Forked Creek – Chapter 7
Sunrise through the sheokes. I sit on the porch, nursing a mug of coffee, and enjoy the warmth of the rays on my face.
A magpie family alights on the fence and carols, announcing its clan’s strength and territorial right. Maybe also hoping for a few tidbits from the human, who seems to like this sort of thing.
Up in the big river red gum, a kookaburra winds himself up to a mad peal of laughter, answered in kind by his spouse. Over on the far hillside, a mob of kangaroos hops through the dewy paddock, stopping occasionally to graze, ears turning warily.
Trudging footsteps break my reverie. It’s Adam, wearing an old Driza-Bone, gumboots and not much else. A wet towel round his neck. The overall effect would be comical and rather fetching, except for one thing.
He’s looking seriously pissed off.
‘I can’t find my car keys.’
‘Oh?’ I look him up and down with an expression which is intended to convey: And this is my problem because … ?
Adam is too angry to notice. ‘They were in my pocket when I went in the shower. When I came out, they weren’t there.’
‘You’re saying someone took your car keys, then.’
Marg – stop being a bitch.
‘That’s right, Marg. Someone took my car keys. My car keys that I keep on me at all times – because the key to my gun safe is on the same fob.’
‘Oh shit is right. I’ve got a pump-action shotgun, a .303 and a semi-automatic rifle in my vehicle, and ammunition for all three of them locked in the glove box. Category D guns. If we don’t find the keys in fifteen minutes, I’m going to have to ask you to call the police.’
That gets my attention.
I call Oliver and we scramble the whole crew to look for Adam’s keys. Every inch of ground between the Nissan and the shower block is scoured. Adam is asked time and again about his exact movements. Breaking the window of the car and busting the lock on the gun safe with a crowbar is suggested.
Twenty minutes pass.
There’s a shout from the dunny. Texas Dan.
‘Think I’ve found them, buddy – but we’re gonna need a long-handled shovel.’
Wearing disposable gloves and an expression of disgust, Adam takes his stinky keys, and quickly verifies that the guns and ammo are still where they’re supposed to be.
The WWOOFers, some of them still sleep-fuddled and in PJs, hang around like a mob of sheep waiting for a Border Collie, then shuffle off in various directions.
‘The pig killer drop ’em while he take his morning shit,’ I hear Javier smirk, to no-one in particular.
Except he didn’t.
I feel terrible for Adam. This is beyond a prank: it’s an act of hatred. I grab an old toothbrush, a plastic bag and disinfectant from the house, and take them up to the Nissan. I offer to clean the keys myself, but he declines.
His gentle, handsome face is cold, hard and mean.
It’s not a look which sits well on him, and it doesn’t fully convince. I sense that if I wrapped him in a hug, he’d cry like a little boy. But hey – let’s leave us both some dignity.
I stomp back to the farmhouse and ask Oliver to get all the WWOOFers together in the shearing shed immediately. To drop what they’re doing right now, because I have something important to say.
A short time later, the little company is assembled.
‘Adam Hawker is here to do a job for me,’ I begin. ‘It’s not a pleasant job, but it’s one that needs to be done. I understand that some people here feel otherwise.’ I glare in a few specific directions.
‘If you disagree with the way that I run my farm, you can come and discuss your concerns with me. I welcome your input – but you must know that the final decision in all matters rests with me and my paid staff: Oliver, Rosa – and at the moment, Adam. If you have a problem with that, you are welcome to leave. Do you understand?’
Nods and murmurs of assent.
‘Good. Now, one more thing before I let you go and get on with your day.
‘You know how I feel about bullying. To take someone’s personal possessions and dump them in a bin full of shit is bullying. It is a vile, cowardly insult – and will not be tolerated on this farm. The person who did this is not welcome here, and can kindly pack their bags and leave. Today.’
As I look at the puzzled, concerned, hurt faces of these young people I adore, I feel the white-hot anger leaving me, along with the courtroom confidence.
‘Please,’ I mumble. ‘We’re better than this.’
I make it out of the door before the first sobs shake my body.
Oliver comes to find me down by the big dam. He sits beside me on the rough-hewn bench. We gaze out over the lily pads in silence.
‘Don’t you think you’re taking this rather too much to heart, Marg?’ he asks softly at length.
I consider this for a while. It has been a tough week and I’m a little over-wrought. Maybe we all are. Nevertheless: this will not do.
With the disruption to the morning schedule, it’s a scramble to get the deliveries ready. I help out in the packing shed, where the two newbies, Alice and Sanjit from Darwin, are learning the ropes under Elsa’s supervision. Packing the veggie boxes and the dairy coolers is a good way to familiarise newcomers with our full range of produce and how our business model works.
We end up working through lunch, and so it’s mid-afternoon when I learn that Emmi and Javier have left the farm.
No goodbyes, no thankyous; no confessions, no tears. Just a terse conversation with Oliver in which ‘incompatible ethics’ were mentioned, then off up the dirt track in Emmi’s sun-peeled, red Mitsubishi wagon, leaving a cloud of dust.
Next week in ‘Forked Creek’:
Chapter 8: Closing Balance
Aunty Glenda has something to say that challenges Marg’s assumptions.