It were going on late morning when the four of us set out in me father's small boat. Me father had one oar and Becky and I pulled on the other til we were so tired that me mother took over. The water were brittle cold, and so clear you could see the pale pebbles on the bottom. On the river banks forests were real thick and there were no sun - light in them. on the river it were so sunny that me mother, when she was not rowing, held up an umbrella so her skin wouldn't burn. Me skin were already covered with angel kisses so I didn't care but when Becky wasn't rowing she sat under me mother's white umbrella so the sun didn't burn her either. When the sun did fall on her it made her blonde hair look like a saint's halo. All the time me father rowed he told us yarns 'bout his whaling adventures. Becky's eyes growed as large as saucers when he told her 'bout a man eaten by a sperm whale. It swallowed him right up but when they killed the whale and cut it open there he was, this fella looking like death but still alive. His black hair were bleached white, he had no top skin left and he were nearly blind. Then me father were telling us how he was going to give up whaling cos there were not many whales left when he cried out, Look! Before I could see what he was pointing at I heard me mother say, Oh my goodness, it's one of those hyenas.
I turned and there, there on the bank not more than ten yards from us, were a wolf creature with yellow fur and black stripes. It were about the size of a real large dog. I can remember it to this day, cos it were the first one I had ever seen. It had a long muzzle and stripes on its sides like a tiger. The tail were thick and the fur so fine and smooth it were like it didn't have hair. It's like a wolf, I heard me mother say and indeed it looked like those wolves I seen in me fairytale books. It stared at us with huge black eyes, then it opened its jaw real slow til I thought it could swallow a baby. I'll go bail if it were not the most bonny, handsomest thing I ever seen. It were like a magician cast a spell on me. I had heard about these creatures, but nothing prepared me for how noble and strange it looked. It snapped its jaws closed. It sounded like two metal doors slamming shut. Then it sort of loped, taking its time, into the bush and vanished.
I must have said it were beautiful, cos Becky hissed real angry, They are killers. They kill sheep . She were so firm about this that I were struck dumb. Me father laughed, thinking she were joshing, but she weren't. As he began to row again, he told us why it were so rare to see them. He said they were like vampires. They came out at night and they drinked blood. Me father were chiacking and it made me laugh, but I were sitting next to Becky and I felt her body shiver all over. I can still feel her body against mine and how her fear gave me goosebumps. She went quiet and only perked up when we found a picnic spot.
We moored against a bank and spread out a blanket on the grass in a clearing. Me mother were radiant. Her face were like a pale moon in the shade of her hat. When I ate a banana I held a bit in me mouth and fed it into me father's gob, pushing it through the strainer of his moustache, like I were one of those fishermen with a banana in his mouth luring a groper. After lunch Becky and me went for a walk. We were so thirsty our tongues were hanging out, so we shook the trunks of saplings and the rainwater, trapped in the leaves after the rain, sprinkled down on us and cooled us. our clothes were wet with water, but we didn't care. I remember, as if right now, standing in me dripping dress in the spotted light coming through the treetops and seeing me parents kissing under the umbrella as they sat on the blanket. I felt a joy dance through me. Me parents were still in love, we were all happy and I had a friend in Becky. An hour or so later, while Becky and me were chasing each other through the trees and bushes, I heard me mother calling us to come quick. I looked up. The sky had gone sick all of a sudden. Me father said we better go home cos a storm were brewing.
Excerpted from Into That Forest by Louis Nowra. Copyright © 2013 by Louis Nowra. Excerpted by permission of Amazon Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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