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Jim—A Monologue.

Jim

Sunday

G’day. My name’s Jim. This little lady here is the love of my life, Jess. She’s a sweetie, isn’t she? Sometimes I really wonder what I’d have done without her all these years. We never had any kids, but somehow it always seemed enough just to have each other. When we had the farm she worked alongside me every day. Nothing was too hard, or too much to ask.

It’s always amazed me how she does that though—watches TV, knits, and reads, all at the same time. But you ask her what was the last thing that happened on the screen and she’ll tell you word for word! Women, hey? They’re a strange breed. We’ve been together now for fifty-five years.

Well, that’s maybe not entirely true since I’m not actually here, not in body anyway. Yep, you guessed it, I’m the “Dearly Departed”. Deceased. Brown bread. Dead as a doornail!
She can’t see or hear me but somehow I just don’t know where else to go. I figure if I hang around maybe I can keep an eye on her. You know, steer her in the right direction if she needs to make any big decisions, Well that’s my story anyway and I’m stickin’ to it.

How did I die? Well, it’s a common enough story I guess: I’d been having a bit of trouble with the old waterworks for a while and no quack was going to be giving me the finger if you get my drift. Jess caught me in the dunny one day with tears in my eyes and she only had to see the slow drip, drip, trickle to know things weren’t exactly hunky-dory. She had me down to Doc Evans before you could say “prostate” and, well, I suppose you can guess the rest. Blood tests, scans, exploratory surgery, chemo, et cetera.

The really stupid thing—from my point of view—was that they said if we’d caught it just a couple of months earlier I’d probably still be alive! I tell you, folks, it doesn’t pay to try to be a hero where your health is concerned. 20 / 20 hindsight I think they call that. A wonderful thing—but totally bloody useless.

I don’t know exactly how long I was in hospital but I do know that it seemed every time I opened my eyes Jess was at my bedside. How she persuaded the staff to let her practically live there was beyond me but I guess as our house was pretty close and it’s a small country hospital they understood. Not that I was awake a whole lot, as they had me pretty doped up most of the time.
I opened my eyes one morning and found myself standing looking down at myself, laying in the bed. The doctor was checking for signs of life and Jess was weeping in the corner. Not knowing what else to do I walked home to wait for her—and so here I am. I wish I could let her know I was here though.

Wednesday

Charlie called by again today, and Jess talked him into stayin’ for dinner. Charlie and I were in the Army together. He’s been my best mate for as long as I can remember. Jess and I, and Charlie and Rose—his ex-wife—were a regular part of what passed for a social scene around here in the ’50s and ’60s. I always reckoned he had a soft spot for Jess back then, but he ended up marrying Rose a few months after we tied the knot. She left him after a couple of years and moved to the city to work in real estate. Charlie never remarried. In fact, he never seemed interested in anyone else so I guess Rose was his one true love after all. The three of us stayed close friends, and he was the only other regular visitor when I was in the hospital. He’s a true friend, is Charlie, and it’s good to know he’s keeping an eye on Jess too.

Monday

What a bloody catastrophe! Jess popped out to the garden yesterday to pick some tomatoes and tripped on a loose paver.
What a damn fool I am! I’d promised her for ages to fix that path, but just never got around to it. Now, thanks to my damn stupid neglect she’s laid up in hospital with a busted hip! To make matters worse it happened late on a Sunday and no-one was around to hear her calling out except for me. I stayed with her, of course, and even dashed up and down the street trying to attract someone’s attention but as you can guess I was about as much use as an ashtray on a Harley.

She lay in agony all night and it wasn’t until Pete the postie came at 9.00 am that she was finally discovered. By that time she was too weak to call out so I knew this was my last chance.
Pete was slipping a letter into our box, with me waving my arms and screaming uselessly at him, when in desperation I grabbed a couple of envelopes from his bag and waved them in his face before running around the back, with the illustrious Pete the Postie in hot pursuit, to drop the letters near where poor Jess was laying, half-conscious.
Don’t ask me how I did that, or what poor old Pete made of it, but it did the job. Pete called the ambulance and Jess was in casualty within a half hour.
So now it’s my turn to sit by a hospital bed and wait. She opened her eyes for a minute and I’m sure she smiled at me but I heard the doctor say that she’s still in a coma. One thing’s for sure—I’ll not be going anywhere so long as Jess is in this place.

Wednesday

She’s awake now, and in a bit of pain despite the medication. Charlie is here too. She told him she saw me by her bed that first day, but he agrees with the nurses that it was just the morphine. Can’t say I blame them, of course. Good old Charlie, I know he’ll keep an eye on her and get her anything she needs.

Friday

It’s been two months now, since Jess’ fall. Two months of pain, plaster, and persistence. She’s been in the Rehab Wing for three weeks, and Doc Evans has just told her she can go home today.
Charlie has been in every day, sometimes sitting here with me and watching her sleep. He gets that misty-eyed look at times, and I reckon his soft spot for Jess has well and truly resurfaced. She could do a lot worse, of course. Strange, though, you’d think I’d be a bit jealous but all I really want is for her to be happy.

Monday

Well, what a turn-up! Charlie brought her home from the hospital, stayed for dinner (which he cooked) and the next thing you know the bugger’s moved in! 
I’ve taken to going for long walks at night so as to give ‘em their privacy. They still don’t know I’m here of course, but some things you just don’t need to be privy to. 
Jess is coming along well. She still has a bit of a limp, but they say she’ll heal completely. 
Charlie has fixed the garden path and seems to relish being the man-about-the-house. He’s becoming quite the gardener too. I never saw that side of him before.

Saturday

Jess was up early this morning and left the house a few hours ago. Charlie spent last night at Pete’s place. Pete is to be Best Man. The ceremony will be over by now I think.
Jess and Charlie will be spending a week on the coast, sort of a honeymoon you’d call it I guess. I hope it all goes well for them. One thing I do know is that they don’t need my company.
Somehow I couldn’t bring myself to tag along to the wedding, either. Anyway, there’s something I need to think about.
You see, I’ve had this feeling for a while now that I need to be somewhere—somewhere else. There’s a sort of light that seems to follow me around wherever I go and I get the urge to see what it is. I stood really close yesterday an’ I swear I saw my old Mum smiling back at me. There’s nothing to keep me here now, so maybe I’ll go and check it out.

Anyway, thanks for stoppin’ by. I guess I’ll be off. Say “Hi” to them for me when they get back, will you?

 

What is The Best Email Automation Tool for Writers?

My Moosend Review:

Is This The Best Email Automation Tool for Authors?

 

Moosend is an affordable email autoresponder that you can learn to use in under an hour. Don’t let this fool you, however. This is no lightweight tool when it comes to delivering the goods.

Despite Moosend’s apparent simplicity, the results you will get are extremely professional in performance as well as appearance. As an author, I don’t have time for complicated systems that eat into my writing time. When I’m in front of my laptop I want to be turning out copy for my novels or stories; not fiddling about trying to make an autoresponder work.

When setting up my author’s webpage, thomasgreenbank.com, I knew one of the most important things was having a way to gather emails and sign up visitors to my newsletter. I knew nothing about email autoresponders, so had to spend a lot of time on research. I tried a few and settled on Moosend. One of the big plusses with Moosend was the fact that the free version (up to 1,000 followers) includes unlimited free support via live chat. I knew that was something I’d need. It doesn’t stop there, however.

We can easily spend way too much on ultra-powerful marketing automation software that we don’t really need. Plus, some programs can be really complicated and hard to use.

With Moosend, you get heaps of options to customise your email marketing automation. Moosend has a rich set of triggers and actions all easily managed within a drag-and-drop interface. Workflows can be shared among team members, if you use them, who can leave notes or memos where required.
The Moosend interface itself will educate you on how to automate and fine-tune your virtual workplace. There are templates, preset workflows, and rich tracking capabilities; all of which Moosend uses to make it simple to find what works for your unique subscriber base.

Leverage the AI to hyper-personalise your emails based on similar consumer preferences and other behavioural analytics.
One thing they’ve recently added is “And/Or” expressions to custom fields. This allows for a lot more customisation in terms of defining triggers. Custom fields don’t have to be just one thing any more! If this seems a bit like gobbledegook to you now, don’t worry. It’ll all become clear as you learn the ropes and create your first email automation.

I have my automation set to greet new subscribers with a Welcome Email that first asks for a secure double opt-in. They are then sent the first piece of bonus content (in my case, a free chapter from my debut novel that was culled and then turned into a short story) and then more free content on a regular basis.

Another thing I offer them is occasional notifications about special deals and promos from other authors whose works I admire. These, I simply send manually in just a few minutes. I can’t automate these as the offers are usually time-sensitive.
You don’t need to know how to write a single line of code. You can quickly master a deep set of email automation features that include:

  • Rich tracking, reporting, and analytics
  • Click heatmaps
  • Five types of subscription forms
  • Direct SMTP service
  • Cart abandonment (Useful if you plan on selling your books from your website)
  • Embed product blocks in newsletters for shoppable emails
  • Mobile responsiveness
  • GDPR compliance
  • Native integrations with WooCommerce, Salesforce, WordPress and dozens more top products

The Moosend free forever plan, which is capped at 1,000 subscribers, comes with many of the best features. For additional subscribers, you’ll need a Pro plan, and that starts at $8/month, which is way below prices charged by other tools. By the time you need that, though, $8 will seem like chicken feed.
The exact price you’ll end up paying eventually will depend on the number of subscribers you need to accommodate. For example, 25,000 subscribers is $100/month. The Pro plan maxes out at 200,000 subscribers ($608/month), with custom plans available to reach an audience of any size.

One thing you can be assured of is that Moosend has to be the best value email management system, bar none. It has features comparable to many competition products with much higher price tags.

How long will it stay like this? Is this just an introductory offer? Yep, I wondered that too. Well, Moosend has been around since 2011 and looks like being with us for the long haul, so don’t let that bother you in the slightest.

 

“What if I already have a different autoresponder and want to change?”

 

All well-designed email management systems allow for simple import/export of existing mailing lists. I won’t go into details, but trust me, that is all taken care of within the program.

Compared to other, more expensive options, Moosend is much easier to use even compared with many seemingly more sophisticated systems. Don’t just take my word for it, though—try Moosend for free and see for yourself. You won’t regret it one bit.

Going Home

Writing to a Set Word Count

 

A Two-Minute Read:

This is a short story I wrote as a writing challenge some time ago. The task was to create a story in fewer than a thousand words that revealed something in the ending that hadn’t been obvious earlier in the tale, but that would show when the story was re-read.

As a copywriter, I was often asked to write to a fairly strict word count. (As a fiction author, of course, the word count is less important) Keeping to a prescribed article length forces a writer to be frugal and accurate with word choices. These skills come in handy when writing fiction of any kind.

Here’s the story—I hope you like it.

 

Going Home

 

Sarah loved her new job. It was as if she were born for a career in aged care. Although her main duties were clerical, she spent as much time as possible mingling with the residents.
“Older people have so much to offer,” she’d frequently tell her family, “yet so few take the time to listen.”
She especially loved Mr Bristol. Jim Bristol appeared to have lived the sort of life many only dreamed of. There was scarcely anything he hadn’t turned his hand to at some time, it seemed to Sarah.
Some days Sarah spent her entire lunch break listening to stories from his sailing days or his time as a circus roustabout.

“Do you have any family, Jim?” she asked him one day. “You never seem to have any visitors.”
“Just one son,” he replied. “Never had a lot of time for me, always too busy with his business affairs. Last time I saw him he was on his way to New York, then I heard that…”
“Sarah!” It was the director. “Got a moment?”
“Sure Dr King, be right there.”

Dr Aaron King allowed Sarah more than a little leniency with her break times. Sure, she was a chatterbox, but she always got her work done, and the residents adored her. Nevertheless, she did have an office to run.

“I need that report by day’s end, you know, not next week,” he chided. “I’m sure Mr Bristol’s stories can wait ’til Monday.”

The truth was, each day always held a whole new batch of tales from the old man. He certainly had lived a full life, and loved talking about it.
“See you after the weekend, Mr Bristol,” she said, gathering her things before hurrying back to her office. “We can pick up where we left off.
“Keep yourself rugged up, won’t you—I don’t like the sound of that cough,” she added as she left.

When Sarah arrived for work after the weekend, there was grim news. Mr Bristol had fallen gravely ill, and the nursing staff were worried about pneumonia. The night shift had been forced to call in a locum GP in the early hours of Saturday morning. He was prescribed antibiotics but was yet to show any improvement.

When Sarah was finally able to call in on her lunch break she was shocked at his appearance. He attempted to give Sarah his usual cheery greeting but could only manage a few words before he was consumed in a coughing fit.

“Don’t try to talk, Pet,” she said, keeping her voice as calm and soothing as she could manage. “Save it for our next chat. I’m sure you’ll be a little better tomorrow.”
He nodded, holding a fist against his chest in an attempt to stifle another lung-rattling spasm and holding his mask in place with the other hand. Sarah glanced anxiously at the nurse who was waiting to take his temperature.
“We’ve taken a sample to test for Covid,” she explained. “I don’t think that’s it, though. The cough came on far too suddenly.”
“It’s not all bad news though,” Jim rasped between bouts of coughing. “My son came to visit. He’s planning on taking me home next weekend.”
The nurse looked at Sarah, raising her eyebrows.
“Well let’s hope you’re better by then. I can’t see them letting you go home in this state,” Sarah offered. “I look forward to meeting this boy of yours. Maybe I’ll give him a piece of my mind for leaving you here all this time! Just joking.” She added.

He wasn’t his usual talkative self, so once the nurse left Sarah sat for a short while and chattered merrily until she saw his eyes closing and head nodding. She decided he needed rest more than conversation.

“I’ll be sure to call in tomorrow,” she said. “You get some rest. I’ll bring some fruit and a paper.”

All that week he remained in his room. The test had come back negative, and he had shown some improvement with his breathing. He was able to get out of bed, but only for short periods. Somehow, though, Sarah sensed that the spark was fading, just a little. He was still adamant, however, whenever Sarah visited, that his son Brian would be taking him home on Saturday. Sarah said little about it but didn’t hold out much hope of a home visit any time soon.
He still had a few stories to tell, but his tales lacked the passion they once had. He could only talk for short periods without coughing and was obviously growing weaker.
When Friday came, Sarah popped in, bade him a cheery “See you Monday!” and left hurriedly, truly doubting her own parting words.

First thing Monday she hurried to his room. Her worst fears were realised; he had passed away Saturday morning. In his place, there was just an empty bed and a couple of boxes containing the remnants of his once full life. She stood in the doorway and let the tears flow, washing away the grief she knew she couldn’t hide even if she’d wanted to.
Aaron King’s voice came from behind her: “That’s all he had to show for all those years. What we’re going to do with it all, I don’t know. There’s no next-of-kin in his records.
“If there’s anything you want to keep—you know, as a memento—I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.”
“What about his son?” Sarah asked. “Didn’t he call to see him last weekend?”
The doctor’s brows furrowed. “His son?” Then after a moment, he said, “Oh yes, Brian, I believe it was. Sadly, he died twenty years ago in the US. No other family at all I’m afraid.”
Sarah stood in silence for several seconds. “So,” she whispered,” you did take him home after all, Brian.”

The End

 

 

Frank’s New Start

Your Next Free Short Story.

At a little under 3,000 words, this story is much longer than the last one I shared. Still, it shouldn’t be much more than a five-minute read.

As I promised, it’s a totally different type of story. My apologies if any of you find Frank’s language a bit, er, colourful, but that’s Frank. The next one will be more family-friendly, I promise.

I hope you enjoy Frank’s New Start.

 

Frank’s New Start

Despite the fact that it’s a Monday, and he consumed one or three too many whiskeys last night—Frank Bell is feeling rather pleased with himself. The past few weeks haven’t been all that enjoyable—and that’s putting it mildly—but if all goes to plan, he’ll soon be richer than he has ever dreamed!

He drags a comb through his once dark brown hair, now flecked with silvery-grey at the temples, and squints at his mirrored reflection. A lined face stares back at him through bleary eyes. Where did the years go? The once handsome face is now wrinkled and pallid. There are several small scars, souvenirs of bar-room fights and back-street scuffles—most of which he barely remembers—and the bags under his eyes might belong to a millennial jet-setter. A thick three-day stubble, itself showing a tinge of grey, partly obscures the scars but does little to soften his visage. Simple, amateurish tattoos on his knuckles and forearms bear witness to time spent in various prisons across the country, mostly for small-time offences. He suppresses a chuckle at the thought of how many other, more serious, crimes there were for which he had not faced charges.

He considers for a moment, trying to decide whether he should shave today or not. Professor Rosen had made it clear from the start that he expected Frank to maintain a certain level of personal appearance, but what the hell. From today, the old Jew’s opinions would count for nothing. Frank would just tell him he ran out of blades, or something, and let Rosen deal with it as he chose.

Casting his mind back over his life to date, as he brews himself a strong coffee, he can’t believe how many opportunities he has missed out on. How many jobs he has planned and arranged just for some stupid sidekick or another to stuff things up, either with the job itself or by flashing their loot around afterwards and attracting the attention of the boys in blue. Yeah, Mickey Whitehall for one. If it hadn’t been for Mickey Bloody Whitehall, Frank wouldn’t have spent nine of the last twelve months in the slammer. Well, he wasn’t going to let anyone else wreck his plans this time.

***

Now, Frank Bell is not what you would describe as the sharpest knife in the block, but he knows an opportunity when he sees one, and he sees one now. In fact, he sees the opportunity of a lifetime! He still can’t believe his luck at the Parole Office sending him to that crazy old boffin for his ‘Community Service’.
“Stupid old bastard. Thought he was going to straighten me out,” he mumbles into his coffee. “That’d be the day. What a friggin’ loser!”
And all that do-gooder crap about making a new start. The only new start Frank has in mind is the one he has arranged for himself, courtesy of the professor’s pet project.
Sipping his morning heart-starter, he thinks back over all those hours spent listening to the old fart waffling on about quantum shifts, space warping, and all that crap, nodding in all the right places so the stupid fuck would think he was interested. Frank reckons he’s earned his reward, and he’s going to have it. Today is the day for Frank’s new start.

Who would have guessed Rosen was actually onto something? Time travel! The old fool had actually done it! Of course, Rosen has no idea how rich it could make him. All he can think about is ‘Benefit of Mankind’ and all that rubbish, but Frank knows how to make a buck out of any situation.
Frank had watched, and learned, until he figured he knew how to work the contraption on his own. Professor Rosen, meanwhile, had been delighted at the interest his new assistant had shown and was only too pleased to explain the workings of the machine, not that Frank cared all that much for the details.

***

Arriving at the professor’s lab later that morning, Frank Bell puts the first part of his plan into operation.

Professor Amos Rosen glances up at the antique clock above his desk. 9:10. Frank is late today, again. He wonders whether he should make a note in Frank’s probation report, but decides against it. It is Monday, after all, and the man does seem to be making an effort to straighten himself out. A little leniency can’t hurt, and he has the feeling that Frank Bell is not the lost cause some might think him to be. The Parole Board didn’t give him a lot of information about Frank’s past—privacy is paramount after all—but he knows it includes jail time. What pleases him is the enthusiasm Frank has shown for the professor’s work. He really seems to understand the long-term ramifications and appreciate the need for secrecy at this early stage.
The door opens, and Frank enters. “Sorry I’m a bit late, Professor,” he says. “Missed the bus again. I was scrounging around in the bathroom cabinet lookin’ for razor blades.” He rubs his chin, then offers his best attempt at a cheeky smile. “Seems I’m all out.”
“It’s OK, Frank,” Rosen sighs. “I guess we can live with it for today.” He riffles through some papers and adds, “I’ll need you to finish filing those magnetic resonance readings if you will.” Gesturing towards the filing cabinet, he waves the sheaf of papers. “I need to get this sorted before morning tea.”
“No problems, Prof,” says Frank. He knows full well just how much the professor hates being referred to as ‘Prof’, and suppresses a smile at the older man’s discomfiture. “Consider it done.”
He watches as the scientist rises from his seat, pausing for a moment to consider whether to correct Frank and ultimately deciding it would probably be a waste of effort. “OK Frank, I’ll be back around quarter to ten. You should have it sorted by then.”

***

Professor Rosen is a true creature of habit. Each and every day, at precisely ten o’clock, he puts down his work and makes his way downstairs for a sweet muffin and a cup of tea. He even has a saying; ‘No man can work on an empty stomach.’ Frank has to admit that’s one sentiment he can relate to, even if he thinks muffins and tea sounds less than appetizing. Frank is more the coffee and doughnuts type. Tea and muffins were for faggots, he had decided. And crazy professors, apparently.

Feigning a stiff back, and arching backwards with his hands on his hips, Frank waits for the precise moment when the professor steps onto the first step, then gives him a gentle nudge from behind. “Wasn’t me, Yer Honour,” he chuckles to himself, holding his hands up as Professor Rosen tumbles ignominiously down the staircase. “The old fool was always a bit doddery.” Stifling another laugh, and without bothering to check on the success of his efforts, he strides along the hallway towards the lab, where the Time Machine, or Transporter, as Professor Rosen liked to call it, sits waiting expectantly. Leaving the hapless scientist in a broken, bloody heap at the bottom of the stairs, he begins to execute his next move.

***

Amos Rosen always was a great fan of the arts—and in particular, the works of Vincent Van Gogh. One day, while the professor was enjoying his morning tea downstairs, Frank had been gazing at a print of “The Starry Night” on the lab wall, and wondering what the hell kind of crazy person would paint something so totally fucked up. To Frank’s eyes, it looked like the sort of thing a child might draw. Or a monkey, tripping out on acid—he had said to himself. And the trendy yuppies and arty-farties pay enough to support a small country for shit like this. That was the moment he had struck upon his latest, and—he thought—his greatest plan.

Frank was by no means an art lover or anything resembling such, but he knew enough to realise just what an undiscovered masterpiece could be worth to the right buyer. He began plotting from that moment, and soon had the bones of a plan. The details came later, gradually at first, then the finer points seemed to spring into his mind as if of their own accord.

Having chosen Van Gogh as his target, Frank had started spending his weekends in the public library, learning what he could about him. He liked the idea that Van Gogh was said to be a little insane, and also that his works were instantly recognisable. Van Gogh also spoke English. The irony of seeing himself in a library, of all places, and with no evil or larcenous intent, was not lost even on Frank Bell, and he frequently had to stifle a chuckle at his own expense.
A bit more research on the internet and Frank had worked out the best time and place: Arles, 1890. Van Gogh’s time at the Yellow House. Who would have thought it, Frank Bell actually learning something! Stranger things had happened—he mused—though not often. Still, he was sure it would be worth it in the end.
The time/space travel would be the easy part, thanks to Professor Amos Rosen’s fabulous invention. Now to put the plan into action.

***

As Frank fiddles with the controls, setting the dials for his target time and location, his mind races with excitement and trepidation. Can he pull this off? One thing is for certain, if things don’t work out this time, he’ll definitely only have himself to blame. He knows that meeting Van Gogh and then convincing him to part with a painting won’t be easy. Let’s face it, nothing is ever as easy as it sounds. There was also the worst bit; the thought of actually having to get a job to earn some money to pay the crazy prick!
Something that should work in Frank’s favour, though, is that he’s managed to research the wine bar that Van Gogh was known to regularly frequent. So all he needs to do is wait for the artist to make an appearance, and strike up a conversation with him, right? Well, it may not be quite that simple, but Frank is used to thinking on his feet, and soon puts aside all his doubts and fears and finds himself sitting in the transporter, and pressing the big red START button.

Nothing. For what seems like ages, nothing happens. Frank waits, expecting to see the world outside the machine spinning, or changing, or something. Isn’t that how this stuff works? Frank casts his mind back to that movie based on HG Wells’ book. The one with Rod Taylor as the intrepid time explorer, of course, not the later one, with all its trendy computerised imagery. Still nothing.
Gradually, like an autumn day drawing slowly to a close, the room begins to dim. The area outside the machine becomes blurred, foggy, and then totally dark. Inside the cockpit area, the day is as bright as when Frank stepped inside.
Frank’s head is spinning, and his ears are humming—softly at first, then increasing in intensity until it feels as if his head will explode. He checks his watch and is mildly surprised to not see the hands spinning backwards. The watch hands are immobile. He lifts the timepiece to his ear and hears nothing. Time has stopped!
As he sits, waiting, a disconcerting thought comes to mind. Frank wonders if he is ageing—or maybe ageing in reverse? He can feel his pulse and knows he is breathing, so it’s possible. How long, in his own body’s terms, will he be locked in here? The controls were set from outside, so there’s no way to abort. What if he arrives at his destination an old man—or, worse still, as an infant or even an embryo? What if he runs out of oxygen? Suddenly, Frank begins to feel hungry. Why had he not thought to bring some food? Even one of Rosen’s muffins would be welcome right now.
It’s at this point that, with no small measure of relief, Frank sees the world outside becoming gradually lighter, until finally, he realises that his journey is complete.

Climbing from the cockpit, Frank notices that he had been several metres out in his calculations. The time machine is in fact sitting smack bang in the middle of a road! Still, not too bad, when you consider the fact that he is halfway around the world from his take-off point. The machine is relatively light, so Frank manages to haul it off and behind a tree before anyone sees him. He makes a mental note to himself to remember to reposition it at his arrival point before he leaves, lest he re-emerge at the top of the staircase or some other perilous location.

It’s early in the evening before Frank locates the wine bar/tavern he had read about in an obscure art book. Using a French/English phrasebook he had stolen from the library, he manages to convey to the proprietor his need for both accommodation and work. In what must stand out as the luckiest coincidence of the whole adventure, Frank is offered a job as yard-man and cleaner in return for board and lodging. He has to wait two days, however, before he gets to meet Van Gogh himself.

Frank introduces himself as a dealer in works of art, and after sharing a few Green Fairies Van Gogh agrees to allow Frank to take one of his paintings on consignment. Back at the artist’s residence, and after several brandies, he persuades Van Gogh to do a portrait of him, which Frank, in return, promises to highlight at a new exhibition he is planning, in London. Frank reckons this is a nice touch. He’ll tell the art dealer back home that it was his great-grandfather or some other relative. That he found it in the attic and ‘just wondered if it was worth anything.’
The only catch is that this means Frank has to spend several days there before the painting will be ready. This in turn means that he will, in fact, have to keep his job at the tavern for the duration. Another first, he thinks to himself. If this keeps up I’ll end up going straight! Screw that!

***

One week later, (plus one hundred and twenty-odd years), Frank Bell is marching along the pavement of his home town with a genuine Vincent Van Gogh portrait under his arm, carefully wrapped in brown kraft paper. He elbows his way through the crowd and bursts through the entrance to the local museum, where the art curator has arranged to meet him. Frank hadn’t mentioned Van Gogh, just that he had a painting that he wanted to have authenticated and valued.

There had been one small hiccup with the return trip. As Frank was stepping out of the machine he accidentally tripped a lever and the machine disappeared into some other fucking time zone. Doesn’t matter though, he’s set for life now, and who cares about the old guy’s machine anyway?
Waiting in the foyer while the dealer examines the painting, Frank is almost beside himself. How much will it be worth? He can see himself living it up in France or Spain. Maybe he’ll buy a yacht and sail the Pacific.
“Mr Bell?” It’s the museum guy. Now for the good news!
Frank can feel his heartbeat and hear the blood rushing in his ears. Tell me, tell me! he screams silently.
“This is the most amazing thing,” the art director coos. “The style, the colours, the actual paints — even the background. Someone has gone to extraordinary lengths here.” He pauses. “Van Gogh works, as you probably know, are very valuable, and, indeed, copies are often in great demand.”
“What’s it worth?” Frank can’t contain himself any longer. South Pacific, here we come!
“Well it’s obviously a fake, but I’d say if you wanted to sell, maybe two or three hundred, even more perhaps,” the man replies with a smile. “I’d be happy to pay that just to hang it in my lounge and kid my friends that it’s real.”
“F-Fake?” Frank stutters. “But I…”
“Well the paint is still fresh for a start, and even in a hundred years, anyone could tell it from an original. The yellow, for example, should be turning brownish from a reaction to the sulphates in the white highlights, and…”
Frank doesn’t hear the rest. Walking out the door in a daze, he feels a tap on his shoulder.
“Frank Bell? I’m Detective Sergeant O’Malley. I’ve just come from visiting with Professor Amos Rosen in the hospital. I’d like a word with you, down at the station.”

The End.

 

########################################

 

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The Last Waterhole

The Last Waterhole

North-Western Australia—circa 1885.

He sat resting in the shade of a gnarled river gum, and watched as the two men drew closer. Oblivious to his presence, they plodded toward him, following the base of the escarpment and leading a strange-looking animal laden with what appeared to be tools of some kind. Now, as he watched them draw gradually closer to where he could see their faces, he realized just how weak and hungry they obviously were. They had eaten little in the time since he first spied them. They also hadn’t drunk today, so clearly they were out of water.

For over three days now Nundru had observed their halting progress, keeping pace with them from above and following the line of the ridge as they trudged westward. At night, they would light a fire bright enough to be seen almost from the horizon but they cooked nothing. They talked, though he couldn’t understand their words, and they seemed to place embers to their lips and blow smoke out into the air. Was this magic of some kind?
Nundru had heard of these mysterious light-skinned men who sometimes ventured through his land, but until this day he’d never seen one. Intrigued by their appearance and the strange clothing they wore—despite the searing heat—he had followed their progress from above with fascination.
That morning, as they neared what would be the last waterhole they would encounter for several days, the strange animal had stopped suddenly. Raising its head and sniffing the air it made to turn toward the cliff. One of the men yanked on the halter, shouting at the hapless beast and dragging it away to continue on their journey.

***

Nundru was tall, even among his own people, and his fresh-faced good looks and trim physique gave the appearance of an overgrown boy. He still lacked a man’s beard, except for light stubble, and even sported a few freckles. The fresh zig-zag scars on his back and chest, however, and the missing front tooth, showed him for what he was; a newly initiated man of his tribe. His shock of unruly black hair had a tinge of redness that glowed in the sunlight like a tangle of rusty steel wool, whilst his eyes mirrored the dark browns of the ironstone cliffs that towered overhead.
Nundru’s time of solitary reflection was nearing an end. Tradition demanded that all men of his people spend one transit of the moon alone to connect with the spirits of the land in order to complete their initiation. Tomorrow, Nundru would return to his family; no longer a boy, but a man.

***

Earlier that day, as he made his way carefully down the slope—his gangly appearance belied by his sure-footedness—he’d determined to approach these visitors. It seemed they had no idea how to find food or water. They had trudged straight past two wallabies and a goanna already today and completely ignored the quondong trees and their fruit. Even the youngest children of his tribe would cope better than these poor individuals. Clearly, any magic they possessed was not strong enough to overcome hunger and thirst.

Nundru was at the base of the incline now. When the newcomers grew close he stepped into the open and called to the men, telling them they should go back.
“Water there,” he said, pointing with his boomerang. “No water that way, you will die there,” he added, pointing westward.
The two men stopped abruptly. They exchanged glances, speaking to each other in a language Nundru had never heard. Not one word was familiar. In fact, to his ears, it sounded more like animal sounds. He wondered again if these were really men or some strange race of spirit people.
Nundru gestured again, repeating his warnings and waving his spears to stress the importance of his message. He was careful, however, to keep the points toward the men, lest they think he was about to fit his woomera and attack them.
“You must go back. Over there.” He pointed again, this time more agitatedly. “You will die that way.” He pointed west again. “No water there.”
The strangers looked at each other again, speaking in their strange tongue. The man who led the large animal walked over to it and took a long oddly-shaped stick from the load on its back. Parts of it gleamed in the sunlight as he placed the blunt end at his shoulder and pointed it at Nundru. He was shouting now, as was his companion.
Despite not understanding the words, Nundru heard fear and anger in the man’s voice. He turned to leave. Suddenly, there was a loud crack! and a puff of smoke. Something (a hot stone?) struck Nundru in the side of the neck, almost knocking him to the ground.
He dropped his spears, bringing his hand up to his neck, and saw blood oozing through his fingers and down his forearm, dripping from the elbow.
Unable to speak, and struggling to breathe, Nundru stood swaying for a second before dropping to his knees and falling back against the gravelly slope.
“Fuck me, did you see that, Bill? He’d have killed us for sure if I hadn’t got him first.”
“Too bloody right, Mick. You can’t trust these savages. They’d kill a man as quick as look at ‘im.”
“Should I finish him off?” asked Mick.
“Nah, save yer ammo, he’s done fer,” Bill replied. “C’mon, let’s keep going. See that outcrop about a mile ahead? There’ll be water there for sure. Trust me, I know how to read this country.”
“The black prick was probably tryin’ to stop us before we got there and drank his water,” Mick said as he slipped the rifle back into its holster. “Like you said, ya can’t trust an Abo.”

As they moved away, Nundru tried to raise his hand and speak, but could do neither. The last thing he saw before his eyes glazed over was the three figures moving off through the shimmering heat—away from the last waterhole and toward the arid desert.

The wedge-tailed eagles and crows would begin feasting on his body before sundown. Tomorrow—or the next day—they would feast on the two white men and their horse.

The End.

###########################

As I said in my earlier message, this story was inspired by a dream I had one night when I was camped atop a ridge in north-western Australia. I tend to dream vividly. My wife says I have a twisted mind and an over-active imagination.

That may, or may not, be accurate but I’m not one to argue with her.

When I think of Nundru I can see him standing before me. I hope you can too. I got his name from a small town in South Australia called Nundroo. The town, Nundroo, is about 1,000 kilometres west of Adelaide, on the Eyre Highway not far from where the Nullarbor Plain starts. (When I say ‘town’, though, it’s really nothing more than a roadhouse and a couple of houses)

The next story I send will be longer, I promise.

‘Til next time…

Thomas.

 


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Not registered yet? Head over to thomasgreenbank.com/join-the-tribe, enter your details, and you’ll be subscribed to my newsletter. Members receive regular free content as well as updates on my works-in-progress, and also occasional notifications on free or discounted books by authors whose work I admire.

Feel free to leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

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Buy Me A Coffee

Many thanks.  Thomas.

GOLD! An Excerpt.

The following is an excerpt from the novel GOLD! It’s a little over 1,000 words, so should take around five minutes to read. The action takes place near the Two Brothers gold mine, north of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, in 1980.

GOLD! An Australian Family Saga/Drama Novel
GOLD! is Available on Amazon as EPUB or Paperback.
(Links below)

But first — a brief synopsis:

Malcolm Kincaid is a self-made man. He is also a ruthless businessman and opportunist. He knows what it takes to build and maintain a business empire, but how far will he be prepared to go to achieve his goals — and what will he sacrifice along the way?

Rachel, Malcolm’s one-time fiance; his business partner, and father of his child, finds herself forced to work with the man she has grown to despise.

Unaware of his true parentage, their son, Lachlan — after first studying for a law degree — advances through the ranks as their company grows into a mammoth corporation, while Rachel does her best to mitigate Malcolm’s increasing influence on him. This task becomes more difficult when Malcolm appoints Lachlan as manager of a new mine.

Lachlan soon has his own set of challenges: A fractious and sometimes domineering wife with a drug dependency; a child of his own, and a conscience that often leads him into direct conflict with his Machiavellian ‘uncle’.

Over the years, Malcolm Kincaid uses, abuses, and dominates associates and family alike, crushing all opposition in his pursuit of wealth and power.
When he allows the pollution of an Aboriginal settlement’s water supply, however, he faces justice of a kind he could never imagine.

GOLD! is a tale of greed, betrayal, family conflict, rape, and murder. It is also, however, a story of love and loyalty, and of how one man’s pride and prejudice can lead to terrible retribution.

(This excerpt takes place about one quarter into the story.)


November 17th 1980.

Malcolm had already opened another can of beer by the time Jamie started the Land Cruiser and headed down the access road toward the Goldfields Highway. He stood on the verandah, watching as the receding taillights glimmered in the deepening twilight.

As Jamie neared the mine turnoff, he popped a cassette into the Cruiser’s player. John Lennon launched into ‘Beautiful Boy’, Jamie’s current favourite song, and he cranked up the volume as he swung onto the bitumen. Thirty minutes and he’d be home. Home to Rachel; and his own Beautiful Boy, 17-month-old Lachlan.

Chapter Twelve
Rabbit

Warren Burroughs—Rabbit, to friends and coworkers—couldn’t remember a longer, more frustrating day. What started out as a routine run from his depot in Coolgardie, to Kambalda—a mining town 60 kilometres to the south—and then up to Menzies with a ‘hot shot’ delivery before returning home, had turned into an epic comedy of errors.
Delays and unexpected problems were a fact of life in the transport industry, but today had been one to take the cake.
A round trip of a little less than 400 kilometres, the whole thing should have been done and dusted by mid-afternoon. When dealing with mining company hierarchy, however, things rarely went to plan. Although he had been on the road by six am, and arrived at his Kambalda destination before seven, it would be well past midday before he was on his way north again. The mine site office had not been aware he was even coming, let alone prepared his load.
Communication glitches like these were common. He settled himself in the corner of the office to wait while the staff located the replacement pump he was to deliver. Then, of course, they had to complete all the necessary paperwork and finally arrange someone to load it onto the back of his ageing Kenworth for the next leg.
Next came the news that the low-loader organised to bring the pump out to him had broken down. He was welcome to drive on-site to collect his load, but first, he’d have to do a short induction course. Once he completed this, it was time for lunch, so there was another hour’s wait before he got the OK to proceed onto the mine site and collect his cargo.
After leaving Kambalda at a little after 1:30 he eventually reached his drop-off point around 4 pm.
Fortunately, things went more smoothly this time. Probably because they had been champing at the bit waiting for the pump; the breakdown having halted production for the past 24 hours.
Then, at 5:30 pm, he was at last on his way home. All he had to worry about now, he thought, was dodging kangaroos.
He was just passing Lake Goongarrie, a sprawling salt lake on the east side of the road, when a voice called over the two-way radio.
“G’day there, Rabbit, you old bugger!” It was a voice he knew well.
“How you doin’, Ralph?” Rabbit replied, “Havin’ a good run? How’s the new rig going, by the way?”
The north-bound road train, its three trailers loaded with supplies bound for Menzies and beyond, thundered noisily past. Rabbit’s unladen rig swayed as it did so.
“Oh, you know,” Ralph said, “same old shit, different shovel. I’m having a better day than you, apparently. I hear they held you up a bit down at the Kambalda site.”
The bitumen grapevine was working to its usual standard, Rabbit thought. “Yeah, you could say that,” he replied. “Sometimes I swear that if I had a duck, it’d bloody well drown.”
Ralph laughed, though Rabbit didn’t hear it and continued with a sigh, “Yeah, you know the drill. This is WA after all; ‘wait awhile’.”
“You got that right,” Ralph replied. “Oh well, you keep it safe and stay upright Rabbit. I’ll catch you on the flip side.”
“Roger that. You too, Ralph.”
The radio was already starting to crackle, so there was no time for any real conversation. Still, it was good to hear a familiar voice now and then. Rabbit wondered how the old-timers had coped in the days before CB radios came into being. For that matter, spare a thought for the old bullockies and camel drivers who’d often go for weeks or even months without seeing another soul.
Rabbit reached down and upped the volume on his cassette player. A familiar Slim Dusty tune filled the air, and he began to sing along, grateful there was no one else there to suffer his discordant rendition. He noticed a light-coloured four-wheel-drive approaching the highway on his left, about a kilometre away. Someone had been working late, it seemed. The land around here was dotted with many small and medium-sized mines. As desolate and uninviting as it looked, this was a genuine gold mine of opportunity, this barren land.
As he approached the mine access road, Rabbit eased back on the accelerator. Was that clown going to stop? Surely he’d seen the truck coming. His rig was hardly invisible!
Before he knew it, the Land Cruiser veered straight onto the road not fifty metres in front of him.
Rabbit jumped on the brake and clutch simultaneously, and as the tyres squealed in noisy protest, he braced himself for impact.


Jamie knew he should have stopped before driving onto the highway. He knew because he had driven out from this access road so many times before. He also knew that had he not consumed so much beer in the last few hours, he would have stopped.
But now it was too late for recriminations; too late for anything but to hold on and hope for the best.
The Kenworth’s bull bar caught the four-wheel-drive on the right front side, spinning it around like a toy. The rear of the Toyota then collided with the leading edge of the big rig’s trailer, which sent it careening off the roadway and straight into the large quartz rock with ‘Two Brothers Mine’ painted on it in bold, red letters.
Although the Land Cruiser was barely doing more than thirty, the force from the impact was enough to drive the engine block through the firewall and into the driver and passenger area. The steering column struck Jamie square in the middle of his chest, breaking several ribs and squeezing his lungs to around half their volume.
Immediately after the collision, the scene was eerily quiet. Rabbit’s eighteen-wheeler remained upright, but the driver himself was unconscious and would be for several minutes. Few truckies in those days, and in truth even in these days, bothered with seat belts. A trickle of blood snaked its way down his forehead and dripped onto the dashboard.
In the wrecked Land Cruiser, Jamie struggled to stay awake. A vain struggle, however. His heart, fuelled by adrenaline, was pumping hard; pumping his lifeblood out of his body, from severe crush injuries to his legs, and onto the floor.
Strangely, the cassette player was still working. As Jamie drifted into unconsciousness, John Lennon was singing; “Life is what happens to you as you’re busy making other plans.”

 

*********

 

Thanks for visiting, and for checking out this brief excerpt. You can sign up HERE to join my mailing list. I’ll be sending out occasional freebies and bonus content from time to time, as well as offers from other authors whose work I admire.

The first bonus you receive will be an unpublished short story (around 7,000 words) called The Ravine. It started life as a chapter of the book, but I culled it because it didn’t fit with the genre. There’s a touch of the supernatural in it, if that’s your thing.

GOLD! is, for the most part, a story about family relationships and secrets. I didn’t want this chapter to muddy the waters.

GOLD! is available from Amazon as an eBook or Paperback.

Amazon.com.au/dp/0648961109 for Australian readers or amazon.com/dp/0648961109 from the US site.

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