Seven Stories

edited by Ben Walter

Seven Stories collects the winners of the National Literary Award (Fellowship of Australian Writers) for a group of writers.

The book highlights a cohort of emerging Tasmanian writers that are making significant progress nationally – writers who have won major awards, been published widely in the literary magazines, and are on the cusp of book publication.

These are the next generation of Tasmanian authors.

The book is already drawing tremendous interest for this reason, with the initial print run of 100 numbered copies on the verge of selling out well before the launch.

Fiction is included from Susie Greenhill, recent winner of the 2016 Richell Prize, Robbie Arnott, winner of the Scribe Prize for Non-fiction, Adam Ouston, winner of the Erica Bell Award for fiction, Ruairi Murphy, Michael Blake, Emma Waters and Ben Walter.

Australian writer Carmel Bird has described the collection as “seven haunting and menacing stories…whether concentrating on children with Lego, on memories of war, filming in the desert, the magic of bushland, hopeless life in Ceduna, Mawson’s frozen unread books, or the horrors of a day in a library, the narratives are both lyrical and stark.”

Seven Stories will be launched at 5.30pm on Thursday 28th April at Fullers Bookshop. It retails for $14.95.

Robbie Arnott’s The Reach ...

An invisible wire is attached to the point of my chin.

He is playing Lego on the floor beneath me, building a space shuttle, a castle, a fortress, a pirate ship, and the wire is dragging my jaw to the right at a slow, even pace.

I try to move my mouth back into shape but it resists, pushing against my palm, which suddenly feels limp and watery. We are downstairs in the rumpus room, hiding from the adults.

Now my confusion is joined by pain; my jaw has reached the physical limit of how far a jaw can go, cranking an ache into the part of my mandible that connects to the rest of my skull, and the wire is still pulling.

He is still playing Lego. I see him plugging a brick into the feet of an armour-clad minifigure, possibly a knight, or a soldier, or a ghost-warrior from another dimension – he has become interested in alternate realities lately.

The pirates are becoming demon hunters, the cowboys are interstellar voyagers and the fire fighters are Mad Max road bandits. I can’t keep track of where his mind takes him. I try to tell him about the wire, but it’s hard to talk with a yanked jaw. All I can do is gurgle and moan. He looks up, all lips and glares. I am ruining his game.

I am always ruining his games. The wire keeps pulling, dragging me to my knees, then to the ground. The world is tilted to ninety degrees, and from somewhere in the middle-distance I feel my limbs flail against his space shuttles, his castles, his fortresses and his pirate ships.

I hear him yell, anger and frustration pounding out of his little blond body – yet another smashed masterpiece, yet another broken thought – but I can’t see his face, which is the only way to tell how angry he really is. He can do just about anything with his voice – this boy will get work as a voiceover artist on movie trailers or radio ads one day – but I can always gauge the depth of his feeling by the scrunch of his forehead and the heat of his eyes.

And now I can only see a sideways version of his folded knees.

Spit rolls down my slack cheek. My neck is locked into a rigid column, yet it still manages to whack my temple against the floorboards. An inky cloud starts fuzzing behind my eyes, and I try to touch his pale hand. I reach for him – not with my arm, because that is wedged somewhere out of my control – but I reach nonetheless, although I don’t know what with.

I reach and twist and writhe through the brittle sea of plastic. And he screams out his rage, surges to his feet and leaves the room, crashing the door closed, drumming his hurt into the stairs as he rises up and away, further and faster, retreating from yet another ruined game, from the unfairness of a brother who breaks and mocks, and I am dark and still and covered in froth.