ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


"Rise and Fall", a story by Alfred Marks

The boy sits on the brick wall next door to his house. Attached to the cyclone fence behind him is a sign he cannot read. The sign says Development Application. The cars burble by, the magpies warble to each other.

Clattering and jangling a truck turns the corner. Another truck follows. Accelerating, they rumble up the street and stop, brakes squealing, on the opposite side of the road to the boy.

Two big, dark men dressed in hardhats, fluoro shirts and work boots, drop from the first truck. One burly, dusky man, with braided hair, carrying his hard hat, drops from the second truck. They leave the truck doors hinged open.

The driver of the lead truck lumbers towards the driver of the following truck.

“Hey bro’,”

“Hey bro,” the braided one calls back.

They fall into muffled conversation.

The third man’s keen stare passes the boy, fixes on the fibro house, probing its resistance.

The boy sees on the trucks, backhoe and bulldozer. Equipment, once gaily painted orange and yellow, worn to the shining steel edges of their blades. His heart races. He is a boy. He loves all things mechanical.

The big men saunter back to their trucks. Heave themselves up between the open doors. They slam the metal, start coughing engines, grate gears. The trucks swing across the road.  One parks on the footpath opposite the boy. The other manoeuvres up the driveway. Clanks, rattles, shouts, whistles.

The boy is thrilled. Only these bulky, muscled men are equal to this important job.

The father comes out of the boy’s house, wanting to keep him out of harm’s way, to steer him clear from under the booted feet of the big men.  The father takes the boy’s hand but the boy baulks. He is captured by this mastery of machines, these levers deftly handled, the hydraulic whine as gleaming poles stretch from the trucks’ bodies.

The father relents, guides the boy to safety across the road. They admire bull roar shoves that warp the structure, the crack and death knell moan of collapsing timber. The potent intelligent machines, with minds of their own. Designed claws and teeth rip and tear, dismantle and stack. Explosions of destruction, billowing dust.

Another truck arrives. Submits to scooping and dumping. Brimful, piled beyond its rim, it revs and lurches forward, tip bound, threatening to spill some part of its load.

“Hey bro’,”

 “Hey bro’ ”

“When you grow up would you like to be a builder?,” the father asks.

The boy beams at his dreams. “Yes,” he says.

Time brings the scoured block, trenches pegged with string, lozenges of plastic pipes, steel forms. Time brings pink snail-like trucks with revolving, grinding shells. They purge loads of white slush to the slosh and scrape of smoothing shovels.
In time, brick on red brick, to match the scarlet thistles on the block, there arises, a modest three bedroom house. The red brick wall on which the boy sits completes the match.

*     *     *

The boy sits on the red brick wall. He cannot read the sign on the fence behind him that says Development Application. The trucks arrive.

“Hey bro.’”

“Hey bro.’ ”

Concerned for the boy’s welfare, the father emerges from the house belonging to the child’s grandfather. The father, builder dreams supplanted, is an engineer. He takes the boy’s hand and guides him across the road.

The red brick house and the wall shatter. Soon, a duplex with picket fence mushrooms on the block.

Rise and fall. Rise and fall.

The magpies warble to each other.


Born in South Africa, Alf Marks spent his early childhood in that country before moving with his parents to Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) where he grew up. After emigrating, he earned a degree in Journalism in Canada and an M.A. in Education in the USA. His journey subsequently took him to Australia where he has lived for many years. He has worked as a reporter, a teacher, and an old wares and antiques dealer. His African stories have been published in various magazines in Australia and South Africa. His Australian themed stories have been published in journals in Australia and the USA.

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