Pen

The Best of Times Short Story Competition


Spring 2014 Results




Choose Your Own Adventure

Copyright © Darcy-Lee Tindale 2014


Recently I discovered the delightful aroma of Chai latte with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a squeeze of honey, so when a friend offered me Tao Te, you can imagine my disappointment when it wasn’t delivered in a regular size cup, but in the form of a book. Damn — you have no idea how much I hate self improvement. I don’t want to pursue happiness. I am extremely content with being disgruntled. After a few toilet reads, I noticed I was still using the roll and not the book. Perhaps I liked the idea of living the great mystery. Then in that small, uninspiring room, I had an epiphany. I made a decision, for an entire day, I would live by the Tao. I would ‘… live in a state of radical appreciation … ’

To partake in this adventure, read NEXT. If you are cynical about the day’s outcome then go straight to The NUMPTE Café and enjoy a Chai latte and all its delicious calories.

NEXT

… thing you know it’s Monday 7:42am, and you have only eighteen minutes to catch the bus to work and you still haven’t had breakfast. You scoff down a bowl of apple-crunch-muesli over the kitchen sink (clever! as all the milk slops end up in the sink and not down the front of your shirt — you ‘radically’ appreciate your brilliance). No need to wash up, as you stack your bowl and spoon into the dishwasher. You stop to ‘radically’ appreciate the convenience and timesaving brilliance of a dishwasher. Then it’s a quick trip to the loo, before putting on your lippy to catch the bus. On returning from the toilet you re-enter the kitchen to grab your handbag, where you smash your shin on the open dishwasher door. You limp to the fridge and scramble for an ice pack. As you search under stacks of old Lean Cuisines, you realize you don’t own one and then ‘radically’ appreciate the six-month-out-of-date-uneaten-vegetable-mix that’s still in the back of the freezer by the empty ice trays. You choose not to let loose with blasphemy, instead you look at the optimistic outcome of the incident — a letter to all the dishwasher manufactures to ask them to perhaps consider the idea of an outward opening dishwasher door, similar to the kitchen cupboards (inspiring, because that function seems to work — no shins are at risk). You pledge to pen your letter once the pain ceases. As you breathe out the agony, you burst a blood vessel and give yourself a nosebleed. Now you need to either iron a fresh shirt for work and risk missing the bus, or grab whatever you’ve got hanging in your wardrobe. You pause to ‘radically’ appreciate the convenient and timesaving dishwasher devise — which has somehow cost you more time.

To iron a fresh shirt, read STEAMING. Or, if you’re happy to choose the next best thing in your wardrobe, choose IT’S A FASHION STATEMENT!

STEAMING

Curse these new fang-dangle irons. They take forever to heat up, but instantly turn themselves off if you don’t use them (saving a potential fire). Problem is, it took so long to heat up, that you left the laundry to make a cupper, which delayed you ironing and switched the iron back off. You praise yourself for not using foul language. By the time you shake the iron, it re-heats, you iron your shirt you’ve missed your bus. You embrace this moment to ‘radically’ appreciate the opportunity to experience a different mode of transport to commute to work.

To go to work via car, read AUTOMOBILE. To travel by train, read LOCOMOTIVE.

IT’S CALLED A FASHION STATEMENT

You race up the stairs and dive into your walk-in-robe (it was the second bedroom — until you smashed a hole in the bedroom wall and Duct taped the second bedroom’s door shut). You select a leopard print faux fur coat (see, no ironing involved) but failed to read the weather forecast, it’s going to reach temperatures of 23 degrees. You will spend the day looking like a leopard, but smelling like a hyena. You make a last minute dash to the bus stop only to see the tail end of the bus disappear into the distance. You are calm as you ‘radically’ appreciate the opportunity to travel to work via a different mode of transport. You sigh, ‘life is an adventure!’

To travel by train, read LOCOMOTIVE. To go to work via car, read AUTOMOBILE.

LOCOMOTIVE

On the commute via train, this gives you time to reflect the Tao. You embrace verse 14. ‘Discovering how things have always been brings me into harmony with the way’. And it is in this moment, as you use your train ticket to flick an unknown substance off the seat so you can sit down, you realize the smell of sweat in the carriage, the caked dirt in the corner of each window and the mumbling man in the middle row merges into the divine experience of train travel — you just go with it. You are surprised and pleased when you exit the carriage at your stop, the traffic flows in the right direction and as you reach the exit, you didn’t even lose your ticket. Ah, train travel …

You have a surprising enjoyable morning at work. It’s calm, productive and self-rewarding. At noon you take a break and enjoy lunch with your work colleagues, go to FANOODLED.

AUTOMOBILE

You take the freeway and pay a small mortgage deposit for the use, only to hit a maximum speed of 40ks. Once in town, the car park cost’s you half a day’s wage and the only space left has a 4x4 parked with its back wheel over the white line, clearly taking up two spaces. As you hug the wall to squeeze in, you take out your side mirror (that’s okay, you don’t need to look at yourself anyway).

To key the pricks car, read KEY. Or, to be mature and reflect on your personal growth, read The NUMPTE Café.

KEY

You exit your vehicle via the passenger side (the only way possible to exit), and as you walk between the two cars you run your flip key across the back panel of the 4x4. You feel ‘radically’ smug.

You look so crazed, that for the first half of the day at work nobody comes near you. By noon, you are almost sane. To enjoy lunch with your work colleagues, read FANOODLED. Or, to have some alone time, to reflect and re-energies, read The NUMPTE Café.

FANOODLED

In the theme of the day you choose your lunch from the noodle bar. It’s a busy food court and you ‘radically’ appreciate the change of environment and company. It’s these small pleasures in life, or little unexpected moments, like the complimentary chewing gum left under the edge of your table, that makes you feel the world is smiling back at you. As you munch down on your noodles and embrace the moment, you feel like you have a tiny Buda in your belly. Then you realise, nope, it’s the chilies and spice that has upset your stomach and you need to excuse yourself — quickly. Upon returning to your table, your meal has already been whisked away by the cleaning staff and you can’t help still feeling puckish. As you exit the mall and return to work, you purchase a custard slice and apple tart to have with your afternoon coffee. For the rest of the afternoon you repeat the following mantra — tomorrow-I’ll-eat-a-salad-tomorrow-I’ll-eat-a-salad-tomorrow-I’ll-eat-a-salad-tomorrow-I’ll-eat-a-salad — all the way until five pm. It’s knock-off time!

To have drinks after work read BAR. To go home, read HOME JAMES!

HOME JAMES!

On returning to your car in the evening you find the 4x4 has left and keyed your car in return — only twice as long; there’s a dint where the car door opened and hit yours; and the caps are missing off all your tyres.

To go nuts in the car park and have the security guards wet themselves over the brilliance of the 4x4’s touché, read OSCAR WINNING MOMENT. Or to calm down, read The NUMPTE Café.

OSCAR WINNING MOMENT

You are brilliant. Your performance is a perfect mix of Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream and Charlize Theron in Monster. Insane and dangerous! You take a bow as you hear the applause from inside the security box echo down seven floors.

BAR

The bar is dark, crowded and noisy. Within twenty minutes you have lost one of your workmates to a Brazilian slam poet in the back corner and you can no longer hear anyone’s conversations clearly over the doof-doof music. You all nod at each other and smile for the next forty-five minutes until someone suggests (by flapping their arms and gyrating their hips), that you should all dance. In which you leave your handbags with Markus the mail boy and move your body to music you have never heard before in your life. It’s thirsty work trying to miss the beat and move your body out of time. You search for the bar. At $16 a drink, you realize after three hours you are on your way to purchasing yourself an $80 hangover. Time to head home for bed. You tap your wrist where a watch should be and wave goodbye to your friends and the Brazilian poet, who has now moved on to slam someone else. You exit the pub and in the fresh air you realize your head is still thumping and wonder if you need a paracetamol or caffeine in your system.

For a Panadol, read PILL. For a Chai latte and muffin, go to The NUMPTE Café.

PILL

You scavenge around the bottom of your handbag, tossing out old shopper dockets, an un-wrapped tampon covered in lint and bubble gum, and something that could perhaps be a forgotten Chihuahua, all into the closest bin. Finally, you find a foil strip with what you hope are headache tablets. You proceed to try and swallow one without the aid of water, only to choke and collapse on the footpath. Realizing you’re in the way of busy pedestrians (silly!), you commando roll out of the way, landing in the gutter, where a bus parks on your head. You die. As you ascend to Heaven, you ‘radically’ appreciate that at least you won’t need to go to work the next morning and deal with your $80 dollar hangover.

The NUMPTE Café

It’s only when you arrive at the café, you realize NUMPTE is an acronym for Not-Upwardly-Mobile-Plummeting-Towards-Earth and surprisingly, you realise you are exactly where you should be. The latte tastes great. Everyone looks frazzled, dejected and disillusioned with life. These are your people. People who have abandoned their visions of grandeur and accepted the reality of their limited talent; income; superannuation; or potential to copulate. There is no self help to be seen and the only Te here is spelt t-e-a! The café is warm, the seats comfy, you feel right at home!

END