My Short Story ‘Towards the End’

My short story ‘Towards the End’ was first published in Quadrant magazine a few years ago. It’s one of the pieces in my collection ‘Stories From Bondi’ released by Ginninderra Press in 2019. Have a read. Hope you enjoy it.

Towards the End:

He leaned back on the chrome chair, stretched his legs out under the square black table and placed his mobile phone in front of him. He looked over to the counter at the back of the cafe at the cakes and muffins on display and the Italian biscuits in jars. He turned back to the glass windows and wondered if he had the guts to tell her today. He wanted to. By Christ he wanted to. He straightened up, his elbows on the table, his hands clasped together in front of his face. There’d been some good times, that’s for sure. But what the heck. A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.

The sliding glass door clanked open and Anny walked in. He looked over at her, first from the rear as she closed the door and then as she approached, her face flushed, her dark hair flying back from her shoulders. Not bad looking. A bit on the heavy side but not a bad looker all the same. Yes, there’d been some good times. Especially in the sack.

Anny removed her sunglasses as she walked over and he looked into the bright green of her eyes as she bent down and kissed him on the cheek. He felt the moisture on her face as her skin touched his.

She took off her sunshade and hung it on the back of the chair and sat down.

You’ll never guess what happened, she said.


I’m still so angry I can hardly speak. She pushed her hair away from her forehead as she dabbed at the sweat with a serviette.

What happened?

This man, she said. This dreadful man. Anny used her fingers to wipe the moisture from under her eyes. I was walking along the cliff path from Bondi to Bronte, like I usually do, minding my own business, when I heard a jogger behind me.

Nothing unusual about that.

So I moved further to the left to let him pass.

Yeah. That’s the rules, keep to the left.

He must have been about to pass on the inside because next moment I heard a thud and there he was picking himself up from the side of the track.

Anny stopped talking as the waitress approached with notepad and pen.

A spaghetti marinara for me, said Daniel smiling at the waitress. And a coffee.

How do you like your coffee?

He grinned at her. Hot and black, thanks.

Anny turned away from him and squinted at the blackboard. I’ll have the Greek salad and a decaf skimmed cap. And a glass of water, please.

And I’ll have an orange juice as well, said Daniel.

Daniel’s eyes followed her as she walked towards the kitchen. Then his mobile buzzed from the table. He picked it up and held it to his ear.

Yep, he said. I can give them a ballpark figure, but that’s about it. Just a ballpark. Yeah, okay then. Here’s his number. Daniel opened the front of the phone and pressed a button. 0413 501 583, he said. He put the phone back on the table its antennae sticking out towards Anny. I hate it when people say things like that, he said.


Oh nothing. Just the usual crap. They all think they can get something for nothing.

Daniel’s pasta arrived first and he began to eat. He sucked in a spaghetti tail and then impatiently cut some of the pasta with his knife. He dispensed with the knife and continued to eat with his fork. He scooped up the marinara with its splayed-like prongs.

So what happened? he said as he sucked in a loose strand of spaghetti, catching its long skinny tail with his fork.

He must have caught his foot on the edge between the footpath and the grass. I was about to say ‘are you all right’ when he roared out at me ‘it’s all your fault you know’. ‘I was keeping to the left’ I said. He ignored me and ran on, red shiny shorts flapping. How dare he speak to me like that. ‘Asshole’ I called out after him. He gave me the finger up sign and kept running. I was furious.

Daniel didn’t answer as he waited for the waitress to place a plate of salad in front of Anny. He blew on his pasta before placing another mouthful towards the back of his tongue, his thin lips closing over the fork.

When I reached Bronte, said Anny. This man had finished his circuit and was on his way back. We recognised each other and he started telling me off about which side of the path I could walk on. ‘Don’t tell me where to walk mate’ I hissed. That’s when he stopped jogging and moved towards me. I thought he was going to punch me.


I was a bit scared I can tell you, but I braced myself. That’s when he said ‘you’ve got some chip on your shoulder because you’re fat and ugly’. I laughed at him because it sounded so ridiculous and as far as that was concerned it proved my point. What an asshole. Just thinking about it makes me angry.

Daniel turned away from her. He couldn’t tell her now. Not after that. He looked out the window to the truck parked across the road. ‘Dean’s Premium Natural Fruit Juice: the way it should be’ emblazoned on the side. The way it should be. That’s a bit of a joke. Well I know this is the way it shouldn’t be. He couldn’t get Louise out of his head.. That last time – her tight white t-shirt over those tight little breasts – leaning over her plate. Eating that huge roll. The sight of her opening her mouth so wide he thought the sides of her lips would crack. Stuffing it in she was. Later at her place when he couldn’t wait. Coming up behind her as she cleaned her teeth. Ramming it in.

He tore the crusty white Italian bread into small pieces and used it to mop up the remains of the sauce and wiped the red sauce from the corner of his mouth. He reached for his glass and sucked up the remains of his orange juice through a yellowed straw, then burped. He put the glass down, his broad hand wrapped around the grooved surface and leaned across the table. He looked into Anny’s face.

I have to go.

Go where?

I’ll pay the bill.

What’s wrong?

I want to make a move on that Elizabeth Bay deal.

He stood up, his keys dangling from the loop at the back of his trousers, his rubber soled shoes silent as he headed towards the door. Only the sound of his keys and then the bang of the door.

Outside he pulled out his mobile and dialed.

I’m leaving now honey, he said. I’ll be there in a few minutes.

In the cafe Anny watched from the window. She sighed, stood up slowly and then walked over to the cake counter. He’s a workaholic that bloke.

I’ll have a slice of that chocolate mud cake and a cappuccino, she said to the girl behind the register.

Copyright © 2022 Libby Sommer

Writing Tip: Narrative Momentum

The other day I was listening to someone talk about the craft of creative writing and she was speaking about the necessity of forward momentum in narrative in order to keep the reader engaged.

The speaker suggested keeping in mind the words:  “but then …”

Using those two words, either on the page, or in your head, gives a twist or complication to the story.

Sound a good idea to me. What do you think?

My Poem ‘Twisted Tea’

Have a read of my poem ‘Twisted Tea’ first published in ‘For Ukraine: by Women of the World‘.

Dr Diann Rogers Healey, founder of the Australian Centre for Leadership for Women called for and brought together a collection of poetry and prose by 35 writers from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, United States, and the United Kingdom. We wrote in solidarity with those impacted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to United Nations Women Australia for assistance in Ukraine. Available on Amazon and other online outlets. Please read the book and review.

Twisted Tea

I splattered the last of my favourite

loose leaf tea all over the floor today,

when I lost my grip on the lid.

Twisted Oolong produced in Ukraine

it said on the label.

But it is a time of such sadness,

a spilt canister of loose leaf

is hardly worth mentioning.

So many shattered tea sets

buried in the rubble.

Ceramic pots and porcelain mugs,


Fierce railroads bombed, buildings, farms.

Civilians tortured.

“Filthy scumbags,”

said President Zelensky.

“What else can you call them?”

I watch a woman sob on camera.

“Their soldiers are barbaric.

They don’t understand.

They are murderers.”

It is hard to consider sipping tea

without crying into the cup.

Will the small tea plantation

—out of the line of fire for now—

be spared?

I’m holding as tight as I can

to the thought that one day

we’ll be able to celebrate

with a pot of rare twisted oolong loose

leaf tea produced on a small farm

tucked away somewhere

in a corner of Ukraine.

Copyright 2022 Libby Sommer

My Story ‘Around the World in Fifty Steps’

Libby Sommer with her book The Crystal Ballroom in book store

‘Around the World In Fifty Step’ was my first published story. It appeared in Overland Literary Journal Autumn, 2000. Since then, more than 50 of my stories and poems have been accepted for publication in prestigious literary journals including Quadrant, Overland and The Canberra Times.

Have a read of this first one. Hope you enjoy it.

Around the World In Fifty Steps:

Copyright Libby Sommer 2022
  1. Joanna lives in a Sydney suburb with her two sons. It’s 1992 and Australia is in recession.
  2. “I’m sick of licking arse in a service industry,” she says of her marketing business. “And I’m fed up with financial insecurity, the feast or famine of too many projects or not enough and chasing new business and getting clients to pay their bills.”
  3. “I’m thinking of renting the house out and travelling,” she tells her grown up sons after reading “The Pitter Patter of Thirty-Year-Old Feet” in the Sydney Morning Herald.
  4. “You’re ready to leave home are you mum?” said one son.
  5. “Why don’t you just go on a long holiday instead,” said the other.
  6. “I want a new beginning, a change of career, a new home, a community of people, an intimate relationship with a significant other, that sort of thing.”
  7. “You could always get yourself a dog,” suggests a friend.
  8. Her son moves out when she puts his rent up.
  9. “Are you going to wait till he buys a new house for cash before you ask for a decent rent?” her mother had said.
  10. “I’ve decided to go and live with Dad for a change,” says the other son.
  11. “I’ll be away for six to twelve months,” Joanna says as she throws her client files on the rubbish tip.
  12. She spends the spring in Italy. The summer in England, Scotland and Ireland. The autumn walking the gorge country of the Ardeche in France.
  13. In the winter she rents a studio apartment in Villefranche on the French Riviera. The studio belongs to a friend of a friend so she’s able to get it at a good price. She works as a casual deck hand on one of the luxury cruisers in dry dock for maintenance. “The first thing I want you to do,” says her boss when she arrives at work on the first day, “is blitz the tender.” After a backbreaking morning of hard physical work cleaning the small run-about she goes to lunch. She orders a salad nicoise and a coffee and realises her lunch will cost her a morning’s pay.
  14. A young and handsome French man who lives in Paris but comes to Villefranche to visit his grandmother most weekends, pursues her. Joanna comes to realise that French men love and cherish women as much as they appreciate good food.
  15. She shops at the markets, paints and reads and falls in love with the light and the colours of the south of France.
  16. “I’m able to live contentedly alone without a regular job, without a car, without speaking the language,” she writes to her friends back home.
  17. In the summer she moves on again before the tourist masses arrive and the rent goes up.
  18. She gives away to her new friends in Villefranche all the things that won’t now fit in her backpack but keeps her paint brushes and pallet knife.
  19. On the Greek island of Skyros she joins a group of landscape artists led by a famous English painter.
  20. “My purpose in leading this group is to help everyone find their own unique style,” says the woman.
  21. Joanna spends the autumn in London meeting with other artists from the island and the woman becomes her mentor and they meet for a cup of tea every week and talk about the isolation of being an artist as well as many other things.
  22. “It’s important to stop and regenerate before the creative battery runs flat,” she says.
  23. Joanna paints every day and goes out with an English man named Clive.
  24. “Your painting is vivid and alive,” says the famous English artist. “I’ll write you a letter of introduction to my contacts in Australia when you’re ready to exhibit this collection.”
  25. Clive has a strong face with chiselled square cheekbones. Dark brown eyes and dark hair that falls in a square fringe on his forehead. His fingers are long and sensitive for playing the piano.
  26. “What are you doing there?” her mother asks on the phone from across the ocean.
  27. “I’m painting,” says Joanna.
  28.  “But what are you doing?”
  29.   “My mother is like a poisonous gas that can cross from one side of the world to the other,” Joanna says.
  30. Joanna dreams about her sons every night and Clive tells her she cries in her sleep.
  31. She yearns for the bright Australian light and for the sound of the ocean.
  32. She returns to Australia for her eldest son’s wedding.
  33. In Sydney, Joanna supplements her income from the house rental by getting a job as a casual for a clothing company. She unpacks boxes and steampresses the garments. Her back, neck and shoulders ache and she suspects she’s getting RSI from the steampresser.
  34. Clive rings to say he’s coming to visit her.
  35. In preparation for his arrival she moves all her furniture out of storage and rents a small place near the beach hoping that he’ll love it in Australia and decide to stay.
  36. Two weeks before his arrival Clive rings to say he’s not coming and Joanna finds out through a friend that he’s met someone else and is moving in with her.
  37. She tears up his photos and throws his Christmas present at the wall.
  38. Joanna stops painting.
  39. She reflects on the past and all that she’s lost.
  40. I thought when love for you died, I should die. It’s dead. Alone, most strangely, I live on. Rupert Brooke.
  41. Joanna stays in bed most days but still feels so tired that she can only remain vertical for four hours in any twenty-four hour period.
  42. The phone stops ringing.
  43. She rehearses her own death by going to the edge of the cliff.
  44. From the edge she sketches the waves breaking on rocks, the lone seagull on the shore at the water’s edge.
  45. At home she fills in the drawing, blending black charcoal and white pastel reminding herself the darkest hour is before the dawn.
  46. And, after winter spring always comes.
  47. Joanna sells the house where she lived with her children and spends half the money on a home unit overlooking the ocean and the rest of the money on Australian shares.
  48. Her new home faces the east and she can smell the salt from the ocean.
  49. “It takes twenty years to be a successful artist,” echoes in her mind.
  50. On a new canvas she drags the colours of the sunrise across the blank white space.

Copyright © 2022 Libby Sommer