Thread: The Writer
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Old 05-07-2018, 08:23 PM
Lingard (Offline)
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For some reason, I can't edit thje story in here (it won't let me) so I'm just going to re-write it here with proper paragraphing:

The Writer

The wind here blew a bit, too. The fullback, whose name he didn't know, kicked into the teeth of it. The ball bounced awkwardly and bobbled into touch. Cooke looked around at the crowd assembled in the new Parramatta Stadium. Big new stadium. But Cooke missed standing on the grass, and the splintered wooden seats of cumberland Oval.
His old grey eyes moved over the field. He remembered the dead jockey again. Saw him. Again. What was it this time? Perhaps it was the tiny particles of grass and dust floating in the air that made him think of the straw in the stable. The smell of it, maybe. Or the shove and grunt of the big forwards that recalled the violence of the day. At least this time it was the jockey he saw; and not his father. Or someone else.

At the end of the game he shuffled his way out of the ground. He didn't know why he came here anymore. It was like an obligation. He went home and had soup for dinner. He got into bed and listened to the radio.

A barking dog woke him. He rolled over in his bed and lay awake for half an hour. Got up. Shuffled into the kitchen and made a cup of tea. Sat at the kitchen table and stared at his cup. What the hell had he been thinking? The dead jockey again? So many years ago. His first case. But sometimes the crumpled body he saw lying in the straw was his father. And sometimes it was his detective partner, Faulkner. And sometimes it was Cooke himself. Cooke lying there covered in blood and straw. How could that be?

The appointment was ten o'clock. The community health centre in Marsden Street, opposite the police station. He sat nervously in a comfortable chair. Like sitting in a dentist's chair, he thought. He faced a young woman - thirty was young to him, now - who wore glasses and sat in her own comfortable chair. Faith, she said her name was.
"I'm not sure where to start", he said.
"Why don't you start anywhere, and we'll worry about the order of things later", she said.

Cooke felt strangely comfortable with that. He'd worried about whether he could give a coherent account of himself; his background, his current circumstances. "I suppose i could start with today", he said.
"That's as good a day as any", she said.
"I feel like I'm lost." He didn't know why he said that, but it was true.

Cooke didn't exactly wander the streets at night, but he did stroll around the block with no real purpose. Well, sometimes. Sometimes he couldn't sleep. There was a neighbour who worried, but she didn't say anything. Cooke was not the sort of man you could say much too. Not in a personal way. You couldn't get too close to him. He would deny this of course. He'd been close to his father, to Faulkner, to one or two others. Cooke was a man who didn't really know himself.
"Everything's gone", he said.
"Can you explain what you mean by that?"

He couldn't, really. But that was true, too. He didn't have a job anymore for a start. And when you've been a homicide detective for forty years, that's just about everything. "And I keep remembering things that didn't happen", he said. "No, that's not true; they did happen, but not the way I'm remembering them."
"Could you give me an example of that?" she asked.

He told her about the jockey murder. About the blood and the straw. About seeing the blood and the straw just about everywhere these days. And other people's faces. About how sometimes he was dead in the straw. He felt dead. Felt he was going mad. He was sure that this young woman would think he was mad. It was one of the reasdons he'd delayed coming here so long.
She looked at him. She cocked her head. She smiled. "Yes, we do tend to mix things up sometimes", she said. "Human beings are funny things."

Cooke was puzzled. He went to say something and stopped. He glanced out the window. He could see the police station across the road. Another reason he had delayed. He felt a cold shiver.
"I imagine you saw a lot of things in the police force", she said.
"Um ...."

He'd seen a lot of things, alright. Over and over. but now there was something in his throat that hadn't been there before. It felt like a thick wad of something.He couldn't talk.
"I think yours would make a very interesting story", she said. For the first time in over fifty years, Cooke wept like a child.
He went home and looked at himself in the mirror. "There'll be no more of that, mate", he said. "No more crying."

That night he slept a bit better. Nothing much.

The following Monday, Faith was a little more casual. Or Cooke was more relaxed. She leaned back in her chair a little, crossed her legs. She smiled at him. Like a daughter smiles at her father. Cooke never had a daughter. Never had a wife.

After a while she said, "I suppose you'd like a name for it. Most people do."
"A name for what?" said Cooke.
"For mixing things up and feeling you're going mad. For your sleepless nights and your nightmares. And sometimes you can't leave the house, and sometimes you can't stay in it for another minute. And sometimes you sit on the dege of your bed shaking. You feel scared." She paused. "And sometimes you see things that aren't there." She smiled.

Cooke stared at her. "I didn't tell you all that."
"No."
"But it's all true", he said, and looked at his hands.
"Some people call it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder", she said.
"They do?" 'Here it comes', he thought.
"Yes. Some people, some psychiatrists. And they would say that medication and counselling will help you. I wouldn't." She smiled again.

Cooke stared again. He couldn't work this girl out. "You wouldn't", he said.
"No."
"Well ...." He cleared his throat. "Um ... what would you say, then?"
"I'd probably agree with the first part, but not the second part."
"I don't understand", said Cooke.

Faith explained. "I think you have the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder", she said. "But I also think you have the symptoms of a long and productive life. I'd like to think you're strong enough not to need medication at this point. You are, aren't you?"
Cooke straightened himself. "Um ... yes, I think I am."
"Good", she said. And smiled again. He wished she'd stop doing that. No, not really.
Cooke shifted in his chair. After a time he said, "What do you think I should do, then? About this PTSD thing?"
"Have you got a word processor?" she asked.
"Um, no. I don't even ....."
"I think you should get one."

Bloody hell, why can't you just turn the damn thing on and use it? Why do they have to make things so bloody difficult? The instructions weren't even written down anymore; they were on a CD ROM. Whatever the hell that was. He sat staring at the big cardboard box, the screen, the keyboard. Over against the loungeroom wall was a printer that he'd just wrestled out of its box. Bloody not possible. Not in a million years can I work this out.

There was a number to ring. For assistance. But bugger that. Cooke sat at the kitchen table with a bottle of cold beer and the computer, and played the CD ROM over three times before he understood any of it. A loud and terible voice said, "You silly old fool, what the hell do you think you're doing?" But another, smaller, braver voice said, "Bugger that".

His story kept coming out, over the weeks. She kept smiling. He never had kids. Never been married. Only a few short, unsatisfactory 'arrangements'. Unsatisfactory, why? Cooke could never say. He thought he was a very peculiar man. Evidently Faith didn't, though. Or, at least she never said so. Which was nice of her. After one session he told her: "You'd make a damn good detective".
"Why, thank you", she smiled. "I want you to buy a cat."
"A cat?"
"A cat", she said.

He muttered to himself as he stepped onto the footpath: "A computer and a bloody cat". But he was grinning.

She was telling him to write it down. She said she knew a bit about writing and could see that Cooke would be a good writer. How the hell could she know that? The only writing he'd ever done was police reports. Any she'd never seen any of them. She said she could tell by the way he talked. But saying things and organising them on a page were two different things. She'd agreed with that, but still thought he could do it. And he had written a bloody lot of reports.

He went to a writing class. He sat in a circle with seven others. A sheet of paper in his hand, he read out: "There are a few more birds in the trees today and the sun looks brighter. In a funny sort of way, I think I can see more clearly". He thought it sounded stupid. And it took all the guts he had left to read it out aloud. But they all liked it, the members of his class. And each time he walked up the steps of the community health centre, the souls of his shoes seemed a bit lighter. Now, that sounded really stupid. He'd just keep that to himself.

It was a cold night. The kitchen window had frosted over. Yellow light pooled over the kitchen table and spilled onto the green and white linoleum. It reflected in the black of the cold window glass.Cooke sat with a cup of tea.He wore an old dressing gown against the cold. A small radiator buzzed from the kitchen floor.

His hands hovered over the keyboard.He wasn't sure if he could do this, but Faith thought he could. He knew where he'd have to start, of course, because there wasn't any other place to start. He began to type: 'There was blood soaked into the straw on the floor of the stable. And the crumpled body of Peter Sullivan was lifeless in the straw. Outside the wind blew, and .......'

He absently stroked the kitten in his lap. His face, if anyone had been watching, would have shown something of what he was feeling right now. His mouth had formed a vague smile and his eyes were gleaming.

THE END

Last edited by Lingard; 05-08-2018 at 10:54 PM.. Reason: Paragraphing issues.
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