Chapter Four

Henry laced up his boots, cursing the fog as he braced himself for another gloomy day in the valley. Work was all he had left, and he was afraid to stop, foreclosure or no foreclosure. Physical labour stilled his mind, stopped the ugly pictures, silenced the screams. He walked down to the old maire and picked up his axe, testing its edge. Its weight felt reassuring, it was solid, real, no one could take it from him.

Charred sticks and ash crunched under his feet as he walked down the clay track to the eastern part of his block. A pair of paradise ducks took to the air a few hundred yards away, alerting the world of an intruder. Henry stepped off the track and waited. His patience was rewarded by the crunch of footsteps, he grasped the axe firmly, just in case.

A ghostly figure emerged from the fog, it was Les. He was so severely hunched over it made the swag on his back look like a saddle. He remained silent as Les disappeared back into the gloom, leaving Henry with his axe and agony.

He took to the trees like a man possessed, his rage wielding the axe with a terrible violence. As tree after tree thundered to the ground, he grunted and sweated, not daring to stop, not giving his mind the time to bully him. Late in the afternoon, his axe jammed in the scarf of a Totara and broke its handle trying to dislodge it. Bellowing with frustration he kicked the tree with his leather clad foot, breaking a toe. Hobbling home, the evening shadows began to chill the foggy air, his sweaty shirt clung to him like a corpse.

Rebecca was waiting for him when he arrived at the house, her relief changed to concern when she saw he was limping.

“Henry, you’ve hurt yourself!”

“Its nothing, I’ll be in soon.”

“We were worried, dinners ready.”

“He’s gone.”

“Who?”

“Les.”

“Did you see him.”

“Yes, he’s gone. What’s for dinner?”

“Left overs, is he coming back?”

“He’s gone.”

Henry said it with such firmness she knew the topic was closed

“The children are in bed, there’s hot water in the copper if you want to wash up.”

Henry nodded and she went back inside.

Rebecca sat quietly as Henry ate his meal. A morepork called from the cabbage tree behind the house, making the night her own.

“They’ll have to take me off our place at gunpoint.” said Henry as he finished his meal.

“You’ve worked so hard, it's just not fair.”

“Life’s not fair, nothing is.”

Henry drained his cup. “A month, they know our situation. A month!" he scoffed "They might as well ask us to fly to the moon.”

Rebecca smiled fondly at him, wanting to take away some of his pain, but he wouldn’t look at her, he hadn’t been able to for a long time.

Henry winced as he stood up, his toe throbbing with pain.

“We’d best go to bed, I want to get a full day in tomorrow.”

Rebecca joined the charade and nodded.

“It will be a better day, you wait and see."

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