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The Scrivener: Nests And Graves

While Brian Barratt was walking through a cemetery there was a sudden rush of air, the threatening clack of a strong beak. A male magpie dived towards him, protecting its young in a nearby nest. The incident set Brian to musing: Does someone or something protect those in these graves, the ones who have gone before?

For more of Brian’s speculative words please click on The Scrivener in the menu on this page. To join in the mental athletics sponsored and promoted by Brian visit his Web site The Brain Rummager www.alphalink.com.au/~umbidas/

Off the road, off the bush track. Here’s the gate. Unlock the slippery clasp on the chain, and open it up to enter the cemetery. There might be some interesting old tombstones, with inscriptions from a bygone era. Lonely cemeteries in the countryside can be windows into the past, someone else’s past. Just like those lonely brick chimney stacks that still stand in paddocks, their wooden houses long since collapsed.

There’s an echo of children’s voices, the quiet click of knitting needles from a vanished grannie’s armchair, the squeak and clatter of milk churns now empty and gone. There’s a neat line of modern, bronze memorial plaques, fixed in an uncompromising row along a concrete ridge, some with wilted flowers, others with fresh bunches by them. A single, lonely wooden cross, over by the fence, commemorates someone who passed away at the age of twenty-three. There is no headstone, no visible mound, no formal grave. Just a wooden cross. A row of forbidding cement or concrete slabs, some with older marble tablets mounted upon them.

Rusted iron rods and spikes, remnants of older graves, some with numbers as if they are the leftovers of an ancient filing system for the dead. A fenced-in area, full of weeds and grass, and no visible name, but someone is remembered there.

Suddenly, a rush of air, the threatening clack of a strong beak, as a male magpie dives down towards you, protecting his young whom you had not realised were safely ensconced in some nearby tree home.

He watches you, warning you that this is his own territory, before swooping down again, and again. As you raise your hand in self-protection, in case his beak or his claws tangle your hair, you lose sight of him in the glare of the sun when you turn your head rapidly.

You try and concentrate on the inscriptions, but he is determined to have you out of the place. So you leave, and he settles down.

He was doing the most natural thing — protecting his young. That’s somehow strange, in this place of death. Does someone, or something, protect those who went before? Where are they now, and what are they protected from?

© Copyright Brian Barratt


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