“Chill of Blame” Presentation to RSL Cooroy

Fortuitous Tide

Reminder: Free short story – see below ‘A Pearl for Your Enjoyment.’

The members of the sub-branch of the Cooroy RSL have kindly offered to listen to my talk on the latest novel next weekend.

I always enjoy an excuse to visit Cooroy. It is another town on the Bruce Highway (have yet to accept the new name) which should not be bypassed. It is a smallish town full of fascinating shops, luscious food venues and lovely people.

Keep smiling, Keep reading, Keep writing.

Current Weather and Tides

Whoops! Lesson learnt. As I mentioned, this next novel is a family saga – over three generations. I have discovered one must keep an eye on the ages of the characters. I almost had an old bloke of nearly a hundred years, working like a bullocky in a field. Poor old sod I’ll have to put him out to pasture.

A bit like real life the years just fly by.



A Pearl for Your Enjoyment

This short story was written in answer to our lecturer’s homework:

 Write of a character who is more than we thought – OR Changing character good or bad.


My name is Bozo. I am Mrs. Padgett’s companion/guard dog. We live in a big old timber house that squeaks and moans during the night. Polished timber lines every wall and covers every floor. As a puppy, my feet skated from wall to wall and door to door.

Mrs. Padgett does not like too many people in her life. Nurse Angela comes every day to help her with bathing and dressing. Nurse Lynette comes on those days Nurse Angela is unavailable.

I am allowed bark once when either nurse arrives. Anything more than one bark is referred to as ‘that infernal’ barking. ‘Infernal’ is one of Mrs. Padgett’s favourite words. Once a month, Graeme comes to mow the lawns, trim the paths and prune the shrubs. Mrs. Padgett shuts all the windows of the house to keep out that ‘infernal racket’.

Mrs. Bothan cooks and keeps house. She only comes four days a week. Mrs. Padgett cannot stand the ‘infernal’ noise of the vacuum cleaner. I’m allowed to bark once when Mrs. Bothan arrives before my lady will scream out, “Stop that infernal barking, Bozo.” I must admit I’m a little wary of Mrs. Bothan. If she had her way, she’d run the vacuum cleaner over me to remove some of the hair from my coat. I think she’d prefer me to be bald. “That would solve the problem of dog hair all over the floor mats and furniture,” she mumbles every day under the infernal noise of her vacuum cleaner.

When the church ladies come calling, or the minister himself, and either of these options become scarcer as the years go by, Mrs. Padgett lets me bark twice. “Infernal nosey-parkers wanting to know everyone’s business.”

Hawkers or strangers are the most unwelcome. A large sign on the front gate says so. I’m allowed to bark and jump up at the gate as much as I like if a hawker or stranger dares to pause there.

“I ‘d rather hear your infernal barking than those infernal pestilent salespeople.” Mrs. Padgett tells me. “Now frighten the life out of them.”

On the two days when the Meals on Wheels people deliver, Mrs. Padget sets the small table on the back patio on which they are to place her meal. I’m confined to the kitchen with the top half of the stable doors open.

“You may bark three times Bozo. I want big, deep, scary barks. We don’t want those infernal busybodies to think we don’t have a good guard dog on hand. They’ll get a surprise if they’re thinking of coming back to steal all our silver?”

I’ve never seen this silver she talks about. Maybe it’s kept in the cupboard in THE ROOM. All the secrets are kept there. Mrs. Bothan is not allowed to clean in that room. THE ROOM is always kept locked.

When all the other people are out of the house, I’m allowed to join Mrs. Padgett in THE ROOM as long as I lay quiet on the mat on the floor. After locking the door from the inside, Mrs. Padgett sits in the sagging armchair with a large blue rug covering the worn and torn bits. She removes the large photo within the shiny frame from the sideboard. Taking up the polishing cloth hanging over the back of the chair she rubs the dust away. The picture of the pretty lady in the wedding dress standing beside the handsome man in the khaki uniform, gleams. I know the lady is wearing a wedding dress because when I have nothing better to do I lay under the hibiscus bush near the neighbour’s fence and watch the two little girls playing with their bride dolls.

Mrs. Padgett gives a quiet smile followed by a frown before she whispers, “Darling Derick, you always were a stubborn mule. Look where it got you.” She kisses the man’s face and replaces the frame. “You never got to see your beautiful daughter. Maybe with your help, I may have managed better.” Sometimes Mrs. Padgett drifts off to sleep and sometimes she just sits looking at the wedding photo with a soft smile on her lips.

The second shiny frame holds a photo of a young girl about the same age as those children next door. The hand holding the frame and the polishing cloth shakes and tears run down the wrinkles in Mrs. Padgett’s face as she polishes this frame. “My little Princess, how sweet you were. I’m sorry we drifted so far apart. Maybe you have a little princess of your own. I do hope you’re better than I was at understanding her needs as a teenager.”

Last month, after cleaning and talking to both photos, Mrs. Padgett fell asleep and did not wake up. By the first morning, my throat was dry from barking. I was sure my infernal barking would wake her. There was no water kept in THE ROOM. I was beginning to feel snapping hunger pains in my belly. Two nights passed before Nurse Angela turned up looking for us.

“Mrs. Padgett,” she called and banged on the timber door. Mrs. Padgett did not open her eyes to ask what all the infernal noise was. Nurse Angela turned the knob of the locked door – all to no avail. Nurse Angela was nothing if not resourceful. She placed a newspaper under the door, poked something through the keyhole, knocked the key onto the newspaper, and with great care dragged the paper, with the key on board, back to the outside of the door. It was only moments before she had the door open.

I did not even stop to bark once at Nurse Angela. My bedraggled coat brushed her legs as she walked over to attend to the sleeping Mrs. Padgett. Having drank every drop of water in the bowl on the floor in the kitchen, I returned to THE ROOM to discover my whole world had turned upside down. I heard a man with the tube things hanging from his ears say Mrs. Padgett was dead. Tears quivered on Nurse Angela’s eyelashes. Vaguely I understood the word, ‘dead’. Mrs. Padgett often asked me if I had found something dead and smelly to roll in when I played out in the garden. “Lucky my sense of smell is going Bozo or we wouldn’t be able to live in the same house.”

Nurse Angela took me to her house for a long holiday. It was very nice and she and her family were very kind, but I fretted for my own home.

Now I live again in my own home but not with Mrs.Padgett. She has gone. Her daughter Princess with her husband and two children have returned. Her rules are very similar to Mrs. Padgett’s rules. I live in a new kennel on the verandah nowadays, but every day I get to race through the garden with Pixie and Damian. “Merry Christmas Merry Christmas they keep calling.”

I like their infernal noise.