trees. Trees are tough and strong. They’ve been around much
longer than people. This one had, that’s for sure. He’d
seen an old yellowy photograph of the school from the days
of carts and horses, with women in long dresses and big
hats, moustached men standing stiff in suits, kids playing
with hoops. The tree was there then, and that was a good
while ago. Like the sign on the front gate said: Jarrah
Central School 1861.
could feel the oldness in its gnarly trunk, like skin
tanned by time. People had carved names and stuff into
that skin, but the tree had never flinched; it could take
it. You have to know how to take it, just like you have
to know how to deal it out. If you don’t, they grind you
into the ground.
liked the whispering quiet that wrapped around him when
he stood beneath the tree, as though the leaves were swapping
secrets. But most of all, he liked how you could shift
among its shadows, losing yourself until you felt invisible.
Invisible under the oak tree, watching.
the teachers leave. They just walked straight past as
though he didn’t exist. No Tuck your shirt in, Katter
or What are you hanging about for? Dickheads. What would
they know? Just books and shit. Wouldn’t know how to kill
a boar with a naked blade. That’s when you really have
to keep your head. Quick and the dead.
the mothers pick up their primary kids. Most hurried past,
eyes down. Some sneaked a glance at the tall, slightly
stooped youth who hung in the shadows, hands in pockets,
blond hair lank and greasy, his watery blue eyes avoiding
theirs. Or staring until they looked away. She walked
out one day, years ago. And Dad’s only there on weekends,
if then. It’s just the two boys, really. They look after
the other students spill through the gate. If they looked
at him at all it wasn’t for long.
was on the other side of the main quadrangle talking to
a group of girls and laughing, her hair flowing down her
back like a river of black. Nariah had only come to Jarrah
at the start of the year, barely six months ago, but in
that time she’d affected everyone with her energy. It
bubbled from her now as she talked and laughed, throwing
her arms about. He liked how she bubbled.