The Collector

11 mattresses

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She suggests they go to her father’s house. He hopes he has been able to impress her so far, with his close connection to a disabled sister, his weekly trips to the dog hospital to give them one last good walk. But he cannot hide his hardened mouth against the father. In the year they have been together he has only met the father once. It was a trip to his house in February, when the air in Victoria grows dull and wide and will not dance with the heat. The father lives on a farm that no longer produces, and calls himself a collector.

8 car engines

Now they are driving back there. He feels sick, and she tells him she feels sick too. When he asks where she feels sick she shakes her curled head and slides her hand between his legs, even though they are driving and she worries more than him about the road. Halfway there in a town called Birchip (he asks her to stop near the Big Mallee Bull so he can place his forehead against its cool painted stone) they stop to get something to feed the sickness, but just end up with congealing coffees sitting between them. He wants to ask her if the house will be full of stuff like last time. Whether they will have to stand on top of rubbish and pretend they are sitting on a comfortable couch. He is not very good at pretending. Every time he decides he will ask her he is given a small waft of her sweat. It is coming out of her in trickles that have dampened the creases of her blouse. Then he remembers that this is her father, and that he is just the pretend couch in the room until they leave.

2000 dried up Biros

Her father doesn’t answer the door. They knock and knock and she yells Bruce through the keyhole and Bruce through the windows and Bruce against the door. It’s hard to see inside because of the photocopiers and lamps and wheelie bins and drawing boards piled up like kindling waiting for a match. She tells him that she didn’t get an answer when she rang her father last, or the time before. She is already crying, heaving, as she walks with him over to the shed that is split open with sewing machines and half-renovated dollhouses. They open the sagging door and she says Bruce again, this time a statement, for no human could fit in there amongst all the things. He is thinking of something to say when she starts running fast towards the tractor that waits lonely in the field. He stands limp, doesn’t know what to say. In the distance he can still see her, crushing the wild wheat as she wanes.