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The shadow sighed and shook its leg away from its body. ‘What the fuck?!’ it mumbled.

A female voice rang out across the flat of the lake. ‘Mind your language, Jimmy.’

The afternoon light was dying and streamed its golden hues across the red dirt, spreading warmth onto the lake. Jimmy’s shadow paused for a moment then continued shaking the urine from its leg. ‘You mind your language. Little dog pissed on me!’

A dog barked in the distance.  The female voice laughed.  Her shadow jiggled and flickered across the salt lake from her staccato spasms.  It looked like a rap artist bopping to a song. ‘Occupational hazard when you’re a statue Jimmy.’

‘What the hell is a dog doing out here anyway? We are nowhere.’

‘We are inside Australia. They come to see us,’ she replied.

‘See what? There’s nothing here but salt, wind, sun and rain.’

‘People have come for much less…and there’s us.’

Jimmy’s shadow stooped down and touched the soft, red clay. The shadow’s hand reached up and threw the dirt across the dry lake bed. It scattered in clumps, rolled across the lake and then lay still as if it had never been disturbed.

Jimmy sighed. ‘They don’t come to see us. We are no one. Just statues. Etches of someone who we don’t even know. They don’t even really stop to look at us.’

‘Vain are we Jimmy?’

‘It’s not that. It’s just that they photograph my shadow more than they photograph me.’

The female shadow laughed again. Her shadowy breasts jutted back and forth like two skewers poking at the red dirt. ‘They photograph you. They photograph the light. They photograph your shadow. They photograph the lake. We are not alone out here.’

‘I am alone.’

‘You are not alone Jimmy. Your shadow is right next to you.’

Jimmy turned his head and watched his shadow follow. He waved and it waved back. ‘My shadow didn’t get urinated on.’

The female shadow laughed. ‘True, but it feels your grief.’

Jimmy’s shadow raised both arms in exasperation. ‘Is it enough for you?’

The female shadow turned toward him. ‘Is what enough Jimmy?’

‘Is it enough for you to be here? Alone. In the middle of a desolate lake. Photographed by the odd wanderer. Is that enough?’

‘They come to see me in relation to what is around me,’ the female replied. ‘They come to see me, my shadow, your shadow, the light around us, the lake, the stars at night.’

‘The universe.’

‘Yes Jimmy, the universe. It is enough.’

© running with the beagle 2010

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The Lady was restless. She sat in her white wicker chair and looked out across Inya Lake. The frangipani trees rustled in the wind and she tilted her head up to breathe in their sweet smell. She wished the rain would come. The dust from the long Yangon summer was permanently suspended in the air and stuck in her throat. She wanted the rain to fall on the soft clay earth. She wanted to hear its heavy, soft rhythm – thud, thud, thud. It would cleanse the city as the waters snaked their way through the streets to take away the filth to the rivers. And there it would sit, coffee-coloured, like a disease waiting to spread.

She looked at Inya Lake through the razor wire – a makeshift prison to remind her of her house arrest. She longed to walk the streets of Yangon again – stroll around Shwe Dagon Pagoda and breathe the humid damp air in the old cathedrals. She remembered the flowering trees in Maha Bandoola Park. Their yellow blossoms so full and rich, they dripped with life. How she longed to breathe their perfume.

The blue waters of Inya Lake were calm and serene. They showed no hint of a dying country. Her eyes floated across the lake; the still water said nothing back to her.

A moment passed. A splash. Movement. The Lady squinted and leaned in to watch the commotion in the water. A moving object. Or a person? The unnatural movement told her it was not an animal.

She continued to stare across the smooth expanse of the lake broken by the turbulent water moving closer. It was a man. He looked like some sort of frog man with strange webbed feet and a clunky snorkel strapped to his head. He was heavy-set. Not some young student who’d decided to swim out to her house to show his allegiance. It had happened once before.

The Lady sat quietly and watched the man move forward. A number of locals stopped on the bridge and peered at the man. He was moving toward her.

The guards standing outside her house stood to attention. Alert, but unmoved by the man swimming with less elegance than a water buffalo. The Lady thought he would tire soon enough and perhaps drown; the lake was deep in parts. She wondered if she could persuade one of the guards to help him if that happened. She doubted the guards could swim.

The man kept moving forward, splashing and lapping at the water until he pulled his bedraggled, paunchy frame out of the water. A white man. The Lady sighed. What on earth was he doing here? A ruddy face and pale white skin – he was British.

His board shorts clung to him, sticky and dripping with the stagnant water. He squelched and squeaked his way up to the Lady’s house. The guards stood to attention, ready to pounce as he neared. Then he went out of sight under a hill.

The Lady sunk back into her chair. Perhaps he wasn’t a fanatic supporter of hers. Perhaps he was an expat, high on heroin and dared to do this stunt by fellow expats sitting back at the Inya Lake hotel, drinking gin and tonics as the sun went down. Whatever it was, she was glad it didn’t implicate her and wanted no further part of it.

She turned back to her novel and decided she’d done enough reading for today. She stood up and moved out to her garden to tend to her plants. It was a kind of freedom – something she was still able to do. The frangipani flowers, melting from the heat had fallen on the thick grass and left white dots scattered across the garden, almost like a bread crumb trail. Her eyes followed the trail and stopped when she saw him, standing in her garden.

The water dripped from him like fat monsoonal rain and fell on his feet encased in black and yellow flippers. The Lady drew in a sharp breath.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Don’t be alarmed, I haven’t come here to hurt you – I just wanted to see you.”

“Stop!” The guard cried. “Don’t move.”

Inspired by John Yettaw http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suu_Kyi_trespasser_incidents

© running with the beagle 2010

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It’s real here.  Inner city.  Urban and gritty.  In-your-face.  Not like where you grew up where the green lawns were mowed every four weeks and glassy-eyed mums and dads with their automatic smiles waved as you rode your bike up the street.  The family home was once so untouchable and innocent.  Now you drive past the street and it looks sinister and lonely.  The trees that used to frame the sky have been knocked down to make way for extensions and subdivisions.  There’s too much sky.  It’s trying to open up the worlds hidden in the houses beneath.  Except the doors stay firmly shut.  There’s one house nearby that you knew well.  The parents that once lived there are divorced.  Never saw it coming you say.  They were such a close family.  The kids, grown-up and in their thirties, are just as fucked up as you.  Except they see psychologists.  You just sucked it up.  That’s the X generation, you say.  Fucked up and over it.

And another house you pass – you knew the daughters.  Went to your high school.  And then their Dad took a shotgun to two of the daughters and himself.  The youngest one hid in the closest.  She heard it all.  The screams, the shots ring out, and then, the silence.  You wonder what she’s doing now.  She has a right to be fucked up.  The neighbours all cried shock, of course.  Not here.  Not in this pristine place. It’s the suburbs.  The suburbs are safe.  But it was there all along.  Hidden by the green lawns and coloured streamers trailing in the wind as kids rode their bikes.

So you live where it’s real.  There’s the chance of a stabbing.  Wheelie bin murder if you live in the right (or wrong) street.  On the edge but you can see and feel the crime. And you feel safe.

© running with the beagle 2010

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Apparently lightning does strike twice in the same place.  At Alvin’s home, tucked away in the Burmese jungle, hidden by the large leaf tropical plants, marinating in the humidity, there was a tree that sat just outside the window to Alvin’s bedroom.  He’d bought the house because the locals said it was auspicious.  He believed it gave him a special pass that no harm would come to the place, or his family – afterall, it had already been struck twice.

The Texan kicked the clay earth with his cowboy boots.  Sounds barked from around him.  Monkeys, bears and his tiger could be heard pacing, yawning and hooting, at various intervals.  He heard the monkey rattling its cage, wanting his attention.  She’d just have to wait, he had things to think about today.  He wasn’t sure when things became so complicated.

It was that girl. Patrick’s wife.  She’d made him feel almost…what was that? Exposed maybe?  She’d laughed at him when he said John Galt was a hero.

“But John Galt got off the world – he gave up.  He’s sanctimonious and never changes,” she said.

“He stood up for something he believed in,” Alvin replied.

She just shook her head, as if she understood the bigger picture and he was holding on to an idealistic notion that would never be realised. She saw right through him and laughed out loud when he summed up who he was.

“At the end of the day kiddo, I’m just a good old-fashioned Texas cowboy.”

“I guess Burma is one way to get off the world,” was her reply.

© running with the beagle 2010

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This is a writer’s blog. Don’t mistake it for anything else. If you happen to find words of wisdom, think yourself lucky and hold them close. There may be occasional words that fall on the page in the right order but mostly not. I’ll try not to write too much on the woes of writing. It’s a bad habit of writers and nobody understands but other writers. That’s not to say I won’t talk about great writing or other writers but I’ll leave the complaints for my dog’s ears. It’s a journey and I’m hoping it ends with a novel but it may be nothing but eloquent graffiti on a blog. So I’m flicking on the switch. Please adjust your eyes, the light is a bit dim.

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