Snowy Mountains Highway, New South Wales, 2009
The road uncurls, a slick black liquorice strap between mountains and fence posts crumbling like broken teeth. We let radio static fill the car until our ears and fingers feel anaesthetized, and I push a CD into the player, its surface glittered with small scratches. A soft guitar, something slow and nostalgic, and you bunch the fabric of my dress into your fist, your first movement in hours. This song, you say, always reminds me of you, and I ask if you mean its sadness and you say no, the parts about the skirt and the garden and the rusted car collecting rain. And I remember the paddock and that early morning in July and my feet frozen in wet grass and the smell of earth. And the horses, pushing in between us with their hard muscular necks, manes dark and curtain heavy, curls of steam rising from the heat of flanks and noses. You lean in to kiss my collarbone, murmuring the chorus line, and it is in this moment that we hit something hard and the CD skips and over and over all I can hear is will I always feel this way? but only every other word, over and over.
On the road, next to a dark flick of tyre, there is a headless kangaroo and for a moment all I can do is marvel at the cleanness of the break. Its body is slumped into the asphalt, angled out like the Greek letter lambda, and you know to reach down into the pouch, your hands curiously steady. Inside it is a child with transparent skin and vacuum eyes, wondering at the sudden break in its mother’s blood rhythms. Held tight between bitumen, darkness and cooling flesh, the baby life, bean small, coagulates. You drag the bodies from the road, and against light the colour of toffee that turns traffic into martian shapes, the silhouette of the corpse is barely there.
Further down the highway, the CD un-snags itself and the song continues, its cutthroat busted sunsets catching in our throats.
©Alyson Miller. Alyson teaches literary studies at Deakin University, Australia. Her short stories and poems have appeared in both national and international publications.