their families or some other chosen group. I have seen people ignorant of their own privilege, defending their rights and entitlements over others less privileged. I have witnessed people espousing beliefs that come from places of fear and that defy all rationality. I have seen people watch all this indecency and do nothing.

I am ranting above about these things in a period of time where political correctness, especially the rise of identity politics, seems to be dividing rather than uniting humanity. And I get this distinct feeling that the establishment, or should I say, the rich and powerful humans sitting on the top of the heap, are quietly glad and rubbing their hands as the debates about gender, sexuality, race and religion, rage on below them. The identity political debates where blame is laid upon one particular identity or the other. The 1% are glad because the spotlight is not on them or the systems of economics and law that chug along keeping them in their castles.

There were moments of optimism in the 1970s and early 80s when the populace felt that democracy and equality was finally settling over the western world. Then it all turned back.

**

There I go, raving on about the socio political climate again.

Anyway, I guess the big question is how to engage with the world and its realities. How much of an activist should one become?

I recall a few years ago getting more active. I joined some groups with good intentions, but the human flaws within the groups, flaws conditioned from years of less than ideal experience, became barriers to any real progress. Bullies pushed their weight around, gossips spread their lies and fear, and generally people accepted that this is the way of things, this is how humans work. Stick it out they would say, progress is slow and has to won by hard fought battles, really?

Do I want to do this anymore?

Back when I worked full-time to pay mortgages or rent, I’d find my self as part of the staff of some organisation, be it a school or a health department, a business or not-for-profit. I think once or twice I found myself in a nice place, nice because it contained a significant majority of decent people. It didn’t matter what we had to do, the humanness and co-operative nature of those occasions made it bearable, perhaps even fun. At the very least, nausea did not accompany the five day a week morning wake up alarm.

Working with decent people made all the different. It didn’t matter if they were male, female or some other gender, if they were straight, gay or some other permutation of sexuality, it didn’t matter if they were religious or atheists, or even agnostics, and of course the colour of their skin was totally irrelevant and of no issue. There was unity and not division. We would talk in breaks about ideas and not identities, and no one preached. But these rare workplace nirvanas, like everything, are impermanent. Things change. Typically things would revert to the status quo where work became unpleasant again. Where the whole raison d’être was that you work to pay the bills, work to pay your way, work through the week to have fun on the weekend. Yes, that idiocy. The idiocy where KPIs and productivity become the sole focus of all activity. Where management practices become micro and all pervasive, and of course induce feelings of inferiority and the feeling that you are constantly being watched. Feeling dispensible, insecure. Feeling that one wrong move and you could be homeless and hungry and shunned by society.

When did the Beatles sing about revolution? When did Gil Scott Heron rap about how the revolution not being televised? There are murmurings now. Will revolution come? And will it be so violent and create such chaos and destruction that the next rise of civilisation will make exactly the same mistakes? Or will civilisation evolve, peacefully and with sufficient pace and effect to avoid violence and war?

I have a theory. Today’s theory. A theory for what its worth. A theory because I know nothing.

My theory: To avoid revolution and facilitate evolution:

1. Be decent.

2. Call out indecency whenever it is present.

3. Walk away from people and situations where indecency prevails.

4. Encourage decency in others.

Decency is simple. We all know what is decent. We can feel its presence and also its absence. It is about being human, curious and co-operative, loving and generous, honest and peaceful.

Have a nice day everyone. May decency be with you.