Tag Archives: non-fiction

1626. Wrecked

Today’s story is simply a transcript of a newspaper report. I thought it was interesting, especially since “back in those days” ship wrecks were relatively common.

Christchurch Star – 16 August 1876

STEALING FROM A WRECK. – Joseph Kilpin, an elderly man, residing near the beach at New Brighton, was brought up on remand, charged with having stolen a quantity of timber forming part of the wreck of the ketch Jupiter. The ketch belonged to Major Hornbrook, and was in charge of Captain Robert Day. On August 3, she was wrecked while crossing the Sumner bar, and drifted onto the beach on the New Brighton side.

Being insured in the South British Company, the vessel was abandoned to them on August 4. The hull was sold on that day, but the cheque given in payment for it being dishonoured, the hull reverted again to the Company, whose property it had since been.

The hull broke up, and was strewn along the beach, and prisoner took a portion of it home to burn. When arrested timber to the value of several shillings was found on the prisoner’s premises, and he admitted having taken it from the wreck. In reply to prisoner, Mr Macpherson, agent for the South British Insurance Company, said he did not know there was any mark or notice on the wreck cautioning persons from removing any portions of it. He also informed the Bench that he had no desire to press the case severely against the prisoner, his sole desire being to caution people that they had no right to take away timber from wrecks. Prisoner, in defence, said he was entirely ignorant of doing wrong when he took the timber, and would never have touched it had there been any notice against its removal, or had he known that he would be acting illegally by taking it.

Three witnesses came forward voluntarily and gave prisoner a very high character for honesty and general conduct. One of them had known him eleven years, one five years, and the other three years, and they had always found him a hard working, steady, honest, and respectable man. Dr Foster said he might also inform the Bench that the habit of taking timber found on the sea beach was a very common occurrence, and he did not think it was generally known this was an offence against the law.

His Worship said he did not know whether it was generally understood that the offence complained of in this case was indictable, and persons who were guilty of it rendered themselves liable to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour. The law very properly regarded the matter as very serious, because it was an offence against a person who might have lost his all by the wreck. Supposing the owner of the vessel had not been insured, the loss would have been heavy, and the law ought to protect persons in cases of this kind from losing what little might be saved from the wreck.

A very high character had been given to prisoner, and as he might have acted in ignorance of the law, he would be discharged, but must be more careful in future. Both he and others in the habit of picking up timber from wrecks must remember by doing so that they rendered themselves liable to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour. The case would be dismissed. (Applause).

1612. Pretty garden flowers

There was nothing wrong with Shelley really. She was simply a goody-goody. She was one of those girls who was always proper and correct and nobody liked very much.

When the teacher gave students the task to write about their favourite thing in the garden, Shelley handed in what she thought to be the most beautiful reflection (complete with coloured-in drawings) of the poppies of Flanders Fields. She even stuck in a poem. Most of the other girls had gone in for something ordinary, like pansies. The boys, except for Gavin, went for potatoes or parsnips. But Shelley! Oh! exclaimed the teacher, what a darling! Oh it’s fabulous, Shelley! You have a wonderful gift! I have a special reward for you!

It was enough to make you sick.

You could tell. Shelley had a crush on the teacher. She was all starry-eyed and thought Mr Cvetkovic was the cat’s pyjamas. Personally, I hated Mr Cvetkovic, especially when after school he’d take me out to the school’s maintenance shed and tell me it was our little secret.

1610. Would you like a chip?

(Today’s story is a true incident that happened to a school friend 53 years ago).

Tony was waiting for a bus just outside the gates of Parliament. (This is long before the days when life was complicated). He’d been to town, from boarding school, to see the dentist. As all teenage boys find, he was hungry and so he had bought some fish and chips. For those not in the know, fish and chips are French fries and a piece of fish fried in batter. All is wrapped in newspaper. (This is long before the days when printer’s ink rubbed off).

There was only one other person sitting in the bus stop waiting. He was an old man, and Tony felt a bit sorry for him.

“Would you like a chip?” asked Tony, offering the goodies wrapped in newspaper. The old man accepted gratefully.

“Do you work?” asked Tony.

“Occasionally,” said the old man. “I work over there.” He pointed to Parliament buildings. “But I’m not on the permanent staff. I’m only a temporary worker.”

Tony offered him another chip.

The next morning’s newspaper reported that the Prime Minister reckoned he would’ve preferred a piece of fish.

695. You wrote it, it must be true

695fiction

I just shot my mother. She was hanging out the washing. She was reaching into the basket to pick up one of my shirts to hang on the line, and I pulled the trigger.

Bang! Dead! Just like that. I had told her to change the brand of laundry powder. The one she used stank of lemons. I’d walk around stinking like lemon zest. All my friends would say poo! Did she change the brand? No! So bang! That’ll be the last shirt she’ll hang.

“The shirt is not the only thing that will hang,” said the judge at the trial for my mother’s murder.

“But,” I said, “I’m a fiction writer. I make up stories. My stories are not true. I didn’t murder my mother. I don’t know who did. I wrote that piece about her murder before she was murdered.”

“So what you’re saying is that it was premeditated?” said the judge.

“It wasn’t premeditated at all,” I said. “It was a piece of fiction writing.”

“But fiction must mirror life,” said the judge. “Clearly all writing to some extent must be autobiographical.”

The jury agreed with the judge.

I’m writing this from Death Row. Perhaps if I write about my innocence they’ll start to understand how fiction works.