Shorty short: Last Cab to Nowhere


Dana scurried around in the hubbub of the party still in full swing, her head dashing in and out of rooms, under flung cushions and dresses of unknown victims who simply glared at her.

“Excuse me?”

“What is she doing?”

“Too much to drink,” someone laughed as she rushed past them, back out onto the balcony one last time. She stole a look over the rails while she was at it to see if the cab she’d called had arrived. The street revealed no such phenomenon, for it was a phenomena for a cab that arrives on time on a busy Saturday night.

“Dana? Why are you scaring people? You promised to behave” Her best friend, Kaiser smiled at her from his great height, walking out onto the balcony with multiple beer bottle necks secured in his hands. He passed them around and turned his focus back on her. “Your taxi here yet?”

She shook her head and grabbed the beer from his hand, took a thirsty swig and slid the bottle back in his open hand. “You seen my bag?”

“You lost your bag?” His brows rose high.

“My clutch thing.”

“The things without any handles?” he asked.

Dana smiled and nodded.

“Nope, haven’t seen it.”

“I’ve looked everywhere!” She squeaked in panic, stepping away from people looking at her strangely. Guess lifting skirts off seats and sofas, and looking under beds while people were trying to find privacy wasn’t really good etiquette. Then again, in Dana’s opinion, it was highly rude to be trying to do anything indecent in someone else’s apartment. “I’m gonna miss my flight.”

Kaiser held out 50 dollar note. “I don’t even know why you are taking such a late flight. May as well have gone tomorrow morning if all it is, is you trying to escape your family. I’d gladly drop you off myself.”

Dana took the note and shoved it in her jeans. “I have no desire to sit there and listen to people yabber about a woman I could barely stand. I’d rather be on a sunny beachside sipping mojitos than be there for the whole thing.”

“You’re going south, where beaches are few and colder. And you hate mojitos.” He held her back as she went to go past. “You’re one of the beneficiaries.”

“Exactly! Which means it gives my family reason to glue all eyes on me the whole week. No, thank you. Now get out of my way. I have a taxi to catch.”

Kaiser pulled her in a quick hug. “Should I go in your place?”

“If you want.” She kissed him on the cheek. “Don’t sleep with that one, that one or that one.” She laughingly pointed out random guests.

“What about that one?” Kaiser pointed to a woman striding their way with a charming little cherub on her hip.

“That one will have to do.” Dana laughed. Gave a quick hug to Kaiser’s beautiful wife and child and rushed towards the door. “Keep my bag safe for me!”

As Dana got into the lift, she could hear the faint rumble of thunder. ‘Please don’t rain. Please don’t rain.’ She rushed out onto the street, empty as the first giant drops of rain slapped her cheek. She checked her phone as a messaged buzzed: You taxi is 30 seconds away. 30 seconds wasn’t that long, and Dana stared down the street to see if she could spot the headlights. Nothing.

Laughter rolled down with the rain from the balcony and Dana looked up to see Kaiser’s head, a tiny pin in the grey night sky. “You should just cancel!”

Suddenly, a taxi appeared far too quickly beside her on the kerb. She hadn’t even heard it pull up. A window rolled down. “Ms Dana Beecham?” An elderly man with a well kept grey beard bent down to see her on the sidewalk. “You ordered a taxi?”

The rain began with more gusto and she clambered into the back seat. “How did you know my name?”

The man laughed. “I pay attention.”

The glint in his eyes threw her off. It was as if he knew things. Really knew things. Like for example, she felt almost as if he could tell why she was in a hurry to get away.

A lash of lightening ripped across the sky and the power grid failed instantly. The whole street blacked out, and thunder that followed cut Dana off at, ‘Please take me to…’

“I know where to take you, Miss.” He interrupted, a smile on his face. Somehow he reminded her of her late grandfather. She hadn’t seen the man in over two decades, but it was almost as if the eyes were his. “Buckle up.”

With the rumble of the engine, lights came on one by one on all the buildings as they shot by. In disbelief, Dana kept staring out the window till they were well away from the street.

“How did you know where I want to go?” The thought suddenly disturbed her. “I didn’t tell you.”

The cabbie laughed. “As I said, I pay attention.” He pointed recklessly at a navigation system as if to say that was his source of information.

Maybe, thought Dana. Maybe she’d already told the dispatcher when she’d placed the call.

“Please hurry. I’m running a little late.”

He nodded, turning on the radio station to some mellow music. “Not to worry dear. Sit back and relax. I’ll get you there at the right time.”

The street lights flashed by one by one. The last of her drinks finally catching up with her. She hadn’t closed her eyes in ages, and when she did, it was not with the intention to fall asleep.

“Here we are, Miss. Your destination.”

When Dana woke, it was almost dawn and she was no where near the airport. She was exactly where she didn’t want to be. The whole reason why she was meant to be in a flight over Alice Springs. Not sitting outside her Grandma’s home, exactly how she remembered it. Perfect.

Dana turned to the man in shock. “You said you knew where I needed to be?” Her tone highly accusing. The man nodded, got out, pulled out her luggage from the back seat next to her and came around to open her door.

“Yes. And this is where you needed to be. I got lost there for a bit, but no, in the end, I got you here, safe and sound!” He beamed. Her grandfather’s eyes smiled down at her and she couldn’t really get angry at him. Instead, she crossed her arms and refused to get out.

“Don’t you think you are being a little childish?” he asked.

Offended, she was about to protest when the front door opened and her mother in pyjamas walked out, looking at her directly. “Dana! You came.”

The man stepped aside and allowed her to exit the cab. He handed her her bag and walked away.

“How much do I owe you?”

The man smiled. “We can decide that later.” He doffed his hat and slipped into his cab. Before long pulling out as Dana pulled her bag along reluctant. What did he mean by that?

“Hey, Mum.”

“Hey, yourself. Look at you? So skinny.”

Dana couldn’t help but feel the lump in her throat as she eyed the facade. It wasn’t where she needed to be. Was it? All those memories pressed against her mind. All those desperate attempts to get away. And there she was, miraculously about to walk into a home she hadn’t stepped foot in over 5 years for a woman she had loved as much as possible, but hated just the same.

Home sweet home.

Reel World: My little film is showing somewhere!

As it turns out, this year is nearly at its speedy end. It’s later in October and we only have two months left to accomplish anything we set out to do this year. Where’s the time rewinding clock? If only Back to the Future was possible! Seems to be the week for it. At least that’s the buzz this week.
There is however another little buzz in my life, the buzz of a short film I was involved in the making of finally hitting the silver screen across various Australian cities starting today.

I’m nervous and curious, and excited and terrified all at the same time. What’s worse is that due to festivals and other commitments I am not there in the city of Perth observing the audience as they react to the film. As a writer-director, this tends to be the most nerve-wrecking moment. Not the countless hours preparing to shoot, nor the countless hours spent shooting it and cut it etc. No. It’s this, waiting for feedback.

Can I fast forward a couple of hours to hear how the screening went? Haha. That would be something, wouldn’t it?

Here’s the teaser for the film in case you would like to check it: Dhago (Nepali short film)

IMG_6677

I’ll report back to you tomorrow and let you know what the word is on the streets. Wish I could have been there, but alas, it’s still an exciting time!

Poem: Carefree steps

I tend to generally write a poem that fits a novel I’m writing, and this I usually do without realizing. Must be the fact that that story subconsciously stays in my mind.

Carefree Steps is something I wrote and rewrote couple of days ago and it’s supposed to fit the new spec Ebony & Frank. But something doesn’t feel right or sound right. (The flu has muddled my brains!!)

Would love an opinion or two on this if any one is game. 🙂

Carefree steps

Into the darkness

strays carefree steps,

the dying light

sleeps amongst the land of promises

by morrow, the light will bring everything

but home

which by and large you passed

an age ago.

Writing: How long do you brew?

Seriously, I’m interested in seeing the differences out there. How long do writers brew, or rather stew on an idea before they begin writing it down? How long do you normally take? A couple of days, a few weeks, months maybe, or even years?

I normally take weeks if they are novels, and a day or less if they are short stories, poems etc. I take a couple of days for short scripts and a couple of months for features. The longest I’ve sat on a story before starting to write it is a few months.

In those months, what do you do? Do you plot the whole affair from beginning to end, or just major story arcs? Do you figure out your characters?

I find that I usually focus on story arcs and character profiles, but in saying that I don’t set these as immovable before I write them down. Even as I start writing, I know I have to get from A to D to J and eventually Z, but the whole planning (and I use this word loosely) can go out the window as I write without restraints.

Well, my dilemma here is that I have an idea, a very brief overall arc of the story and the two protagonists I’ll be writing about, but I am so tied up with other projects that I feel this will have to take a backseat for God knows how long. Is it wise to lay aside a story? What has been some of your experience? I’m kind of nervous that if I don’t at least brew on it for a little while, I’ll lose the story, the spark that inspired it.
All I know is that I have the title for the story already and the characters: Ebony & Frank.

The theme: recognizing one’s true self through the eyes of others.

Shorty short: Shovel 

(The following story is prompted by ‘it was a misty night’ line.)

I never thought I’d end up here. A shovel in hand, a dark raincoat supposedly keeping me safe from the downpour. In the middle of a forest with barely any light to see the ground where I stand. How did I end up here? I turned to stare at the body just a stretch way from me. A shiver coursed through my body. Never ever had I thought I’d be the one digging the shallow grave, slipping and sliding on the muddying ground. 

I could occasionally hear the vehicle on the highway meters away. Every time one whizzed by, I’d be in a state of panic, afraid they’d hear the sound of the shovel hitting the wet, squelching ground. I was a law abiding citizen for heaven’s sake, not the cold blooded murderer I suddenly felt I was.

I worked through the straining muscle aches curtesy of a hard gym work out with Clive this night before. When the hole was big enough, I found myself in it, pulling the corpse till it pinned me to the bottom of the pit with its weight, forcing me to struggle to free myself.

I stood, covered head to toe in mud. Where had I ended up? This morning, I had been just another newshound chasing my headlines, and now… I resumed the dirt moving, unable to allow myself that thought. The sound of the rain hitting the coat provided some sort of solace, something I could focus my mind on, and I kept shoveling and shoveling the dirt till a small hint of a mound formed. 

I stared at it. What had I done?

I sat in the car for ages. Couldn’t possibly bring myself to get out. Before I knew it, I was sprawled across the back seat, twisted like a pretzel, half falling into the gap between the seats. A hard knock had rapt on my window, startling me awake. Somehow, it was morning. I hit my head on the window handle hard as I went to get up. I looked out the window and there was Clive, staring at me through the glass.

 ‘You’d rather sleep in the car?’

 I straightened and struggled to get out of the car, scrambling to free my feet of the raincoat I had used as a blanket. We had had a fight last night before I left work. ‘I must have dozed off.’

 Clive’s eyebrows rose high. ‘In the backseat?’

 ‘I was really tired,’ I offered by way of explaining.

 ‘Why do you look like you went mud wrestling last night?’ He eyed me from toe to the top of my hair. I went rigid. How did I look? Was I looking suspicious? I mean, yes, I had muddy clothes and all, but no one would pin a murder on me, right? Right?

 ‘I went to interview for a story outback, and the tyre got bogged in the downpour,’ I lied. Big deal. I wasn’t about to tell him the truth, whether he was my soul mate or not. 

 ‘Why didn’t you call road side assist?’ 

 Shit! My phone! The last I remember of my phone was when Clive had called me in the middle of my digging session. What did I do after that? I patted myself down, every pocket I had.

 ‘You lost your phone?’

 I looked up, utterly panicked. ‘Yes.’

 ‘Where did you last use it?’

 An image of being pinned down by the very thing I was trying to bury sprung to mind. Shit. 

Writing: Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’?

Yes, you heard me right! (Or rather, read.)

If you fancy yourself as a writer, then you have to choose a camp (though there may be one or two of you who sit on the fence on this one). You are either a plotter, or, you are either a pantser.

First of all, let me explain the two terms:

Plotter = someone who plots out their entire story before they sit down and write.

Pantser = someone who rights off the seat of their pants, no planning, no plotting, you just sit down and you write, and somehow, the story takes shape.

So which one are you?

Me? I’m a pantser. I don’t plot, and I don’t plan. Not entirely. I will however spend about 5-10 minutes thinking about the core of the story, where I’d like it to go, and then I sit, and I write. That’s how it’s always been for me. I get an idea, and I’ll stew on it, or rather, think about it maybe a couple of days, no details, just the big pictures. Then I start writing if it is something I want to write.

I’ve written two novels thus far, countless poetry, some short stories, few short scripts and a few feature scripts. All of which have been a spontaneous act. Inspiration comes, hits me in the face, and I’m like, ‘Oh, that will make a good story’ and that’s that. I never knew how to explain my writing habits to others, and I’d be feeling so guilty when people ask me how long I spent working the story out. I’d read plenty of articles on other writers and their writing habits and rituals, and most of the time they would advice me to sit down and ‘plot’. Something I’m not very good at. I know this because I sat down one time prior to writing my second novel, and I tried to work out the plot. I have to say, I absolutely hated it. Felt like I had been shackled to the writing table and been threatened. It wasn’t freeing at all, nor spontaneous, so I gave it up and went back to my ‘organic’ writing. It felt natural, it felt comfortable, and most of all, it left me free to write as I felt most effective.

I was a pantser and I hadn’t known it. It was by accident that a colleague informed me about a writer’s tour visiting the local country library and thought I should attend it. I did. And one of the ‘Wordy Women’ writers actually brought up the word ‘pantser’ and explained what she meant by it, and in that moment I had found a word to describe the kind of writer I was, and that it was completely normal. I wasn’t alone!

So I dare to ask you, what kind of a writer are you? But let me tell you one thing, whatever your style, your approach is to writing, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are doing it wrong. What is right for me may not be right to you, and what is right for you will not promise to work for me with same gusto as it did for you. Find your own individual style, your own ritual, and stick to it.

Here’s one novel I wrote as a pantser: “In Strange Company” and guess what, readers have loved it and wouldn’t be able to tell that I did not plot this one out. Why not check out a sample from kindle and decide for yourself?

And keep writing!

Poem: Chimney Boy

In the crawl space
above the ceiling
amongst boxes of old memories
lay a trinket breathing
as the night grew cooler
and the snow sprayed a aplenty
the boy lay dreaming
of warm hearths and the brewing
as he lay there hidden
where he could wipe his tears streaming
and hugged the chimney bricks
that’s where the warmth really was
the fire crackling several feet beneath.
In the crawl place
dark and dusty
no one cared what the chimney boy did
breaking stale bread stolen from window sills.
Where the night grew just a split bearable
with the warm bricks giving kindness unseen.

Poem: Forsaken

She watched a little girl play
lonely in the forsaken park
beneath the cold sky
every now and then from her balcony
she’d spy the girl swing her little feet
pushing higher and higher the swing
and she’d wonder where her people be
that every morning the girl would be
swinging like a monkey, or sliding like the sea
by herself, rustling up brown leaves
beneath small feet.

Then one morning she took her shovel
and her plastic bucket
and said let’s go mum, to the park
across the street.
Then when she arrived
tightly snuggled in layers
the little girl smiled across from her hiding place
vanishing into thin air
the swing still slightly swinging.

Poem: Mistress of time

Sometimes the pen stands ready
as though a sentinel guarding
the sacred place where you lay resting
the words mere few and ordinary
when strung, begin singing,
whispering a precious tale
the lore of love, lost and gained
through time beyond centuries,
as though within these live the soul
young and old
precariously balancing
the lore from reality.

Some moments remain
some lost, erased,
as though a mistake upon the tapestry.

Life,
what a mistress of time you be
where guarded you are by fate
the scrawling ink upon the ageing story.

You, me,
all but temporary,
just a passing story.

Writing: How to ‘create’ and stay ‘control’ so story doesn’t derail.

Think of a story as something akin to a train without a brake headed toward interchanging tracks. There are two options ahead for it. Only two!

One: it jumps onto another track without problem.
Two: it derails, and with it, takes all those passengers inside – your characters.

How to help a story without any brakes? Simple. You’re the master of that world, you lay down networks of tracks that you can switch from time to time to keep the train moving ahead safely, yet enticing, dramatic, thrilling and revealing.

What is a brake here? A brake, or a driver to be honest is obviously you as the writer. A writer who has planned out almost every detail of every scene and plot twist before you actually start to write it down. I say almost because in the process of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, there comes a moment when you are really not the one in control – the story writes itself and sometimes you discover avenues/tracks that were invisible to you prior.You drive it, but before you can, so you need to learn at least the basic skills and rules.

If you, or I, take a partially built train and try to go on a journey, we will surely fail. The scenes will be flat, the characters bland, and the twists we thought brilliant will be nothing but tiny speed bumps if at all that. It is one thing to imagine a grand picture in our minds, great individual scenes etc. but that’s our minds. It does brilliant on its own, like a dream, and since when have dreams looked or made much sense when put to the real world?

My point here is, plan your story, not just point A and point B thoroughly mapped out. The whole point of a story isn’t where it started, A, and where it ends, B. It’s actually what happens in between! Plan your in-betweens. Trust me when I say this, it will be much easier to navigate the story this way, and you’ll be surprised what other brilliant channels you will discover once the pressure is off you for mere basics.

This planning phase is crucial to all writing style, whether you write short story, novel, poem, script, play or even a speech. The journey is important. NOT point A and B. Or no matter how much you try, that story train will derail, meaning your writing and story won’t be as brilliant as your mind had pictured, and when it does derail, you may not have the strength sometimes to try and straighten it up, do some maintenance and give it a trial run.

So before you haphazardly start on a project that hasn’t gone through the proper planning phase, do go back to it and spend some extra time on it, fill it out so that it’s not just a skeleton to work with. Remember, skeletons don’t move on their own, it’s the nerves and muscles that give it power and determination. So build you inner story before you sit down to write it out into a beautiful skin. Believe me, you do this early on and it will save you a heck of a lot of time and pain later on, not to mention leave your hair intact because you won’t be pulling it out with frustration.

Plan, plan and PLAN.
Then write.

Otherwise, step away from you desk this very instant please. You will be doing yourself a favor.

And if you’ve planned and you’re ready, then go forth and enjoy the journey you planned. All the best and the rest.