The Big Issue : Edition 568
“All the best people are weird,” said Linh running her hands across the stones Walde had laid earlier that day. He felt the seagrass matting shift like a wave beneath his feet. “Hope you like curry, Brian’s made vindaloo.” Brian pulled on oven gloves and carried a casserole dish across to the table. “Please Walde, take a seat.” Linh hovered, placing cutlery and serving spoons around the crockery. “Can I get you another drink Walde? We have wine or beer.” “Yes. Thanks.” Walde scratched his fingers through his beard. Linh laughed, a soft laugh like a sigh, came back with a longneck of beer and three fresh glasses. “For curry, beer is the best.” She flicked off the bottle top and poured their drinks. Walde noticed the easy way she’d made the head on each beer the exact same depth. He leaned back and ate his curry and they talked about country life, but mostly they talked about the fireplaces he’d made over the years. Walde rode the fuzz of the beer and for a while it felt like he was important in the world. The road on the way home drove smooth, curvy, like the slow version of a roller-coaster. Walde cranked the heating up, pulled the lamb’s wool jumper across his legs while he waited for the air to warm. Skinny trees silhouetted against the charcoal undulations of the land, like paper-cut models he and his brother made as kids. Dense fog hovered just ahead like an ever-retreating shroud. It hid the road, obscured its margins and filled the crevice of the creek. When the moon snuck behind cloud, Walde almost missed the turn. His neighbours all complained about the mist, reckoned it was dangerous, hated the frost that came with it. But Walde loved the way it snaked into the creases of the land, like a puff of smoke in a dragon’s throat, a wraith progeny of the Bridgewater Jerry fog that wound from New Norfolk down the Derwent River towards the Tasman Bridge. He checked on the girls then made himself a mug of tea, sat on the back step and replayed the night in his head. You’re weird and the small gauge of Linh’s wrists, the way she tilted his glass. The perfect symmetry of their beers. Tomorrow he would rub his finger across the place on the stones where her pressure had been, check his chest for signs of the empty place. Melissa Manning’s (@lissymanning) writing has appeared in a range of publications, including Award Winning Australian Writing, Best Small Fictions (US), Overland and Tasmania 40°South. She won the 2015 Overland Story Wine Prize and is working on a short story collection with support from the Australian Society of Authors and a Wheeler Centre Hotdesk fellowship.