‘No, you can’t see the Big Dipper from Dunsandle,’ I told her again. ‘But you can see the Southern Cross!’
Aperture Vintage – Image Credit
Although she didn’t acknowledge me I knew she’d heard and could understand. But still no response; her fuscous eyes staring, fixating on the galaxies above, a look of amazement on her face.
I’d only just met her.
I’d just popped out of the Hall to have a durry and take a piss. I’d walked around the side of the building toward the domain behind, peering into the windows as I went by. In the Hall Office I briefly watched Athol Simmons trying his hardest to become familiar with Glenys Hollis’s topography. While Athol struggled unhinging Glenys’s bra; in the hall proper the Kirwee Cooee’s were playing their interpretation of Lonnie Donegan’s ‘Cumberland Gap’; which seemed all too appropriate.
I kept walking, nearly tripping over young Jimmy Karsten who was heaving up copious quantities of beer and Mrs Stott’s coronation chicken. Too much beer with too much fancy food on-top, I reckoned. Dance hall suppers were an institution invented only for women folk, teetotalers and the young who had far more beer on-board than they should. I’d always taken the view that Dance Hall Suppers were a danger to ones health, best bring your own food.
‘Better get home boy,’ I growled. ‘Get some water into you and some sleep. You don’t want your old man seeing you like this. Besides, I can’t see your old man doing the milking in the morning, he’s almost as drunk as you.’
I walked on; behind me Jimmy groaned then heaved again.
After my leak I decided to continue my short walk, my ears were ringing and the batting away of Jenny Anderson’s continual affections and intentions were becoming irritating and tiring.
Come dance with me Archie,…promise me at least one dance Archie, please…Archie, would you like to sit with me at supper? I made your favourite curried eggs…Oh Archie you do look so handsome tonight!
For fucks sake woman!
Leave me be.
Hadn’t I told her so, so many times before?
I knew Jenny was lonely. Ever since Ted Cooper rolled his tractor she’d been like a bitch on heat. I also knew 400 acres were way too much for one woman to manage on her own. Her farm backed onto mine so I helped her out when I could.
I knew she cried herself to sleep, I could hear her sometimes through the still nights. I also knew she kept her backdoor unlocked in the hope that a knight in shining armour would stroll through. And very occasionally I did just that.
But I was no knight in shining armour, I was not there to save her. I had no interest in absolving her pain. I was just knocking her off; it didn’t mean I wanted her, and it certainly didn’t mean I wanted to get hitched. She was pretty enough, but I like being single.
Tonight she had taken things way too far.
‘Imagine,‘ she said, ‘2,000 acres and some sons to look after them; and then us when we get old!’
Since when did an occasional romp in the sack evolve into a lifetime of toil and complaisance? There was a big difference between taking her and taking her away. I didn’t want a bar of it, and I didn’t want a bar of all her fussing and incessant need to be taken care of.
For fucks sake woman!
I stopped twenty yards short of the bench seat overlooking the pond. There I saw a silhouette I didn’t recognise. Sitting by the bench was one of the most attractive things I had seen in a long time.
‘Hello there,’ I whispered trying not to frighten her. ‘Aren’t you lovely,’ I said in my softest voice.
My new friend sat aloof. The way she held herself; her head tilted high toward the stars, her tight athletic form, told me she was strong, independent and not to be trifled with. I liked that. I walked toward her, gently sitting down beside her, slowly putting my arms around her. I felt her relax, felt her body weight shift against mine. She was warm and clearly unworried by my attention. I stroked her face. She exposed her graceful neck. I tickled under her chin.
‘You really are a beautiful girl,’ I cooed.
‘You want something to eat?’
‘Got some dressed pies in the back of my truck,’ I said proudly, ‘picked ’em up this afternoon. Dunsandle store makes the best dressed pies in the universe.’
I slapped her rump, ‘come on, follow me.’
I walked toward my old Nash parked in a sea of gravel and potholes. Under the starlight, standing lonely but proud, she looked like an ugly metallic shark. I yanked open it’s stiff back door, reached in and pulled out two cold dressed pies. I held one out – my new friend took a look and stole a sniff. She greedily took the pie from my hand, woofing it down instantly.
‘They’re good aren’t they? Especially the beetroot aye – even cold!
She was ravenous so I gave her my mine. Again she inhaled it.
While she was eating I studied her form. Petite but muscular, alert and smart. Young. Pretty as a picture, obedient and calm. A perfect specimen.
‘I’m going to have some fun with you,’ I muttered under my breath.
‘Come,’ I said – now walking back toward the hall.
She followed without question or hesitation.
As I approached the Hall The Kirwee Cooee’s were murdering Buddy Holly.
Well, that’ll be the day when you say goodbye
Yes, that’ll be the day when you make me cry
You say you gonna leave, you know it’s a lie
‘Cause that’ll be the day when I die
Not many people know this but Buddy Holly and all of the Crickets died a gruesome death in Dunsandle on November the 4th 1957, artistry and craft crashing to earth in great balls of fire (yes I know that was Jerry Lee Lewis), massacred, ashes scattered by the musical abilities of Kirwee’s best.
As I approached the front of the Hall Jenny Anderson was sitting languidly on the front steps bawling her eyes out.
Fuck me, I thought.
She was surrounded by a semi circle of women, her tears seemingly draining her strength and form but fortifying her companions. Jenny being comforted and mollycoddled by the Coleman sisters in law, Mrs Stott, who would sooner fart in church than miss out on any gossip or drama. Even Glenys Hollis was there, coo cooing and rubbing Jenny’s back. I hoped she had had the time to stuff herself back into her under garments.
The women were clearly holding a sacred pow wow and I had no reason think I wasn’t the subject of their distemper.
‘You bastard,’ Glenys spat when I caught her eye. ‘You lousy bastard, I don’t know what Jenny see’s in you.’ The Coleman women nodded their heads in agreement. Mrs Stott just stood there, hands on her ample hips.
Five hostile women is five too many for me so I turned and proceeded to go back from whence I came.
‘Archie Cleary, stop right there!’ Ordered Mrs Stott.
I froze, the only thing bigger and more scary than Mrs Stott was her temper.
‘Who’s that bitch belong too?’ Mrs Stott demanded, one hand now outreached, index finger pointing and waving.
‘Don’t know,’ I answered. ‘Found her, gonna take her home. Gonna train her up – trial her. I reckon she’d make a mighty fine sheep dog.’
‘You cant go around picking up random strays and taking them home Archie Cleary. She doesn’t belong to you.’
‘She doesn’t belong to anyone,’ I shot back, ‘she’s not from these parts, never seen the like of her before. She’s a beauty though, smart too!’
You leave that dog be, how do you know she wants to go with you? Come here sweetie,’ Mrs Stott called, slapping her pudding like hands on her jellied thighs.
Without hesitation my new found friend trotted off. She sniffed Mrs Stott’s hands, no doubt the scent of coronation chicken still lingering deep within their pores. Then she sat next to Jenny Anderson and started licking the tears from her ruddy face. Jenny wrapped her arm around the dog.
‘Jesus,’ I exclaimed, walking toward the steps to grab the dog by its scruff. As I approached, the dog bared it’s teeth, it snarled and growled, her body language telling me – come any closer mate and I’ll have your guts for garters.
I stepped back – six sets of eyes drilling into me. No one spoke. It was a Selwyn stand-off. There could only be one loser. Eventually I retreated, there was nothing to be gained in staying.
As I pulled the Nash out of the car park I looked back into the rear vision mirror. Jenny Anderson wasn’t crying anymore, she was rubbing the belly of her new found companion who was lolling around, tongue hanging out. I smiled a half smile.
Four hundred yards further down the road, I came across Jimmy Karsten stumbling home. He had seven miles to go and one step forward and two to the side were never gonna help the cows get milked in the morning. I pulled over, ‘jump in,’ I said, ‘I’ll take you home.’
After dropping him off, I turned on the radio. NZBC news at midnight came on. The major story was about the Russians launching another satellite into space. And even more incredibly than that, they had put a dog inside the satellite! One of the first living creatures in space.
Well fancy that I thought, fancy that.
A week ago I started to re-read Sputnik Sweetheart by Murakami. I remember reading it nearly twenty years ago. As I was the first time, I was totally blown away by the lightness of the writing, how clean it was, and the infinite possibilities presented by the perverse. It inspired me to write this micro fiction. While this story is written in the first person – I have tried to make it feel Murakami-esque. I’m not sure I have succeeded at all – but I did have fun writing it. And it was a good way to re-launch (pun intended) my blog.
Laika was a Soviet Space dog who became one of the first animals in space, and the first animal to orbit the Earth. Laika, a stray dog from the streets of Moscow was selected to be the occupant of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 that was launched into outer space on 3 November 1957.
Laika died within hours from overheating. The true cause and time of her death were not made public until 2002; instead, it was widely reported that she died when her oxygen ran out on day six or, as the Soviet government initially claimed, she was euthanised prior to oxygen depletion.
On 11 April 2008, Russian officials unveiled a monument to Laika. A small monument in her honour was built near the military research facility in Moscow that prepared Laika’s flight to space. It portrayed a dog standing on top of a rocket. She also appears on the Monument to the Conquerors of Space in Moscow.
Imagine if Sputnik 2 lost its orbit, returned to earth breaking up over Mid Canterbury. And somehow beyond any scientific reality or possibility Laika survived! Dunsandle would have had another reason to be famous throughout the Universe.