A Heart worth giving

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

The impossibilty of love. The protagonist, Ron, is always falling in love with women who will never love him.


A Heart Worth Giving


“Love is like any other luxury. You have no right to it unless you can afford it.” Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now, 1875.

Once upon a time in a small town called Hopelesstown there lived a poet named Ron Bustard, although I don’t know anything about poetry and hated it when Ron quoted his miserable broken-hearted love poems to me. A former muse, Lucrezia Gaudiosi, described him as a mediocre poet. I recall she tore his heart too. Honestly, I tried to warn him. Lucrezia! What could go wrong? Anyway, Ron was my cousin, although we were never very close. The following story documents his last romantic idiocy and inevitable demise due to his propensity to fall in love. You see, Ron fell in love far too easily and with the least suitable women. They’d inevitably use him, abuse him and then break his pathetic little heart. He was, in my opinion, doomed. Read on.

Greg Ruskin, Ron’s cousin and the executor of his meagre estate.

* **

A Heart Worth Giving

I shall despair. There is no creature loves me,

And if I die, no soul shall pity me:

Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myself

Find in my heart no pity for myself?

Shakespeare, Richard III, Act 5, Scene 3

 ‘God damn this town,’ thought Ron, ‘with its malicious prattle and miserable inhabitants. Why can’t they let us be happy? Why can’t the world leave us alone?’

 So much seemed to have happened to him since he drove Emma home after Bev’s funeral last year. People always mock and malign poets, but Bev’s daughter and granddaughter had recited poems they’d written for her, which were so moving tears welled up in the mourner’s eyes, before a wedge-tailed eagle appeared out of nowhere and flew above the procession.

After he got to know her, he emailed her most mornings with his comic observations and general discourse. She’d sometimes send him woeful alcohol induced messages late at night telling him how unhappy she was and how badly Scoop treated her; how much he drank; how he went to the Top Pub every day to drink with his mates and that he paid no rent nor gave her money towards bills.

Ron didn’t know he was going to fall in love with her, and sometimes he wasn’t even sure if she liked him. He’d drop by and see her quite often, whether or not Scoop was there, and she’d play him songs on YouTube at high volume, which he enjoyed as he only had a small transistor radio at home. But now he didn’t think they’d see each other again. Not in the near future, anyway. Yesterday had been so harrowing he swore he’d never visit her again.

She had texted him at work to ask whether he could pick her up a bottle of wine, so he arrived with two bottles of Marlborough Riesling, a New Zealand dry white, he’d purchased on his way home from the bakery. He quite liked working at Persephone’s Café cum Bakery, but he was a hopeless barista and a lousy short order cook. He didn’t mind washing dishes and other menial tasks, but there wasn’t enough work to occupy him, and Persephone’s daughter, Annabelle hated him. He wasn’t sure why, but it was probably because she thought he was old, ugly and stupid. However, it was good for him to get out of the house and socialise. Many of the townsfolk were surprised to see him at the bakery, assuming he was incapable of any form of labour.

They were drinking wine at the table on her side of the room, where she slept on a mattress on the floor and played video games on her television. They were watching and listening to pop songs he’d requested and discussing some absurd philosophical matters. Meanwhile, Scoop, with a longneck V.B. in hand, watched his television on the other side of the room. Scoop turned up the volume on his television and Emma retaliated. It was the battle of the volumes and battle of the bottles. Scoop, who was already drunk, erupted into abuse and swore at them before departing. He hated listening to them enjoy themselves and their conversation.

“Why can’t you talk Hopelesstown talk?” he demanded, berating them. Hopelesstown talk consisted of fallacious and malicious gossip involving the parochial inhabitants of the insignificant one-horse town. He’d presumably headed off to Magus’s house to talk about them behind their backs.

Their friendship had caused the townsfolk’s tongues to wag. Ron tried to console and comfort her as she openly wept at the injustice of it all whilst they finished the wine and she got out the remaining bourbon he’d bought her on a whim recently, as she watched angry woman songs on her TV at a very high volume. Ron had never been much of a Pink fan but listening to Emma sing along to the songs made him feel very emotional, especially when she delivered the line, “We can learn to love again!” 

Scoop hadn’t arrived home by 11 p.m. and Emma told him he could sleep on the couch, but he didn’t feel comfortable about staying in the same room as she slept. People talk and what would Scoop think if he managed to get home nearly legless. It’d be a very ugly confrontation, so she lent him a torch and hoped he’d make it home safely.

Scoop had resented Ron since he’d become friends with Emma and more so after he’d baked a cake at Persephone’s bakery to give her on St. Valentine’s day. He’d decorated it with a heart on top with icing sugar and joked to her that he wanted to see her put a knife through it, to which she quickly obliged. Scoop flatly refused a slice when offered and eventually departed to the pub with the Magus. Emma told Ron later that Scoop hadn’t even wished her a happy Valentine’s Day, although she’d heard him wish Zeina, the tattooed woman, a happy Valentines on the phone that morning.

Scoop had tried to reassure Emma about the innocence of his friendship with Zeina, who’d escaped from Hopelesstown to the coast after an attempted murder charge against her was quashed, but Ron had seen them pashing, as it known colloquially, with their tongues down one another’s throats on an evening long before Scoop had moved in with Emma. Ron thought it was a rather disingenuous reassurance. The philandering, misogynistic hypocrisy of Hopelesstown never ceased to amaze him.

Both Ron and Emma were upset the next day, after a night of too much drama, too many tears and too much booze, which always magnifies emotions and misery. Poor, poor Emma. His heart really went out to her. She was the sweetest person he’d met in Hopelesstown and she had suffered terribly since she’d moved there. He’d do anything for her, but the best thing at present would be to leave her in peace, to avoid further scuttlebutt, but that is easier said than done. He tried to avoid contact with her, but she would inevitably text him at work.

“You’re getting a lot of love, Ron,” Persephone commented when his phone signalled the arrival of a message and he skulked away to reply. It was very awkward being secretly in love with a friend, but love is irrational. Besides, he thought, they were friends, not lovers, and never would be. In theory they should’ve been allowed to remain friends, but theory will never match reality. The reality was that Scoop thought he owned her and controlled her as if he’d purchased her from an Oriental slave market. She was his girl, despite his emotional cruelty and neglect. Ron, however, believed that nobody owned anyone, that slavery had been abolished and that all citizens are all free agents. Besides, all is fair in love and war and there will always be casualties in both.

Ron was angry with himself for falling in love after promising himself he never would do it again. Besides, he felt extremely loveless and unlovable at the moment and extremely desolate, as she would probably be copping it from Scoop at the moment, and he felt sick thinking about it, but maybe that was the result of too much wine and bourbon. Ron thought he should give up some of his many vices and turn his life around; to stop falling in love with inaccessible and unobtainable women just because their partners were complete bastards. If it were that simple, he’d do it, but love is blind and no-one has the luxury of choosing whom they love. He went home and composed a poem. Every word was true.

Knife through the Heart

I baked you a cake at the bakery

On St. Valentine’s Day.

It had a heart on top

In icing sugar, and later

I watched you put a knife through it.

He didn’t even wish you a

Happy Valentine’s Day.

He was on the phone

Wishing it to another woman

Putting a knife through yours.

He submitted it to the Hopelesstown Community Chronicle, but it was never printed.

* **

He met her at the Bottom Pub. He was waiting in the beer garden when she arrived. She wasn’t looking well and appeared to have been crying when they greeted one another.

“Can I get you a drink?”

“I’ll have a beer, thanks,” she replied.

He finished his wine and went inside returning with their drinks. He’d arranged to meet her after her appointment.

“Are you O.K. What happened?”

She broke into tears and told him the doctor’s diagnosis. She had been ill for some time, but the condition hadn’t been determined until today. The haematologists had finally identified it as a rare blood cancer, myelofibrosis. She began to weep. He sat helplessly trying to console her. After a while she regained some composure and smiled rather weakly at his attempts to cheer her.

“I’ll have to ring mum,” she told him. 

“Can I get you another?”

“Yeah, alright. Thanks. Can I have a glass of white wine this time?”

“Anything for you, my dear.”

He returned to the bar and when he came back she was weeping into her phone. He overheard some of it but tried to avoid eavesdropping. She’d have to give up smoking the doctor had explained, as it led to the further thinning of her blood. She should cut down on alcohol consumption as well, but the doctor hadn’t tried to dissuade her from consuming cannabis, which she thought might ease some of her other symptoms.

She finished the call and tried to sniff away some of her tears before she lit another of his cigarettes. She was desolate and his heart was breaking before her. She was looking frailer than he’d ever seen her. The condition explained some of her symptoms. The itchy skin, the lack of appetite. No wonder she was so skinny, he thought.

The woman looked over his shoulder at the far away hills and turned to him.

“That’s the water tower next to where you live, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. Up the hill,” he replied after a short glance in the direction she’d been gazing.

“I can’t believe you walk all that way.”

“Well, I can’t fly,” he joked. She returned another weak smile.

“It’s only three kilometres or so from town.”

“I’ve never been up there. It must be scary living so alone and far from town.”

“You should come up some day. You can meet my cat, Tom Tom.”

“Maybe if you get a car someday. Then I’ll get to meet your pussy,” which caused them to smile rather hesitantly. “Diana’s met him, hasn’t she?” referring to their mutually former-friend Monty’s wife; both of whom were Emma’s nemeses.

“Yeah, when she came over once with Monty to pick up the generator he lent me. I’ve met both your cats. Minnie and Tiger Lilly and your sheep, Captain.”

Emma suspected that Monty had been involved in the theft of her sheep, Captain, although he’d denied it. Only in Hopelesstown would someone kidnap a sheep from someone’s back yard. She put a notice on Facebook and eventually had him returned. He was found on a property next door to Monty’s friend Silus, a very unpleasant character, so Monty had presumably known all about it.

She became silent again and began to sob gently.

“Always take the wether with you,” he joked, alluding to a Crowded House song, which drew another pained smile. Crowded House were her favourite band. He pointed to their empty glasses and suggested another round. When he returned, he asked her if she was going to phone Scoop.

“I’ll tell him when I get home. He’s probably at the pub anyway. It can wait.”

Ron didn’t like Scoop. He treated Emma very badly and didn’t contribute anything to rent or bills. He spent all his money drinking beer, specifically VB, with his mates at the Top Pub. Ron thought VB was a peasant drink that tasted like horsepiss, although he hadn’t actually consumed horsepiss. Ron thought Scoop was an alcoholic parasite who didn’t deserve her. She appeared despondent again and Ron attempted to console her with small talk and ridiculous anecdotes which seemed to cheer her somewhat.

She returned her gaze toward the water tower on the hill.

“It’ll be getting dark soon. You’d better start your trek home. You don’t want to get lost again,” she replied with a hint of a smile, alluding to the time he’d got lost venturing home from her place. “Like you did that night the mad bitch threatened to visit you,” she added with a giggle.

“Bloody Delphine! I hope I never have to see her again,” which he attempted to sing to the tune of the Split Enz song they both knew well.

“You will,” she replied mockingly. He covered his face with his hands and sighed.

“Shall we go?” she asked.

He walked her to the front gate of the house, which was permanently locked to prevent her sheep Captain from escaping and to help deter the local riff raff from entering. She clambered over it.

“Do you want to come in for a cone?” she asked.

“I’d better go home and feed my pussy. Thanks anyway. See you around,” he said and watched her last gorgeous smile as he turned away and commenced the long walk home.

“Like a record!” she called back to him. He’d wanted to tell her he loved her, but she probably already knew. Later that night he received an email from her. Scoop had been furious with her when she got home for spending time with him at the Bottom Pub.

“Two fucking hours!” he’d yelled at her before heading off to his mate’s place to drink yet more beer. She didn’t even get the chance to tell him the doctor’s prognosis. Ron wished he had gone inside with her to support her. He felt like texting her to tell her that he loved her, but she probably already knew.

* **

Why am I such a fool, he wondered? He’d drunk too much whisky and wrote a rhetorical poem called: Will he get the girl? and emailed it to her. He didn’t want to see anyone again, and definitely not Emma. What would she think? The humiliation and shame. The café was very quiet that day and his boss, Persephone, asked him what was wrong. His disposition was glum, and he refused to engage with the customers. Why so sullen?

"I wrote a poem last night. I emailed it to her! What will she think?”

He recited the poem to her:

 “Will he get the Girl?

  Yes, he thinks he loves her,
  But will he get the girl?
  She's too young and beautiful
  But his heart is in a whirl.

  He wonders about his wasted life
  His contempt for the whole wide world
  But there's something about her that he loves
  Like a perfect imperfect pearl.

  He sees the love in her eyes
  The way that it unfurls
  He will wait forever
  But will he get the girl?”

"And you sent it to her?" asked Persephone
"It's not a bad poem, but you'll have to leave town?"
"I know!"
"I'll give you a lift," she joked.
"Thanks. I submitted it for publication in the local rag as well.”

“I hope you’re packed. I know Emma. She’ll kill you if it gets printed in the Chronicle. She’s already angry with you, isn’t she?”

“She usually is. She wanted us to be friends. She doesn’t need me loving her and she’s going to stand by Scoop.”

“That arsehole. She deserves better.”

“Tell me about it; but I’m not the one, apparently. I’m too cruel and petulant, whatever that’s supposed to mean.”

* **

Ron arrived at work before Persephone. It was 5.45 a.m. and he smoked a cigarette as he waited on the seat outside the beauty parlour next door to the café. The beauty parlour in the town without beauty, he thought.
Persephone’s car pulled up as he extinguished the butt end of the cigarette and said good morning to her. They entered the café, turned on the lights and Persephone made him an extra strong espresso in a demitasse, which he carried outside to smoke yet another cigarette. Coffee and cigarettes – his favourite morning vice but he had a feeling that there was already a song with that title. He finished and re-entered the bakery.
“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons,” he said to Persephone.
“It’s a line out of one of T.S. Eliot’s poems.”
“It’s too early in the day for poetry, Ron,” she replied.,
“I suppose.”

A customer entered and ordered a large cappuccino to take away, which he duly made. As it was Thursday, Persephone would be baking loaves and bread rolls. Ron wasn’t yet competent enough to do the baking, so he stood at the counter and served customers. Ham, cheese and tomato toasted sandwiches, bacon and egg rolls and always the ubiquitous cappuccinos. It wasn’t a bad job and he liked Persephone, who was heavily pregnant with her fifth child. She’d be closing down the bakery in a couple of months when the baby arrived and he’d have to find something else to do, or go back on the dole.
He’d had other jobs, but there wasn’t much work in the town of two thousand inhabitants. He’d taught at the Central School a few times but had given up teaching several years before. Teaching in the Bush was hell and there weren’t permanent jobs in the city. Besides, he had no wish to return to the city.

“Oh my god, Ron!” cried Persephone, scrutinising the Hopelesstown Community Chronicle. “They’ve published your poem. You’re a dead man! If I were you, I’d leave now and just run. She knows where to track you down”

“Yeah, I know. I saw it earlier. It’s on page six isn’t it? That cant bode well, can it? Anyway, I’m not scared of death. Not at the hands of an angry woman. I’m a poet, remember.  It would definitively be a poetic death, don’t you think?”

“There’s no hope for you Ron,” she said slapping her forehead. “There’s no hope for you at all.”

* **

Emma tried to be gentle as she explained the situation to him in her living room, in which also slept. She’d known a lot of similar situations and was thus an expert. She knew how to be cruel to be kind. Put him out of his misery as quickly as possible. He wasn’t worth playing with anymore. She’d extracted as much as she could from him without any emotional input. It had been simple, just like him. Feel no pity, no shame, no suggestion of love. It was all in his head and not her problem. They were all the same, men. They wanted what they didn’t deserve. Her undying love. Lucky for her she had no heart.

"I'm sorry, but I could never love you, Ron. It's flattering that you've told me how you feel, but I don't believe you. You should look at yourself. You're just a desperate and lonely old man. Besides, I've read your recent poetry. It's cruel and petulant, just like you.  I remember when you seemed kind," continued Emma. "You seemed genuine and generous, but you expected to sweep me off my feet with gifts. I do appreciate the wine and the whisky you gave me."
"Don't forget the chocolates," he interrupted.
"Yes, and the chocolates, Ron, but that's not love. They were empty gestures you used to try to impress me. That's not love. You'll might find someone else to love one day, but you'll have to show them your heart and kindness. Don't expect a woman to be impressed with mere gifts. What kind of woman would she be, Ron, and who do you think I am? A gold digger? A whore?”

He remained silent as he finished his glass of wine and bade her farewell. He would never return, even though he did truly adore her. She was his muse. He thought his poems to her were kind and expressed his genuine emotions and strong affection. He’d loved her more than anyone he’d loved before. Oh well, there's always another muse, he thought. Why had he ever cared for her? Why had he wasted his time on her? She was nothing to him now. He wanted to die. Rejection is never easy. He couldn’t envisage another love, and there was no point in being bitter. She was the sweetest woman he’d ever known, but maybe he’d caused her to become bitter with his nihilistic cynicism. Maybe a plague would wipe him out and he’d never have to dream of love again. One lives in hope.

It was six o’clock in the morning and his cat was demanding breakfast. He disliked his cat sometimes – he was better looking than him and perhaps less cruel. The alarm was beeping, the kettle was boiling, and he was searching for cat food in the dark. He hadn’t shaved for nearly a week and looked like a dero, but what was the point trying to look good and keeping up appearances? No one visited and he only went out to shop for booze and tobacco nowadays. If he was going to be wiped out by the pandemic, he didn’t want to be sober or going through nicotine withdrawal. It was bad enough accepting the impossibility of love. He still missed Emma. He missed the very thought of her. He missed her despite the impossibility of his love for her. It wasn’t denial, it was the extent of his love for her. He’d die before love did. He’d show his devotion. He would never betray his heart. A poet never gives up on love. It’s part of the job description, surely? What is a poet without love? A civilian or a mere peasant?

It hadn’t always been like this. He’d once engaged in the bourgeois dream of marriage, children and home ownership. But that was many years ago. Now he lived on the outskirts of a small town in a barely habitable shack. The townsfolk regarded him as eccentric and shunned him. It seemed as if he’d been alone forever, but now that the plague had hit the town it wasn’t safe to go out. Not even to buy toilet paper. He could probably survive for a few more days, but food was running out and he no longer cared. A life eating lentils was a life half lived, he thought, and a life without love wasn’t worth living.

He reached for a note pad and began writing unrequited love poems to her. They were cruel, hateful and unrelenting. He poured himself a whisky and composed verses that can only be described as textbook cruelty – his forte. He typed them out on his laptop and considered emailing them to her, but what good would that do? he thought. Why should he make her hate him just because she didn’t love him?

Can one love without pity? It was a question he posed to himself daily, but the pity he felt for her had abated and was now reduced to mere contempt. The pity he felt was entirely for himself. I wish I’d never met her, he thought. Is it bad luck to fall in love, or is fate? It was mid-morning and he was already drinking Shiraz and whisky to dampen his emotions, which is a poor strategy for a man who claimed to be familiar with military history. Did Caesar or Napoleon drink red wine for breakfast on an empty stomach before going into battle? Militat omnis amans, according to Ovid – every lover is a soldier!

It was Good Friday and the lock down was now in full force. There was a rumour that the military was going to be sent to Hopelesstown to enforce the curfew and make the drunken yahoos follow the law. He’d already listened to Allegri’s Miserere and Mozart’s Requiem. He knew the chapel would be closed due to the pandemic; besides his faith was on the wane. His unrequited love for a woman was stronger than his love of God; but how could God help him now? It would be unseemly to pray for the love of a woman who would never reciprocate his passion and was probably sacrilegious. At this moment, however, he would gladly burn in Hell for her. She was all. He sipped on his cheap sacrificial wine and wondered how it had come to this. Why had fate imposed such pain on him? It was incurable and unendurable. He wished someone would nail him to cross and finish him off, but now he was getting into what was potentially a damnable sin.

* **

Ron dressed and headed into town taking his usual route past the horse paddocks, along the rough path with its austere gums and ebullient magpies.

“Horses, horses…” he sang to himself a la Patti Smith, enjoying the Autumn sunshine. It was cool but not yet frosty. The track led down through the old quarry with its mounds of clay and shingle where he saw fresh motor bike tracks which had churned up the sodden ground. He marched along the Quarry Road before turning into the Millwood Road, passing clusters of pines and the large dam on Sandy McPherson’s property which lay between the bush and town.

He reached the spread of mediocre houses leading into Hopelesstown, past the retirement village, now in lockdown and headed through the back lanes he always took. The fewer people to observe him the better, he felt and less chance of running into Emma, the sooky girl, whom he loved so much, but alas would never reciprocate his adoration.

“I used to love you, but now I don’t,” he sang to himself, which he’d heard on the radio recently, but ceased upon seeing residents ahead. It was never wise to sing in Hopelesstown as it was regarded as effeminate. Real men don’t sing. They whinge about poofters, bludgers and Asians at the pub; or used to before the pubs were closed. Now they were probably texting and emailing their prejudices. Nothing ever really changed in Hopelesstown. Occasionally one of oldies would drop dead after a life of copious drinking, but there was always another to take his place at the bar when they were old enough.

He passed the Rural Supplies’ workshop and storage area whereupon a flouro-clad worker yelled “Poet!”, his nickname in the town, to which he reluctantly acknowledged. He was always wary of locals as they were critical of his indolent lifestyle. He walked alone and his job at the bakery had ceased after Persephone had given birth to her daughter, Precious. It seemed a preposterous name, but somehow apt.

It was his youngest daughter’s birthday today and he regretted the years of not seeing her and her sister. ‘Je ne regrette rien’, he thought. He was a solitary broken exile who lived in fear of eternal loneliness. He thought he’d deserved love once, but since his falling out with Emma and her subsequent bellicosity, the idea of love was now absurd. Who can love anyone who hated the world as much as he did? It was laughable.

He returned home and opened the whisky he’d purchased and poured some into a rather dirty glass. Petrushka was playing on the radio; he sat at his desk and stared out at the loneliness. Delphine, the mad woman, had threatened to hitch out to Hopelesstown and visit him but she was the last person he wanted to see now. Emma hated Delphine and would assume the worst if she turned up at Ron’s place. It was a small town, and everyone would find out eventually and intensify her hatred toward him. Emma claimed he had betrayed her. Betrayal is a strong word, he thought, but there was no point in debating semantics. They would probably never communicate again. She was as stubborn as those garbage bags that time will not decay, he thought quoting Leonard Cohen. He poured himself another glass of whisky and smoked another cigarette.

* **

“Was this the face that launched a thousand bogan admirers, druggers and petty crims?” Ron wrote with his mythical pen in his writer’s journal. His cousin Greg was visiting him, but they didn’t get on. Greg was listening to Fado music on Ron’s CD player, but Ron had an antipathy towards Fado music and anything Portuguese. His prejudices were wide and irrational. Besides, he hated everything today. Thoughts of Emma engulfed his now feeble mind.

“If thou must love me let it be for nought,” he proclaimed, causing Greg to look to him and state bluntly.

“Get over her, Ron! She was a low-life, drug-fucked moron, like all the women you fall for. Why don’t you look online for someone less complicated? They’re all over the place with the lock-down, and online. Try an oldie. They’ll do anything for a for a charming sensitive type like you. Or are you going gay?”

Ron turned the page of the book of love poetry he was reading and began to sob whilst quoting a line.

“Neither love me for thine pity’s sake, wiping my cheeks dry.”

“You’re not going to get hot chicks with poetry, Ron. You should’ve learnt that by now. It didn’t get you far with Emma, did it? Harden up, man! Go online and find someone better. This pandemic might pass, but what if it doesn’t? What about Delphine? Wasn’t she going to come out here the other day? It’s the end of the world, so what have we got to lose?”

“I don’t want her coming out to the shack. We might never get rid of her.”

“Yeah, but she loves you, doesn’t she?”

“Can you please leave Delphine out of this, please? I’ll never love anyone but Emma. She’s special.”

“She’s special alright. She lives with Scoop, a notorious drug dealer. Jesus, Ron! Honestly, you’re such a fuckwit. Aunty Bess was right. You do need looking after. I didn’t want to come out here to the boondocks. None of the women out here will ever love you. You've been single for years. You should move back to the city where the girls are pretty. There is no point living out here and dying for the love of someone who hates you. You’re not fucking Romeo, Ron, and she’s no Juliet.”

Ron continued to weep, although his anger was beginning to seethe due to the disparaging remarks Greg had made about the woman he truly loved.

“You’re a mediocre poet, Ron. Wasn’t that what Lucretia said about you, and she was a former junky and dominatrix. You really know how to pick ‘em, don’t you?”

Maybe Greg was right. Maybe it was the end of the world. Love was dead. Poetry was dead. Art and common decency were also dead. Mobs of youth were tearing the town apart at night. Persephone’s bakery had been torched and someone had fired a shot over his roof the other night. Anarchy and bedlam were taking over. Why should he die for the love of a woman he’d never even kissed? No, she wasn’t perfect, but he loved her more than anyone he’d ever loved before. The pity in her eyes. Her emaciated beauty. He simply felt he couldn’t go on without her, but she was another’s. She would never reciprocate his adoration.

Ron took the Fado CD out of the player when it had finished and put on Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Ludwig van, he thought. He was obsessed and infatuated with loveless women.

“Bloody classical crap, Ron!” Greg shouted. “Honestly, fuckin’ Beethoven! You’re not a fuckin’ genius, Ron! You’re a two-bit poet who’s obsessed with an inaccessible woman. Get over it!”

But Ron wasn’t listening. The Sonata played and he thought only of Emma, his perfect imperfect pearl.

* **

The next day Ron got up early, fed his cat, breakfasted on porridge with sultanas before writing yet another broken-hearted love song entitled Be Mine or Be Minor. It was terrible and so self-pitying that God himself thought about striking him down to put him out of his misery.

Greg awoke from the noise of Ron’s pathetic warbling feeling rather tetchy. He’d been out late on the lookout for stray women. He hadn’t found any. He wasn’t in the mood to listen to Ron’s whiny love songs.

“Give it a rest will ya. Nobody wants to hear about it. Jesus!”

Ron placed the guitar back on its stand, looking lost and forlorn.

“Do you wanna coffee?” Greg asked, but Ron declined the offer. He entered his studio and thought about the painting he was working on, Weeping Woman. Greg entered and scrutinised the portrait.

“It’s bloody Emma, isn’t it? The red hair is a dead give-away. I thought you were going to try to forget about her. There’s no fucking way she’s ever going to love you, pal. Don’t you understand! You’re too old, too ugly and too stupid.”

Ron put down his palette knife and begun to think about his hopeless wasted life.

“I’m just unlucky, that’s all,” Ron claimed

“People make their own fucking luck dickhead. Sitting around here feeling sorry for yourself won’t do you any good. How about we drive down to Melbourne? You need to get out of this fucking one-horse town and away from Emma.”

“What about Tom Tom?” Ron replied.

“He’s a fucking cat! He’ll survive for a few days if you leave out some cat biscuits and plenty of water. Jesus! Don’t use the fucking cat as an excuse to die of fucking misery! I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a fucking gutful of this bullshit. I’ve tried my best to help you, but you just don’t give in. Die if you want to, but I’m heading back to Melbourne. There’s no hope for you Ron. No hope at all!”

Ron watched the car disappear from the window at his desk, whilst he listened to sad adagios playing on the CD player. The pain was overwhelming. Emma had sent him another cruel and accusatory text earlier that morning that made no sense at all, but a hateful message from her was better than nothing. Why would he want to hurt her? She was all. The only goodness and kindness in his heart was reserved for her alone. He didn’t bother replying, of course. She wouldn’t believe him anyway. She hated him now more than his absolute love for her, so what was the use? He knew she’d never love him. Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor was now playing on the CD. He would love her till he died, knowing that she wouldn’t weep for him or attend his funeral. He wondered again how he could or if he would survive. Poor Ron. There was no hope for him at all.

* **

Ron finished reading the novel he’d ordered online and collected from his post office box two days ago on his sister’s birthday. The Plague, by Albert Camus; essential pandemic reading in his rather judgmental opinion.

A line towards the end of the book grabbed his meagre soul: ‘Here, at such a time, I wanted you and you were not there.’ He thought again about his vain adoration for Emma; the poems and songs he’d written for nought. No-one would ever read them or hear them played. Love is an abstract noun after all. Words are ultimately empty of meaning – written on water.

The magpies were singing to one another outside. A mob of wallabies browsed in the paddock beyond and his cat slept beside him on the couch. It was a perfect day to die, but Ron was unaware of his fate. He finished his morning glass of whisky – Teacher’s rather ironically, then sat down and began to type onto his laptop as a Rachmaninov Piano Concerto played in the background. He considered sending Emma a final message, an apologia of sorts, but he failed to finish it. Death was quick. A blow to the brain from a sudden stroke. He slumped over the keyboard. The final lines on the screen of an unfinished, unsaved poem by a mediocre poet read:

 ‘I fall in love too easily

And find it almost impossible

To escape its throes.’

He would never complete his unnecessary novel, In Search of the Bush. The world was spared. Ron Bustard, Poet Mordant, may you rest in peace.

* **

Emma hadn’t visited the shack before, but she knew roughly where it was on the hill some distance from town, next to the water tower. She could see the tower from her front veranda. She’d forgiven Ron for coming on too strong and publishing that bloody poem. How humiliating! It was a very small town and she’d be the laughingstock now. An old man declaring his passion for her. What would they say? She knew what they were thinking.

She hadn’t heard from Ron for over a week – his phone was turned off and he had stopped returning her emails. She had a file of the emails he’s sent her over the months they’d been close, but Ron was unaware of this. He deleted everything he sent or received via email. He only kept the written or printed word, as he found them more tactile than empty words on a screen.

Emma found him dead on Friday morning. She saw his corpse from the window and entered the unlocked back door to see what was wrong. He was cold and rather blue, slumped over his beloved writing desk with the panoramic view. There was an A4 printout on the desk of a poem entitled: “What will they say about me after I am dead.”

She read it and set fire to it, placing it carefully in the fireplace and rang the police to report his death. They eventually arrived and had the cadaver transferred to the morgue. His worldly possessions ended up in landfill, which was unfortunate. He’d always been an avid conservationist and recycler, and had always voted Green. No-one attended his funeral, and no-one collected his ashes either, which also ended up in landfill.

Emma took the time to incinerate his unpublished poems, stories and miscellaneous writings after the police and ambulance officers had departed. She’d never liked his style of writing, as most of it consisted of self-disparaging prose and pitiful unrequited love poems. He’d even tried to write pop songs it appeared. They were also the product of long years of loneliness, desperation and despair. He must have thought them brilliant, as he’d placed adhesive gold stars on them. He was alone in their admiration.

She took a cigarette out his near empty packet and poured herself some of his remaining whisky. “What will they say about me after I’m dead?” she pondered. I wonder if that was rhetorical?

She did, however, keep a journal she found on his writing desk; the desk he’d always boasted about, with its gorgeous panoramic view over the sparse Australian bush where he watched kookaburras and white-winged choughs hunt for food. It was a lovely view. She would read through the journal later, although the title did appear rather ominous: “Ron’s Diary of Love and Rural Misery, An Adoremusey in Four Movements”. It could be worth some money one day, she thought.



Poor Ron, there was no hope for him at all. The anonymous narrator, who used Ron’s writing journals to construct his account, did get a few facts wrong. Ron’s ashes did not end up in landfill, as I was there when Monty and Ron’s landlord poured them into the septic tank in the backyard as Ron had requested. Ron always believed that life was like a septic tank – what you get out of it depends upon what you put into it. I think he stole that gag from Tom Lehrer, but I may be wrong.

Although Emma did burn a considerable amount of Ron’s work, I found his writing journals and managed to work out the password to his laptop computer, which was ‘poetroom’. Too easy really, but he was a very predictable idiot in many ways. The last poems he wrote were all about Emma, the Sooky Girl, which follow this postface. As I mentioned in the preface, I hated his poetry and am not in a position to judge their quality. They are all crap in my humble opinion, but the reader can determine for his or herself. I don’t know what happened to Emma, the Sooky Girl, and I don’t particularly care, but she may appreciate his verse more than I do. As Ron used to say: ‘flowers wilt and chocolates melt, but a poem lasts forever,’ but having read them I can only hope he was wrong.

Greg Ruskin.


Will he get the girl?

Yes, he thinks he loves her

But will he get the girl?

She’s too young and beautiful

But his heart is in a whirl.

He wonders about his wasted life

His contempt for the whole wide world

But there’s something about her that he loves

Like a perfect imperfect pearl.

He sees the love in her eyes

The way that it unfurls

He will wait forever

But will he get the girl?


Manic depressive recluse

Seeks soul mate.

If you accept that life

Is suffering, or have

Been dumped by

A Tibetan Buddhist

Convey your love to me

In a spiritual form.

No texts, emails or calls accepted.


Poetic prince seeks

Unpoetic princess

To discuss life,

Art, love and rinses.

Crescent Moon

A beautiful setting crescent moon

Like a big letter C in the sky

Is looking over you kindly.

I miss you so much tonight

I wish I was watching over you too.

Messer durch mein Herz

I baked you a cake at the bakery

On St. Valentine’s Day.

It had a heart on top

In icing sugar, and later

I watched you put a knife through it.

He didn’t even wish you a

Happy Valentine’s Day.

He was on the phone

Wishing it to another woman

Putting a knife through yours.

Adagio for Broken G-Strings

I broke my G string the night we met

When my viola went too far

And bashed against your pale guitar.

I replaced it in a tick or two

I ain’t heard a further note from you.

You broke your G string the night we met

When your viola went too far

And bashed against my pale guitar.

You replaced it in a tick or two

But I ain’t heard a further note from you.

Love and Friendship

Can you fall in love with a friend?

I wondered? So I googled it

And received this reply.

“Yeah, sure, as long as

You have no expectations.”


She took an APO out on me

An Apprehended Poetry Order

So I can’t write cruel poems

About her for two years

But shed no tears

Unbeknownst to her barrister

I can still write nasty prose.

The Courage to be Unloved

If I ask too much

Too soon

Will you forgive me?

I’d give you the moon

If I could catch her

And hold her.

If I ask too much

Too soon

Just send me to the moon

And I’ll learn to live without you.

My Heart Spoke to Me

You love her, Ron

And she is worth it.

Give up smoking

And drinking

And sulking.

If it doesn’t work out

It’s not important.

She may need your help

To survive; well, it can’t hurt.

Be selfless not selfish

And think what she’s been through;

Just be a good man.

Sitting at the Bottom Pub

I sit alone at the Bottom Pub

Just in case you walk by

But I never see you from there

So maybe I'm wasting my time

But there's a slender chance

Perhaps there will come a time

When I catch a glimpse of you

Whilst I'm sipping my wine.

I sit alone at the Bottom Pub

Dreaming dreams sublime

Maybe one day I'll see you again

But I know you’ll never be mine

Yes, maybe one day I'll see you again

Whilst I'm sipping my wine.


I went to Foodworks

In search of love

But the shelves were empty.

I went to the Top Pub

In search of love

But only found contempt.

I went to the Coolamon library

In search of love

But borrowed a book instead.

I’ll get over her.

I always do. Eventually.

But at the moment,

Everything, sadly,

Reminds me of her.

Love in a Time of Plague

I gave her a bottle of whisky

To get her through the night

I went home to isolate

But I didn’t feel quite right.

I wanted to hug her

And kiss her

But I knew I had to keep

An appropriate physical distance.

I re-erected my barricades

I tried to forget her

But the mere glimpse of her

Made me feel so much better.

Love is such a cruel disease

When will they find a cure?

I can’t be immunised against her yet

So, love and pain I must endure.


Love is a game

Without winners

But it helps pass the time.

Try not to think about her

And of impossibility.

Love is a game requiring wine

Which we once shared

But no longer

And besides

It helped pass the time.

Now I’m loveless, quarantined

And you’ll never be mine.


It was a longshot

A hundred to one

Against love

But we did have fun

Listening to sad music

And wagging all the tongues.

It was a far-out roughie

That never got a run

But I’ll always adore you

More than anyone.


It’ll probably take me

A million years to get over you.

Do you think we’ll live that long?

I’ll have to give you prettier poetry

And write you better songs.

Of course, she replied enigmatically,

But she is an enigma.

Questions to a Sad Beautiful Woman

How can you accept such crap?

Why do you let a pathetic

Alcoholic live off you rent-free?

Are you really so insecure

That you cannot survive emotionally

Without a parasite like him?

I bet he’s down the pub right now

Drinking away the money

He should be giving you.

How can you accept such crap?

You know you’re better than that.


Goey thinks I’m a dickhead

For extending my kindness and generosity

To a woman so emotionally and substance dependent

Upon him that she receives no rent, no love

Nor emotional support from him.

How could anyone be stupid enough

To fall in love with her?

I hate my cruelty

But I was suckled emotionally

Upon it’s teat.

It’s mother’s milk to me

And the only thing I excel at.

So why not use the only super-power

I possess to excess?

Why should I be the only one

To get angry and depressed?

It’s a gift I should share

With her and all the rest.

What does a Poet do? Militat Omnis Amans – Ovid.

What does a Poet do?

Attack, attack!

Demean the muse he lost.

Destroy, Destroy!

Her psyche at all cost.

But some small memory

Of adoration prevails

Despite a heart now lost.

What does a poet do?

Write of hopeless love.

A Farewell to a Pearl

‘Tis rueful we shan’t meet again

As once you made my sad heart glow

But now the world so deadly strange

Our rapport seems long ago.

I cherish my fond thoughts of thee

Pray that you may somehow thrive

Trust my final wish shall be

That our friendship can survive.

Hominem Sine Amores

You can drink a lot of strong coffees

To perk you right up

Or drink copious amounts of alcohol

To get you blotto drunk

Or maybe smoke some ganja

To ease your mind

When you’ve had enough

But what is it you need

When utterly desolate?

Is an overdose of love.


I saw you again today

I didn’t want to

I had a sonnet in my pocket

I was going to give to you

I had a sonnet in my pocket

I gave to you and you said

It ain’t romantic

It’s pathetically blue.

I saw her again today

I didn’t want to

I gave her a sonnet from my pocket

But I didn’t feel romantic

I just felt really blue.

I thought I loved her

I thought I loved her

But she reeked of bogan.

The stench was right through

The eaves and rat-holes

Of her house. Not even cat piss

Could disguise the odour.

She reeked of bogan,

As did her so-called friends

And I couldn’t endure the stench.

I thought I loved her, so very much,

But her pheromones were such

That we couldn’t even remain friends.

Facebook Enemies

Where are my Facebook enemies?

Click a button to find a friend.

I have no friends in real life

So why online should I pretend.

Where are my Facebook enemies?

Texting me death threats by phone.

I don’t need a friend in the whole wide world

I wish the world would leave me alone.

The Sooky Girl’s Last Four Ugly Messages to Me

“Go to Hell!” she texted me, which I found amusing,

But the war of words had gone on too long;

She began the offensive with a vicious text:

“She must be a good fuck. I hope she was worth it.”

I had no idea what she meant. It was presumably rhetorical.

Alright, the Mad Woman did visit me one night,

But we are consenting adults and what we do,

Or in my case, don’t do, in the privacy of my abode

Is none of anybody’s business.

It’s none of the Sooky Girl’s concern

Who drops over out of the blue.

It would be funnier if she stopped sending me death threats

But what does one do? Keep calm.

There’s another text to delete

And I just want to get some sleep.

What does she want?

She will never win a war of words against me!

Alright, I admit I am cruel and petulant,

But that isn’t a capital offense as far as I know.

I’m not scared of Hell. I’m already living it.

Two more messages to delete. What does she want?

I’m not scared of Hell!

I’m already living it.

Submitted: June 04, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Craig Davison. All rights reserved.

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There are so many things I could say about this. I knew virtually all of the song references. I loved the poems.
Love - hellish to live with at times.

Thu, June 4th, 2020 7:14pm


Hi Hullabaloo22,
I'm so glad you read my story. I didn't think anyone would, as it is so long. I've not written anything as long as this before - usually 3-4,000 words at most, but the eight week writing course inspired me to extend myself. The final story for the course only had to be 1,000 words, as it was for first-time story writers, but I wrote 6,500 and then added the preface and postface after reading The Plague and it finished up at 8,000 words.
I thought it would be funny to reintroduce Greg Ruskin, as he is such an obnoxious and cynical voice and a great contrast to Ron's romantic naivety. I still think I went too far in his chapter, but that's how people, or rather men, speak out here in the Boondocks.
I saw the real life Scoop on Wednesday on his way to the pub, which re-opened that day, so Emma the Sooky Girl remains a manic-depressive recluse in an abusive relationship, but it's none of my business and not my problem. You can't tell people how to live their lives, as my father always told me. People don't know what they want, according to a Go Betweens song.
I'm glad you liked the poems, but they are now Ron's, rather than mine. I wish I'd never learnt the word 'intertextuality' at University, but I suppose it comes in handy. Now I have enough stories to publish a small book and I have an ending, or denouement as we call it in the business.
I'm going to keep editing the story/stories until I'm happy with them, but any suggestions would be welcome. Thanks again for checking it out. Sometimes it seems rather futile wrting in a void.
By the way, Greg Ruskin and Ron Bastard were early Punk pseudonyms I used, but I had to bowdlerize the latter when I published Will he get the girl? in the local paper.
Cheers and many thanks,

Thu, June 4th, 2020 6:08pm

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