Twisted Fiction Press

HELPLESS: Part 2

by on Jul.08, 2009, under Uncategorized

The moon rose on the second night and Turner was too tired to go on. He pulled into a motel off the highway and paid for a single room. He turned on the news. He watched the unemployed mother hailed as a working class hero and a spokesperson from the community organization that rallied around her. He read about the benefit concert planned to raise money to reattach the child’s arm using laser replantation surgery. Missy Higgins was on the line-up. And Eskimo Joe. Turner turned the TV off. He lay on top of the bed in the motel room listening to the highway and to the water drip in the bathroom. He slept until midnight and then he and Clint Eastwood were on the road again.

They took some side trips and passed through Albury at midnight of the following day. Turner kept driving west. He drove until he got to Glen Creek. His mother was up and watching TV and took no more notice of his arrival at dawn than she had of his departure ten years before.

It was an L-shaped house on a quiet street. Out the back was a third bedroom, a bathroom and a fibro verandah with frosted windows. His brother’s EPL stickers still there. Turner set himself and Clint Eastwood up in that part of the house and if his mother ever noticed the dog she didn’t acknowledge him. Turner slept in his old bed, divided from his brother’s by two bed tables, two lamps, a bar heater, and a strip of floor. Clint Eastwood slept in the sunroom on an old towel. Turner kept the dog in during the day but at night they walked along the river and through the twisted stumps and over charred bracken. The river was lined with gum trees that stood bone pale against the dark of the bush beyond and beyond that the darker hills. Muddy watering holes. During the day Turner took his mother to the one shopping centre in Glen Creek or to the doctor. He maintained the garden. The vegetables and fruit trees. Some of the people in the town remembered him. He was pleasant and he made sure to be seen once or twice a month at the pub or at the Video store just so they wouldn’t wonder too much about the creepy guy who lived with his mother and never went out. Some of the old timers remembered Turner’s old man. They remembered his brother who’d stayed on after Turner left.

A few months on he and his mother watched a special report on Today Tonight about the little girl whose hand had been bitten off by a savage and cowardly Pit Bull that was really Clint Eastwood going for the lollipop she’d held out for him. She’d had the surgery and the doctors said she would regain sixty percent of the use of her hand and her mother yanked the little girl’s arm above her head in triumph to show the interviewer the neat bracelet of scar tissue around her wrist. ‘Her badge of honour,’ she said.

Turner’s mother died five years after he and Clint Eastwood came to live with her and Clint Eastwood died five years after that. Turner had been expecting it. The whiskers on the dog’s black mask had turned white and sometimes he’d freeze during his walk and stare into a space just beyond his muzzle as if there was someone or something in front of him that only he could see. Turner sat with him on the lawn from midnight to the smudge of daybreak. He kept watch while Clint Eastwood uncoupled himself from the world and Turner saw it slide off the edge of his dark round eyes. He wept and couldn’t stop. He hadn’t counted on such sorrow. He didn’t know what he should do. If only he could go with him. He sat and thought about that for a long time.

Finally, late that night he picked the dog up, all thirty-eight kilos of him and carried him to the bottom of the long garden near the back fence. He placed him on the grass. He went back to the house for the towel Clint Eastwood slept on. The cold air burned his bare arms. He dug the hole four feet deep and five feet across and laid the towel in the dirt and put Clint Eastwood on the towel. He cut the shovel into the earth and tossed dirt onto the body. It sprayed across the dog’s ribs. A yellow flower from the box gum drifted onto the dirt. He shovelled earth into the hole until the dog was covered in it and the blossoms that blew down in the rising breeze.

Turner didn’t leave the property for most of that winter. He slept late into the morning. He watched the EPL. He listened to ads for stud hogs and the Bowling Club on the local radio. Followed the Golden Spurs contest. He spent the afternoons down by the old box gum in a lawn chair in a patch of sun that hit the fence. He dug the garden, covered the soil in mulch and harvested silverbeet and pears. One day he started to talk to Clint Eastwood down by the fence and at first mistrusted the thin sound of his voice beneath the birdcalls and distant tractor snarl but it got easier. When tiny green shoots began to poke through the dirt Turned said, ‘What the hell.’ His mother was dead. Clint Eastwood was dead. Turner could wait for death too or he could go check with the world one more time just to see if anything had changed to make it worth his while.

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