The history lesson

Featured in

  • Published 20140423
  • ISBN: 9781922182258
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

THIS IS 1975, over a hundred and twenty years since the event, and I don’t reckon history is that important but Dad sent me along because Mr Doyle wants a photo of the old massacre site and the graves. Mr Palmer is the only one who knows the location of the massacre but it’s on Mr Adams’ land. Then the graves, they’re on our land. That’s why we’re all here, because Mr Doyle is writing a book. He says it’s a historical record, which, if you heard my dad, means it’ll be a book of bloody fairytales.

So we’re all standing in the back paddock, and Joan’s beside her old man, Mr Doyle, who’s doing all the talking. He seems too excited. Joan’s the only girl among us and I don’t know where they told her she was coming because she’s dressed for bloody town, all frocked up but looking good. Mind you, Mr Doyle’s wearing a jacket and tie then he’s holding his notebook and pen. There’s a camera, leather case, slung over his shoulder. Facing him is Mr Adams, our new neighbour, with that funny grin always on his face like there’s some joke behind everything while he stands there and rolls another smoke. Beside him is Mr Palmer from Rivera Station towering tall above everyone in that stupid felt hat he wears everywhere and a red rosella feather stuck in the brim. Mr Doyle finally asks about my dad. I tell them all politely he couldn’t make it and give some excuse rather than tell them what my dad said about Mr Doyle’s book. Mr Doyle says it’s a shame my dad had to prune the orange trees, but his voice says he don’t believe me. He goes back to talking to the others about the research in writing such a book and he includes Joan in the conversation as if she knows more than me. I’m just watching a breeze moving the hem of her dress. It’s one of those cool autumn days with pure sky. Joan goes to high school in Grafton, which is too far away for us to really know each other. I’m in high school on the plateau and there’s as many kids in my whole school as in her one year. She’s fourth form, same as me. I’m going to leave at the end of the year, work with me dad, but she’ll go on to sixth form. You can tell she wants to be smart, educated, living in the city maybe. It’s in the way she holds her shoulders back and the way she dresses. The rest of us are in farm clothes. There are plenty of other differences too. Our skin for one. Hers is still soft, smooth, beautiful.

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