CHARMEL

CHARMEL

 

Twenty paces upwind the rabbit sat on its haunches testing the air.  A click and a twang and it was violently gone.  Kicked savagely backwards, transfixed by a short quarrel.  A small sound of satisfaction  and out from a shadowed shallow depression rose the hunter.  She cradled a small cross bow and limped over to the corpse.  Unslinging a canvas bag she pulled a length of string from the side pocket and tied the front legs together and hung the dead thing from a dangling snap-hook next to two others.  The crossbow went into the pack.

 

The butchers shop was innocent of customers.  She dumped the three rabbits on the counter and the butcher eyed them with wary appreciation.  “Good and fat.”

Face averted. “ Aye.  Got them in Shady Gully, lots of vegie gardens up there.”

He laughed,  “Three dollars each?”

“And you’ll sell ‘em for seven.”

“I’ve got overheads and you don’t clean them.”

Three dollars then, I can’t just live on connies.”

The till rang. “I’ll make it ten.”  He picked up the rabbits, she picked up the note and held it up to the light, “I haven’t got a press in the cold room.” he turned to the  use-sculpted block and began to apply the skinning knife.   “You staying in town long?”  The door slammed.  He turned back and viewed the empty shop, shook his head.

 

 

“There she is.”  Two women standing around the supermarket tills browsing a  copy of ‘Who’.  It was a quiet morning.

“Great dress sense.”

“I quite like green. ”

“A boiler suit with slippers?”

“She looks sort of lost, have you noticed she never looks at you?”

“I wonder what’s the matter with her feet?”

“Why don’t you ask her?”

“Maggie did.”

“What  did she say?”

“ ‘Gravity!’ Then she sat down and took her shoes off and they only had four toes!  The little one was missing!”

“Weird.”

!”… Maggie says that she must be sleeping rough.”

“How come.”

“Sh!  Here she comes.”

Clutching to her breast a few oddments of groceries – “Do you have any harnsankers?”  She fumbled her purchases onto the red melamine.  A can rolled off the counter onto the floor.  She bent and retrieved it.

“Pardon?”

“Small vegetables, purple, sort of square.”

“You from Melbourne, they have all sorts of ethnic food there?”

“Melbourne?.”

“I’m sorry,  I didn’t mean to pry.”

“No, no, offence, I just not quite sure where I do come from…” Her face framed in blonde bangs she, looked out owlishly through enormous spectacles, avoiding eyes.

Hmm. That’ll be six dollars fifty, do you want a box or a bag?”

 

After she had gone.  “Weird you said, I should say.  Did you just notice anything strange?  It’s bright sun outside and I’m almost sure when she went through the door there was no shadow.”

“Don’t be silly, you’ve been watching ‘X Files’ again.  remember last week you thought old man Murphy was a time traveller because every time he came into the shop he wore the same clothes.”

 

Night.  Sheltered in a pittosporum thicket a small fire roasted a rabbit spitted by a green sapling. A tin with a fencing wire handle steamed.  On a cloth– a knife, a plastic spoon, a tea bag, a tin plate, a plastic mug and an open tin  of jam.  Propped on a rock sat a small, rectangular, black, moulded plastic case.  A sine wave cycled on a small screen surrounded by an array of l.e.d.’s blinking in a complicated pattern.  Dividing her attention between the rabbit and it, she dabbed ineffectually at a group of pressure pads on one end.

 

Outside the circle of firelight sounded blundering movement.  Her hands reached for the cross bow, “Who is it?”  She bit her lip at the banality.

“Bloody  branch!”  A crash of a falling body.  “Shit!”.  “Into the light lurched a  man, foot caught in dead fall, greasy haired, unshaven, draped  in an  old  grey tweed overcoat, frayed at cuff and out at the elbows.  He blundered into the light, a bottle  in  a bag in one hand  and a broken cigarette  in the other.  He stood blinking, trying to focus. His mouth found the mangled  rollie. “Fuckin’ Hell!”.   He threw  it  away.  A semi-controlled fall  landed  him astride  a log.   He starred muzzily  at the levelled cross bow.   “Not very sharp.” He slurred.

“It’s for rabbits,  don’t want to have to climb trees if I miss.    It  draws twenty Kilos , its bluntness will just make a big hole.”

“What’re you doin’ up here?”

“What’s it to you?”

“Seen you around town.”  With difficulty he found his overcoat  pocket and produced a plastic  sandwich bag full a green herb.   A strip of  paper materialised on  his lip.   He manufactured a dreadful joint.  A  match flared.  Inhaling deeply,   “Want some? ”.  Through  smoke.

She shook her head, held up the device.  “Do you know what this is?”.   The black box blinked.

“Hey, a CD player.”

“No. it makes no sounds. Found it in my bag.”

The neck of the bottle found his mouth, his shirt caught the spillage.  “People are talking about you.  Like, we get some strange people here…… actors… writers.. but they’ve got cars, or friends… they don’t live in the bush and eat rabbits… No one here eats rabbits.”

 

The sine wave complicated itself into a pulsing infinity.  A tone sounded, modulated and pitched a sequence of notes.  The night opalesced like milk in ink. A fifty cycle hum. The box spoke. “Charmel.  Charmel.”  Laughing.  “Come in number 38 your time is up.”

Framed by the hair, focused by her spectacles, the face cleared, wonder replaced confusion -”Dooen!”

“You passed, shipmate, not very well, but you passed, welcome to the crew”.

The milky night made a lens.  Through it dimly: shadows moved and patches of light pulsed.  Carmel bundled her stuff into her bag, turned to the slumped drunk, waved, and walked into forever.

 

“Shit! You forgot your rabbit!”