Good Reading : March 2018
GOOD READING MARCH 2018 23 to the inlet in a stoic line. Across the water, a break in the coast hills signifies The Cut, where the sandbar breaches once the inlet has swelled to splitting. I came here to research the story of Clarke, a man consigned to an unofficial witness protection program in the 1920s. Apparently, he lived at a place called Clarkie’s Camp, on the same property as me. There must be many other secrets out here but my interest was the secret of Clarke: to divine his presence, to listen for him in the deep, heavy silences of the inlet, when the wind drops and even the birds are censured by lack of sound. An oyster pale Sunday. The crack of my axe, splitting the air. A kind of folk mythology surrounds Clarke’s presence at Broke Inlet. ‘Didn’t someone live out his days at Broke on the run from the cops?’ ‘Dad reckoned he was a spy and the government hid him there.’ ‘Wasn’t Clarke that butcher? With the big knife?’ The most common story is that Clarke was stashed at Broke Inlet by the state government, and that, once a month, a policeman would leave him supplies at the turn-off from the main road. Perhaps my move to the inlet was a bit reckless. I hauled all of my belongings out here on a car trailer. My final act of commitment was to throw my mattress on the back of the ute. I was moving two hundred kilometres from my home and into the wilderness. The dirt track from the highway was 10 kilometres long and flooded on the flatlands where the grass trees and tiger snakes thrived. What was I thinking? No electricity. No internet. No mobile phone range. A dog. No money. This is mad, I thought as the ute thudded along through islands of karri and burnt-out swamps. I assembled my bed in the lounge room that night, lit the fire and took two benzos; leftover morsels from the panic attacks I experienced after my friend died. I sat up in bed and stared through the big windows into the gloom scrawled with the ancient silhouettes of trees. The moon glowed the water. There was no-one else here but me. Except there was. My dog burst into hysterical barking at three in the morning. Someone or something was walking around the cottage. I could hear grunts and twigs breaking. Wild pigs? No, because a light flashed. A headlamp perhaps. A gloamy shape walked past the lounge room window. Oh, here we go, I thought. I was still awake at dawn when my dog barked again. More growling. Two dogs the size of lions sniffed at the door. The neapolitan mastiff ’s coat was blue, like a burmese cat, his huge head grizzled with folds of skin, a flashing LED light the shape of a bone hanging from his collar. He and the brindle great dane turned and loped away, balls the size of a man’s fist swinging against their scarred haunches. The next day, driving into town for supplies, I met some pig hunters. The first ute full of men stopped beside me on the track and the driver wound down his window. Skinheaded with a scar down the side of his face and another across his forehead, he chewed as he talked, fast. He looked a bit pinned. His voice was gravelly. ‘Gidday, love, seen any pigs?’ Once I’d wound down the window, my dog peered over my shoulder and all hell broke WOMEN OF A BOOK BITE 3 SKINHEADED WITH A SCAR DOWN THE SIDE OF HIS FACE AND ANOTHER ACROSS HIS FOREHEAD, HE CHEWED AS HE TALKED, FAST. HE LOOKED A BIT PINNED. HIS VOICE WAS GRAVELLY.