Saturday, 29 October 2016

Eastern Grey

People said that she had the intellectual capacity of a mouse.  She neither cared nor knew what people said about her.  Like a mouse she was perfectly well equipped to eke out a living for herself in her own environment while it lasted.  She'd seen fifteen steamy South East Queensland summers and produced almost as many offspring.  Most had survived to adulthood, but one, a male had been struck by a car as he crossed an unlit road one drizzly moonless night a couple of summers ago.  The driver of the car was badly injured.  He'd seen the little creature too late and made the often fatal mistake of swerving to avoid the collision.  The tyres were worn and refused to grip the greasy tarmac sending the vehicle spinning sideways into a large bloodwood gum.

She'd forgotten about the incident now, though at the time she was distraught and confused having witnessed the collision, seen her offspring sent spinning violently to the side of the road where he lay dead still, sticky blood spilling from his ears and nostrils.  She nudged and sniffed the warm body as the steaming car's engine ticked and cooled within it's mangled frame.  She waited and nudged and sniffed for some twenty minutes but her offspring refused to move.  Then suddenly the road, the steaming, ticking, mangled car, her dead offspring with his sticky blood and she herself were bathed in the yellow light of another vehicle as it turned a corner and and set it's two bright eyes upon the tragedy.  She bounded away into the bush, seeking the safety of darkness among the dripping trees.  The youngster was dead, but already there was new life in her pouch.  A finger sized joey clung to her nipple.

Now she stood propped by her powerful tail at the edge of a large clearing.  The mist of dawn had transformed the grass into a glittering galaxy, a display of juicy lushness that gladdened her heart.  This was one of her favourite feeding places, especially on summer mornings like this before the sun rose and burned off the mist.  She bowed her head, placed her fore-paws on the cool ground and plucked a few mouthfuls of grass from the earth, relishing the chilled dew as it slid down her throat.  Nonchalantly she chewed and scratched at a flea bite on her back.  Then abruptly she was alert.  The chewing and scratching stopped and her ears swivelled to catch the unfamiliar sound.  Once more she stood propped on her tail, as still and as silent as her long deceased offspring.

What she could hear was totally alien to her, beyond her experience.  Grinding, clanking, growling, snarling.  She stood her ground knowing that if she was threatened she could easily bound into the bush and disappear within seconds.  Something huge, angular and yellow emerged abruptly from the mist and it was immediately apparent to her that this was the source of the unearthly noise.  To her twitching nostrils it smelled unpleasant but not threatening, and before long it had turned away from her and vanished back into the mist, still issuing those peculiar sounds.  After a few moments she bowed her head once more and continued feeding.

It was a few days before she returned to this same spot, and this time it was just as the sun was setting, casting long spindly shadows across the grass.  The big, loud yellow thing had gone, but so had many of the trees that surrounded the clearing.  From where she stood on her hind legs she could see that much of the ground had been churned up.  It was strangely silent.  Usually at this time the cool evening air would be filled with raucous, squabbling squawks as bright clouds of rainbow lorikeets fought and argued over prime roosting sites.  The unaccustomed silence unnerved her.  Slowly, cautiously she hopped further into the clearing to where the churned up earth began.  Here she stopped and sniffed the ground before returning to the edge of the now enlarged clearing where she fed for a short time before returning to the forest.  She didn't return.

A little over twelve months later Nancy Coleman, a real estate agent from the nearby town stood just a few metres from where the eastern grey kangaroo had indulged in her last feed before vacating the area for good.  With her were Mr and Mrs Connaught, a recently retired couple from Brisbane.  They were looking for a house in the country, not too far from all the facilities they thought they might need as they aged.  This location was perfect they told each other, just five kilometres from the nearest small town with its little supermarket, half a dozen cafes, a library and most importantly a doctors surgery.  Standing together the three of them surveyed the new housing estate. There were dozens, perhaps scores of low set buildings with roofs terracotta and ochre hue and prominent double garages that dwarfed the more human scale of the front entrances.  So tightly packed were the houses that the occupant of a house only had to poke an arm up to the elbow out of their opened kitchen window to shake the hand of the neighbour doing the same from their third bedroom.
On quiet nights if that same kitchen window was left open that same occupant would be able to hear inadvertent farts as their neighbour tried to open his or her bowels, so close was the toilet.

Nancy Coleman smiled at her potential buyers.  "It's a beautiful spot don't you think? Such a great location.  Close to town, and the beach is only half an hour's drive."  Mr and Mrs Connaught nodded but tried not to show too much enthusiasm.  It was indeed absolutely ideal.  Just what they were looking for, but they didn't want to appear too keen in case the vendors was prepared to lower their asking price.  Nancy continued brightly.  "The garden's not too big either.  Just enough to keep you interested and if you plant a few little native trees and shrubs you'll attract some wild birds.  It'll be just like living in the bush."