JODIE’S DESK IN the Capitol building in Wirranbandi is a scratched and gouged door resting across two wooden saw-horses in a room that was once the lobby and teller area of a bank. The room is rather grand, with high ceilings and ornate mouldings and the blistered remnants of gilt around tall windows that date from the glory days of banking and gold-rush rumours. Apart from the makeshift desk and a view of the wide veranda, the room contains four termite-pocked wooden pews and a linoleum floor, the colour of which could best be described as violently mottled dried blood. These items date from the brief period when the former bank served as the Holiness Church of the Word of God Triumphant. Following its fleeting liturgical reincarnation, the building was derelict for a decade, though often put to use for drinking bouts, morning-afters and sexual trysts when jackaroos flocked into town from the cattle stations, every last cowhand hell-bent on squandering his pay with the local barmaids.
There are no screens on the windows, so flies are a problem. Jodie keeps a fan in her hand to fend them off. Naturally there is no air conditioning, but propeller blades in the ceiling turn sluggishly, run off a generator on the back veranda. Periodically, and without warning, the generator, choked with red dust, takes smoko breaks that can vary from ten minutes to several hours in duration. Since nine in the morning, when the office opened for official business (currency transfers, passport applications, enlistment in the militia), the dust has been settling like a terracotta mist on Jodie′s desk and on Jodie. Her arms feel gritty when she strokes them, and this pleases her, because she figures that if she belongs anywhere, she belongs to the earth itself.
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