Over the years, Douglas Gellatly has written other stories besides his novels.
One category is the Clunes Agricultural Show's Fifty Word short story ... exactly fifty words.
Another two stories were written for the Clunes Words In Winter Festival – which happens in August of each year. In 2010 and 2011 his stories were published in books produced at the time. Those stories will be included be here soon, along with the fifty word stories.
In yet another category, Douglas is working on a 5000 word short story for entry into an Australian short story competition.
Please come back soon for these stories.
The second Fifty-word Short Story, a ghost story ...
Another prize-winning fifty-word short story that I put into the Clunes Agricultural Show was one that I titled 'Regina', which was inspired by another personal experience.
In my funeral directing days in Melbourne I went to a nursing home to speak with its Director of Nursing. She was a middle-aged woman of eastern European heritage.
During our discussion she mentioned a recent time when she had taken leave to go and visit her family in her home land.
Just before leaving on that trip she had considered her patients and one in particular was an old woman who had gone into the foetal position many months earlier and was totally dependant on nursing care. The DON expected that this patient would not be there when she came back from her leave.
However, the old lady was still alive when the DON returned.
About a week later, she told me, she was on night duty and sitting at her desk a bit after 11:00 pm. She thought she heard a noise and looked up to see an apparition of the same old woman standing perfectly erect in her office doorway.
She realised straight away what had happened.
Words in Winter
For some years now, during the month of August, in the Hepburn Shire's towns and hamlets a festival of Words in Winter is held. It involves words in all their formats – poetry, song, prose and more – and importantly, people expressing their talents.
In the year 2010 in the township of Clunes the Words in Winter committee put together a 190-page book of various writings all done by locals, old and young and every age in between.
It is titled Fields of Gold – Collected Words.
My contribution to that collection tells of the arrival of two emus to our property and their behaviour.
Doris and Atticus
The situation was grim for the two emus; they either had to go somewhere else, or each would receive a bullet. Their serious plight was carried by bush telegraph to Clunes, and the decision to accommodate them somewhere else was made.
So it was that Doris and Atticus were relocated to Quince Farm, a small Clunes farm. In their first week there Atticus, being the smaller of the two, escaped twice. Better boundary fencing was soon installed.
The Emu pair had free range of eight acres, which included the house garden and orchard, but not the fenced vegetable garden. They settled in a few days, and would come right up to the house for extra food, which was readily handed out to them.
The first breach of trust came when the giant avian pair began eating the flowers in the garden. Starting with the nasturtiums, they then selected irises, roses and some other flowers, but not every other flower. Some plants, however, had to be given extra protection.
In spring the fruit trees came into flower, and the blossoms were generally left alone. Then small fruit formed. Wonderful! Doris and Atticus surely felt that every piece of this young fruit was for them, and them alone. Quinces, plums, apricots, cherries, pears, apples, peaches all suffered from the emus’ attack, and the immature fruit was stripped up to the height of an emu’s reach, about two metres. With their big, brown eyes, Doris and Atticus searched every tree for fruit.
Their next spree was just too much though. Having eaten garden flowers, and then all reachable young fruit, Doris and Atticus began eating the leaves of the fruit trees!
Trees that had already lost their fruit were now being stripped of their leaves. Tree by tree the big birds moved across the orchard, tore off and swallowed all the leaves that they could reach. Orchard salad is served, Sir and Madam! The orchard and the house garden were now under general emu demolition.
Words like, “You destructive bastards” were heard, and enough really became enough. Additional fencing was required, and in a matter of a week a new fence was in place.
Now came the time to lure Doris and Atticus into their new area. Easy. Cut up an apple, drop it piece by piece in front of the emus, and work toward and through the gate. Gotcha!
The emus are now satisfactorily confined to their own area. They also have a water hole that they submerge themselves into on hot days. At feed time, from wherever they are, their heads go down, and they run, feathers flopping up and down as they race toward their food. Forget table manners; all that is on offer is gulped down as rapidly as possible.
Doris and Atticus now have their own home territory, and the orchard leaves have returned. It will be a light fruit harvest this year, but that’s life. There will be further harvests, and the emus can stay at Quince Farm.
Fifty-word Short Stories...
Every year the Clunes Agricultural Show has a competition for Short Stories of exactly fifty words. The challenge that this presents is quite amazing.
My first attempt at this competition was in 2009. The background to the story came from a personal experience.
I had gone to my brother's Wimmera farm equiped with my chain saw and intending to cut some fire wood for our heater. But I needed to fill my fuel can.
I took the plastic fuel can to the two-thousand litre above-ground petrol tank on the farm, set the container on the ground and started hand-pumping petrol.
Not wanting to overflow the container I stopped pumping and reached down to grasp the metal funnel into the container so that I could guage the level of petrol in it.
As I reached for the funnel I heard the click of a static electricity spark going from my finger tip to the funnel.
There was an instant eruption of fire, petrol fire.
Fearing that the entire two-thousand litres would explode, my first thought was to remove my vehicle from the other end of the tank, which I did.
By the time I returned the flames had crept up the delivery hose like a wick alight and I started yelling 'Fire! Fire!' as I watched the flames also encroaching on two bales of hay, leaves and twigs under the shadowing tree, and indeed up the bark of the tree.
My sister-in-law heard my calls from the house not far away, came running with a fire extinguisher and handed it to me. I grabbed it, pressed the trigger and aimed the fire extinguishing chemicals. The fire was instantly stopped.
The resultant first-prize-winning entry in the competition was this ...
the small, faint spark
of static electricity
became a colossal personal threat.
as my fingers touched the plastic fuel can,
flames travelled the delivery hose
toward two thousand litres
of explosive petrol,
and my annihilation.
a fire extinguisher,
blew them all out.