This is a short excerpt, still under review, from Chapter Twenty-Seven of Karrana.
Bridie thought Stella, curled up in the corner of the mail train compartment, her red curls squashed against the leather, looked like a ginger kitten she remembered from childhood. Two women on the opposite bench were drifting off too, lulled into a deep forgetfulness by the rattle of the wheels on iron. Bridie felt herself slipping into a yawning pit, inviting her to surrender.
Snatches of childhood loomed out of the deep ravine into which she was sinking. She was oblivious to the soot and the smoke whooshing past the windows of the train.
There’s a pillow fight in full swing. Four brothers and her. On the four-poster bed. Duck feathers flying. At first it’s fun. Poor Mumma crying out stop! Dirt floor. Mosquitoes on faces. Dadda burning cow dung in buckets to stop the mozzies from biting. Some games are fun. Sid the circus master yelling out orders. She wants to dance on the white pony’s back. But no, she’s a cat now, scratching at boys’ faces. Choking, gasping for air. ‘I hate you! I hate you!’ Scratching at Sid’s face with cat’s claws. Then Johnny’s. And the fat brother’s, eater of charcoal and chook dung. Sitting on her now. Pulling at oily hair: ‘Get off me!’ Charlie the lion tamer with whip and chair in hand to tame the brute. She is the lion. The fat brother sitting on her back. Laughing and farting into her hair. ‘Get away!’ Get off me!’ She’s screaming now: ‘Wanta get away!’ Sucked into a dark hole. ‘Wanta get away.’
Someone is putting a frog down her dress…
‘Bridie, wake up! What is it?’ Stella was leaning over her. Face red and anxious white. ‘You were crying out. And you’re shaking.’
The other ladies were stirring too: ‘Shoosh.’