Zing Stories

Cry Ma Ma to the Moon

Once there was a woman called Bess who read so many books that her hold on life became slim. Recognising this, and feeling the weather turn cold, she decided to knit in the evenings.

 One afternoon, she drove from the school where she worked, through the town, and along the valley to Ma Ma Creek, until she came to the house of the woman she was seeking. Clare MacLeod stopped spinning. At last the stranger had come. All day she'd had the feeling something new was afoot and now she could find out what.

 Bess introduced herself and asked if she could buy some wool. ‘Wool that you've spun yourself, and dyed too. I saw your sign in the health food shop. You use eucalyptus leaves, don't you? That's what made me come. Eucalyptus leaves sound lovely. My husband Jim loves those trees.'

 Over fennel tea and honey cake Bess talked of Jim. Bess talked and talked until Clare could "see" the man-standing on the plateau where he grew berries, looking north-west to Ma Ma Forest. The forest. Clare loved it too. Seen from a distance, it seemed protective, hugging the ranges in coats of blue-green merino wool. But it could play havoc with the mountains. During the Wet, trees wrenched out rocks with their roots, jammed the creeks and sent water spluttering on new courses down the mountain backs.

 Jim wrote poetry about the things he loved. Bess spoke so proudly of it that Clare was convinced he was a better man than most, loved better than most, and that her hard-won skeins wouldn't be wasted on either of them.

 On the table Bess put a Patons book and pointed to the pattern she wished to follow. ‘I did this one last winter for one of my boys, Mick. Not that he'll need it now. He's a surveyor. At Tennant Creek. Hot! It's so hot he says you can fry eggs on the bitumen. Let's see. I need twenty-eight balls of main colour and a ball each for the three contrasting colours. What do you think, Clare, is the style too young for a man Jim's age?'

 Old? Young? That wasn't the point, but Clare made it a habit not to disagree. If she thought people had it wrong, she opened a window in front of their faces and hoped they had the sense to look through it. So she led Bess to her work area and explained the process of dyeing the wool. How she would go out walking after storms and collect leaves from fallen branches. The purposes of the jars of salts. The importance of many saucepans. The keeping of records in her work-why strands of wool of different hues were knotted in rows under the headings ALUM, CHROME, COPPER and IRON. Whenever Bess admired a particular colour, Clare took the skein from the shelf and made a collection for Bess to take with her.

 Hotch-potch earth colours. Red as in Uluru. Orange like resin. Wattle-yellow. Greens the shades of gum leaves. Grey and beige like tree trunks. The browns of bulldust and bare earths. Black like burnt trees.

 Excerpt from Chapter 1 Lesley Synge

 Read it all, with beautiful illustrations by Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox, by buying it from Amazon.



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Zing Stories
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