The Pencil.

In all the years I worked as a sub-contractor for the Greeks, I worked on my own. I found that  it was the best way to have control of my time and workload. But every now and then, there would be a commercial building job that required another chippie to keep the schedule moving and up to date. On one of these jobs, an older carpenter was brought in to do some finishing work, while myself, being a young bloke then could do the ‘heavy lifting’…we got to chatting at smoko after a couple of days on the job. His name was Mark, an older bloke, as near to retirement as I was away from it…he’d be long gone by now so I’ll tell you what he told me.

P1010160

I was not long married and we were expecting our first child, so was full of that “new parent keenness” sort of thing. I told him of our expectations.

“You got any kids?” I asked.

“Two, girls…by my second wife”. he added.

“Oh..none from your first ?” I asked.

“No…we never got around to it…only married a few years..” he spoke as he shelled a boiled egg.

‘That’s bad luck..” I offered.

“Not as bad as it would’ve been if we stuck together!…She cleared off with my work-partner.”

“Christ!…that’s a bit rich”…I said. Mark shrugged.

“A long time ago now.”

“I never had any partner.” I reflected.

“Yeah?..good idea…but we’d known each other (the partner and myself) since our apprenticeship days…and when the big building companies folded back in the seventies, we formed a partnership…first fix roofing.”

He sat back with his legs crossed and sort of stared ahead in some thought while he ate the egg. Of course, being an inquisitive chap (I love a good goss story!), I was dying to hear some more..but there are times and there are times…I knew now was not the time to pry, so I left it to the next week at  smoko. I then took up the story with him.

“ That partner you had, was he a good tradie or the bludger type….I ask, since you say he took off with your wife…I was wondering if you had to carry him on the job?”

“ No..no…he was a bloody good tradesman…knew the job inside out..much brighter than me..he used to do the quoting and setting out…that was probably my downfall.”

“How’s that?” I asked.

“Well…he would leave me with the cutting-list, say..and take off for a couple of hours to do a quote and I’d be there on the job cutting the timber and he’d come back and we’d get stuck into it….” he sat back and pondered a moment..” You know..I probably would never have found out when I did except for that one small slip with the pencil..”

“What pencil?” I was now very curious.

“These pencils..you know ; these thick carpenter’s pencils”. And he motioned to the one in the top pencil-pocket of his overalls. He took it out and turned it over to show me three little cuts near the top. ‘That’s my mark..I put it on all my tools and things..it’s a habit since my apprentice years…so you know your gear. “..Mark put the pencil back into the pocket and leant back against the wall “I shoulda’ worked it out a bit sooner…like when my partner Dave’s wife bumped into me at the shops one day and asked me to join her in a coffee there..

She asked me then out of the blue if I thought Dave was having an affair..I was gobsmacked…’Dave, I repeated..nah!..can’t see it…he’s always on the job ..’cept when he goes to do a quote..an then he’s usually only gone an hour or two….I had to think a bit…Nah!..can’t see it.’ I said again’…but it did stick in my head for some reason”.

Mark leant to his lunch-box and took out a snack-bar….he continued..

“It was about a month or so after that chat that I was there on the job early, setting up…I was at my tool-box marking these six new pencils I had bought the night before from the hardware…I sharpened one for myself and had just put the remaining five into the top drawer of my tool-box when Dave was at my shoulder..’Ah!..he said..I’ll have one of those if you don’t mind, I’m all out of them.’…I gave him a new one.” Mark ..again stopped as if in deep thought and stared ahead…he was like that..then he continued…

“It was that very night, actually..I was putting my slippers under the bed and when I lifted the valance there, I saw the pencil..it was one of my carpenter’s pencil with my mark on it…I picked it up and said my thought out loud..’What’s this doing here?’….and the missus looks over her shoulder and mumbled something like ..”It must have dropped out of your pocket”…I just accepted that , shrugged and put it on the bedside table to take to work in the morning. I never gave it a second thought, to be honest…and I never would have again except when I got to the job, Dave was already there, up on the roof doing some measuring…I went to my tool box, took out my nail-bag and remembered the pencil in my pocket from last night….I opened the top drawer and saw four new pencils there..I automatically put my hand into my nail-bag and felt and took out the new pencil I had put there yesterday….” Mark stopped, frowned, like he was going through the moment all over again, recalling it step by step…” I remember I was thinking to myself..I’m not a fast thinker..an’ I’m not quite ‘with it’ if you know what I mean..I’m sort of confused trying to work this thing out…there’s the four pencils in the tray…there’s the one in my nailbag, ..five.. an’ here’s the one I found under the bed last night…that makes six.. hang on, didn’t I give one to Dave yesterday before he went to do that quote and if so how come I have six again now..and then that meeting with Dave’s wife an her thinking of him having an affair and the pencil I gave him and going for a quote..how come I have six now…and then the wife’s ; “It must have fallen from your pocket”…all this sort of jumbled stuff…of course the LAST THING on my mind was any idea of Dave…of Dave and my wife..and it might still have been explained away except at that moment, Dave calls out from the rafters..’Mark!..can you throw me up another of those pencils..the other must have dropped from my pocket”…but I was in the middle of this dammed awful thing and wasn’t hearing him properly till it all twigged with him bloody calling to me over and over..;

“Mark….Mark…the pencil..the pencil…”

Mrs. Fookes and The Marino Fish Shop.

Image result for Fish and chips in a paper wrapper pics.

Let me tell you the story of another fish and chip shop owner. A woman too..not arrogant, nor opinionated or accusative…Oh, she was not a quiet retiring type. She had the voice and stride like a sergeant major..she would call for her child and he would hear her loud and clear half a mile away!…and woe betide him if he didn’t heed her call.

But she ran the Marino fish shop..a shop built by her fisherman husband at the high spot of the carpark that led to the rocky beach there at Marino Rocks..the beach of our neighbourhood..the gathering place of a mix of many nations , ages, young folk of both genders..young teens of the boomer generation who framed a collective there of social sharing and support that relied upon Mrs. Fookes’s  generosity as the backbone of our little collective…she was a saint, even if she didn’t realise it.

Marino Rocks was the end of the railway-line stop, with it’s inhabitants of Dutch, Latvian, Scottish, German, Irish and some of dubious parentage altogether!…but they became ‘fellow travelers’ in that poverty enriched neighbourhood  in the foothills on the edge of  the sea.

By a coincidental twist of fate, while the adults, survivors of a world war, in some cases two wars, an economic depression that impoverished so many, were a motley collection of spiritually broken , in many cases physically broken individuals, who were subjected to the corrupting influence of conservative thinking and propaganda that drove a wedge of fear into their susceptible hearts, their “multi-mix” children, with an improved diet of high protein, clean water, fresh air and unsupervised, unregulated freedom on the wide beaches of  the gulf, grew into wild free-spirited youths, who found rebellion against the restraints of conservative lifestyle as easy as diving off “Sharkey rock” into a crystal- clear , cool ocean. The young men and women that grew from such a healthy outdoors environment, grew bodies that glowed with a shimmering water-silvered endowment that drew the jealousy of the gods! The sea –water that ran from their bodies when re-alighting onto ‘Sharkey rock’ after a dive revealed all the beauty that nature could encompass in desire and comeliness in a youthful human form…their hungry eyes rejoiced in each other with a pagan worship of mother nature’s creation.

Having no money and no capacity to travel far, all the children congregated in a tribal-like conglomerate on the beaches . There was nothing in the stultifying doctrine of Catholicism or the Protestant work ethic that could not be laughed off under the pagan influence of sun , sea and surf and the merciful salvation of Fookes’s Fish and Chip Shop.

Ahh!..Mrs. Fookes..never did she know how much she helped create a revolution in her own small way, by her unconnected generosity to the local kids. From behind the counter of that unique fish and chippery, she contributed to the making of “baby-boomer” revolutionaries. She may have had a stride like a parade-ground Sergeant Major, and a voice to match..but her heart was of pure gold. She wasn’t like “Aunt Mary”, the railway porter on the train station who would line the kids up and threaten any delinquents that she would cut their heads off and put a cabbage in it’s place if’n she had any more cheek!

Mrs. Fookes saw how so many were scrawny kids hungry for a decent bit of daytime tucker, scrounging around for empty cool-drink bottles to cash in for a bob’s worth of chips..one of the kids would go inside with a few bottles at threepence each return deposit and Mrs Fookes would dish out more than a shillings chips and sometimes throw in a piece of fish that “was just laying around waiting for a mouth to eat “…and there’s a couple extra chips or a “ potato pattie for your little plump friend there at the door…he looks hungrier than the rest of you!” and the booty was all shared around amongst many..right down to greasy fingers dabbing up even the last salt grains..’all for one, one for all’…till she worked out a way to legitimise her care by pointing one day to some large empty glass jars in an alcove by the counter..”Listen you kids” she said in her commanding voice, “I want some interesting shells and things to make a sea-side display for the customers to look at while they wait..if you bring me something interesting or curious from the sea, I will give you some fish and chips in return…but it’s gotta be interesting, mind!” and she wagged a finger in warning to not try any silly buggers with her..and she meant it!..and she stuck to her word…The kids would bring their little treasures from Neptunes hoard and she’d exchange for tucker…strange coloured and shaped shells, dug out from their wedge in the rocks…the dried, hollowed out husks of exquisite sea-horses and the like…little treasures given up by the sea..they brought them to Mrs. Fookes like Fagan’s pickpockets seeking reward for their efforts! Did anyone then realise what this meant, this system of barter ?..It meant freedom!..liberated from going home during the day for food..No longer under the parents watchful eyes the children were free to create their own sea-side society from morning to late afternoon,without oversight or consultation with adults!..God bless Mrs. Fookes!..and may a warm fire be forever burning in her hearth and warm slippers handy on a cold night…God bless her.

Mind you, she had to have a pretty tough hide to handle her fisherman husband ; Edgar Gordon Fookes…a stone-cutter by trade, fisherman by choice and garrulous old bastard by nature. Edgar and his sons had a fishers camp on the Yorke Peninsula, where they would set out to their secret fishing grounds and catch choice fish to clean and put on ice which Edgar would deliver straight back to the shop..never were fresher fish, more delicious fish and chips served to a long queue of faithful customers..five or more deep at the counter till a ticketing system had to be introduced.

Edgar would deliver his catch and then lean against the end of the counter smoking his big, fat meerschaum pipe and observing what he called ‘the idle rich” customers coming and going. He was a garrulous old bloke and the kids held their distance when he was around, saving their moments to barter with the kindly Mrs. Fookes when he was away.

Edgar Fookes wasn’t one to be messed around with..story goes that once, in the Fish-market auctions, the independent fishermen were sick and tired of the auctioneer placing their catches down the sale list, even though they could very often be the first there with their lot, just to satisfy and be rewarded by the big corporate fishing companies..one day Edgar challenged the auctioneer on this unfair matter…the auctioneer told him to shut it or else he’ll be last on the list!…Where upon Edgar snatched up a gummy-shark, swung it a couple of times around his head an whalloped the auctioneer off the dias and proceeded to do his own mock auction in place!

One day , on a quiet afternoon, Edgar was “resting” on his arm at the end of the counter watching a matronly looking lady in heavy fur coat  peruse with concerned expression and a pair of  prinz nez opera glasses the trays of select fish in the display fridge…after several sweeps in this manner, Edgar could be observed huffing and puffing in an agitated way on his pipe..Edgar prided himself on the freshness and quality of his catch..Finally, the matron straightened up and dropping her glasses to her bosom, addressed Mrs. Fookes behind the counter.

“ Madam, “ she spoke in a ‘Toorak Gardens’ dialect ,“Are these fish frrrrresh?”.

This was too much for Edgar to take lying down! He swiftly sidled up to the lady and taking his pipe with a sudden but measured movement from his mouth , he looked her square in the eye and informed her in a mocking emulation of the lady’s own accent;

“Madam!…if they were any frrrrresher…they’d be indecent!” and he turned abruptly away to resume his place at the end of the counter..huffing and puffing at his pipe.

Now THAT is how decent folk run a fish and chippery.

Danny and Moira.

Image result for Pics of golden love lockets.

The large, plate-glass window of the lounge area of the “River View” aged care home overlooked the willow-lined banks of the Murray River in the centre of that regional city that had been home for him and his family for these many years…known for its fruit and wine industry…Mr. Daniel Flannigan lay quiet in a parked palliative care bed placed in an advantageous position that gave him a full vista of the passing river. He lay quiet in what could be describe as a pensive mood, the latest results of his advanced condition giving little to no hope of continued life expectancy. His pensive mood was not from a state of depression, no..for at his advanced age of eighty six, he was more in a state of reflection of past events that most satisfied and pleased him in his long life.

He was thinking of Moira.

After a long marriage of sixty years and two children, Danny’s wife, Moira, passed away three years ago, leaving him lonely and listless with little will to live longer than what life ordained, so when a diagnosis of terminal cancer was pronounced upon him, he quietly greeted the news as a kind release from an empty life. Now, as the river slipped away past the window, so too did the last breaths of Danny Flannigan.

Yet, not a week ago, did he get a long visit from his son…; Sargent Tom Flannigan, resident and sole officer of the Mallee Region police patrol, that oversees an area the size of Scotland. The visit was a combination of regular “touching of home base” and an inquiry into his father’s knowledge of where he was raised as a young man back in the ‘fifties. Tom was seeking Danny’s insight into a puzzling case that had come to Sgt. Flannigan’s attention with the recent discovery of a skeleton unearthed beside a lonely stretch of road just east of the town of Sedan.

It was an interesting conversation between father and son. The father, because it touched upon his main considerations of the moment, being his reflections on his life lived with Moira Kenneally, how they met and how they married. The son, the police business of wanting to get to the bottom of this mysterious skeleton. But in reality, both father and son knew the solution to the conversation was already resolved, the only missing ingredient was the crossing of the “t’s” and the dotting of the “i’s”.

Sgt. Tom Flannigan entered the private room with Danny’s care attendant who brought in a plate of soft food for lunch..Following a minor stroke a year before, Danny had lost the dexterous use of his right hand and so it was usual for the care attendant to help him with his eating, in case of a minor “spill” with the food.

“It will be fine if I help him, nurse…” Tom quietly spoke.

The nurse looked to son then father and with a nod of approval from Danny, the nurse placed the utensil on the tray and made out of the room. Tom went behind her and softly closed the door. He then pulled up a chair next to the bed and attended to the food on the plate.

“Is the tucker good, Dad?” he asked.

“It’s alright….most days..” Danny replied cautiously “depends on the cook, which days”…he narrowed his eyes a little as he watched his son’s demeanour…there was more to this one visit than the others, he was thinking.

“Everything alright, son?” Danny asked…Tom raised one eyebrow inquisitively…he pursed his lips and blew a bit of breath.

“Phoo, yeah…..” he thought a moment..” Still can’t get Gloria to come live with me permanently…she’s not fond of the place.”

“Oh…well, that’s women for yer…if they don’t like it..that’s it…best to know in advance…otherwise could be trouble further down the line.” And Danny took a spoon full of the food.

“Yeah, well…”Tom wiped a smidgen of mashed potato from his father’s chin “ We’re both not getting any younger…an’ it would be good to settle down to a married life……” and he thought for a moment before he finished..” like you and mum”.

“Would’ve been sixty three years this month” Danny sighingly said.

“Yes…I suppose so….she was a tad older than you, wasn’t she?” and Tom looked down to something on the floor as he spoke, not that there was anything there, but so as he wouldn’t appear to be gazing too hard at his father as he asked him the question. Danny wasn’t fooled by the evasiveness.

“Whatcha want, Tom?….There’s a choke in the pipe and you’re not getting it out.”

Sgt. Tom Flannigan stroked his chin several times and decided to come to the point of his visit.

“Was called by Jack at the council office to go look at something the road crew found there at the “Seven Sisters Junction” around a month or so ago…They were widening the intersection there because of a accident between Heinie Shultz coming home after a few at the hotel and a grain truck of “Slammers” that tipped over trying to avoid hitting Heinie’s old Ford ute..There’s a bit of a blind spot..apparently and the council road crew were there widening the intersection to make it safer to see any oncoming traffic.

“And..?” Danny had stopped eating and stared at the downcast face of his son.

“And”..Tom breathed “ They unearthed a skeleton that had been buried there…sometime back in the fifties.”

“How do you know it was the fifties?” Danny asked.

“There was a wallet amongst the remains with a money order in it.” Tom now looked close to his father’s reaction….”You used to work in the post office there in Sedan back in the fifties, didn’t you?…when you were a young chap” Tom stared hard at his father’s face.

Danny did not reply, but just slowly spooned the food off the plate and silently chewed.

Tom took the moment of silence to dab again at some bit of food on his father’s cheek. Danny stared back at his son before he answered.

“Yes..I did…Friday night through to midnight Sunday..for Mrs Glastonbury..She ran the Post office and there had to be someone there twenty-four seven for the telephone exchange..She took back over midnight Sunday as it was the start of the new week.”

“And you used to sleep there under the front desk..right?” Tom casually spoke.

“That’s right…I had a pull out mattress…but I’d hardly call it “sleep”..I had to answer the telephone if a call came through..”

Tom changed the subject.

“A lot of blokes there in the harvest season in those days, I’d say.”

“Yeah..heaps…it was all labour-intensive those days…and you had to get the harvest in quick-smart in case of bad weather…or locusts.”

“Hmm..” Tom again touched up a morsel on Danny’s face “ I suppose there was a lot of drinking and celebrating going on at the hotel too in those days?”

“Too right there was…” Danny cautiously answered.

“And I shouldn’t wonder if a woman was brought in to do some singing some nights as a bit of entertainment”….Tom quietly added.

Danny paused in the lifting of a spoon full of the dinner…he replaced it on the side of the plate. A tenseness had risen between them. He then confronted his son with his own query.

“What’s this getting to, Tom?…This is about that skeleton I suppose?”

Tom shifted in his chair, the creaking of the frame and the sound of the rustling of his uniform in his movement dominating the stillness of the room. He reached into his pocket and took something small out…something the size of a bulbous button. He did not display it to his father just then.

“Yes…I’m afraid it is.”…He then leant in closer to Danny.

“You see, I was the first one there to examine the thing…The backhoe had exposed the bones and the men just downed tools and left it as it was for me to have a look at. I got there and poked about with a small rod just to see if it was an aborigine or what…and I found a bottle of cheap sweet-sherry there..along with the shoes and clothing mostly rotted away from the length of time..after all, what would it be…fifty..sixty years or so…so not much left..” and then Tom gently placed the item he had taken from his pocket right in front of Danny on the dinner tray..” . . . and then there was this ..”

The item was a locket of soft gold…it was tarnished and marked, but whole…Danny was speechless, his mouth a little bit agape as he stared and stared at the golden locket..He reached for it, but Tom placed his own hand over the locket..Danny looked to Tom and saw his meaning. He leant back onto his pillow.

“Where did you find that?” he asked. Tom moved the locket away a little closer to himself on the tray before he answered.

“In his hand.” And Tom tilted his head as in curiosity. Danny sighed and then softly laughed..

“I always wondered if it had just been lost on the road in the scuffle and some lucky person had come across it and took it away….God!..how long and how many times I looked for that treasure”.

“So I was right in my assumption then…the locket did belong to you?”

“Well, in truth..not really mine…I gave it to her.”

Tom lifted the locket and with his fingernail edged a tiny clip at the top..it opened and Tom read from an inscription there…

“To Moira from your Danny Boy”…he stared closely at his father..” that’d be you, I suppose?” he asked.

“I reckon..” Danny replied.

“Yes…” Tom left the open locket on the tray “ And I reckon if we looked closely at that lock of hair remnant there, it could be yours as well?”……Danny nodded, keeping his eyes glued to the locket…Tom shifted in his chair and brought his hands together on his legs..” You see, dad…when that locket fell out of those bones of his hand…sans chain..my experience in this game straight away told me that here was a moment of anger..an act of grabbing and ripping away of a necklace and an attack on someone…I’ve been to enough fights and fracas in front-bar and footy-club to know what this means…” Tom then lifted one hand and pointed a finger onto the inscription…” and It didn’t take me many days, what with the money order scrap and the location to run down the people around in those days…” Tom then sat back in the chair “It’s amazing the memory of those old people for those old times..clear as a bell some of them….Old Kevin Rozenswietz, f’rinstance…he remembers a young woman sang there in the hotel in those days….says he was sweet on her..as was many a young man in the town…why even…he says…yourself…” Danny remained silent throughout Tom’s soliloquy, his eyes still fixed on the locket…Tom continued..” Took him a while to remember her name….rang me just yesterday, in fact ..to tell me…” and Tom then leaned in close to whisper the name to Danny…

“Moira Kenneally”…

Danny sank back into his pillows on the bed and looked like he was going to pass away there and then…Tom sprang to his feet and called for the nurse..there followed much fussing and Tom had no further opportunity that day to follow through with his inquiry..He recovered the locket and waited for his father to recover his strength.. a few more days wouldn’t matter.

It was when Tom came at his father’s request a week later that he saw the difference in him..Danny had a more relaxed look and attitude..he looked..serene..is the word Tom would later use to describe that meeting.

The first thing Danny requested from Tom was that he let him hold the locket taken from the dead man’s hand…Tom hesitated at first then realised the absurdity of his reticence, so he held out his hand and Danny took the locket and taking from a small box at his elbow, a fine gold chain, he passed the links of the chain through the ring at the top of the locket…he then held the completed set up in front of them both.

“I had the chain all the while..I found that on the road where we struggled and I’ve had it repaired..I was always hoping against hope that I would get that locket back..and now here it is..so I can tell you the whole story of that time.” Danny held onto the locket and chain as a kind of talisman while he regaled his son with his and Moira’s story.

“It all started with my going outside for a ciggy and a break from the post office. It was a very clear night, with the only intrusion being the usual raucous from the pub over the road..The harvest was going full tilt. Then from somewhere inside the hotel, a piano started playing and the hubbub started to die down and a woman started singing….and in the now silent night air, that voice sounded to me like the voice of a free bird…her lilting and sighing a joy to my ears…

I flung the cigarette to the ground and crossed the road to look through the window..I was too young to go into the bar, besides, I couldn’t leave the exchange for long in case a call came through. Looking through the window I saw Moira for the first time..To me, her face shone even in that smokey bar-room light like the morning sun on a new day, and her raven hair shimmered and shone…her body lithe and full..she was all that my awakening young male body desired in a woman…already I was in love..

She looked a beauty then and I was to get to know her much better in the weeks to come.

The first time we spoke was through the door of the post office. It was late Saturday afternoon after closing time and she was at the front door knocking and making appealing gestures to be let in. Unknown to her, it was with a trembling hand that I opened the door to her.

“Ah!..thanking you there my good man” she gushed with a beautiful smile “ could I be troubling you to write me out a money order to send to my sister in the city this late in the day?”

“I…I’m afraid the post office is closed now..I’m sorry.” I mumbled out apologetically.

“Yes..the post office is closed, but I see you’re still here…and it would be you who could do me this favour” she smiled cheekly..

The upshot of it was that she needed to send the money to her sister as a payment for caring for Moira’s young child while she; Moira was there earning some money. A single mother could lose custody of her child in those days if the authorities deemed her not capable of “supplying for needs of the child”, and as Moira was paid on the Saturday afternoon, she wanted to get the money to her sister as soon as possible..

Of course, I wasn’t supposed to, but how could I refuse..both because of her parental situation and then because I already adored her as a young man’s heart can adore. So I sent the money..she was genuinely happy that I did her the favour and even kissed my cheek as I leant over the desk to give her the receipt..I did indeed blush deeply.

“That’s to say thanks” she smiled “It means so much to me to have that one thing out of the way…but could I ask that same favour of you every week…I’m sorry for bothering you, but I get paid every Saturday and we live so far out of town..?”

Of course, I would gladly do her the favour..any favour…but I told her to come to the back door and call in for me so no-one else would demand the same service.

“And to whom do I call?” she asked.

“Danny..” I stammered out..”me..I’m Daniel..”

“And a fine Irish name that be too.” Moira smiled again..”I’ll be asking for you then..my Danny Boy!” and again she smiled that beautiful smile.

And that’s how we got closer and more easier in our relationship over the following weeks. Moira would come into the back room and call a cooee and I would attend to her money order and she would sit and chatter while I did the paperwork..sometimes I’d get her a cup of tea or she would light up a cigarette with me just outside the back door while she waited before it was time for her to go to the hotel to sing…and we talked of each other.

I remember early in this arrangement Moira suddenly asked me;

“How old are you?” I shot a quick look at her, trying to judge her motive…

“Seventeen..nearly eighteen” I hastily replied..” And yourself..if I may ask?”

“Cheeky!..she admonished as she stubbed out her cigarette…”if you must know ; twenty one next week!” and she then slipped away with a teasing laugh..God..she was my delight at that time…my utter delight.

Through all this harvest, she and I became close pals..that’s all..just pals..as we used to say..though there is a point in the relationships between men and women where that line of friendship, once crossed into the realm of affection, can never be reversed..and it can grow like a blossoming flower, slowly, yet intensly…so that you aren’t completely aware of it at all, till one day, one sudden look, one lingering hiatus of intensity tips you over the line….But there was one cloud on the horizon of our friendship and that was her “man”…a brutish fellow named Bruce Dobson..an itinerant labourer that followed the seasonal harvests around the country…a man of around twenty eight or nine years old..a loner, a scrapper, rather handsome in that hard-chiselled way..not someone to cross swords with..if you get my drift. But he was a problem external to Moira and my regular Saturday meetings. He would be working or at the bar drinking when we would meet at the post office. Strange how some men hold their relationships with women more as a trophy, a possession, rather than a loved one.

“Danny!?” she’d call through the back door and I’d call her to come in. Oh how I loved hearing her call my name and how I adored saying her name in return..I recall a quiet moment having a ciggy there by the back door one evening just before she went to do her stint singing that night, she quietly said..:

“Danny…would you like me to sing a song for you?” I flicked the ash off my smoke nervously and replied;

“Oh..well..yes..that’d be nice…very nice..I’d like that..thank you .”

“Well I finish my stand at the piano there at eleven o’clock..if you come to the side window there by the planter-box and look in..I’ll sing you the last song.”…

I mumbled and blushed my gratitude and she touched the side of my cheek with her hand, smiled a gentle smile and walked away..I can still hold the memory of that touch..the warmth of her hand..for it was more than a casual gesture..it was the passing of an affection between us..it changed our relationship from that moment on.

The song she sung to me that night was “Danny Boy”….oh how my heart sung along with her..and every now and then she would look to me..straight to me as I stared through the smudged glass of that window where I’d rubbed a round spot with my sleeve..and sing those most tender words to me..only to me…

“. . . But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow,
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow,
It’s I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow,
Oh, Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so! “

And with those last sung words, she then looked straight to me…straight into my heart it seemed..oh the power a woman has to grasp and hold a man’s deepest desires, whether she is aware of it or no..it is a power so all embracing, so strong that sometimes only death can release him from her hold..And so it must be in return..with a man to a woman..I don’t know what that hold was to her from someone as meek as myself, but Moira saw a strength in me that touched and held her heart likewise..a bond supreme…and it would prove to be a bonding extreme, for it became a point that at the end of her Saturday night session, she would finish with that song and I would make it a point to be there at the window, peering in and through that smokey world, Moira would finish every time with those lovely words whilst staring right into my eyes..into my soul.

As Moira told me, her birthday was to be soon, and I knew the harvest season was coming to a close. Already some of the contractors had terminated their season in the district and moved on, so would Moira and Bruce move away, I presumed. My heart was suffering from the thought of never seeing her again, so one day that week, I grabbed a lift to the city from a local and went to a jeweller and bought a golden locket on a chain for Moira’s birthday..it took a goodly amount of my savings, but I could think of no better use for them than this gift.

That following Saturday, Moira came knocking at the back door as usual..We went through the regular business of her posting the money to her sister and then went to have our usual smoke by the back door..I had the locket and chain ready in my pocket.

“When did you say your birthday was?” I broke the ice. Moira looked slightly askance to me.

“ I didn’t…but since you ask..it was two days ago.”..she took a drag on the cigarette and then continued “ why do you ask?”

I stubbed the smoke out and reached into my pocket and removed the locket nervously..I wondered now if it was not too presumptuous on my part…perhaps the locket and chain looked too cheap..many doubts now crossed my mind.

“Because I..I brought something for you.” And I held up the locket and chain. I mumbled on nervously and quickly “ it is a special locket where…if you look here there is a tiny clip that you can unlock with your fingernail and it opens up and you can put a keepsake inside….”

Moira left the cigarette fall to the ground and turned and clasped the locket in both her hands like it was a fragile thing. Her eyes glowed with delight at the gift…she then turned her face to me and gazed with the most deep affection.

“And I had it engraved inside ..if you don’t mind…here, see?” Moira read out the words..:

“To Moira, from your Danny Boy.”

“Oh, Danny..it is so wonderful…truly beautiful..thank you.” And she then took the locket into her hands and gazed upon it..” Could you clip it on me, please?” and she held it to me. I took it and she turned around and lifted her hair so I could fix the clasp on the nape of her neck..which I did, but so slowly as I wanted to see and touch her skin there..my finger-tips absorbing the warmth of her body..I closed my eyes and took in the moment..I wanted to totally absorb the feeling of her body there..the soft touch of her hair and the colour of her skin..the tiny follicles of hair on the nape of her neck as I fixed the clasp of the chain..I was trembling..I was enthralled.

After I had finished, Moira turned to me..she lifted the locket to look closely at it then she suddenly let it go, threw her arms about my neck and kissed me passionately on my lips…I drew life there and then from that kiss..oh..that kiss..I held her so tight with my open hand and fingers spread so as to touch and clasp as much of her to me as possible..I had then embraced a joy complete..we kissed and kissed.

Before she left just then, she went and took a pair of scissors from the counter and coming back, she cut a tiny lock from my hair and placed it into the locket…we kissed again and she went to her work.

It was the commencement of life for both of us.

Of course, it did not take long for Bruce to notice a change of heart in Moira..for her heart was now given to another and such a shift of the soul cannot go un-noticed. Bruce’s jealous spite took command and even though she had told him that the locket was a gift from her sister, he was fouly suspicious…even more so than we had suspected, and it happened one night as I was making my way home up the “Sleeper Track Road” at the Seven Sisters Junction.

It was the Sunday night a couple of weeks after I had given Moira the locket. It was a foul night of the big storm that took down the telephone wires all around the district..so the exchange was out of action…Mrs Glastonbury came in and told me to go home as there was little chance the exchange would be up and running any time soon. I had walked almost to the junction when I saw a utility parked ahead…there were no lights on and after coming closer, I recognised it as Bruce’s ute…and he was there with Moira..I had the feeling he was waiting for me. True enough, for as I got close, he stepped out of the ute. He had a swagger in his step..I stopped..

“Took you a while to get here boy…I been wanting to have a little talk with you.” I could see that “talking” was the last thing on his mind. I paused and did not answer, not really having anything to say and I knew what his intention was.

“You been playing at sweet-talking to my girl, I believe..”

“I..we just talk of things.” I weakly said…” just things”

“Yes..just things..I should imagine..” Bruce approached me at the back of the ute “It’s those “things” I want to talk to YOU about now…..with my fists!” and he slowly stepped toward me..I stepped back from the ute…Moira had got out of the car and came around to the back of the ute..she grabbed Bruce by the shoulder and pleaded with him..

“Leave it Bruce..he’s only seventeen..he’s no equal to you in a fight..” Bruce gave a sudden reflex jerking away of his shoulder from Moira’s grip and swung his arm at her and hit her with a back-hander, yelling at her..

“Hold off woman..don’t tell me how to deal with this little shit!”

I leapt at him and connected with my fist with one blow..he spun back and grabbed me with both hands and flung me easily to the ground, Moira recovered from his blow and went for him as well..he grabbed and held her and then yelled to me while I was still prostrate on the ground..

“What the hell do you think you’re playing at..eh..eh? trying to muscle in on my life…my woman!?” he yelled..and then he saw the locket there swinging on Moira’s neck..he flung her away grabbing the locket as he did so and tearing it from her neck..he held it in his fist right in front of my face and yelled..

“You think this will make me go away?…hey?…You think this trinket will force me to say ..Oh..look..my woman’s been stolen by another..so I’ll just leave them to it..?? You think so ?..hey!..well think again!” and he grabbed me by my shirt front and struck me full in the face with the fist that held the locket and he was about to land another when suddenly in the flare of a flash of lightning, there was fast moving shadow and a WHACK! and Bruce fell off to one side of the road and rolled down the edge to lay dead still on the ground. Moira stood above me holding the bladed spade that she had struck Bruce with..It happenned that fast and was without the tragic intent that resulted…but I think that’s how many of these things happen..we both were silent and the storm raged.

Upon examination, we could see that the edge of the spade blade had almost cut through Bruce’s neck and he had quickly bled out..he died quickly and we were there in the wild storm and darkness of the night in shock and with no idea of what to do. We were just a couple of young people caught up in an uncontrollable situation.

After some short while of consoling each other and attending to our own selves, we started to formulate a plan. Considering that while it was in truth self-defence, it would look awfully suspicious if it were to come to the attention of the police and Moira would for sure risk the custody of her child in the process..We were fortunate that day of the week and the violence of the night storm kept all traffic off the back roads..so we set to with a plan…it is a wonder how quick the mind focus’s on a problem when the cause demands it..everything we needed to do just fell into place in that short space of time..

“ You take the ute and go pack yours and Bruce’s things and make it look like you both have done a runner..it happens all the time with itinerants, drive to a distant city and leave the ute by a river or the sea with Bruce’s gear in it only so it will look as if he has topped himself…with all those sherry bottles it will not be hard to imagine..I’ll bury him here where he fell and look after this end of things..”

Moira was shaking and tearful, but her natural sensibility soon got control..

“Yes..yes..I will make sure of my end of things and get rid of the car..I will have to get a bus back to Adelaide and act as if Bruce threw me over for another..I can do that..” she wiped away the tears..

“Moira..” I, I held her shoulders and said regretfully..”we can do this if everything goes right..you are both temporary workers, so you will not be missed…I…I have no known connection to either of you so I will not be considered..but we have to not be in contact with each other until such a time as it seems there is no chance of us being found out..we cannot see each other again for a long time…a long time..some years perhaps..and it’s hurting me already..”

Well…we kissed and held each other and kissed again and professed our love together and swore that we would meet when the time was right. And as Moira drove away in the slanting rain of the night, I truly wondered if I would ever see her again..but there was this deed to do and I set to work with the very spade that killed Bruce, to now bury him.

As I moved to do the job, in a flash of lightning, I saw the chain of the locket on the dirt road at my feet..I picked it up, but could not see the locket itself..and though I looked desperately, I couldn’t find it and the urgency of the moment made me attend to the digging of the grave.

Fortunately, the sandy soil there allowed me to dig a deep hole in a short time and I tipped the body into it, making sure to place some heavy rocks on top of the first layer of soil to dissuade any animals from digging down to the corpse…I also took advantage of a road-kill kangaroo just down the track a ways to drag it to place it on top of the grave so as to cover any decaying smell from the buried corpse. I then made my way home in the filthy weather up the sleeper track, confident the driving rain on that isolated stretch of road would wash any evidence of  the night’s deeds far away…

The next few months I lived out in trepidation of suddenly being grasped by the arm by a police constable and arrested for the killing of Bruce…but no..nothing happened..not then nor ever over the next years..of course there was some grumbling in the district of Bruce and Moira doing a runner while owing a small amount of money to the local store and rent for the cottage they stayed in..but that was the only gossip that came to my ears…I was never considered connected to the couple owing to my position and age…About six months later, my family changed address over to the Bulldog Run about five miles north of the Sleeper Track, so I never went that way again…so the months and the years came and went with no longer a mention of the couple and the town went on with its life..

As did I…albeit with a melancholy sadness lodged deep in my heart. “

Danny continued…

“ It was five years to the month before I heard from her again..It was getting near to Christmas and now I was permanently employed in the post office…five days a week and Saturday morning..Mrs. Glastonbury got another lad to man the exchange over night and the weekend…It was getting near Christmas, as I said, and I was serving old Gladys Auricht in the shop …she wanted a page of stamps so as to send her regular batch of cards and she was fussing with her purse and contesting “the price of stamps nowadays”…

“I don’t make the prices, Mrs. Auricht..they’re printed on the stamp by the government..” I said.

so I was busy attending to her wants and though I heard the bell over the front door ring that told me another person had entered the shop, I only quickly glanced up to see and then went back to Galdys’s fussing…What I did see, was a head of red hair..a woman..who went to the far end of the shop there, for it was a gift shop along with the post office…so I didn’t give much thought to her. Then Gladys gathered up her stamps and purse and things and left the shop and I would have gone to attend the other customer except, as fate or chance or call it what you will, intervened and at that moment there started to play a treasured piece of music over the radio…only the music..no singing with it..an’ it was the tune of “Danny Boy”….I must’ve been tired or a tad sentimental at the time, because I forgot all about the other person there and went into a kind of daydream..and the music just played softly and seemed to caress me..like even now, sometimes over the speakers here they play “Danny Boy” and I go into a kind of dream..and then too..and it was playing through the tune till it got to that part in the singing where it goes…: “So come ye back when Summer’s in the meadow….” And I thought I was hearing things, ‘cause I thought I could hear a voice softly mouthing the words..softly singing along with the music..; “. . . or the valley’s hushed and white with snow” …and I suddenly became aware that the other person who came into the shop was singing those very words..and singing them with the same inflection of voice that I remember from so long ago..and then I saw her…I saw her…she lifted her sunglasses and I saw her eyes..and she sung those beautiful words along with the song..but oh so softly so affectionately..to me she sung…only to me as she looked into my eyes..reading me deeply…” I’ll be here….in sunshine or in shadow….” And then she almost whispered breathlessly, those last delicious, delightful words…” Oh Danny Boy…Oh Danny Boy….I love you so….”

There was a quiet in the room so solid and deep that when Danny next spoke it was almost as in a prayer..

“I can’t tell you the feelings that came over me with the seeing of Moira there…right there in front of me…and hearing her say those words to me…enough to say that we threw ourselves into each other’s arms and held and held each other like we would never let each other go again…I pushed my face into her hair just to breathe in her scent and how I wept..how I wept..how WE wept..” Danny stopped at that moment and took a deep breath before speaking again ..”. . . and that was when I saw her again…”

Tom sat through Danny’s talking, quietly and impassively…for what ever the sentiment, he had to close this episode…this file…He broke the silence..

“Well…whatever the circumstances of your relationship with this lady..this Moira, I have to find her if she’s still alive and talk to her about this death..”

“You’ll not find her this side of heaven, I’m afraid, Tom….she’s gone.”

“Oh…and you know that for sure, dad…you kept in touch?” ..Danny raised his eyebrows a little. Tom persisted…” Well, if you do know her last address, you had better tell me so I can at least go talk to her or her relatives.”

“It’s no use, Son…she changed her name by deed-poll before she came back to Sedan that day..She became a different person.”

“You seem to have a close knowledge of the situation…tell me then what she changed her name to”. Tom was getting impatient.

“She changed her name I tell you, Tom…Moira Kenneally became Mary Kennedy!” Danny burst out.

“And just where does this Mary Kenn . . . “ and that was as far as Sgt. Tom Flannigan got, because his thinking had just caught up to his demanding…Tom slumped shocked back into the chair, staring blankly…Danny continued his thoughts for him…

“Yes, Tom…she changed her name, Tom..Moira Kenneally became Mary Kennedy…..your mother, Tom..your mother!”

From that moment on nothing really mattered to Daniel Flannigan, he was comfortable where he was, the feeling was all warmth and embracing…the afternoon sun, the river silently flowing past, he clasped the locket and chain tight in his hand and for the life of him, wasn’t that music he was hearing over the speakers an old favourite…wasn’t it “Danny Boy”…yes!..that’s it…Danny Boy…and even the cries from Tom calling for a nurse to come quickly and all the scrambling around and over his person and Tom calling his name over and over..all fading away..nothing could now stop Danny from his long anticipated assignation with his only love….Moira.

Pearl.

Image result for Pics of Pearls.
Pearl in shell.

The tide had ebbed.

He was strolling down the still waxy sands, she, with her two frolicking children, aged three and five approached from the opposite direction. Suspended from a coarse, frayed piece of rope gripped in his hand, was a glass net-float. It swung, pendulum like as he walked. As they drew near to each other, their eyes met and their gaze held one another with that curious cognizance that lingers longer than is usual with strangers. A search not timid nor wanting but rather, as with like minded travellers in new lands, a polite familiarity in each other. The wide open sands of the tidal beach allowed plenty of room for personal space. The older child, a boy, saw the glass float, its surface sheen reflecting, with rhythmic precision of the swings, a shaft of evening sunlight into his eyes. He ran over and touched it, open mouthed, wide eyed and with the innocent inquisitiveness of a child.

“What is it?” he asked, his fingertips palpitating over the glass surface.

“A float, a glass float off a fishing net” the man continued to explain. The other child approached with the mother, its tiny arm clutching around the mother’s leg.

“Where did you find it?” The boy persisted.

His query remained unanswered because the man gazed at the woman who in return exchanged greetings with her eyes. He held out his hand.

“David MacKinnon”. he announced. She took the tips of his fingers lightly.

“Suzanne”. she replied with the natural caution of omitting the surname.

“What is it?” she asked. one hand waving across her face to chase away flies. The bridge of her nose pinched in a wrinkle.

He held the orb up by its rope, looking for all the world like a severed head with the bits of straggling seaweed.

“A glass float, rather old though.. they use plastic ones now.. or styrene foam..”

She didn’t remark on the information, just stared at the orb as it gently turned on its rope axis this way then that like a mesmerists fob watch, the “oily” aged glass swirled marbled with rainbow tracks.

“It’s almost… like…a pearl!” she delightfully exclaimed. there was a pause as he gazed.

“Why.. yes, yes…I suppose you could say that”. the thought attracted and attached itself to his mind. “But then it’s only appropriate to find a pearl at a pearl-fishing part of the coast.”

The little boy reached up to spin it around, but his hit swung it against the man’s body….he lowered it to the sand and let the boy roll it around…it had no value to him.

“I dug it up back there” he motioned toward a dark hulk of a wreck of a boat back up the beach, its rusty skeleton softened by a cluster of mangrove fronds over it.

“Maybe it’s from that boat?” she remarked.

“Maybe..but that’s not a fishing boat, its a pearling lugger.” he said.

“How do you know?”

“By the sweep of its’ deck, ….oh, I don’t know really..I’m just guessing…a feeling rather….it’s the way they used to build them”.

She laughed gaily.

“Well perhaps that is an old pearl.” she said pointing to the float “After all, I bet they don’t make THEM like they used to!” and they both joined in the friendly levity.

They stayed there together as the children played with the glass float. he looked intently at the children.

“I have two children myself.” He announced vaguely.. “A boy and a girl…”

“Oh…how old?”

“Seven and eleven.” ..

She nodded.

Here was comfortable ground and a chance to talk to another human being after that interminable drive up from Perth, with every town a seeming thousand miles from the next and oh! the dreadful endless road and the tedious bitumen.

“Where are you headed?” she asked.

“To Perth.. home ….And you?”

“We’re off to Darwin…to a new home….or at least we hope to call it that for the next couple of years.”

“I’ve just come from there.” (as if it was just up the road).

“Oh.. what’s the place like?”

“The tropics are beautiful this time of the year. It gets very oppressive in the “wet”….yes, I enjoyed it there.”

“What do you do for work?”

“I’m a carpenter.” he replied.

She smiled…for there was something secure about a carpenter, the thought of his hands smoothing over a piece of wood…the trueness of his eye, turning the wood, gauging the grain with a sureness of judgment to match and make….a workshop strewn with curled shavings, the odours of Pine and Fir resin…joss-sticks…sandalwood? ” Yes, a carpenter must have a patient touch” she mused.

“Are you driving straight through?” she asked.

“No…not tonight..I’ve just arrived..” he pointed to a distant campervan…

“I’ll book into a caravan park for the night. Get a bit of a clean-up.”

“There’s a nice one just up the road a little…at the edge of town, we’re camped there ourselves for the night too.” She gave this information over lightly, without invitation.. just as information.

“I s’pose that’ll do then…I’ll give it a burl..Gosh!..look at that sunset!” they both turned to face the ocean. the sinking star shimmered and quivered into the lapping mercury of sea. He snorted humorously.

“It’s a pearl too”.

They both stared silently.

“Yes.” she softly murmured “It’s quite divine..”

David turned to see the children frolicking, their stretched shadows flickering over the waxy sands…

” …and we live our lives in the shadow of the divine..” he said.

The caretaker showed an informal interest in his booking as there were few people staying there that night.

“Just find yourself a park over there near the ablutions block an you’ll be right”.

As he steered his van to the site he saw again the woman outside a station-wagon. She was with her two children.

“Hello!” he called, “Do you mind if I park nearby for the night?” and he smiled.

“Suit yourself it’ll be good company”.

They crossed paths to the showers later that evening and after more small talk agreed to sharing a coffee after the children had gone to sleep.

The sweeping silence of the night lent a comforting familiarity to the talk and it wasn’t long before they were sharing confidences and laughter.

“Yes, I did meet some real characters up there in Darwin there’s some beauties, especially in the building trade.”

“Tell me about one.” she leant over the little table in the van, her face supported by her fist under her chin.

“Ahh!..they’re too crazy”.

“No, really, tell me.” there was a tenderness attached to her inquiry.

He rubbed his fingers over his brow as he pondered, aware all the same of the purring sensuality in her voice, an early indicative sign that men interpret as woman’s intention and act instinctively. He sat upright and began.

“Here’s one….There was this bloke I knew up there…a Kiwi fellah…a contract painter…any how, he was telling me he done this big job for a wealthy family, the whole house, inside and out….a couple of months work..and they didn’t pay him…couldn’t get the money out of them….rich people can be the worst payers….and him with all the material costs, all the paint…and the other blokes he had working for him…a fortune..and it was sending him broke but he got this other job…with another wealthy family. He was up on a ladder painting the cornices with this dark, crimson paint one day and thinking of going down the tube what with these others not paying and thinking one thing an’ another an he didn’t know how he did it but he dropped his pot of paint!…and it fell outside the groundsheet!…all over the white carpet!….”Holy shit!” he cried “I can’t afford to pay for that!…” and he was just about to panic when the woman’s poodle walked past (he knew she wouldn’t be far behind)….He quickly grabbed the dog and threw it onto the spilled paint and cried in an exaggerated yell…”You little bastard!” ….the woman came rushing into the room ,threw her hands up in the air ….”Oh Pickles!…oh you naughty dog, I’m so sorry,..I’ll…. I’ll pay for the paint ”

Suzanne laughed as she threw her head back.

“Oh the rotten bugger!” she cried.

”Yes, I guess so…though I suppose he had to do something and I daresay the insurance would pay for the carpet…”

They both giggled a bit more, then a silence fell between them, and within that silence there rose in each of them a warmth of companionship and familiarity so they both knew the others desire, but the restraining codes of society held them yet apart. Instead, he pursued the desire with some small-talk.

“Huhm….and what are you going to do in Darwin?”

“Me?…oh..I work in jewellery shops…an assistant….so I suppose…” she left the answer open to the inevitable conclusion.

“Jewelry…” he repeated, his eyebrows raising swiftly. “Then I may have something that will interest you.” and he turned to reach into a drawer on the side of the van.

“Just a minute” she said, her hand raised and lay familiarly on his shoulder “I thought I heard one of the children…be back in a minute.”

When she returned. David had a small, dark wooden box on the table. It was very ornate with chunky carvings, of the chest-type from Thailand, only smaller, about ten by six inches. Suzanne pulled her stool up closer to David, her hair brushing over his shoulder, she noticed the “goose-bumps” that arose and she smiled to herself.

“And what has he got in his little black box?” she smirked…He chuckled.

Lifting the lid gently, a chamois bag was revealed, he lifted it from the chest and placed it between them on the table. Dave slowly untied the soft, woven cotton pull-string that choked the neck of the bag….slipping two fingers into the opening, he eased the bag apart wide. In the tarnished glow of the mozzie-candle, lay, like the waxen orbs of many tiny eggs in a nest, a regular bounty of…pearls!

Suzanne pursed her lips, for they were indeed attractive, and in this light, their buffed skins took on a living glow, like the promise of an egg about to hatch! she put her hand forward as if to touch, but David, not noticing her movement, had placed his own fingers into the burnished silvered cache. As he lifted the pearls up and let them fall dull-tacking back into the fold, he looked to her face . It was intent on the pearls, the dancing flame of the candle light lapping into and onto the soft features of her face, a face not yet drawn with the lines of care nor bitterness, a face still open and serene..David pondered on his own features, were they as easy to read? were his eyes still capable of showing impromptu emotion?…but he quickly dropped these introvert thoughts.. he longed to touch her…would she allow….?

“Where did you get them?”

“From a Melville Island local….they call these “roughs”, as you can see, they aren’t nicely rounded. but they are still pearls…”

“Why did you buy them ?” Suzanne asked, not taking her eyes off the luscious hoard.

“I liked the look of them.. the feel of them.. the sound as they touch each other….”

“Were they expensive?” she asked…he laughed.

“No…”  then softly, almost dream-like he ran his hand through them again. Suzy placed her hand on his shoulder…he gazed at it, then rubbed his hand over hers, they smiled together.. she turned her attention back to the pearls.

“Why do you keep them?”

“I keep them because of how they feel.. because I like how they feel.”

“I have to ask…it’s the way you run your fingers through them.”

He looked to her eyes to gauge his answer, to feel out her capacity for a simple truth…a male truth.. for there are some secrets neither men nor women would share with each other.. her eyes answered him encouragingly. He stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers, she pressed her cheek against them..but how does a man reveal that named desire for the untouchable, impermissible part of a woman that he is both slave to and yet feebly jealous of without himself sounding feeble, or foolish in a description for that most powerful sexual part of a woman.

“They remind me…” he paused in trepidation, to consider, then spoke , the timbre of his voice firm, but softly tender “I sense..they remind me..of..a woman’s vulva .” His eyes moved away from hers to the pearls as if embarrassed in using such a description, even though his meaning was rather in a reverential tone. But how else could he say it in truth?..He once again dipped his fingers into the pearls, their satiny surfaces making a sound like…like silver….He continued ; “sort of velvety-smooth…and pleasant to touch, a sense of moist….but these, of course, are dry..” he picked one pearl up, pinched between thumb and forefinger….he rolled it gently around the ball of his fingertip….”and by themselves, like this, they are like a woman’s erect nipple….almost firm yet…so gently pliable”.

David spoke in a detached but tender tone. Suzanne was at first taken aback at David’s description and she watched him closely, looking to detect any trace of the lecher in him, but no, while certainly he could be called a sensualist, there was not that oleaginous sleaze that is attached, film-like, to the seeking voice of the degenerate. No, he had used the description as such because in the circumstance there was no other with the strength of emotion to encompass the fierceness of that strange male hunger.

Suzanne stretched her hand over his to touch the pearls with her fingertips. The smooth opalescence of her skin in vast contrast to his tanned workman’s hands….and as she dabbled them into the glistening bag, his hand moved to the inside of her thigh….Her head came forward to rest in the crook of his shoulder, his lips sought her ear….his other hand moved down the spine of her back to lift up the base of her blouse, his touch had found her so warm..he felt his hunger for her body rise..and oh to touch that forbidden place and then to be encouraged to go further..David sighed . He freed the clasp of her bra and slipped his hand to cup her breast….her lovely breasts, so full and voluptuous he squeezed the nipple gently as she softly gyrated her hips to his caresses…

“Mmm, “she cooed….”I see what you mean.” she spoke as she fingered the pearls.

“You know?” he teased.

She smiled.

“Oh…just a wild guess..” and she pulled back arms length with her hands clasped at the back of his neck.

They sat looking at each other for a full minute without speaking, the insect-candle sending its whisper of citrine scented plume curling over their heads. David placed his hands on her hips.. it was settled, and it seemed as if some enormous overbearing weight had lifted from their hearts to be replaced by a freedom of movement liberated from the constraints of the dualism of civilized human – spiritual animal!

Suzanne moved her hand down and felt his erection…

“All rise to the power of the beast!” she laughed quietly…he chuckled with her…”how good a carpenter are you?”

“Oh…fair to middling I always try to put my heart into my work.” he smiled.

She worked his zipper down and released his “beast” from its “cell”.

“Mmm..with a bar like this you should be able to jemmy any door!” they both laughed heartily but softly, then again a small silence…Suzanne gave his penis a gentle squeeze, noting again that soft, silken feel of the hardened flesh…with the oh so gentle undulations along its length…she felt a rising anticipation for it to press against and then to enter the opening of her vagina slowly pushing in deep up to its full length…..her breath deepened at these thoughts she had…David’s words on the beach reverbetated in her mind..” … and we live our lives in the shadow of the divine.”

“Will you stay the while ?” and David patted the cushion of the seats….”It folds down to a double bed.”

She felt a sudden flush of colour rise to her cheeks, a warmth of emotions that she had not experienced since her teens when her body was master over her mind…before the demanding constraints of social convention had enslaved her desires.

“Will she stay the while?….” Suzanne repeated his request. She looked into his eyes, she leaned toward him, her breath quickened, their eyes held till the hiatus was broken by the gentle touching of their fingers intertwined….

A kiss! a kiss!

The first glimmer of dawn sweetened the charcoal sky as Suzanne changed into top gear and headed up the highway toward her ultimate destination, the memory of parting still warm on her lips. They had made love on awakening and she had left him there in the park and drove away so as to get a good start before the children awoke. A kiss and a wave of hand the last time she would see him….oh yes!..also the pearl! The pearl David had given her as a momento. She took one hand off the steering wheel to feel into her breast pocket…there it was!

She took it out, held it up in front of her eyes and gazed at it, its polished husk glowed like a moonstone….but wait!..the moon!…there, suspended in space on a lightening horizon was the full moon, as polished and opalescent as the pearl itself! a compliment to each other! she smiled as she thought of that morning’s quiet love-making in the bed and ahead of her lay the interminable road. She glanced back at the children still asleep and then, smiling wickedly, took the pearl and dexterously slipped the treasure down inside her panties to place it strategically and comfortably between the still moist lips of her vagina.

Letter to Peter Hannerman.

Debbie Reynolds.

Peter…hello…well,I have to tell you because I know you know also that women have a way of communicating that is like an inquiring caress…I suppose that is how they learn so much about their men. I was the youngest of four children born in quick succession..then there were several miss-carriages after me, so there was a gap of seven years between myself and my younger sibling..and in those years, I believe my mother kept me especially close as a kind of reassurance and comforting security…and I believe it was from that closeness to my mother that I learned many instinctive womanly intricacies…the whispered secrets, the anguish and desire soft spoken into a babe’s innocent ear, secure that he could never repeat a woman’s most hidden desires…I have to speculate on this, because I was too young to even be aware…but I do remember one incident…My mother was fond of those B-Grade western movies, particularly with Glen Ford..I remember “The Gunfight at the OK Corral”. and she used to take me to the city in the daytime while my father was at work and the others were in school, to the Regent Theatre..and this one day we went to see “Tammy and the Bachelor”…not that I was interested in the movie, but I was enthralled by the little square windows high at the back of the theatre where the flickering lights of the projector shone through ( I know that now, of course) and I would turn in my seat to watch them…and this one moment when I was watching the flickering lights, I saw the side of my mother’s face as she watched the film and I saw a tear form in her eye and then roll down her cheek…..that little moment has stuck above all in my memory of our outings…and now, in my aged years..I do know why…..anyway..I’ve now got to go do the dishes..goodnight.
Btw…I also have a special fondness for the song from that movie, corny as it is…I almost weep every time I hear it…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etExP7050GI

The Commission.

Image result for Albert Namatjira painting of Mt. Sonder pics.

I read of this incident, one of many, in a biography of Albert Namatjira  called “Namatjira ;Wanderer Between Two Worlds”, by Joyce Batty.

If ever you want to read a matter of fact account of simply appalling , disgusting, vile racism that can ever be afflicted upon and to deliberately destroy a fine spirit and an artistic genius, then the understated outrage inflicted upon Albert Namatjira  carefully written in that book will serve you well.

It was a moment of absolute disgust , the manner in which he and his family were treated, as the indigenous are still now being treated. Will we ever see an end to this behaviour?

The Commission.

”Ah! there he is”….

Of course, she had been keeping a keen eye out for him.

“Albert ! ” she obviously but cautiously called, “Albert Namatjira?”

Janet Littlemore was the wife of the bank manager. She was a woman voluntarily trapped into that facile world of middle-class “social responsibility”, of contrived behaviour moulded by an invisible force into “correct” mannerisms and “polite conversation”. Though she had a sensitive side, it was a side almost, but not quite, defeated. She had just that week returned from Adelaide to The Alice on a visit to that southern metropolis of societal bondage and while there, had gone to an exhibition of Albert Namatjira’s paintings..now she wanted one. Many of her friends (or at least those that mattered) had one of those curios..one of those transitions between two cultures, called ( for want of a finer spirituality)”Water-colours by ; Albert Namatjira.” Janet wanted an original Albert Namatjira water-colour.

She had remarked while mingling with her entourage in Adelaide that;

Why yes, she had seen Albert Namatjira many times wandering around the town…and though she had never before had call to speak to him (perish the thought!) in the street, she might now “commission” him to do a painting for her.

“Albert!” Janet called again, her gloved hand holding a delicate balance on her purse.

“Yes missus?” Albert tipped his hat politely, while his eyes searched Janet’s face and demeanor for meanings, for here was “THE bank manager’s wife” accosting him in the street!

“Albert, I saw last week, a painting by you of Mount Sonder. I would like to purchase that painting”. She paused and snapped open her purse and took out a twenty pound note which, Albert intued, must have been put aside for just this action and moment.. “Now, all I am prepared to pay is twenty pounds”.

Janet flourished the note pinched between thumb and index finger as she had been advised ; (“show him cash…”they” can’t resist cash!..then wave it around a little under his nose”…). Albert remained silent. Staring first at the twenty pounds and then raising his eyes slowly, he looked directly into the bank manager’s wife’s eyes. He held his gaze. Hers answered for a moment , strengthened by the social position of her class, but then wavered and dropped and when they rose again to meet his, it was as an equal.

Albert shook his head wearily and sighed. He then spoke to her in his ‘mocking-English’ voice;

“You go along New South Wales (a pause). You go along gallery of Anthony Horden (pause) you see Albert Namatjira painting there ; one hundred and twenty five guineas. some smaller, one hundred guineas. You say : ‘That nice painting, I like, I give twenty quid? ‘ no, no..him price you pay what Anthony Horden say.”

Albert stopped there. He looked at the woman; she turned her head shamefully aside, this was the evidence of the remnant of Janet’s sensitive side..the instinctive knowing that she was trying to take the man down in snobbery and monetary fairness…her lips pinched together. Albert nodded his head , for here was the weakness in the chain, the Achilles Heel of the colonial white-man, the rock from which they will fall ; insatiable greed!… and failing to attain their desire; a swift descent into begging, for that is the soft underbelly of a haughty middle-class.

Nonetheless, as an individual, Albert could feel for the wretched woman, being fully aware of the structure of white-man’s society, he could see the shame the woman now endured. He could picture the build-up to Janet approaching him in the street like she did, the desire for a painting, not, as he was aware, for its artistic merit, but for the social status it gave. The contrived “assimilation”, the act of contrition unspoken, undemanded, uncommitted, that was bestowed upon those of that higher social status that “owned” a work by the aboriginal artist, a “veil” which, hung on the wall, would mask the abyss between their world and that of “the others”. It was this sad weakness in Janet that Albert turned from in sympathy. Janet touched his sleeve as he turned.

“Albert…Mr Namatjira.” she spoke softly, with a now less haughty pleading tone…could you then paint me a landscape of the Macdonnell Ranges?”

Albert turned his eyes to where Janet still held his sleeve. Her eyes followed, they both stood transfixed for the moment, then she quickly pulled her hand back to clutch her purse.

“I will,” Albert said, looking into Janet’s eyes, “But I want the money in advance.”

“How much?” Janet asked nervously, “I….I only have..my husband doesn’t think..I…” she ran out of words. Albert stared hard at the woman…one eye flickered a little.

“Twenty quid.”…….Of course, this price was Albert Namatjira’s way of satirising the banal meaness of both spirit and penny-pinching money value of Janet’s class…a satire that Janet, of course, completely failed to notice.

“You what! well there’s twenty pounds (Janet’s husband always used the correct name for currency) gone on a bender for Albert and his tribe!….AND, fat chance of you ever getting a painting from him!” Janet’s husband railed at her when she told him of her purchase.

“But Thomas… ”

“If only you’d have consulted me first. I could have arranged…oh….something or other though why you want one of Albert’s paintings I cannot begin to fathom… ”

“The Turnbulls have one.” Janet appealed .

“Likely as not!..they buy any daubing they see. Really, some of the ghastly prints they have..Bob Campbell rejected him, and if he’s not good enough for the National Gallery…”

“ That may just be Bob’s taste in art..”

“Be jiggered!…why, Bob’s on the board of half a dozen respectable companies. He’s a man with impeccable taste….in all things cultured….No. I’d suggest most strongly  you keep a good look-out for your Mr. Namatjira and chivvy him along about your painting or you likely as not can kiss that twenty pounds goodbye!”

Such a ponderous lecture from her husband made Janet worry that she had been a little unwise in trusting Albert. The last thing she would want is to be made to look a fool by a Black…!

“Oh lord! how the tongues would wag!.”

So Janet kept an eye out for Albert and the next time she saw him ,reminded him of her order.

“I’ll bring you the painting,” he promised. “What do you think I am…a bad white man?”

A couple of weeks later, Janet was walking down the street with a close companion, when Albert called her from the other side of the street. He waved and held up a rolled article.

“Oh!” she exclaimed “It’s my painting..yoo hoo!, Albert….over here!…over here! Oh is the man deaf..surely he doesn’t expect me to go running across the street after him now does he? Hoo-oo! Albert!… over here!” and she waved her gloved hand.

Albert stood there. He had one hand in his pocket. He put the rolled painting under that arm and then put his other hand in the other pocket. He stood still where he was. Janet suddenly stopped waving and making noises when she saw this….she was no social slouch. She was well skilled in the art of snubbing. Many a cutting remark had she delivered on cue with devastating effect.

Janet’s companion started prattling on at her elbow. but Janet had no ear for it. She had locked eyes duel-like with a “solid rock” and she knew she would lose!..But how to lose gracefully? How to keep face with her companion : To be seen crossing the street to gratify a Black man. Janet squared her shoulders .

“Oh well,” she heaved a false sigh with just ,she hoped, the right mixture of pique and impatience…”if the mountain won’t come to Mohammed…” and she stepped to cross the road.

“Wait here, Madeline, I’ll just be a minute while I deal with this.”

Albert watched as Janet crossed the road. It didn’t give him any pleasure to force her hand like this, he was a polite man..but there was something about the way she …she…expected things…and as he watched her arrogant confidence. he realised how terribly ignorant were these merchant people…and what compounded their ignorance was their dull insousiance!