Friday, February 4, 2011

For Trees Have No Tongues - (Muse 1)

They stand like fertile venuses, heavy laden with summer's harvest. Rich citrus and luscious peach, their glossy leaves glinting green in fading sun. They feel her fingertips brush light and seductive on their leaf tips as she walks barefoot through the grove, uncovered but for a petticoat. Her braided hair now loosened and flouncing soft, teased seductively by the evening breeze. She closes her eyes and absorbs the scent; orange, lemon and peach as they whisper of her beauty.

Now the only child of Edward and Aoife Crossan, she has learned from the attentiveness of an educated mother, the raw initiative of a hard-working father although she avoids his brutality because she knows he mourns his only son.  As are the delicately scented trees she caresses, she is a beauty on the surface yet tough enough to bear the harshness of country beneath her skin.

Crossan's daughter is a child of the earth. She feels the dirt between her toes and loves the sunshine on her back. Unfettered by the mores of a growing colonial morality she is free. She knows she's being watched. When she walks, when she bathes. She touches her body just for him. She shows a shoulder just for him. She swims seductively in the river's shallows - just for him. He's forbidden fruit, she and the trees know well but rules are meant to be broken and she must find a way.

It’s 22 years since the black line drove the Bidjigal far into the west. The colony begins to mature in age and sophistication and Crossan’s small but modest holding now yields income bearing fruit.
Crossan has not fared as well as his farm since the lynching. The retribution paid on Gulgil’s clan preys heavily on his mind, but not as heavily as the death of his only son preys on his heart. He has developed a dark countenance, is broody and vile tempered.  No decapitation or juvenile hanging can sate his sadness as he falls into the darkest of places, a deep space where there is no room for others, just he and his black heart, an emotional abyss. He spends his days down by the river drowning his sorrows submerged in dreamless sleep, aided by the soporific nectar he swigs from dawn till dusk. He’s in trouble, he knows it. Aoife knows it. He’s losing his mind. Losing the will to live.

At first she was sympathetic and thought the years would heal. All they did was widen the abyss and now he is a shadow of himself. A brute given to mumbling and outbursts of unprovoked violence and vitriol. Made worse by the fact that she only produced a daughter.  The birth of Maeve was a desperate, lonely and desolate affair, aided only by a neighbour with some experience delivering calves. The trauma left Aoife unable to bear more children, more particularly a son. No replacement for the red-haired boy found limp and broken in the mud.

A daughter was not welcomed by Crossan. She became her mother’s child.  Beautiful and raw, competent and refined, wild and untamed.  A girl anachronism, she was unique. She reads and writes and masters domestic life but her heart's inclined to wander. She walks barefoot on the river bank, hitches up her skirt and folds back her sleeves. Shameless and confident.

With a husband's malaise deepening, Aoife seeks assistance and is granted a convict man to help her labour in the arbor.

George Malley, transported for murder in 1815, or so he thinks, his memory of the year has become dulled with incarceration. The date is vague these days. He protests his innocence and claims that he was framed. "It was a brawl, an accident, he fell . ."  pleads the young farmer at the Old Bailey. The magistrate convinced that a pitch fork in the back of his master’s head was no accident but a deliberate act, delivers the final blow 'Transportation, 15 years!" and the gavel hits as poignantly as if a hangman's trap door had been released.

Malley spends weeks in the filthy bowels of a stinking hulk sitting on the Thames before being transferred, shackled and thrown upon the Mary Ann bound for Botany Bay. He's imprisoned with 200 others on seasick seas destined for the arse-end of the world. Six brutal weeks in in the airless hull. Six weeks knee-deep in shit, vomit and sea water.  Six weeks of salt beef and maggot ridden bread. Being assigned to the Crossan women after all he had endured was a Godsend. The work he knew and he enjoyed the care he’d never had. Home cooking, clean clothes, hard labour and the kindness of women even if Crossan ignored him and beat him on a whim. He was well treated generally and of course there was Maeve.

He’s a natural with the orchard, tending trees with careful hands, relieving laden branches of their ungainly weight. He swears he can hear them sigh with relief as supple bows spring back to form delivered of their lumbering progeny. As a woman falls, they bear fruit. Plump, juicy and ripe for the picking.

She’s walking through the orchard and pauses to pick a peach. She rubs the soft and furry skin against a sunlit cheek and smells its sweetness with such intent he wishes it were he enfolded in her hands.  He peers between the foliage as she takes her place beneath the tree. She twists her hair into a loose knot and begins to peel the succulent fruit with hands he wants to touch his body. Biting into golden flesh, sweet lips curl and suck, with a mouth he wishes were around his cock.  She licks her fingers delicately and deeply and he wishes they were in his mouth.   She sees him, "Damn, caught . ." he thinks but isn't fazed. She smiles, "George, come share a peach, they're sweet." The proposition's safe. Crossan's passed out drunk and Aoife's sewing in the kitchen; the light is fading fast.

He wonders over, tall and tanned. No shirt on this warm night.  He kneels before her, blue eyes gleaming with the cheek of a wide boy but the intensity of a man with a story and she is mesmerised. Her outstretched hand offers the forbidden fruit. As Adam succumbed to the charms of Eve he takes a fateful bite.

"How long are you here for?" she asks. His presence dictated by her mother and the Government, "Three years until my sentence is up. Then I hope I'll get a land grant, start a farm of my own. Maybe take a wife." She pouts, "A wife? Not a lover?"  It's her who makes the first move and takes his hand, licking juice from his salty fingers. The combination of sweet and sour is heady as she closes her eyes. He leans and brushes her cheek before she pulls his head gently towards hers and the nectar blends in a dangerous exchange of sweet and sour - erotic and delicious.

The trees sigh approval at their union. "Stop . . " he thinks but his body tells him otherwise, even though his head knows this will be trouble, "This can't happen," says the burly boy, "Why not? Nobody's here, nobody need know?" He sits and runs two hands through unkempt curls, "They'll send me back, I'll lose all hope and your virtue will be lost. You'll lose respect, standing. It will be your undoing and a woman undone here might as well be dead." She rubs his shoulders, and whispers, hot breath upon his neck, "Nobody will know. I can look after myself"

The trees shiver with their embrace, the only witness to their lust, or so they think.

He enters the wattle and daub dwelling with the power of a walrus, grunting, drunk, with flailing arms and booming voice, "Where's that whore?" Aoife is startled, not with the violence, she's felt the back of his hand before but this time Crossan's gaze is fixed. She hasn't seen such venom since the night he lynched the black boy. Rising from her chair she tries to calm the rabid beast.  "Where's the fucking whore. I saw them, in the orchard. Twisted together fucking each other. A convict and your daughter!" The intonation that he had disowned his own, hurt her to the core. The surprise that the two had become attracted did not.  Malley was a good man, a hard-working man, a polite and congenial man with ambition and this wasn't England or Ireland, this is Australia the land of opportunity for those who take the plunge. Where the criminal earns respect and the outlaw becomes legend.  "Edward, calm down. You're mistaken . . .it's the drink." Aoife musters what affection she can and places arms around his neck, fragrant hair within his reach then  feels the thud of something hard and blunt and forceful, across her temple and is thrown to the ground. Connecting with the hearthstone, the room spins, she feels nauseous and the world caves in.

Enraged he bursts into Maeve's quarters and pulls back the blankets on her makeshift bed. She isn't there. His rum-fuelled wrath is uncontrollable as he takes the axe, once dangling limp against his thigh, and smashes everything in sight. Splitting chairs and lodging the sharpened tool so firmly into the hardwood beam that it will not be prized loose. He wrings his hands, thumps his fist and screams the scream of a madman before he turns and sees Aoife, pale, still, fallen.

Malley is waiting by the orange grove. Dilly bag packed. Maeve runs to his embrace before panic strikes. They need to leave. Tonight . . now. "Do you love me?" she asks, faux desperation in her voice. He is her passage to the wider world, "I always have" he replies as two fugitives of different kinds run through a whispering corridor of weeping peach. The trees mourn their passing as they flee into the dark. Silhouetted gums watch their escape from on high, black against the pink. Uncaring and aloof. Two more star-crossed lovers, destined for despair.

Neighbours hear the frey. "Murderer . . " shouts the midwife of the bovine, "Edward what have you done . ."  He's kneeling, bereft once again, talking gibberish, craving deep sleep, the deep space of isolation but he knows he's in deep shit.

Written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory - River of Mnemosyne Challenge

Continued at:
Reluctant Titans Part 1


  1. Wow. Excellent. Especially love the blatant use of the muse. I don't know if it's just me, but it seems that very few participants do that at 10thDOM. From my view, the muse is usually just a motivation (muse if you will ;-) than an actual line in the piece. Sorry, cracking myself up today...spent way too much time cleaning. You've totally pulled me into that world, and it amazes me how I can get a total sense of a character's motivation with just one line. Faux desperation, for example. You're rocking this river, Baino!

  2. That was... kinda cool. You walked us into a lot of cliches, then avoided them altogether.

  3. Heh... the word verification was "vagsjeu." Sounds like a dirty French word, to me.

  4. One problem... Brown eyes! His eyes should have been brown ;)! Much sexier. Haha. I was roped right in.