Just a Moment with Malcolm

2018-09-27 Old Shed School's Road

When he flags me down with his broad-brimmed hat,
I am half-arse-sore from my long shopping ride
down to the Little Red Apple.
“Come in, young fella,” he cries across my fifty-seven years,
his one good eye smiling past its lashes through the heat.
We stomp up the improvised bric-a-brac gangway,
embellished and slip-proofed with trimmed metal slats
to his wood-and-corrugated-iron farmer’s den —
he’s got the door propped open at full morning yawn,
as far as the rust on the hinges will go,
but my skin is baked like bread from the first instant I step inside
the hot he inhabits, perfectly unblinking.
“Take a look at this! Best crop in years . . .”
I hunker down on the rough timber floor —
a small part of me drawn to the fingerprint-intricate grain
in the nineteenth-century floorboards —
and admire a whole tall repurposed container
crammed full of larger-than-life potatoes,
on a grander scale than general nature intended.
Out of one corner, suddenly, of the suffocating gloom,
Lucky the Dog (his previous owner, a hard task master,
had threatened to shoot him) bolts over
and plunges his narrow head eagerly between the widely-spaced buttons
of my shirt, like the frenzied-clumsy lover I once was
and will never be again. Malcom growls him off
in his gruffest handler’s manner,
then swings down from a crude spike on the wall
a bag bulging heavily at the bottom
so that the plastic thins to the point of a transparent film, almost.
“There’s two of the buggers in there!” he explains.
I take a peek inside at the Earth-pale Goliath nuggets.
“Reckon this one’s about the size of your heart,” I offer,
impromptu. Quick as a flash he fires back, “Not quite that big”,
(but is he talking about his heart or the spud? —
I’m not quite sure). The bad news is
the prognosis on pumpkins is not looking too flash,
but he promises me a beauty if he can pull a few off.
As we walk the plank back down to his gate,
a mean air-blast blows up out of parched hills.
“No bloody good for the way you’re going,” he observes
drily. The solid shade of the two huge roadside gums
sizzles with the sound of wind as it shoves past the leaves
and the grating rasp of the vocal local cockatoos,
snow-white in the high branches as albino crows
and flaunting with gusto their sulphurous yellow crests.

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