by Ian McHugh
I tippy-toe past the mats on the blokes' side of the meditation hall. This time of morning, most are empty. The sheilas' side's full, same as most sessions. I dunno why there's such a difference, but even at Compulsory, the sheilas are all there before even half the blokes have dragged our sorry arses in.
The cement floor's cold enough to make my feet ache through my socks.
A couple of Managers sit up the front of the hall, side-on so they can watch our comings and goings. Their blue overalls stick out like dogs' balls with all our orange. One's watching me. My
eyes flicker past his, quick, so as not to cop a scalding. Pol Pot, I call that one. Nasty bloody piece of work, he is.
I tell myself not to, but I can't help a quick peek across the strip of blue carpet that divides the blokes' side from the sheilas'.
She's still in the nest-building stage, up on a pile of cushions like the princess with the pea, with a rolled-up blanket under each knee, still learning how to sit cross-legged for an hour at a stretch. She's bundled up in blankets like everyone else, just her head sticking out the top. Her eyes are squeezed shut; she's pushing out her bottom lip. Beautiful, big, pouty lips.
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"Annicca" is roughly 4100 words.
Ian McHugh is a grand prize winner in the Writers of the Future contest and a winner at Australia's Aurealis Awards. He graduated from Clarion West Writers' Workshop in 2006. His bibliography and links to read or hear most of his prior publications free online can be found at ianmchugh.wordpress.com. "Annicca" was inspired by a ten-day silent meditation retreat he attended in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.