Silence has a scent.
It’s where dust settles and breezes still. Continue reading “Scent of Silence”
“STOP THE CAR,” she screamed from windpipes that rarely whimpered past a librarian’s whisper.
“I said, Stop.” With a mobile phone in hand, she leant forwards. “I’m taking a photo of your Identification and texting this to my partner.” She lied but tapped away to maintain her bluff.
“Fine.” He slammed on the brake and the taxi skidded in the rain, forcing his passenger to shoulder slam into the driver’s seat.
Too livid to speak, her tossed coinage bounced across the front passenger seat. Tucked her phone into her shouldered bag. Kicked the door open. Snatched up her pizza box and jumped out.
Shoes disappeared under water swirling around her ankles that divided the river’s run for freedom to the sea. All topped off with the taxi’s exiting rooster-tail tsunami dumping across her back. “Damn.”
Head balancing the warm box, wiping beaded brow, she spied her oasis beyond the watery wall. Against the tides rush, peeking through the cardboard’s guttering run-off she headed for shelter. Lost her shoes from uncoordinated lurches, and yet, with a leap of luck, she jumped onto the bus shelter’s bench-seat.
The drenched box splatted onto the bench while she performed an ungraceful belly dance to rid excess water. Checked her phone’s screen, dry, with the rest of her handbags innards. Then scowled at the last photo, realising there was never a happy-snap on her phone these days.
With pursed lips, she began mentally drafting her complaint about the driver’s monologue on how ‘roadworks are a cover for Council corruption’, while taking her on a skin crawling, stomach churning, expensive, detour.
She glanced at her painted toes wriggling with silt. Peeled paper remnants glued to lower legs. Then wrung out the bottom of her skirt. It was useless. She wanted to be at home, have a hot bath, a glass of wine and eat her, now-waterlogged, dinner.
Instead, she sniffed at the potential onslaught of a gutter-grit flu.
When between the shadowed slats of the bench seat she spied movement.
“Eww. A rat.” On tiptoes, palms slapped the tin roof, about to leap into the depths of muck. Until big, summer blue eyes gazed up amongst a grey grunge. “You’re not a rat,” wiping at her nose drip.
“Aww…” Deaf to the rain’s roof pound, naked soles slid into the unfelt cold water. Her hem floated, she reached forwards. Fingers curled around filthy fur and trembling rib cage. She cradled the bundle against her heart and wrapped it up inside her damp, yet warm, jacket.
“I got marinara.” She raised the lid, exposing pale cheese and bloated dough. “Perhaps not,” tipping it into the shelter’s pooling rubbish bin.
“Well, aren’t we a couple of drenched gutter-rats.” She took a selfie, laughing at the soaked duo reflected onscreen – proud to finally have a fun photo. And with pizza box draped over her scalp like a melting tepee, she smiled. “Let’s go home, Kitty,” and was rewarded with an offbeat purr.
“Here, try one.”
“Looks like a red bean?”
“Eww, I don’t eat beans.’ She popped the tiny red fruit in her mouth. “Mmm…” Her tongue flicked across lips, bending towards the knee-high bush. “Gotta pick some for Dad, he loves ’em with his dinner.”
“What is it?” He stepped closer, loosening the top button of his dampening shirt. Sniffed at the humid air as thunder rolled, threatening another tropical deluge.
“Dad calls ‘em bush strawberries.” She picked a dozen slipping them into the pocket of her cotton dress.
“Strawberries grow on the ground, not bushes. And some of these are green as capsicum,” he said rolling up his long-sleeved shirt to his elbows.
“Duh, I just said they were Bush Strawberries.” Eyes rolled, popping another red morsel into her mouth, the green twig rolled across her lips. “In a coupla weeks these bushes will be littered in ripe fruit and Dad ‘n I’ll pick ‘em to make a sauce.”
“Sauce–for ice cream sundaes?”
“Mum adds it to her chocolate cake mixes. Shh, that’s her secret ingredient. Mostly they’re used for dad’s favourite sauce he uses on everythin’. You can eat anything, right? You’re tough, right?”
“Yeah,” he said, hiking up the sweaty band of his jeans, jutting out his chin. “I’m no girl.”
“So try it. Then you can brag back in the city sayin’ you tried bush tucker.”She held out a plump, perfect shell in her palm. “Besides, somethin’ that small aint gonna hurt ya.”
His fingers picked up the fruit that was tinier than his smallest chewed fingernail. “Does it have seeds?”
“Yep, just like regular strawberry seeds, gettin’ stuck between your teeth. Don’t eat the stem.” Popping the fruit into her mouth, she used her teeth to hold it in place and reefed the green stem as if a bottled cork. Chewed, swallowed, with eyes shining and lips twisting sideways.
He copied teething the red pod and plucked the stem free. Crunched down as juice escaped, chewing thoughtfully and swallowed. “Not that sweet,” he mumbled, licking his lips.
“Wait for it, the flavours comin’.” She giggled behind palms.
“What’s so funny?”
When his eyes widened and his jaw froze.
“Hooooooottt. Hot. Hot. Hot. Water. Water. Water.” Fire. A pure peppered fire burned his tongue. Sweating profusely, he searched for water. Spotting the bird bath, he ran and shoved his entire burning mouth under water.
“Where’s me chillies?” Dad called from upstairs.
“Chillies.” He lifted his flushed face and swollen shiny lips from the birdbath’s bowl. “You said they were bush strawberries.” Teeth scraped his swelling tongue of fire, fanning himself with water, saturating his shirt.
“It’s what Dad calls ‘em. But they’re also known as ‘Bird’s Eye’ chillies. Don’t worry, ya get used to ‘em. Mum used to make me eat them for swearing, now she has to use soap.” Eyes widened, flashing her teeth in a wide smile, she asked, “wanna try the dragon fruit next? It’ll help with the burn. Trust me.”
“Another thanks, Sam,” she said to the bartender while seated upon an upturned shot glass on top of the wooden bar. “It’s not worth it anymore…” she explained to the huddled regulars, “the market’s a crumbled cavity and I’m over the hierarchy’s tooth-aching-paperwork. This is my retirement party, peoples. As of now–I quit.” She held up her tiny hand to stop them speaking.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. I have an abundant reserve, and the deliveries to my favourite long-distant customers will keep my wings in shape. There’s this vegetarian Witchdoctor from this Cannibal tribe in the highlands, he wears his collection innovatively to conceal his dietary preferences from his village. Now there’s a man who knows the value of a good tooth.
There’s my stall at the ‘Wicked Witches Black-market’ for milk-teeth’s calcium properties. They all suffer from rotten teeth and poor posture. Osteoporosis, it’s a side effect from dark magic. Poor things…
But my health insurance went up, again, from the hazards of the job such as entering a child’s bedroom. I’ve broken my nose and twisted my ankles so many times from littered floors, I’ve lost count. The worst time’s Easter and Halloween. We wear hazmat suits to combat candy-plaque-collections…
No wonder my premiums are skyrocketing.
There’ll be no more ballgowns making my arse look gi-normous. They’re freezing in winter, a soaking-sponge in rain, and a sweatsuit in summer. Don’t get me started on irritating places glitter goes…
But for my tooth-spitting finale–there’s no more dental plan! You’d expect my employers to supply dental cover, considering what we collect? Not anymore.
So that’s it, I’m done. Good luck to future generations–they’re gonna need it.”
There’s two seasons, simply known as the Wet and the Dry.
For six months of the year we have Continue reading “Dry Season Southerners”
A fist slams my chin. My head swivels from impact. Brains rattle. With whipping recoil, I reply with a right fist. It smashes against an ear and gristle shifts beneath my knuckles. I follow up with a roundhouse lefty she never-saw-coming Continue reading “Pride’s Newfound Place.”