This story was originally posted on July 10 to my (now inactive) ‘the art of few words’ blog.

the art of few words

It’s that time when students finishing years of school, moving towards an unknown adulthood, write messages of devotion in texta on each other’s uniforms. There’s a girl at my bus stop covered like that as if all the good will in the world is there for her. Her name is Chrissy. How do I know? I read the back of her school shirt. ‘Best wishes, Chrissy. Always friends’; ‘Chrissy is Ace’ (beside an Ace of Spades). And a poem of sorts that makes me smile and remember, because at my age sometimes you start forgetting no matter how hard you try not to. ‘Missy Chrissie, Makes me Dizzy, Because she is so, good to Kissy.’

The afternoon is warm. People going about their normal, unchanging days circle around her. Once they were her, with the world before them. Once the messages of love and devotion were for them. Now they…

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Lenny

I think it might have been Lenny. He left just before they say it happened. When he got back, which was much later, he was pretty agitated. I asked him if he was OK and he snapped at me about why I was still up, even though I wasn’t still up at all because it was morning by then and I had to be at Dr Francis’s early.

The Doctor said I was doing well. I thought maybe I should tell her about Lenny but I knew she’d only worry.

I didn’t see Lenny for maybe a couple of days after that.

That’s not so unusual because Lenny’s not the sociable kind.

The papers say there’s a manhunt on. Lenny won’t talk about it even though that’s all anyone in town wants to talk about. It’s a big deal in a place like this. The cops are onto it, and the papers are onto it and the mayor’s onto it in the papers and at the pub everyone’s onto it as if they’re all vigilante heroes. They’re gonna get that guy and they’re going to do this and do that and they’re going to teach him a lesson and they’re going to send a message. Then they’ll all get drunk about it.

And the girls in town are onto it too and they’re all around in whispering groups and crying and stuff. Like I said everyone’s onto it.

And I think it might have been Lenny. I found her bag in Lenny’s washing, because I do all the washing for Lenny and me. His stuff is mostly black or camouflage like a soldier. I think maybe I better talk to him ’cause I’m pretty sure it was him.

 

Choice

This then was all that was left. Dex’s climb had been stratospheric. At thirty he’d been ready to fly. Too close to the sun. The crash hit hard. The auditors did their job for once. His bosses held him to account for the same things they once demanded of him. Everything solid turned to dust. Now this was all that was left. A torn matress, a dirty blanket, a transistor radio and a bunch of clothes. He kicked his belongings together into a corner, sucked his last cigarette almost to the filter then flicked the glowing butt into the pile. Black latex smoke started curling upwards. He glanced at the door. Now at least he had options. Freedom of choice. That’s what made the country great. Dex smiled. Smoke pooled beneath the ceiling. A lick of purple flame struck up among his t-shirts and jeans.

Prey

We’d been tracking that dog for three days and in three days we’d seen enough to know it needed tracking. The wallaby it had brought down on the ridge looked as if it had been hit by a train. Crows picked at what was left.

That night we heard it, always moving, just below the snow-line. We followed it in the morning, along a steep gully, only to have it double back behind us. It led us deep into wilderness country, away from the trails and the cattlemen’s huts. It left a wombat, its body split, and further on a little roo. We knew from its tracks what a monster it was, and from the carnage we knew it was powerful too. Ruthless. It loved blood. The roo, a fresh kill, hadn’t been eaten at all; just torn apart and left for us to find. It was as if the dog was hunting us, leaving the carcases as lures. Howling to make us follow. Leaving its mark on the bush. Until we followed it into a kind of ravine. When Phil dropped back the animal took him. One savage wound on my partner’s neck left his head and body barely joined. Now I’m circling, rifle at the ready as the beast circles unseen, above and around. Close, closer. Closing in.