“Alan, are you still there, mate?” Dave Frankston asked when it had gone silent at the other end of the line. “Alan?”
It took Ironbark a few moments to recover from hearing Dave’s full name.
“Yes, I’m here, Dave,” Ironbark replied. “It’s been a while,” he continued, “I never thought we’d be in touch again.”
“Well, we are, and I reckon you know why.”
By this time, Ironbark’s memory was going full throttle and he had cottoned on quick enough as to why Dave had contacted him after all those years.
“Yeah well, it’s funny, really, that you should phone me.”
“Oh?” Dave exclaimed.
“I was down at the National Archives the other day when you came to mind.”
“So, you found out for yourself, eh?”
“Hmm, yes, I did.”
Something felt different when Ironbark woke up that morning. The birds were sounding in a new day like they did every day, and still, there was something odd about them. They sounded livelier than usual. Maybe it was the oncoming storm, Ironbark thought as he looked through the opening between the curtains at the multi-coloured clouds billowing high in the sky.
“We had it coming, what, with all that abnormal humidity lately,” he mumbled as he went to sit on the edge of the bed.
At that very same moment a kookaburra burst raucously into laughter, as if it was mocking him. It gave Ironbark the clue he needed. Ah, that’s it, he said to himself. With their keen senses animals knew what was going to happen long before humans did. They must already be feeling the relief in the wake of the storm, Ironbark concluded. Still, it was strange, he thought, he had never noticed anything like this before in the 72 years he was alive.
Many years ago, in a little mining town in the north, a newborn baby boy lay ill from pneumonia in his hospital cot. As the wind howled in the fjord outside, he gasped for air and longed for the loving warmth of his mother. Where was she? He felt her alright, even though she was not near, in the same way he could hear the comforting resonance of his father’s voice. Why then, could he not decide whether to live or die?
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Deborah awoke to the sound of magpies singing in the big red gum behind the house.
“Hmm,” she sighed contentedly, “good morning you guys.”
Unlike many people, she had loved magpies as long as she could remember. She could understand people’s dislike to them in the spring, when they would swoop on passers-by and even peck them. Even so, she believed magpies had a soft spot for her, because she had never been swooped on once. Her mother used to say it was because of her dark hair, as magpies mostly swooped on fair-haired people, but she believed there was something else.