The closest people to us lived three hours away. Mr Carsons were a widower and a sheep farmer. His property were by itself between tarn country and wild bush. The tiger hunter stayed with him a lot and he killed dozens of tigers that ate Mr Carsons' sheep. Mr Carsons had a daughter called Rebecca, though she liked to be called Becky. She were a year and a half older than me. She had no mother. Her mother got sick one day and the next day she were covered in purple sores. While Becky's father were getting the buggy ready to take her to Hobart hospital, Becky found her mother near the shearing shed, naked as the day she were born, scratching at her sores, foaming at the mouth and crying out to Jesus to help the pain stop. Becky called out to her father but when he came the poor woman were gone to God.
I did not see Becky much, maybe ten times in two years, but we were the only girls in me whole world and so when we met we were close cos she were lonely too. She were like her father. He had this air 'bout him, he always seemed to be thinking deep thoughts or were glum like an under taker. When they visited us they always wore their Sun day best. He'd be wearing a black suit and she'd have a lovely blue or pink dress. o h yes, do not let me forget this she always wore a cameo of a beautiful woman, who Becky told me were her mother.
One day when I were 'bout six years old me dates are fuzzy but you will understand why later me father, who was back from a long voyage, told us that Becky were coming to stay for two days cos Mr Carsons were going into Blackwood to buy a new buggy. She had only stayed over - night once and that was the year before so me father's news made me shiver with pleasure. I were beside meself on the morning of her coming. I couldn't sit still. I were running through the house, sitting on the verandah chair waiting for them, then, quick as a flash, I'd be down to the track to see if they were coming. I run into me parents' bedroom to ask them again 'bout when Becky were coming and I seen me father tying up me mother in a corset. She never wore them when he were whaling but when he was back home she were never without one. It made her look so beautiful. She walked differently, not walked but glided like she were floating a foot above the ground. I knew it were to please me father and in pleasing him she were always in a daze of happiness.
Then Becky arrived in an old buggy with her father. I were so excited to clap eyes on her. I tingle now, thinking about it. You see, I were an alone kid most of me time with just me mother and maybe me father and Sam, me pig. Becky looked gorgeous in her Sunday best with her long golden hair falling down her back. o h, how I were jealous of that hair cos I had a basin cut and me hair were black like dirt. Her father only stayed for a short time cos it were a long ride into Blackwood. He said he would be back the next evening to have tea with us and stay overnight.
Me father had plans for a picnic, so while he and me mother got everything ready, I took Becky into me parents' bedroom and I showed her one of me mother's corsets hanging from its stand. It had been made especially for her from baleen me father had got from a whale he harpooned. Becky knew nil 'bout whales and were amazed when I told her 'bout the baleen. That pleased me cos she were smarter and a year older than me and could spell words like encyclopaedia and Tasmania. Then I dragged her into the living room where I unscrewed the lid of the glass jar and shoved her nose down into it. Her face went all wrinkles when she first smelt the stink, but I told her to keep sniffing and then she smiled cos she could smell the musty, sweet scent. I told her how me father had taken it from inside a whale and she went Pooh . I told her how expensive it were worth twice as much as gold cos perfume makers need it for their perfumes.
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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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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