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Good Riddance is a reflection on the way Westerner’s impose their lifestyle on the Indigenous people of Australia. Its purpose is to reflect the reactions to and consequences of, Westernisation. I wrote this piece orgininally in one of my year 12 literature creative writing SAC's, then further developed it to submit as an english writing folio piece. It was inspired by a short story written by Janette Turner Hospital.

Good Riddance

"I don't think he's gonna stop." Blood was running down his back, rivers changing course and flooding. Another day another flogging, no not the usual, Mr. Brady had slipped under a tide of rage. The veins in his neck dilated with hatred.
"Don't cry; don't let him get to you. Think of something else, not the pain, something else...
A hiss of air and the crack of leather broke the boy’s concentration. A memory half forgotten slipped to his conscience, silencing the cane.

"We come from the Yolngu" a weathered voice whispered.
“...yeah think about that, not the pain...”
"We follow the birds, wander from billabong to river"
“...wait who wanders? What were they saying? He’s stopped, where is the cane? He's stopped."

The boy’s thoughts straightened, focused. The tide was spent, Mr. Brady's hard cane broken.
"Get back to your seat" The boy’s blood stained the floor, Mr Brady's hands and the horrified classmates minds. He stood on shaking legs, chin held high and walked from the room.
"Good riddance, bad blood in that one," muttered Mr. Brady as the boy left.

The afternoon was soft and moist, the ground not quite crunching under his steps. Breakfast creek opened up ahead, revealing overhanging gums and a rusted river boat. Approaching his house, the boy's footsteps became sluggish. It was the shoes. "Why do we need shoes anyway" he thought. "You can't feel the mud under them, can't track silently" ripping them off, he threw them into the usual hollow tree trunk.

"How come you always take your shoes off?" she'd asked
"Coz" he’d answered.

Walking into the cool brown water of breakfast creek, the boy washes his welted back. "Scars will remain to remind me. Pain, they always cause pain." the water turned pink, clearing away the pain, the memory. After a time of unmoving, unfeeling the boy climbed onto the boat. Cut the tie. He left the pain behind and the tide took over. The rusted river boat flowed.

“Seven times eight? Come on, speak up!” he mumbled an answer, wrong again.
“That’s not good enough! You didn’t study last night did you? Your kind never studies! If you’re not going to willingly learn this I’ll beat it into you! Stand up!” a hiss of air and the crack of leather…

Unrestful slumber gripped the boy. Questions and answers colliding in his dreams.
"You come from the Yolngu. We are wanderers" the ageless voice was louder now.
"...wandering... who wondered? They did! For forty years, searching for their Promised Land, the Israelites... promised land? Where’s mine?"
"We follow the birds, boy."

The boat rested against a foreign bank. Muddy water lapping at the hull. His eyes searched the new surroundings. Untouched, unchanged, unknown. Nothing to taint him or his heritage. No canes or straps, numbers or letters. Just earth. Stepping off the boat his toes slid into the mud. About to step forward, the boy suddenly felt trapped. The tie, it was the tie. "Why do I have to wear a tie anyway?" he thought. "It stops you from making proper bird calls." Ripping it off, he threw it into the boat. His shirt followed.

"Why do you always take your shoes off?"

A noise attracted his attention, a bird! Mr. Kingfisher. The bravest and most cunning. Something to aspire to.

"We follow the birds"

No more traces of them. Free as the land, as the birds, the boy moves ahead. He shadowed the kingfishers, searching for his heritage, his culture, his totem, and his people. Weaving under over and around the earth. The boy ran.

"Coz...I don't like the trappings of you white fella's."

- Guilty gets no sleep in the last slow hours of morning, experience is cheap I should of listened to the warning

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The following comments are for "Good Riddance"
by elspeth_flick

im not fond of pieces that come with expositions explaining authorial intent and the 'meaning' he or she wanted to convey. for me, if the piece doesnt say it alone, then somethings wrong.

anyway, this piece says a lot, i think. its very explicit in its anti-colonial implications. in that sense your explanation at the beginning was unnecessary. on the other hand, the piece itself was very disjointed and im not sure i would have been able to follow along without you telling me first whats really happening. to me, thats the biggest issue i had with this - the disjointedness of the narrative. i feel like theres a great deal here, but it is broken up into flashes that border on incoherence.

im always leery about saying, 'this is how i would have done it,' because i didnt do it and because the strength of this piece lies in the fact that its yours. but as a reader id love to see this expanded. the topic is interesting, as are the characters, but the way it is written is a bit confusing, especially the lack of digestable concreteness.

just my thoughts, take with salt.


( Posted by: strangedaze [Member] On: December 4, 2005 )

Thanks Andy
Thank you for your thoughts. I know the piece is disjointed and confusing but I actually wrote it deliberately like that. The disjointedness is supposed to allude to the characters own sense of confusion. I also tried to imitate the style of Janette Turner Hospital, whose own short stories boarder on incoherence, as it was part of my criteria for the task. I shall try reworking it, perhaps softening the disjointedness.

( Posted by: elspeth_flick [Member] On: December 4, 2005 )

Disjointing the Imperial Imperative: From Flow to Flow
elspeth flick (what a fabulous name) ~ I found myself nodding vehemently at Andy's comment, above, although I think I might phrase the same opinion just a little differently.

I personally believe that there are no absolute rules in writing -- no off-limit subjects, no incorrect forms, no worthless concepts or gambles -- but just two inevitable categories: better said and not so well said.

Your introduction, I think, is mistaken primairly in that it limits the interpretive flexibility of your audience. This short story should be about so much more than the history of the abuse of Australian aborigines. In all reality, the escape and defiance of an irrationally narrow and dogmatic authority figure is an archetypal theme, one that has the capacity to touch any reader, regardless of their familiarity with Australian colonialism.

Using a disjointed, stream-of-consciousness driven narrative in order to relay this theme is a conceptually sound idea -- the refusal of your story to follow a traditional narrative links nicely into your main character's refusal to conform to a narrow development of self-realization. However, there is a difference between pummeling a reader with the twists and turns of your character's internal angst and locking them out of the story itself by neglecting to divulge enough concrete detail to feel connected with the flow of your plot.

In this particular case, I think that adding more sensory detail would help enrich your material greatly. What exactly is this character feeling, sensing, etc, as these particular thoughts rip through him? Do his wounds burn? Is his shirt wet? Does his hair get in his eyes? Are his shoes tight? How does it feel to step into the boat with bare feet?

Rage is a very limiting sensation, a feeling that tends to make us very nearly blind. Does your main character see the shocked faces of his fellow classmates? Does he hear Mr. Brady exclaim "Good riddance" as he leaves? Are you writing this exclusively from the perspective of your character?

I agree, most of all, with Andy's final remark, that this material is intriguing enough to warrant further development. You've got some great stuff in here -- I love the underlying flow from blood to river to mud. You have huge realms of possiblities that could mined out of this story.

Or, in fewer words, I think this is a very good story which could be absolutely brilliant with just a little more work.

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: December 5, 2005 )

Good Riddance
I think your segmentation and juxtaposition is effective. I’d agree that you don’t need to explain anything about the story. I mean you don’t want to say something twice.

I’m concerned about this line in the first paragraph: "Don't cry; don't let him get to you. Think of something else, not the pain, something else... It seems like the main character’s thought, but it’s punctuated the same as the dialogue. At any rate, I think this is too internal to be effective in the all important first paragraph.

But you have great material here. Keep it up!

( Posted by: paperbackwriter [Member] On: December 10, 2005 )

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