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Short Story

In today's episode, Josephine Rowe – winner of the 2016 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize – reads a new short story, 'Bunker', which appears in the June issue of ABR. Josephine has published three short story collections and a novel called A Loving, Faithful Animal.

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The quiet had left me. That’s how I put it, but I meant Maree. Most of her cosmetics abandoned in a swollen-stuck bathroom drawer. Hydrators, anti-aging, complexion correction. Potions, I called them, like an old man describing a woman’s things. A few days after she left I tried them on myself, mostly for the smell of her. Of course they did not correct anything, did not make me beautiful, only streaked me to an unlikely shade – Maree’s – darker and more lustrous than my own. I accepted why she’d gone. She’d made a choice, and it was not the wrong choice – her folks old and susceptible, too proud to see it and too stubborn to budge. Bad reception where they are. Have to climb a hill to make a call. But she never climbs the bloody hill. And her emails, when they come, arrive in business hours.

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1.

Growing up, my brother and I lived with Dad in a Housing Commission flat among a row of identical flats. Back in those days, we played Greatest Hits of the 70s through a subwoofer on the back deck. During the guitar solo in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ we howled over the music and the neighbourhood dogs followed our lead ...

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The call of a bansuri rising to her window from the street below awakens Mehr. It is a crooked call; the initial notes, delicate and malleable, make all the right turns inside the hollow of a bamboo reed, but soon miss the swivel that all sounds must make to morph into melodies. The magic that happens between a human mouth and a ...

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The sunset is orange, the sky scattered with clouds. We’re eating pumpkin and lentil soup out of bowls from home. I didn’t think it was necessary to bring them, the cupboards here are well stocked, but Irene insisted. She says they’re the perfect size. Also, she read in her online mother’s group that the glaze on old crockery often contains lead ...

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Certain days: it is easy to imagine this small, once-prosperous river town (barely distinct from many other small, once prosperous river towns) as if you are only passing through it, shunpiking the thruways in favour of the scenic rural two-lanes on a road trip in your better, your best life. The life in which your formidable boxer-turned-human-rights-lawyer wife has simply pointed to this town on a much misfolded map and declared: Here, lunch.

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I am a girl who knows how to hold a gun. On weekends, Dad drives me out to the pistol club, while Mum pulls white-sapped weeds from the garden. She plants natives that can handle the salt in the air; angular, bristling plants with angular, bristling names: banksia, grevillea, bottlebrush. A line of Geraldton Wax along the verge to replace some mean and blighted ...

The Hair

Tom wasn’t supposed to bring the wig home; it was peeled from his scalp like a banana skin every night. Then it was arranged on a faceless polystyrene head that sat in front of his dressing room mirror.

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When the urge unearthed itself, Joan Mercer was at the sink washing dishes, her husband’s egg cup and her children’s cereal bowls. She flicked the soapsuds from her hands and crossed the kitchen, going out through the sliding doors and onto the wooden deck. There, she contemplated the garden. In the corner of the backyard, jonquils were blooming. But it wasn’t these that drew her over the lawn. It was the jacaranda tree. It was calling to her. ... (read more)
The roofing gives a little under his weight but Oskar’s not afraid of heights when he’s on his skateboard. He can see his friends below. Gav has his camera ready and Amadi gives him the thumbs up. ... (read more)