Now, if all the references to Fosters, Vegemite and the need for better Dingo fences haven’t given it away yet, I live in Australia. Therefore this blog will tend to over-represent Australian authors. As a distant little market of the English speaking world, we like to focus somewhat on our own down here. Therefore, I’ve started reading the stories of a star of the local scene, Cate Kennedy. She’s won every short story award in Australia worth entering, and recently was the guest editor for The Best Australian Stories 2010, a series put out by Black Ink which is probably one of the best resources to go if you want a snapshot of Australian short fiction.
Nearly every Australian library will have a copy of her collection, Dark Roots. Every story in it has either won or was shortlisted in a major Australian competition. I’ve read about half the stories so far, and have concluded Kennedy is a master of the final line. All the stories have, well, twists would be the wrong word for it, but there is always something brought up in the dying moments of the story that emotionally shades everything that came before.
The story Direct Action, is about an unemployed welder, who takes part in protest activities against a local company that is pumping effluent into the nearby river, a river in which as a boy he fished with his father.
The welder borrows some industrial equipment from his father. His father guesses the reason why his son wants the equipment, but begrudgingly lets him have it anyway. The son recalls the three times in his boyhood when his father was proudest of him. They are when he learned to ride a bike, when he patched a hole in their backyard swimming pool by himself and when he caught a large, brown trout in the river.
The welder sneaks into the compound and welds plate metal over the pipes that spray muck into the waterway. However on the way out, he is recorded on security camera, and the police track him down and arrest him. His father watches in the court, and gives him a look of disappointment. The narrator reveals it was the same look his father gave him, after he caught the brown trout years before and then preceded to toss it back into the river.
I’m liking Cate Kennedy’s stories more and more as I read them. It’s a marvellous technique she employs, sort of a new take on the twist in the tale, and not nearly as clichéd.