A new year ... and 12 more months of writing. As this blog is called 2016stories, I have started a new blog for 2017, which you can access at this link. Meantime, the starter for January is "New Beginnings". Happy writing!
Saturday, 31 December 2016
Twelve months of story writing has seen the creation of 61 new pieces of fiction by 12 writers, some regular and some occasional. Thank you all for the entertainment and support for this venture. I have enjoyed writing, reading, editing, pushing, pleading and encouraging - so much so, that I intend to do it all again in 2017. Happy New Year to you all.
Sunday, 25 December 2016
What is true? That Bethlehem is eight kilometres from Jerusalem, that the sun casts deep shadows on layered white stone walls and flat roofs as it has done for generation upon generation, that the landscape is a timeless palette of azure blue and dusty olive.
Beyond that, all is myth and mystery. Some of the foreigners on the bus come to pay homage to a fair-skinned virgin and her blue-eyed child. Hurrying past invisible black-clad women in market alleys, they queue to enter a church built over the miraculous grotto, where garish Orthodoxy honours the humblest of births.
Others set out from Manger Square to locate Shepherds’ Field, down steep stone steps where idle men smoke and narrow their eyes against the sun. The men fall silent as the visitors walk by, maps in hand. The pilgrims seek the hillside where terrified shepherds fell to their knees beneath a sky ablaze with angelic hosts. They find no starlit Christmas card scene. Rather, they pass high-fenced schools and rundown shops, old cars parked on weedy roadsides. As the shadows lengthen they retrace their steps, hearts quickening and hands on their wallets until they reach the sanctuary of the bus.
I am looking for fact; for what is unchanged after two thousand years. I want a view of Jerusalem on the next hillside, to meander in winding alleys and listen to the mysterious sounds of Palestinian people going about their lives. Instead, I find Bethlehem in an olive-skinned boy on a donkey, dangling feet almost touching the ground. I raise my camera and he stares into the lens. Before I turn away, he holds out his hand.
In his young eyes I see ancient wisdom, and meet God made flesh.
His hand closes over the coin.
“Peace be with you,” I say. He nods and watches me walk on.
Like Mr Plod or Inspector Lestrade or any number of fictional policemen, the real policeman standing on the dark street wrote Anthony’s details in a small notebook – but, today, the 1980s are almost fictional anyway.
Had he been out breaking into houses in order to inflict ‘grievous bodily harm’ upon terrorised citizens? No, he had been at the university library reading for his dissertation on the ideas of Titus Lucretius Carus in the first-century BC text, De Rerum Natura: ‘On the Nature of Things’.
Fortunately the policeman didn’t ask about his employment. Anthony works in a grocery store?
Once dismissed as innocent by the police, he cycled on through the dark, moonless night to his lonely flat in the back of Fran Barcham’s garage.
But, even for the most law biding, reading is a dangerous business.
Anthony never did move out to the country, he moved to the big smoke and by the time thirty years had passed, the nature of things was no clearer to him.
It was listening to the Chris Ryan PhD podcast that Anthony heard about Edward Abbey. He ordered three of Abbey’s books online.
He was a little disappointed in them but then Edward Abbey was not just an author, was not to be judged on literary qualities alone: Edward Abbey was the father of eco-terrorism.
Anthony thought of himself as an honest citizen – he stopped at red lights on empty streets, returned his library books on time, never bent down the corners of the pages – but Fletcher Building Limited was going to build 480 houses for rich immigrants on the last wilderness; to bulldoze the graves of the tupuna of the tangata whenua; drive the gentle, lunatic hares from their dancing fields; crush the fledgling plovers in their grassy nests …
That night, Anthony put on his black t-shirt – inside out so that the white line-drawing of an orang-utan wouldn’t show – finalised his intentions and techniques, planned his route, waited impatiently for hours and then set out in his car.
It was very dark. Moonless. Cloudy. Late.
Standing by the gate, Anthony paused, wide-eyed and terrified, listening to a sound for quite some time before he realised it was the sound of his own heart thumping. Then he was over the gate and crawling through the long grass.
Twice a car passed on the road, its light sweeping the field, but Anthony lay still. A frog called to the west.
He was crawling back towards the gate when he heard the approaching siren.