Before our births, void of choice, we became part of the story,
During our lives, with a choice, we can't escape the story,
After death, abandoned choice, the story continues to seep.
- Andrew Mansell

Shell Shock

Photo by Rocky Vitacca


So long as mum roughly knew my whereabouts and I was back for dinner, she didn’t seem to care for details. Way to go, mum. Perfect for a sixteen year old boy who begun to be drawn to and appreciate the curvature of the opposite sex. The girl more alluring than any other was Anne. Not just because her breast brushed against my chest once, well that did help, but it was her smile and friendly persona that just made me feel the same, sort of like contagious laughter. Out of the blue, I found myself daydreaming of Anne, or was it fantasying? I can’t clear up that blurry line. Even while engrossed in reading, my favourite pastime, images of Anne overwhelmed the words I read. And then there was dad’s nagging rhetorical question, have you got a girlfriend yet? Girls were beginning to make some sort of sense, their being grow in significance.

On New Year’s Day, Dad’s snoring penetrated all rooms of the house; any louder and his sound waves could of forced open the flyscreen door. I was glad to escape before he woke, wanting to go fishing again – boring. As I said bye to mum, I remembered the night before and how Anne and I managed to dodge our parents and kiss twice behind the boat shed. I’m sure Anne’s mum never trusted me and was glad we only saw each other over the summer holidays. That was going to change big time when I got my driver’s licence. I planned to drive the four hours to Bright and take Anne out. Anne said her mum would have to let me stay the night. Can you believe, Anne even heard her mum, tell my mum, that Anne and I were too young? I’m glad mum just laughed and took nobody’s side.

An eerie calm accompanied my walk down Cove Avenue towards the entrance of Point Nepean. I could still smell fireworks in the sprinkling mist but the noise and spectacle of the night before were long gone. I wanted to run but held back and walked as fast as I could. I had to appear calm, not in a hurry, and definitely not like one of those goofy walkers that call themselves athletes. I knew Anne would be waiting for me near the visitor centre. She always got there first. I saw her behind the bike rack, leaning against the straggly trunk of a tea tree. Of course she’d already seen me – she smiled. All of a sudden an excited nervousness overwhelmed me and I too couldn’t help but smile. I wanted to kiss but we didn’t touch, just in case somebody watched. We already knew our plan

‘Hi,’ I said and fixed my eyes on hers.

‘About time,’ she said and stared back.

Her tease had no effect on me. My eyes were not about to shift their gaze. She could even have called me a dropkick and I wouldn’t have cared. I felt like we were trapped in a timeless spell, gawking at each other.

‘Come on,’ Anne finally said, ‘let’s go.’

We began our walk towards the old fort.

‘I’m going to miss you,’ she said.

‘Chill out.’ I laughed. ‘We’ve still got today – and tonight.’

‘I know but I want these holidays to last forever.’

‘Will your mum let us kiss goodbye?’ I couldn’t help but joke.

‘Shut your face.’ Anne frowned in a nice way and grabbed my hand.

A Boy Could


Andrew Mansell, March 2010.

Know your ABCs?


On a good day nonfiction may tell you the world, whereas fiction will show you the universe.

Andrew Mansell, September 2013.

It Goes On

After sunrise the moon stayed high
Water and milk mixed in my cup
The earth spun slower, the world sped up
Life expectancy rose for the human race
Not for the lab rat or monkey face.
The phone rang without tone
An executive sales officer spoke
Told of steak, veg, apple pie
in a certified organic capsule
Told of a boy who died a girl
And the hairs upon my chest
could be forever removed
Retirement is a lifestyle choice.
I told the salesperson
Cats and dogs can be friends
Machines can really talk
Not only prisoners are behind bars
And I killed someone and got away
Next time take the time to knock
The end of the world will be predicted
right before it happens.
He hung up before I could say
The more we know
the further the universe expands
The less we know
It goes on, much the same.

Andrew Mansell, September 2013.

The Depressants

Claire woke before the alarm beeped and remembered to switch it off. The shower was neither hot nor lukewarm; somewhere in between, exactly to her liking. Her clothes were unruffled and her shoes polished. She walked towards the kitchen with expectancy that something had to change; something had to go wrong and spoil this perfect start to the day.

No, not just yet, her thoughts were quelled. She was taken aback by Chris, who had let her porridge cool enough to dollop honey on without it turning to a fast running sap. He poured her coffee and kissed her. His fresh breath persuading her to inhale deeply.

‘Enjoy the rest of your day,’ he said and smiled broadly. ‘’I’m off.’

Claire watched as Chris seemed to glide across the gleaming floor tiles. He left, closing the front door gently. Claire then looked towards a rattling of dishes near the sink.

‘Good morning,’ she said.

Paul washed. ‘Hi mum,’ he said.

Carolyn dried. ‘Morning mum,’ she said.

They finished their job and Paul asked, ’can we watch the cartoons?’

‘You know the rules about school mornings.’ Claire sighed then sipped on her coffee, wondering why rules mattered.

‘But mum,’ Carolyn said. ‘We’ve made our beds, got our lunches ready, done our homework, practised the piano, let the dog out and look – when you’re finished breakfast the dishes will be done.’

This is amazing Clair thought. It’s not even Mother’s day. She glanced around the house and it really was so clean. ‘Oh, alright,’ she finally said. ‘Just this once.’