The house sits square on its foundations, with its yellow iron roof and white wooden walls meeting just so at the corners.
The front door faces the morning and the huge misshapen sugar gum on the corner of the home paddock, which has three times been struck by lightening and has three times grown back, but each time with a new and twisted logic. There is no thunderstorm threatening the sky today, only a distant glassy blue.
The kitchen faces north with a window that frames the water tank and the jam trees and the cubby house of ply and four-by-two and leftover lino.
The back verandah, louvre lit and dusty, shows the hen house and the vegetable garden through the gaps between the bubbled glass.
The south side is windowless and blankly disregards the empty carport and the driveway gravelled with white quartz and beyond, the shearing shed and the old truck.
Inside the house is still and quiet. The curtains are drawn, the beds are all neatly made and the kitchen is tidy. The sink is cleanly wiped and the washcloth hanging from the spout of the tap is dry and stiff. The dresser is softly polished and lined with wallpaper. Plates, butter yellow and white stand along the back and matching cups hang from hooks along the edges of the shelves. By the door on the back verandah a dogs bowl is half full of water; ants are drawing a boundary around it, with each step matching each step so carefully that the line appears as motionless as the air.
Outside there is the sound of crows calling high, and closer, the chittering of wagtails and the comforting hum from the hen house. Behind it all but somehow louder, cicadas whose individual clicking, no matter how hard they try, is orchestrated into the insistent tapping of one metronomic hammer. And from the northeast a half heard half felt rumble approaching as if the wheat train in the siding has abandoned its tracks and is heading towards the house.
The water in the dogs bowl is stirring and tiny waves lap at the edge. The ants abandon their regimentation and spread like a widening damp spill. The louvres on the verandah tremble like a wind chime although the air is still unmoving. The grumble is low and subterranean and shivers the neat corners of the house until a crack appears above the front door. The gravel on the driveway jumps and pops. The old truck rolls against the hand brake. A dead branch curved like a question mark falls from the sugar gum.
All the birds are mute; the ants have disappeared. The butter yellow plates, one after the other slip and crash to the floor, the cups swing wildly. Gumnuts bounce on the iron roof and chime on the water tank until, after one long vibrating moment, everything subsides. Silence and stillness re-enter until only the tiny shifting of plaster dust onto the tilted bedroom mirror, onto the dry dishcloth, onto the now still surface of the water in the dog’s bowl, can be seen to move.
One by one the cicadas venture to click their private disapproval until, drawn again by an internal rhythm, they merge and resume their one persistent pulse.