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  • Writer's pictureElsie King

A Short Story to start the year









Stop Pushing emerged from a writing exercise which I did with the Woodcroft writers group in 2019. We were given a topic and told to write for ten minutes whatever came into our heads.

 

I wrote without planning and came up with the basic story of Stop Pushing in the ten minutes. I took the work home, honed it and edited and eventually published the story in the February Issue 2021 of Positive Words. This wonderful magazine gave me and many writers their first opportunity to get work published.

 

I googled Positive Words and unfortunately it looks as if it's stopped publishing. Its last magazine was in June 2023 which is a shame. I would like to think that it may re-emerge but if not say thank you to the editor Sandra James for all her dedication to writing over twenty years.

 

So here is my first short story for this blog. I retained copyright for this work so will publish it again on this website. I hope you enjoy reading it.

 

 

Stop Pushing

 

It was a peculiar name. Who would ever call a bloke Stop Pushing? Snowy Jones reckoned it was him that got it wrong. Said he had asked the new bloke for his name and got told it was Pushenko, or something foreign like that. Now Snowy was bout eighty-five at the time, deaf as a post and with a few wallabies loose in the top paddock, so it makes sense he got it wrong. Snowy decided it must be Pushing, and that was that.I never found out where the Stop came from; but it is Australia, and everyone gets called something short that’s fitting.

Stop Pushing sort of emerged, settled and became part of the lingo, and that was that.


Stop arrived in the early fifties. Bought Warren, the goat’s old place on the edge of town. The sheila’s tried to do the neighbourly thing and get him to the RSL chook night, but Stop wouldn’t have any of it. But he turned up in the front bar every Friday, have two beers and then go home at closing time, did that all of his life. And he always fronted at the dawn service on Anzac Day, stood at the back, then drifted away like a drizzle on a breeze.


Stop was a funny bloke. You wouldn’t believe he had a sense of humour; and he didn’t! Never smiled or laughed. Ordered his beers with a nod to the barman and said nothing else; to anyone. There were no laughter lines on Stop’s dial. He had deep gauges around his mouth, sunken cheeks and eyes that emerged from the black pits of hell. He was thin as a long dead cadaver and looked no different in forty-odd years.


What Stop did on the small holding we never knew. He kept himself to himself, and we were alright with that. He was quiet, clean, and took up very little room at the bar. After, a few years, his bar stool became a protected zone on Friday nights. “Oi, you can’t sit there, that’s Stops’ corner.”


It was in the nineties and the local fire crew had just mopped up after a blaze that grazed right up to the edge of town. The pub put a couple of hundred on the tab and everyone got plastered, really plastered. A few of the younger fella’s got a bit out of hand; as you do when you face off a fire for the first time. A kerfuffle broke out over some bloke’s missis, and the two Romeos took to some shoving, right into Stops’ corner of the bar.


Stop was jostled, he swayed, then toppled sideways, fell to the floor. The fire chief rushed over and tried for a pulse, but then shook his head sadly. They propped the poor old bastard back up on his stool and raised their glasses in remembrance. Stop Pushing was no more.


Now Stop Pushing could have just faded into obscurity, but a couple of months after the funeral, a bloke in a suit called a meeting in the front bar of the pub. The suit said he was a “lawyer for the deceased known as Stop Pushing.” Turns out Stop was worth a bob or two and left all his money to the town. He was some sort of fancy writer. Not a Steven King type writer, but he did history books which he sold to schools and universities, for a fair bit of money.


Well, the CFS got a new fire truck, the oval got a new stand with change rooms underneath and Warren, the goat’s place, got turned into a community library with meeting rooms and even computers. He also donated a new park bench at the war memorial. The plaque was short and to the point, “In memory of Stephan Pushenko”


There was a lot of talk about Stop for a few years after his passing. One of the teachers did a bit of digging and found out the poor bloke had been from Poland and done time in Auschwitz. There was some speculation that he was from some rich Jewish family, or he was a Romany or even a poof, but I don’t think that mattered to anyone in the pub.


I reckon Stop found his way to our small place in Australia. He was taken in, given a new name, and left to be himself. He never did anybody any harm and ended up doing everyone a lot of good. Whatever ghosts he needed to bed, he did it quietly.


I like to believe Stop found serenity here. He took in the ordinary life; the fires battled, the footy games won, the cricket games lost, the jokes, the gossip and the yarns. We gave him back a life, and he took what he needed, then gave back in spades.


Visitors to the pub may find it a bit strange but at closing time every Friday, to this day, some joker will raise his glass and shout, “Stop Pushing” and everyone will raise a glass and repeat “Stop Pushing” and have a laugh. For a memorial, you can’t get better than that.

 

L.C. Wong 2021 (now writes as Elsie King)

Photo of Sunset at the Devil's Marbles N.T. copyright L.C.Wong 2019

 

 


 

 

 

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