Time to start hissing

August 1, 2015 at 8:52 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

One tug of a computer cord, and a hundred stories tumble out…

My trusty old machine has, alas, sighed its last breath. Windows Vista, what will I do without you? In transferring my writing from my old computer to my new, I’ve had a night revisiting stories, both published and unpublished, shaking the dust off some, and patting the earth over the graves of others. Quite an evening!

So while I get back to work, I thought my 100th blog post might as well be this tiny tale, runner up in the Flash Fiction Bingo Contest run by Bayou Magazine, the literary journal of the University of New Orleans.

I knew my cockroach fixation would pay off eventually…

photo source: infectiouslearning.tumblr.com

photo source: infectiouslearning.tumblr.com

The Disturbance Hiss

The cockroaches were the final straw.

She could put up with him calling her Wendy. He seemed to have forgotten he asked for her number in a Wendy’s, that wasn’t her name, but she didn’t correct him. She just called him Jack. He corrected her, you better believe it, oh yes.

But when he took her to the booth between the cotton candy and the elephants and bragged he was entering the cockroach eating competition, well, that just about did it.

She was meant to squeal, and squirm, and do what girls do. But she stared, and scowled, and did what came naturally, which was to reach towards those wriggling antennae and stroke, ever so tenderly.

Her Czech granddaddy had given her a taste for juniper brandy and Kafka stories, and she had a fondness for those little legs kicking. But Jack didn’t know “The Metamorphosis”, or how to read her dark eyes. And nobody seemed to know these were Madagascan hissing cockroaches, or they wouldn’t have had them lined up in glass jars, the route to winning a season pass to the rollercoaster.

Jack was half way through crunching a thorax when his swagger gave out, and his lunch came up. He pretended not to be embarrassed, and she pretended not to smile as they headed to the ferris wheel. She waited until they were almost at the top, until the toxin of the cockroach had begun to numb his mouth, to tell him about the hissing.
They have three hisses: the disturbance hiss, the courtship hiss, and the fighting hiss. He was trying to swallow, and finding it difficult. The first one is my favourite, she smiled. Like a song, it is.

Their carriage swayed as she put her teeth together, and began.

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Those three hisses

June 11, 2013 at 11:06 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

My weekend did not go as planned. I was getting ready for a vintage swing dancing ball at the Melbourne Town Hall, listening to big band music and checking the seams were straight in my stockings. But I kept creeping back to my computer, wanting to do just one more piece of research…and so I found myself with high heels in hand, feet tapping to the horns, as I bent over the screen and learned how to perform my own taxidermy on small rodents.

It’s a skill every woman should have, don’t you think?

My novel is waking me up at night, and after a long period of focusing on short stories, I couldn’t be happier about that. The protagonist, Clementine, works in the taxidermy department of a wunderkammer, and I’ve found myself increasingly fascinated by this intriguing industry. She has quite the obsession with cockroaches in particular – and you thought swing dancing was the strange part of this entry – and I’ve been jumping into my research with both feet.

photo source: infectiouslearning.tumblr.com

photo source: infectiouslearning.tumblr.com

So when I saw the bingo prompts in Bayou Magazine’s flash fiction competition, I couldn’t resist. Their beautifully creative prompt was a bingo card of twenty-five squares, from which writers could choose several to incorporate into a story of up to 300 words. And yes, one picture was a cockroach.

Did you know the Madagascan hissing cockroach has three types of hiss? Neither did I until I began to write my story, but if we were to meet for a whiskey, I’d now be able to show you all three. Yes, yes, I’ve been practising the hisses.


My story, ‘The Disturbance Hiss’, is one of the three finalist stories in the competition. I’m especially pleased because Bayou is the wonderful literary journal of the University of New Orleans, a city I hold close to my heart.

My friends are pleased because maybe now I can stop practising the hisses.

Just wait until I tell them about the taxidermy lessons.

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