March 21, 2022 by The Citron Review
by Pavle Radonic
Sitting by the radio during the war must have been something similar, premier dan here in his pressers a kind of Churchill delivering the somber news while attempting to give some hope. Many months now routinely recording the daily totals of infections, tests conducted, ICUs & ventilators. Deaths have been rare here at least, a number of months ago the last, though the age cohort was getting younger. Hiroshima Day passed without a single mention of any kind; years now it had been falling away. Finally this morning the Progressive carried a feature. A couple of days ago a young magpie up above the medical centre opposite the station was flinging itself against the dark glass of the windows on the upper storey. Paused at the gates with the trains, it was watched repeatedly launching from the top of the balcony rail again and again into the reflected trees and sky. Not a bad metaphor right now. A few mornings ago a sudden fevered phantasmagloria resulted in a spurt which reached onto the middle of the chest and the rolled up tee. How long it had been for anything remotely comparable; fitting in the season of record-breaking gold in Tokyo. Vashti up in Sing used to laughingly remark on the filling of the cup on withdrawals; memorably, the gal had once swiped her finger over the bellybutton and licked clean. It was 2kms to the river; down to the point a little over the 5k limit. The cop shop that sat a few hundred metres before was passed every day on the circuit. That last stretch around the point and behind the football ground that completed the arc needed to be taken for the sunlit container ships and tankers. Since our little ceremony at the fishing village a stop there was needed, the bike stood against the concrete mound and a seat taken on the weathered old bench. There were only ever a few pelicans now in the afternoons, more gulls and occasional ducks. For some reason the swans rarely ventured there, keeping further up the creek and out along the mangroves toward the beach. Over fifty years ago the group of huts had been stumbled upon after a walk down Maddocks Road from Chika Matija and Teta Vukica’s rented place. Childless and aged, those two oldies hadn’t known how to host a young boy, leaving him to wander off over the rail-line and down to the water. A few years before we had been taken in our boarder Domenic’s jeep over to the beach for an outing; prior to that there had never been any hint of our proximity to the waterfront. Split from his wife and son, Dom had felt pity for us deprived orphans always corralled at home. The walk along the pier that day had produced secret tremor because of Bab’s shocking tears not long before at news of the death of her father. The poor woman had had no one better with whom to share her grief than her young son. Relentless waves lapping under our feet below the pier stretched out into wide, immeasurable distance, the volume of water holding the dome above difficult to comprehend. The visit to Williamstown with Domenic gave some sense of the larger world; gave bearings too for Grandfather Rade’s fate. At that age sitting at the kitchen table with the Par Avion red & blue checked envelope mother held in hand, Grandad’s throwing himself off the pier over the other side of the world was not conveyed. That information would come many years later, and not from Bab herself. The winter greatcoat, the bloated body fished out, the tears of the other daughter over there, in front of whose house that pier sat. Earlier the old man, having recently become incontinent and treated roughly by his daughter-in-law, had sought a place to stay with the third sister up on the hill, where the upper storey windows had been his initial intention, they surmised afterward. The fishing village was protected from the waves by a spit of land and another couple of barriers that had been erected, large tractor tyres laid in a row and a couple of concrete bulwarks. Enough protection was there to keep the worst of those fathomless depths and the battering tide at bay. We had spread Al’s ashes from the little dock a few weeks before, where the ripples went over all the way to the wide horizon and further back in memory.
– Melbourne, Australia
Australian by birth and Montenegrin origin, Pavle Radonic spent eight years in SE Asia, before Covid forced a return to his hometown. Previous work has appeared in a range of literary journals and magazines, including Ambit, Big Bridge, Panoply, The Blue Nib & New World Writing. A mountainous blog holding mainly the Asian writing is here axialmelbourne.blogspot.com.