Partial Eclipse

Words || Hazel Smith

On the night of the partial eclipse you squinted at the moon, wishing the sky seemed less cloudy. Afterwards Amy, Jack, Phil and you sat around a table with a glass of wine. In the middle of a context you could not later recall, Phil said — as if it was self-explanatory — Amy doesn’t get jealous. Amy did not respond, and such a remark did not align with anything you knew about her. You were curious and wondered what he meant. Was he talking about sexual jealousy? Was he hinting at some hidden aspect of their relationship? Or was he reflecting more broadly? Marked by an unasked question, an ellipsis that would expand, the opportunity to enquire was lost. You could not say weeks afterwards, ‘I remember you said that Amy does not get jealous and I have been wondering what you meant by that. I would like to know because the idea that someone is immune from sexually jealousy is unusual’. You had to leave the remark in place, stretching and flexing. You will learn to value it because it cannot be further decoded. You will be grateful for all the thoughts it has provoked in you, all the moments of wonder it has provided. Almost, almost, you hope its orbit will not be stilled, its aura continue to burn brightly.

©Camilla Eustance

©Camilla Eustance

The Lone Pandanus

Words || Douglas Whyte

He pushes the brakes. The beach curves like a fingernail, ghostlike into the pre-dawn distance. He scans the water like an old lifeguard. I know what he’s looking for. One of those deep blue gutters, choppy on the surface, swirling underneath. Unsatisfied, he moves on.  

We’ll head to the Lone Pandanus, he says. I nod, listening to the ancient Land Cruiser thrum in tune to the crumbling waves. He tells me again it’s the only pandanus on the island. Again, he tells me it’s one of the longest beaches in Australia. There’s always a good gutter in front of the Lone Pandanus, I say, taking the next sentence out of his mouth. He scans me like I’m a body of water. His strange attempt at a smile reveals a deeper complication of wrinkles than I remember.

After a while, we come to another stop. I look through his window to the dunes. Sure enough, the tree stands thick and lonely against the shrub, an unlikely beacon for the emotionally adrift. We scrutinise it like it’s an artwork. I think about where it came from and the year it was created. How perfect the collaboration must have been between wind and tide, carrying its seed from the mainland and rushing it up onto the dunes. To here, of all places.

Couple of throws, he says. I nod again and we get out of the car. We rig up together, slipping line through loops, connecting sinkers with swivels, weaving worms around hooks. The rhythm is familiar, robotic. He waits until I’ve finished to ask me, tentatively, how long I’ll stay this time. I have to be back home tomorrow, I tell him. He says he’ll meet me down by the shore.

I watch him shuffle towards the water, turning his head back every now and then to make sure he’s in line with the pandanus, before stepping into the sea. He arches his rod back in one graceful motion, and in that tiny yet infinite moment before launch, I think of all the things that have been swept away.

Nex To You

Words || Zoe Knowles

Jerry snagged a feather in the muggy breeze. His costume, once white, was now soiled with dirt and blood, and balding in places where it had got caught on trees. He twisted the little feather around his fingers. From where he was waiting, crouched behind a blow-away shack just up from the small string of shops at the end of the cul-de-sac, he watched the queue of people curl up the road from the entrance to Ray’s Butcher. Wednesday. Delivery day. 

His headpiece – a round hen head – rested on the rotting tree stump beside him and a sack of mud-balls hung from his shoulder. He shifted his weight, feathers bristling; the clouds puckered overhead. 

The NEXT van – “NEX” as in chicken necks and “T” as in terrible, tragic, traumatising but also, and in this case, the “T” in the bold blue logo of “Nex-To-You” smeared across the side of the van – delivered fleshy hunks of bone direct to the people of West Flick, the forgotten sinkhole on the skirts of town. Never mattered how late it came, they still waited. 

He heard a loud rumble: possibly thunder and possibly the crowd of hungry stomachs.

A flat-thin woman hurried past Jerry’s hiding place, tugging the brim of her hat down.

‘Stop!’ he squawked. 

She looked at him with strung-out yellow eyes and doubled her pace. 

‘No, come back. Fight the urge!’

Damn addict. She was on her way to Ray’s. They all were. Because despite the outbreaks, despite the drought, despite everything – they still wanted it, even when all they could get was a pale, stringy piece of a poor bird’s spine. Jerry had to be the only person left in the world who didn’t eat meat.

Another rumble: a growling engine.

Jerry reached for the head of his chicken suit. As the NEXT van swung around the corner, he shot forward, a stream of feathers trailing him. He reached into his sack for a mud-ball, cutting his finger on the busted nail that stuck out from it. He flung it at the van. Then another, chasing the wheels that burnt up the belly of the road. Glass smashed. He flapped his arms.

‘Bastards!’ 

The van stopped. 

‘Filthy shitbrains! 

He hurled another mud-ball. 

The front doors bust open and two men slipped out, their wild yellow eyes narrowing in on him. Saliva dripped from their cracked lips. The men were on him faster than he could turn and sprint back to the shack. One clamped down on his beak, choking him; the other grabbed his arms and clipped the fake wings together with a zip tie. The stench of dirty ice and raw bones clung to the men’s hands and made Jerry’s eyes water. 

‘Look at the size of it.’ 

Jerry kicked out his legs, his shout sounding like a desperate cluck.

Little Falling World

Words || Alex Sutcliffe

©Ling McGregor

©Ling McGregor

‘I think there's something you should know,’ he begins, although we've been sitting on this bench for half an hour—although there's nothing he can tell me now I don't already know. He expressed enough months ago, at the height of a long, hot summer, when he started sleeping in pyjamas: top and bottoms. He'd fallen for someone else and was saving his okay body for her. He's old fashioned that way. When we started dating, I managed to ignore that.

‘I never wanted to hurt you,’ he says, and I believe him because he's brought me here, to the closest thing my block has to a forest—a bin, a bench and a plane tree clustered around a storm drain—to put me out of my misery. He's old fashioned that way, too. He'd never make a mess in anybody else's home.

‘I know we've been close for a while,’ he says. We're sitting with space between us for his new girl. A puddle, the first rain of the season, spreads through his jeans. The space is dry. I scan the foliage for anything else to look at. In the middle branches of the middling tree, where I have to crane my neck to see, is the first brown leaf. Except for the tree, and the puddle, we're sitting how've sat for months—rigid spines poking into silence. Never once in those months did he slam a door or break a glass. All the glassware sat in solid stacks as we hurtled toward the floor, toward shattering together.

‘I'm in love with someone else.’ The wind whips around the first brown leaf, exposes it to the grey light. A sharp gust throws my hair across my mouth, lifts a McDonald's bag from the bin, tears at the leaves in the tree. The first brown leaf comes loose. When are two people more together than when one throws a glass just to know the other sees it falling?

‘I know you didn't see this coming.’ The first leaf to fall hangs in the grey light, floats forever as the park and everything in it—the bin, the bench, the plane tree, my already ex-boyfriend, his soon to be ex-girlfriend—hurtle toward the earth.

'I know this is a shock.’ The first leaf to fall lands in a puddle in the storm drain.

Did you see that?

‘I don't—what are you talking about?’