Loving, Faithful Animal

Free Loving, Faithful Animal by Josephine Rowe

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Authors: Josephine Rowe
the sea. She laughed: Do you know how much these cost?
    The banner that read Hey Hey LBJ , and the rest. People marching under it. A woman with a very red, very pretty mouth opened it and said
    I am confident the majority of the Australian people will continue to give their support to this policy and will want us to make a measured contribution
    Opened it and said two words.
    Apple picking in Bathurst. Mangoes in Dimbulah. Oranges in Mildura. Huntsmen the size of hubcaps. But Tetch there, the whole season. Shouting pints at the longest bar in the world, sliding them along the sleek dark varnish with his butchered hands. Face cracking readily into a grin, Glad you came along. Glad you’re here .
    Child. Killers.
    Her father standing tall on the verandah. Looked like Burt Lancaster, planted there with his feet apart, arms folded. You go with him, Evvie, and you’re cut off . Watching her walk down the white gravel drive, swinging her big red leather suitcase into the boot of the Corvette.
    Cassette tape of Pachelbel’s Canon and her simple summer dress. Sprig of jasmine pinned into her hair, and two brandies at the Young and Jackson. Said that was all she wanted, anyway. Still a game to her, all of it.
    Would’ve thought twice about letting a dog kip in that house. As long as there’s a lemon tree, she goes. A lemon tree, and she’s apples.
    Mind does weird things, trying to distract itself. A bitten tongue or a hummed note. Smoke thrown. Don’t look.
    A darkness there was no climbing out of. Fists sinking deep into mud walls. But then the dream ended and it was her body that was so soft.
    Tried to leave, get back into repat. Couldn’t hurt her from there. Didn’t she get it? What the distance was for. But she’d always turn up at the clinic like she was dressed for a party, for high tea. Stockings and everything, red on her lips.
    Smoking out front of the hospital when Lani was born. Smoking out front of a different hospital when Ruby was born. All these women in the house. Always wanted a boy, a little mate. Someone to teach how to … Don’t know. Teach him something. Useful.
    Walking out one night after a blue. Ev locking herself in the bedroom. Again. Made it to Pyalong in four hours, then it started pissing down. Lit smokes to keep warm under the bridge and there she was, the poor mutt, some sight—bits of collie and red kelpie all mongreled up, skinny in her soaked fur and jumping with fleas. Carried her home tucked under the jacket. Probably caught some of her vermin.
    Stepping through the door just as everyone was sitting down to Weet-Bix. Where’ve you been? Out tumbles Belle, on cue, ta-dah. Dad, she pongs! says Ru, but she’s squeezing the wretched thing so hard it can hardly get a yip out. Best thing to happen to that little mongrel. That was something. To be someone’s best thing.
    Q: How many Vietnam veterans does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
    Khe Sanh on the radio. On the stereo and jukebox. Over the loudspeakers at the supermarket when all a man wants to do is buy a loaf of Tip Top and beat the traffic home before the storm breaks. Even the check-out girl singing along. Asked her, Know where Khe Sanh is, love? Nope. At least somebody was making a buck off that mess.
    Tacking posters over holes in the walls for the rental inspection. Smarmy realo maggot: You’re not s’posed to hang pictures . Could’ve put his head through the wall.
    A: How would you know, arsehole? You weren’t there.
    Like a little kid—couldn’t sleep with the blinds closed. Still can’t sleep with the blinds closed.
    This old digger, in repat. Strange bird they called Clarrie Cryptic, part of the furniture. Decades in that joint, just doing the crosswords from the paper and being flirty to the nurses. Giving them that Laurence Olivier kind of cheek. Dapper, that’s what you might call him. Stern part down the left side of his snowy old head. A

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