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“The ‘Butterfly Effect’ or more technically

the ‘sensitive dependence on initial conditions’,

is the essence of chaos”


You wake, it’s morning.

Unfiltered sunlight prickles your face warm. Time to get up.

The local coffee shop is closed; he always slept in.

You cross the road to get a bagel instead.

Inside the bustling shop you sneeze.

A nearby baby inhales,

Gurgling and bubbling with happiness.

A week later, subtle signs, a mild flu.

The doctor bills will put a strain on her family.

They will fight and the little girl will silently cough herself to sleep.

He will leave the mother and the child, sick of bickering and bills.

Distraught, the mother will curse the child for their desperate situation.

Ten years later, and the child will still remember this.

She will become a troubled girl.

She will be expelled from school.

At 14, she will leave home.

‘Don’t go, you’re only a bloody child!’

But the mother’s words will be drowned out by the girl’s pumping music.

She will become submerged in the gritty underground,

A dirty street dweller, high on chemicals, low on money.

The repercussions will catch her when she’s older.

The girl, now a woman, will have nothing.

She will die in a musty hotel room.

A few days will pass before the cleaner finds her.

She will be buried amongst the other nobody’s,


Rotting inside a cheap coffin.

You, on the other hand, have no idea this will happen.

You wipe your nose quickly and grab the bagel.

You catch a glimpse of the baby girl.

‘What a cute baby’ you think.

But she is already gone, it is written.

You leave, oblivious, never to know you were the cause.

Nobody can fathom the countless lives they alter.

And you are no exception.

One was Ira


Who lived by herself.

Slow crevasses of sadness gently divided her features like a jigsaw. Time ran slow for

her; an undulating force which towed the day along, persistently urging it forward

over the mild waves of the day. It had been two weeks now, and even that seemed like

an eternity. Ira Gore had lost the one being for whom she lived, and now, without

him, for the first time in her life she felt old.

She dressed herself in a modest black dress and delicate velvet pumps. Powder danced

on the light as she dusted her nose, and after two weeks of morbid lament she actually
looked quite pleasant. The final touch, a dark blue felt hat which slid neatly over her

thin hair.

Two checks in the dusty mirror and she approached the door – thick oak panels

suggesting a barrier, keeping the world out.

Or her in.

She couldn’t quite remember.

Gripping the door handle, she twisted it, half dreading and delighting in what was

behind. Light poured in, cascading over her coat-hanger frame and into the house. It

was a hot, steamy liberation of Ira’s senses; the sunlight prickled her translucent skin

and painted it with colour.

He didn’t look compassionate, eyes squinting with impatience and stubby fingers

drumming on the table. She noticed with distaste that his rainbow tie harmonised with

the colour coded highlighters that lined his desk.

“So how can I help you Mrs.…”

His voice trailed off, awkwardly evaporating as he checked some files.


“Mrs. Gore?”

She nodded and proceeded to speak.

All the while he sat blankly staring at her, scanning her face with hollow eyes. Ira

suddenly felt very self-conscious, and glancing down, noticed she was slowly

shredding the rim of her hat. He was just like the rest, unwilling to listen and eager to

send her away, without the loan.

“Look, Mrs. Gore, the tragic accident with your husband and the delivery truck is

unfortunate…”

His eyes glazed over, as if he had repeated this same speech to multitudes of

mourning wives - each time with the same monotonous tone and sickly attempt at

sympathy.

“…but it doesn’t qualify you for our loans, not during the GFC sorry. Maybe you can

try somewhere else. I could give you some names and numbers”

His efforts at kindness were futile, voice hard and cold, another routine utterance.

Cause and effect, the stale office worker had just significantly altered Ira’s existence.

But how was he supposed to know?

He cleared his throat.


“I’m afraid our time is up. You can go to the front desk for some helpful references”

His eyes flashed, drawing out a path for Ira to follow.

She rose, suddenly filled with sympathy for the hollow man who sat before her. As

she replaced the hat atop her head, she said a silent prayer for the man.

May happiness seep into the

Concrete slab which is your existence

And then she exited.

One

By

One

Ira watched the cans evaporate from within her pantry. Sure, she rationed, but even

that didn’t halt the musty nothingness which slowly replaced her food.

Day

By

Day
The knocking of domestic poverty shook the house with more vigour, until it was a

dirt-pile, so large that even Ira couldn’t continue to sweep it under the rug.

First the letter writing desk. For $100.

Dark mahogany and hand varnished to perfection. It had been his gift to Ira, so she

could still write to him. Every week a small blue grey envelope would arrive, her

name printed delicately in the middle, as if to kiss her hello. Resisting impulse, she

would neatly pry the seal, almost smelling the saliva which had closed it. And every

time, a creased letter would tumble out into her hands, throwing itself to her, a tasty

morsel for her feverish lovesick famine.

And Ira would gobble it all up –

the description of his life; the wounds; the constant rain. Even the bits she didn’t wish

to hear, Ira would endure; a gesture of empathy for her distant lover.

In reply, a well written descriptive account of her week would manifest itself atop that

writing desk. The words which she accentuated dug minute holes into the wood, until

snippets of love letters could be distinguished within the wood grain.

Then the tall vase which guarded the entrance. For $50.

It was a wedding gift, something different amongst the myriad of cooking pots and

soup ladles. Azure blue ceramic descended down the long shaft, slowly morphing into

a texture not unlike that of sand. If examined closely, one would notice tiny purple

dots dancing along the base in festive celebration, an eternal reminder of their happy

wedding day. For twenty years it had mothered countless bunches of flowers,

supporting and feeding them until they would wither and die, promptly replaced with

a bright new bunch.


Dry petals from the last bunch of flowers still dotted the ground below the vase, each

one a solemn reminder of his love.

Ira swept these up.

Casually brushing them aside with her foot as the neatly dressed housewife entered

her doorway to claim her vase.

Each week, the measly profit from her belongings would be eaten up, consumed by

ravenous debt. And each week Ira would let go of one more precious memory, her

furniture silently devoured by another four-wheel-drive.

This melancholy routine continued until an emptiness filled the house, flowing into

the unused rooms, down the hallways and eventually dripping through Ira herself. The

once vibrant home was transformed into a void of nothing; a catacomb of loneliness.

Everything echoed…

Illuminated

Reminders of

Absence

Soon the slow sponge of grief had soaked up everything of worth. Tired and

frustrated, Ira sat down by the window. And wept.

After some time Ira noticed a tiny glitter dancing on her face. It caught the light and

thrust a minuscule beam into her eyes. Then another, and another, until ten little

rainbow lights had made themselves apparent.

Ira looked down excitedly, half expecting to find a tiny pot of gold, but instead her

heart cracked a little. It was the sun’s reflection from her wedding ring.
*

$467, the highest bid.

Ira watched with regret as the last material memento of her marriage was auctioned

off. Then, with the misery money, she exited, catching a last glimpse of her jewel,

adorning an unfamiliar hand.

Ira looked down to her own fingers. A small pale band remained where the ring once

sat, etched hard into Ira’s skin over the years. She caught the bus home; mind

swimming in the sea of recollection, dancing with her husband amidst the hollow

rooms of their new house. And they had danced all night, drunk on joy and scotch,

finally able to purchase a house, a home.

She stopped.

This house was no home anymore. Its nurturing heart died the day he had. It hung

loosely on the corner, a decrepit flapping sack of nothing. Her home had never looked

so foreign; the garden was a jungle, draped around a rotting wooden fence. Mossy red

tiles jutted over the roof at wrong angles. And the rustic letter box perched

precariously atop a tree stump, hollow from decades of ant infestation.

No, this most certainly wasn’t home anymore.


$200,000, for the block. And that was good, considering the economic tangle woven

around the Western world.

But it didn’t matter anyway; the cursed economic crisis made sure all gains were

handed straight to the bank.

Levering her out of the debt that most were drowning in. Yet

Leaving her with nothing

The house would be demolished - rapidly replaced by modern sterile apartments,

conveniently designed to tessellate. Ira shuddered at the thought. Then, before any of

the developers saw her, Ira hurried off down the road, carrying two small suitcases

and a crooked yellow umbrella.

It was cold.

Ira knew it was going to be.

Some drunk street dweller told her the first night was always the coldest.

Despite their drunkenness, they had been right.

City sounds multiplied as the huge golden orb descended the skyscraper staircase. The

classy business feel was replaced with a putrid stench; wafting around the flashing

neon signs – from the stray animals, the homeless.

Ira just stood there, unable to bring herself to sit down. Late-night workers passed. To

them, Ira was just waiting for a bus, a taxi, a friend. Most certainly not homeless.
She sat at the edge of the city fountain. It’s high splashing water, now stagnant with

the occasional rebellious drip. Street lights flickered on and illuminated the speckled

bottom, each coin a tiny bait fish catching the sunlight. Ira pondered the wishes that

these coins guarded. Had they come to be? Or had their metal anchors defeated them,

forever destined to exist at the glinting bottom?

From out of an ice-cream shop emerged a little boy, wrapped in a thick sheepskin

overcoat and woollen beanie. He approached the fountain, clutching a two dollar coin,

and decided on a wish. Glancing around, he lent forward over the marble edges and

lowered his hand to the water, its carbon black finish rippling as his hand went in.

Then, as the tiny fingers loosened their grip, he caught sight of her. He must have, for

he let out a small cry of surprise and retracted his hand from the pool. Ira didn’t mean

to frighten him. She came around to his side of the fountain and sat down, the two

suitcases between her ankles.

“You shouldn’t hide in the shadows; people might think you’re a baddie”

Ira guessed he was about five, if that.

“Pa just bought me an ice-cream.”

He held up the cone, a large blob trickling down his fingers like fudge.

“I was about to make a wish.”

“What for?”
“For all days with dad to be like this.”

A look of genuine longing crossed his pudgy features as he gestured towards the

store, where Ira saw a weathered man buying ice-cream for a girl, a few years older

than the little boy.

“We’re about to go home, after Pa buys Marley her favourite. Where are you going?”

Ira looked at her feet.

“Nowhere, not tonight”

“What about home?”

“I lost my home.”

“You lost it? How can you lose a home?”

His childish naivety warmed Ira’s heart.

“It just happened. I guess this fountain is my home for tonight.”

The little boy looked horrified, and his brow furrowed into a mess of crevasses no

child should possess. He held out his left palm and produced the two dollar coin.
“Here, have this, it might help.”

He was so sincerely concerned that Ira was afraid he would burst into tears if she

declined the offer. She took the tiny gold coin and smiled.

“Thank you…”

“BEN!”

The weathered man was now standing outside the store

“Come on Ben, time to leave.”

Ben turned to go, and glancing back at Ira, smiled such a genuine smile that Ira

wanted to hug him goodbye. But he had already raced into the shadows. She looked at

her hand, the old coin nestled between lines of age. Ira knew it wouldn’t get her

anything, but the gesture seemed almost more valuable than if it had. She closed her

eyes, silently made a wish and dropped the coin into the inky depths - looking back

just in time to see the velvety black ripples spread and flatten. Then, picking up her

bags, she made her way in search of some quiet alley where she could rest.

Two was Jasper


In need of some help.
*

Ticking, scratching, copying, filing

Typing, coughing, clicking, stapling.

A slow rhythmic baseline – keeping tempo with the sporadic office banter.

The bubble of the water urn resonated. Coffee cups clinked empty. And a slow second

hand methodically counted down the moments until lunchtime. Jasper sat, his face, a

hollow void, absent of all emotion. The stack of paper on his right-hand side was

large, the stack to his left small – he had almost finished the day’s work and it was

only 11 o’clock.

If one were to look upon Jasper, they would find neither a great nor horrible being.

Two oily blue eyes hung below his brow, constantly scanning the workspace and

constantly moist. His hair was neatly combed to one side, defined from too much gel.

A stiff blue ‘Ben Sherman’ struggled to cover his belly. In an effort to hold it together

he wore a bright rainbow tie; a vomit of colour running down his front.

The only thing beautiful about Jasper was his dainty nose, unquestionably out of place

amongst his other features. It was as if he had stolen it from the face of a porcelain

doll and glued it to his own.

*
Every night it was the same. Jasper would catch the 5:14 train home, opting to stand,

making his exit at 5:21 swift and unchallenged. If he had caught a later train maybe

things would have worked out differently. But he didn’t. Jasper didn’t know why he

hurried home – it wasn’t for the comfort. His clinically white apartment offered

anything but that. It wasn’t to see his family; he had lost that aspect of his life years

ago. His estranged parents had pickled in their respective nursing homes, senile and

bitter. Jasper hardly considered them family during his childhood, his existence was a

small but ever present stain on their otherwise clean sheet of life.

And they never let him forget it.

Jasper couldn’t identify the drive that embodied him. He secretly guessed it to be the

longing for eternal solace, to see whether after seven years of city living he finally felt

at home. But that had never happened. Not in this reality anyway.

Every morning it was the same again. Jasper would wake before the alarm, eyes wide

at first opening, as if his body was fine tuned to routine. Then after an elevator down,

a train to the city and a busy zebra crossing to his building, he would arrive. Finally at

his desk; a whitewash panel of generic laminex. There Jasper sat, comfortably cradled

in his padded chair, solemnly getting his job done.

And he never stopped hating it.

The client would come in, full of hope at possibly acquiring a helping hand. And

Jasper knew he was going to cruelly swipe it away, reducing their hopes to fine dusty

acceptance. It was strict for him now that the GFC had hit. Where he would once dish

out loans like cheap meals, he now had to ration them. He would avert his eyes and

drum his stubby fingers on the table. Then, pretending to meet their gaze, Jasper

would say that due to the unstable circumstances he couldn’t help.


Once they left Jasper would slump down, legs apart underneath the desk. And with a

shaky left hand he would pick up the stamp and press a harsh, red

Denied
on top of their paper. Then, filing it in his [SORTED] pile he would pick up the next

sheet in his [TO DO] pile.

If one were to ask Jasper how he managed to be so emotionally bland and

unsympathetic, he would most probably reply with a slight shrug and get back to

work. But no one ever did question his work ethics, because he got the job done. In

fact, he was the best. But, this didn’t come without its tolls. His life wasn’t much

more than a hollow plastic bag on the breeze. Taking him to places he wanted to go,

but still so undeniably empty. If only he had known the fun and adventure his other

realities were having, maybe he would have considered altering his bland life. But the

change that was to come was entirely out of Jasper’s hands. Instead, that honour

resided in the weathered palms of a lollypop man.

Nothing changed with Jasper. Meeting people, forming relationships, then somehow

letting them dissipate, that’s how it went. It wasn’t that Jasper had a hard time

meeting people. Keeping friendships just wasn’t a high priority. It had begun when

she left him after four months. Stupid bitch. She was a red lipstick beauty who turned
heads wherever heads were present. When he was introduced, Jasper was immediately

drawn to her.

Tanyaahhh…
But he was ignorant of her other life. Her children and husband on the outskirts of

town were mere dusty tales, blown away by her exuberant presence. But after four

months she had left him, and when she did, her passionate hurricane transformed into

a devastatingly powerful storm, crushing and mutilating any previous happiness.

The loud host shouting out Easter celebrations slowly drifted into his conscience. And

as he slowly roused himself, eyes half plastered with crusty dreamtime remnants,

Jasper realised for the first time in four years he had slept through the alarm. Fuck. He

squeezed an orange and washed it down his dry throat. Then, once dressed, Jasper ran

down to the subway.

Sharp air wrapped his heaving body, immediately painting small crimson circles on

his cheeks and nose. The train had been late and Jasper bit his lip impatiently as he

waited at the crossing. Jasper cursed the Easter parade for unusually busy traffic. It

seemed as though he would never reach work on time. A weathered looking lollypop

man stood in the middle of the crossing, oblivious to the irritated commuters

congregating on the curb.


SCR E E EE E ECH

The tyres of a speeding delivery truck roused the man and he flipped the sign. STOP .

The traffic halted. Jasper tucked his hands into the pockets of his coat, bent his head

down and proceeded to cross.

She came from behind, bumping his shoulder with subtle strength as if she had

intended to slightly set him off course. Jasper looked around, startled with the sudden

human contact, but instead of finding another gruff businessman, a lovely pair of eyes

gazed back. Her hair was pulled together in a high pony, resting coyly above her

feathered fringe. A light blue oversize t-shirt gave the illusion of excess weight, but

her petite legs suggested otherwise.

“Sorry I didn’t see you there.”

“It’s fine, I should be concentrating. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before.”

A short polite chuckle and she was off, turning left into a café. Jasper stood there, just

out of the revolving door’s reach, its glass arms groping, returning then spinning out
again, an endless attempt to lure him in. And eventually, he succumbed, unwillingly

thrust inside the bustling office.

Typing, coughing, clicking, stapling.

Ticking, scratching, copying, filing.

Again, the subtle diegetic noises infiltrated any possible pockets of peace.

Jasper’s routine prevailed, client after client, each one leaving no imprint on his heart.

And when he hurried home that night, he wasn’t much different from them.

Emotionally empty handed and itching for change.

This time, he bumped her. Intentionally.

She swivelled around, then seeing it was the man from before, flashed a timid smile.

It had been two weeks but it was evident she recognised him.

“Coffee?”

Jasper didn’t know. He couldn’t recall the last time he went out for coffee. A tiny

trickle of uncertainty seeped onto his features. It must have been obvious.

“Oh, never mind,

You’re off to work anyway.”


But he could tell she wanted him to come. There was something strangely interesting

about her and Jasper found himself drawn towards the coffee shop.

“No, no. Work can wait, it isn’t going anywhere”

She was evidently pleased and her boyish grin reiterated this.

The sounds immediately enveloped them; steam from creamed milk, cups clinking,

ovens buzzing. A warm cosy feeling ran over Jasper and suddenly he felt very

comfortable.

They plunged effortlessly where ever the ribbon of conversation took them, as if they

had been acquaintances since childhood. And, as she spoke, her hands were thrown

violently into the air, illustrating the stories with sign language pictures. Jasper spoke

as well. Not entirely letting his guard down, but for the first time in four months

feeling comfortable around another person.

Jasper wasn’t much attracted to the woman in front of him, but she emanated a kind

of fresh happiness which made him want to do something he had never done before.

Something radical, something wild

Maybe he would wear sandals to work tomorrow.

Maybe not go to work at all.

All the possibilities were thrilling.


But as all good things do, their meeting finally came to an end. And Jasper realised,

with embarrassing concern, that he was twenty minutes late to work. Casually he

excused himself, unwillingly thrust back into metropolis reality. Clinking coffee cups

drowned his goodbye, animating his facial expression while concealing his words.

She smiled and waved, bent her head down and continued to scan the newspaper. She

must have been reflecting on conversational strands, replaying and rewinding. Or

maybe that was just Jasper.

The bell chimed as he stepped out onto the frosty pavement. Again, Jasper became a

tiny atom making up something larger, fuelling the pumping heart of the city. But he

was not aware.

Jasper was submerged in thoughts of righting wrongs, of serving up a slice of

contentment to someone hungry for happiness. He wasn’t happy himself, but that

brief encounter with the cheerful stranger had made him see this. Acceptance was the

first step, he had heard. And now, he wanted to pass the deed on, give someone else

the first push on their way to personal fulfilment.

The fast tempo;

a welcome change

to his previous

melancholy ballad.
*

She came in. Blue hat clutched in spindly spidery fingers.

Standing timidly by the cubicle entrance, as if summoned to the principal’s office.

Jasper thought she looked like the saddest women on earth, eyes sunk in hollow

cavities, thin lips desperately attempting a smile. She teetered in grey-black pumps,

long outgrown and scuffed at the toe.

Poor women, thought Jasper, what happened?

He looked up at her again, saddened by her presence.

‘She needs what I needed - a taste of happiness, if only for a fleeting moment, the

cleaning juice of kindness. Jasper was still dripping in it, sticky and sweet, ready to

rinse it off and bestow it upon another sorry soul.

“So how can I help you Mrs…”

He reached for her file, glancing at the name.

“Mrs Gore?”

She nodded, with an air of remorse and opened her mouth.


“My husband was killed in an accident just about two weeks ago, leaving no will or

superannuation in his wake. As you may well know the Global Financial Crisis is not

in my favour. If I sell the house, the money will go straight to the bank and I’ll be

living off nothing. Financially I’m unstable, emotionally I’m in a similar state. I just

need a basic loan to get back on my feet.”

Dark empty eyes stared back at his, reading him like a glossy magazine, scanning and

flicking through his personal pages. He hesitated, undecided as to what should be

done next.

He stood up

Peering outside his felt-lined cubical,

checking.

Then, slowly lowing himself back down,

he lent forward.

“Look, Mrs Gore, I’m not supposed to do this. But – something delightfully curious

happened this morning.

A skerrick of excitement flashed across his eyes

“And now, for no particular reason, I feel like returning that.”

Her brow furrowed, she wasn’t following.

He reached across the laminex table and grabbed her tender hands.
“I had a revelation this morning, Mrs Gore. I was an unhappy man, a city ghost,

wandering in the ebb and flow of nothing. But this morning, by chance, something

beautifully coincidental happened to me.

One cup of coffee.

That’s all it took!”

He realised he was shouting at the frail woman, and lowered his voice to an audible

whisper.

“Mrs Gore, I’m going to give you the loan. If you had come yesterday I would have

sent you away. If you came tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t be here. But, Mrs Gore,

you chose the right day to come, today, where anything and everything can change a

lifetime, someone else’s, if not your own.”

A small sliver of smile had manifested itself upon the woman’s face as she watched

him floundering around.

“Here, sign this.”

He handed her a sheet of thin paper embossed with a silver stamp. And she signed it,

half confused and relieved. As she rose up to go, the velvet folds of her mouth

opened.

“Thank you. Who knows what would have happened if it wasn’t for your kindness”

And with that, she pulled on her blue hat and turned to go, leaving Jasper to reminisce

his deed.
*

Jasper went on temporary leave,

to drown his greyscale being in the fluorescent nature of the world.

He hung up his tie, packed a bag and locked the sterile apartment shut.

His stiff suits now collect dust.

Three was Russell


No emotional health.

He couldn’t believe it.

And for four bloody months.

Tanyaahhh…
He cursed himself for being so complacent.

She sat on the bed, looking with large apologetic eyes. He knew she was sorry, that

she still loved him. Tanya was disgustingly beautiful in that way.

“Look Russ, it won’t happen again, I promise, baby.”


“Hell, the children Tanya, they know, how can you stand that?”

“But everything can go back to normal right?”

Thin tears carved his cheeks raw; he hated emotions he couldn’t control.

“No. You’re going to have to go. Just piss off Tanya, you blew it”

He looked away - hurt, embarrassed and ugly with anger, so much that thick veins had

erupted around his temples.

It was evident his fury ridden appearance petrified Tanya. She got up and slunk to the

open caravan door.

‘Keep the children. Get to know them Russ, it’s time you did.’

Then, taking one last look around, she stepped down the bessabrick and vanished

amongst the sea of white tin homes. Russell was left alone, the metal door banging in

the wind; drumming to his elevated pulse.

There in the hallway, two faces peered from behind the door. The little boy was

quietly sobbing, stippling fat tears on the carpet. The girl had her arm around the boy

and was looking intensely past Russell, out to where Tanya had walked off.

‘What are you looking at? Get back to bed’


The little boy retracted into the darkness, but the girl remained; large brown eyes

fixed on the night which had just swallowed her mother.

‘Go on Marley, get’

One last look, then she was gone. Leaving Russel kneeling by his bed, running over

what had just happened.

Multitudes of dishes were colonising the sink, and a thick wet odour draped itself over

the tiny caravan. Russell looked around; it had been months since she had left and still

her presence was distinguishable. He wanted her gone, but it hadn’t happened.

Outside on the pavement, his two children, Ben and Marley played, rolling Easter

eggs through the concrete cracks.

The radio blasted Easter jingles throughout the caravan park. But the celebration was

lost on Russell; he shouldered a large work bag, laced his boots and unwrapped the

foil off a melted egg, squeezing it into his mouth.

‘Working on a public holiday,’ He thought

‘What a fucking drag.’

But because of the Easter parade, the city would be bustling, and he needed the

money.

Badly.

Russell stepped down onto the gravel tarmac and set off into the heart of the city, not

bothering to wave goodbye to his children.


The traffic moved like a steady tide, leaving black marks on the freshly painted street

zebra. Russell stood in the middle of the crossing, legs evenly spread to a salute

position, left hand gripping the sign, rotating it, STOP. His mind wandered freely,

contemplating his wife,

life

and kids.

After ten years, he still felt like a stranger to his children, no more their parent than

any of the pedestrians surrounding him. But he hadn’t wanted a child, let alone two.

When he found out about Marley he tried to push Tanya down the stairs, but she was

determined to have the baby, the maternal cow had punched him back. SLOW. The cars

zipped past like antelope, herded by the large busses behind. Russell stood dead

centre. STOP. He recounted the night he found out about Tanya and her cheating. The

rage that engulfed his body was uncontrollable, Tanya was his and no other scummy

bastard was to have her. Why did she do it? Was it because he was a nobody? A lowly

roadside builder? A nothing? He never met the guy, but he was sure he wasn’t a

builder - probably some big wig up in the towering glass prisms. Russell looked up at

the skyscrapers, squinting, crow’s feet treading lightly beside his eyes. Beep. Yes, he

was definitely up there. Beep. Actually, he was probably at home enjoying the public

holiday. Beep. Rich inconsiderate fucker.


BEEE EEEEE E EP

Russell swivelled around, suddenly aware that he hadn’t been before. A fuming driver

sat in the confines of his delivery truck. The simple act of daydreaming on the job had

halted the traffic, and cars and busses which otherwise would be flying down the road

were approximately eight seconds behind their parallel selves. The fluctuation of this

eight seconds altered reality

And a life and a marriage were saved.

Russell would never meet Ira – but, further down the road her husband would avoid

being crushed by a delivery van, all because Russell held up traffic.

SLOW. The cars began to file past the crossing, eager to reach their Easter destinations.

But as the seventh car was approaching, a blurred blonde raced onto the crossing. It

was obvious she was in a hurry, her high pony tail wobbled as she ran and a pair of

keys made music to the beat of her stride.

‘Hey! Stop! What the hell are you doing?’

But she proceeded to run. On the other side she turned and, looking at Russell

sincerely, she shouted,

‘Sorry!’
Then she was off, light blue t-shirt distinctly noticeable amongst the neutral commuter

garb which surrounded her.

Another man went to follow her lead and stepped out onto the road.

‘Stop, is it that hard to wait for my signal?’

The man stepped back, obviously annoyed, but didn’t say a word. Instead he just

furrowed his brow and looked down to his shoes. Russell noticed there was something

unusual about the plump man’s face. Typical fat office slob. Pathetic. He was out of

proportion, peculiarly disjointed. TheF man looked up and wiped his nose with the

sleeve of his jacket. It was the nose. Something about it was off.

Too small, too petite, too feminine.

The man noticed Russell and opened his mouth to say something. But in a flash,

Russell rotated his sign to slow the traffic. STOP. And the man was gone, hurrying into

the glass revolving doors on the other side.

The Easter parade was dismal. A light dusting of rain had made the costumes soggy

and the crowds irritable. By late afternoon the traffic had slowed down to a whisper

and hardly anyone perused the pavements. Yet Russell still stood in the crossing,
slowly rotating his sign absentmindedly, thinking about what to do with Ben and

Marley.

The kids were still playing silently on the pavement when Russell returned home at

dusk. Easter foil lay around their silhouettes, glinting orange with the setting sun.

Neither of them looked up.

I'm heading in to make dinner; it’ll be ready in fifteen.’

‘Yeah, OK’

Their disinterest stung like citrus juice. The rude little pests didn’t even bother to look

up. Inside was dark and quiet; a cold stony solemness filled the room. Dinner would

be baked beans again.

They played outside for quite a while, lost in their perfect game, illuminated by the

streetlight. But when the chill got too biting, Ben and Marley reluctantly came in,

concealing their shivers behind tightly crossed arms.

‘I’m not hungry.’

‘Neither am I.’

‘Plus, we had that last night.’


The boy’s disappointment was evident; he looked at the steaming bowl of beans and

then up at Russell.

‘I’m going to bed.’

The bluntness of his words tore at Russell’s chest and he watched with increasing

anger as the little boy shuffled down the hallway. Ungrateful little shit. Marley stayed,

sitting down carefully and staring at her food; eating it with her eyes.

An

Awkward

Silence

Descended

Russell found it hard to look at the girl; she was so much like Tanya. He just wanted

to hit her. He looked at his plate of beans instead.

‘Where did mum go?’

Her sharp features hacked at him like a saw. ‘Jesus,’ thought Russell, ‘interrogated by

my own bloody daughter, how’s that?’ She continued to stare at him, the swinging

table lamp reflecting in her pupil.

Swing.

Swing.

‘Well, she left us. Decided to go somewhere else.’


Swing. Swing.

‘Will she come back? Or do we have to stay with just you?’

Swing.

Russell’s hand shot out and steadied the lamp.

‘I don’t think she’s coming back for a while.’

A flash of sadness and then Marley was neutral again.

‘OK, I’m going for a shower.’

She took her plate to the sink and went outside to the communal shower block. What

had happened? Tanya was gone, his kids hated him and his job was an

embarrassment. Where had it all gone wrong? Was there a time he could pinpoint and

say, ‘yes, this is where everything changed, if I had done this maybe my life wouldn’t

be so nothing’? Or was this always going to happen?

?
He poured himself a shot of bourbon, its warm soothe momentarily corking the river

of questions. Russell sat down in the springy armchair and poured another. He felt

hopeless. What had he done of worth? Nothing, nothing. He flicked the heater on and

replaced his shot glass with a cup. He poured another. Slowly the warm feeling

trickled down his insides and his emotions heightened. If everything was prewritten,

why had he gotten such a stunted chapter in the book of existence? Or, if it was

reactive, he wanted to find those people who had influenced his life, ignorant little

bastards. He wished he could rewind the split second that dragged him down this

shithole, if only he knew what it was. Russell was aware of the door opening slightly,

tiptoes down the hall way and into bed. It must have been Marley but the room was spinning

and Russell couldn’t see a thing. A cold dry darkness cloaked his mind and he blacked out,

fully clothed on the springy armchair.

Pounding. Pounding. Pounding pulses violently throbbed his brain. Like a tiny man

was inside his head, crashing cymbals and stamping around in a raucous masquerade.

Russell squeezed himself out of the heavily moulded armchair and glanced at the

microwave clock.

Shit. The booze had hit his head hard and he had slept in. Two packed school bags sat

at the rusted door, waiting. Marley was in the kitchen, trying to slice cheese with a

butter knife, stupid idiot. Ben was brushing his teeth in the shower block. It was

obvious the kids were proving they didn’t need him, they didn’t want him. It was a

cruel twist of the knife. But Russell could play that game as well.
‘Let’s go, time for school.’

A sharp reply came from the kitchen.

‘We know, we’ve been up for ages. You were passed out; we couldn’t wake you, but

it’s OK not like that hasn’t happened before.’

Wow. Russell wanted to bash her face in.

‘Yeah, whatever, get off to school.’

She packed a mangled sandwich into each bag and then stepped out the door, with not

so much as a goodbye.

Takes after her mother, cold, icy, devil child. Russell was fuming. He was not looking

forward to another day on the roads, not in this mood.

But what Russell didn’t know was that a simple roadside eaves drop would alter his

perception completely. He was drilling concrete to dust when a businessman stopped

by the construction to take a call.

‘Hello, yes, speaking.’

‘No, I’m his son.’

‘He was fine last time I checked the nursing home.’


‘Yes, that was six months ago.’

‘Is he in a stable condition? I can’t make it right now, I’m quite busy. But I can

arrange someone to pay the bill if you want.’

‘I’m sure, yes. If he’s not about to die I’ll come in a few weeks, when work clears up’

‘OK thanks; speak then.’

And with that the man was off, having just been told his father was on a deathbed.

Russell stood there, drill in hand. Did he want his children to emotionlessly organise

his funeral? Did he want them to dread visiting when he was old and frail? And in an

alternate reality, where one Russell would have died lonely, this Russell decided to

make an effort and bond with his children after ten years.

The switch Russel flicked wasn’t a swift clean-cut transformation. Russell would

never become the perfect TV dad and he knew that. Baby steps were the best way to

gain respect from Ben and Marley. But he knew one way to a child’s heart.

They couldn’t believe it. An outing, with Russell, for ice-cream. Marley bit her lip

raw with nervous anticipation and Ben systematically went through all the possible

flavours. By the time they got into the city, it was dark and a navy velvet had

descended, tiny moth holes illuminating the CBD below.

‘OK, out. We’re here.’

Both the children looked at their father with uncertain eyes. Was he for real?
‘Well go on, get out or the offer will expire.’

They shuffled out quickly and headed for the neon milk bar sign. Inside there were so

many decisions. With only one choice, multitudes of flavours would go untasted. Ben

looked overwhelmed; what would happen if he got this flavour instead of that one?

He ended up getting simple vanilla in a cup and went outside to wait for Russell and

Marley by the car.

Out of the corner of his eye, Russell watched Ben sitting on the edge, tossing his

silver change into the large fountain. And for the first time in a while, the deep frown

creases lifted off his forehead and he grinned at the little boy.

Back in the car, as Ben and Marley were falling asleep to the sound of car tyres

navigating tarmac, Russell turned around.

‘Hey Ben, what did you wish for?’

The little boy was barely awake and struggled to answer.

‘For everyday to be like this.’

His eyes began to close. Ben was unaware that in some other dimension he gave his

change to an elderly woman. Nor did he know his fathers daydream had saved her

husband.
No, Ben wasn’t concerned about these alternative timelines; in fact he didn’t even

know they existed. The only thing concerning Ben’s five year old mind was the now;

the happy moment with his father and sister. Infant dreams washed over him as he

closed his eyes and drifted off.

THE END
But in your alternate reality, you never started.

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