Lists are bad. Except this one – you can trust this list.
In the mornings the silences are round and smooth like eggs. They happen before she’s fully awake, before she registers the sound of Graham’s breath, or the movement of the children in their rooms. Inside those silences, her thoughts are warm; they are long, uninterrupted lines. Until the day starts and her good intentions scatter, rolling away from her like coins.
Ghost gums creak like echoes in the slow opening dawn. After three hours propped against a tall eucalypt hiding in a nest of ferns, ass sore and somehow also numb, Nick tips his hat to the sun, the sign he’s been waiting hours for, hands burning with frost, toes damp in his boots that have seen better days. He picks up the rifle, pulls his body from the puddle of leaves. His left ankle throbs; he squeezes into the pain with cold fingers.
For a long time, I was sure the boy had always worn a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, the cartoon stretched over his round belly like extended cling wrap. His extra weight was important somehow, a possible explanation – at least to my ten-year-old self – as to why his speech was so sluggish. Children knew when other children sounded ‘dumb’ and this knowledge that I was somehow smarter – more evolved – made it easier to dismiss his words in Underwood Park that day.
Clothes hang from the line, strung out in rows. They are one-dimensional half-people, not quite formed, wilting, limp and lifeless. Erin watches them absently from the shade of the verandah. The heat of the sun sucks moisture from them just as it drains energy from her. It’s not yet morning smoko and the thermometer sits in the high thirties.