Last Friday it was hot outside. Everyone was slowing down, and children were walking with their eyes screwed up.. The glass along the front of the shop was hot. The purple tinsel waiting to be put up was warm, and when I went home, the ducks sat on the side of the road with their beaks down and eyes shut.
People still came in to look for books. The man who came past the window was moving fast. This is why everyone inside looked up. He was striding along, talking on the phone without looking left or right, and he had his phone on speaker.
‘He said that what he really respects about me is that…..’
The other person said something.
Then the man that we could still see stopped dead, and leaned back and laughed hugely, and banged one knee with his hand and said,
‘Oh mate, thank YOU.’ Then he walked on, was gone.
Painting by Elizabeth Jose
No matter how hot it is, they run fast. They make for the mulberry tree, running with gumboots on the wrong feet, intensely aware of their own moving bodies, their faces move and throb with running, their eyes flicker watching the ground drumming under their heels. They are very little.
The mulberry tree is green and attractive but they ignore this. There is a gap and a low, wide branch that is more useful, and they push through and are now gorillas, and they need something intensely which they must think of soon.
They stand on a branch and examine ideas. They make gorilla noises and put bunches of hard infant mulberries to their noses.
One gorilla holds on and commands the other. He needs some sand. The other gorilla climbs down for sand which he then throws up over both of them, and they are pleased. They climb up. They climb down. They are birds. They are gorillas. They are a fence. They don’t live here. They want chips. They might find a nest. One falls and is gripped within a branch and screams for rescue and is towed to the bottom, and then they climb up and try once more with hopeful mouths the sour toes of the unborn fruit. They spit it out with strong, satisfied mouths.
They are covered in dust and leaves, sunlight and heat, sand, sweat and scratches. When the galahs in neighbouring gumtrees screech they go silent and look at each other. They fold their hands around the branches and test their arms. They make bird noises. They need sand. They want chips.
Yesterday was hot. Any visitors there were, fell through the shop door and said: it’s so hot. And the summer came in through the door after them. One man held the door open while he told me about the first fleet. He allowed in the hot air, some blowing sand and all the gum leaves that gather next to the bakery along with his first fleet.
But in the evening after I got home, it became dark and cool. We were at the edge of the heat, the very rim of it and then suddenly the evening tipped into rain that fell for hours. And so the house was hot, the brick pathways were hot, the veranda posts were hot but the rain was cold.
My grandson held up his nose into the superb air, he rearranged his face and blinking eyes to take in the cold rain, he knew he was hot, everything was hot, but now he might be cold. He needed to rearrange his senses, too. He hung on tight to family when outside, consuming the new details of a rainstorm in summer, unsure of the singing downpour, unsure of safety. Also, the birds were screaming their own deafening joy into the still hot and blue evening.
Artwork by Hajin Bae