Nothing is so satisfying as seeing what people do in autumn on Saturdays when it’s warm and nearly Easter, and we know that the warm weather is nearly at its finish line. It’s done a good job here. The fence is warm. Over the road two people are lying on the lawn. They have their phones on their chests, not looking at them because they are kind of asleep. It’s quiet most of the time, I’ve hardly had any customers. So I went outside and leaned against the warm fence.
First of all a ute and trailer went passed. Huge rolls of straw like golden Swiss rolls. And then a truck with sheep, so everything smelt like hot sheep. And then a ute with black smoke at the exhaust, so everything smelt precisely like …. that.
I moved down the fence, sticking to the sunshine because I like it today. It doesn’t have its February commitment.
A father and child pass me close. They’re silent. They walk exactly the same way. Their ankles turn in at the same angle. The child walks behind, then side by side, then in front, carrying paper bags of food from the bakery. The father adjusts his pace to avoid collision and to look after the truth.
Another younger couple come the other way. The young dad is wearing a backpack with a rope tied to back. The other end is tied to a go-kart. The go-kart burrs along behind him with a small child in the driver seat. The child is pedalling furiously and breathing hard but only goes at the pace of the parent pony anyway. The mother, turning back to look at them, looks pleased. She turns her head to one side to get all the information in and looks pleased. The father plods along. The child pedals. The child raises one hand in the air. The father, sensitive to the air, looks back and says, ‘Nearly there’.
Across the road a four-wheel drive pulling a trailer is trying to exit the carpark. In the trailer is a neat little dog kennel, tied in with a thousand straps and ropes. It will not fall out. The man, an older man, is talking to another man in the passenger seat. I can see them talking hard. I think they are father and son.
The reason I think they are father and son is because when the car behind them sounds the horn (this is because they are so slow the exit the carpark) they both jerk to look behind them in the same way.
Right in front of me a man has parked a motorbike and left two helmets dangling from the handlebars along with a beautiful pair of lime green gloves. It’s the gloves that make me stare. And the phone left on the seat. Sitting there on the bike seat and shining in the sun Not important enough to take to the bakery. Good.
Across the road a man climbed out of his car and walked across the park to the toilets. He walked with a stiff gait. He looked as though he’d been driving for a long time. He came back via the rubbish bins and threw something away. Then he stood with hands on hips and looked at the bin for a long time.
There’s a huge group of people coming up the road, and I might go back inside the shop. There’s about 12 of them. But when I look down the road again, they have all disappeared. Then a car passes and I see a face at the window smiling and smiling, apparently at me, but I don’t know who it is. I just remember the mouth and the smiling teeth that caught me in their beam.
That’s how people drive past. I just see an intense flash of person. Drivers slumped back. Drivers upright or leaning forward over the steering wheel, urging the engine onward. Masks hanging from the rear vision mirror. A passenger talking and talking at a driver, whose face over the steering wheel is frozen. I can see the talking mouth of the passenger, like energetic moving rubber describing too many ideas.
There’s a man crossing the road straight toward me. He looks left and right, checking traffic, and continues on straight at me. He looks left and right and then at me. I think, do I know you? But I don’t. He looks determined. I think, why is he aiming right at my piece of fence. He strides on and gets to the kerb. I think, turn left you dick. And he suddenly does, not even seeing me, aiming clumsily for the bakery and stumbling a bit over the kerb and me backed against the fence thinking I’m going to write about you.
Two young men pass with masks, keys, wallets and phones in their hands, jangling all their necessity. A car passes with one person inside: the driver. She stops to give way at the intersection. She is talking away at something and gesturing, as though trying to understand it. Like I am.
Sculpture by Elizabeth Price