The Best of Times Short Story Competition

Spring\Summer 2006 Results

A Postmodern Tragedy

Copyright © Fiona Murray 2006

Kate walked up the driveway of her quaint suburban rental accommodation, thinking to herself how beautiful the frangipanis looked at that time of year. The sun was falling, and a soft peace descended on the street until it was shattered entirely by the sight of Jarred gruesomely stabbing a scrub turkey to death on the front steps.

“Fuck, Jarred, how many times do I have to tell you those fucking turkeys are protected, and can you please stop leaving entrails and blood on the front steps. You’re so not cool!”

Jarred, her housemate, apologised under his breath and continued extinguishing the life from the native bird. Despite being entirely well fed due to government benefits, Jarred always had an uncanny look in his eye, as though he had been lost in the jungle for at least eight days. It was highly likely that this look was the result of hours of intensive practice in front of the mirror. There was ongoing debate as to whether the twitch in his right eye was natural or manufactured as part of his image. Jarred wanted to be a mountaineer, and spent most of his curiously abundant time engaging in training for expeditions. Unfortunately his plans were usually hindered by the fact that there were no mountains in the vicinity, he had a disorder which gave him bad coordination, and he was in fact a full time commerce student.

Kate stepped over the bird carcass and went straight to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. She made a pot of organic Russian caravan tea and sat down to finish the novel she was reading for her English literature course. The book entranced her with its enigmatic main character – a beautiful yet doomed heroine, misunderstood and mistreated by the world, yet ultimately, a figure of immense beauty. Kate couldn’t help but shed a tear as she read the final lines of the novel, and placed the book gently on the table, sipped the last of her tea and wiped the tears from her face. She sighed deeply, and paused for a moment, feeling an intense connection with the author and reflecting sadly that she understood his vision of tragic beauty, that she too could relate to the main character.

Feeling more misunderstood and beautiful than ever, she stood at the sink and washed up her cup, and shed a few more tears for the novel. She quickly wiped them away as Jarred entered the kitchen and started making a small fire in a metal tin on the bench.

“Fuck, Jarred – I’m having an intense moment here. And how many times do I have to tell you that we have a fucking kettle. We use it to boil water.”

“Yeah, well, do you think they have kettles on Mt Everest. I don’t think so, Kate! What do you expect me to do then? Why are you crying?”

“Oh, nothing. It’s just, well I don’t think my boyfriend understands me. I’m so much more intense than him, and he just doesn’t see the world the way I do. He doesn’t understand what its like to feel the pain of the world the way I do.”

Jarred stared at his fire for a long time.

“Well maybe you should set him on fire or something. I don’t mean a metaphorical fire like igniting his heart with your love, I mean you should show him pain.”

“Fuck, Jarred. Commerce students don’t understand anything about the human condition.”

Kate went outside and sat under a tree, contemplating ways to make her life more tragic. Though it would mean brief suffering, she decided that by orchestrating some pain in her life she would ultimately have a more intimate understanding of the postmodern condition, know herself better and be more credible as the visionary bohemian figure she intended to become.

That evening Kate looked deep into the plays of Sophocles, the dialogues of Plato, and the diary of Kurt Cobain for inspiration, before she was terribly interrupted by Jarred breathing noisily through an oxygen tank.

“Fuck, Jarred, how many times to I have to tell you that you can breathe the air here! We’re at an appropriate altitude!”

“Yeah, but I won’t be when I’m on Kilimanjaro, will I!”

“Jarred you’re not a fucking mountaineer – you’re a boring commerce student and you are way too fat to ever go on an expedition. And if you did your crew would just eat you to survive. So go and do your study, become an accountant, raise some kids who have eye problems and be happy. Stop trying to be what you’re not.”

Jarred walked off, deliberately ripping up the carpet with his cramp-ons. Meanwhile Kate had decided that the most effective way to increase the tragic element in her life would be to end her previously pleasant relationship with Barry. She loved Barry, but she figured that if they were apart yet still in love her plight would be far more meaningful than if they were together.

Luckily for her, he was arriving that very evening to take her to watch the rugby in the pub, providing the perfect opportunity for a dramatic and heartbreaking confrontation.

So while she sat musing over the ancient Greek vision of suffering and death, Barry arrived at her front door. Jarred happened to answer the door, and quickly tied Barry into his rope using emergency rescue techniques and carefully guided him to Kate’s bedroom door.

She looked up, to see the broad shouldered and thick necked man who was indeed the object of her desire. As usual he was wearing rugby shorts so short that his scrotum tended to occasionally pop out the bottom, and the crack of his rear end was constantly visible. It was the seemingly physical-law-defying ability to wear such attire that initially attracted Kate to Barry, and his simple monosyllabic ways that sustained her admiration of the man.

“Wanna watch the game?” he said.


They walked out into the night, unbeknown to the world, or in fact Barry, that they were a doomed couple. Kate struggled to hold back tears, envisioning the poignant moment of truth that would inevitably occur that evening, when she could hold in no longer her true self of enigmatic wonder. They always took the train to the rugby, and she reflected on the heroine of her favourite novel, who, as a vast symbol of her painful existence, hurled herself under a train.

That thought was quickly lost from Kate’s mind as they entered the sports bar and grabbed a seat to watch the rugby. Barry went to the bar and returned with two jugs. He always forgot the glasses, and they ended up each drinking straight from the jug.



“We can’t be together anymore. I love you too much. It’s too painful. I’m leaving.” Kate said through a thick flow of tears.

“But it’s not half time yet.”

“You don’t understand me. I’m a literature student.”


She sighed, defeated, and stood, kissed him on the cheek and left the pub. Barry turned his attention back to the game. Meanwhile, Kate decided to wander the streets aimlessly in order to ponder her existence. It would be far more suitable, she thought, if it was lightly snowing, or even rainy. As it was the city was in the midst of a heat wave and she was sweating profusely, making it hard to concentrate on her tragic plight.

Her wanderings eventually took her to a train station, where she decided to sit and think for a while. There was a bridge crossing over the lines, so she walked up the stairs and leant on the railing overlooking the tracks. She had the chance now to seal her life and be remembered as the victim that she truly was. Kate glanced around. On the platform some youths were drinking from a big bag of goon, and another group of drunk young men were singing a ‘village people’ song out of tune. A ‘Queensland Rail’ employee dressed in bright orange was slouching by the platform wall smoking and looking up at her. Maybe he thought he was beautiful. Maybe he was on drugs. She wondered if those contemplating tragic death in tsarist Russia had to put up with such obscene colours in their railway staff, and came to the conclusion that they were far luckier than her at that moment. Kate coughed profusely, and came to the realisation that she probably had contracted tuberculosis as a result of the emotional intensity of the night, and at that moment, seeing all hope disintegrate like Jared’s eyebrows when he set fire to his face, she climbed over the rail and stood on the ledge over the tracks.

At that very moment someone grabbed her and tossed her back over onto the bridge. It was Jarred.

“Fuck, Jarred, what are you doing here?”

“I’m sleeping here – see I’ve rigged my bed up over the side of this bridge in training for when I have to sleep on cliff faces. Stop trying to kill yourself. Go home.”

“But this is my destiny.”

Jarred looked her in the eye, and for a few minutes controlled his twitch to a minimum.

“Do you want to know something tragic about your life?” he asked.

“Yes,” replied Kate.

“You’re a dickhead.”


Kate looked out into the night, and meditated on her situation. Who had caused her to become a dickhead? Was it the education system? The government? She figured at least half the blame was due to the postmodern condition, and with that in mind she raised her eyes to the city lights in the distance and walked into the night as the lost and broken tragic figure that she truly was.

Jarred went on to become a mountaineer, and Kate became a teacher.