Musings from Barcaldine

Thursday 8th November, 2001

Stock and forty degree anarchy

Here I am at Cumberland wrestling with a futile hope that the clouds thick and full of promise might crack open and sweep out the rain. Then me – killing time with blue funny face icy poles to remedy the forty-three degree hell for a few minutes.

Twiddling the skinny blocks of ice in my mouth, circling around my lips I take on a death hue and I’m back to the days of cyanosis before transplant. Swigging down a coffee doesn’t sit well with the remnants in my icy throat; my teeth frozen, the enamel thawed and throbbing. Such a shortsighted resolution for my thirst.

Frogs croak; my hot feet jamming in the earth that we are missing the rain, too. Cumberland isn’t completely drought stricken. They’re still on town water and on runs around the paddocks to drop off licks for the cattle. But give it time and the stock will shrink into skeletons. The animal kingdom’s walking dead with their chalky bones.

*

A Palomino mare dropped dead yesterday afternoon from colic. Imagine – a horse dying of colic. She’d been sick for days; splayed on her side to draw out the pain, she found her legs, hobbled to the fence, dropped her snout and died.

The stock will not die from colic. Instead, they will starve and thirst until their ribs are cages you could put ornaments in. Their hides will be papery, with rough and clotted hair coating more bones and bleeding skin – bleeding skin that’s fly blown. They won’t have the time to get matted with mange.

My thoughts turn to my inability to think with logic, to write, to chronicle. But still I sit, waiting for the words to flow from my pencil.

The arbours are green. One grows grapes, though I’m not sure of its yield. Like a green and twig-laden blanket, covering wire and wood, it moves me with the breezes that sweep across and over the homestead.

A hot, bullying wind has risen to wilt us. I need the swollen sky to pour stinging rain over my body so I can stand on the grass and stomp in the dirt – water pellets sharp on my skin like the flick of a rubber band. To roll on the ground and paint my body with mud, writhing as the rain strikes down, all angry at the dry earth beneath my feet and under my spine.

It can get as bitter as it wants, for it warrants a Murri-inspired rain dance where Katrina, Jayde and I tip toe out to the garden, surveying the ground for snakes, only to let it rip with a corroboree of twists with our limber bodies and funny faces – all gangly arms like frogs legs when they’re kicked out onto the grass late at night.

*

In the city, I’m in limbo. I feel shackled, ambushed. Out here I am free. I drink hot coffee, suck on funny faces and amber bottles, all the while  looking at coloured vignettes of Meagan. Eyes like Belgian chocolate discs swimming on her face, just so there. Blonde hair swathed against her untainted neck, cutting back from the crown – a pigmentation of an unsullied soul.

I feel a sense of permanence here – something like belonging. I don’t know why I come here. Maybe it’s to be close with Meagan, so I can sit at her tombstone. It could be to stiffly voice my regret at not seeing her the day before she died. It could be to tell her what happens now that she is no longer here.

But I think mostly, it’s so I can remember her, to see, hear and taste where she grew up and read those words on her epitaph – ‘rest, little one, rest.’

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