The sun shimmers in the bamboo and dappled light falls through, staining Fred’s face different shades of gold in the morning. He wanders up the long driveway to check the rainwater tank. The tank blocks out the view of the gumtrees behind it, and throws shade onto the grassy nests below. Snakes lean on it to capture the sun, and the warmth of the concrete.
He climbs the steps up the side of the tank and peers above the edge. Placing his hands in the water, he stirs it around. Clear blue water; he cups his hands and drinks. It tastes like the nicotine deep in his flesh. He leans sideways and spits it out on the sand below where it pools.
Something is bobbing up and down inside the tank. It’s a galah – a pink and grey baby. Not very big at all. He stirs the water a little and sees a little pool begin to spin. The body moves with the spiral and draws closer to him. He reaches out and misses it. The body comes around again, and he lashes out as it reaches him. The feathers in his hand feel too soft. Not soggy – waxy, and light. He peers up close to the little bird’s face and exhales. Smoke circles the bird’s head, forming a lacey grey funeral crown.
He gently puts it in his breast pocket alongside his packet of cigarettes. The last two steps, he jumps. The creaky knees bend to absorb the shock, and his shoes force their print into the sand. He places the dead bird down on the sand for the sleeping snakes. He walks back to the house and leaves his shoes outside.
Fred stares out the huge glass window that opens up onto a view of the river below. He flicks the tap on, fills a glass of water and licks his lips. Walking up to the window and looking out at the dairy cows on the flats, he takes a sip.