Ga Marrtjina Waangalil

I was walking down the hill back towards my donga. The red MAF ute drove past me, two uniformed pilots aboard. Peter was driving. I couldn’t remember the other one’s name. I know his wife. It’s always the way in Arnhem Land, forgetting husband’s names. Too much gender segregation is why.

The sea was sparkling in the rare sunlight. In the first week I was here I counted the glimpses of sunlight. But it was mostly fine all day today and I started to take it for granted, even getting upset at how hot I was in a black t-shirt.

The Harris boys were out in force, working hard. One was mowing, and the other, just around the corner, whipper-snippering. Even now, writing this, I can hear their machinery in the distance. But that could be a plane. I’m not very good on distant sounds.

I was thinking, I should tell Lena how proud she can be of her two big boys, always working hard. I’m seeing her tonight.

As I followed the footpath into the dead-end street I’ve heard called Mango Lane, the MAF ute pulled up outside the Harris’ and the pilots started unloading mattresses from the trailer that I hadn’t noticed as they drove past. I think one of them might have seen me and waved but I missed the chance to respond and the grass-cutting machinery made it impossible to say hi. I thought about offering to help them with carrying stuff, but then I thought, no, they would just say no. If I were a man they would expect me to help, but I’m not and they don’t.

A flash in the sky caught my attention. It was some clouds shifting around in front of the sun. A movement underfoot. Just a lazy dog twitching its ear.

In that moment I was overwhelmed. It was as if the last piece fit into the puzzle and the whole picture came to life.

The light helped. There is in most days that one moment, and it usually doesn’t last longer than a few minutes, where the light is as perfect as it is going to get. The scene is illuminated, showing the best possible view.

I looked away, unable to take it in. I saw the long grass and thought, better stay on the road, avoid potential snakes. I wove a path around five lazy dogs and thought about what The Little One said, that dogs are the opposite to weeping angels: they are only still when you’re not looking at them.

Not these dogs. They are so lethargic they wouldn’t move unless you kicked them. Then, they would probably turn nasty really fast.

I was a whimsical mood, so when I went through the gate into the school playground, I wandered to the swing-set and sat down. They are so tall, I thought they would be awesome to swing on, but I couldn’t get any air. I wondered if it would help if I had someone to push me.

Then I heard someone call out, maybe heard ‘…line’ and then laughter. I jumped up and carefully looked all around to see if someone was calling to me. I thought, I’m going to look like such an idiot, looking around like this. They are probably laughing at me.

But I couldn’t see anyone. I considered getting back on the swing, but the mood was broken. I was spooked by phantom voices. I looked back at the school and thought about all the people who have built and torn down in that place. So much history, and here I am just sitting on the surface of it.

So I went back inside to my donga.


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