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The Salon

Garry Gillard

In the end they were installed comfortably in the hotel salon, or would be when the tiny gas fire began to make some impression on the room. A marriage of minds, thought Ron Carot, and tied a string around a mental finger to use the image in an amusing little story he was writing about the group. Though he would hate to be married to Elizabeth Dadswell's mind, he thought, to spend their days up the faraway tree with the famous five on the enchanted island. Although in fact Miss Dadswell's stories were always gravid with kangaroos and horses.

Alasdair Potts as usual was in the chair and half under the table. Red wine in hand, he asked if anyone had anything to read. All indicated that they had: Teddie Klugman her continuing novel about academic concupiscence which luxuriated in the working title The Dirty Dons, and Elizabeth Dadswell another story for Station Folk, her forthcoming collection of cameos of outback life for children and other animal lovers. It was hard to see how the group could contain such opposites as Klugman and Miss Dadswell, who would still have been wearing her twinset had it not worn out. Although both women desired autonomy, Klugman worked hers out through sexuality, something which Miss Dadswell seemed to do without altogether. Matthew Sibley had his poem and his equally familiar leather jacket and Gauloises. Naturally, he would read. Jane Aspen thought she might read a poem. Myron Spack had something recent for a change, and Ron said he had something different this week, having got stuck at a birthday party in his current project.

First to read was Sibley, who presented to the group another section of his Praeludium, his long poem about the growth of an artist's mind in post-industrial society. Professor Potts rather resented the younger man's remythologisation of nature, as he himself, convenor and doyen of the group, was, as everyone knew, engaged in a reconstruction of the world of faery, a work of heavy import partly written in Spenserian stanzas. Sibley's style, thought Potts, was like playing waterpolo in a sewer, but he had to be tolerated because he was a serious poet and still an associate member at least of the Fitzroy Group.

Miss Dadswell thought Sibley's poem wasn't very true to life. Her mind, she thanked Goodness, hadn't grown like that. She hadn't played in the outfall from the refinery, nor made cubby houses in kaolin quarries. Childhood to her was a precious time, a time to discover the texture of feathers, the warmth of the sun, the softness of a kitten's fur. When Sibley had finished (the cubby had fallen in, asphyxiating a playmate), she adjusted her tweed skirt over her knees and read her story about the birth of a foal on a cold, still night, and the little girl who witnessed the wonder of it.

After Miss Dadswell reached her last plagal cadence, Myron Spack, the writer-in-residence, made quite a florid little speech in his Californian accent about her freshness of vision and prose chiaroscuro. As a professional utility player he could be relied on to say something encouraging when no-one else could bring themselves to. Although his own current interest was the imitation of fourteenth century Florentine canzone, he was able to find something to say about any kind of writing. He himself had something different for the group this evening - a medieval Australian fabliau larded with coarse rhythms, absurd place-names and shearers tupping wenches. A tour de force, the group respectfully agreed, except Jane Aspen, who thought the rhythms too tumpty-tum, but didn't dare say so.

Jane read a little poem about tea-leaves, which got a poor reception from Teddie Klugman as the group's token feminist, who was expected to make remarks about the domestication of women's imagery. This was interrupted by Potts, who didn't like politics much more than women, and who put the case for the value-freedom of tea. Sibley, for whom an occasional poem was anathema, and who wrote a sestina every morning before breakfast, was sunk in sullen speechlessness.

Potts, thinking he'd better get it over with, ex-cathedrally invited Klugman to share her current work with the group. Miss Dadswell pressed her lips and her knees closer together as Klugman ripped into chapter five, which contained a faithful description of an instance of sexual exploitation on a university campus of an innocent student by a lecherous assistant professor. Myron Spack wondered if she had any opportunities for such activity herself; as a lecturer of considerable personal dynamism she could be tempted to such abuses of her power. Spack wondered which sex she would prefer to exploit; both, he decided, and considered offering his own body for abuse at some later date. He stretched his long legs before the fire and did another witer-in-residence number on the felicities of Klugman's rhythms. Potts, failing trapdoors opening into piranha pools, was trying to think how Klugman could be excised from the group. Miss Dadswell said that she thought the scene in the lecturer's study wasn't very true to life. She said that a lecturer woudn't risk the embarrassment of someone coming while he was, well ...  Klugman told her in rising tones that she had better believe it.

Potts had nothing to read, and Sibley tried to remember the last time he had read something. He concluded that the only reason the professor continued to convene the group at all was that it gave him one more opportunity for sanctioned drinking.

Last to read was Ron Carot. He pulled some typed sheets out of a manilla folder. 'In the end they were installed comfortably in the hotel salon,' he began.

This was written to be read to the Geelong Salong, a writers group which met in the honeymoon suite of a hotel in that city. There is, however, absolutely no connexion whatsoever between the characters in the story and the actual people in the group.

Garry Gillard | New: 27 October, 2011 (written around 1982) | Now: 17 January, 2018