Friday, November 23, 2007

Fiction Friday: Wil and Abby go to the mountains

[Fiction] Friday Challenge for November, 23 2007:
Reveal something about your character by telling about one of their Thanksgivings–it can be present, past, or even backstory (if your setting doesn’t include Thanksgiving, make it a similar family-oriented holiday).

In this extract Abby has taken her 5 year old son to the mountains for a quick break while the counting of votes continues. The vote has gone to preferences, absentee and postal votes for the seat to be definitively decided. Opting out of the waiting game in Brisbane and without the blessings of her husband, Abby has retreated to the mountains ...

The stillness of the mountains soothed her tired and aching soul. Each morning Wil made a simple breakfast of toast and vegemite for them, then they walked down into the temperate rainforest. They explored every dimension of the rainforest – the smells, the textures, the sounds and picture that each small and large section presented. With his own pair of tiny binoculars around his neck, he looked like a mini version of his Dad. The binoculars were a gift for Christmas - the last time that they were in the mountains. Together playing happy families, thought Abby with a terrible twist of irony striking at her heart.

They consulted the bird book regularly as Wil worked towards marking off more birds in his book. Abby knew that he missed his Dad. While she was interested, the real passion for bird watching was Cal’s. He had the patience with Wil to correctly identify each bird and then carefully scribe the place and date into the bird book for Wil, who refused to put his large untidy script into his prized ‘birdie bible’.

In the afternoons they relaxed at the chalet. Abby read, did yoga or meditated, while Wil explored the small pocket of bush behind their temporary home, flushing out bush turkeys and wallabies along his adventures. Mid afternoon they sat on the large deck and waited for all the birds to come in. First of the birds, was the squadron of the brilliantly coloured King Parrots, that swooped in to sit on the railing. Wil had been beside himself with excitement the first year he had seen the brightly coloured green and red parrots descend. Each afternoon there were at least six parrots that came to visit and they picked which ones were the males and which were the females. After that came the satin bower birds and on their first afternon there they spotted a rifle bird – simmering with irredsecent green from the feeder in the branch above them. Wil had been really excited about that.

As the sun went down, they drove to the summit, with the collection of radio towers and sat in the long dry grass, watching the sun go down. They told stories as they waited for it to get dark and return to their chalet to cook a simple dinner. Before dinner they played snakes and ladders, snap or just lay around reading books together.

On the second day they hiked along the ridge to Cherry Plains lookout. It was a warm day and they spent a long time looking through the binoculars at the valley below, drinking water from their bottles and enjoying the stonefruit that they had picked up at Gatton on their way through the day before. Abby was in a particularly good mood on the walk, taking the time to breathe deeply in a hypnotic fashion. Her body felt alive for the first time in weeks, perhaps even months. The constant stream of thoughts that disturbed her mental equilibrium had ceased.

She had dreamt that morning that she was meeting Hux in a library – a library that was in an airport terminal lounge. Looking through each of the isles for him, she’d started to panic because she couldn’t locate him – he was meant to be there, they had arranged to meet there.

She went out into the bright, sterile concourse, with people busily bustling past her. She pulled her phone out to send him a text message to ask him where he was. The next thing she knew he was walking out of the library and over to her.
“Where were you?” she asked.
“I was always here,” he’d replied smiling at her. “I never went anywhere.”

Like some self imposed purgatory she purposely didn’t search out the news reports in the print or the electronic media to find out what had happened to Hux after she’d left his apartment that afternoon. She had oscillated in the final two weeks of the election campaign between utter despair at the thought that he was dead and that it was all her fault, and a sense of innate ease that told her that he was not dead. He was gone, but he was in safe and healing hands. Now with the dream, she was certain that he was OK. When they returned home to Brisbane she intended to find out exactly what had happened.

“Mum do you think they planted Cherry trees down there and that’s why they called it Cherry Plains?” asked the ever inquiring Wil, looking down on the abstract patchwork of the valley below.
“I don’t know darling. Perhaps that was the surname of the family that first settled there.”
“That’s a funny name,” he remarked with a giggle.
“I’m sure that Mr and Mrs Cherry don’t think that it’s a funny name.”
“But it’s a fruit Mum. It’s like calling someone Mr and Mrs Banana – that’s just silly.”

Abby giggled with him at his reasoning.
“I knew a girl once called Cherry. She was a friend of your Auntie’s when we were kids, going to the beach in Victoria.”
“Did she have red hair?”
“No, why do you ask?”
“Well it would be a sensible name for someone if their hair was red – red like a cherry.”
“I guess it would,” nodded Abby, amazed at the reasoning that came out of his mouth. “Actually she was blonde.”

After a time of just sitting and being in the peace on the ridge, the warm refreshing smell of eucalyptus washing over them, Abby stood up and stretch – first her legs and then her arms, with hands clinched, pushing out above her head.

“Shall we keep on walking?”
“OK,” he agreed. “Do you think we’ll find bark to paint on, like we did last time we were here?”
“I’m sure we’ll find something along here that will be an interesting thing to paint on.”

Bouyed by her mood and the crisp mountain air they walked until the sun was high in the sky and they were both tired. Along the way they came across some smaller pieces of flat strong bark that they put in the backpack to paint on when they got back to the chalet. It had become a tradition each time they came up to the mountain, to search out some bark and paint on it. There was a small wall in their home dedicated to the masterpieces they created on the mountain from bark and coloured art glue.

They stopped to eat the rough sandwiches that they had put together in the tiny kitchen of their cottage, after they had washed up the breakfast dishes. While Abby was lost in her thoughts and absently chewing her sandwiches, Wil rifled through the backpack to find the small yellow disposable camera that his mother had bought for him on the trip up to the mountains.

He sat near her on a warm rock and quietly snapped a picture of her. He loved the way she looked off in the distance, her chin on her hand, her elbow on her knee. She had her purple top tied around her waist, her cap on backwards and sunglasses pushed up onto her head. From the past, he knew her eyes were fixed on something, but that she wasn’t really looking at. She somehow seemed to be serious, but happy at the same time. Sort of lost in a way too.

His Dad joked that she was off in Abby’s world and when he’d asked where Abby’s world was, was it like Todd’s world where everyone was different colours his Dad had laughed. He told Wil he wasn’t sure what was in Abby’s world, but it was probably beautiful because it belonged to his Mum. For the longest time he wanted to go to Abby’s world until his Mum told him that in his head he had Wil’s world and he could go there whenever he wanted and it was probably better than Abby’s world because it was his. He didn’t get what they meant, and still didn’t. Grown ups were strange and confusing sometimes. In that moment, on the side of the ridge, looking through the little view finder of the camera, he knew he loved his Mum and loved the fact that she went to Abby’s world sometimes, even if he couldn’t find the way to go there with her.


kenju said...

Jodi, you write well. I was interested in your characters, and also in the birds that came to visit. I know parrots, of course, but I have no idea how the other birds look. Michele sent me.

gautami tripathy said...

Your narration is very vivid. I really liked reading this post!

Anonymous said...

Less than 1,000 words to go! You go girl! I loved this peice. Wil is a very refreshing and lovely character, but then children always are. I love the relaxed atmosphere in this peice, and you description of the birds and the wallabies makes me envious. I wish I could see these things first hand. Thank you for "showing" it to me here.

Brian said...

I like the vivid descriptions, they make the place real. Good luck and happy writing.

Smiler said...

That's very touching. I love the relationship between mother and son. And I agree with Wil - Cherry should have been a redhead - his reasoning makes perfect sense to me! :-)

Jenn said...

Very well written and enjoyable!