'Grieve' - Grief Awareness Month Short Story Competition

Grieve 2014 and Harlequin

I was honoured to read a couple of wonderful pieces for the Grieve Live Reading at The Conservatorium’s Harold Lobb Concert Hall last night. The evening was the finale of the Grieve Writing Competition and also the launch of an anthology of over 80 stories entered into the competition. Harlequin was included in this anthology…



We sit beside her bed to wait and watch. She lies at rest, trapped beneath a web of wires and plastic tubes. Her mother glances over the top of her glasses at me from the corner of the room. Older, wiser. She says little. A book sits in her lap. On its cover, a rose in bloom hangs like mistletoe above a couple in a passionate embrace. She breathes the book’s words like oxygen. Wrapped up in the story, its soft hold soothes.

I visit every afternoon, but in the morning, I chase my thoughts with a brush. In bright sunlight, I stand in front of the easel and stare at a lithe harlequin. I try to trap him with paint, but he eludes me and continues, jester-like, to dance in my mind. My portrait takes the form of a cubist Arlecchino. Disjointed, misshapen, deformed. The black background captures the darkness of my afternoon visits. While my subject’s unbalanced eyes peer at me through a twisted half mask, I stroke geometric diamonds on his torso with deliberate authority. Each is coloured to match an emotion. Red for anger. Yellow for denial. Negotiated orange. Blue for sadness and cream for acceptance. The skewed shapes form a unique and distorted checkerboard.

In the corner of the room, her mother closes her book and places it on the bedside table. She rustles in a plastic bag at her feet and retrieves some ragged patches of material. From a paper template she cuts the fabric square and, with intense focus, sews precise stitches. The squares form a patchwork of diamonds. A harlequin quilt; a parti-coloured blanket of emotion. I want to wrap myself in it. Our designs are different but the patterns are the same. Her squares are precise, measured. Mine are chaotic, inconsistent and lean into each other. It is the same irregularity that flows through my entire being.

There is a knock at the door. My harlequin-thoughts turn a deft somersault and await an entrance. Il Dottore – the doctor – enters with a swoosh. He performs some checks and like a prophet, delivers the news.

‘There is no change. Nor will there be.’

My harlequin thoughts twirl and gyrate. The scene is comedic. A prank devised to gauge my reaction. With a flourish, the doctor leaves. We sit in a silence punctuated only by beeps from a bedside monitor. Her mother ploughs a deep furrow in her brow as she stitches another square. The quilt reminds me of my painting. Tomorrow I will hang a diamond from the corner of my Arlecchino’s eye.

Further details about the Grieve competition can be found at the Hunter Writers Centre website: http://www.hunterwriterscentre.org/grieve-writing.html

Copies of the anthology can be purchased here: http://www.hunterwriterscentre.org/shop.html

grieve 2014

Thankyou to all of the sponsors of the competition including:

The National Association of Loss and Grief

Calvary Mater Hospital Pastoral Care and Palliative Care Department

Good Grief – Seasons for Growth

Maclean’s Booksellers

Hunter Writers Centre




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