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OUR BOOKS > MINI–MAGS > KEEP GOING!

Keep going!
Memoir (Mini-Mags)
Written by Chester Eagle
Design by Vane Lindesay, cover image by Rodney Manning 2008
DTP by Karen Wilson
Circa 4000 words
Electronic publication 2008 by Trojan Press
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Here’s what it says on the cover:

To write about a mother, sister, father, brother, is one thing; to write about an absence is harder. What would our lives have been like if the one that died had managed to live on, affecting us in all the normal ways? The question can’t be answered but this memoir is an attempt. The narrator’s brother is felt most keenly in his absence. Our only immortality is in memory, and its span is brief.


To read some extracts from this memoir click here:

Simone and Richard, Simone and Don
I was twenty minutes into my drive
Simone and the narrator keep going!


To read about the writing of this memoir click here.

Simone and Richard, Simone and Don

Simone was in love with two young men, Richard and Don. Richard had been in her life for two years, and she’d met Don only a few weeks before she had to take up her appointment. She rented a room in a house that was only a block or two from me, and I visited her occasionally, but I had to stand outside the door because Mrs Whoever-it-was didn’t allow men to enter the rooms. More often, Simone would visit me, because no such restrictions encumbered us, and we would listen to music together, music being the positive that joined us, while distance and loneliness, separation from everything we loved and knew, were the other parts of our bond.

We listened to Mozart, Nielsen, Beethoven’s quartets, Palestrina, Victoria and Bach. European civilisation had produced some mighty peaks, but we were far away, our minds wrestling with our situation: I avoid the plural because our positions were the same. We were away from love, embroiled in dislike of many of the people we had to work with, in a situation not of our making, in a town that didn’t care for things we thought important, we were employed to offer the town’s young people certain qualities which we hadn’t had time to absorb – not fully, anyway - before we’d been sent out to teach.

To teach, to teach, to teach!

Simone had two boyfriends, Richard and Don. I’d met both of them in Melbourne the previous year, when we’d been at university. Now Simone and I were four hours drive from the city and when I drove to the pick-up point I never knew whether she would be waiting there with Don, or Richard. Some weekends it was one, sometimes the other. Richard, who lived near Simone’s mother, was perhaps a little more likely. Sometimes Simone rang to tell me to pick her up at Don’s parents’ garage, which stood on a busy corner of the highway we had both to travel. If I picked her up at this garage, the journey back to enslavement, or was it adaptation – words, words, words – had already begun. Don’s father, if that was where I collected Simone, would ask if I had a tank full of petrol. ‘It’s a long trip,’ he would say, ‘and I don’t want you running out.’ What was he doing, when he said that? He was being attentive to me, he was wondering if I was as prepared as I should be to take his son’s girlfriend into the darkness, the unknown destiny that shadowed anyone who lived in the bush …

… the bush, the bush, the bush …

Mountains hemmed in our little town, and if we listened to people’s stories we heard about the 1939 fires, and how you could hardly see from one street to the next, there was so much smoke. People also told us about trainee pilots crashing when they were being made ready for war against Japan. Fumes were getting into their cabins without anyone realising, they were blacking out and planes were smashing into the ground. Sabotage, people suspected, seizing on their fear of spies and subversion rather than finding the problem and fixing it. It sounded like the place where Simone and I were working; nothing much had changed.

One Sunday night, Richard brought Simone to the pick-up point, and told me about a concert they’d been to. His happiness shone out of him, and I found myself thinking that perhaps he was better suited to Simone than Don, even though the latter was more congenial to me, probably because he was easier to understand. I said something like ‘Long road ahead of us, Simone’, she nodded at Richard, and let her eyes rest on him for a moment before she climbed in. We drove silently for twenty minutes, then, as we passed the garage which Don’s parents operated, she called out ‘Stop! Sorry,’ she said, using my name, ‘but I saw Don standing by the pumps. He was looking for me. I won’t be long.’

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I was twenty minutes into my drive

I was twenty minutes into my drive, it was a shining afternoon, the weekend lay ahead, my new car, so much more reliable than the old, was travelling well, my girlfriend was expecting me, as were my musical friends, when I looked out the window to my right and felt the presence of the mountains there.

The mountains, the mountains, blue in the afternoon light, deep in their mysteries, only scrappily explored, even by those who knew them best, the mountains seemed full of mystery waiting to be, first, discovered, and second, expressed. I looked at the highway and I said aloud, ‘Why am I doing this?’ I meant driving on a strip of road, a length of string connecting my country setting with my city destination, my job in the bush with my circle of friends, my isolating loneliness with the young woman I thought I loved.

If we’re not ready for love, we’re not ready for life. Or is it vice-versa? Both?

I didn’t say anything, even to myself, but I knew I’d made a decision. I’d go through with everything I’d arranged to do that weekend, without upsetting anybody at all (I thought this was decent, and proper, of me), and then I’d disappear. I’d answer the beckoning call of the mountains and leave the city to look after itself.

I was, though I didn’t know it then, changing … no, finding … the direction of my life.

The young woman who thought I loved her, on realising that there was something wrong with the silence, the absence of messages or indications, began to go around my other friends to ask them what they’d heard.

They’d none of them heard a thing. I’d not even spoken to myself. I’d written nothing down. I’d set myself to open up the mystery of the mountains. I was in love with the generality of life, not a particular person any more. I’d been heading along the path that leads to marriage, a family, home, convention, when I’d been distracted by the appearance of a fate, a destiny, a direction, that declared itself appropriate for me. If I’d understood what was happening I’d have been able to explain myself to those who needed to know, but I didn’t and I couldn’t.

I disappeared from view. I didn’t, of course, I did my work, I sat at table in the guest house where I resided, I had my car serviced and I went in and out of shops, as courteous as civility required, but my heart was elsewhere. I was still listening to music but there was another music that I was beginning to hear, and I wanted more. I wanted to know it better. I wanted to be the vehicle, the instrument, through which this music made itself. I wanted a life that was itself a song …
My girlfriend – my ex-, my ex-, my ex- - wrote angrily to me.

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Simone and the narrator keep going!

You may think at this point that I’ve forgotten Simone, but no, she is very much in my mind as I take this excursion to talk about a decisive something that I did, all those years ago. She did much the same as me. I picked her up at about four in the afternoon for one of our Friday drives to ‘town’, as people said, she put her small case in the boot, with mine, and we got onto the highway. There was a spot a little way west of the town where Simone used to feel free of its clutches, and it was there or thereabouts that she would loosen her tightly bound black hair. She might or might not go on to have a smoke – the taste of freedom! – but it was the untethering of her lovely hair that meant she felt a breath of freedom in her nostrils, and that there were two days of it before we made the latest of those returns to restriction. On the day in question she wasn’t smoking but her face was showing just a little more of the happiness within than her normal grim smile of self-acceptance, when …

… when, when, when …

… we saw, both of us, advancing from the other direction, a car which we both recognised, heading our way at speed. It was a large American car, low, shining chrome all over the place, and with curvaceous bulges as if it wanted to be as feminine on the outside as it was horny under the bonnet. It was a car owned by Don’s father, and it was heading our way. Don must have left the garage a little under four hours earlier, and he must have wanted to reach our town when Simone got home from work. He was late, and he was hurrying. The big car was riding the rises and falls of the highway as if it was skimming surf. I half expected Don to recognise my car, or the people in it, to swing around and come after us, but he didn’t. He rushed past as if he hadn’t noticed. I must presume he didn’t …

… notice, notice, notice.

I knew; Simone knew; and each of us knew that the other knew. I slowed the car and looked at her. We were only ten minutes from the town where we worked. I could take her back, following Don, and catch him at the house where Simone had her room. That was where he’d be. Or I could go on. Did she want to turn around? To stop? To give up whatever she’d planned for the weekend, and accommodate herself to Don’s purposes in rushing to the town where she taught? Did she want to go back?

Posing this question here, as I write, I find myself wondering whether, if she had decided to go back, she’d have gathered the long black hair and bound it tightly around her head as it had been, a couple of minutes before. Or would she have gone back unbound, as it were, and been that different woman she became on the highway in the streets of our constricting town?

It’s a futile question, because she looked straight ahead, at the highway that led to the city, our escape, and she said, tersely, tensely, tightly, ‘Keep going!’

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The writing of this memoir:

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Download this book:
Adobe Acrobat > PDF Cover Keep going!
> PDF Book Keep going!
> PDF Manuscript Keep going!

OUR BOOKS > MINI–MAGS > KEEP GOING

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