A bend in the river

All I had to guide me was a diary entry and the hand-drawn map accompanying it—a river bend, an island, a grove of trees, a cross.

In the morning we took her by rowboat to her favourite place. There we buried her. We sprinkled poppy seeds on her grave, said a prayer and bade her goodbye. Our poor little one. When things are better, we’ll bring a stone to mark her resting place.

Tomorrow I sell the last of the bullocks. Flinders will pay me and may have a few days work besides. We think him wealthy because his family is not hungry. But he is a good neighbour, and God willing, with his help we will make it through.

My grandfather had been a timber cutter in the riverland. He’d done well enough until the crash. Orders dried up. Pretty soon the mill closed.

I walked along the bank trying to pick out the places on the map. But the river had changed course. There was no sign of any island. And the bush had regrown—I’d never distinguish a grove within it. But as I was about to turn back a flash of red caught my eye. Three bright-headed poppies among the dirty green. I crouched to touch them and tried to imagine the scene.

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