Friday, 20 February 2015

Dragons Eye - Part Five

Where will we go?

High clouds were piling in the west. It was hot and the humidity was building. If I went over to Kathy’s place now, I would be able to leave before the rain started. I went out, climbed through my orchard. I could hear Kathy’s daughter training one of the horses in the lunging yards behind her stables her voice carrying over the valley.

It always gets still when the clouds build - I could hear rustlings along the garden beds. Small birds darted through the sky, watching me and the sky.

I went back inside to disconnect the electrical equipment. It was hot and still. Lightning strikes along any of the power lines would send a surge to all the local farms, destroying anything more complicated than a light bulb.

I checked my email before I turned everything off.

A short note from our mutual friend. Sean wrote - Been thinking about you falling. You remember “catching up” to the cats, “slowly”. Forget Galileo and things falling the same speed. In air it does not happen. People fall faster than cats. Trouble is, to catch up to the cats you would have had to fall a long way, say 5 pool lengths. At the end, you would have been travelling at 100 miles per hour. You all would have been squashed. Sorry – but I think your memory is playing tricks.

I shot off a reply, thanking him. I wrote – Thanks, I agree, my memory very dodgy, but it is the only thing I remember.

Was nice of him to think it through.

The memory came back to me unbidden. Falling. The cats, the white Waylander and the gray Blanket, below. Me catching up slowly. But this time, the memory ran slower. I saw Waylander turning her head up to look at me, her eye shining like mirrors. Shadows next to the cats. A ledge. Hitting something.

I made a mental note to look at my old email messages – might have missed something from you.

I shook my head. I couldn’t afford to have those things in my head anymore. A friend in town had offered me a job and I did not want to let him down. I switched everything off.

I found myself locking the door before I left. I do not lock my house for a short walk. I weighed the key for a moment. I cannot afford to overthink simple stuff like this. I stuffed the key into the ceramic frog. I have to start making snap decisions and sticking to them.

The grey cat Blanket was waiting outside for me. She walked just behind me down across the paddock. I turned back, and looked at the farm. Then picked her up and crossed the creek. Before Waylander went missing I would have had to cross a second time.

Coming to Kathy’s place is like going back in time. Heavy old post and raid fences. The faint smell of a wood stove. Everything neatly ordered, horses eating in the fields, and her huge old stables. Ironwork decorations along the side.

Blanket bounded ahead – a grey blur heading into the darkness. I could hear Kathy’s daughter working a horse in the round yard and sang out – Hey Storm! Got a moment for a visitor?

Storm shouted back – Depends. Come on through.

Kids born in the bush have loud voices. Voices that carry and echo off valleys. I walked into the stables. A dark open area, smelling of straw and horses and leather. Light from the roof hitting an old iron thrasher, tucked away out of the weather.

A row of saddles and bridles, old harness rigs behind. Kathy’s saddle on its own ledge.

Back out into the light. A slender young woman, dressed in riding pants with a cotton shirt and broad rimmed hat. She had been working hard - sweat and humidity staining her clothes.

Storm said – Oh, hi.

She held my eyes for a moment and said - You look wrong.

I said – What do you mean?

Storm said – Well normally you are nursing some small hurt. Sorry - you look fine. Ok.

And she smiled and got me to take her place, running a small fat pony around the ring.

I said – Good season (nodding at the green fields).

Storm said – Too good for this one. She is a greedy-guts, I have to work her each day to stop her foundering.

She was back in the barn. I could hear her splashing in a water barrel in the barn.

I said – You been riding a lot?

Storm said – Pays the bills. Have got a couple of agistments, racehorses from Sydney and a couple of hacks from in town. They all need work. Keep her moving! I will be back in a moment.

I picked up the pace, getting the pony back to a trot.

A rumble in the distance. Then the sky changed colour as the dark riders sped across the sun.

The first couple of drops, falling, cold.

Storm put her hand on my shoulder and took the long reigns and the lunging whip – Whoa, girl. (Turning to me) Come on, get inside.

She had changed into a clean top. As the rain started to fall, she led the pony into the stables and unbuckled the rig in a single movement. I saw a flash of white in the darkness near the thrasher. I wandered over to look, remembering – Hey, you don’t mind if my grey cat chases mice here for a bit?

Storm said – You kidding? She spends most of her time here when you are off. Come on, into the house, I have a confession to make.

For a moment it seemed like old times. But now I was going to have to talk to her about the death of her mum. I was not sure I was going to cope. I was sure she got herself killed trying to find me.

As we walked through the stables, she said – After the storm, I will show you a new quarter horse I have. You will love him. Maybe even have a ride?

I nodded and asked – Where will we go?

She said - Up the hills and far away.

She shrugged and smiled. Then we ran through the rain, up to the house gate. Past a little rose garden and onto the veranda.

This house was old stone. Small, only a couple of rooms. Kathy had never bothered with electricity. Storm had already stoked the fire and the old kettle was steaming.

She said - Just take a moment.

As a lightning bold crashed into the mountains above and then three seconds the thunder crashed over us to the east and south.

We both had been counting.

Storm said – Above Grahams run, I guess. Maybe rainbows after the storm. Have a seat.

Rainbows. An old table. Rough wooden floors. An old cast iron stove against the rough hewn stone walls. Pressed tin ceiling, flaking.

Storm said – Took your time coming over.

She smiled, but I could feel something else.

I said – It was a horrible shock. About you mum. I am really sorry. I..

She looked down – Don’t be. Let’s not talk about her. Hear my confession first.

She got up and filled a teapot and took a metal jug of cream from the old gas fridge. She went back for a jar of cookies.

The rain was belting down outside, and the smell of thunder seeped into the little kitchen.

Storm sat down.

There are unwritten rules about drinking tea in the bush. Only boil the water once. No talking until it steeps and is poured. She pushed the cookies over to me and I bit into one.

The taste was rich and sharp. Bitter sharp.

She looked at me, cocking her head. I forced a smile and nodded. I even had another bite. Another unwritten rule is to never look askance at someone else’s cooking.

She poured the tea and we helped ourselves to the cream. The tea took the edge off the cookie. This time I smiled properly. I remembered the first time I had tea, at my grandmother’s place. Lots of memories, hearing her lecture on Galileo and my great aunt telling me stories. Dont forget the dragons. Catch the falling star

I shook my head, this was not the time for that – I was here to remember Kathy, her mum. The rain was easing. Storm poured a little cream into two bowls under the stove.

She caught my eye – My confession. I am a bit embarrassed by this, I have not done anything like it before.

She went to the door as the rain stopped and listened for a moment.

The light changed. All around was the smell of a summer storm just past and a soft glow in the sky. Static electricity was hanging in the air, setting her hair on edge.

She cried out into the sky – Wa-wa-animae!

The rainbow came from the sky like a meteor, hitting the ground with an explosion of light, leaving a faint rainbow trail as mist rises.

I froze as she turned around and lifted her eyes. Waylander, my white cat missing since I returned, padded to the door and stood on back paws reaching up to her hand, static electricity jumping between them.

Storm said – I stole your white cat.

Peter Quinton
February 2015

> Interlude I

Image – Molonglo high plains, after the storm, this week

(No dragons or cats or spiders were hurt writing this part.)

This is a continuation of a story (a "braided yarn") that started on an earlier G+ post. Details and story at:

Post a Comment