5 Minute stories

A quick read

Smells like home

Marilyn Chalkley

The old kelpie was standing in the rain, in the middle of a paddock, her muzzle grey with age. She didn’t like the rain much, but her black fur was so thick she didn’t feel wet.


Where was home? She sniffed the air. The minted scent of wet gumleaves, the pungent smell of damp grass previously scorched by the sun. But still no smell of home.


She trotted along wearily, nose to the ground, the rain increasingly heavy, sheets of grey water blown along by the wind, hitting the ground at an angle, creating puddles that she sloshed through.


She thought of the hard edged corners of the place she had come from, the strange smells and noises. She longed for the whiff of sheep, the big bone she was given once in a while, the musty odour of the old bones buried all around the yard where she slept.


She came to a fence she would once have jumped over with ease. She wriggled under it leaving a tuft of black fur on the wire. The rain cleared a bit. She lifted her head. Then she got it – the scent of home. Her big ears pricked up, she lifted her paws and began to run.


A few minutes later she scratched at the battered wooden door. Then scratched again, and barked. It opened. “ Tess, what ARE you doing here? I thought you were with Dad in town? You’re soaking, you idiot dog.


Don’t come in, wait while I get a towel. You silly old mutt – you always did love this place.”

Rincomes Cave

Marilyn Chalkley

Lily watched the fine wet sand squelching between her toes, the tiny waves lapping, their edges lacy and foaming. At the other end of the beach a dark rock rose, with a cave, Rincome’s cave, her grandfather called it.

He would take them in there, the sand suddenly cold under their bare feet as they went into deep shade.


“Draw a circle round this white pebble, a big circle, “ he ordered. The small children, in their bathers, shivering a little out of the sun, jostled to draw the circle.


“Scrape the sand from the pebble to the circle, singing Rincome come, Rincome come, abracadabra,”  he commanded, his smile generous in his red face under the white panama.

“Look, silver coins! In the sand!”  The children  grabbed for them, the thought of ice-cream in their heads.

The Holly and the Gumleaves

Marilyn Chalkley,          Pic Lynda Hinton Unsplash


Janey loved the rituals of Christmas, the comforting smell of a cut off pine tree balanced with a couple of bricks in a pot in the living room, the decorations that came out every year – some of them looking the worse for wear, like the rather tatty angel than Jem had made in pre –school.


She bought a Christmas decoration each year – this year, rather than a beautiful object made in the Czech republic she had in a nostalgic moment bought a red and black plastic dalek from the ABC shop, remembering Jem cowering behind the sofa like every other Australian child as the daleks marched across the TV screen screaming EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE! She supposed it was a slightly eccentric choice for the season of peace and goodwill.


She liked to decorate the tree with the help of someone else, but a family of boys showed no interest whatsoever. She had once charged Jem with decorating the tree and left him to it for most of the day. “Have you finished yet?”she called from the kitchen – “yes come and have a look” he said.  She looked at the mass of dark green but could only see two decorations. It looks better that way, he said. Janey wasn’t convinced, not was she impressed by the tin of chickpeas perched under one of the branches to stop the tree leaning too far to the left.


The trouble is men just don’t have the arranging gene, she thought to herself. This view was confirmed the next day when she watched a young man decorating the large tree in the foyer of her workplace. He was obviously a contracter new to the job. High up on a stepladder he would look at this phone, choose the appropriate bauble from a box, match it against the phone again, then put it on the tree. No soul, thought Janey.


She had carefully been growing her vine round a bucket all year so that come December she could cut it off the bucket and have a perfect circle for her Christmas wreath which she like to decorate with holly and eucalyptus  leaves. Of course this being Australia there were no red berries but she had been buying red plastic ones for years whenever she saw them, so the wreath was pretty convincing.


She paused and remembered England at Christmas time. Holly with waxy red berries. A giant tree in Trafalgar Square. Evening drawing in at four in the afternoon. Roaring fires, mulled wine piquant with the scent of cloves and cinnamon that caught you in the back of your throat. Carol singers in checked scarves singing outside the door, puffs of steam above their heads. And the cold, so cold. Christmas seemed warmer because of it. And here, the blazing sun, the surf, struggling to cook a turkey when it was 35 degrees outside. Christmas never felt real here in a hot country.


If only she had some real red berries. She wiped a tear away, and firmly fixed the plastic berries on the holly. ‘Did you find any mistletoe?’  she called cheerily as her husband unlocked the front door.

 
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