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When demoralised Warren Yeats abandons his failing business, his ex-wife and his city lifestyle to embark on a road trip with more twists and turns than Sydney’s streets, he has no idea how gruelling the outback can be.
Set during tropical Australia’s oppressively humid build-up to the annual monsoon—the Suicide Season—when tempers are short, children are constantly irritable, and adults are tight-lipped, Yeats stumbles across an illegal wildlife poaching operation, falls in love with an attractive female mechanic, and becomes an unwitting trespasser on Aboriginal land.
Whether sharing Yeats’ admiration for an apricot-hued sunset as it soars across an aurora borealis-like sky, watching nectar-eating parrots getting tipsy on the fermenting blossoms of paper bark trees or learning how to bake damper over hot coals, odds are you have never enjoyed a journey as unique as this, following one of life’s nicest losers as he becomes a winner.
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Yeats motored on. He imagined the angler in the pub that night, telling his story about the huge fish that had got away, breaking his rod to do so. Yeats couldn’t be bothered to fish. He neither expected a strike nor now to meet Crumb. The shadows were lengthening when he entered a previously unexplored section of waterway and saw a punt in centre stream ahead of him. The wind had dropped, and the water lay unruffled, disturbed only by the legs of a water-walking insect or fish fin. The punt held two men. They were both standing and casting into the lilies along either side of the arm. As Yeats came closer he saw they were oriental, possibly Indonesian. One was obviously older than the other and wore all white: a hat, shirt, and baggy trousers. His younger companion was similarly dressed but wore a baseball cap instead of a hat.
They were using fly rods of thin bamboo, and they flicked and whipped their lures along the edge of the lilies with skill. As they worked their lures, they changed places in the punt with, what seemed to Yeats, to be a sixth sense, each knowing exactly where the other was so that the punt was never destabilised and they never got in each other’s way. They cast and retrieved with ease and poise worthy of artistry found on the Opera house or Covent Garden stages, yet one false step and the yellow water of the billabong could part to reveal the villain of the melodrama, with a fixed grin but no moustache.
Yeats followed behind them as they worked along the billabong, mesmerised by the knowledge that their dance of cast and shuffle could become a dance of death. They saw him and acknowledged his presence with short bows before continuing. Although the width between the banks remained constant, the channel narrowed where water lilies had spread almost from one side to the other. The punt with the balletic Asians on board slowly turned into another channel and Yeats, sprawled in his punt and lazily somnambulant with the hypnotic effect of having watched the fishermen repeatedly cast and collect, motored slowly on.
The perfume from the lilies was almost overpowering, and Yeats felt heady. He couldn’t believe the beauty of the place. Even the name, Fire Dreaming Island, had a beauty and mystery about it. If the trip had led him here and nowhere else, it would have made the journey worthwhile. Yeats felt ecstatic. This experience almost compensated for the dilemma in which he now found himself. At that moment, his fishing rod, which he had rested behind him, its lure dangling and occasionally touching the water, bent downwards. The tug became a pull, and then the reel whined as line ran out, cleaving the water like wire through cheese. Yeats grabbed the rod and applied the tension, and a fish leapt out of the billabong. Bright in the sunlight and beautiful to behold, it tail-danced across the water, shaking its head to throw the lure. Yeats tried to reel in the slack line created by the fish’s leap for freedom but couldn’t keep sufficient tension on the line. The fish leapt a second time, and shaking its head again, tossed the lure-free. As quickly as it had appeared, it was gone. Yeats sat trembling in the punt, his breath shallow, his eyes wide with wonder. Yeats was disappointed, yet glad the fish had got away.
He smelled the familiar cigarette smoke before he heard the familiar voice.
“That’s not how I taught you how to fish, Wazza.”
The voice came from over his shoulder, and Yeats turned to see Crumb standing on the bank about three or four metres from the punt.
‘As the damper heated, Jack grilled steaks and Angela tossed a salad. They ate cross-legged on the ground watching an extraordinary apricot-hued sunset soar upwards and across the sky like an aurora borealis. When it reached its zenith, it seemed to collapse inwards, like a deflated bag, and submit to the night.’
‘October rain rarely falls, and mustering and droving takes place early in the dry season. As the dry season establishes itself, green grass turns to straw, dirt to dust, and the daily temperature and humidity increases to the point of oppressiveness. Late October usually brings thunderstorms that give short-lived relief, but between October and January the cycle of storm activity, alternating with periods of extreme humidity, increases. Locals refer to this time as the suicide season, a period when tempers are on short fuse, children are constantly irritable, and adults are tight-lipped. The thunderheads, as the storms are called, increase in frequency until the tropical wet season takes over.’
‘Something flew low overhead, its wings sounding like wet washing flapping on a clothesline on a windy day. Startled, Yeats ducked.’
‘Water lilies as big as dinner plates–with serrated edges and white, pink, and blue flowers like raised periscopes–covered the shallows along the shores of the billabong and perfumed the air. Where the water lapped the banks, the soft silty mud was host to mussels, crabs, snails, and freshwater prawns. Yeats noticed sticks that stuck out of the water but weren’t there when his gaze returned to the same spot. It took him a while to recognize they were long-necked turtles coming up to breathe.’
‘As he watched, the log suddenly moved and a cloud of white feathers mushroomed where the egret had been walking seconds earlier. A snapping sound reached him over the water, followed by a crunch, and then another. The log was a crocodile, and the egret was now its breakfast.’
‘The perfume from the lilies was almost overpowering, and Yeats felt heady. He couldn’t believe the beauty of the place. Even the name, Fire Dreaming Island, had a beauty and mystery about it.’
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Jeremy Gadd is an Australian author and poet. After graduating from the National Institute of Dramatic Art, he worked extensively in professional theatre in Australia and the United Kingdom before concentrating on his writing, which includes plays, the publication of novels, fifty short stories and poetry. He has also written dialogue for a dance performed by The Sydney Dance Company at the Sydney Opera House. He later earned Master of Arts with Honours and PhD degrees from the University of New England. He is a Writing Fellow of the Fellowship of Australian Writers.
Author: Jeremy Gadd
Title: The Suicide Season
Release date: April 15, 2019
RRP: AU$32.99 (pbk), 9.99 (ebk)
Territory: English language market
Format: Paperback and eBook
Size: 203 x 128 mm
ISBNs: 978-1-925856-15-6 (pbk), 978-1-925856-16-3 (ebk)