His Magnum Opus
Roger Leigh (Macquarie University, Australia)
It formed in the writer’s mind. He began to sense its size and shape. It was young and fragile with ill-defined boundaries, but it felt right, exuding its quiet power. It would be about growth and love. He would create real characters who could interact with gentle humour. It would be a story of the moment, yet also timeless. It would—
“What you doing?” The girl appeared at his elbow and pushed a strand of dark hair away from her eyes. She leant over the desk, casting her shadow across the open journal.
“Hi, Trouble,” the man said, swivelling his chair to face his daughter. “I’m writing a short story for a magazine.”
“My English teacher says you should have an opening that puts the reader in the middle of the action.” She regarded what he had written so far. “There’s not much action is there?”
The father turned back to his journal and caressed the page with his fingers. “I’m using dialogue to build character.”
The girl mimed a huge yawn. “Dialogue’s sooo boring.”
Yeah, I know, everything’s boring when you’re eleven. He took a different tack. “Why don’t you go and talk to your mother?” He looked towards the stairs as if he could move his daughter with his eyes.
“I was talking to her, but she’s doing the accounts. She said to come and see you.”
Thanks, dear. The man sighed. He embraced his fate. “So, did your teacher offer other pearls for aspiring writers?”
“She said you should write about what you know.” The girl brought one hand to her chin and regarded her father for some moments. “Though I suppose stories about endless video calls, growing tomatoes, and mending broken bicycles would be super boring.”
“Indeed. So, what do you know about?”
“I wrote about my horse.”
“Your horse!” He mentally searched their packed townhouse for a place to keep a horse. “Oh, you mean your toy horse?”
“Blazing Thunder Hooves won the three-day eventing gold medal, rescued his rider when she was thrown in the river, and bit the conman who tricked the rider’s dim-witted father out of the family farm,” the girl said in one breathless rush. “You see, Blazing Thunder Hooves doesn’t know he’s a toy.”
“You can’t argue with that.” The man smiled. “And your story certainly has loads of action.”
“Yes, although when my teacher read it, she said action isn’t everything and that in many stories there’s deeper meaning behind the actual words.”
“No, it’s true, she did say that.”
“No, that’s what they’re—” The man caught the girl’s wry smile. “Very droll.” He regarded his daughter more closely. “Do you think you’re most like me, or your mum?”
The girl considered the question. “I think I’m most like myself.”
Yeah, just the kind of answer your mother would give.
The man read through what he had written. It didn’t really have a beginning. He left it without an end.
Roger Leigh is a fiction writer studying for a Master of Creative Writing at Macquarie University. He writes from his home located on the unceded lands of the Wattamatagal Peoples of the Darug Nation, where his wife, two children, and dog provide inspiration, support, and encouragement. He is currently working on a science fiction novel.