“Agoraclaustrophobia” is the second story in my upcoming short story collection:
“She Wears Hot Pink Jeans (with a boomerang on the pocket) Anticipated date of publication Fall 2014
As promised, I am sending you a story a month from the upcoming short story collection.
The story for this month was originally published in “The Feathered Flounder” in 2012
Your comments and critiques are certainly welcome. Please share on your Facebook or Twitter if you like the story, or even if you don’t. Share it with comments either way.
I am hosting a flash fiction competition soon. Keep your eyes open. No entry fee. $25.00 payout for the winner. You have nothing to lose to enter…
by Kaye Linden
a flash fiction
The last time I visited my father, we drove to Thousand Acre Sheep Station, dead center Northern Territory, an endless expanse of red soil and gum trees, fenceless and defenseless from hungry dingoes and buzzards. The open jeep bumped and shook its way through scrubby mulgas, around sinkholes and over the occasional dead wallaby. I leaned back and studied the blue sky with its wispy white clouds.
“Some people get claustrophobic out here,” my father said.
“In millions of acres of open land?”
“Lack of familiar things,” he said. “No cafes or buildings to hold you up in ‘The
“You mean people get agoraphobic,” I said.
“Both. Think about it. Anything could happen out here. The mind expands because there’s so much room to go—caves with ghosts, behind rocks, sinkholes. Look how many places there are out here to bury a body. Who would know if you went missing? Who would ever find you? ”
I wiped damp palms across my shorts, put on sunglasses and swigged a beer. Some years ago, my cousin disappeared out here when her bus stopped for a water break.
“A sunny day,” they said. “Just like any other day.” She wandered off and never came back from “out there” where it’s easy to melt into a chimera, to get lost, lose the trail, meander along the western track instead of the eastern track, sink into the never-never land with its spirits, its unanswered cries from lost children, its whitewashed human bones, its half-decayed cattle with jaws wide open in a scream. Sun seared into my temples, burning my arms and thighs. Sweat fell in drip, drip, drips, down the front of my sheer cotton blouse, like tears for a life cut short. The sun drifted down the horizon.
“Put up the windows, Dad.”
He laughed. “Hearing voices?”
I nodded. The engine putt-putt-putted.
“Better brace yourself, Girlie. We have bigger problems than voices,” he said banging a fist on the dashboard. My father jumped out of the jeep and opened the hood over the steaming, hissing engine. He climbed under the car and around the car, flitting like the shadow of a poltergeist. “Idiot in Alice Springs didn’t see the leak,” he said.
“There’s a bloody hole in the radiator hose.” My father searched under the seats and around. “Damn it. No tape. You have any chewing gum?”
I shook my head. “Sorry.”
My father pointed to the sky. “Get into the jeep. It’s getting dark. I need gum tree sap to plug up the hole.” He grabbed a flashlight. “Back in a jiffy. Sit tight.”
Then he was gone. Night bore down like a gigantic ancestral hand. Time passed.
“Dad?” The great emptiness shrouded my body like dirt around a tomb. “Dad?
Where are you?” Whispers whispered down the hot wind. Hours passed. My fingers grabbed the heated metal of the door handle and I crawled out of the car. Bile rose up my throat, sand shifted beneath my feet and images of my father flashed across my vision—my father lost, inside a cave, in a sinkhole, kidnapped, shredded by dingoes, searching for the way back. Had we missed the signs of sacred land never-never to be crossed?
A sienna haze streaked across the dawn sky and I pulled a heavy blanket around my shoulders, imagining my father’s jaws wide open in a dying scream, drowned or murdered.
A shadow fell across the windshield of the jeep, a crow’s wings perhaps. My father’s face, drawn and pale, appeared at the window. I sucked in a gasp of surprise.
“Bloody long night,” he said. “It took hours to find a gum tree out there in the dark and when I did, I fell asleep on the ground. Hope you didn’t worry too much,” he said.
“No,” I said. “No problem. I fell asleep too.” I bit the inside of my lip.
My father plugged the hole in the radiator hose and we bumped and rocked our way once more towards Thousand Acre Sheep Station, dead center Northern Territory.
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I welcome your critiques and questions on short story craft and structure.