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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The Real Ryan O’Neill, by Dave Drayton

Dave Drayton has not been heard from since January 2017. Police are appealing for anyone who knows his whereabouts to come forward.

This piece appears in Issue Eighteen of Tincture Journal along with a poem by Dave Drayton and much more. Please support our work by buying a copy.

Reading a review of Ryan O’Neill’s Their Brilliant Careers published in The Saturday Paper, I felt like a bobble-headed Jesus giving thumbs up from the dash of an old bomb with shot suspension, nodding vigorously in concurrence: here was a great, (un)ashamedly Australian metafictional satire; a page turner in the sense that each of its vignettes rollick along at a compelling speed, but also because its intricate web of self-referentialism will have you thumbing back-and-forth through pages, dog-earing, marking margins, triple-checking half-made connections, hanging red twine from thumb-tacks holding bumf to walls…

So wholeheartedly and emphatically was I agreeing with this reviewer—an anonymous scribe known only by the initials JD—that on first reading I simply skimmed their closing statement: “If Ryan O’Neill didn’t exist, someone would have to invent him.”

However before long I began to suspect that what on the surface appeared to be a tongue-in-cheek attempt to compliment the author in a manner that acknowledged his own methods was in fact something so much more, a key to understanding the increasingly slippery separation of fact from fiction.

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Issue Eighteen Editorial, by Stuart Barnes

Stuart Barnes is the poetry editor of Tincture Journal. His first collection Glasshouses (UQP, 2016) won the 2015 Arts Queensland Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize, was commended for the 2016 FAW Anne Elder Award, and was shortlisted for the 2017 ASAL Mary Gilmore Award. He’s translating Imma Tubella’s Un secret de l’Empordà into English. He tweets @StuartABarnes.

In last issue’s editorial, Daniel Young wrote about his “recent preoccupation with landscape metaphors”, and while writing this editorial it was impossible for me not to be preoccupied with landscape: Tropical Cyclone Debbie made landfall as a category four system on 28 March near Airlie Beach, approximately 480 kilometres north of Rockhampton, where I live. Subsequently, the Fitzroy River flooded, peaking on 6 April at 8.75 metres.

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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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Moederland, Part Two: Memorable Humiliations, by Johannes Klabbers

Johannes Klabbers is a Dutch/Australian writer and posthumanist therapist, currently living in Europe. He is the author of I Am Here: Stories From A Cancer Ward (Scribe Aus/UK 2016), which tells the story of an academic in the Australian outback who takes a voluntary redundancy and reinvents himself as a secular pastoral worker in the largest cancer hospital in the southern hemisphere. The Australian described it as “wonderfully insightful”. His website is and he tweets @johklab, is on Facebook @johkla and blogs on Medium @johannesk.

Johannes Klabbers is thinking through what it could mean to write postfiction. This is the second of four postfiction pieces to be published in Tincture in 2017 (the first is available here). See also

Of all the exotic and unusual cities in the world that I could have moved to, I find myself in a place with which I am intimately familiar while at the same time being disconcertingly strange.

It is strange because it ought to be familiar—and then it can be suddenly and unexpectedly familiar when it should be strange. It is familiar because I was born here, almost sixty years ago, and I lived here until I was fourteen. Since then I have visited briefly a few times while learning how to be an adult in England and then Australia. It is strange because half the town is no longer there. It was demolished and rebuilt and now it is being partially demolished again and refurbished to make it look more like every other big shopping mall in the world instead of some dreamy Dutch architect’s imperfectly executed vision from the sixties when town planners predicted that no one in the twenty-first century would be riding bicycles.

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Issue Eighteen Table of Contents

Issue Eighteen is available now on our website and all the usual e-book stores. Buy the single issue.

Here’s what’s inside:

  • Editorial, by Stuart Barnes
  • Moederland: Part Two: Memorable Humiliations, by Johannes Klabbers
  • Volta do mar, by Felicity Plunkett
  • Political Reflections: Part Two: Trump’s Inauguration, by Alexandra O’Sullivan
  • Ode to Mortality Composed on the W90, by Jill Jones
  • Mounting Sexual Tension Between Two Long-Time Friends; Tom Knows That Ant Is A Spy But Ant Doesn’t, by Elizabeth Tan
  • Apology, by Liam Ferney
  • The Real Ryan O’Neill, by Dave Drayton
  • Judith Arundell Wright, by Dave Drayton
  • The Waxworker, by Nick Marland
  • Interview with Cher Chidzey, by Cher Chidzey and Daniel Young
  • Queen Victoria Market: an extract from Ken’s Quest, by Cher Chidzey
  • Beetroot, by Irma Gold
  • The Lady in the Bottle, by Rozanna Lilley
  • Mother Tongue, by Eda Gunaydin
  • Reality Check, by Peter Bakowski
  • The Back of My Father’s Neck, by Anna Ryan-Punch
  • Portrait of the Artist Dressed as His Mother, by Craig Billingham
  • Conjugate, by Mark Ward
  • Silly Money, by Craig Burnett
  • Corymbia / Evergreen, by Andrew Galan
  • Cul-de-sac Back, by Kevin Del Principe
  • Property of Holloman Aerospace Medical, by Benjamin Dodds
  • Beijing, by Stephen Smith
  • Objects, by Catherine Vidler
  • Candle in the Wind, by John Sheng (translated from the Chinese by Ouyang Yu)