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In The Midnight Lands

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45. This surreal, tragically misread moment . . .



HE LOOKED like a man who'd just lost his daughter


and now didn't know how the world stitched together. But she was already inflight. Now at the side of single-seat sofa, now perched on his armrest, now clasping Dad's head to her ample bosom.

"There, there," she cooed, "It will be alright."

No, it wouldn’t.

Embarrassment scarred Dad's cheeks, offset by the wan light slanting in from the window of Ginny's lounge behind. We children looked on aghast. This was my father, you understand, a man I'd grown up loving and fearing in equal measure. A man who'd hunted for the government, crusading into the wilds of New Zealand for weeks at a time to shoot feral hog and deer with only his catch and bay dogs for company.

Sometimes even going mano a pigo with the boars, creeping up on them - I always imagined with his hunting knife clenched between his teeth - to stick them and gut them, and carry the carcass out on his back.

A man who'd graduated forestry school and was a logger who felled giant Pinus Radiata and Douglas Fir and always brought home the best christmas trees, and who one day was carried out of the bush on the blades of a skidder after chainsawing his thigh open to the bone. I always imagined that only happened after he finished felling the tree, one-legged.

But an affable man, also. A social man. The type of man who would suffer in silence the indignity of a hug from a heaving stranger - an old 'moo' for moo-cow he would call her later - because she’d come bearing sliver of good, and because it was the civil and mannered procedure.

So: one half of my father’s face pressed into folds of jiggly flesh, and red, and we children aghast - and strange as it may sound it was at this moment, this surreal, tragically misread moment, that the scheme first began to shape in my mind.

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