Four days after his eighteenth birthday Doug Ivers was drafted. Jill invited him to the house to explain to her father.
From the balcony of their sprawling Queenslander Marcus Sheffield considered his sixteen year-old daughter’s plea. She would make this Douglas his son, even though in his eyes she herself was no more than a girl.
Doug and Jill planted the mango tree during before his battalion sailed.
He wrote what he could to tell her of the war, but so much escaped words. Army censors did the rest. She wrote back of the child—feeling it grow, the pain and joy of delivery, and the son she named Mark in his absence.
On his return they settled at the big house. Jill nursed, part-time at the local hospital while Doug picked up odd jobs and helped his father-in-law around the property. They had two more children in time. But always present around their family was the reserve that he’d brought home. The quietness. And sometimes the anger. The drinking bouts he tried to hide.
On his fiftieth birthday a tropical storm blew in, nearly knocking the place off its stilt-like legs. Next morning the ground was strewn with the ripe mangos they’d been about to pick. Doug looked at them from the balcony, and wept.