Inspiration Point - Smoke In The Valley
The valley spread out before me. From high up this end, I could see all the way down to the old weir. Beyond it, behind a stand of eucalypts, stood my grandparents house, the place where I grew up.
I never knew my folks. They died while I was still a baby. They’d been out for a night in town, first dinner then a movie. Dad had lost control of the car on a straight part of the road home and they’d plunged over into a hidden ravine.
The bush swallowed them whole.
They weren’t found for three days, or so the age-yellowed clippings revealed to me later. For my grandparents, the tragedy reverberated through their lives for many years. My father was their only child; destined to be the next generation to look after the family property.
My grandparents, looking forward to retirement, suddenly found themselves back at work as both parents and providers.
The bush didn’t do anything to help.
Growing up in such a place should have been idyllic. The valley was rich land with plenty of water and lots of places for a boy to explore. The reality, though, was vastly different.
My grandparents, bitter for their loss, angry at the world and jealous of their peers, took out their frustrations on a young boy, forcing him to be the father he didn’t know but without the love they had for their dead son.
I rebelled, first by argument then by callous disregard. My grandparents fought back with the only real weapons they had at their disposal. I was beaten soundly and often, sometimes so badly I couldn’t walk.
The bush stood silent and never intervened.
I started my first fire when I was 12. It was accidental, but the excited rush I felt was never far from my mind. The fire spread and caught, speeding away from me before I could stop it. I ran all the way home and hid in my room, hoping I wouldn’t be caught out.
When my grandfather came looking for me, it was to come help beat the flames and not to beat me, for a change. He treated me almost like a man after we finished, even allowing me a sip of his beer as reward.
I didn’t realise it then, but a precedent had been set. I felt elated and something else I couldn’t identify then. I now know it to be avengement. The bush took my parents and left me with my grandparents, who hated me. I would make it suffer. I would make it burn.
The valley spread out before me. From high up this end, I could see all the way down to the old weir. The stand of eucalypts that used to hide my grandparents house stand bare and white against the charred black land.
The skeleton of my childhood home stands just beyond, the final resting place of all my bitter memories. The fire burnt almost joyously, not discriminating between natural or manmade.
My grandparents never stood a chance.