What Pegman Saw: Loxton Crook

The site was out on Karoonda Highway. On one side, the green swathe of Murray Barrandura’s vineyard, on the other a dusty khaki patchwork of Bush.

Two vehicles blocked the junction for Kingston Road – one I recognised as Murray’s faded blue ute. The other was Lachy Tuner’s Hilux.

‘Murray, Lachlan.’ I slammed the car door and came to stand beside them.

‘Rum thing,’ said Murray, scratching his thinning curls. ‘Not seen since Grandfather’s time.’

‘1930, the last one,’ said Lachy.

‘Did you see the flash?’ I said. ‘Lit up the sky like fireworks. Lucky it didn’t hit closer to town.’ The meteorite was the size of my fist, the surface like pumice flecked with chips of silica. ‘Made quite a hole.’

‘People got crook then.’ Murray sucked at his cheeks.

‘In 1930? That was flu. Meteorites don’t cause flu epidemics,’ scoffed Lachy.

Murray’s gaze drifted towards town, to the cluster of twinkling streetlights.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View. This week, we are in Loxton, South Australia.

Notes

Back in 1930, a meteor shattered in the sky above Karoonda. The pieces weighed a total of 92 lbs.

Many Aboriginal cultures see meteors as harbingers, warnings of coming death or signs of evil spirits coming to suck water from the land. Read more here.

In Australian slang, crook means ill, likely to die.

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What Pegman Saw: A pocketful of keys

We dreaded visits to my great-uncle Dilwyn’s.

His house was a gloomy pile overlooking Hampstead Heath, the walls wood panelled, the furniture solid and carved with grotesques. I remember the drawing room with its Greek masks, the watchful eyes and leering faces. There was a plastered ceiling in there – cracks as wide as my finger, sooty acanthus leaves twined with serpents – that I imagined would crumble one windy day, burying all of us alive.

As we shuffled round the old house stirring up dust, disturbing cobwebs, I envied other children their caravan holidays to the coast or camping trips to the Forest of Dean.

Seeing how bored and listless we were one rainy summer afternoon, Uncle Dilwyn handed me a bunch of keys. Some were dull brass, others rusty iron, all were thick and heavy and felt warm on my palm.

He waved a leathery hand. ‘Go. See what they open,’ he said.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Streetview. This week we are in London.

The photograph is not in Hampstead but one of the rooms in the Sir John Soane Museum in Holborn. Soane was a 19th century architect fascinated with art and sculpture, particularly that of the ancient world. His fascination turned into a collecting habit and through his life he gathered thousands of sculptures, architectural fragments, paintings, models … even the sarcophagus of Pharaoh Seti I.

On his death, he left the house and his collection to the nation and entry is free. See here for more details.

Crimson’s Creative Challenge #14: Four and twenty blackbirds

Marsh Road

CCC#14

‘Blackbirds!’ called Aunty Evie, hopping excitedly from foot to foot.

‘They not blackbirds, dumbo,’ said Cass. ‘They’re crows.’ He limped on towards the telegraph poles, lame foot dragging on the cracked road. ‘Twice the size of sodding blackbirds.’

‘Leave her be,’ I mumbled. ‘Every black bird is a blackbird to her.’

She was singing a nursery rhyme now, reedy, rushy voice a mix of adult and child.

‘Simple,’ muttered Cass. ‘Brain like a bag of candy floss.’

Up ahead, Evie struggled through long dried grass, hand outstretched to a boundary fence. Beyond, the field was already dull, waiting to sleep.

Cass pointed with his cane. ‘Stop her, will you.’

I saw what she was reaching for – a row of wings pinned to the wire, flapping a black rainbow in the wind.

Somewhere we’d taken a wrong turn.

***

Written for Crimson’s Creative Challenge#14. See here to join in.

Friday Fictioneers: Red sky


PHOTO PROMPT © Renee Heath

There used to be a saying about shepherds and skies – do you know it?

I sit awake nights, trying to remember the sky Before.

The nights the wolves grow brave, snuffling round camp with their hollow bellies and frosted eyes. The nights cold shoos the black bears from the mountains and I sit vigil with my rusted rifle, cradling our last shells like a miser with his gold.

Memories of the world Before are slipping from me, you see, turning to dreams, to fictions. Only that rhyme proves the sky wasn’t always red.

Tell me you remember it.

***

Written for Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s Friday Fictioneers. See the pic and write a tale to suit. Visit here to join in the fun.

What Pegman Saw : Gimcracks and Gewgaws

Image: Google Street View

The shop bell sounded.

Quiver stepped through the low doorway, tall frame bunched. The winter sun sagged low in the sky, but the crowded little shop must be dark on the brightest summer day. He ran an eye over a clowder of prowling china cats, carved wooden spoons and printed tea towels.

‘Gimcracks and gewgaws,’ he breathed.

Movement caught his eye. In a display case by the window were globs of amber, the motes of a past age caught in each. He peered closer at one, a clump the colour of boiled honey, a tiny fly caught at its heart. He waited, patient as a stone.

A wing twitched.

‘A conjuring trick,’ said a voice from behind him. ‘But it helps them sell. And the rent must be paid.’

‘Cheap,’ muttered Quiver. He turned to the figure behind the counter, stout and greasy as ever. ‘Hello, Pounce. We must talk.’

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View. This week we visit Tallinn, Estonia. See here to join in, share and read other stories.

Note

Gimcrack and gewgaw mean similar things – gimcrack being something showy but badly made, gewgaw being a showy, trifling thing. So Quiver is really repeating himself here, I just liked the sound of these peculiar words together.

What Pegman Saw : Midday on the highway

By midday we’d reached the highway.

The rain that had soaked us through in the night had stopped by then, but still the road was slick with runoff, every passing truck throwing up a mist browned with mud and grease until our clothes were heavy once again.

After an hour of waiting for someone to pull over, the children were restless, tired of an ‘adventure’ that never ceased, of rest that never came.

‘There are too many of us,’ muttered Rudo, kicking at an empty soda can. ‘No one will stop for eight.’ His voice lowered further as he cast me a dark look, but the words arrived sharp and bright as lightning in my ear. ‘No one will take that child.’

Danai wriggled in her sling, sticky warm on my back, milky breath against my ear.

My child would never be part of this world.

*********************

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View. This week, we visit Harare, Zimbabwe. See here to join in and to read and comment.

What Pegman Saw : The Last Freeway

Mads was getting tired now, her boots tearing up the fallen leaves and twigs like miniature bulldozers.

At first Col had scolded her, worried they were leaving tracks the Militia might follow.  But as the sun bottomed on the horizon the forest grew quiet and still, every branch snap making him jump, smothering his whispers. 

He tried to focus on the plan. 

Everyone in HomeState knew the stories. If you cross the Last Freeway and scale the Wall, the Grey City authorities put you in a holding camp until you’re shipped back across the border. 

But in the camps they fed you, give you clean clothes … medicine.

Mads coughed, skinny limbs shivering. The rattle was worse. He’d seen the red in her spit, the stuff she’d tried to stamp into the forest floor so he didn’t worry.

One more day, he thought. Just one more.

***

Written for What Pegman Saw, the prompt that uses Google Street View as it’s starting point. This week, we visit Frankfurt, Germany. See here to join in.