Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Kambarang #2

The morning after the cat's cremation, Flame and I had planned to frock up, put on fishnet stockings and fox stoles to make the pilgrimage to the Rocky Gully pub. We were intent on taking the back roads through the forest. Apparently the Rocky Gully pub is exactly the same floor plan as the Franklin pub, so naturally I was curious to see how they could get a pub so wrong ... twice.

The sudden downpour of rain put an end to the fireplace I'd just raked with a stick, to pick out Ebony's bones and teeth. I found as many as I could and put them into a little grass tree bowl. 'Wow,' said Flame as she held up a femur. 'This one held her up!' It kept raining as we dressed into our glad rags, readying for the epic trip. Flame made a mix of gin in a plastic soft drink bottle. She took a sip.
'That's so not fair you bastard,' I said, thinking about the drive ahead. 'That's what I love about you,' Flame smirked, taking another sip/swig. 'You don't even ask me what time it is.'

Flame continued to work her way through the mix as we hit the gravel tracks, the dogs in the back seat and rain sleeting around us. The track was sodden and it looked like it would rain inches that day. My car began slewing around in the mud and I slowed down.

As we crawled down the hill towards Fernhook Falls, my dog began to lean on Flame's shoulder. I knew exactly what she was doing but hell, we were frocked up and heading for the Rocky Gully pub. One jealous dog wasn't going to stop us. She lay her head on Flame's shoulder and looked over at Flame's kelpie, Darren.

See Darren? This is my human, my dog was communicating to Darren. Anyone who thinks dogs can't communicate non verbally are kidding themselves. Selkie's body language was a total raised middle finger to Darren the kelpie. See Darren? This is my human and so is that one, nodding to me. And this is my car too, Darren. Goddit punk?

Darren curled himself as far away from Selkie as he could. She leaned harder on his owner's shoulder. Flame leaned over to give Darren a placatory pat and maybe the gin made her heedless to the canine politics being played out because my dog was so consumed with possessiveness by then that she roared at Darren to keep his corner.

So, we continued for another few miles with dogs fighting in the back seat and lurching through the pouring rain on a track slippery with clay and mud and no idea of how far away this pub was, or if there was a fuel bowser there. The plan was falling apart. Flame was tipsy so she would have coped but another hour of this seemed like a special kind of hell to me. I pulled up at the T junction.
'Let's go to the herb farm for lunch,' I said and Flame cheered. We turned right instead of left and headed back to town.

Friday, October 19, 2018


'Now that we are at least fifteen kilometres from your place and you won't walk that far,' I said to Flame as we hurtled towards the inlet, 'I need to tell you my plans for the evening,'
'Far out Woman,' she said, 'it's not like you are making me feel uncomfortable or anything. Can I get out now?'
'No. You know how I asked you to help me with Bobcat's ceremony?'
'Well, I don't want to bury her. I want to burn her.'
'Oh ... oh, I'm totally good with that,' Flame said immediately, shaking her head. 'Um, is this a spiritual thing? I mean ... you know, consigning her to the ashes.'
'Nah,' I said. 'Her body is so full of poison that she is completely toxic and I don't want anyone -' nodding to the dogs in the back - 'digging her up.'

Flame was quiet for a while. We got onto the Broke track and she opened a can of gin. 'Wonder how Bobcat will go on the fire?' She asked suddenly.
'She always liked it when I lit the fire,' I said and then, looking at Flame, broke into a weird kind of hysterical laughter. 'Wonder how Bobcat will go on the fire? Oh my God, that's so funny.'

On that hot Wednesday the peppermints suddenly bloomed and all the bugs in the country hatched; pouring out of the ground, out of rotten fence posts and leaf litter. I'd already that day received a postcard from a friend long dead and had Bobcat put down in the local community garden's shed. It was one of those odd days. A decent fire and the cremation of a dead cat wrapped in my favourite pashmina shawl was the least strange event.

(Note: I did discover that the pashmina was not made from a Tibetan goat's belly hairs but something quite synthetic.)

Monday, October 8, 2018

Bobcat and the Ball

I have a thing in my handbag that resembles a pool ball. About the same size, it lights up with a skull and crossbones whenever it’s shaken, and it gets shaken a lot because it‘s in my handbag. It flickers with rainbow lights, taking me by surprise when I reach in for my phone or wallet.

The old cat is not dead yet. She has some nasty lumps including one on the back of her neck. I’m convinced this is her identification chip trying to work its way out of her body. Bob, are you listening? I tried so hard to get your cat registered when that local council bylaw went through, but all the vets had chucked out their records post five years and for an environmentalist who had fought so hard for that law and bequeathed me your cat, you were a bit light on her details. She’s gonna die an unlicensed fringe dweller, your beloved Ebony.

 Just know that I’m going somewhere here folk, for anyone bewildered by my tangents. We organised Bob’s wake, ten years ago now, because he wanted a wake of the living dead. He wanted to be there for it, and for his living wake to be predicated upon the Day of the Dead, years before the Mexican festival became sexy in Western culture. We found a wheel chair and dressed it up with fake flowers and a disco ball for him. We got the band back together. We decorated the house with flowers, glowering skulls and images of Clarissa. Then we busted Bob out of the hospice and we partied with him until he was sick and tired of us all. He died a few days later and we all quietly hoped that tipping him out of the wheelchair on the driveway that night hadn’t contributed to his demise.

It’s been ten years since I started A WineDark Sea. It’s been ten years since Bob died. He was my first friend who died of natural causes instead of by their own hand in this little harbour town and I still don’t do death that well. His death was big for me and it taught me a lot about humanity and humility. I did the rounds of the vets. No juice. ‘Bring her in and we’ll scan the chip and sign the papers,’ several vet nurses said to me on my attempts to make Ebony legal. But I’d already decided against bringing Bob’s cat to a surgery unless it was for the green dream. It would upset her too much. Those other deaths during that time upset me too, but that’s another story.

The old cat who Bob bequeathed to me is still alive. She must be 18 years old. ‘No way,’ say the Elders, shaking their heads. Recently Ebony became ‘incontinent’. I write that with a parenthesis because I know it is her passive-aggressive nature that made her shit under my bed. She hates me. After all, I am a human. She loved Bob, but she does not like humans. She loves my Mum who visits once a week but that's because Mum feeds her sardines, However, since I’ve had the conversation out loud with Mum about Ebony’s final visit to the vet, the cat has rallied, valiantly, and headed straight for the kitty litter.

 And that disco skull and crossbones pool ball at the bottom of my handbag?
‘Maybe when Ebony finally goes, the batteries will go out on that ball,’ my friend said to me recently, when I showed her the ball, still glimmering after ten years. Another friend had brought it to Bob’s living wake, in the spirit of the Day of the Dead, and I’d found it in the garden the next day. It still lies in my handbag, a decade later, flashing its grinning skull when I least expect it.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Clarke and the Moth

There is a karri moth that hangs around my head lamp; flying into my face and leaving her dust on my cheeks. 
There is the photograph on my pin up board of six men standing in front of a wooden boat, up to their shins in water. The shortest man, he has no neck and he wears a hat. He is the one someone has scrawled ‘Herb Clarke’ below his figure, the hermit of inlet legend. It is the dry boat, that boat, an old woman tells me. Spent most of its life on dry land. You needed to soak that boat in the inlet for a few days for the timbers to swell. Then bail it out with a powdered milk tin. The other men who stand beside him are taller. They all wear hats too. On the evening I met Herb's mate, he was ninety years old and he had a red scab on his nose. I showed him the photo and he told me about Clarke, while his sons stood around the table, listening to their Dad. His wife put dip and chips on the table for us all.

Photo thanks to J. Rooney.

Monday, October 1, 2018


This morning when I got out of bed, I opened the front door to empty the coffee pot into the poppy flower bed and found a dead kangaroo joey on the doorstep.

Late afternoon yesterday, I had walked along the driveway with my dog to visit Ms Mer and her deckie at one of the weatherboard huts halfway along the ‘main street’ of the squatter’s shacks. I stopped by the orchid garden on the driveway to have a wee (toilet’s blocked and I’m still waiting for the enzymes to do their work) and my dog ambled out of the bush track to the gravel road. After about an hour at Ms Mer’s hut, I realised my dog was nowhere to be seen. This was unusual. Selkie is normally right by my side and can’t bear to miss out on a social event. I opened Ms Mer’s fly screen door and called her. Nothing. No clicking of the medallion on her collar, no panting happy dog. Nothing. This was really weird. I put my empty wineglass on the sink and told my hosts that I was going to look for my dog.

It was getting dark as I walked past the abandoned shacks, calling her name. I passed the gateway guardian, a tree so disfigured by breast-like burls that Holy calls it the mammary tree. I heard a big kangaroo crash into the forest, then stop, waiting. In the darkening night I saw my dog crouched under the giant marri tree. I called her but she stayed there.

This morning I found the disembowelled carcass of a joey on my front doorstep and I did wonder at my dog. That crashing about on the hill that I heard was its mother seeking out her joey. Kangaroos don’t come down to my place often. They smell Selkie and stay away. ‘Well she’s a big dog and she’s fast,’ said my Mum when I expressed my dismay that Selkie may have actually killed the joey.

‘Well, it is all very well that your dog was a predator,’ I said, grumpily, referencing Wolf, that dog of Mum’s with one eye on his food bowl and another on the chickens/sheep/kangaroos available. At sixteen his teeth were blunt but his head still snapped sideways at a paddock full of prey as we flew past in the car. ‘But I feel very upset about my dog being a killer.’

‘She’s a dog.’ Said Mum.

This afternoon Pete came to stay and mentioned that he’d seen a doe hanging around on the track. In retrospect, after what you’ve told me, he said, she was probably looking for her child. When I looked at the dead animal’s munted body, I thought it had been hit by a car. Maybe my dog dragged it back to my place, to deliver it up like a roadkill gift for me. But she seemed spectacularly uninterested in the carcass this morning. Maybe when I’d stopped for a wee on the driveway, Selkie had gotten nose of some roadkill up on the Broke track. But there are no drag tracks on my driveway. This joey is heavy, I know this because I’d lifted it onto the back of the ute to dump it up the road. Selkie bringing it home would surely have left drag marks. The whole thing is very strange. If she’s killed it, she surely would have shown some ownership over her prize. I drove up the Broke track today and there were kangaroo tracks in the middle of the road just past my driveway. The tracks suddenly stopped, like the kangaroo had leapt straight into the sky.
I don’t know what to think. I look at my dog differently now.