Sunday, 16 June 2019

Write-In 2019: 'The galahs screeched on the telegraph wires' by Grace Palmer

The galahs screeched on the telegraph wires, the feather crest rising as they squabbled. We headed under the gum trees, bark peeling like someone crying. Benji said gums were dangerous. When the tree needed more water they dropped a branch, he was telling me this as I was not and never would be an Australian, not even a dual citizen, Americano-Australian.

We travelled into the bush, on the lookout for the Aussie odontoglossum. This orchid only flowered once every hundred years and when it did the stench was so strong that horses fainted.  That was the way Benji spoke and I’d found it amusing in New York as we stared at the dead traffic and watched the seagulls pretend skyscrapers were cliffs.

He’d looked at the oeuvre of my work in the gallery, the goldfinch, the cacti and the desert rose; said he’d show me something different. We’d travelled fast, his fingers tracing my spine, and I’d touched his thigh, where the muscles were various. Leaving the state, the odometer swung wildly. He knew how to push a car. And now it’s now and my trousers are tucked into my boots in case of spiders, or snakes. He spits on the ground and I drink water. This heat is something else.

He fell to the ground as if a gum tree had clocked him.

I promised I wouldn’t be long. The smell was mushrooms and old socks to me, but my sense of smell was damaged when my sister broke my nose, so I wasn’t affected by the stench.

When I reached the orchid it was a riot. Orange and purple and green lips like lascivious hips pulling the bees towards it. I got out my pastels and I sat down to paint.

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Words: Oeuvre odometer odontoglossum

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