Saturday, May 10, 2008

LUCKY by Ian Jones

When we arrived at the house the whole place was locked up tight. Often the case with people who live alone. The police arrived at the same time as we did and forced the door. The place was a mess. The smell was the worst. Stale tobacco, rotten food and neglect. The lady was on the floor in the kitchen and the signs were not good. Some scotch still left in the bottle and a stack of shredded sedative packs all over the place. While we were prepping her for transport I noticed a note next to the phone. Two words, ‘please lucky’. Being a crippled and lonely diabetic who has just attempted to top herself did not seem to me to be all that lucky. We called emergency, logged the case and hit the siren. I sat with the patient and watched her vital signs but you cannot get involved with the ‘why’.

When Jennifer arrived at the door with her mum and a bag I knew the inevitable had happened. Jack had shot through as soon as the baby arrived and they had struggled to make ends meet. ‘It will only be for a few weeks’ she said, ‘There is a job on a trawler for the prawn season out of Weipa. Big money. Jen will cope alright at school, she is used to moving about’. An abandoned thirteen year old was about all I needed. The first thing we knew after that was the writeup in the papers. ‘Murder or Accident’ was a devastating headline and Jennifer saw it when she brought in the paper. You probably remember the story. The pony seemed like a good idea at the time and Jennifer had something to care for, for the first time in her life. Everyday after school she rode that pony, brushed him down, rugged and fed him. Her mates from school came weekends to ride the pony and Jennifer was a star. When she went on a working holiday last year I think the pony missed her more that she could have imagined. I told her not to worry, I would be alright.
We got a call from the neighbours who were worried about the pony at the old Thompson place. Apparently no-one is living there since Mrs. Thompson died on Monday and no-one knew if the pony was still around. ‘Her grand daughter looked after the pony but we think she is overseas’. People and their damn pets. It was a shock to find the pony is the shed at the back, barely alive, filthy, starving and almost dead from thirst. How the hell was I supposed to know? If you drop everything every time you get a phone call from a neighbour you would spend your life chasing red herrings and vindictive nonsense. The tilt tray driver hooked the chain on the pony’s leg and started the winch. ‘Took a few days to find the poor old bugger, eh’ he said accusingly. I gave him the paperwork and put my stuff back in my bag. ‘Thanks’ I said. Thanks for nothing.

I picked up my bag and looked around for anything else I should include in my report. Something was scratched into the timber above the door. I stood on the feed bin and ran my fingers over the mark. ‘Lucky’. ‘The pony’s name was Lucky’, I said aloud. Dying from neglect did not seem to me to be all that lucky.

Ian Jones ©

TIME by Ian Jones

There was not a sound. The rain fell so softly, even the tin roof made no sound. The galahs fluffed out their feathers in the river gums and huddled silently together. Not a sound. Russ looked out over the half dry gully they called the ‘Darling’ and shook his head. ‘They used to bring river boats up here’ he said aloud and quickly looked around to see if anyone was listening. Now he was talking to himself.

‘Treechange’ they told their disbelieving friends when they bought the Tilpa Pub. Sydney was killing them they said. Traffic, pollution, work, cost of living, meaningless lifestyle. No time to themselves. The bush still means something, counts for something, where time is measured by daylight. Throw away the diary, the mobile phone, the superficial friendships. ‘You must be mad’. ‘Where the hell is Tilpa’. ‘You’ll be back’. Never, Russ said to himself, never. The estate agent sold the house, the furniture, the BM, the lot. One suitcase each and a Holden Ute.

The place was a mess when they arrived, junk everywhere, most things did not work or needed repair. There was so much to do. It was great to work all day and actually see where you had been. Petra attacked the garden, painted everything in sight, everything except the walls inside where the bloody tourists signed their names. At the end of the day you could sit in the bar, talk to the occasional local and have a few drinks. For the first few years it was a few drinks. Russ felt alive for the first time in his life.

Petra had never learned to cook, with Uni and career there had never been time. No time for kids either. It was hard enough for a woman in journalism without taking time out for kids. Most of her friends that had kids had gone to seed, abandoned hope and ambition. Tilpa was not much of a place for kids either. School of the Air, no friends, no motivation. Tilpa was no place for kids. So what was life about with no career and no kids and no friends. Tilpa was killing her she told Russ.

They agreed she would go to Sydney for Easter. Visit friends and family and do some shopping. They could not find anyone to look after the pub so he would stay. She was away two weeks or maybe three. When she returned she was quiet, talked little about Sydney or their old friends, drank a bit more than usual. He hardly noticed. Then last night she said she was leaving.

Russ shook himself out of his daydream. It was probably time. He took the shotgun off the bar where he had left it and broke the barrels. The spent cartridge popped out and he dropped it in the bin. The live cartridge sat there, loaded, ready. The barrels snapped shut and Russ stood up slowly, looked around the room for the last time and walked out into the rain.

Ian Jones ©

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