THE farm farms silence, the cry of a crow. Dogs bark in cages, carry worms in their hearts.
On the first hot morning the farmer throws down a rope. He says to pretend it’s a snake. His three children watch as he hands me a gun. You’d hate how I shot it, bang, between the eyes.
[showads ad=MREC]Every morning I write from my exile in another galaxy. Every day I cook beef and mutton for breakfast, smoko, lunch, smoko and dinner. Every evening I sit with the farmer and his wife in the hum of the generator and congealing silence of their blame. Every second, I listen for the distant blipblip of your love. Help yourself, the farmer’s wife says, waving a hand at the books insulating the walls with thought, word and dream. I take armfuls to read under torchlit sheets, scanning the pages for our kind of love, trawling the white rivers of space running between black forests of words, finding none.
Last night I saw the three children float along the corridor, a trio of pyjamaed ghosts. They knelt at their parents’ bedroom door. Perhaps they’d heard them weeping. Perhaps they were praying for the recently dead fourth. I called them back, but ghosts can’t always hear the living.
The farmer’s wife no longer gets out of bed. I make the children’s breakfast, wash, dress them, walk them down to the school bus. Three times a week I wait for the post and papers van. Nothing for you again, says the postie’s wife. She shows me the progress of her yellow layette over the puff of her stomach. Apparently she’s chosen yellow because she doesn’t know if it’s a boy or a girl.
Two months. Still nothing from you. No letters. Not one call on the satellite phone. Sometimes I begin to forget you as I mop, clean, vacuum, iron, cook beef and mutton, until I listen to the radio play about a woman who buries her jealous lover in a rockery.
In the evenings now, the farmer drinks on the wired-in verandah. I slip to the amber-coloured creek where the horses bend their necks and corellas shriek in hollow highrise trees. I think of you in the city, the orange street lights burnishing your windows, those downstairs clubs where we used to dance, me laughing in the bronzed light of your upstairs flat, you singing on your balcony, me prancing about in your girlfriend’s clothes. How she found us. One moment splinters into the next.
The sun is a yolk caught on the tines of trees. An orange cat streaks against my leg. Tomorrow when I shove bones through the wire cages to quiet the dogs, I’ll bring some for the cat. Tomorrow I’ll play the bushranger and hold up the post and papers van with the farmer’s gun and search every corner of it, properly. I’ll find sackfuls of your letters, telling me you love me, to hurry back.
This place smells like a hospital, the farmer’s wife says. I’ve been scrubbing at the calcified bathroom tiles for hours. She leans in the door way. Her hair is stringy. Her face is grey. She says she wants me to drive her to a CWA meeting.
I can hear you laugh as you read this. You’re laughing at my descriptions of the inland sea of 40 floral print dresses and 40 pairs of doughy arms, at the wooden hall pitching on a sea of dust, at the forty plates of scones, jam and cream. You’re laughing because the local priest’s wife pities us both and invites us back to the rectory to show us photographs of her sensible daughter who’s off seeing the world with her balding new husband, standing in oversized clogs in Amsterdam, posing wonkily in front of the Tower of Pisa, ringing cow bells in Switzerland. I stare down at the world Glad-wrapped to the page.
No lights in the sky tonight. Only cloud. Three or perhaps four small pyjamaed ghosts watch as I quiet the dogs with bones and steal a car, moving towards you in a capsule of metal, rubber, glass and light. I drive until I reach the ancient rumple of sleeping hills at the city’s hem, the dawn-lit windows blinking bright.
There you are on your balcony, posting down letters through the bars. There you are flashing a mirror, sending your luminous messages of love. There you are. Waiting, singing. Safe and free.
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**This article was first published in the August edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a physical copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.