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“Hi I’m Katherine Delaney and I’m reading from my manuscript in progress, Miss Kitty’s Ghost.
This is how it works. Everyone’s life is a jigsaw puzzle and, when someone close to them dies, they lose a piece. Sometimes it’s okay, the people still fit together. But sometimes they don’t. When others offer a replacement for the missing bit to make the puzzle whole again, they refuse. It’s like they’re drawn to the empty space. They have the whole beautiful pattern to choose from but they’re drawn to that one gap and they end up living in its emptiness.
I know this because I heard it from a voice a few minutes ago. I have waited for the voice to continue but it is gone, replaced by a deep silence. I hear random noises from far away. At first they are nonsense sounds but slowly, like an old language returning, I can tell what they are: the slam of a car door, the bark of a dog, a car engine starting. They are sounds from the old world, the world I thought I had left behind. Wherever I am in this old world, it is waking up. Closer now, I hear something below me. Is it the sound of bedclothes rustling? Dread fills me. It already feels like it was much simpler being dead.
That is what I have been, isn’t it, before the voice? Isn’t that what I became when my spirit lifted up above my family out of my dying body? For the next week I hung above them, like an invisible balloon as the poison made its march through my blood and into my organs. I looked down on my family as they came and went, capsizing anew every day like boats in a storm around my bed. The doctors whispered that it would only be a matter of time but my body was not ready to die. It seemed that as long as it kept breathing below me, I would be forced to look down on the grief I had caused.
Finally the last breath came. The machine’s fluoro green line stopped its jaggy jumping and flatlined. I felt the reverb of its warning hum echo through me before it was drowned out by sobbing. I could see the grief on my family’s faces but all I felt was relief. Followed by bliss. A memory from early childhood returned and filled me with happiness.
Mum is tucking me into bed, after dinner where I have managed to avoid vegetables and yet still end up with a serve of my favourite dessert of bread and butter pudding. Now with the sun-and-soap smell of my pillow case against my face, I let the sounds of the grown ups chatting and laughing in the kitchen lull me off to sleep. Everything is just right with the world. With this memory surrounding me, I let myself drift away from the hospital room. My family are below me with mouths gaping like fish stuck for air but this is what I do. The string to the balloon of life is cut and I float effortlessly up, up and away straight up through the ceiling. Goodbye to all that.”
ABOUT KATHERINE DELANEY:
Katherine Delaney has been shortlisted for and won residencies at Varuna, where she recently finished her manuscript Miss Kitty’s Ghost. It tells the story of an Australian teenager who unexpectedly emerges as a ghost in Japan. We follow him on his quest as he deals with an invisible body, life as a guardian angel, and an obsessed Japanese schoolgirl.
Katherine is now working on the next-hardest thing to writing a novel – finding a publisher. She is also busy on a manuscript titled Mr Ibsen’s Dress and a zine series featuring two quirky eco-warriors who bear a striking resemblance to her young sons.
“I was first selected to come to Varuna on a fellowship in 2003 (with Michelle de Kretser as mentor) and recently paid for a week’s residence to finish my manuscript. I’d forgotten just what a wonderful immersive writing opportunity it provides. Thank you!” Katherine Delaney
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