Siobhan's Glass

First published in the Cairns Post, 3rd October 1998 as winner of the Short Story Competition.

Excerpt from The Cairns Post: "But among the entries, it was hard to avoid the talent in two entries. They happened to be written by the same person - 16 year old Lisa (xxx). Lisa is the overall winner for this year's competition. Her short story Siobhan's Glass is an adventure into the teenage mind, written in a beautifully direct way. She has left behind pretentions and waffling to plant the reader firmly behind a school desk. The journey isn't always comfortable, but it is honest. Both Lisa's story and her winning poem, Noises of Silent Worlds feature the life of a hearing impaired girl. Lisa is profoundly deaf. She has not heard any sound since she was two. As judge of the competition, I didn't know Lisa was deaf until The Cairns Post visited her to tell her about her win. "


Siobhan's Glass

"There you go," Siobhan thought. "I've nearly finished digging my hole." She stared at the wall. The room was designed to be boring with blank walls, a clock, an immaculate desk and filing cabinet. There was even a pot plant in the corner. A plastic one. Mr Bates was writing at his desk, ignoring her. Siobhan shifted restlessly and looked at her watch. The clock on the wall was one hour, seventeen minutes slow. A scraping vibration moved up through her feet. Siobhan looked up warily. Mr Bates had pushed back from his desk and his lips were moving under his walrus moustache.
"...han,  if I ... you ... more time ... suspended ....."
Siobhan nodded meekly. Her eyes travelled to the door, then back to Mr Bates. He nodded curtly and sat his bulk down, causing a muffled thump to travel through the floor.

In Computer Studies, Siobhan was thinking about moustaches and how hard it was to lipread people that had hair hanging over their lips. Thinking of moustaches made her think of Mr Bates and suspension. Siobhan smiled. A continuous loop programmed into the computers would cause them to reboot constantly. It would take the teachers a while to figure that one out! A few more shovelfuls and her hole would be finished. She hoped that it would be deep enough for her to get sent back to Brisbane. Cairns was a dump. She hated the school, the people, and everything. She wanted to go back to Brisbane. It was hot here too, and humid. Plus this was supposed to be the wet season. Siobhan sighed, and started tapping into the keyboard, adding a few other tricks for good measure.

People started leaving, thumping, banging and scraping their chairs, signalling the end of the period and school. Siobhan grabbed her bag and headed for home. Not that it was home anyway; it was more like an ugly imitation of a flat. It was getting dark when Siobhan felt a deep rumbling vibration in her chest. A motorbike. The noise stopped, then the metallic, high pitched banging of people hitting the stair railings started. Her father was home. Siobhan went to open the door.
Siobhan said, backing up as a blur of golden brown and black fur pushed the door open and jumped, knocking her down. A wet, slimy tongue, dripping with saliva slapped her cheek and bathed her face in drool.
"Get off, you mangy mutt, Bowser!"
Siobhan said. As Bowser rolled off and skidded on the floor, Siobhan could feel scratching noises and a loud "Squee!" vibration.
"Hi Dad," she said, getting up and wiping her face.
"Hi Si, how was school?" Dan Morgan said, translating with hand signs. He did not get a reply. The look on his daughter's face was enough.

Later that night, Siobhan was peeking into the TV room, trying to get into a position where she could see her parents faces and lips. Her familiarity with her parents' lip patterns made it easy.
"She is not exactly trying to fit in is she?" Siobhan's mother, Sylvia said. "I don't think she wants to" Dan said.
"I know," Sylvia paused. "Oh! I forgot I met some nice people at work, who have a son Si's age that goes to her school."
"Hmm? Really?" Dan said. "Maybe we should all get together?"
"Yeah, it might be good, her knowing someone at school."

Siobhan frowned.  "Yeah right," she thought. "Nothing is gonna make me like it here." Slowly, she backed away from the door, using her right foot to feel for the creaky floorboards. She had successfully navigated three loose planks when a board shifted, causing a long grinding creak. Siobhan bumped into something warm and furry behind her. "Oh no," she put her hand behind her. A rough, wet tongue licked her. "Drat you, Bowser," she thought. "Give me away will you?"
Dan Morgan appeared at the door frowning.
"Lip-dropping again, Si? Go on, off to bed with you before Mum finds out." Siobhan turned for her room, giving her dog a flick on the ear as she passed.

It was quiet, but Siobhan knew there was noise in the room as the TV was on, her parents and the Sullivans were talking, and the Sullivans' monster of a baby was bawling. The room was interesting, full of woven tapestries and rugs, and pottery objects. She got up to touch a shell covered vase. It felt amazingly like the shells at the beach. Siobhan's version of a quiet room was shattered with a loud crash. The floor and air passed the noise onto Siobhan, the shelf her hand was touching vibrated too. She looked at her parents who looked at the Sullivans. Mrs Sullivan had a "Not again!" expression on her face.  An apologetic face appeared around the door frame. Blonde hair flopped over the boy's eyes which looked not-so-apologetic.
"Oops!" he said. "You didn't really like that ugly bowl did ya Mum?" The rest of his body appeared, long and lanky. Mrs Sullivan groaned. At least that is what Siobhan thought her facial expression and mouth meant.
"This is my son, Jimmy", Mrs Sullivan said.
"Don't take any nonsense from him, Siobhan," smiled Mr Sullivan.
"Aw Dad," Jimmy's face groaned, then brightened up. "C'mon Si, I got some cool things to show you!" signed Jimmy. Siobhan looked surprised. How would Jimmy know sign? She was answered by her mother.
"The Sullivans have a hearing-impaired relative, so they know a bit of sign. Go talk to Jimmy while we have a cuppa."

Siobhan left the Sullivans with a smile on her face. This was going to be good. Jimmy was identical to her and he had some ideas planned for school the next day. She liked the bush and the rainforest behind Jimmy's house. It was not as hot in there and there were a million fun things to do, like treehouses, building dams in the creeks, looking for wallaby tracks and pig wallowing mud-holes.  The dry crinkling of leaves under her feet, and the stillness of the bush made Siobhan love it all the more. She smiled again, remembering how she had jumped when she stood on a stick and broke it. The feel of it was like a rifle cracking out a shot to her. Jimmy had killed himself laughing at her surprise.

It was two weeks now, without any trouble, and Siobhan was getting restless. Her plans to finish her hole had been delayed by Jimmy, who had been copping all the blame for the mischief they got up to. It was time she did something on her own. One and half hours later, Siobhan was back in the boring room being yelled at by an irate principal. Not that it did any good - she could not hear him rant on. Hearing meant being able to lipread or understand the other person.

Siobhan tried to stifle a smile that was pulling at the sides of her mouth, and watched Mr Bates carry on, his mouth opening, shutting, spitting, and his ridiculous walrus moustache wagging up and down. It was silent in the room for Siobhan with the exception of the occasional feel in her chest or in the air of a deep vibration; not unlike that of the feel of a dog growling deep in its throat. "Boy, I have really done it this time," Siobhan thought. "Maybe I should not have done that thing with the sulfur in the faculty room."

There was a tap on the door. Siobhan turned around in time to see her parents being shown into the office. They both looked a bit furious. No, change that, they were extremely furious. Finally, after what seemed a very long while to Siobhan, her parents took her home for a three-day suspension period. The next two days made Siobhan wish that she had never done it. Her parents grounded her, loaded on the chores, and she was not allowed to watch TV or use her computer.

However on the night of the second day, there was a tink - a high pitched vibration - on her window. A familiar, cheeky face pressed up against the glass and grinned, making a blowfish kiss on the glass. When Siobhan opened the window, Jimmy pressed a package in her hand before slipping. Siobhan felt scratching as Jimmy's tree scraped against the wall of the house. Then the window rattled. Jimmy waved and slipped into the darkness. Siobhan looked in the parcel. There was a small crystal prism with a hole in it, and a note. The note read; "Hey, this glass here is guranteed to brighten up your face. Just hold it up to the sun and remember the things I showed you here in this 'dump' and how much fun you had. Cairns is not a bad place and I would miss getting into trouble with you if you went back to Brissie. Your mate - Jimmy."

Siobhan held her glass up to the light, watching rays of coloured light shimmer inside the glass prism. Jimmy was right. Cairns was pretty cool. In fact, it was only once she made up her mind not to like something; she stuck with it. Maybe it was time to change her mind.

Childhood Works

Siobhan's Glass (short story)

Noises of Silent Worlds (poetry)

Membrane Drum Mosiac (poetry)

The Sunroom (short story)

Adult Works

Breaking Free (short story)

Coil (poetry)

Trouble Pooping? (birth satire)

Wyld Womyn (column)

Explict Prose & Poetry

copyright © Lisa Morgan 2007-2012