I am extremely honoured to be named the Laureate of my hometown for this entry in a short story competition.
‘Why do you write?’
My daughter asked me this in her quiet insightful bombshell manner. And so I did what most parents do when blindsided by a big question – I asked her why she was asking.
‘Well ,’ she replied, ‘you are the last person to go to bed and the first person up in the morning. You write before getting me up to go to school and then you go to work. And at dinner time you sometimes say how hard it is to get people to pay for the books they read. So why do you do it if it is so hard?’
To say I was floored by the question is something of an understatement.
I gave a pretty standard reply about the importance of persistence to achieve your goals and that the things really worth doing in life are rarely easy. We said goodnight and I sent her to bed.
I pondered on that question for a while and my subconscious supplied an answer. This answer was in the form of a memory.
In those pre-Covid times not all that long ago, I had a call back on a routine cancer screening.
Long story short, the call back was a false alarm. So three cheers for the Australian medical system and the medical services businesses that underpin it.
Because I was called back, I was squeezed in between other appointments. I waited for doctors to review the images. More images were ordered. Rinse and repeat.
I was Schrodinger’s cat for four hours. Caught in a moment that would decide which path would open before me, and which path would spawn an alternate timeline down which another version of me would walk.
Which me did I want to be?
And in that moment, the same moment that thousands of people face every year, I should have been pacing, muttering and regretting every bad decision I had made up until that point.
But luckily, I had brought a book. And a darn good one.
It was MR Carey’s Fellside, the follow up to his smash hit The Girl with All the Gifts.
I read and I read and I read.
MR Carey’s Fellside held back the crushing question ‘Do I have cancer?’ for four hours.
And that is why I write.
Because my goal is to write a story so absorbing that it staves off whatever shitty reality the reader has to face today. Even if that moment lasts no longer than their bus journey.