A J Thompson | Andrew Thompson, Rockhampton Australia

Tilted Akubra, a short story by Andrew Thompson

Tilted Akubra is prologue from my novel, "Symbiosis".

©2005 Andrew Thompson

He stood alone in the moonlit yard, his weathered Akubra hat tilted over his eyes despite the late hour. The occasional ghost gum cut through the silver landscape, casting shadows towards the dunes. Seagulls squawked nearby, a sure sign that someone was running nets in the channel again.

The old house loomed large and dark behind him, a lone sentinel on the windswept coastal plain, just as it had since last century. He doubted that it would see the new one in. Constant bombardment from cyclones and salt air had begun to take their toll, perhaps in collusion with the termites that gnawed at her crippled stilts. But for now, it was home.

This had become his nightly habit of late, standing in the yard and trying to make sense of the images filling his mind. Johnnie Walker was beginning to take the edge off a dozen racing thoughts, none of which made sense. He had asked for none of them, yet still they came.

At a loss to explain this new madness, he blamed his art. In all these years, he hadn't touched so much as a pencil, but in recent weeks, he had found his artistic side again. The images that made their way to paper were like nothing he'd ever dreamed, obsessing his every waking hour; poetry, drawing, sculpting, painting, anything at all creative. They excited him and saddened him. The excitement didn't bother him, but the sadness did.

He focused on the energy of the night. A frog croaked mournfully beyond the fence then fell silent, perhaps alerted to the presence of a snake. The wings of a moth beat nearby and then the distant shriek of fruit bats. The sounds were always there, comforting and familiar, if only he took the time to notice.

Now in harmony with nature, he sat down on the ground. His depression still lingered but at least now, he could concentrate. After all, it made no sense to be sad. His children were healthy and happy, and his career was tracking well. Certainly, his marriage was on the rocks but he would hardly mourn its demise should it end. No, this new sadness seemed to stem from his waking dreams.

He focused on the emotion itself. Sadness was too vague a term. The sensation seemed more urgent, menacing. It was more like fear, a fear of not acting. Would inaction cause something bad to happen, something that would bring him sadness? Was it a vision of the future, or a memory of the past?

More confused than before he looked up at the sky. With a start, he realised something new. All of his pictures had stars in them. He focused harder, becoming one with the tiny pinpricks of light. For a moment, something triggered then just as quickly disappeared.

He sought out the Southern Cross, his father's constellation, but the stars were their usual silent selves, his father as large and ominous in death as he had been in life. No star flashed or sparkled, no sign from an angel or God.

A new wave of sadness washed over him, far greater than ever before, and he curled up on the ground and cried.

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