Near Brinkworth South Australia - 1931
Reg Edwards pulled the waterproof around his young shoulders as he drove the dray and watched the stinging rain bounce off the horse's back. Rolling grey-black clouds were forming in the distance. The menace of the coming storm made a horse in a paddock prance in fear as it smelt change in the air, and sensed the darkening threat. The clouds built up into a series of grey streaked black spheres and the first clap of thunder made Reg search around for shelter.
As lightning flashed, he spotted a farmhouse and turned into the drive. His horse felt skittish when he approached a weatherboard farmhouse, near a large shed, and what looked like quarters for sheep-shearers away from the dwelling. He stopped as a man walked from the shed with a pronounced limp towards him.
‘Getting a bit wet young fella.'
‘What's the chance of bunking in the shearer's quarters tonight, Mister?'
‘You a rabbiter?'
‘Stick your horse in the paddock behind the quarters. I've rabbits coming out of my arse. Talk to you tomorrer about that. Got something to eat?'
‘Had a feed in Brinkworth.' Thunder boomed followed by lightning.
‘You'd better git outta the rain. A bit young to be on yer own aren't you? How old are you?'
Reg shrugged, ‘Fifteen,' he said. ‘Too many kids home, Dad said I had to get out and earn my own money.' For a moment Cliff's face showed compassion but it soon hardened back into his farmer's stare.
‘Sounds like a tough bugger,' said Cliff.
Reg half smiled revealing for a moment his anger at being cast out. He shrugged. ‘Bad times,' he said. Cliff nodded. Reg led his horse away and walked to the shearer's quarters.
As he was releasing his horse, he noticed a curtain moving in the farmhouse.
The sheep-shearer's quarters had six beds set against the walls with a stove for cooking meals. Wood had been laid out so he lit a fire. A kettle stood on the stove; he filled it and placed it on to boil. The noise of the rain on the roof gave him a feeling of safety and he was glad he wasn't sleeping under the dray as usual. His swag was wet so he laid out his belongings to dry on the beds and selected one to sleep on. The storm caused darkness to fall early. He lit a kerosene lamp that stood on a side table.
The building shook and groaned as punishing wind and rain battered at the tin roof and walls. He was pleased to make a cup of tea and wrap his hands around the mug for warmth. He went to bed and settled under the blankets to read. Half an hour later, he blew out the lamp and despite the storm went to sleep.
He wasn't sure what woke him, but sometime between sleeping and waking, he felt a presence in the darkness. The glow of a lantern turned down low appeared just inside the door. Thunder rumbled in the distance, then lightning flashed and he saw a figure in white sitting on a chair near his bed watching him. The agony of fear clutched at him and a tense expectancy heightened his wakefulness.
‘Who's there?' he asked throwing back the blankets and jumping out of bed.
‘Don't be scared. You look so peaceful,' a soft mature woman's voice said.
‘Who are you, what do you want?' Reg was frightened. He couldn't think of why she would be there watching him. She was older, maybe in her late thirties, Reg thought. His alarm was lessened by the reassuring tone in her voice.
‘I'm from the house. Just making sure you're all right.'
Reg peered in her direction. He could make out an outline in the diffused glow. Black hair reflected light above a thin white garment. She shivered slightly. A loud thunderclap made her jump up, lift the blankets, and slide into the narrow bed.
'It's warm in here,' she said. ‘Why don't you come in with me?'
A surge of excitement sent Reg's thoughts soaring. He lay down in the bed and pulled the blankets around them. He put his arm around her and felt a slim body that transmitted nervous tension.
‘Keep me warm,' she said.
The white garment was only a thin nightgown; Reg's hand brushed her. She took his hand and placed it on her breast. ‘You have lovely warm hands.'
Reg had never felt a woman's breast before and the feel of her made his body tingle with excitement. He tried to remember what he had heard about having sex. He started to panic. ‘I saw you come in. Just relax.'
Reg felt his erection pressing against his underpants as she took his hand and placed it on her bare breast. He didn't know what to say. Instead he wondered if his rough hands would hurt the soft flesh pressing against his palm.
‘I think we should take our clothes off,' she breathed as she threw back the blankets and slipped her nightdress off. Reg fumbled out of his underclothes. She took his penis and gently squeezed him for a few seconds then lay on top of him. His excitement built up until a surging feeling in his cock exploded and he saw the look of disappointment on her face as she got up looking for something to wipe her hands on. She found one of his handkerchiefs.
'I'm sorry.' He felt ashamed and embarrassed.
'You're too excited. Now I'm going to have to come back tomorrow. You will be here won't you?'
'Yes,' he said, 'I won't do that again.'
'I know you won't. We'll be more careful.'
She dressed and left. The sweet smell of her perfume still lingered. By some miracle, she was real. Reg couldn't sleep; the sweet thoughts of tomorrow made it impossible.
The rain set in the next day and he found the farmer repairing some harness in his shed.
‘A bit wet fer rabbiting today young fella?' said the farmer.
‘Not much chance of getting out, okay if I stay a couple of days?
'Sure, I've got a lot a rabbits on the farm. Stay 'til shearin' time. I've got bloody foxes too. Can you get rid of them for me? There's a good bounty.'
'I'll give it a go. Got a few fox traps.'
'Get a good night's sleep?'
Reg had a feeling the farmer knew something. 'Haven't slept in a bed for a while. Took a bit of getting used to. Just you and your wife on the farm?'
The farmer slowly lifted his hat and placed it back on his head. 'Just me and the Missus, and her sister's visiting from the city.' Reg reasoned it must have been the sister who came to him.
‘You've got a nice farm. Looks like you're running sheep and wheat'
‘And a few pigs. The bloody depression makes it hard. Can't get good prices and I have to do all the work meself. I copped this crook leg at Passchendale in the war.'
‘Need some help?'
‘I ain't got no money to pay any bastard. Those bloody rabbits don't make it any easier. You'll do me a favour if you stay and get rid of ‘em.'
'Does the leg bother you much?'
Reg wondered whether he'd been too nosey. The farmer took a minute to answer. 'Not much. What's ya name?' Reg had the impression the farmer was bothered by his wounds, despite what he said.
'Reg Edwards, I'm from Birdwood.'
'I'm Cliff Nunn just call me Cliff. Ain't got all day to stand around here yakking -- got work to do.' He limped back to repairing his harness.
Reg walked back to the dray and unloaded his gear. He took the fresh rabbit skins, stretched them over wire frames, and hung them inside. He swept out the dray then caught his horse, placed a nosebag on him with hay he had bought at the feed store, and combed him until his coat shone then he let the bay go in the paddock again.
The shame of the previous night was mingled with his excitement about tonight. He hoped she wasn't so disappointed she wouldn't come.
To take his mind off the night, he cleaned his six-dozen rabbit traps so they were ready for the next day. Later, he loaded the dray again for a three AM start, and then he slept.
When he awoke, there was a covered plate of warm stew on the table. He ate, and read for about an hour until it was dark. He lay naked in the bed with the light out waiting for her.
The storm had passed and it was a clear night. He saw lamplight approaching through the window, and then the door opened, she entered, placing the light inside the door, turning it down to a soft glow. She stood at the bed and slipped off her nightgown. Her smell was different. Reg tried to breathe in her odour and decided it reminded him of oranges. ‘Did you like the stew?' The moonlight showed her face and to Reg she looked like a goddess.
‘Yes,' he said as she lifted the blanket and their bodies touched. Reg tried to take her in his arms but she resisted.
‘No! you get too excited.' She straddled him and the feeling of being inside her was better than he had ever imagined.
‘Just relax,' she said.
But, he couldn't contain his excitement and he climaxed in a few seconds. The look on her face signalled to him that she wasn't satisfied. ‘Will you stay awhile?' he asked.
‘Have to go,' she said as she lifted the blankets and climbed out of bed. ‘I'll be back tomorrow.'
‘What's your name?'
‘I don't want to tell you my name. You can call me Jezebel.' Reg closed his eyes, breathed in her scent, and imagined she was still in his bed.
The next night Jezebel came to him again. This time she smelt the same as the first night and Reg tried to identify the smell. Pine, he thought. He was better this time. She groaned and kissed him in excitement. She spoke in a whisper as she encouraged him and told him what to do.
He wondered why she wanted to make love to him. Was he special to her? As soon as they finished, she left. Reg breathed her in and closed his eyes.
Cliff was right, there were plenty of rabbits on the farm. Early in the morning, he extracted all the trapped rabbits and reset his traps. He skinned and butchered them, prepared the skins for drying and laid the carcasses in the dray ready for sale to the butcher. He didn't finish until four o'clock in the afternoon. Killing rabbits was his job it was dirty and mucky and he tried to wash the stench and mess off his clothes and body when he returned to the shearer's quarters to get ready for Jezebel
During the day, a meal had been placed in his quarters with instructions on how to heat it. He wondered whether he might be invited up to the house, but, he rarely saw Cliff and if he did, he would limp away as if he was trying to avoid him. Maybe he knew what was happening between Reg and his wife's sister.
In the weeks that followed, Jezebel came to him most nights with occasional breaks of up to a week. Although Reg hoped their love affair would go on forever, he thought it had to end and it did. After two months she said, ‘This is our last night.'
He was dreading this moment, he had been thinking about how to make her stay.
‘I'm going back to the city. I've already stayed longer than I should have.' Reg held her tightly.
‘Are you coming back?' he asked.
She hesitated, looked into his eyes, ‘I'm coming back next year.'
‘I'll come back too. When will you be back?'
‘Will you stay and talk.'
‘For a while.'
‘Can I turn up the lamp?'
‘Okay.' Reg walked to the lamp she had left inside the door, turned it up, brought it to his bedside table, and gazed at her. She threw back the blankets and smiled as Reg watched her black hair shining in the glow of the light. Her full breasts were exposed above her nest of pubic hair and her legs disappeared into the covering of the blankets. Reg felt his desire rekindle as he climbed into the bed and took her in his arms.
He lay holding her. They said nothing and he felt her nervousness and knew she was uncomfortable. After a few minutes, she got up and dressed. She looked down on him and said, ‘If you decide not to come back, I'll never forget my beautiful boy.'
‘I'll be back,' said Reg.
Brinkworth South Australia – May, 1932
Reg drove the dray up the drive towards Jezebel's farm. The rolling farmlands stretched their gentle green slopes into the distance. He hadn't noticed how much the house needed painting during his previous visit. The buildings looked sadder; it was obvious that Cliff didn't have the money for maintenance. Weeds were growing right up to the house giving it an uncared for look.
He remembered feeling Jezebel's soft body against his. Her fragrance that hovered when she was with him and how it changed after she left were memories he cherished, and he was thinking of the pleasure that awaited him. He'd had the memory many times in his travels around the mid-north setting traps. He tried to picture their first night together, and an image of her naked body formed in his mind making his erection push on his trousers. His goal had been to last a year as a trapper, so he could return to her, nothing else had mattered. He looked towards the house. Please be back from the city, he thought.
Cliff stood near his shed and waved him towards the shearer's quarters. Reg let the horse out into the paddock, took some of the assorted gear from the dray, and laid it inside the quarters. One of the beds was made up and it even had sheets and a blue bedspread. There were curtains at the window, and he noticed the bed was not the normal cheap camp bed like the rest, but wooden with a spring mattress. He smiled; she was back from the city.
He lit the stove, filled several large saucepans with water, and placed them on the hot plates. When the water boiled, he poured it into the bath provided for the shearers. While he was in the bath, he heard someone in the bedroom. ‘The Missus thought you'd like some tucker.' It was Cliff's voice. ‘I'll leave it near the stove where it will stay hot.'
‘Thank her for me,' Reg yelled. He lay back in the warm water feeling like he had come home.
‘You have to keep your strength up,' yelled Cliff. Reg sat up in the bath. Did Cliff know? No, it was just something he said, Reg thought.
When she appeared that night her hair was different; it was longer and brushed her shoulders. Reg caught a whiff of perfume. It smelt like pine, and he felt aroused. She carried the lamp to the side table, turned the light down, and looked down at him.
‘Do you like the bed?'
‘It's a long time since I've slept between sheets.' There was enough light to see her gaze boldly at him and remove her nightclothes. She stood next to the bed for a moment and he touched her bare skin and trembled with desire. She slipped into bed with him. He held her in his arms and felt her body against his.
Reg thought she was more relaxed, and a little thicker through the waist. She still said very little, and the sex was as if they had never stopped. They settled back into the same routine. He was disappointed in how their lovemaking ended. He was still filled with a need to be near her but she always seemed to be in a hurry to leave.
About a week later, Reg caught the glint in her eye as it reflected moonlight coming through the window. They said nothing for a few moments, ‘You know a lot about me, but I don't know anything about you,' he said.'
‘That's the way it has to be.'
‘I'd like to know you. I haven't even met your sister.'
His routine was always the same. He went to bed, read until Jezebel came and slipped her nightclothes off, and got into bed with him. They made love she left.
She came to him on most nights for three months then one night she got out of bed, replaced her clothes, and sat on the bed. ‘I have to go back to the city,' she said. ‘I'm not coming back anymore.'
Reg felt his chest constrict. ‘No. Don't go.'
‘I don't want a scene. You're just something I liked and now it's finished.' She leaned over kissed him on the cheek, picked up the lantern, and walked towards the door.
He sprang out of bed and ran after her. The glow of the lantern was quickly moving away towards the house. He had no clothes on, but ran out into the night.
She'd reached the house and he noticed Cliff meet her at the door. He pounded the ground with his fists.
He left the next day. He had no reason to stay and thought about going home to Birdwood. He called into the feed merchant to sell his skins.
'Where did yuh trap these, young fella?' asked the merchant.
'Cliff Nunn's farm,' said Reg as he unloaded the skins from the dray.
'A bit of a surprise, the old Cliff; did ya see the baby?' Reg hoped his face didn't show his surprise. What baby, he wondered. He stared blankly at the merchant. 'He got banged up real bad in the war. We all thought he couldn't have kids. Last year his wife gave birth to the healthiest boy you ever did see. Me Missus tells me his wife is pregnant again. Did yuh meet her?'
'No, what's her name?' asked Reg.
'What's she look like?' He'd often wondered why he'd never met Cliff's wife.
'Dark hair, a well built heifer but a real good looker.'
'I met her sister from the city.'
'She ain't got no sister. She's local. I've known her all me life. You must of met the Missus. Did she tell you she had a sister?'
‘I just trapped bloody rabbits. Don't know what's going on at the house,' said Reg. His mind was in a whirl.
‘You been shagging her? It'd explain a lot.'
‘Nar not me,' he lied. ‘I'm just a trapper no one want's to shag me.'
He sold the skins, drove the dray out to Cliff's farm, and stopped on the road. Fluttering in the breeze on a clothesline behind the house he could make out little square white sheets. He'd never seen baby's nappies on the line before. They must have been hidden from him when he was there.
Cliff came out to meet Reg as he drove up the drive. The farmer was leaning on a shotgun. It wasn't the jovial pleased to meet you Cliff, he was more severe and resolute. ‘Forget something son?'
‘I noticed nappies on the line. They tell me in town your wife had a baby. I thought it was strange I'd been living here for months and I didn't know.'
Cliff brought the gun up and held it across his body. ‘That's right. There's lots of things you don't know son.' Reg felt the hostility in Cliff and the menace of the weapon.
‘Is it my child? Someone has been coming to visit me at night.'
Cliff laughed but there was no humour in his eyes. ‘That's the wife's sister. She liked you. She's gone.'
‘They told me your wife doesn't have a sister. That means it must have been your wife that came. That would make that baby mine.'
Cliff pointed the gun at Reg, ‘That's bullshit. You'd better go before I get angry.'
‘You going to let me see the baby?'
‘No. Even if what you say is true. What would you do with a baby? There's another one coming. Can you look after two kids? You've had all the fucks, what more do you want?'
‘You and that fucking missus of yours are bastards,' said Reg.
‘Piss off,' Cliff shouted. He moved closer to Reg and menaced him with gun. ‘You'll get buckshot in the kisser. Now piss off.'
Reg climbed into the driver's seat and turned the dray around. The horse galloped to the end of the farm road as if it knew it was escaping from danger.
Reg stopped his horse and glanced back at the farm and saw Cliff standing with the shotgun. Reg stood in the dray and yelled as loud as he could, ‘Bastards. Bastards. You bastards. One day I'm coming back. You won't get away with it.' His voice carried across the paddocks. Cliff fired the shotgun. The noise echoed across the countryside and Reg dived into the back of the dray.
He looked up and saw Cliff standing with the smoking weapon carelessly slung across his shoulder.
Reg angrily slapped the reins against the horse's rump making the animal gallop towards Brinkworth. Sobs broke from him making him wipe furiously at his face.