My Short Stories

Hurlstone Park Tales

Isabelle.

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Chapter 2. Isabelle.
 
She lived in Sydney all her life, raising other peoples children from the age of 18. She had been a full time nanny. Her rare visits to pubs and bars punctuated a fairly dedicated lifestyle and at the Arizona Bar in the city she had met James.. He had been down to Darling Harbour on one of his rare visits to Sydney since his wife's departure. Stepping off the monorail he had gone into the aforementioned bar because of its country like atmosphere. So had she.
They went across to Hyde Park and reclined near a small fountain.
When they eventually married she had by that time agreed to live on his acrege at the back of Hillington. 107 acres of pasture and small rolling hills, overshadowed by the tall cliffs of Blackbox Mountain whose vegetation consisted of Eucalypts of the same name.
 
Isabelle never wanted much out of life - ie. in a worldly sense.She nourished a peculiar hatred of any form of animal captivity, regarding zoos as prisons of innocents, and this extended to suffering with the suffering of the impoverished and politically oppressed. However she saw her role not as an active militant but of heart reaching out to heart and  loving.
She was a simple girl who enjoyed simple pleasures.
 
There was a billabong on the property visible from the homestead. Dinner was almost over when a swarm of bees which had been hiving in a nearby tree took off in the direction of the billabong. eyes looked at the quizzical, rapid motion.
The family left the nest alone. They were just one of the beauties of nature, to be enjoyed, not destroyed. However on this occasion and for no explicable reason Mari lept from her seat and decided to chase them. Her feet were bare now but there were no bindis to their knowledge in the immediate vicinity. Thinking she would return and had only been excited by the passing swarm and the noise they were making they let her run after them a little way, laughing. However it soon became obvious that she was not stopping and they lept from their chairs to go and fetch her back.
In tripping on the verandah steps James became entangled in the rose bushes and his screams overshadowed the plight of the little girl who was still marching after the bees. A snake, curious to any observer because it was black against a sharply contrasting red earth halted her in her tracks. Luckily she had not stepped on it otherwise it would surely have bitten her. She could not move however for fear, nor could any cry escape her throat. Her parents called out to her. She did not move. They called again but quickly fell silent as they noticed her looking at the ground. fering the worst Jim ran inside to get his gun but he dared not approach for fear of startling whatever it was that held his daughter's motionless attention. From his telescopic sights he saw the snake clearly. but it seemed he was pointing his gun at his daughter. A neighbour who had stumbled into the situation  on he other side of the creek at this point yelled out to him. "Jim!" who fired off a shot narrowly missing his daughter ut hitting the snake. It writhed. His daughter, finally, let out a scream and the neighbour fell into the eddy as he tried to come across.
Mari had had enough by this point and ran away whilst Jim fired another shot finishing off the snake.
The neighbour drowned before they could reach him. It had rained for three days solid just a week ago and the river was still carrying the runoff. He may have been stung by a bee or tripped trying to avoid them. He may have hit his head on a rock.
The coroner refused to order a proper investigation. The case was closed. death by accidental drowning. But the billabong had to be fenced off from the children and the cattle were allowed to approach only from the river bed itself.
Another farm accident, it happened all the time. This is how it was seen.
 
 
 Mari.
 
Mari refused to talk for six months after that episode. She only began speaking again when they finally convinced her that Daddy didn't fire his gun at her and that the neighbour, though he died trying to save her. This didn't make his opinion right.
The goodness that was heaped upon her after this helped to quickly forget the episode or at least relegate it to the regions of a bad dream.
 
Tea-tree oil was distilled by boiling the leaves and stored for application to minor cuts and abrasions. Fortunately it never had to be applied to bee stings, just the common mosquito bites and other less harmful insects.
Mari grew up and forgot the episode.
 
 
 James Jr.
 
Not so  James Jr. He had saw his father aim his rifle at his little sister and never saw the snake and as he grew up he began to understand what guns were for.
As a result he went into lots of therapy to try and convince him that there really was a snake. After which time he became terrified of them and from this he never recovered. Although he did finally concede his father ws not an infanticidal maniac much to the efforts of his mother. His father and he were not close.
 
 
The Neighbours Wife.
 
She too needed some convincing. She heard a shot and her husband was dead. The snake soon convinced her however even though both bullets had to be located not without some degree of work.
 
 
The Neighbours Children.
 
  They were allowed to visit again and came often enough to keep both Mari and James Jr. normal throughout the aftermath of the occasion. These things happened all the time on the farm and it was not an occasion for puting up more fences than was actually necessary. The family actually gained some stature in the rural community and were the centre of attention in the local press for some weeks to come, when everything eventually died down.
Mari was talking. Jim Jr. was out of therapy. Grandma died and nothing suspicious was attached to her passing by either the locals, the press, or the children. One of whom grew up to become a famous adventurer.
 

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