Creative Writing Ink December 2020 Competition Winner

Posted 9 months ago under Uncategorised,

Crispin Anderlini is a short story writer by night and storyteller by day for Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington. Having been writing on-and-off for a number of years, he can now be found at his desk writing most nights, while his young son and partner sleep peacefully in other rooms. Previous work has appeared in Fresh Ink Anthology 2019, Between These Shores Literary & Arts Annual, East of the Web and at Literally Stories.


On the Inside

The clean edges inside my box stretch on, seemingly forever. There is no noise in here and I can pretend I’m alone. That no demands are being made; there are no tasks, chores or errands to run.

There is only me, solitary and at peace. The crisp, woody smell of cardboard is all that surrounds.

I like it on the inside. It reminds me of youth — the opposite of an aging body with regrets and aches and unwelcome spurts of hair in odd places. Smooth and sans worries, that’s what it is.

In here, I also remember things both joyful and painful.

I see the day my son took his first halting steps, beaming so pleased as he launched himself from the doorframe. And when he had his first real fall, scarring his knee and cracking the skin of my naïve parent’s heart.

I re-live those hours spent at the cramped restaurant table I first met my woman, hair cut short and smile quite tethered in her odd adult braces. We jousted with chopsticks over the last piece of cumin lamb. And months later I held her as she sobbed for the loss of her mum.

Then I forget those moments entirely. They lose their form and flow out like wraiths to inhabit someone else. All that’s left is the space around my head.

In here, I sometimes wonder what might have been or what will be — a return to far-off lands, a marriage that might have lasted, or a family that will flourish.

I whirl naked in an ether of my own making, dancing to the tunes from bright points in a life. And rage noiselessly at the cold, dark places I might yet end up.

I could have, I should have, I will do, I might do. Unimportant questions in the enclosed space of my box.

In here there is sometimes no I. Only the chance to drift endlessly in muted turns around the four brown corners of this place. Until I can’t.

Outside now there is a din, a pleasant clamour of family in need. My life of clutter, warm chaos, and certain belonging intrudes.

Soon I will lift my clumsy apparel, return from my wandering, and make a game of it with my son. Stick out my tongue and say “Hahhaha, in the box! Papa’s in the box! He’s boxhead!”

He will laugh his tinkling, unselfconscious laugh — his untrammelled two-year-old joy at this ruse. And I will smile ruefully, wistfully. I’ll remember a solace in the four square edges and muffled brown skin I wore. I will yearn for it again.

My partner, my woman, will search for the right look; will assemble her face in reply. She’ll offer concern, confusion, then delight — each wrestling the other in her angular brown eyes. I will just grin without purpose.

“It’s just for laughs,” my smile will say.

“I want to be with you, family. Just not right now.”


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