This Story was shortlisted as one of the six finalists for the 2017 Tarbert Book Festival short story prize. It has also been published by the leading Flash Fiction Site – Virtual Zine.
I saw them when the rains came.
Three wraiths, caught in a tropical storm of such ferocity the baked, ochre-coloured ground of the outback had turned into a bloody glue. They came nearer, more recognisably human now, features resolving, edges hardening.
Found shelter in my car. Mum in the front, kids the back, sodden backpacks exiled to the boot.
In faltering English she thanked me. I hid my surprise; you don’t get many foreigners this far out. No place for tourists.
Asked me what I did, so I told her of the shearing life. Going where the work is, sheep station to sheep station, how a thousand kilometres can pass in a blur. That a shearer never leaves a footprint behind in the places he has been, becomes less a memory and more a rumour.
Explained why a man would want to come out here in the first place. How a long way from anywhere is a good place to hide, and a better place to hide things. Always on the move, hard to pin down, hard to catch.
She smiled, a pretence at understanding. She didn’t of course. Just happy to be safely out of the downpour, no longer lost in a strange land, the fear wicking away from her in rhythm with the droplets falling from her beautiful, collectable hair.
I smiled back, knowing they would soon be gone, feeling the cool of the blade against the pulsing heat of my leg.
Taught them a traditional Australian shearing song and they sang along. All of us happy before the end.
“Click go the shears boys, click, click, click.”