A Mortality Tale
"So you drove home drunk?
"So you killed someone on the way?
"So what do you do next?
"You read A Mortality Tale."
I know it's July because it's as cold as Walt Disney's head, especially at night. I haven't lived here for thirty years and that was a brief holiday because we were too poor to go to the beach. My memory of the holiday is of waking up to voices outside my room, the one I'm sleeping in now - I like to think it's the same one - the angles look right, down East Street, up to the hospital, the facade of Mrs Dempsey's Rainbow Cafe in Morgan Street, no view at all of Uncle Martin's place). I walked out to the verandah and stood with the dark shadows that were my mother, father and brother. We watched the Crown Hotel go up in flames. It was past Uncle Frank's butcher shop in East Street, just over the old bridge on the Dee River. That's what I remember: a cold, dry night in Mt Morgan in the early 1960s, listening to fire and men yelling. I was wearing red slippers and floral-patterned flannelette pyjamas; Mama wrapped me in my pink and white chenille dressing-gown.
We had only one holiday here. We used to drive up on Sundays sometimes for a couple of hours between sessions, so Mama could visit her sister, Ruth. She'd sit us, my brother Peter and me, on high stools with thin, steel legs and fill us with potato chips and cordial. We were allowed to go exploring occasionally, out the back through the big piano room and the kitchen and laundry. If there was time on our way home,we'd call at Uncle Martin's and play with his dogs and try to teach the cockatoo to talk. All it did was swear at us. 'Bloody coot.' 'Jesus Christ.' 'Stupid bugger.'
From the Allen and Unwin paperback edition, 1994.
This novel was shortlisted the Miles Franklin Award in 1995, and for the Australian/Vogel Award in 1993.
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Last modified: December 20, 2004.