M.F. McAuliffe, 12/7/2009

Current Occupation: cofounder, contributor, Gobshite Quarterly

Former Occupations: linguistics, classrooms, boiler-rooms, libraries

Contact Information: M.F. McAuliffe is writing about art, M.F. McAuliffe had forgotten that camembert was so different from brie, M.F. McAuliffe has had 4 cats, M.F. McAuliffe has been earning her living since she was 12 years old, M.F. McAuliffe spends an unconscionable amount of time on bank statements, M.F. McAuliffe writes about work, M.F. McAuliffe is listening for the sacred silence, M.F. McAuliffe sees the wind.


Miss Miller Stays Home

(April 1974)

She stayed home sleeping Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday night she dragged herself around to the local deli; on Sunday night she ate at the Greek petrol station and pizzeria.

At eight o’ clock on Monday morning she went to the nearest public phone, rang the school secretary and said she’d be away sick all the week.

She bought some bread and milk and food and sat on a kitchen chair. She stared at the pile of unmarked essays, exercises and worksheets that lived on the far edge of the table. She watched the light walk through the house, gold turning to blue in the hallway, rose-petal at sunset.

She stretched out on her bed and dozed, off and on; in the afternoons the splintery hakea outside the back window rustled as though with the sound of rain.

Outside the days were like huge, airy rooms.


In the evenings she pulled the blinds down, turned the lights on, and cooked. She did the dishes. She hunted for classical music on the radio. She listened to the ten o’ clock news.

The bandage got dirty. Her hand stopped hurting.


On Wednesday she cleaned the cupboards out; she took the junk to the dump. She kept the copy of Australia Felix.

If anyone ever asked her what the country was like, she’d show it to them, wordlessly.

She’d never got past the Proem. After that there were three volumes of Richard Mahoney losing his hair, his youth, his marbles, his wife his family his house his block his testosterone and his life trying to make a fortune in bloody Australia.

She couldn’t, she’d declared once to Geraldine, couldn’t cope with more than one rural failure at once.

She stuffed the book into her suitcase.

If they tried to tell her she was wrong, if they tried to tell her she was exaggerating, that she’d mistaken it all, imagined it all, that her mind needed fixing; if they ever tried to make her go back, she’d hold it up at them and scream.

She turned the radio up until it announced the day’s prices for Brahma bulls.

“Brahmin bullshit,” she muttered, and turned the fruity voice off.


On Thursday she had a fire in the incinerator. She burnt all the Essays, Exercises and Worksheets in alphabetical order: E-E-W.


On Friday morning moisture seemed to breathe into her skin. She cleaned the fridge out and washed the floors.

She brought the empty rubbish-bin around from the front and clamped the lid on it. She put the last of the kitchen garbage in the bin next door so it could go out next week instead of sitting in her bin and ponging till the next tenant came.

She turned the power off, propped the fridge door open with a chair, and locked the windows and house-doors.

In the car she looked at her mark-book: long and awkward, covered in bright purple paper because she was always losing it, “front” written on the front because she was always opening it upside down and front the back. She tore the purple paper off and scrawled her name across the back or front, shoved it into a brown padded post bag with her resignation and stapled the bag shut.

She posted the mark-book and resignation to school. She posted the house-key to the Regional Office.

She went to the bank and drew out all her money.

She had two thousand dollars. She took a bank cheque for eighteen hundred and put it and the cash into her purse.

She went to the Greek petrol station and got oil, water and petrol. She went to the shopping-centre and bought a box of Kleenex, a packet of cigarettes and a box of matches. She might smoke. She might turn out to be one of those women who sat all night in night-clubs and smoked, and had voices like Marlene Dietrich.

The Gulf was pale and grey as she drove past the headland. The sky ahead of her dimmed and it started to rain.

The windscreen immediately turned to mud. “Shit,” she said. But, she thought, as she took a deep breath and peered through the clearing smears, Henry Handel Richardson hadn’t gone on living there. Henry Handel Richardson had pissed off to bloody Germany, got married and never come back. And she, Marjorie Miller, was bloody going to Melbourne if she had to drive all seven hundred miles at three and a half bloody miles an hour, with a windscreen that looked as though she’d ploughed the whole bloody Nullarbor.

She crashed into water at the first Flash Flood sign. “I love a sunburnt country,” she intoned. Her left hand swept over the ochred plains beyond the empty seat next to her. “Girls, sound your r-r-r’s. Rrr-agged mountain rr-ranges, drrrought and flooding rrrains.

“Jesus,” she snorted. Anthems to bloody soil erosion. Let us now praise the absence of essentials.

She slowed down and snorted again. Not even Dorothea MacKellar and the sacred soil erosion problem were going to stop her now. There were only eighty or ninety more miles of gullies, no grass, no soil and no drainage, hydroplaning and electrical shorts to watch out for, and then she could go like a bat out of hell.

She turned the wipers on to full speed, and turned the headlights on. She fished out a fag and lit it. She might as well get some practice. She wasn’t doing anything with her left hand, and God only knew what she might be doing with her right next week.

She’d be in Melbourne before she even had to have the stitches out.

She grinned and opened the window a crack because the windscreen was fogging up.

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