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The wireless crackled that it was to be the hottest day on record

tomorrow. My little ones, Bev and Val, had been put to bed and I was

enjoying a brief moment of solitude; rocking to and fro on my white

wicker chair perched on our veranda, watching the sun pull its last

remaining beams from the dry earth under the apple trees and fall

gracefully over the horizon. It was dark when I finally stood and took

my sewing and hat inside, although the sun’s light was gone, the heat

had remained and I felt no relief as I stepped through the backdoor

into our weatherboard home.

The next morning, whilst the children were still asleep, I walked

down the back steps towards the copper tap against the tin shed,

putting on my hat and tying my apron around my waist. The tap’s

muddy trickle did not need to remind me that the drought had

almost evaporated the little water we had left, leaving the ground

cracked and the grass brown. As I lifted the bucket, my straw hat,

with a sudden gust of hot wind, went tumbling across the vegetable

patch lifting the soil in dusty clouds to settle back down in its wake.

I dropped the bucket clumsily on the ground spilling some of its

contents over the brittle grass at my feet and rushed after the

runaway. Wind thrust me forward and back, tangling my uncovered

hair into messy curls. I spotted the source of this unwanted chaos in

a momentary lull in the gusting air, caught up in the branches of a

hawthorn bush. I slowed my chase when I knew the hat had no

chance of escaping into the next paddock. I untangled the hat and

tugged it onto my knotted hair and damp brow, pulling it down

firmly. I turned into the wind with one hand holding my hat and the

other shielding my eyes from the dust.

Hot air, like an unwanted intruder, brushed past my skirts as I

came through the back door. I wiped the perspiration trickling

down my temples with my handkerchief and hung my mischievous

straw hat on its hook by the door. I told the girls to play inside today

for it was too hot to be running about in this weather. A sense of

foreboding warned me this was not going to be an ordinary hot

summer’s day. I had lived in the country all my life and I knew the

land: I could almost feel it breathe. My father had taught me how to

read nature; the language of fogs and frosts, spring rains and

warnings of danger. He taught me that if the bark from the eucalypt

trees started to peel and fall off it was going to rain. ‘Florrie, nature

has the power to create sheer wonder, good or bad. However, it will


Zoe Fitzgibbon

Boroondara Literary


Winner or Highly