Wednesday, August 31, 2022



He was alone when he excavated the first tiger, 25 years ago. It lay under beds of ash, interred and then cremated, almost as though to sterilise or negate the soil that it lay in.
A few days before his find, he'd taken pity on the team. With a dearth of artifacts the students were hot, bored and his young colleague's wife was expecting a baby any moment. They packed up their desert camp and left him out there alone, where the Southern ocean bit off the country and little black stars fell to earth.
He returned weeks later to the city, triumphant and bore with grace his colleague's jealousy and regret. His name was instantly cemented in professional circles, subject to an intense scrutiny of process and umbilicly connected to a pre history with no written word, only songs.
Now he needed to revisit the desert sands that formed the plinth of his career.

She was born with teeth, little needle canines. Her mother refused to feed her and considered exposing the strange baby, whose eyes remained glued shut for half a moon.
A young man who saw her teeth knew there would be trouble. It didn't stop him from presenting food, skins and flint to her parents and he continued this betrothal promise faithfully for thirteen years.

This was the time after the coming of the dogs, when everything changed. A barren woman, who carried a ginger pup strapped to her belly, told the girl her Granny’s story of the strange men who sailed in from the north. They wore spiked helmets fashioned from stonefish and breast plates of thick, felted coconut fibre that repelled even the death spears. They brought the dogs with them to eat and to hunt and they wore the toothed necklaces of the ones they'd eaten on the journey.

These dogs without pouches were welcomed. They didn't compete with the people for food, like the tigers did. Dogs hunted in teams and brought food to the camp, where they sat on the outer rim of firelight, their jowls resting on their paws, ears cocked, waiting their turn.
With them came a new mammalian knowledge of fatherhood and birth. That's when things began to change, the woman told the girl.

Nights when the moon was full, the dogs left the camp silently in rows like militant wraiths. Then the cold, dry air thickened with the smell of terror and blood. They yipped and howled as they sniffed out den after den of tigers, tearing apart the marsupial bitches in their cramped little caves and devouring her babies.

He tracked her out into the scrubby mulga, always careful that she didn't see him. He was curious about her absences. She lay in a sunny clearing with tigers. People spoke of tigers as the Dreaming, since that lifetime of bloody nights.
The brindle tiger joeys sprawled over her dusty brown skin and chewed on her hair. The girl suckled from the bitch, her face obscured by the furry pouch. He could smell the warmth coming off their coats. Her fingers stroked the stripy pelt. Her fingers stroked and scratched and kneaded and then ...froze.
She whipped around to face him, grinning at him with her sharp little teeth dripping opalescent milk. She was daring him to say or do something. He knew then why the dogs never liked her. He stood, habit, like a tree. And then they were gone, the whole mob turned into the country, including his promised wife.

The reason for archaeologist's return was to impart something to his old colleague and to follow up a rumour. He knew the thylacine he’d found twenty five years ago had been buried, probably by human hand and then a fire lit over the ground. Radiocarbon dating on the charcoal was three thousand years. Twenty five years of research crossing all disciplines and he was still guessing the rest. He was running out of time. At seventy five, it was time to hand over his baby.
"You need to get some people down here. You have to work out where the circle begins and ends," he rustled a bunch of spiny grasses in his palm. "I think there's more."

Around a frugal flame, the elders sat for three days and discussed the business of the girl. Nobody saw the dogs leave. The dogs ran silent and hungry across the earth, teeth bared, nostrils flared, their long red tongues flicking against their jowls with every bound. It was the next night, a frozen five-dog-night, when the people realised they were gone. All but one man curled up with their backs to the fire, grumbling with cold and tired from all the talking.

The old patience of a dedicated bone digger was deserting him. He slapped a switch of mulga leaves at the flies and paced. A new generation of students straightened their backs in shallow trenches, watched him and then glanced at each other, eyebrows raised. They knew the history. He walked in circles, always circles, always trying to find the centre, muttering "Tyger, tyger, burning bright..." and slamming his canvas hat against his thigh.

She ran for the sea. She could smell it getting closer. She ran in a short choppy gait, jogging along with the very last of her totem. They stopped at the night well and drank and then ran again. She chewed sweet red flesh from the berry tree and spat out the spherical nuts. The flesh she savoured in her mouth and it sustained her for hours. They headed for the caves on the edges of the ocean. She would light a fire there and be safe for a little while and perhaps her kin could be too, for a little while.

The promised husband ran too, his eyes scouring the earth, back tracking, finding a trail again, running, running, always running and searching the ground for signs of the dogs.
It took two days but he found them.
Terrible sounds hung floating, suspended under the constellations, shot through by the sharper, piercing screams of the straggling tiger joeys as they died. He ran faster into the night towards the noise, expecting his exhausted body to betray him.

He saw the tigers crouching in a circle, facing the dogs. They protected the girl who stood in the middle, teeth shining like the white stone in her hand. He saw the dogs stalking around the largest male tiger. Their yellow eyes glinted hard and sure as they took him down. One of them yelped as the white rock glanced off him. It was not an orgiastic flurry. It was quick, merciless and brutal. He saw her search the barren soil for another stone.

The dogs split into groups of three or four and quickly killed the other adult tigers, the leader of each pack picking a tiger up by its neck and shaking it lifeless.
He was running towards her when the dogs hit her as a deadly circular body, with a shattering single thump of flesh against flesh.

The helicopters bristling with cameras arrived. The news was satellited around the world within hours. A perfect circle, twelve metres in diameter, of human-interred thylacines is news. Television camera crews and journalists rolled out brand new swags in the student’s camp. The old archaeologist could not stand still for interviews. He still thought there was more. He let his colleague do all the talking. The students put both hands to their faces often or knelt on the ground and felt the earth, amongst all the activity of the media.

Later in the evening, he invited his colleague out into the field. The stars were brilliant, despite the generator lights, the celebratory bonfire and the full moon. "I'm going home in the morning," he told the stunned man. "But I know there is more. There’s something here, right where I stand, in the centre. It's your dig now, friend."

The promised husband knew that she was the last one and that the new order of dogs had begun. But the dogs would not have her. He buried her first, very deep, with all the tiger joeys laid over her belly. He buried the adult tigers where they fell defending her, facing outwards to protect her forever.
When he lit the fires, the dogs waited, uneasy and triumphant, at the edges of the light.

Bike pump

Recently I went to the tip shop and there was a bike inside the shed. Bob's yelling at me, 'Oh Sarah, take this bike. You can have it for five bucks. FIVE BUCKS!!! Look at the brand. Look at it this bike.' 

He stepped aboard and pumped the front wheels. The bike had shockies so he was able to bounce this bike up and down on it's front wheels. This particular tip shop guy had managed to distract me from the red lady's bike that was of a proper vintage with a front basket and carrier, to a welded, factory bicycle, sporting only a water bottle bracket and shockies. Anyway, I bought it. Five bucks after all.

'Front tyre's a bit flat,' he said. 'But it's FIVE BUCKS.'

I've been more in need of a decent four wheel drive car recently, than a bicycle, because living 35 kilometres from the nearest town tends to make you need to drive everywhere rather than do the school or shop run on foot. But when the bar breaks at the inlet, there is this long beach to ride along. The sand is hard and I've often wanted a bike to ride along that beach. 

I bought the bike with dreams of riding it along the shore ... but then I needed a bike pump for the front tyre. So the next time I ventured into the city, I went to the nearest bicycle shop.

As soon as I entered, I realised this was not that kind of hipster bicycle shop where kind, bearded men sold hot cups of cold-pressed coffee on leather lounges, while asking me to peruse their cargo bikes. No. These blokes were the enablers of the lawyer and accountant clique of cyclists. They came towards me in tiny shorts and with their hard, chiselled faces asked me what my business was.

'I'd like to buy a bicycle pump,' I said.

So they sold me this really expensive thing that looked like it was from outer space. I got it home, unscrewed the top (there's no tube here) and all the valves fell out and I couldn't work out how to put all the valves back together again. Apparently you can reverse the valves to release air from the tyre in this one trick pony.. Awesome. We used to do that with match sticks when I was a kid.

I was telling this story to a mate of mine yesterday. She looked at me, incredulous.

'So let's be clear here Sarah. You paid five bucks for a bike, right? That's cool. And then you paid forty bucks to pump up the front wheel?'

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Evening again


Like the gloaming and the evening, there is also apparently the fuckening! A friend sent this to me this morning and I was utterly up for it. It's been a pretty strange full moon period, for me anyway - and I've gone nocturnal since the dog and cat in the night time incident. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but that doesn't mean they're not out to get me!

Missed calls from a dead ex, a pair of socks that aren't mine beside the fruit bowl, Random Man moving into the shack, the dead cat's hard to refrain from making false connections between odd events at the best of times and I don't even smoke weed.

The inlet has risen really fast as well. Struth's boat would have been on the sand a week ago, if he'd parked it where it is in the photo below. At first I thought the bar had broken from the outside from the huge swells we've had but now I think it's the water pouring in from the other end, the rivers swollen with messages from upstream.

Here's some photos of my house too. People sometimes think I live in a shed but the cottage really is quite respectable. This is my desk and writing area, close to the fire of course. The huge windows face south to the inlet, and the weather.

 And this is I guess what you'd call the sitting room (It's all open plan). Today it's covered in prep work for next week's uni classes. This semester I'm tutoring for Environmental History, Indigenous Studies and Creative Writing.

Saturday, August 13, 2022


 I've only just realised how beautiful the word evening is. Maybe I'm new to this: that evening up between day and night, that hour between dog and wolf, is a time of even - ing. The hour when everything is harmoniously balanced with light and dark. To go back to some earlier thoughts about the fugue and the gloaming, the word 'evening' begins to hold more meaning for me.

It's been a pretty decent full moon. Random Man (yes that one) has been out at the inlet mouth the last few days in his kayak, fishing for salmon. He said it was so bright out there on the white sands of the beach, that he could walk through the bush like it was broad daylight.'There was that triple ring around the moon,' he told me. 'There were dolphins surfing and whales jumping out of the water.'

I stayed in my house and watched the moon rise over the forest canopy. At midnight, as I was falling asleep, all hell broke loose on the back veranda. I heard the hound race out. Furniture and milk crates flying, glass jars of smoking chips breaking and then lots of shouting (from me), crashing sounds. In the torchlight I watched my dog try to kill a feral cat. I had to finish off the poor critter with an axe. I do wonder what the AirBnB guests next door were thinking about the kerfuffle. Surely, anyone else who has had to kill an animal at midnight with an axe, dressed only in underpants and ugg boots, will understand my story.

This brings me back to the gloaming, the evening. It's the hour between dog and wolf.


Wednesday, August 10, 2022

That's a Bravo 111

Smoke descriptions are one of the most important pieces of information that I use when working the fire season in the south west of Western Australia. From my lookout, I describe what the smoke is doing. This indicates what kind of plant matter the fire is burning (colour) how the fire is behaving (standing up, drifting etc) and what the fire is about to do (heavy, billowing). Smoke behaviour is communicated, in what may seem an arcane code, back to the office, where everyone there has to decide what to do next. 'Send out a truck? Several trucks? Water bombers?' For about four months of the year I sit and watch for smokes rising suddenly from forest, farms and suburbia. 

Anyway, my new neighbour, this adventure guy in camo escaping a bad marriage and/or something something is still ensconced in Old Smokey. Tonight I drove in from the city. He'd removed the branches that fell in the last storm on the driveway and set them to one side. Careful like. I'm still feeling cranky at Struth who let him stay at Old Smokey but in the mornings I'm hearing these cheery conversations which makes me think Camo Man is now Struth's deckie.

A Bravo one one one filed from the hut's chimney. Blue. Fine. Column. A quietly smoking log. A gentle smoke.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Magnet Inlet

  We met on my doorstep, on a day when storms ripped across the south west. I think it even hailed that day. He stood under the gutterless eaves in camo pants and a rather nice khaki jacket, its hood serving as a kind of veranda for his face.

'I've been told to come and see you,' he said.

I asked him in and made him a cup of tea. He said he'd been camping on the island but the weather got too wild, he'd capsized his canoe and now he was looking for shelter on the 'mainland'. He'd decided to move into the hut two hundred metres inland from my place. It's called Old Smokey, he told me. We burned some incense he'd gifted, in a green lacquered bowl. As the smoke drifted against the window, he began to tell me about how he came to be here.

Something fly in fly out something something a divorce that had cost him five mill. Kids who play for Australia as elite athletes. This could all be true. You know when someone looks you in the eye and tells you a lie? 'I'm nervous around you,' he kept saying, and I was not sure whether or not this was a good thing. My dog sat on his feet and fawned all over him.

Old Smokey is a hut used by fishermen during the commercial netting season. It's an old asbestos shack with a defunct toilet and broken hot water system. The corrugated iron roof is covered in marri leaves and it's a horribly damp place in the winter. A note written in crayon beside the door says - meet me at the beach at sunset.

'I'm moving in!' my new neighbour says. 'I'm gonna grow veges and get some chickens! This inlet has been calling to me for years now.'

During the early days of the pandemic, there was an influx of single men where I live. It was like they'd looked up the most remote place on earth and headed here - to grow veges and raise chickens. It was pretty weird, especially when they asked me to charge their mobile phones with my limited power supply. Me saying 'no' was often seen as an affront.

I did have some respect, though, for this man who'd tried to go it alone on the island. If I ever won lotto, I'd buy that island, I told him. I love that place.

'Struth told me to come and see you,' he said. 'He showed me the hut and said, go and see Sarah first.'

Like all the fishermen do. They all come over to stand on my doorstep and say, 'Hi Sarah, we're camping in Old Smokey. Good to see you. Let us know if you want any fish.' Because they know I live alone and that is exactly what this strange interloper did. But he wasn't there to go fishing. He was moving in.

So that night I walked the bush track over to the village to talk to Struth. I used my head lamp because it was a new moon night. He was sitting in front of the fire, after setting his nets. 'What the fuck Struth?' I asked him. 'This random guy moving into my backyard and you showed him Old Smokey? Is this bloke okay? I don't know him. Do you know him?'

Struth had the dinner his wife had cooked, set on a plate and covered in gladwrap. 'Oh, I dunno Sarah,' he said, 'like I didn't think it would be a problem or anything. He said he'd had a chat to you and it was all good.' He looked really uncomfortable. 'I can talk to him if you like,'

Yesterday I talked to him. He'd got all his gear off the island and now had 'everything he owned' into Old Smokey. I see him walking through the trees on his way to the beach, a flash of camo and khaki, quite often carrying a water container. Tonight as I drove home, I saw a set of footprints either side of a single wheel. For a while, I thought it was someone running beside a bike. No, this was a man pushing a wheelbarrow.

Today was the moment I realised that I've been writing about this man for decades. That man who is tipped off the edge of the world, to heal, to get himself better. In 1929 a man came here. He was under a cloud of legal and social problems and maybe under witness protection. He ran a wheelbarrow out to the highway every month to meet a copper. Then he ran home the wheelbarrow with his supplies.

To tell you the truth, I'm not feeling any better about my new neighbour. But I kind of get him.