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Safe in the Garden

Page 7

Darryl Emmerson

So he stopped the car. I got out. He stared at me for a minute or two, then drove off. When the tail lights had vanished, I looked around. The silence, the peace after the argument, the slowly advancing darkness, came to meet me, I felt at once relief, calm and determination. I started the long walk home. When next Friday came and he did not appear, my father briefly asked something, but I turned the conversation smoothly. I had learnt that too, by now.

Over the next year I successfully studied my way out of the town and the district, and went to Melbourne. Soon my days were full of new ideas, new people, part-time work here and there. Weeks and months passed, and I hardly thought of my earlier life.

But there was one evening when I stopped to buy some petrol - I had my own licence and car by then - and saw that the attendant was Steve Purcell, a kid from the year below at school.

“Did you hear about Peter Moore?” he asked.


“Joined the Army!”

“Oh”, I said.

This was during the Vietnam War, I was twenty years old, due to be conscripted to go and kill some people in Asia - my birthday actually came up in the lottery - taking part in antiwar rallies, talking to draft resistors, even thinking of skipping to New Zealand for a while, and here Peter had gone and volunteered for the job.

I mulled over Steve’s words, I continued to study, and to think (at least in my own way). I wanted to explore new possibilities, and this seemed to mean not looking back, rather, letting myself be a new person to those who were new to me. Reaching out to new people necessarily entailed losing touch with old ones.

But one day my mother called and said, carefully, “I got some sad news yesterday. You know Peter Moore joined the Army? Well I’ve had word that he was coming back from Puckapunyal last Friday night, had an accident and was killed. His parents, and old Mr Crane, are distraught”.

I knew they were, I could see them. No young voices now in the gaunt old mansion.


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