With a glum look on his face, the young Aboriginal hunter, Manimanuk, looked out over the plains from the rocky outcrop where he was standing. Angry words had been spoken earlier that morning in the camp of his people. To Manimanuk it seemed as if there were two camps. One, led by one of the elders, was determined to move on to better hunting grounds before the dry season came. The other camp felt it was better to wait until one of the mothers fully recovered after breaking her leg while foraging for yams.
Once he sat crouched inside the cardboard washing machine box, the boy entered another world. A place where characters from the books that he borrowed from the library came to life. In his imagination, he accompanied them on all sorts of adventures. He could be setting sail as a famous explorer to unknown lands one moment and ranging the prairie with cowboys the next, or doing battle with knights, or tracking down a horse thief as a Canadian Mountie on his dog sled.
Looking through the scribbly gum branches up into the sky, Dave Frankston felt calm again. Calm, if anything, was something he could really do with, as his discovery of the truth behind Alan ‘Ironbark’ MacGregor’s daughter’s adoption was giving him sleepless nights. Up until last night, that was. Last night, sleep had finally found him. It had done him a world of good, especially as today was Saturday, his day off. He had woken up early alright but had the luxury of staying in bed for half an hour extra with the curtains open, so he could watch the little white clouds drift slowly across the dark blue sky.
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.
Ironbark sighed deeply as he left the National Archives building in Canberra and walked to the car park. He loosened the collar of his chequered flannel shirt and wiped the sweat from his neck and throat. It was not so much the abnormal heat for this time of year that was troubling him as the information he had just read in the records.