My writer's group has been at it again. We have written three stories for your enjoyment. You cannot take the subject of murder lightly, though creepy and dark. However, I hope you can have moments of laughter during the reading of our characters' confessions.
I love running writing workshops that extend our skills. However, this past week or so, I've had Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS flare. I was feeling so exhausted and could barely walk. So, I asked if my lovely friend Ester could run the group on Saturday instead. She said yes and immediately came up with a murder mystery activity.
We were given pictures for the following categories: The Hapless Victim, Evil Accomplice, Pieces of Evidence, Scene of the Crime, The Murder Weapon, and Found in Someone's Pocket. We were to reach into each envelope and take out a photo, and then write a confession to a murder.
*Please note, the following are works of fiction.
The prompts I had were:
Accomplice: Indian contortionist
Evidence: Photo from CCTV
Scene of the Crime: Empty room
Murder Weapon: Poison
In Pocket: Ticket from a parking garage
Here’s my story:
27 August 2008
Today I want to share with you my recipe for the perfect winter comfort beef stew. This is a recipe that my mother used to make and it was always a hit at our church pot luck dinners.
The beauty of this meal is that you can keep it on the stove and keep adding to it, so you’ll never run out of stew. Or you can freeze it in meal size portions to use at a later date or give it to someone in need.
Growing up, we always had a supply of Winter Comfort Beef Stew in the freezer as mum would have them ready for family and friends who came down with the winter flu, or who had fallen on hard times.
This supply was especially useful in the winter of 1993. I had just discovered that my brother was being abused by our local pastor. He was a slimy individual, yet no one believed my brother when he reported the abuse. Pastor Frank always talked his way out of any allegations and had a gift of turning things around to make everyone think the kid was making it all up.
Pastor Frank would drive my brother out to the local paid car park, and park in quiet corner, do what he came to do, then drop my brother home again. Even the discovery of the parking ticket in his pocket didn’t change people’s minds that Pastor Frank was anything less than a good, upstanding citizen.
I digress. In the winter of 1993, Pastor Frank came down with pneumonia. My mother had her supply of frozen stew, so I saw my chance. I offered to take a meal to Pastor Frank and my best friend, Arjun, came with me.
We went to his home with the meal mum had already heated, and a packet of Rat Sac at the ready. As always, we waved to the CCTV camera Pastor Frank had at the door. We were just another of a long stream of visitors while he was unwell.
We served him stew laced with Rat Sac, and chatted to him while he ate. When he was done, we washed the dishes and said good bye.
The Rat Sac must have done its job as we heard the next day that Pastor Frank was dead. He had been found in the spare room by Mrs Maguire, the parish secretary, and it was reported that he had been poisoned.
My brother was spared further abuse at the hands of Pastor Frank, and so were any other number of young boys. I have no regrets and have never been caught.
Now, here is the recipe for my mum’s Winter Comfort Beef Stew.
I got the idea for the format for this confession from various Facebook writing groups where they talk about confessions being included in food blogs as no one reads the story before the recipe!
* This blog post originally appeared on Melissa's website here.
These were my prompts:
1) Evil accomplice: A guy dressed as Ronald McDonald being arrested.
2) The hapless victim: Weird, sleazy guy with a ‘Who’s Your Daddy?’ necklace.
3) Found in someone’s pocket: A $12 docket from the drycleaners for a coat.
4) Pieces of evidence: Photo of a burning car in a paddock with five boys with coats and masks on standing in front of it holding hands.
5) The murder weapon: A blue ring octopus.
6) Scene of the crime: a dingy motel.
Here's my story.
Macca’s Deathbed Murder Confession
Yeah! Hi. My name is Macca. Well, that’s my nickname ‘cause my last name’s McDonald. Can’t really tell ya my first name ‘cause I forgots it. ‘Cause stuff happened, and the psych reckons it’s because I went through some sorta trauma as a kid. But, she’s wrong. They all be wrong.
How do I know? ‘Cause my Think Melon be bringing stuff back. Memories, as I lay here dying, they be coming back. Like them puzzle pieces which get lost underneath the couch for the longest of times and then some decides to move the couch and pick up them puzzle pieces. But, at the moment, they be like a pile of memories. No order. No real substance. Blurred by bits of dust and time. Maybe talking it out will help slot it all into place. So, I guess I should start at the beginning.
I grew up in a small country town. One supermarket. One doctor. And one dingy hotel. We had to catch a bus to go to a school in the next town. Though, once, we did have a school. It burnt down and no one built it again. Haha. Some reason I always laughed about that.
I lived with my crazy uncle Ronald. He had wild red hair and worked at a crappy restaurant downtown. He let me do whatever I wanted. My mates would always hang out at my house. We liked to get dressed up in weird masks and go burn stuff. My uncle didn’t mind. Look. He even took a picture of me and my mates burning some idiot’s car.
Oh! I remember. It wasn’t just some random’s car. It was some sleazebag’s car. And that guys name was… Oh. Ooo. His name was Bryce... Bryce Rickford. He always wore an unbuttoned jacket with the shirt hanging open to show his chest. Weedy guy he was. And he wore this big thick chain around his neck with a ‘Who’s Your Daddy’ pendent.
For some reason, Uncle Ronald really didn’t like Bryce. Bryce lived at the motel. He’d lived there for ages. Then one night Uncle Ronald asked me and my mates if me wanted to get dressed up and go for a drive to burn something. We did. We burned the sleaze bags car.
By the sounds of things, that sleazebag Bryce had come into the restaurant and had been horrible to just about everyone, and no one did nothin’. And he did it a bunch of times. Uncle Ronald had had enough. He kept sayin’ ‘He’s going to pay for what he did.’ Don’t think burning the car would do much. I already had a better idea. But, burning the car was fun. Uncle took that photo. I even remember the smell of the burning metal and the petrol fumes and the clinking of the metal as it expanded, and the flames licking at the sky. Beautiful. And right after that photo was taken Uncle Ronald yelling at us to ‘Run!’ ‘cause we were in a field of long dry grass and the fire had started to spread. So funny.
When we got back, all of us were sworn to secrecy. We made a pact never to tell anyone about what had happened, ever. Then, when me mates had gone home, Uncle Ronald sent me to the drycleaner, to get my coat cleaned. As I left my bedroom, I made sure Bro was okay. I had a special job for him.
Oh, yeah. I forgot to tell you. Day before the car burning, I’d gone with my class to the beach. Snagged myself a blue ring octopus and popped him in a jar. Deadly little buggers they are. Just one has enough poison to kill ten adults. Called him B.R.O. Blue Ring Octopus. Get it. Haha.
The day after the car burning, I rode me bike to the Motel. Took Bro with me. Staked out the place and made sure Bryce was out. Then I convinced the receptionist I was Bryce’s nephew from the city. Told him a sob story of how I’d travelled all this way and was so tired, and could I wait for my uncle in his room. Sucker let me in. I snooped a bit. Moved the odd thing around so Bryce would come lookin’ for 'the person in his place.' Then I hid in his wardrobe. Yuk. Smelled of Old Spice and Brylcreem.
Then I heard the door open, and Bryce chuck the keys on the table. And then he swore. I could hear him stomping around the place, cursing and swearing. My heart was pounding. I was smiling. The time was near. The bedroom door squeaked open.
‘Come out. Come out, wherever you are, my little 'nephew'.’
Man. You could even hear the air quotation marks.
I slowed my breathing. Screwed of the lid of the jar. I got ready. Bryce flung opened the wardrobe doors. I yelled, ‘Time’s up!’ and flung the salt water and Bro right in that sleaze bags face. You should’ve seen the look on his face as he fell back on his bed. Then the wailing started.
Last I saw of Bryce Rickford he was screaming in agony. Goodbye, Bro! You did well.
Then I left and played with my friends at the park. It was fun.
Ester de Boer
Here are my prompts:
Here's my story:
3rd of January 1981 in the Big Banana Caravan park in Yorkeys Knob.
I began, during a period of convalescence following a serious crochet injury, to write letters to prisoners. I came across this site online that asked people to write to felons serving long term sentences in prison in the US. Perhaps I was drawn to the sense of danger – that is, communicating so intimately with dangerous criminals while at a safe distance. There are certain subjects you’re not allowed to talk about, and it is strongly advised that you use a false name and PO box, for obvious reasons.
One man drew me in more than the others- Albert Fruit. I call him Bertie. It wasn’t romantic at first, but there was something tortured and soulful in the poetry he sent me, the simple, childlike drawings of life behind bars… He told me how he’d been framed by his employer, a rich bitch named Marcie Crump. Crump lived in an opulent inner-city penthouse inherited from her late father, the sock baron, Marmaduke Crump. Bertie worked the machines at one of her family’s huge sock warehouses in Seattle and then after hours doing odd jobs at her penthouse. She lived surrounded by cats and the penthouse was crammed to the ceiling with junk she hoarded and smelt like cat piss.
That was 1978, the year of the terrible exploding socks incidents- you may have heard of it. Fifty innocent people were left footless after her socks suddenly exploded on their feet (a result of the chemical compound used to create their new anti-odour fibre being activated through friction- in gym socks!) and she and her fancy lawyers plotted to blame Bertie. They claimed that he’d doused the socks with radioactive explosive foot deodorant bought from roadside vendors in Turkmenistan. Bertie’s never even been to Turkmenistan! But poor Bertie was representing himself against a team of the best lawyers money could buy, and, well… He’s not very smart, my Bertie.
Anyway, through our letters we got closer and closer until he proposed to me. I didn’t hesitate. I know people won’t understand, but love has no barriers, not distance, not bars- so I bought an airfare to the US, and we married at the high security prison with the guards as witnesses. I returned to Australia, empty and lovesick, but my Bertie had a stroke of luck. Some bunch of do-gooders that do theatre therapy with prisoners visited his block. They did this crazy play about the importance of keeping up good eating habits while behind bars, with each dressed up as a different type of food, dancing about on stage. Bertie, who has always had a streak of the thespian in him, asked one of the actors if he could have a go in his banana suit. He said the moment he donned that suit, he felt a sense of freedom he’d never felt- he frolicked, twirled and danced, to the delight of the other inmates. He’s got a natural charisma, my Bertie.
The escape was actually accidental. The real banana man suffered a concussion backstage (slipped on an actual banana skin, would you believe!) and was knocked cold. Nobody saw, though, but my Bertie, and he wandered out to get help, only to be gathered up with the theatre therapists and ushered out one set of doors, then another, then another… Well, Bertie just kept his head down, and shuffled along and out to freedom! With the help of some contacts he’d made on the inside, Bertie got a fake passport and borrowed money to travel to Australia. We met up in Yorkey’s knob near Cairns, and, under a new identity, my darling Bertie got a job as the face of the Big Banana Caravan Park, entertaining the children. The kids just loved him!
For a while things went brilliantly, then one day we went out for drinks (hobnobbing it up!) at a posh resort at Port Douglas, and who should be sipping cocktails in the lounge but that rich bitch Marcie Crump- wearing a fur, even in the middle of summer, and with her cats, poor little things, all shackled strapped down in a plush velvet pram she pushed around. (Bertie hates people who wear fur, even in cold weather. He’s a real animal lover- that’s one of the things I love about him so much). She looked right at us- right at my Bertie- and an evil smirk stretched across her mutton-done-up-as-lamb over-painted face. I was the one who decided what we needed to do…she would talk for certain.
Bertie, though, wanted to try a softer approach. Back when he used to work for her in her penthouse, he overheard a lot of conversations between her and the stakeholders of the company- dodgy things- illegal things. His idea was just to blackmail her- send her an anonymous letter to her hotel room. Unfortunately, He wrote a return address on the back. (He’s not the smartest, my Bertie). She wrote back and let us know that, apparently, using hair dye on your cats’ fur and sneaking champagne bottles into the neighbour’s wheelie bins do not count as a strong basis for effective blackmail. Bertie was despondent- he couldn’t go back behind bars, so he decided to follow my plan.
She was going back to Seattle in a week’s time, so we had to move fast. Marcie, apparently, loved health spas. I dressed up as a glamourous cosmetician and knocked on her hotel room door, announcing with excitement that she had won a weekend at the most expensive health spa in Australia- the Pig Pen. Although skeptical, she was finally won over when I told her that the free offer was not made to the common public, but only to a very exclusive clientele. I also assured her that all the products used were tested rigorously on as many helpless, endangered animals as possible. She was sold.
The address of the spa was a pig farm just down the road from the caravan park. We arrived in advance on foot through the bush so we wouldn’t be seen driving there and back. She was confused when she arrived with her pram full of cats- no upmarket salon or army of staff waiting to fuss on her. From behind the barn leapt Bertie- heroic and fearsome! What a man! “You evil, cat-tormenting liar!” he cried and before she could reply or defend herself, he stuffed the banana costume over her head and tossed her into the pig pen, where the pigs (raised solely on a diet a ripe, tropical bananas) swarmed over her, turning her quickly to a gruesome fruit salad. We quickly unshackled her poor moggies from the pram and used an old bicycle in the shed to ride back to the caravan park, beaming all the way.
There was just one hitch. As she struggled to free herself from the banana costume, out of the pocket of her fur coat fell a piece of paper. It was a return ticked to the US. Bertie took it thinking how nice it would be for us to celebrate with a little holiday. Unfortunately, that was the final bit of evidence that got us caught.
He’s not that smart, my Bertie.
Thanks for reading our stories. I hope you enjoyed them. If you'd like to read more, in the Search bar, type in 'stories.'
Melissa Gijsbers also runs Junior Writer's Club for young writers. Coming up she will be holding a virtual, and an age appropriate, version of Confessions of a murder. Please feel free to contact her is you have children who may be interested.
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Today, I welcome Allison to the blog. I love reading historical fiction, and I have even got an idea for one myself. So, it was fascinating to have the opportunity to interview Allison about her non-fiction historical books, as well as her faction piece, Follow After Me.
How much of your earlier research for your non-fiction books went into Follow After Me?
An immeasurable amount! I developed an extensive knowledge of the Australian experience of WWI during the creation of my adult title Anzac Sons: the Story of Five Brothers in the War to End All Wars (Big Sky Publishing, 2014). That research enabled me to capture the authenticity of time and accuracy of historical events. Spending time on the Western Front also developed the capacity to address the sensory experience to create the WWI setting. In the creation of Anzac Sons there were moments of serendipity that could not be included in a work of factual content. Follow After Me has allowed me to tell some of those stories, the moments with no explanation, of which, in fiction, I had the freedom to bend and conform to the narrative.
Did Follow After Me require further research?
Follow After Me is told in parallel narratives of today and a century before. It includes the experience of an indigenous soldier and the impact the war had on him and his descendants. There was more research that needed to be done to ensure I accurately represented the experience. Further research was necessary to capture the elements I needed for Lizzie who is growing up on a farm in time of drought and dealing with the coming-of-age issues of today. While I grew up on a farm and I’m very aware of the effects of drought, to capture the young adult voice I did a lot of eavesdropping on my own children. The opportunity to research and write at the Australian War Memorial, courtesy of a May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust Fellowship, made a significant contribution to the writing of Follow After Me.
On your website, you say, ‘My interest in the service of my ancestors began when I was studying to become a teacher.’ Can you explain what, ‘the service of my ancestors’ means and why it is important?
The historical story within Follow After Me is based on the tragic World War One experiences of my ancestors, the Marlow family. Honouring their service to Australia became a slight obsession. I wanted to share their story. Of six brothers, five went to war, only two made it home. The Anzac characters in Follow After Me are based on each of the brothers and have been developed as accurately as possible using a collection of over 500 letters and postcards which the men sent to home from the Western Front. Some of the correspondence in Follow After Me uses the actual letters of my ancestors but with additions or modifications to move the narrative forward.
What tips do you have for researching and writing faction (fiction with historical elements)?
How important is it to share Australian historical stories?
I firmly believe that we cannot understand who we are today and develop a strong sense of identity without understanding the past – it helps develop empathy for all and an appreciation and conviction for the values that Australians hold dear. Keep sharing Australian stories and reinforce our unique sentiment and characteristics!
In the lives of the two protagonists, Evie and Lizzie, there must’ve been times when they felt afraid. What are some of the ways they faced their fear and found courage?
That’s a tricky question – I might give away the plot! Perhaps I can say that being prepared to listen to their instinct and follow the values they know are right, were the key factors that helped Evie and Lizzie to face their fears. It has a lot to do with those that came before and the courage they showed in the face of great danger and adversity!
How have you dealt with fear in your own life?
I try turning fear into my friend, I listen to it, acknowledge it and, like Lizzie, think of the courage my ancestors displayed. If they can do it, so can I. Perhaps I don’t always conquer fear, but I do my best to give it a go and not be overwhelmed by it.
Three fun facts about Allison:
My Favourite Books: Belinda – Pamela Allen (closely followed by my books, of course)
Pets: I once had a dog and three cats – now I have a native blue-banded bee who visits the herb garden outside my study window (actually, my bee is the second one I have had, the first one sadly left me). She is beautiful and has a very loud buzz!
You as a Child: I grew up on a farm surrounded by dogs, cats, chooks, cows and sheep. I wish I was still growing up on the farm! I read a lot, played netball and tennis and rode the motorbike. I did lots of jobs like helping at shearing time, looking after the vegetable garden and picking fruit, but wasn’t always trusted to gather the eggs … I was a bit clumsy …
Two women live a century apart but are mysteriously connected.
'Follow After Me' is a unique blend of contemporary fiction and historical detail. It is a beautiful story of war, love and coming-of-age that will appeal to both male and female readers from age 14 and up and cross-over to adult readership.
Allison is the author of the 2016 ABIA and CBCA notable title 'Anzac Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front', the children’s version of the adult title 'Anzac Sons'. Her children’s picture books 'Granny’s Place' and 'Shearing Time' are inspired by childhood memories of life on the farm. 'Australia Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials' was published in 2018 and is the first in a series.
More information about Allison and her books can be found at her website: www.allisonmarlowpaterson.com.
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