Jenny wins first writing comp entry

Jenny Macaulay

There were 15 entries for our first competition this year. Although this number was a bit disappointing, the quality of all entries was of a high standard, especially the winner, Jenny Macaulay. There were two highly commended stories: John Farrington with his very clever surprise humorous ending and Christine Scheiner with her moving love story.

Judges’ Comment: Jenny’s story for the topic, Snowed Under, used this theme well, constructed a tight story with an effective suggestion of science fiction plus an unexpected ending with a touch of humour.

Don’t forget to look at the advertisement in today’s Voice; newcomers over 16 are very welcome. – Alan Cobham.

Jenny Macaulay is a retired primary school teacher enjoying life in Portarlington facilitating art and writing groups between gardening and just appreciating a relaxed lifestyle.

Jenny organises activities where others can enjoy the experience of writing in its many forms. She facilitates a poetry group in Geelong under the umbrella of Geelong Writers and runs the Portarlington Haiku Society where members participate in a monthly competition. She and a colleague also organise the Midwinter Words writers’ weekend which will be enjoying its 10th year this August after a break since the COVID years.

Jenny also runs a drawing class at the Portarlington Neighbourhood House and the occasional Sumi e workshops (Japanese ink painting) and nature journaling workshops for Bellarine Bayside Coastal Management. In her spare time she enjoys painting small watercolours of Bellarine’s beautiful surrounds.

Snowed Under by Jenny Macaulay

It was exquisite. A delicate wisp of white thread wound through the brown hairs near the base of the rhizome. The fern itself was just 30 centimetres above ground. Having never seen one quite like it before, Tina had no idea how tall it might grow. The internet had provided information on similar varieties but she’d found no fern quite like this one.

Taking a photo to a nursery was not an option as its origin might be questioned and she knew the truth would be more than frowned upon. She had dug up the fern while on a photographic mission and carried it, with difficulty, in her backpack along a dark, damp trail through a remote section of the Otway Ranges. It would look magnificent in the fernery she’d had Perry construct for her some years before. Only briefly had she considered the legalities or morals of removing native flora from a national park.

Under Tina’s instructions, Perry cleared the aspidistra growing thickly over the remains of Snowy, the Scottish terrier which had provided him with the warmth lacking in his mundane marriage. Tina’s frequent retort that he loved that dog more than he loved her, was justified. After Snowy’s sudden death Perry had been stricken with grief and requested an autopsy, but this had been swiftly swept aside on financial grounds. The vet, however, suggested rat bait as a possible cause.

At a depth of 30 centimetres, Perry’s spade struck Snowy’s resting place, the wooden box already spongy with decomposition. He lowered the fern gently on top of it, backfilled and watered it in, silent tears trickling over the tangle of tiny capillaries that meandered across his cheeks.

Two days later, Perry heaved a suitcase from the boot of their yellow Toyota Yaris and blew Tina a customary kiss as she pulled away from Avalon Airport. The five-year reunion of his siblings was a ritual since they were in their 30s. This year it was a week in Maroochydore, spouses included as always. Tina had not, however, attended for the previous 20 years.

On Monday the temperature was 27 degrees. Unusually warm for November. When Perry returned she’d have him put a watering system in the fernery. She finished her cup of English breakfast tea, slipped on her special purple garden Crocs and wandered down to the fernery, unlooping the hose from its stand and turning the tap on along the way. She walked around the south side of the garden shed watering clumps of hyacinths that lined the woodchip path to the fernery, and aimed the gentle spray towards her new fern. She stopped abruptly and turned the nozzle to the side. The fern’s trunk was completely covered in the soft white hairs, each about half a finger in length, swaying gently in the morning breeze. She bent forward to stroke them and was surprised at their stickiness and a slight stinging sensation, as if she’d brushed against nettle. She ran her hand under the hose until the pain subsided.

While grotesque in some way, the growth was actually quite spectacular, reminding her of those ridiculous science fiction stories Perry loved, where globs and blobs of unworldly matter invade the Earth. She couldn’t wait for her photographic group to see it the following morning when they were to come for their monthly meeting.

Tina turned to squirt the hose on the vegetable garden and didn’t see the sudden rapid spread of tendrils from around the base of the fern. Mycelium-like, they raced towards her across the heavily mulched ground. They reached her Crocs and wrapped around her calves, forcing her to fall flat on her back sending sprays of water into the air. Before she could scream, the white growth, now pulsating and bulging like swollen bread dough, smothered her entire body.

The photographic group knocked, but seeing the side gate ajar, wandered into Tina’s backyard ready to take shots, having heard all about her new fern. Finding a few fronds poking out of the top of a mound resembling thick snow, they focussed their cameras on the amazing phenomenon. On the edge of the mass sat a pair of purple Crocs, and panic erupted briefly when a large rat squirmed out of one of them and shot across the garden towards the house. A fine mist of water spouted, like a fountain, from the mound’s centre.

The cameras clicked on.

“Tina must be inside baking scones,” suggested one of the party.


Snowed Under by John Farrington

He would never have believed how busy it could be to be a stay-at-home dad. But in the two months since the arrival of their first-born baby he felt

absolutely overwhelmed and snowed under by the need to provide relentless attention to the little one.

When he and his partner had taken the first steps to create a new life, it had all been love, fun, tenderness and excitement, but those few minutes of fun had quickly translated into weeks of hardship. On many occasions he had questioned the wisdom of the decision, and the act of love had turned out to be a once only event!

Was it really only nine weeks ago that he was free to go to pursue his favourite pastime of fishing with his mates on a regular basis?

He had also previously been very proud of his

appearance. He had been particularly happy with the flashy silver and white coat in which he used to get about, but along with the rest of his life that had become a dull, grey mess. Everything about his past life seemed like just a distant memory, and he wondered if he’d ever get back to living his hedonistic bachelor lifestyle.

At times, he did realise that in his carefree past he’d become quite self-centred, and he’d even become a bit portly. As he reflected on this further, he recognised that it was lucky he was carrying a few extra kilos prior to taking on this new role because he was now so busy,

he barely had time to eat, and he couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten any fresh food.

His partner was now the one who brought back all the food for the family, and the feeling of being stuck in the same area all the time made him long for the days when he could roam wherever his mood took him. He now felt a great weight of gloom pressing down on him.

And his partner did seem to be gone for long periods, and on more than one occasion he started to wonder if she was off looking for another partner; one who wasn’t fat and dirty and dishevelled. He felt so low that he could hardly blame her if she did look for another male companion.

The weather was certainly not helping his mood either. The winds felt like blizzards that were carrying the coldest air and tiny bullets of frozen ice from the very bottom of the planet.

His feet radiated a permanent ache from the cold air and he couldn’t remember the last time he had a chance to lie down and just take it easy.

The only solace to his situation was that there were a number of other guys in exactly the same situation, and they all kept each other company on a regular basis. They all looked as unkempt as each other and complained of the same things that were driving him crazy but their constant racket didn’t exactly lift his mood.

He couldn’t recall what it was like for his dad, but he was pretty sure he wouldn’t have been the sort of guy to stay at home while his partner was off doing who knows what, but then he couldn’t be sure. He imagined his dad was not the sort to be bossed around as had only a very vague memory of him and he disappeared off the scene almost straight after the young fella was born. Maybe he had also been a stay-at-home dad and after one tour of duty had decided that was enough for him and simply shot through.

Just when he thought it couldn’t get any worse, the icy rain turned into snow, driven by two-hundred-kilometre hour winds and the snowdrifts started to build up around him and his male companions.

The racket of protests from all the other guys increased into a cacophony of screeches and all he could do was to join them and reflect on the fact that while male emperor penguins may be regarded as the fathers of the year, he’d have been happier if he’d been an albatross or fur seal instead.