Running on lava

A photo of me running towards the camera on pitch black rocks, with the sun setting in the background

Running on lava at sunset

Heat. Long gulping icy drinks. Tickly sweat trickles. This is my second ‘invitation to write’ and after a long summer day my inspiration is fairly obvious. In fact it is the longest summer day, the Solstice.

SUMMER. Whatever this season means to you, be it cicada song, melting icecream, burning dusty feet, or running on lava, write in response to SUMMER.

Hold this word in your mind for a moment and then play with it in words. Extemporise. Improvise. Don’t stop writing. If nothing comes just write about that eg I don’t know what to write swimming, pools, sweaty, dry etc until more words come. Write for five minutes.

Read it over. You might not like all of what what you’ve written, but there will be something, some small thing of interest, something a little special you could develop and work with.

Just write without thinking too much and let one thing lead to another. You can use a keyboard and bash away or be ‘old school’ and use a pen or pencil and paper (I like pencil myself). Don’t worry about spelling or punctuation or even making that much sense. If you’ve written it by hand then type it up. Don’t be tempted to fix it up too much. Then post it in the comments.

I’ll update this post in a couple of days with my response to SUMMER. But don’t be influenced by what I write. Just put down what comes into your mind. I’ll approve the responses which you’ve posted in the comments and they will go public in about three weeks, either in the comments or as as separate post. And I’ll check in with you about it so don’t worry. And we can discuss our raw little pieces of writing and their potential. I’ll leave the post up so anyone can join in at anytime. I’ll sometimes comment and even make suggestions about where the pieces and fragments might go, and you can too. I’m hoping it will continue to be lots of fun.

7.21 A Standard Day

An image of a wide open eye with a cross hair on it indicating the iris is being scanned, it is a bit sic-fi and disturbing, quite blood shot

Julian’s iris scan

I slipped into the chrono-synclastic infundibulum as I walked past the red bookshelf. I started searching for Time Pieces, a short story collection that Craig Cormick and I edited, and that was published by Ginninderra Press in 1999. It was so deep in the infundibulum I could not reach it. But Craig could from across town, and sent my little story ‘7.21 A Standard Day’, from Time Pieces, through the ether. I wanted to check the version I had on Word against the published version.

I’ve been thinking about the Writing from an Equinox I did that arose from my Invitation to Write about Equal and Angles. I have settled on trying to write about an Angleorium with an atrium and its designer. I’m thinking the Angleorium might be speaking to the designer as it is being designed and built. Dear Heavens, it sounds like it might be set in science fiction land, it really does.

‘7.21 A Standard Day’ is the only overtly science fiction story I have written so far. I read classic science fiction in my youth, and especially love the work of Olaf Stapledon and H.G. Wells, and I guess you have worked out I am fond of Kurt Vonnegut’s writing as well. I also studied the Utopian and Dystopian Novel in the early 1980s with Margaret Harris at Sydney University along with a number of alarming, vocal and hairy Marxists and semioticians who turned into professors and art critics, I believe, and there were a heap of other students and writers of many varieties in that wonderful class, including a goddess of children’s literature. I sat there so quietly in so much awe.

I came across Michael Wilding’s Political Fictions there, and took away a  portion of knowledge that has affected my life. He pointed out that realism was as much a construct as any other genre, it was just that it was more obvious what was being left in and left out of science fiction, as the world creation, how the world related or did not relate to our lived world, was at the forefront of the writing and reading experience, whereas in realism a bit of a nifty was going on. The reader relates realism to the lived world and forgets about what is being left in and left out. Though my natural impulse is experimental, and I feel most comfortable in fragmented and odd shaped writing, I have taken realism as my experiment and challenge from this observation of Wilding’s. So it is strange to be considering writing a science fiction story.

It was suggested to me by Affrica Taylor (in response to a presentation I was giving about attempting to trouble the opposition of Nature and Culture in realist fiction where I represent pregnant female characters) that Nature was just too seductive and would always win. She suggested that science fiction might be the answer, to help me mess up this opposition. I resist this. (She is probably right, but a failed experiment also has value.) Realism is my experiment for this Nature Culture business, my little petri dish. But I’ve also discovered an Angleorium and I think I have to find out what that might be.

Looking back over past work can really help a writer. ‘I did this before, I can do it again.’ ‘7.21 A Standard Day’ is one of my few comic pieces, it was really enjoyable to write, and I found my favourite male character in my work so far, Julian Minus Moon. It fulfilled a promise to myself as I worked in a basement at the National Film and Sound Archive that one day I would write about the absurdity of the Australian federal public servants’ standard day (at that time) which was 7 hours and 21 minutes. As I was the one checking the work time sheets the absurdity was compounded.

I corresponded with Claus Tondering all those years ago, and I think it was the first time I dared to contact a stranger very far away with an odd question online. As a Time buff, he was happy to discuss the fictional plausibility of the Significant Universal Adjustment, which is the crux of the drama of ‘7.21′, and he asked – ‘Why do public servants in Australia work 7 hours and 21 minutes in a day?’ Good question. I’m chuffed that I picked iris rather than retinal scanning to be the tech of the future, but there are still keyboards in my imagined world. It was written before 9/11 and before the Sydney Olympics. Enjoy!

7.21 A Standard Day

Julian M. Moon Start: 8.30. Finish: 12.30. Start: 1.00. Finish: 4.51. Hours worked: 7.21. Balance: 0

Sick day. Perfection. The only way I can achieve a standard day is to take a sickie. Fine weather for the weekend. Clean house. Cooked dinner.

Julian M. Moon Start: 9.06. Finish: 12.32. Start: 1.04. Finish: 4.13. Hours worked: 6.35. Progressive Balance: -46.

Dirty socks and takeaway. La Nina weeps through the week.

Julian M. Moon Start: 9.52. Finish: 12.08. Start: 2.04. Finish: 4.13. Hours worked: 5.29. Progressive Balance: -2.38

Julian M. Moon Start: 10.43…

My second name is Minus. I’m thinking of making it my first name. Julian Minus Moon to Minus Julian Moon. Has a certain beat to it. I needn’t even write it out

A horizontal line

just an elegant line across the page. The magical negative crawling towards zero, or shooting in the other direction, growing fat with increasing numbers, less and less, while growing bigger and bigger. Two negatives make a positive. What alchemy! If I could find my other Minus, I would fill her zero and enter the positive equation. Conquer my Time Record. We could lie in bed on flextime and the shadows of the day would pass over our flesh. Busy old fool, unruly sunne, why dost thou thus, through windows and through curtains, call on us?

The unrecorded break. I flush. Air freshener ejaculates lavender rain. Please be considerate and change the toilet roll if you happen to use the last sheet. I leave one sheet. Hal wuz here 2001. I wuz too. After scrubbing my nails, I whip the battery out of the smoke detector and light up a fag.

The new woman has taken my last work station. God she was quick. Go for a crap and the new girl takes your seat. The only station left is right in the middle. She’s facing the window, doing tai chi. She won’t last.

I rest my hands (they must be absolutely covered in faeces bacteria) on the keyboard and let the bacteria migrate between the keys. The disinfectant wipe doesn’t get in there. Come to think of it, everyone’s faeces bacteria must be everywhere. I gaze at the infected open plan. The system recognises my touch. It’s slow today. I log on. Management never considered bacteria in the office design. I email the Occupational Health and Safety rep about it again.

I switch to my draft brief to the Minister; now where was I up to? How do I convince him?

Implications of the Significant Universal Adjustment (SUA)

Background

Time zones were a response to transport innovations of the 19th and 20th centuries. They introduced a standard system of time over the whole globe. But the world has changed.

The EEC’s (European Economic Community’s) proposal that all nations follow their lead in abolishing time zones has great merit. With ever increasing international travel, and some international commuting becoming common for business at every level and sector, complex time adjustment is a growing cost to the economy.

On a more philosophical level, the coordination of time measurement has been one of the final stages of humanity freeing themselves from nature. It is our greatest construct, along with poetry and music. It is an achievement akin to space travel and western medicine.

Her voice pauses at my desk. It is the old woman from Personnel. Her chin rests on my divider. Her eyes flutter over my screen. She has a birthday card for me to sign. I sign it ‘Minus.’ Her step falters as she reads my new signature. No-one celebrates my birthday. 29th February. A catch-up day. My whole life a catch-up life. I’m only eight years old. With the body of a thirty two year old. Ha! This is a Gilbert and Sullivan opera. Tarantara!

I have few phone calls to make. I’m worried about the time. I’d better check up.

Natural time (the traditional time of night and day, sleep and wake) and business time coexist across the world, All nations could adopt Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the 24 hour clock. After one generation people would find no problem with the working day starting at 0900, or 1100, or 2000, or 2100, depending where you were in the world. Midday would no longer necessarily be linked to 1200, and would be 2300 midday on the east coast of Australia. Meetings that require physical presence, and corporeal conferences, could be scheduled on business time, late in some people’s day, early in others.

The risk is that, at the time of adjustment, every nation would have to synchronise. The computer systems that make our world coherent would be vulnerable during that moment to industrial espionage, or terrorists like the New Luddites.

The new woman is trying to make an impression. She is cleaning everyone’s monitor with patchouli-scented antistatic spray. She can’t stop moving, gliding around the office. She wipes my screen, the sweet sweat of her underarm next to my face. She could almost be naked. She wears no watch.

I make a few more phone calls. I’m still worried about the time. Something is wrong.

The SUA should logically have been made at the turn of the century, but because of fears about the Millennium Bug, the United Nations decreed the adjustment should take place early in the 21st century.

It transpires that the Millennium Bug (aka Y2K) had only a minimal impact. An air crash in Nicaragua, social security payment deviations in the United Kingdom, a minor fall in the value of Microsoft shares, and rash of Millenium Bug Anxiety (MBA) claims, are the only verified occurrences related to the Millennium Bug. Failures in timing equipment at the Sydney Olympics cannot be attributed to the Millennium Bug, though they have been in the popular imagination. Neither can the failure be attributed to the New Luddites, who claimed responsibility for them. ASIO (The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) denies their grandiose claims, and the ability of the amateur organisations to significantly infiltrate government bodies, The Richardson Enquiry (2002) found the timing equipment failure was due to a sequence of human errors.

The little guy carrying a flag runs onto the screen again. The message under his feet screams. STOP PHONING THE TIME! THE TIME ON YOUR COMPUTER IS CORRECT. YOUR QUOTA OF 1900 CALLS HAS EXPIRED. ENTER YOUR PASSWORD TO ACKNOWLEDGE MESSAGE. I pick up the receiver again. ‘After the first beep it will be…’

It’s two seconds out. The government departments are not synchronised. It has always been my suspicion. I glance at the shadows on the buildings.

Massive resources by governments and private enterprise worldwide were put into deflecting the Millennium Bug, into checking systems and into public education. The risks associated with the SUA now face scepticism due to the relatively easy transition into the new century and the non-event of the Millennium Bug.

And someone in the office has a perfect Time Record. It keeps flashing across the wall. A perfect standard day they actually work. 7.21. 7.21. 7.21. Day after symmetrical day, showing up my jagged daily equations and those of the rest of the office.
I can’t help myself. A stolen surf, leaping down the lines, jumping from my bookmarks into the world. I visit the Royal Observatory. Greenwich. My virtual home. Time here becomes space.

The little guy with the flag comes running out. He’s screaming again. YOUR ACCESS TO THE INTERNET IS BEING TERMINATED. SEE DEPARTMENTAL POLICY ‘ETHICAL USES OF GOVERNMENT PROPERTY,2.2.’ ENTER PASSWORD TO ACKNOWLEDGE MESSAGE.

I need to finish the SUA recommendations. I need the CEO to support staffing for the SUA project. But I can’t work under these conditions

Julian M. Moon Start 8.17

Today is one of my favourite days of the year. I wait. Everyone will be at least an hour late. The cretins. Daylight Saving gets them every time. The clocks turn back, and they always forget. Or they turn their clock in the wrong direction. Not me. I’m early.

The lift opens. It’s the new woman. She stares at me before she clocks in. Never in my nine years in the public service has anyone arrived on time the day after daylight saving. She shifts her gaze to the Autobundy and it reads her iris. Her perfect timing flashes across the Time Record above her head. She is the one.

Minette. M. Young Start 8.30

‘What‘s your problem?’ She whispers as she sets up next to me, her hands resting on the keyboard, waiting for recognition.
All the stations are free except mine. Sweat on her upper lip. She has been hurrying.

‘How do you do it? You’ve no watch, no phone. No timepiece of any sort. You can’t see the screen. ’

‘You mean the time thing?’

She contemplates the Time Record, hers and mine together. Perfection and imperfection.

‘I’d better stop doing that. It’s a bit conspicuous. You see my body is like a clock. I just know what time it is. To the second. I’m not so accurate below that…’ she leans towards me, ‘unless I’m very, very drunk.’

She touches my arm.

‘And I don’t wear watches or any sort of timepiece, my electromagnetic field buggers them up. I don’t need them anyway. Doesn’t mean I’m always on time though, just when I think about it. I’ve been thinking about Daylight Saving.’

Her breasts rise steadily up and down. She is regaining her breath.

‘It’s genetic, my whole family is like that. But we don’t let the genome project people anywhere near us, so keep it quiet. We don’t believe in that sort of thing.’

The pattern of her iris has imprinted itself on my soul.

‘What are you working on, Julian?’

I want to bathe in her electromagnetic field. I send her the SUA draft.

Julian M. Moon Start: 8.30. Finish: 12.30. Start: 1.00. Finish: 4.51. Hours worked: 7.21. Balance

Recreation leave.

Minette M. Young Start: 8.30. Finish: 12.30. Start: 1.00. Finish: 4.51. Hours worked: 7.21. Balance

Recreation leave.

My stop watch is on the bed head. I time her orgasms. It’s harder to time the multiple ones. They roll into and over each other, and just as I think she’s finished, she locks her legs around me and she starts again. Is she faking? I set the watch back to zero for another try. She reaches back and touches its face. Its hands speed up, and then stop. She pushes against me. Another one is coming.

She grabs my hair, pulling her ear to my mouth. She whispers, ‘Time that is not moved by little fidget wheels is not my Time.’ The words travel into me. I feel a jolt, a release akin to the crunch of the chiropractor’s correction.

At last we lie still, the shadows of the day passing over our flesh. At last I dare to ask, ‘What is your second name?’ She holds her hands over her mouth and speaks through them. ‘It’s silly. Minette Moment.’

She takes her hands away, laughing, gauging my reaction. ‘My family all have names like that. Because of the time thing. Moment and Meridian. My aunt’s second name is Second. That’s the worst. It’s sort of a family joke.’

I kiss her navel, her toes. I bite under her arm.

‘You think my time thing is something special, don’t you? But really it’s meaningless.’

I trace her spine. Stroke her hair.

‘I want to work on something important again. I loved the Olympic Committee. But now the Games are over I have to get stuck into something else. I’ve applied to work on the SUA too.’ I hold her nipple beneath my tongue and listen to the murmur of her heart.

A line and a circle meaning to indicate man and woman (they are side by side)

A portal opened

A shadowy woman waits, there is the outside world and light behind her, she is at one end of the tunnel/portal, she is surrounded by shadowy nets suspended from the ceiling

The soul carer

I found soul stones in my raincoat pocket. I rolled their smoothness in my palm, surprised by recognition, as I stood in the photocopier room at work. They reminded me that a portal opened in the underpass outside Albert Hall. It was raining so I walked into the portal and I met a soul carer there. She called me Time Mistress and gave me the soul stones. I told her I would always be there, when I left. I walked through the portal many times, it was wide and open to our world on 10 November, 2013, underneath Canberra.

A tall poet in the dark tunnel with shadowy figures and light behind him, a grainy strange atmospheric image

Of course I knew the poet! Aaron! How’d you find your way in, brother? Oh, the words!

I recognised a poet. We have written together in other times and places. We shook hands and I listened to his words.

In very low light tinged with red, a woman who is a seer sits on the ground with her enchanted saucepan observing people, who crouch before her to hear her wisdoms

The seer with her enchanted saucepan.

A seer told me my feet are strong. I thought while I stood photocopying how much they ache and burn, but yes, I thought, they are strong. They have to be.

A suited man with a grotesque mask crouches under a stretched net, and talks to a young girl wearing a dark cloak, he is very attentive, and man with a peaked cap is in the background and is about to walk by

The troll takes some advice on where to live next

A jovial being who sups on public figures, sought advice from us portal visitors, us passersby. Where should he live? Who’s tasty out there?

Some like me knew the portal would open. We came with that knowledge. Others were seeking shelter in their usual underpass, rolling their bikes through webs and flickerlights, soothsayers and demons, tucking away umbrellas to sidle past the tailed and taboo creatures so comfortable here and so comforting. Or they paused to listen to the tones of xylophones, crooners, and pianos from Wonderland. Underpass. Portal. Bus stops. Underworlds. Overworlds. Changing Places. I keep the stones in my raincoat pocket to remind me.

A teddy bear crawling along a metal grid with red back lights, a bit creepy or funny, I'm not sure which

Don’t worry, Teddy is only playing.

Looking out of the tunnel we see a little girl dressed as a princess from behind, climbing the stairs in the rain

A princess leaves the portal

In Civic with that antler girl

The American tourists at The Bus Interchange said that Canberra City, our funny old funny new Civic, was a bit quiet. Well, maybe. Why do I even begin this post with them? We so often want the outside observer to validate us. I wish them well and that they find something special here, and I know they will. They already found something pretty special when they bumped into the The Walking Tour with a Difference yesterday.

The walking tour continues past McMuck and The Bus Interchange, led by the antler girl on stilts

Walking past McMuck at The Bus Interchange. We all remember waiting here and missing buses and lots more!

I’ve thought about this seeming quietness of Civic often. I’ve also thought about the seeming quietness of Newtown and Kings Cross in Sydney, on the first days when I came back from India. Where are all the people, I thought? Is it after all just about contrasts, our perception of the character of a place.

The top hatted guide is drumming up the next stories from passersby and the walking tour mob. The mimes are ready. BOOM.

The antler girl, bird people, the mimes, and the top hatted guide on the patchwork of life, just outside Centrepoint.

What of the ever present rumble of stories here, their burble and surprise? They are never quiet, wherever we are, even on the moon. There are stories in this peace, this quietness, this loneliness and community, this everyday, the fragments we shape to place us, and that then make a place for us, and the stories we tell each other and to strangers when we are asked or have a chance.

The mimes and the antler girl and our top hatted guide at the end of the walking tour, back where we began at the Canberra Times Fountain

At the end of the walking tour, phew we’re thirsty, and you can see an antler girl in the background too

We looped Civic, starting at the Canberra Times Fountain. (Whoops, I didn’t even know that was its name until yesterday. It’s just that fountain kids jump in when it’s too hot, where we decide to meet, that sprays us on windy days as we walk past with our shopping, that we missed when it was turned off in the drought.) Civic of African dances and nightclubs and fundraising, sprawling sheep and protests, riding the elephant on the carousel, ravaged art and watching drug exchanges, ice-rinks, stolen poems, gelato, remainder bookstores and Gus’ – double shot espresso.

Antler girl's dress is blowing up in the wind, the saxophone player and mimes help tether it

Shadows and breezes, outside Gus’s gathering stories

What do we say? What do we know and remember? For me it was the terror of those art bastards The Doug Anthony Allstars, and hiding behind a pillar so to hear their last gig. I stumbled across them while finishing the Christmas shopping and listened to their golden choir voices – I heard it through the grapevine! Sprinting across town to get to the SECOND movie – to The Blair Witch Project! Chasing a runaway toddler, screaming his name as he careened towards the road. My Civic is chaotic, loud and physical. Schmoozing at Spiegeltent Empire and following the banana pulp volley, chewed and spat and caught from mouth to mouth (then trying it), watching a child’s first experience of characters on a stage and the stillness of his deep response. We all had stories. These are some of mine. There were plenty of others, from the participants of the Walking Tour with a Difference and from passersby. I hope to go on a Walking Tour with a Difference again soon.

Public places are also our private places, our quiet city, our secrets, our stories here. Thanks Changing Places and antler girl.

Spiegeltent Empire! Canberra!

Bubbles

Bubbles

In the Spiegeltent we greeted, kissed, hugged, breathed, stretched, jiggled, wondered, watched, gasped, laughed, screamed, whooped, clapped, stamped, whistled, heard, whispered, listened, whispered, shouted, laughed, screamed, balanced, spun.

Feat to feat

Feat to feat

Love is in the Spiegeltent, surprise, song, mood on mood, romance, friendship, skill, training, we perform ourselves, ourselves lost and found in mirrors.

Roller skates

Roller skates

Our bodies all so close, in the Spiegeltent. We all laugh about Fuuu – uucking! Oh! Fu…u…u..cking … In the Spiegeltent we are strong and together.

Crazy anime circle spin

Crazy anime circle spin

(All the links to ‘Spiegeltent’ are different in this post,leading to different pieces of information. It is a stunning tradition, check it out.) Newcastle – you’re next!