I was in time for the rehearsal and easily found the venue, even though its designation—the Masonic Hall—appeared nowhere on the small, much altered brick building, which seemed rather an outpost of the nearby Anglican Church. There were Gaelic names everywhere but the town was called after an Aboriginal word meaning either thinly wooded hills or clear sky. It was under the one that I sat on a long wooden bench and looked over the disused playing field and across the railway line to the other. Long grass around the basketball court behind and also on the football field in the gully below. The late morning air soft and golden and still. Eastern rosellas grazing on seedheads. A magpie with rain in its throat carolling in the stunted pines. Someone at one or other of the blank windows must have been watching but what would they see? I ate my roll, I smoked a cigarette. There was something about it that reminded me of the Rec in Greytown where I played my first games of football with a future All Black running interference to my dreams. I always thought Wreck but actually it was short for Recreation Ground. Those only partially incorporated spaces in small country towns that you wander in perfect freedom when the world was bigger than now. So much at peace until I realised I had the details wrong and should have been somewhere else. Down the other end of town. No matter ... much later, the reading over, dinner over, the party in the marquee dissolving into song, I left the tent and went to sit in the grandstand at the west of the oval. I saw the singer in her high heels teeter towards the loo in the break between sets. Girls like fillies galloping out into the field. The phantom horses and their riders from the rodeo two weeks away brief against the rural dark and then I thought, as briefly, it might have been Raetihi. Later again, the volcanic plumbing exploded in the Royal Hotel and I heard some rural stock buyer or sojourning truck salesman clearing his passages in the 4 am half dark. Looking up at one of those high blank ceilings that make you wonder if this is the room to which death will come. And may have already for another. In the morning mist rolled between the trees turning everything to dripping grief or else a cover under which survivors of the night's misadventures might escape into the hills. I drove north through town and over the heritage bridge then turned the car around and, leaving behind the whispering enticements of that unknown country, headed down towards the flatlands.


Kay said...

'A magpie with rain in its throat carolling in the stunted pines.'
That is what I call evocative writing ... through such descriptions, I was there too - after you'd left ;)

Martin Edmond said...

well I magpied that - someone (who?) said they sing as if they have rain in their throats.