Struck twice

Evelyn and Joe built their dream house where land was cheap, then planted a garden. The ironbark was the only seedling that flourished in their rock-hard soil.

For the first few years things went well. Joe kept the place maintained. He joined the football team and volunteer fire brigade. Evelyn worked at the local kinder, hoping some day her own child would be there.

But Joe resented the grind of the daily commute. A time came when he started arriving home later and later. Fresh-mints could never hide the whiskey on his breath.

One night they fought and Joe struck her, a glancing blow but menacing. In the morning they let it pass, and, for a few months, Joe’s drinking moderated.

But by Christmas the late nights were back. Evelyn watched his approaching headlights through the sheeting rain of a thunderstorm. Water was cascading down the French windows.

The moment Joe rolled in they started fighting about the guttering he’d promised to clear. He raised his fist. There was an explosion of noise and blinding light.

Lightning had struck the ironbark the year before, but it had regrown. Not this time though. When Evelyn turned she saw it split along the trunk, the two lengths fallen in opposites directions across the yard.

2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (