On top of being editor and owner and chief coffee-maker of The Last Post, I have a co-written song, performed by Keri McInerney and band ready for release as a single. I have a movie treatment I’m working on with producer/director Darren Markey and I have this, Ava, her father and the cowboy, an instalment-by-instalment novella that takes us to a dusty, dirty, dead-end town in rural Australia. This is the first chapter.
In the hot afternoon sun, she trekked across the dirt, alongside the tracks that would carry the train. The train that she was waiting to ride to take her away from this place. This town that was all but fucked after they shut down the coal plant. The same shithole where every second person you met was unemployed or on ice.
Ava was working two jobs to save for digs in the city.
But now, she had two days off and it was a Friday and she was on her way to the pool. Later Ava would stop at her grandma’s to help with housework before returning home to cook dinner for her father. Her lounge-about-the-house, doing nothing father who carried an unshifting melancholy after his wife, Ava’s mother, had pissed off with a farmer she’d met at a trade show that had come to town three years ago. Her father had once been what people called, “a funny bastard” but he hadn’t laughed for a long time. Sometimes she would catch him crying on the back porch in a mood fuelled by alcohol and remorse.
Tonight she would go to the local dance where she had met a man and held his hand as he walked her home two weeks ago.
This guy was, sure enough, handsome but he was a transient and scarred. Ava thought of him as a cowboy, whether he was or had been or not didn’t matter. That’s what she thought of when she looked at him. He was working kitchens to pay the rent on a room he was sub-letting from a dirty old man who had bothered her when she was younger. But she would never tell the cowboy that. There was no future with the cowboy, she figured and she didn’t want any killings on her behalf. This new guy and her got along well but it was a first date only so they had kissed but only on the cheek. He seemed to be a gentleman.
A train approached and blew its whistle. A young boy ride by on a bicycle.
The sun seared down. In the pool she did laps and for that time in the water, she was happy because she wasn’t thinking.
At the kiosk, she bought a fruit juice and saw a girl she’d gone to school with, pregnant with her third child.
There would be cars racing in the street tonight occupied by boys who had nothing else to do. On the outskirts of town, passed a roadside sign that said “Welcome to…”, there was a desert with tumbleweeds and a vacant field where the drive-in used to be. Her mother had met her father at that drive-in although her mother had been engaged to a guy in the army at the time. When he’d been “a funny bastard” and married and younger and happier, her father had been handsome and charming. Now he acted like a loser and looked like a fucking wreck. Ava didn’t bring friends back to her place anymore.