Mother(land)

I woke to zebras on the front lawn. They were still waiting after showers and cereal, after double-checking the home reader was signed and packed into the school bag. Our son stared but I bundled him into the car, already late for my 8.30am. When we came home that afternoon, they’d moved towards the house, unconcerned, chewing through patches of grass. Of course you weren’t worried. They’ll move on, you said.

When night fell and I found the guts to step off the front verandah into the spidery moonlight, they were eager, nuzzling my hand. We set out, an uneven line, past the newsagent, behind the post office. It was just a walk through town, nothing to keep secret. But we were home before daylight and it didn’t come up over breakfast.

The next night the zebras were antsy when I opened the screen door and we left town straight away, following the train tracks up north, edging towards the desert. And when the darkness began to lift I was staring at the endless red. In the distance I saw our son’s kindergarten teacher astride a tiger, unmistakeable with her Tammy Wynette hairdo and cowboy heels. And the HR monster from work, she was perched on top of an elephant, waving like a beauty pageant winner. And your sister, of course she was there, wearing her headband and tiny shorts, running amidst a flock of deer.

Shady Cosgrove is the author of What the Ground Can’t Hold (Picador, 2013) and She Played Elvis (Allen & Unwin, 2009). Her short works have appeared in The Best Australian Stories, Overland, Antipodes, Southerly, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and various Spineless Wonders publications. She teaches creative writing at the University of Wollongong, Australia.

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