Episode Five: Downsizing

A short story in ten poems

 

One

 

The Window to the City

 

The glass through which they stared

out to the decking

with its creaky boards

and sun twisted railing

had never been so clean.

 

The crust of ten summers

washed away.

As too the finger smears

of those that lived

and had lived there,

lifted the view

across the river.

 

It gleamed shyly

in the dull dusk of Autumn.

The lights of the city

flicked on is spasms,

emerging from the gloom.

Then fell away

in topographic sequence,

to the one square monolith

that marked the CBD.

 

To call it a city was a stretch.

More a big country town.

That's what someone

important once said

and everyone agreed.

 

Others spoke of it as a big heavy coat.

Warm and insulating

against the cold west wind

that wheezed

and rattled down the organ pipe face

of the mountain.

 

A coat that looked

just as handsome

and unimposing

hung on the peg.

Ignored

for the two or three months

that the sun shone

and the flat top

hung up its own fleecy cape.

 

 

 

Two

 

Saying Goodbye

 

The house was empty.

Bar a dozen big heavy boxes

bound and gagged

in the front room.

And the flopping flesh of a bed

in the room opposite.

 

The scent of fresh paint

Had almost vanished,

hanging only vaguely

beneath the must

of twenty year old

single malt whisky.

 

That the spirit survived

from the day they moved in

was a near miracle.

They caressed the glasses

and snorted the peaty fumes.

"I swear, if I had to give up alcohol

I'd keep a bottle of this just to sniff."

He said,

as he had been saying

for the last twenty years.

 

They raised their glasses

To the house that had sheltered them.

Turned

to do the same

To the city that had nourished them,

when a small raptor

Alighted on the railing.

Beneath one yellow talon

a daggered carcass,

skull intact.

"Sparrowhawk" he said.

"Goshawk" she said.

Without another sound

they watched

as the hook beaked bird,

wearing the same colour suit

as the real estate agent

that sold their house,

ripped stringy strips

from the breast of an ex pigeon.

Dark feathers

fell onto

and we're blown along the deck,

becoming snagged

in the skeletal

plum tree

that had,

over the years,

become entwined in the railing.

 

They feasted their eyes.

drained their glasses.

Then drained the bottle

of the last dram.

With the final fall of light

the hawk departed

almost vertically,

for a more wild eyrie.

Its takeaway prey

clasped tight in its claws.

.

They rinsed the glasses,

wrapped them in bubble wrap,

and slipped them into the corner of a box

marked "glasses."

 

The tape dispenser

broke the quiet,

ripping orange tape

across the box.

"That's it, we've done it." He said

and wrapped her

in his arms.

She smiled,

stood back,

took a breath

"Excited" she said

"You bet, can't wait."

 

 

Three

 

The Promise

 

They had promised each other

that when the children were off hand

they would return

to the bush.

Off grid

Chooks

Ducks

Goats

Firewood

Solar

Shitting in bucket.

 

Time to fish.

Time to write.

Time to live.

Time to be.

 

The demands of teenagers

dragged them from the bush,

from the almost fifty acres

of thin soiled

dry forest.

On an island

an hour from town.

 

 

Four

 

Family

 

There would be no kidults in this family.

Inter race relationships,

homosexual, lesbian, bi,

or any other,

so called, deviation.

No problem.

But kidultery:

adult size creatures,

lolling around the house.

footless and feckless.

Emptying the pantry.

Not bloody likely

 

 

Five

 

First Born

 

They left one by one.

The eldest to her family.

The bright lights

and sunshine

of the harbour city.

 

Like his father and mother

he rejected

the chosen lifestyle

of his parents,

 

No frugal

do it yourself

anti establishment

environmentalist

social conscious

half baked hippy

punk attitude

for him.

 

Money would satisfy

his every desire.

He would go on

to imagine himself

a poor boy from the country,

deprived of the luxuries of suburbia.

 

 

Six

 

Second Son

 

Or middle child,

as he prefers to be known,

departed a year later.

A one way ticket

had been promised

upon academic success.

If uni was an option

it could wait.

Dreams,

they always said,

should be followed.

 

No half measures for him.

Away

to his father's family.

The land of fish and chips,

where a cuppa solved everything.

 

He would come to realize

and reject

the numbing pain

of the treadmill.

On high peaks

and in the jungles of Brazil

he would find his prize.

 

 

Seven

 

Possum

 

The last

was more difficult

to dislodge.

She sought a challenge

in study.

She would remain

at home

another four years.

Plodding through books

at her own sweet,

enigmatic pace.

 

He saw in her

his own

unhinged curiosity.

Floating on the waves,

buoyant enough

to be beached in the morning

and catch a riptide

at night.

 

 

Eight

 

Escape

 

Faced with the prospect of parenting

for four more years

they packed their bags,

abandoned the baby

and took to the road.

 

They flitted between

a dozen apartments,

over nearly as many years.

Almost equivalent

to the contracts

they had taken,

that took them

to remote parts

Asia, Africa

Europe and more.

 

There they learned

about transience.

There they learned

how to leave.

 

There was no intention

To stay away so long.

But there was

always another bend,

another corner

to look around.

 

 

Nine

 

Renovations

 

Over the winter

they had fixed the house

on the inside.

Wide floor boards,

sanded,

recoated.

Gone were the bright colours,

contrasts,

personal touches.

 

In their place

all neutral

dull

grays

and off whites.

 

No foot scuffs

or gadges

from out of control

pets and toys.

They had replaced

the taped and broken pane.

The result of high spirited

teenagers.

They had,

with a grudge,

for the last month,

been living

in a show house.

Even purchased a couch

to set it off.

That with its coat

of shiny pinstripe satin

lent a refined

elegant note.

But creaked its legs

and sagged

and groaned when sat in.

 

Outside

their mark persisted.

The salmon pink

with sky blue trim

they lavished upon

old weatherboards

when first moved in

remained.

A stubborn marker

of daring

to be different,

among creams and greens

and strict red brick.

 

 

Ten

 

Leaving

 

Would they miss the place?

No.

Ten years

they'd been away.

Long enough

for the dream of returning

to a simple life

to take root.

To become

certain.

Tomorrow

was another corner.

 

D L Hume 3rd Quarter 2017