Chapter 3

Written by: Ken Burns

The child’s hand on Shirley’s shoulder startled her. Expecting to see Michael she turned quickly but it was eight year old Sophie, Michael’s playmate from next door. Sophie had been a regular visitor since his death and had begun to play with Jason.
Shirley wiped her eyes quickly. “Jason and his daddy have gone to visit grandpa for a little while, they’ll be back soon.”
Shaking off frustration and anger, Shirley was determined to get back to normality, knowing Gary would call her as soon as he calmed down. He would bring Jason back by nightfall. She looked down at Sophie’s smiling face. “How about baking a cake?”
“Oh, yes please, can we make angel cakes?” She took a deep breath and oozed, “Pleeese? Shirley led her into the kitchen. She needed to work, even though it meant sharing an afternoon with the neighbour’s child. It brought a smile to her face, remembering her own childhood, baking with her mother.

Sophie is to the right of Shirley, standing on a small stool, stirring the cake-mix in a bright blue mixing bowl before it goes into the baking tray. Reaching for a spatula, she hears some familiar music that she and Michael used to listen too, coming from upstairs. She is nervous and turns to Shirley. “Can you hear that music?”
“That’s the radio in Michael’s old room. I have it on when I’m home to make me feel happy when I’m in the kitchen,” answers Shirley.
Sophie climbs the stairs and walks towards Michael’s room. She sees a shadow move across the wall inside the room. It looks like Michael’s two shadows but Sophie cannot believe he is there. As she enters the room she sees Michael sitting quite still by the radio. He looks up but does not acknowledge her. He looks down again, staring at the floor.
Sophie runs out of the room and back downstairs to the kitchen. She screams at Shirley and tells her to go and see Michael upstairs. Sophie is wide-eyed and shaking.
Shirley’s heart starts thumping. She shakes her head and runs upstairs. Michael’s room is empty.
Angry with Sophie, Shirley tells the child never to play that trick again. “I think you should go home now, Sophie. Your mother will be looking for you.”
Sophie leaves, crying, saying she will never come back again.
Shirley finishes baking and places the cakes in the oven. Heart broken, she returns to Michael’s room and sits on the bed, thinking of the son she has lost.
Lying down, she remembers her last day with him and the last time she saw him walking away with Gary towards the clearing at the back of the property and the well.
”Michael I loved you so much,” she sobs. “My life will never be the same without you here.”
A small hand, cold to the touch, rests on top of hers, calming her. ”Mummy, it’s alright, me and Jason will look after you.”

Ken Burns (NZ)


There is something about the change of tense here that made me stop and think. Although generally considered a 'No, No', the sudden change made me read on without pulling out my hair. The change was almost an 'out of body' experience for me. I went from being with the characters and feeling their emotions to looking at them from the outside of the house as though I was a peeping voyeur. I think the story line was well thought out and this chapter leaves plenty of scope for the other writers. Nice one, Ken.
I know this fell on the grid, but felt the whole time that I was reading a news paper article. Frasing felt flat and unemotional. For an example: "Sophie is to the right of Shirley, standing on a small stool, stirring the cake-mix in a bright blue mixing bowl before it goes into the baking tray." By changing the tense and using different words it feels more like you are watching it happen than listing to someone telling you what happened. "Sophie stood on a small stool next to Shirley as she stirred the cake-mix in the bright blue mixing bowl. Slowly she spooned the mixture into the baking tray."
I just realised that one of the most important facts got edited out somewhere along the line in the starter. Jason & Michael are twins.
Fair enough Sumanda.
Haha, I saw the twins part too, however, it was only in the last chapter ("I know Michael wasn't mine.") that you start to think, hang on, twins... but...
The thing is, they could be fraternal twins?