The Light in the Distance
Chanel Geddes became involved with Writeability through the Ovens Murray (Wodonga) WGRO program. She didn’t write much before that, and now is making up for lost time. This piece is part of a longer story about a girl who finds a mysterious journal buried in the yard at her farm house.
It had been a fine spring afternoon – nothing too fuming hot for the Australian September, not too bloody cold either. Perfect for two children to be mucking about, but these two preferred to be mucking about in a hole. The Tonka toys laid strewn all about the place with their many freeways, roads, and bridges, long forgotten to Vincent’s new obsession of digging deep holes with the shovel from the garden shed. Whenever Vincent had a new obsession, he could go for hours working away at it, and of course, he would drag his little sister Gabrielle into what he was doing.
Their mother had warned them that if any hole shape came within the grounds of the house, they would be in trouble. Their mother’s primary goal was to defeat nature, to keep everything contained within a snow globe without the potato flakes. She hated dust and dirt of any kind. They owned a six-acre block in the countryside, but deep down, she only saw it as ‘until the children grew up’ stage and wanted a house in the rural city next to the town where they lived. No farmers tearing around, no cattle and most of all, no mess. Their father had grown up in Melbourne; his parents never could own their own house and lived in a housing commission surrounded by beautiful historic homes. The commission houses would become an ice factory later and a bit of an eyesore to such a lovely looking area.
Vincent’s last hole was 120cm in width and 135cm deep, a new success within the eyes of a ten-year-old boy. Everything about digging holes had changed with this hole on the boundaries of the house. To Vincent and Gabrielle, it had become their treasure trove alone; the hole had been a key to the past.
‘It’s not like the museums; you can’t touch anything,’ Gabrielle said as she twirled the piece of red pottery around in her tiny hands. Her imagination was on fire with what it could have been or where people would have used it and how big or small it must have been.
‘You can’t touch stuff in museums because people break stuff.’ Vincent snorted at his little sister. Gabrielle was only three years younger than him, but he saw her as silly and always away with the fairies or chasing butterflies. He had more important things to do, like digging this hole.
This hole had already given him so much. Their father had told them it was a rubbish pit and farmers use them all the time digging out a spot, filling it up and forgetting them. To the children, it was a treasure pit filled with broken pottery, half a doll’s head, and heaps of little metal bits and pieces. It wasn’t rubbish; rubbish was plastic that eventually turned into smelly slush and had bin chickens all over it and big blowflies that would get trapped in the car and die in the heat up against the dashboard. No, this was different. The textures, colours and hours spent imagining what a piece could be. Unlike the landfill, this hole only had a few owners, and everything was connected to the old house. With the style of different eras and history of all who had been there. The hole filled with the past rubbish of humans who might never think that someone would be digging it up and calling it a treasure.
Vincent’s pit had lasted three days before their father filled it in. He had found a clay brick about the shape of an A4 book and fat like a dictionary on the last day. He had thought maybe if he washed it, there would be some writing on it or some indicator of what it might have been for. No, it was only a square brick. Out of frustration, he threw it over his shoulder in the pile of dirt, then chucked the shovel at it and left. Gabrielle, still standing there, took her chance to look over at the clay brick. She jumped into the cold dirt and pushed the shovel away to see, and with her squishy feet, she took her opportunity to grab the heavy block and squeeze under the fence and go into her hiding spot in the old tractor shed where she would find a place for it. Vincent had taken all the treasures for himself, the pottery, the half doll’s head and a milk bottle and it was all under his bed in a box. He was so selfish and ignored her when she had asked for the tiniest bit of pottery.
‘Pretty please just this bit,’ she had begged like a kicked puppy.
‘No, I did all the work,’ he snapped at her, ‘So it’s mine!’ and he took the piece away from her.
So this block was hers; she had helped him dig, so this was hers, and she deserved it, so stuff him. Vincent didn’t forget the brick, but their father had filled in the hole with a warning not to dig it up again even if it was for a brick, which he was sure wasn’t there.
Seven years later, Gabrielle cleaned up the tractor shed as her own free space away from the family. She was pulling down some old boxes only to have the ass fall out of one of them. The boxes had been in this shed forever; her father had put stuff in them and left them in the weather. The old shed had a big opening for the tractor, and the old farmer who built it didn’t see the need for a door. All the objects fell all about the place, and she was sure something had broken by the sound of it hitting the hard, dirty floor. She threw the cardboard to the side and went down to pick things up, and that was when she saw the broken clay amongst the plastic containers. This once was the clay brick that she had stolen from her brother. Pushing pieces of clay away, thinking that she had broken the long-forgotten treasure, revealed a book wrapped in layers of baking paper, the paper was protecting it from the once wet clay that lay around it.
Her fingers pulled out the old leather-bound book to reveal it was a journal. Gabrielle’s family had bought her home in the middle of renovations to the 100-year-old farmhouse. The journal could have been buried here at any time. She opened the book gently and began to read.