Forked Creek – Chapter 8
Sunday morning starts cool and overcast. For the first time this year, it really feels like autumn. Day doesn’t break: it just arrives, sullen and reluctant. Kookaburra sits quietly in the grey, nondescript dawn.
I’m sitting on my porch wrapped in a blanket, cradling a coffee, wondering how the trapping is going. The answer comes soon enough.
The crack of the .303 makes me jump. Choughs flap off in noisy, black-and-white alarm.
Rosa joins me on the porch steps, gives me a nudge with her shoulder and an encouraging smile. ‘It will soon be over, hun. Then we can get back to life as normal.’
I nod, mute for once.
Four more rifle shots at irregular intervals over the ensuing minutes. Then shotgun blasts that seem to go on and on, echoing around the hills. I lose count at ten. Shiver and pull my blanket closer.
After breakfast, I decline Adam’s invitation to go and inspect the corpses. Three sows, five half-grown young pigs, seven month-old piglets, he tells me. He thinks there may be three young adult pigs from the sounder which evaded the box traps. ‘They’ll be trap-shy now and difficult to catch … but we may never see ’em again, anyhow.’
The Two Dans use the backhoe to dig a trench near the lower fence of the orchard. They’ll shovel the bodies in, then spread hydrated lime and bury them. Quick and neat, no handling.
For the first time since Adam’s arrival, I take myself off to see Glenda.
She receives me at the back door with a hug, puts the kettle on. I don’t really feel like tea, but I let her bustle anyway, while I give my – or rather Adam’s – progress report.
‘Good, love,’ she nods vigorously. ‘That boy’s a hard worker. It’s been nice, having him here this week. Did you see he fixed up the front veranda? Patched the tin roof where I had rain coming in, and replaced those two broken boards.’
She glances at me. ‘He’s not much of a talker, as a rule … Had a lot to say about you, though.’
‘Yes.’ She nods to herself. ‘About how you fixed up that old place … You run that team of young’uns like the strictest footy coach he’s ever known, he says.’
‘Oh, crap. I’m not that bad, am I?’
Glenda’s eyes are twinkling. ‘I don’t think he was criticising, love. Singing your praises, more like.’
‘Course, I told him you were too old for him.’
‘Thanks for that.’
‘You’re welcome, love. A mature, forty-seven-year-old lady doesn’t want to be bothering with no thirty-three-year-old boys, I told him. Got more important things on her mind.’
‘No, that’s right.’ Glenda, you are a mischievous old baggage.
‘So … that Emmi with the swishy hair and the flounce, and that pretty young Spanish boy have taken off, I hear.’
‘That’s right. Yesterday arvo.’
‘She was a handful, that one.’
‘You’re not wrong there, Glenda.’
‘Tried to climb in his bed, one night,’ she chuckles. ‘He was mightily amused by the whole shenanigans. Sent her off to her own swag. Nicely, of course – the boy’s got manners.’
I’m incredulous. Glenda takes a look at my face and bursts out laughing. ‘Ain’t much that boy can hide from his Great Aunt Glenda … The look on your face, girl! Stunned mullets ain’t in it. Don’t let your tea get cold, now.’
Aunty Glenda, you are a caution … and Adam, you are a damned dark horse.
When I get back to the farm, I’m told that Adam is still up at the orchard, dismantling his traps. As I arrive, he’s just strapping down the trailer.
‘Got a job over in Orange this coming week, but I’ll come by some time the week after, if that’s okay? See how things are getting on?’
‘Meantime, I’ll drop you an email with my invoice.’
‘Thanks. And thank you so much for … all this.’ I wave at the newly filled trench.
‘Can we walk?’
He arches that brow at me again. Shrugs. ‘Sure.’
What in hell are you doing, Marg Jansen? Could this be any more awkward?
I chatter about the bush regeneration project as we walk up the hill, affecting to ask his opinion about the species we’re planting as tubestock. He offers a couple of observations. We look at the infant ironbark and scribbly gum woodland.
I find myself reaching out to touch his face.
Surprised, he almost flinches away, but catches himself. He takes my hand in his, presses it to his soft cheek. Kisses the heel of my palm. Looks me in the eye.
‘You sure pick your moments, Marg.’
‘Well, I’m not a wine and candle-lit dinners kind of girl.’
Sometimes, you have to seize the day. Even if the day is impossibly grotesque.
‘No, I can see that,’ he responds. ‘More a trench-of-dead-hogs kind of girl.’
That cracks us both up.
‘Look … I’m coming back soon. Then we’ll see how we feel. That alright?’
I nod. We walk back down the hill, arm in arm. Giggling.
Thanks for reading!