A Life In Red
Isobelle Carmody Award
for Creative Writing
Billowing clouds roll across the desert, engulfing the arid landscape. I
squint and pretend the red cloud carries rain. The illusion is quickly
spoiled by the dusty wind tearing through my hair. Returning to
reality, I’m blinking sand from my eyes when I see him —
tiny figure against the bloody sky, arms raised to welcome the storm.
I take off at a run, eyes fixed on him. The dust stings as I sprint
through it, blind to anything but the swirling red clouds around me.
The storm is closing in and soon I’ll be completely blind. Being lost
out here equates to almost certain death, especially when you’re as
old as Gramps is. I have to get to him, have to save him, but he’s too
far away. I watch in horror as he vanishes into the cloud.
Once, I was the one lost in the dust. Unable to return home in
time, I stumbled around, searching desperately for a way out. Five-
year-old feet aching and eyes burning with unshed tears, I had
begun to give up hope when I heard a voice cry out over the roar of
“A-Adèle! Can you hear me? Where are you?” Choked and
wretched as it was, Gramps’ voice was the most beautiful sound I
had ever heard. He carried me home, whispering stories of a happier
time, of rain, as we battled through the bone-dry storm.
I used to love listening to Gramps talk about the rain. To me it
was alien and magical: water, falling from the sky. That was before I
grew up. Before I grew up and realised that rain and the life it
brought was a thing of the past; something dreamed of by those who
were too naïve or stubborn to know any better.
Gramps met Grandmama in the rain. He always said she was the
most beautiful thing he had ever seen, even shivering on the side of
the road like a drowned rat. Gramps used to laugh through his tears
when he remembered how she had thrown one soggy high-heel at
him when he first approached her.
It was love at first sight,
le coup de foudre
, Grandmama called it,
unlikely as it was, between the earnest Australian farm boy turned
soldier and the willowy, sharp-tongued Parisian girl.
Now, Gramps is old, sick and terribly tired. He’s forgotten
Grandmama’s smile and the red dress she was wearing when they
first met; his own name; and me, his only grandchild. But he still
remembers the rain. He still stands on the porch every morning and
sniffs the air, searching for a windblown scent he’ll never smell again.
It hasn’t rained in fifteen years, not since the end of the War, when