Eva Ate One Too Many

Katie-Rose Goto-Švić

Short Fiction

Now (February, 2018)

Drip, drip, drip 

of banality and hatred.

Ate one too many Tim Tams.

Saw one two many things she can’t un-see.

Before (February, 2002)

Eva still remembers the day, primary school, year four. 

The class was kept inside that lunchtime because of the rain. 

Mr. Watkins emerges from the storeroom of the pre-fab demountable classroom, wheeling in a greyish-brown tube TV on a tall and clunky grey-lacquered trolley. The accompanying VHS player weighs the whole thing down even more as the wheels leave faint water tracks across the paper-thin, scratchy carpet they trundle over. 

Someone had brought in Shrek, but it’s rated PG. 

So Mr. Watkins gets pulled up on a technicality, forcing him to show a G-rated repeat of something slightly too juvenile – though to a class of ten-year-olds it seems infinitely so.

Now (February, 2018)

It’s sixteen years later, sixteen to the day

Eva doesn’t actually know if today is the exact same date as that disappointing lunchtime video, but the weather outside is the same and she can’t bring herself to go out onto the street and line up at some cafe for her break.

Now, no matter what the weather, she’s free to watch Shrek as much as she likes, not that she can remember her last ever viewing. And when she’s at work and she has to watch ticket after ticket of alleged community standard violations instead, her employer offers 24-hour support via her phone.

It’s a much more flexible arrangement than what poor Mr. Watkins had to deal with, sitting in a humid classroom, misted windows and a grey sky, having to watch the same G-rated video for the third time over while the kids complained.

Now, not only does grown-up Eva have the right to view content far worse than Shrek, but the NDA she signed literally forces her to carry her 100-plus tickets a day wherever she goes, even to sleep, if she can sleep.

They got a new coffee machine in the office.

A fancy Nescafe one with the pods.

There’s a retailer a few doors down from the Sydney CBD Louis Vuitton store on King Street.

Eva remembers when Nescafe came in red and white tins next to the kettle and styrofoam cups at parent-teacher conference night, or at the Under the Sea Concert in kindergarten where Eva had played a very square fish with a painted cardboard box hanging around her midsection, secured by bits of elastic over each shoulder.

Before (November, 1998)

Waves, sometimes with rapid spikes and troughs, sometimes settling into a flatter, mellower series of dips up and down, swim over the beginning of the amateur video recording.

Another girl, Jessie, also dressed as a cardboard-box-fish, looses track of where she’s swimming and falls right off the edge of the stage, into the deep dark sea abyss. The thud is audible, even on the recording, and the shadowy figure of Mrs. Thomas cuts across the performance to pick her up, music still playing as the show goes on…

Now (November, 2018)

The ticket reel keeps moving forward, on and on. Same as it always does, month after month. Eva is up to number 52 for today, a video.

A primary school-aged girl, she’s standing in the shower in a cozzie, a two-piece. Her chest is conspicuously flat beneath the bikini top. But this is no Under the Sea musical extravaganza.

Before (November, 1998)

Alice, they’re still friends now, was Eva’s kindergarten classmate. But technically they were in different classes in kindergarten and only really got to know each other in year one.

Six-year-old Alice traverses the stage, borrowed for the night from a local high school. Her costume is a floor-length dress, white lace, and with a matching parasol. Turn of the century. Last century, not this one.

Eva had secretly been jealous of Alice’s staring role.

Pretty in white, she strolls along the boardwalk to a singing chorus:

“Oh I do like to be beside the seaside.

Oh I do like to be beside the sea!”

The boy next to Alice, Eva can’t remember his name, wears a red mini-blazer and a straw boater hat wrapped with a red and white candy-striped ribbon. 

“Oh I do like to stroll along the prom, prom, prom! 

Where the brass band plays tiddely-om-pom-pom!”

Now (January, 2019)

Too much sugar from too many Tim Tams. 

A faint hiss as Eva unscrews the plastic top of a bottle of No Sugar Coke.

The harsh white glow of the computer screen casts a film over her eyes as she washes down another mouthful of Tim Tam. The glowing film is dotted with little black letters, tattooing themselves wherever they touch her, seeping in through every orifice. 

She has a headache.

I’ll find out where you live, cut your throat in your sleep and dump your body in the sea where no one will ever find you…

Eva argues with her supervisor about whether or not it counts as doxxing if they only post a selfie that happens to be taken outside a house, standing on a public footpath. By the time she gets back to her seat, in front of her screen, in her cubicle, more and more people seem to have opinions.

She’s a high-profile journalist. A bit of backlash comes with the territory.

Shouldn’t have become so well known if she was going to be such a precious little princess in the face of criticism.

Eva picks up another Tim Tam and takes a bite, chewy caramel this time. 

The panic attacks don’t start out as panic attacks. First her fingernails go, now blunt chewed off stubs that get smudged from time to time with chocolate coating. In a few days she’s going to be promoted to process executive.

But when she sees her first murder, the man pleading for his life, she stops being able to breathe. Micro-managed seconds don’t matter anymore as she limp-sprints her way across the carpet and into the toilets. 

She shouldn’t have had that last Tim-Tam. It churns in her stomach with the No Sugar Coke and emerges as a thin, watery trickle, skimming the back of her throat as it rises, still sweet but cut with the sharp bitter sting of stomach bile. It dribbles limply into the toilet bowl that Eva hugs with shaking arms.

When she leans over the sink, taking a swig of tap water to swish around in her mouth, the bright fuchsia motivational poster taped to the wall beside her calls out in bold yellow letters: 



February 2019

It’s raining again – warm and muggy.

On the day of the murder video Eva had used her full hour of weekly wellness time waiting for the part-time counselor to show up for his shift then spilling her guts for twenty minutes flat before she was due back on the clock.

He’d told her not to worry. She’d probably still be able to do her job.

And she is still doing it – Process Executive now printed on her nametag that hangs everyday from the lanyard around her neck…

It’s early evening as she walks up King Street in the direction of Hyde Park. Umbrella in one hand, her black patent leather stilettos make a dull, shallow splashing sound with every step over the concrete footpath. Slices of sun angle downward from behind heavy clouds, dying the entire street a mute shade of grey made grainy by the dark yellow bleeding into it.

She’s on her way to buy one of those specialty coffee machines that only takes the Nescafe pods – something nice for herself.

She barely pays any attention as the old man shuffles out onto the road. He only cuts across the corner of her eye for a second or two. He’s so small and hunched over, his eyes fixed to the asphalt without so much as a glance up to see that he’s about to walk straight into oncoming traffic, each shuffling step painfully, infuriatingly slow.

There’s no way without defying the laws of physics that the truck could have stopped in time, even as the driver slams down hard on the brake.

As blood sprays up in the air, spinning in an erratic pinwheel, a middle-aged man grabs hold of the teenage boy beside him, wrenching him around by the shoulder to face the other way, palm pressed firmly over his eyes.

The road is a mess of mashed up flesh and bone. People are screaming and the theme tune to Shrek starts playing inside Eva’s skull.

Hey now, you’re an All Star, get your game on,

Go play…

The truck driver hasn’t moved from his cabin. His form is rigid, sheet white. The next day Eva will find out from somewhere online that he had a heart attack from the shock and died.

Hey now, you’re a Rock Star, get your came on,

Go play…

And all that glitters is gold…

She crosses the threshold into the Nescafe shop. She already has a model and a colour in mind. 

No one greets her. 

The black-suited sales staff are staring through the shop-front window, out onto the street, eyes wide, mouths agape, complexions all suitably drained.

Eva keeps her eyes down and slowly traverses one of the shelves packed with boxes of coffee pods, different colours for different flavours. Each footstep is slow, but rather than a shuffle she moves with a faint click each time one of her stiletto heels makes contact with the blonde wooden floorboards. 

The air conditioning is just a bit too chilly. 

Eva’s nostrils start to feel icy as she breathes in and out, in and out, tracing her index finger over the immaculately displayed boxes, one by one, as she passes.

Distraction, mindfulness, disassociation, presence in the moment – wellness vocab drowns out the screams, then in turn gets drowned out by the ongoing music still playing in Eva’s head. Unconsciously, her lips start to move.

Only shooting stars break the mold…

Katie-Rose Goto-Švić is a Croatian-Australian emerging writer, living in Japan, who writes in both English and Japanese. She studied as a Bachelor of Political Economic and Social Sciences with an additional major in Japanese Studies at the University of Sydney and currently works in international business development for renewable energies. Her work has appeared in the Coverstory Books ‘New Contexts: 3’ anthology, The Manifest-Station, and Bewildering Stories. Her full-length drama/crime fiction manuscript was selected as a finalist for the 2021 Page Turner Writing Award. She can be found on Instagram here.

Photo credit: Jessica Denzer, Private Collection

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