Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday Snippet: Diamond Dove by Adrian Hyland

Emily Tempest’s life is split between the aboriginal world of her long dead mother and the white world of her mining father. Neither completely out of place nor fully at home in either an aboriginal camp or a rough and tumble mining town, she spends time in both. In the following two passages, Hyland describes wonderfully the two worlds.

‘Li’l Emmy, parnparr,’ said Gladys Kneebone as we sat by the fire half an hour later. ‘Didn’t they feed you down south?’

Gladys herself was a battleship on stilts. She wasn’t much older than me, but she’d exploded in every direction. She was immensely tall, immensely fat, wearing a green dress and a coiffure that looked like it had been fashioned with a splitting axe. She thrust a pannikur of head-banging tea into my hand, fossiked through the embers with a stick and offered me a leg of … a leg of what? I wondered warily. Rabbit?

‘Good tucker that one,’ she exclaimed.

I took a look at the scorched carcass grinning up from the ashes. Jesus, a fuking cat! Been a while since I’d had one of those. What the hell, I decided, it couldn’t be any worse than some of the crap I’d endured in roadhouses on the way up here.

It wasn’t. Kind of stringy, kind of greasy, kind of …well, catish but I managed.

Many of the adults I remembered from my childhood – Stumpy Doods, Spinifes, Timothy Windmill – drifted over and had a quiet word, shook my hand or threw their wary arms around me. Cissy Whiskey slipped in through the ruck, touched my face as if it was a sacred object and gave me the long lost daughter spiel. Cissy was famous for her ash-baked damper. I must have eaten tons of the stuff, smothered in golden syrup and washed down with sweet black tea. Despite the damper, Cissy herself was as skinny as a picket, with piercing eyes and an aureole of white hair.

* * * *

He appeared to be offended by the look of alarm that shot across my face. I was, I supposed, insulting the place he’d chosen to make his home. But Bluebush! What a dump! The sort of town which it’s easier to buy a silencer that a decent coffee. When we visited town, I’d never leave my father’s side; as a little black kid, you could feel the antagonism radiating out from the whitefellers when you passed them in the street.

And what a mob they were themselves. A bigger collection of dikheads and drop-kicks you’d have to travel a long way to find; boozers, bruisers and substance abusers, rockjaw Germans and lockjaw Yorkshiremen, grease monkeys and gamblers, meatworkers, meat-heads, missionaries, maniacs, men on the run, men on the dole, men on the Witness Protection Program. Peddlers, pushers, whores and bores, deperadoes of every denomination. You name it, they were there, drawn to the town like flies to a carcass.

My review is here

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