She was only eight years old. Her black hair, grey with dust, hung down her back like an old mare’s mane. The once white communion dress now matched the sickly pallor of her skin and young eyes that normally sparkled at fiesta time had been dulled by her father’s death and the ensuing impoverishment.
The constant rumbling of military traffic overhead made the towpath tremble beneath his sleeping body. His restless turning rustled and tore the old newspapers under the travel-stained overcoat. He had removed this from his friend who had perished during the night. A corpse no longer had need for a quilted silk lining.
The stifling heat struck him in the face as he entered The Pantry. The familiar babble of voices and dense cigarette smoke welcomed him, as it did every night after his long day shift at the brewery. The large group of young men, zipped into body hugging racing leathers, weaved excited hands through the air as they described high-speed manoeuvres whilst sipping from large, chipped mugs, filled with frothy coffee.
The kookaburras had already begun their mocking dawn chorus and the bities were gathering above his head as he strode past the dunny and down the backyard with shorts flapping about his knees. The khaki was work-stained and he carried a shovel that was half its original length, the cheap metal having been worn down by relentless use.