24 February 2023 Friday Fiction Fiction | A Collection of Endings Mary Pomfret HOARDING There is, apparently, a certain psychology attributed to those who collect and hoard. I am not sure if I fit the mould of a subject suffering from early deprivation or having an intense fear of intimacy, but I am a collector. I collect endings. Each one is different in its own singular way. Maybe I even orchestrate them in my life: manipulate break-ups, terminations, conclusions, finales. Such a habit might be symptomatic of a particular disorder, possibly a certain form of masochism. But no matter, I don’t wish to be cured. I never feel more alive than I do when a relationship ends. When the sweet pain hurts like pins in your eyes, when hard tears won’t come and I need to scream into the wind, but I don’t. Instead, I ruminate, analyse and examine. Oh yes, there is nothing quite like the forensics of an ending. READING Easy to pick up and put down. Like visiting an old friend, familiar, the book cheered me as I sat on the cracked leather lounge in his dark dusty loungeroom that January. I took comfort in the words that stretched over the pages like slow-marching ants. A signed picture of Morris Gibb slanted on the wall. Torn lace curtains trailed over a tattered grey roller blind. I held his hand and read the book while he slept sitting next to me on the couch in the late afternoons, game show flickering soundless on the television. He said it was good to have me there. And I had become used to his lumpy mattress and hard kisses that woke me in the night. But it seems he might have been scared all along. Times he wasn’t well. I asked him what was wrong. He said he didn’t know. Something that came and went. I would tell him everything would be alright in the end. Still one hundred and nine pages left to go, after all, and I am not a speedy reader. An old piece of wood held open the sash window; balmy afternoons came and went. But the end came sooner than we thought. And the last sentence of the last page is still there, waiting for you and me. FISHING A certain innocence has a meal of fish and chips. Innocuous, benign, unless, of course, you’re a fish. Or a vegetarian. Apparently, local gossip had it that your former girlfriend didn’t eat meat but did eat fish. What sort of moral stance is that? A fish is a breathing thing, a sentient being, unlike potatoes. Friday and fish and chips go hand in hand, a wrapped paper package, grease seeping through smelling of salt and sea, and promise. Months passed and we aspired to more sophisticated cuisine—Oysters Kilpatrick and Spaghetti Marinara. But those dishes, like us, became jaded in the end. One fateful Friday, we decided to try our old favourite again, but no amount of salt would cheer the churlish chips, nor sauce sweeten the soured fish. We sat lakeside on a wooden bench, unable to eat the slippery mess spread across our laps on butcher’s paper. Our eyes met. A magpie, knowing better than we, swooped down and stole a chip then flapped its wings and flew away. BAKING My friend gave me butter to bake the cake I made in a heart-shaped tin just for you. Chocolate dark and lush. The three fresh eggs I broke on the edge of the brown pottery basin slid and plopped one by one into a soft well: yellow yolks into caster sugar, flour and cocoa powder. Mother’s worn old hand beater cranked through smooth swirls and peaks. With a bone-handled knife I feathered velvety icing across the broken surface of my heart cake. Cracks in cakes happen sometimes. Can’t be helped. I couldn’t resist sliding my ring finger along the edge and licking the slick sweetness. When you arrived, you looked at me and told me I had a mark on my face. I watched as you wolfed down a piece of my cake. I served it to you on a gold-rimmed plate, Fireglow pattern. Whipped cream on the side. ‘Tastes good,’ you pronounced. I wiped the crumbs from your lips. TURNING The milk was on the turn. Borderline. I asked you what you thought. You frowned. It’s had its day you said. A walk would be nice, I agreed. Uphill, though. It was getting late. I wasn’t expecting a challenge at sunset. I slid backwards on the rocks, struggling to stay upright. Downhill was quicker. Reached the bottom with a shudder. You took my hand. We are lost, I said. Never fear, you replied, pulling a compass from your pocket. LOVING ‘You can die of despair you know, Mum. You can die from lack of love.’ I picked up the china cup and took a sip of tea. My mother’s blue eyes were hard. ‘You do talk rubbish. You really do. You should be grateful for your upbringing, Kate. We all did our best.’ My mother stood up and began clearing the tea things. She snatched a plate with a half-eaten scone from in front of me. ‘I have something for you.’ She disappeared through the French doors and returned with her hand clenched. ‘Here.’ She placed a tiny gold cross and chain into my palm; I had given it to her years ago. It had been mine. I stared down at the tiny icon. ‘Don’t you wear it anymore, Mum?’ ‘No. It’s yours.’ I noticed there was a knot in the chain. Time for me to leave. HOPING Cold winter was a good time to talk about the old ghosts that seemed so far and yet so close, misty like the fine rain that drizzled silent against the dusty windowpane in my kitchen. Warm spring was a good time for us to fall in love again. Hot summer came and went. It had no intention of staying. And autumn, in true Keats style, brassy and bold, offered solace while we strolled, thoughtful, still-optimistic, down rose-edged paths, crunching through burnished leaves. Inevitable winter returned. Snow banked up against my front door. Your car broke down. Roads wet and slippery. Winds howled. Too dangerous to venture out. Perhaps we’ll meet again in spring. Mary Pomfret Mary Pomfret is an honorary research fellow in Humanities and Social Sciences at La Trobe University, Bendigo, Australia. Mary has completed a creative PhD, the subject of which is intergenerational trauma. Her short stories, features, reviews and poems have been published widely in a variety of Australian and international literary magazines, newspapers, magazines and anthologies. More by Mary Pomfret Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. 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