SHADES

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Chapter 3

Back on the road, his Polaroid’s reducing the glare to just manageable levels, he guides the 4wd along the now winding track, twisting and turning through the thinly spaced scruffy open bush, low trees, high thinly clad branches, slowing where the sun is directly in his eyes. The surfing buzz of cicadas is drifting in and out of his consciousness, the metal bottles in the back roll around, clanging from side to side as the vehicle lurches through the trees. He stops, climbs out and spends a few minutes roping the bottles securely to the rails on the pickup’s sides. OK, he murmurs to himself, that should hold you. Looking up, he sees a small dim light in the distance through the trees to the south, wonders momentarily what that could be, decides it can only be a train, side lights on in the dusk, heading towards Cloncurry.

Why not, he thinks. It is a train line, and climbs back on board. The sun is now much lower, glare is bad, but only for a few minutes, then darkness. Not full darkness, not yet, the sky stills glows violently red on the horizon ahead, chased down by purple darkness from above. He pulls the headlight switch fully out, the darkened trees now bright again, grey white, shadows flashing backwards painting a rapidly rotating swooping flow of slashing images, huge black spidery forms hiding behind the trees as he passes, a tunnel slowly developing as the sun sinks, the glow fades. He fumbles in the centre stowage compartment for the night glasses and slows as the need to steer through the trees requires his full attention. Stops finally, takes the polaroids off, puts them in the case in his top left shirt pocket, finds the night glasses, puts them on, adjusts the sit, starts up again.

Settled into the drive now, not so many trees and already on the road for an hour or so, making good progress, considering. He'll reach Cloncurry in good time, the cold beer already beginning to taste. Seductive.

Alli, what did I do wrong? Can you tell me that? OK, you've told me a hundred times what I did wrong, but that's not enough. It wasn't wrong enough, was it? Surely not enough to destroy what we had. It was so good. What else Alli? What else was there that brought about the destruction of all those good things?, the connection of our souls. The break-up of that real family thing we had going? It's more than two years now.


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