Voices In The Night

It’s late, late in winter and late in life for the two of us: this lovely wife and me. Our tribe of kids have all made their way out into what we call the world, which I prefer to think of as the ‘cosmos’: an old Greek word that means ‘ornament.’

And here I am, hands in hot water, washing dishes in a suburban part of town, dreaming backwards like an old man does; back and back into another world: my boyhood. I’m washing dishes there, too, next to a campfire. And there’s dust, motorbikes, cattle and time—lots of time—and a crackling fire where dad stokes the flames. One of my brothers, the sleepy one, is already out to it, like a log.

And up there, overhead, the great black sky, dripping with stars. And yeah, there has to be at least one inconsolable cow looking for her calf, a screaming fox checking us out from a safe distance and an old man goanna up on a gum branch: watching and waiting for his turn to check the traps for some munchies—his fingerprints in the dust all over our campsite.

The shearer’s cot my brother sleeps on, creaks. He rolls over and asks if that billy of tea is still hot. I nudge it onto coals and get some mugs out. While I’m arranging drinks, Dad tells a bushman’s joke about a dog and a horseman—I can’t remember the joke but I’ll never forget the way his tired voice made me feel. God, if only I could be back there for a just a few moments.

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