FREE ON AMAZON 05-09/2

With another opportunity on Amazon for readers to grab “Choose: Snakes or Ladders” – FREE, I started to think again about where this story came from.

It’s particular themes are topical: a strong female character facing the 1950’s male superiority that stands in the way of her rightful ambition; where male sexuality is the norm and nice women don’t have desire.

The ups and downs of young, naïve Mitty’s struggling against her own inner demons, but also with her fears and delight in discovering a colorful world of opportunity very different to her strict moralistic upbringing, makes easy reading.

I didn’t start out to write this novel, it started as a one-page exercise in writing that grew. Very quickly the character, Mitty, stood up from the page and wouldn’t let go until I’d told her story. It’s not my story, but I know it rings true for many people.

I realized at the end that the personal truth in it for me is complex: the fear of the world’s secrets that others know and I don’t; the dangers lurking behind the next dark bush; and an ingrained training of self-deprecation.

A more significant truth is that even today women are still missing out because of ignorance and fear.

Enjoy this book as a good story, and let the message stay with you.

#MeToo, too

Here in Australia, we get a huge supply of news from around the world, particularly from The United States, as well as all the happening news in our own country.

The issue of men in positions of power exploiting those with lesser status and dependent in their careers on their managers, has had a huge response. Once again an incident that happened decades ago, and with significant ramifications for another, suddenly kept reappearing in my mind.

After several disturbed nights I wrote the anecdote down as a story – true for me too.

Not just Me (Too) Is a Victim.

His face a benign smile, white whiskers making a Snow White frame, his arms stretched out towards me. I back away. Nothing about him attracts me, but he radiates his wonderful offering – his body.

He is shorter than me. Thank heaven his face lands more at my neck than on my face. I strain away to the side. It’s a classic motion of disdain. I feel disdain, and more.

“I’m not consenting to this Professor. I’m not consenting.”

The other students around become a still-life background, no sound comes from them. They are holding their breath. They are as rigid as I am. Even my boyfriend, my clever study mate, my hero, makes no move, no exclamation. No one distracts, no one steps in. Everyone waits. How long will they hold their breaths?

The Professor is not distracted. His short arms pull me into him. His belly, a bulbous herald of his presence, always repellent, is now pressing into me. His breathing is faster and blowing harder and hot onto the skin of my neck. His arms tighten, one moving down to my bottom. I am being crushed, bent over and under his firm round front.

I’m distracted for a second. Thank heaven for his belly, otherwise whatever lies beneath would be able to press more, against, into me. I take courage from this failure. My voice rises, louder, firmer, but not a cry.

“I’m not consenting, Professor.”

He doesn’t or can’t hear. He nuzzles his face against my skin, reaching up to plant unimaginable greasy lips on mine.

I move. Whatever courtesy or respect or disbelief that was holding me flies away. I shove him back. He almost falls. His smile hardens. It is triumphant. He got something – whatever sexual buzz or power hit he felt was his to take.

The still life broke into movement. It felt a long time, or was it a second? A social hug and nothing more?

Nothing, no more, by anyone, was said. Except…

At year’s end we all passed his subject, except my boyfriend. He had to endure that professor and his repellent presence for a repeat year. Power, driven by jealousy and ego, knows no bounds.

Serious Life

The MeToo campaign has been volcanic around the world. I am excited, happy, admiring – what courage to stand up and speak out. Me Too!

I am also a bit scared.

Right now in Australia the work of The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has come to an end with the publication of the Final Report. https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/   Five years of work listening to and recording the ghastly stories of inhumanity at work.

Throughout this time in the media there were frequent references to the content of the proceedings.

I found that suddenly I was thinking about what happened once to a ten-year-old on a swing in a park. With some passing piece of predatory slime.

Something I’d rarely thought about in decades. I’ve never told the story. Partly because of shame, but mainly because I can’t remember what happened next. But on most days for five years I have asked myself questions. Ones I couldn’t answer.

Now, with Me Too, I am a bit scared again.

However, whatever went on in the park, my experience was nothing compared to those who bravely stood up every morning and day through those five years. A positive outcome, yes, but what mental torments they will have lived and re-lived in institutions of institutionalized abuse.

My response was, as you might expect, to write a story. Not a testament, but a fiction short story; it is not my story.  As I wrote in my first novel disclaimer:

The perceptions, events and experiences here make up a fictional collage of found objects, a kaleidoscope of people, actions and emotions. But truth lies in the ideas, meanings and events, and in the exploration of the reasons behind individual actions.

Here is the story – one I thought I would never publish.

THE COMMISSION

It was the Commission that started it, the insatiable bloody abuse one.

Then the weeks, the months went by with hardly a note, before suddenly, the details. Constant. Beyond the ordinary, beyond language.

A child, a baby, daughter, a son…

“Shocking. How could anyone…” Their heads in slow motion shake away what cannot be.

I look at them.

I shrug. It’s the way it is.

But never: it’s the way it was. Never: did they have that too? Feel that too? Not remember that too? Until…

Was it with the second or third church in the box?

I look at my nephew; how old are you? When will it be for you? Where?

I look at my exclaiming neighbour; is it still so clamped shut in you that no answers come for your righteous horror? You are in denial too?

I look at myself. What’s got into you? I shrug my shoulders. So what?

I turn to more distant news, the potatoes frying, the handy wine.

But it grows. Before, it was never with me. Never recalled. Never told. I was as bland as the next one.

Then. I say it. Blunt, right out with it, casual. “I was assaulted once. In a park. I never have, or never will talk about it.”

My friends of thirty years stop a second. I’ve heard the word – nonplussed. I checked the thesaurus, and it’s right. They are discountenanced – they have no expression. They are uncomprehending, despite all their degrees. They are discomforted, and they give no comfort.

Nothing can.

And I am too, nonplussed. About its return.

How can it return when it never was with me? Now each fractured bit of misery wafting past my ears (though I try to avoid the reports) sits there with mine, as if it has never left. They talk about the fear, the personal destruction, the drugs. It’s coming out for them, it’s pouring out.

And it’s dragging something out of me.

I don’t do trauma. You just have to get through and then it’s over. Years later I hear the words for it: damage control. I controlled so well I didn’t know I was.

But the Commission has tipped the dam. It’s seeping out, grabbing hold of any old word and taking a ride on it. “I ate sandwiches for lunch today.”

Ate? What did he eat?” Don’t be ridiculous.

It was more like sucking.Don’t be disgusting.

“Nanna, we went with the school on the excursion to the park .”

“Did you? Was it fun, Darling?”

Was he on an excursion? What did he do after the bit you just remembered?” Nonsense. There was only that bit.

What about at the guest house?” Go away, I don’t need to dredge up all this. What’s the point?

Because you are who you have been.

A bloody child? A petrified (solidified, ossified, unable to move) child, pulling, backing, enduring. (Fortitude, grit, forbearance?)  Nope, not me then. Paralysed by fear, trapped, having no one to call. Having no voice to call with. Shut down.

And then I remember, I didn’t remember, because I’d gone… somewhere, nothing-where.

Then I was there, Mum shouting at me. Lying on my bed, silent, empty, alone and alone.  No one there.

You don’t remember what happened?

Nothing happened to remember. I was there, and then I was at the guest house.

I don’t have a choice. I won’t have some ghost leering over my shoulder every time I speak or move. What if I get demented? What will come out?

He’s now a pretty frequent companion. I can sort-of see his face. I can see myself more. A child. And a fat middle-aged man, gross, vile, pathetic.

There is only one answer. I will find him.

I will see the reality. Will I hear the truth? He won’t remember, one of how many?

I will remember when I am there.

“Just for a couple of weeks. Some research. You’ll take over?”

The place was there all along. I just needed to look. The map has all the names and there it is. As if I knew it already.

And it’s the same. The pines. Were there more? The sand. The grass. The… playground. The swings are the same, and I see myself.

And I turn fast and look up towards the guest house. Nowadays the road is lined with houses, smart and two-storied, bounded by side walls and glass balconies. Bits of green sculpted to the shape of the pot.

What did I expect to see? That I’d walk up and there, on the veranda, the group of men, door-to-door men, would be sitting, laughing, congratulating themselves?

With a child on a lap. “She’s my girl.”

And my mother, a screaming face at the front door?

Good grief! (Too true.) Fifty years later? Your brain’s addled.

I turn back to the sea, and then I see it. Something wooden. The roof’s partly in. The gully’s steep.

I run. I drop my phone, my bag. It’s still tangled vines and vile-smelling trees. (I’ve always hated those soft furry leaves.) I run, tearing through, ripping out any root that hooks me. I crash through. I’m weak in the arms but the old door cannot hold out on me.

And it’s there. The bench, splintered planks decorated with bongs. I know it is the place. The place for what?

How can I know, when nothing, nothing is in my head?

I’m on my knees on the filthy floor. Howls wrenched out of me echo in the few rafters. Birds wail with me. The evening wind blows up, stirring the trees. What happened here? I wait.

And I get cold.

What did you expect, you drama queen?

An old man on a veranda, begging forgiveness? A terrible vision of a child being… how, what?

And that would help?!

I am lucky. I can’t remember.

On the way back to the road I gather my bag and phone. An old lady leans over the fence. “Nobody goes down there, love. It’s where they killed the kid. One of the Regulars. We never knew. Thirty years, more, but how could ya’ forget?”

Yes. I am lucky.

From the Heart – Stories of Love and Life

Just released on Amazon! Entered in the hugely popular From Pen to Publish 2017 competition.

Six moving and engrossing stories that you can feel.

Collection includes:

  • Heart Buddies
  • Life After
  • Mouse Mat
  • A Worm Among the Flowers
  • The Legacy You Leave
  • Love in a Teapot

Carlo seems a perfect husband. Why can’t Nicky go with the happiness within her reach?

Paula worked really hard to live up to it all. And then she failed. How can something good come from all the pain?

A child lies in bed, scared and alone. Will Daddy and Mummy be there for her? Finding an answer takes a lot of growing up. But the lessons of the good times remain to help.

The ladies bridge club. Long time friends struggling to hang on as the Autumn leaves fall around them.

What was the secret to Greg’s ability to be loyal to his work and foster his dreams for his sons? And what toll did it take?

Sue and her mother had formed a tight bond, a wall against the conflict and pain in their life. But when does that wall become a prison?

Moving and heart-warming, these short stories about love and the emotions that get in the way, are an antidote to the fears that haunt the nights of all of us.

If you enjoy Amanda Prowse, give these stories a try.

Let me know what you think.

Have a look at my new book HERE

Where does a story come from?

The other day I was walking in the city when a young woman jumped into my side vision. It was an instant, but striking. Partly her appearance, plump and well-rounded, encased in tight clothing and leggings, but mainly the energy of her movement and the smile on her face. Did she have a phone in her hand? I didn’t notice, but it was as if she’d just received joyous news and couldn’t contain her excitement.

In the next moment I looked at the young man approaching me – upright, ordinary, facing forward – but looking sideways at the young woman too. His eyes didn’t move from her as our paths moved to meet.

I couldn’t work out his expression. It wasn’t the deliberate lasciviousness of the workman – the repeated eye swipe up and down, owning in their mind the body they would never have in reality – there was something more. A small smile played his lips, perhaps similar to my pleasure at her joy. But the eyes held some question and, definitely, some hostility.

Later I wished I’d turned and watched him. Did he turn and watch her? Did they speak?

The answer to the meaning of those few moments will never be known. Except in some future story, certainly already brewing somewhere behind my eyes, perhaps to emerge almost fully formed one early morning when I wake. What my mind gets up to while I sleep!