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Go For a Hike

by Girija Tropp

 

For my next dystopia, I will set my world in a snowstorm’s white pages, a world inside a sewing box padded in satin where needles and sewing thread are kept. The woodpecker stamp has lost its ability to peck. Finally, an uber arrives but the toy tyres are flat.

“Wait,” Naomi says, “that was my yesterday?” The wart on her neck seems an enlarged glossier version preparing for launch in 2021. We are sitting on the balcony. The boys have got their feet on the coffee table and the ashtray is jammed with butts. While the rest of the house is, at base, gorgeously constructed, the shower is a recessed shadow on the wall, pitted cement overhead, and a bath de-enamelling, an ebullient eczema. I have not taken a shower yet—opting to washbasin myself at the sink. Skewed wooden slats on window panels let in a pleasant filtered light right up to a kitchen that could have been cosy but for utensils piled everywhere. There is a note to say Please do not do the dishes—I shall get to them in due course.

Honey asks if we like sleeping in satin sheets, and the boys say that my writing is much like me. I determine not to say another word so I can disengage.

Simon is eating wheatbix with milk and Gabbu is eating same-same but with milk and honey. They criticise each other’s food choices. Something about making proper decisions. For my first dystopia, I read enormous amounts on how the brain works and now I don’t trust anything yet I am compassionate towards its attempts at constructing a safe movie for me to inhabit. Look left and right before crossing the road, it says.

“Last night I ate a whole block of chocolate,” Honey says. “And I don’t even like the stuff.”

“You must like it,” says Gabbu, resident upright twenty-two-year-old. The other day, he engaged me in a long philosophical discussion about honesty. He is going to be a farmer because plants do not lie.

In my next dystopia, I was going to make Honey into my heroine but the plan may be derailed by dark places; the made-up father uncomfortably reminiscent of a brother-in-law despite suitable ageing. I have made her want sex with this man and after I finished my work, I felt repulsed by her impulse.

The brain likes patterns because it starts off inaccurate before searching for the veracious detail. Look, you like living in two homes and you are managing the rent and you are opening the doors to other people–you are being flexible because that is your vehicle. Rigidity is in danger of being cut off at the trunk.

Well, I reply, there is the matter of flat tires.

Too many patterns and the brain becomes lethargic and unable to discern right from wrong. I imagine that is first cause in the matter of Honey and the chocolate episode. Buddha wisely counselled a middle path but who was he counselling? My brain or me?

The morning is about to end and we move our limbs. When I take my empty cup to the kitchen, Honey deploys to the living room floor where she lies on her belly to roll another joint. She remarks on the organic matter visible between red woollen fibres—a carpet gifted by a friend, traffic-jam in red to match her curly auburn locks.

Now that I know how my mind works, the scenery is difficult. Fridge magnets. Cinnamon speckle on door handle. Betrayed soft plastic. Stale coffee grounds. Fraying silver scourer. The nine am to five pm whine of a carpenter’s saw must mean business as usual. The cemetery opposite—how old are its inhabitants? Traffic on Bell street may not travel to the airport. Soon. If you told me everything falls off the edge of the horizon, I would have to believe because it is the truth.

 

Girija Tropp is an Australian writer who has been published locally and internationally as well as winning writing prizes. Currently finishing a Chinese Medicine Practitioner qualification, writing has become her substitute for Prozac. She is grateful for the hard-working editors who discovered her — first at Agni over a decade ago, all the way through to New World Writing and now in the Journal of Compressed Arts

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Go For a Hike”?

At the time I wrote this piece, I was re-inventing myself; I was experiencing the strange feeling that being in my sixties has a strange similarity to my twenty-year old self; I had moved for the third time in the pandemic year but it was a partial move since I was catching up on intensives for my Chinese Medicine Clinical trimesters that had closed during the lockdown; I was determined not to be by myself if there was to be another lockdown; and I had told myself that I was going to learn how to be flexible; how to create my life moment by moment. Or die trying (metaphorically?).

I wrote it for my online writing community, Hot Pants, on FFC’s Zoetrope Online. Something I had been doing with writers I’ve known for over a decade. It seems to be the one place to which I have a devoted commitment. For the final version, I checked with my housemates about the submission of the story… and warned them that I had been very creative with some conversations I had, and that even though there were five of us in the house, none of them were in any way the people of the story, and that the characters could be seen as containers or projections of my mind. I was also digging around for my next novel—without being attached to the outcome or the process or my own fixations on theme.

News

Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

Matter Press is now offering private flash fiction workshops and critiques of flash fiction collections here.

Submissions

Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now CLOSED. The next reading period for standard submissions opens March 15, 2021. Topical Thursdays’ submissions are open year-round. Submit here.

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