Russian Dolls


I am thirty when my brother’s wife moves into the tent. ‘People say postpartum depression can get pretty weird,’ my brother says. He shrugs, but his hand is white knuckled around the neck of his Fat Yak and I glance back out at the rain. It is pelting down loud on the tin roof above us, edging in through the slats of the wall. We are sitting on the balcony of their old Queenslander, and my brother’s wife is inside her tent in the middle of the living room. I face outside, but my brother always faces in, his gaze fixed through the door.

‘It’s all very Wes Andeson,’ I joke, but it’s not funny.

‘I hear her crying,’ my brother says. ‘All the time.’

‘Well, it’s been a hard few weeks.’ I take a drink. My beer is warming up despite the stubby cooler, the condensation sweating through it.

‘Not my wife,’ he says. ‘The baby.’

‘Huh,’ I reply.

My brother takes another drink, his back resting against the wall.

‘I’m getting wet,’ he says after a second, and I wonder if I should have said something more, but he’s flicking our bottle caps off the balcony rail and moving inside. He doesn’t ask me to leave, but he doesn’t need me to. I wish our sister was here, who would know what to say, but instead I just peel out of the deckchair and reach for the box of my daughter’s hand-me-downs. I should have picked them up weeks ago, I suppose. I can hear the shuffle of my brother’s bare feet on the wooden floors. I reach for my car keys that hang heavy in my pocket before heading down the front steps. When I turn back, my brother has unzipped the front of the tent and has climbed inside with his wife, and they lie in their home in their house like the sweet, small thing in the middle of a Russian doll.