Nine Days

Today it is winter. The houses close like clouds. And that sweet steam, how it drifts in from the unfilled swamp. Without our fence we get the thick of it – in the summer we were killing flies and now it’s just the muck from the wetland in our noses. The flowers in the kitchen and in our room’ve gone bad though Richard managed to put sugar in the water; their leaves curl, their petals brown at the edges. Last night the highway was an endless light beyond the darkness of the grass. We sat up in bed like old people or children. When the wind blows a direction you can hear the trucks and cars slowing and starting again. Otherwise it’s just the television’s flicker like pigment against all the windows. The sound of our staying still.

I had turned away from him on the bed and stared out at the pomegranate that tapped gently on the window of our room. The wind groaned outside and then the tree was insistent, banging its scarlet fruit against the glass. In the morning, bloody, clot- ted prints, like paint on a fist, would mark the pane. The wind dropped and then rose again, suddenly, outside.

The body in the kitchen was almost featherless when I found it. Already pasted to the floor with the blood. There’s black and white and grey bits of down that swirl up in great loops when you move through them, all the way down to the bedroom and along the hall. They’re all over me now – on my underpants and hair and clumped between my legs. The ducted heating slows and stops and then turns itself on again. We don’t do anything and on it goes on and on. The space between one heartbeat and the lack of another.

The body heaved and its beak quivered; our eyes looked at each other as its heart shook like a rattle in my hand. An aero- plane shuddered the windows and the wineglasses. The cat’s bell tinkled in its fur as she circled me with the bird. We all shook there. On the floor under my hair the chick rested in a knot of feet and flesh. Its smell was close like an outside birth. Earth stained and wind flattened. The cat circled, going ca-ca-ca. Their jaws hung. And some howl came from me. The bloodied ball kicked a leg the colour of ripe fruit.


Read the whole story in Best Australia Stories 2008 published by Black Inc