As the harsh yellow light crept below the horizon, Dad walked
through the front door. His skin was pink and distressed from the
aggressive sun. He looked wilted, like the rows of corn that stretched
across our land. My sister and I were beached across the lounge room
carpet, too lethargic to even turn our heads towards the rustle of the
door. Mum sat staring at the table, either deep in thought or
fascinated by the crochet doily in the centre.
It was only when Dad broke the silence with a simple, “Hello”,
that Mum snapped out of her daydream. She slightly crooked her
head and offered Dad a gentle smile, the kind of smile that depicted
how we all felt those days: tired. Dad curtly smiled back and his
dried lips cracked.
The latter few weeks had been stagnant, in all sense of the word.
My sister and I had barely moved from the couch for anything less
than food or sleep. The heat overwhelmed our bodies so that
sluggishness took over, as if the world was in slow motion. It was too
hot to play; too hot to go outside; too hot to even move. So instead,
we would lie motionless on the ground, holding cool ice wrapped in
floral tea towels to our heads. Occasionally, if we were bored enough
I’d hear my sister slide out a board game or some cards from the
cupboard and it would entertain us for a while. But once I won and
she threw a tantrum, the game was over and we’d settle back on the
ground into a languid quiet.
We sat down for dinner after dusk. A cool breeze travelled
through the open doors and windows of the house. The air revived
us from our lethargy, and my sister began to persistently kick me
from under the table. My parents exchanged tense pleasantries, and
I watched the ice cube in Mum’s finished drink slowly melt away
into a watery puddle at the bottom of her glass. Precious droplets
slowly teased down the sides to form a wet ring around the table.
Mum and Dad spoke emptily about anything, which was nothing.
Crops were the same; money was the same; weather was the same.
Conversation gingerly waned into silence, until all that could be
noted was the continuous clink of cutlery against the china. As
Mum’s glass lifted from the table, the excess condensation streaked
across the wood, slightly soaking into the grain. I couldn’t help but
see it as a waste, a mark of carelessness.
The concept of rain was both a fading memory and a distant
promise for us now. The past weeks had offered no relief from the
Isobelle Carmody Award
for Creative Writing