Andrew James Whalan

Poet Blogger Writer

Category: Fiction (page 1 of 7)

Horse and Carriage or Unfinished Symphony

I had to laugh (out loud on the train)! For My Dad, Kevin Whalan’s latest blog,opens with the same words as the following speech, written and delivered in 2001,  while I was going through…

“Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage “

Well, you don’t see that any more do you?

Do I mean horse and carriage or love and marriage?

There is a hidden pandemic of loneliness occurring right now.

It’s called second and third marriage or permanent singlehood.

Actually it’s really divorce.

Most marriages fail. Most second or third marriages fail. Most divorces fail too!

What is the triumph of hope over experience? A second marriage!

But all is not lost! Like flowers in the desert after a rain shower, a new industry has sprouted to upend this trend.

Books, radio shows, tapes, videos, courses, even laws and of course marriage counsellors are lining up to help you and your loved one out of your marriage! I have checked out some of these resources. Unfortunately, few have been helpful.

But I did find something. To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, when you take away what’s left, whatever remains, no matter how strange it is, is the answer.

Or what I might call Whalan’s law of failure, success is the path you take when all else has failed!

My neighbour loaned me a book. The basic idea of that book was that the man is the problem. And if he helped around the house a little bit more: let’s just set the scene…

The wife has gone out somewhere or is working and has come home late. The husband has just finished washing up and is putting away the dishes. He’s a bit bald, maybe a bit of a paunch, but tonight to the wife, he has never looked more attractive.  When she comes home, she is so glad to see him… scene cuts to the flames burning fiercely in the fireplace.

So you men, if you wash up marital bliss waits. Maybe even a second honeymoon. I wonder what do I get for doing the washing and my own ironing too?

One other book, which I bought and attracts dust, also says the man is the problem. If the man stopped going to the footy or cricket, stopped watching TV, didn’t go out with his friends, gave up his favourite hobbies then marital bliss awaits. Just spend more time with your wife and family.

But I ask you, what man has enough time to do all of this and the housework as well?

And suppose women are the problem.

Yet another book says the above. Laura Doyle’s “The Surrendered Wife: A Practical guide to finding intimacy, passion and peace with a man”. Luckily for me I haven’t read it even silently or aloud to my wife or coloured in the pictures.

For instance her advice is for the woman to stop nagging the man, even covering her mouth with duct tape to do so. She should say, “Whatever you say, dear? “ Talk about the inaudible language of love!

The woman should always say “Yes” and be available for the man. What does this mean? Maybe I should get the book…

The woman should never ever tell the man he is wrong. Does this mean that I’m always right! I can’t remember that time!

Or as I saw in a leaflet which prided itself as a prescription for marital bliss. It suggested that when the husband came home from work, the wife should have all the children lined up to greet him all squeaky clean and neatly dressed. The wife should be perfumed and also neatly dressed, made up etc. She should do all the cooking and housework and hang on every word the husband says.

Obviously, the wife does not work and the children are robotic. Not even in the Brady Bunch, could they make this happen. Even with Alice and Carol Brady slaving away…

It seems ridiculous that Ms Doyle can write a book saying the way to marital bliss is to let the husband do as he pleases.  Please no cheering men, for if what she says is true, men are Neanderthals with a no thickening veneer of civilisation and have to be appeased.

It always seems to me that its either the man is the Conqueror and the wife Surrendered. The women’s liberationists hate that and rightly so!

Or the other way around. The man is submissive and the woman a conqueror.

Maybe there’s a market for a book called the Surrendered Man. It would probably sell to the sensitive new age guys (you know, the ones with boyfriends) and I would have the other copy.

Maybe we should live like accountants, counting up and valuing every task and redeeming them for prizes. Like a game show.

Is there no common ground between men and women except mutual selfishness? Its that the answer?

Or is there not another way?

Maybe there’s a market for a book, video series, etc, called the Surrendered Spouse where both husband and wife promise to live for each other alone.

Maybe they could commit to mutual respect and work together and find that two people can do more together than each alone!

Maybe instead of trying to change each other for selfish gain, they could just change themselves one day at a time.

My point is that the only person you can change in your marriage or any part of your life is yourself. How is up to you !

That takes more courage than slavishly following a reverse tit for tat marriage manual.

Perhaps then marriage (And Life Itself) be an unfinished symphony!

A Quiet Courage

There's a quiet courage in all of us 

Resident though not easily found

One that most didn't know existed

That quiet courage bides it's time

Waits until that last but one moment

Then softly says I was always here.

A Folded Butterfly

Her train passes by
Two hands I barely see
Long fingers flit and fly
Paper folds one two three.

Before the moment is lost
I breathe and recall carefully
Her quick movements deft and free
My paper folds one two three.

We both took a paper hatchling
And moulded a folded sculpture
Her mystery now revealed to me
She sent forth a butterfly!

Your Breath

Watching you stumble from one breath to another, I'm trying to breathe for you. I want to Inhale the oxygen, and pass it through my lungs into yours. And from there into that heart that I love so much. And take your breath and exhale it all for you. But I cannot. All I can do and it seems of no use at all is hold your hand. And wait and hope. We always wanted you to grow to a fullness that would exceed ours. But right now I don't know if that will happen. And my fear is that you'll catch my doubt. A doubt enough for youto quietly slip out that door with perhaps barely a nod to us as you leave.

As for your mother, she doesn't know. And that's what she cannot handle. A little uncertainty perhaps which can be overlooked or postponed. But not the uncertainty that is now resident. She worries that it will take over and we will be living moment to moment. She can't say that to me as it would betoo great a worry. She won't say that to you. Or even afterwards. No matterhow things turn out.

You're not as tough as you thought you were. This illness is your companionnow and ours too. I could advise you:  if you can do something, don't worryand if you can't do something, then do nothing and don't worry.  I can't 
take my own advice. I simply don't know how it will turn out. And I can't 
tell anyone, least of all you.

So I should make myself comfortable I suppose. I try not to look at the numbers and zig zags on the machine. Me being me, automatically I try and analyse them to determine a trend. The numbers seem unchanging like a clock that keeps time but never tells it. I grab a spare pillow, wedge it against myplastic hospital grade chair and find a position of least discomfort. 
Unlike yourself.

Tubes run into you and out. For a moment, I hope that it's all unreal, thatjust for fun, they've attached them to your skin only. I'm really waiting for someone to rush in and say it's all been a joke. And you'd wake and 
laugh with me too, until we thought of how to tell your mother. But she 
might see the fun in it too.

There's no change in the numbers or the fuzzy lines on any of the machines.
The door opens. Men and women rush in. Your eyes flickers open. I'm raised to my feet and quickly shoved outside. A joke? No a sarcastic cosmic one. Ishout out in my head, that was a random thought, I was idly thinking, 
I didn't mean it. Much as a child, I fear the horrible thought made true.

I wait for news and fear the over calm manner of those who deliver it.

Drenching Human Sheep

“All rise!” The Court Clerk brayed in a tone of bored authority. The words echoed and then died against the wooden paneling.

There was a pause. The door to the left opened. A short bobbing woman entered robed and wigged even though convention didn’t demand it anymore.  The pause followed her and held its breath.

There was a scraping and shuffling as lawyers, defendants, witnesses and audience rose. And bowed their heads. The judge sat down, her head hovering over the bench above. She feathered her hand at the crowd. With a more respectful scraping and shuffling now, all resumed our seats.

“Even to its practitioners, there are things about anaesthesia that remain a mystery – such as – where exactly it fits in the spectrum of consciousness.”

Thirty seconds in and he was already uncomfortable. He started to shake his head slowly from side to side. His hands were no where to be seen. Like children of a past generation, he was seen and not heard. Short, shorter than the judge by a half head, he bowed his head over the stand in boredom. All that could be seen was a brown shiny bald patch circled by a patch of hair. In another life, he would be bowed over a pew at prayer, held to a vow of silence.

“A state of general anaesthetia is not rendered not by a single drug but by a lights-out cocktail.”

“We don’t care for such pseudo-academic twaddle,” the anaesthetist growled.

“We put people under, hold them under and then bring them back. It’s a simple occupation really. You’re making it far too complicated.”

Unbidden, unusual and unhelpful even if he was being tasked with giving expert testimony. Which in fact he wasn’t. Especially considering this was a coronial inquest.

“Yes, they’re all a secret society, even when I put them on the stand as expert witnesses,” thought the cross examining lawyer in exasperation. But he set aside those thoughts as well as the academic treatise he was reading.  Unlike his interlocutor, the lawyer was grey of hair and of skin too, tall and spare with an economy of movement that belied his age. Only the twisted folds of skin under his chin marked him as ten years later than he looked.

“What about accidental awareness?” his soft voice filled the courtroom.
The anaesthetist stirred. His face peered over the edge of the witness box, red cheeks, centred by the pasty nose of the heavy drinker or worse topped by two monstrous eyebrows.

“It happens,” he said impatiently. “But you make it far more serious than the situation warrants. We monitor the patient closely. We take the action required. Like I said, yesterday,” he drawled with emphasis,”we’re not surgeons. More like farmers,” his tight mouth fluttering at his joke,”drenching sheep. It’s really straightforward, nothing to worry about.”

His voice now which was a dull monotone, more suited to calling out blood pressure, respiration, pulse and blood gases now was a bellow.

“Yes I can see why now. How all those nurses and junior doctors complained. Yes I can see too why he kept being exonerated, without even a reprimand, all those complaints dismissed as mere professional differences rather than personal ones. Sheep dip indeed.”

The anaesthetist didn’t react to the lawyer’s unspoken thoughts. Had they been spoken, his clever counsel would have interjected anyway and dismissed them as irrelevant. But clearly too, he hadn’t been fully briefed.

“What if there’s a incident?”, the cross examination continued.

“We’ve procedures in place. Should it happen,” he said gruffly.

“Thank you for your testimony,” the lawyer concluded. The anaesthetist shrugged, relaxed and almost smiled as he stretched back in his chair waiting for the judge to discharge him.

The silence at first inviting and expectant, continued. For the lawyer was still standing.

The lawyer paused and continued,”Your testimony regarding the science of anaesthetisia.”

Then he intoned, “Now I want to walk you through the incident at hand, the incident that happened on the 28th December, the night of the emergency.”

“What?” He growled. The eyebrows fluttered in time with his silent mouth as he sought his lawyer. But she crossed her legs and folded her arms. And avoided his eye.

“I answered that fully and frankly in my statement tendered to the court.”

“Yes he is his own lawyer! And his counsel knows it!! He’s had enough experience too!” the cross examiner nearly laughed to himself. But his task now required complete absence of all expression: the perfect listener!

“Indeed that is perfectly true,” the lawyer countered. “But the court wishes to hear your story in your own words for the record.”

“It’s all in my statement. There’s nothing to tell. I anaesthetised a patient that died during the subsequent surgery.” Another lost look at the defence lawyer.

“You knew she was dying.”

“No. Her vital signs were all falling. BP dropping, pulse down,breathing shallow, blunt trauma and she had lost a lot of blood.”

“That’s correct and that’s in accordance with the medical records tendered. However, according to Accident and Emergency, she had been stabilised, prepped and ready for surgery.”

“No, not from where I stand.” Came the reply.

“She had deteriorated before you administered the first part of the anaesthetic,” the lawyer continued.

“Yes.”
Then the lawyer stood and unwound himself to his full height.

“Why didn’t you call it? Why didn’t you at that stage abort the operation?”

“Why did you administer the second part of the anaesthetic?”

“I put it to you that without authorisation you carried out an act of involuntary euthanasia on a dying patient.”

“Just like drenching human sheep,” came the reply.

Learning Disagreement Skills

Go on, click the angry icon. Share the negative post or tweet.

Slip in and quickly criticise. Tell the other how they got it completely wrong.

They lack intelligence. Common sense. Logic.

Sit back and easily insult the unlike you.

They can’t even think. They’re Inhuman.  We should wipe them out.

Yes it’s so easy to disagree and oppose.  And easiest to offer no solution.

I thinking this as I read each tweet storm. And think even more as I click through each Facebook outbreak outrage.

I realise it is so familiar. For it was exactly the same as my experience.

For at quite close range and for quite a long time, I heard the same words for the same reason.

For to disagree, even silently through to mildly evoked white-hot anger.

Sometimes in despair, I joined in and fully embraced the proferred down spiral.

Until somebody asked, “So how did that work for you Andrew?”

I’d shake my head silent. I said no, it didn’t, it didn’t at all, it made things far worse.

“So what are you going to about it Andrew?”

(How can you make it better?).

There was the beginning of an answer.

I was learning disagreement skills.

Not the “let’s agree to disagree” cliche. That only suspended hostilities for now. And led to a ever widening DMZ!

Be silent Andrew.  Don’t interrupt the the other. Listen to the person behind the words.

Sit stock still Andrew. Don’t move and distract the other. Don’t insult them for not thinking like you.

For no-one thinks like you. Which is a wonderful thing! For everyone and you too.

Ask the question that goes beyond the question. Wait for the answer that reveals another’s truth. Not to you. To them.

Listen and bide your time, then you’ll find that it’s  the time. For the quiet and thoughtful ones to be heard.

Who speak without the intent of crushing free speech. Who speak and listen to encourage freedom of listening.

To enable those who accept truth without question (as you once did) to find their own. And others find theirs.

Otherwise it gets too dark when we all agree not to look for the light.

 

 

Freedom of Speech Doesn’t Exist

Freedom of speech belongs to the loud and aggressive.

Freedom of speech is their cacophony of voices shouting all at once.

Freedom of speech is their smothering words that silences all  other.

Freedom of speech is the preserve of  the crowd that excludes all but them.

Freedom of speech is not our freedom extended to the foreign other.

Freedom of speech is not  our freedom to accommodate a new point of view.

Freedom of speech belongs to  the true listening of the quiet and thoughtful, the ones crushed underfoot.

Suffering Is a Superpower

Bleed out drop by drop,
Breathe out gasp by gasp,
Lose time tick for tock,
And love beat by beat.

Each day darkens upon dark,
Each touch lessens its loss,
I watched my heart disappear,
Shrivelled and dried by fear.

Push me away, slap my face,
Shove me to the wall, that’s my place,
Punch my chest, kick my head,
I fend off the blow. And now I’m dead.

For you’ve found the impetus enough for you,
Though I’ve stopped you, you take your revenge,
I see it double inside you as i double up too,
For many are the offences I could avenge.

I could easily kindle that evil in me,
Take hold of your rage and reciprocate,
Your anger as mine, now pure and clear,
But surrendered to the void of fear.

I know and see that you’ve suffered,
I’ve been racked by your loss unsalved,
If I could, I would offer you comfort,
But I found the healer was killed by the cure.

And now with my heart spent,
I am poured out and empty,
All I have left are questions
To ask of you, one or two, if I may?

Will you let this dissolve you?
As you enjoy the hurt cast on others too,
Now, my question is better said:
Would total revenge be a comfort to you?

Or would it, a second one, if I may ask,
Be a false cure to a pain eternal,
An acid that melts a dying heart,
And bile that burns your mouth?

Perhaps I may suggest an answer,
Diffcult though it may yet be.
A hope perhaps still shrouded
But it may be happening to me.

Out beyond the passing pain,
Lies a desert now watered by rain,
And in it an oasis of comfort and healing,
Where you’ll rest and regain your healing.

And there you will rest and be restored,
There you’ll receive a power conferred,
There you’ll learn to love your suffering,
And that will be the superpower.

An Everlasting Light

The worst doubt drives my fear
Do I really have any light to hold?
When all I have will disappear
Once all I am and was grows cold.


When that light I carry dies out
Another question I'll ask with more doubt
Will I leave the world dark once I go
Or bathe it briefly in an afterglow?


It's unknown. I may be mistaken.
I may be given a gift more bright 
That shines through the dark taken
And live as an everlasting light.

The Last Selfie

The last moments are the scariest, he thought. As he had been told. Apparently you first bob like a cork. Then you are swamped. Then you stretch your arms out to push yourself out of the water. And giving up, your arms and legs climb upward. Then downward. Thus overloaded you sink to the bottom faster than an anchor. So much time to contemplate, he thought.

The wave had already broken and the spray filled the sky. So much power, so much grace, how fortunate to witness. He reached for his phone. But there was no coverage. There’s no one to tell it to now. No photo, no text, could he break into the internet using his thoughts? But there, there was so much bile, cat videos, fake news that would overwhelm his story. Although it might go viral he thought, the last selfie of a drowning man. The channel between him and the point was now frothing green and white. Apparently once you sink to the bottom, it’s like falling asleep and drifting off. He really was annoyed now. He was never going to get his few seconds of fame on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram now. He looked and now the trough was full and flowing towards him. And then the water started building up again. He looked up and saw the spray over arch him again.
A second wave. He assembled the new facts of his predicament with studied detachment resolving to record and relate it for another time. The wave fell and crushed him silent.

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