Saturday, May 10, 2008

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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