The Waxworker, by Nick Marland

Nick Marland is an award-winning writer of fiction and non-fiction who has appeared in Tincture JournalGoing Down SwingingSeizureThe Lifted BrowGriffith REVIEWVoiceworksStories of Sydney, the UTS Writers’ Anthology and ABC’s The Drum. He once tripped up Woody Allen and spent three days as an illegal alien in Belarus.

This story first appeared in Issue Eighteen of Tincture Journal. Please support our work and buy a copy today.

All images: Collection of the Museum Rietberg Zürich

Helen Bao-Jin Lei was sure the attaché, who never introduced himself, frowned when she introduced herself in fluent Mandarin. He definitely gave the translator who stood next to him a bemused look, as though a grand joke had been played on the whole of China. I thought she was from Australia? he said in his native tongue, as though Helen wasn’t there. He was young, aloof—aloof? no, snotty, self-important, someone’s nephew—and barely gave Helen a second look. He thumbed at his phone while the translator, a small diffident woman with long straight black hair, stepped forward to help the new arrival with her luggage, asking in English her about her flight. Why had they bothered to assign her a translator? The name hadn’t been a giveaway? Although she spoke to them in Mandarin, Helen’s ancestral dialect was Cantonese. This was her first trip to China but it felt like a homecoming—that was, if you lived in the kind of home where you suspected people were crouched behind the furniture listening and watching. The whole flight from Honkers she’d been wondering why she’d taken the job. Well, besides the ridiculous money. There was that.

From the back seat of the town car she watched the city fringe ooze across the tinted windows. Inside the bounds of the Fourth Ring Road, in a thick clot of crawling traffic, the car repeatedly overtook and was overtaken by a man on a bicycle with a pyramid of mangoes teetering on its back pallet. Rickshaws disappeared down alleys into the slums that someone such as the attaché would inform you didn’t exist in Beijing. There he was still thumbing his phone, crushing candy at dizzying speeds. It didn’t quite look like the official, Western version of the game: a crow kept flapping across the screen dropping more infuriating candy, and clusters of hanzi characters keep popping up proclaiming things like EXCELLENT or FAILURE. The translator looked to be browsing a homewares website, via a browser Helen didn’t recognise. Out on the street low-slung powerlines lashed to buildings that looked as though the bricks had fallen out of the sky and landed by chance in passable structures. People could be glimpsed cooking outdoors on grills and in fire pits. Inside the car, she noticed now, the air was lightly scented with fake lavender.

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Mounting Sexual Tension Between Two Long-Time Friends; Tom Knows That Ant Is A Spy But Ant Doesn’t, by Elizabeth Tan

Elizabeth Tan is a West Australian writer whose work has recently appeared in Best Australian Stories (2016), SeizureOverland and Pencilled In. Her first novel, Rubik, was released by Brio in 2017.

This piece appears in Issue Eighteen of Tincture Journal alongside much more. Please support our work by buying a copy.

Collages by Elizabeth Tan, from little punchclock

—I wish you would just tell me.

Ant gazes up at Tom, who is still sweaty from his morning run—tight jaw glistening, white earbuds hanging over the darkened neckline of his t-shirt. Tom tips water into his mouth from a crushed Mount Franklin bottle, and Ant watches Tom’s nervous swig slide down Tom’s throat. A hard lump of tension, tangible as an egg.

—There’s nothing to tell you, Ant.

—I won’t be mad. I promise. I wasn’t mad that time you ditched my phone into a storm drain.

Tom snorts, like can you believe this guy, but Ant continues:

—It wasn’t an accident. I know because you received a text on your phone and then you snatched my phone out of my hand and threw it down the storm drain. That’s a difficult thing to do not-on-purpose.

—You’re still mad about that?

—No, I’m not mad. This has been well-established. And now you’re trying to derail the conversation, but this conversation is about me asking you to tell me the truth about the matching Glock pistols in our respective underwear drawers and the identical emergency briefcases of cash in nine different currencies sequestered behind secret panels in our wardrobes.

—How did you even get in here, Ant?

Again, you are trying to derail the conversation, but the answer to your question is that I know how to pick locks. Did you know that I know how to pick locks? I certainly didn’t know that I knew how to pick locks, just like I didn’t know that we had matching Glocks and briefcases, which is the topic of this conversation.

—I replaced your phone with an even better one and your new phone number ends in ‘268’ which spells ‘ANT’, which you admitted was convenient.

—Are you in the same conversation that I am in, Tom? I wish you would join me in this conversation that I am having about the Glocks and the briefcases and your unwillingness to be forthcoming.

Tom drops his Mount Franklin bottle in the kitchen bin.

—Ant, I can’t do this right now. I need a shower.

—And I need some fucking perspicuity, Tom.

Now Ant gets out of his chair. He walks towards Tom until they are almost chest-to-chest—close enough to smell Tom, damp and tight and pissed off. There is a soft tinny song spurting out of Tom’s hanging earbuds.

Tom swallows. Ant leans in.

—Stop trying to protect me, Tom. It’s getting old.

Tom groans. He takes a step back, but it’s too late; the moment has twisted like a screw. Ant’s expression hasn’t changed. Tom bravely affects a laugh.

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The Back of My Father’s Neck, by Anna Ryan-Punch

Anna Ryan-Punch is a Melbourne writer. Her previous publications include work in WesterlyAntipodesThe AgeIslandOverlandSoutherly, and the anthology Prayers of a Secular World. Her work has also appeared in issues Four, Six, and Thirteen of Tincture Journal.

This piece appears in Issue Eighteen of Tincture Journal alongside much more. Please support our work by buying a copy.

There was no way I was going down to breakfast. Even school was looking unlikely, but having to trudge through cornflakes while my father efficiently dispatched his own meal was out of the question. He’d always start with coffee (instant, cheapest available; it smelled like Weetbix). Stirred the cup five times round, then dinged the spoon on the rim of porcelain twice. Ding ding. The noise of an angry tram. Ding ding. Such an ineffective sound, like a fairy stamping its foot. Ding ding.

Then came toast. Every day he was Grandpa Simpson: “I set the toaster to three; medium brown”. He smeared exactly 15 grams of butter across his bland bread and topped it with a flitting scrape of Vegemite. The butter was always right to the edges, but the Vegemite left a one centimetre border of yellow. Cut in half (always rectangles). The whole family would pause as the butter oozed between his wide-set teeth. Then he would smooth out the already-flat newspaper on the table, frown, and begin to read.

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Cher Chidzey, interviewed by Daniel Young

Daniel Young interviewed Issue Four contributor Cher Chidzey to celebrate the release of her latest novel, Ken’s Quest (Threekookaburras).

This interview can be found in Issue Eighteen of the journal alongside a chapter from Ken’s Quest. Please consider buying a copy to help support our work.

DY: Thanks for being part of our interview series and congratulations on the publication of your latest novel Ken’s Quest. Could you start by telling us a bit about your background and how you came to writing?

CC: I am the youngest of nineteen children, twelve girls and seven boys. My father Huat was born at the end of the Qing dynasty in Shantou, a fishing village.

Father and his three wives, four sons and eight daughters migrated to Singapore when the Japanese invaded China. I was born in a household of over thirty people, in a house built on stilts. Father relocated shortly after with my mother and her two sons and six daughters to a simpler dwelling in Serangoon Gardens, the stomping grounds of Australian and British military personnel.

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Venus, by Grace Jarvis

Grace Jarvis is a second year university student in the throes of an arts degree based existential crisis. She was the recipient of the Queensland Theatre Company’s Young Playwright’s Award in 2015 and feels she needs to mention it constantly as it’s the most impressive thing she’s ever done. You can find her on Twitter @grace4jarvis.

This poem first appeared in Issue Seventeen of Tincture Journal. Please support our work by buying a copy.

There is a very beautiful girl sitting opposite me on the train. I am openly staring at her and she looks uncomfortable. I don’t mind. Locks of purple hair fall unrestrained onto her forehead as her eyes restlessly sprint around the carriage, looking for something to land on besides my beady gaze. I am almost pleased when she chooses the chipped remnants of black polish encrusting her jagged nails. Her lipstick is bleeding. There is a thick layer of grime coating her cuticles and her nervous fiddling continues to distress an already significant hole in her tacky fishnet stockings. I picture my mother scolding me for wearing laddered tights under my godforsaken school kilt and I picture this girl’s mother: dead somewhere, a gutter. My attention, much to her chagrin, returns to the girl after the train’s sudden stop nudges my briefcase against the scuffed toe of her dilapidated Doc Marten. I scowl at the girl and she tucks her violet hair behind her punctured ear and seeks refuge behind a battered copy of The Bell Jar.

I wonder if she knows she is a cliché.

I wonder if she has a boyfriend.

I wonder if she looks this terrified when she fucks.

I get off the train.

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Michelle Cahill, interviewed by Daniel Young

Daniel Young interviewed Michelle Cahill for Issue Sixteen of the journal. Michelle’s short story collection Letter to Pessoa was recently published by Giramondo and includes ‘A Miko Coda’, an earlier version of which appeared in Issue Seven of Tincture.

Michelle Cahill

DY: Thanks for being a part of our interview series and congratulations on the recent publication of your short story collection, Letter to Pessoa. Could you start by telling us a bit about your background and how you came to writing? Is it something you’ve always wanted to pursue, or something you came upon at a later point in your life?

MC: Thank you Daniel!

I remember when I was in primary school escaping into other worlds, aware of a ‘narrating’ voice that was not quite myself, though it was an intimate aspect of my experience. Growing up through cultural transitions, class and race anxieties, over the years, through books, across countries and interruptions, I guess that voice became writing. I wrote stories and poems in my adolescence but started writing seriously much later in life. At one point, I had wanted to become a musician; now I realise that writing is also an instrument.

DY: You’re a published poet. Have you always written short stories as well, or has this been an evolution from one creative form to another? Indeed, your prose is highly poetic, in terms of both rhythm and imagery. Does this come naturally as you write or is it layered into the prose through editing and re-drafting?

MC: I have been a prose writer for many years, experimenting in forms. Poetry and fiction are distinct processes. When I sit down to write I know whether I am about to write a poem or if it is going to be fiction, but I suppose my language is poetic; that is my natural style. The editing is not really layering but more about correcting the flow (as well as attending to plot and character and focalisation; the many technical aspects of fiction). The composition, the rhythm and auditory texture can allow variations, semantic liberties for the writer as well as malleability for the text. Of course, there is a place for stark, uncluttered sentences and there are passages like that in the book, for instance in its opening paragraph.

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Carnival Flesh, by Elisabeth Murray

Elisabeth Murray is a writer from Sydney who is interested in all things feminist, queer, and mental health-related. Her work has been published in Verity La, Fields Magazine, Tincture Journal (Issue Seven), Contrapasso, Voiceworks, dotdotdash magazine, and several University of Sydney anthologies. Her novella, The Loud Earth, was published by Hologram in 2014.

This story first appeared in Issue 15 of Tincture Journal. If you like this story, please consider buying a copy.

We are a crush of bodies, but the calmest kind of crowd. Smoke and sweat is everywhere. I am far from everyone I’ve known in my life but this crowd knows me more intimately than the earth does when you’re dead, without any skin to put up a barrier.

I am standing in front of the speaker but I am standing everywhere, I am the light that smashes through blue to yellow, I am the night coming through the back of the tent, through the gaps between people, so there’s no space anymore. My body takes the force of the music like the ocean when you use none of your muscles against it. There is the cold metal railing against my arms and my skin is good now, no longer a barrier, and my eyes are shut and the strength of the earth is inside me, all the time it has lived in my bones.

I open my eyes to a girl so close she seems part of my own strength. Her hair is like ochre and she is wearing a skirt the colour of the centre of the continent viewed from so high it is more like the idea of red.

She is yelling something, her mouth hardly real. But it’s all real, just a kind of real I’ve never known before. We are jumping with the rest of the crowd, and on stage everyone wears a smile like the girl, they are jumping with us, cajón, guitar, bass, flute, djembe stronger than an ocean.

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Saving Daniel, by Lucie Britsch

British born with Germanic roots (very different from Jamaican roots in the fun stakes) Lucie Britsch fears her writing career peaked too soon when she won a poopscoop slogan contest as a child. Her writing has since appeared in Barrelhouse, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, This is Pinball, The Millions and Catapult Story, and she has gained an honourable mention in Glimmer Train. She says she is working on some books but is mostly reading other people’s and realising hers is rubbish in comparison.

This story first appeared in Issue 15. Please support our work and buy a copy today.

Image By Original works: Vegas Bleeds Neon Derivative work: FRacco [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What’s so funny?

This girl

Huh?

So I was looking at getting this make-up

You don’t need make-up

Ha ha

Anyway, so I was looking at this make-up and looking at the reviews and it went great, great, then an OK, another great, a love love love this stuff, a marvellous

Do people still say marvellous?

Apparently so

Marvellous

So then another great, one girl really really liked how it made her eyes pop and you know how I feel about the whole eye-popping thing

You like yours staying where they should be

Exactly

Who doesn’t?

This girl

Right

Anyway, so we have a lot of greats, an OK and an awesome then this girl says it should be banned

She shows him the screen

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Last Night in Tokyo, by Kali Myers

Kali is a Perth-born, Melbourne-based writer, researcher, blogger and occasional ranter. Her work concerns violence, fairy tales, power, and representations of women. Her writing has previously appeared in FeminartsyOverland online, and on a number of other blogs and scholarly journals. You can tweet to her @pickwickian36.

This story first appeared in Issue 14. Please support our work and buy a copy today.

Last Night in Tokyo

“What’s that noise?”

“An alarm.”

“An alarm?”

“Well yes I assume so.”

“So there’ll be someone here soon then.”

“Maybe, maybe not.”

“But there’s an alarm.”

“So?”

“So… people. The alarm will… raise the alarm. You know; someone breaks in, alarm sounds, cops; all that.”

“Security alarms are usually silent.”

“What are you talking about?”

“They’re usually silent. Why would you give someone you want to catch advanced warning?”

“What? Alarms are loud and noisy to scare people away. The alarm at my mum’s always brings the neighbours running.”

“Does this look like a house to you?”

“What?”

“Does this look like a house to you? It’s not—it’s a government building. Government buildings don’t make noise. They have those silent alarms that just make the buzzing noise in the security room so the guards know something’s up.”

“Umm… OK. So then Dr Professor…”

“Dr Professor?”

“Whatever.”

“What’s a Dr Professor?”

“Fuck, I don’t know. Smart arse then. Captain Fucking Brilliant. Einstein. Take your bloody pick.”

“My pick of what?”

“Gah! Of nothing. OK.”

“OK… were you asking a question?”

“Yes! Yes I was asking a question.”

“What was it?”

“About the alarm.”

“Ah yes. That. Still going. What about it?”

“Well if it’s not a damned burglar alarm and there’s no cops coming—we should totally be hiding though—then what the hell is it?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Fire?”

“Fire?!”

“Yeah could be.”

“Fire? Fucking fire? There could be a fucking fire alarm going off and you’re just standing there.”

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