Authors: Holly Throsby
First published in 2016
Copyright Â© Holly Throsby 2016
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian
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Allen & Unwin
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Crows Nest NSW 2065
(61 2) 8425 0100
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Text design by gogoGingko
Cover design: Sandy Cull, gogoGingko
Cover photographs: Adrian Gardner
Holly Throsby is a songwriter, musician and novelist from Sydney, Australia. She has released four critically acclaimed solo albums, a collection of original children's songs, and an album as part of the band, Seeker Lover Keeper.
is Holly's debut novel.
Goodwood was a peaceful town before the tragedies. It sat itself quietly between a mountain and a river. After a long stretch of flowing, the river became a lake. The lake was vast and brown and brimming with bream. It was a top spot for fishing and boats cut silver waves across it on the weekend.
As any one of its long-time residents would've said, Goodwood was a glass-half-full kind of town, and weekends were a trusted time. People washed their cars in their driveways of a Saturday. They baked and mowed while their dogs slept in shade. Sundays were dozy and mainly for fishing. And the first one of the month meant a little market in Sweetmans Park where a few dismal stalls sold enormous pumpkins and disappointing jams.
A green metal sign announced the township as you drove inâpast the Bowlo, past the oval, under the mountain.
Welcome to Goodwood
, it said, with the sound of the brown
river, and the smell of cows and fish. Front doors hung wide open in warm weather. The bar at the Wicko hummed with drinking. Wood-panelled television sets glowed and flickered on living room walls of an evening. Backyard swing sets creaked with children. People died of heart attacks and strokes and cancers and time, lying in their beds at twilight, or sitting in their cushioned reading chairs.
It was generally considered a good thing that Goodwood was home to small, humble lives that didn't bear much mention. Events that were regarded as dramatic were a minor traffic incident or a lack of rain. It was not a place where you'd expect to find corpses. There were no bodies on the forest floor, entwined like vines, hurtled from a harmless existence by rage or madness or spite. Horror did not visit Goodwood. Nor did sorrowâor not in the way we would come to know it so well.
I was born in the city but we only lived there till I was two, which was when Mum moved us to Goodwood to be close to my Nan and Pop. They had a big brown brick house, with a rose garden out the front, and a verandah with cane furniture on it. I liked to lie on Nan's daybed and get a good view of the street, where there were never that many people, but of what people there were, everybody knew everybody, no question.
Mum had a lot of friends. She gardened with company and joined clubs and took minutes. Most mornings in high
school I ate brown toast and Mum told me about her CWA class or the latest meeting at the hall. Mum's cousin Mack was Goodwood's own Constable âMack' Mackenzie. He sat on our couch commonly and drank Reschs Pilsener. Mum and Mack were very social, which was nice, because they mingled a lot and talked a lot and I liked to hear about people.
Everybody knew everybody, no joke. Including me, including Mum and Mack; and Big Jim and Fitzy next door; and Nance who ran the Grocer; and my Nan and my Pop. A person in Goodwood was forgiven for knowing the intimate business of their neighbours and their neighbours' neighbours, just for the sheer proximity, as well as the chatter, and the simple fact that seeing and hearing is, to some degree, knowing. There was Helen at the newsagent, having one of her panics; or Smithy at the Wicko, having deep feelings; or Coral, from two doors up, who was ancient and dragged her tartan shopping trolley past our house twice a day, the wheels singing like a baby bird.
Everything in my memory was regular and pleasant and unremarkable before the disappearances. That was in 1992, when I was seventeen and the winter had set in, making our breath misty and our curtains drawn.
It wasn't just one person who went missing, it was two. Two very different people. They were there, and then they were gone, as if through a crack in the sky. After that, in a small town like Goodwood, where we had what Nan called
âa high density of acquaintanceship', everything stopped. Or at least it felt that way. The normal feeling of things stopped. Hope dwindled like an unstoked fire. And before too long the grief crawled in. A plague of sadness infected our shop fronts. It rested on our awnings and nested in our gardens and gnawed its way through the walls of our houses.
First, it was Rosie White.
She was eighteen years old when she dropped off the face of the earth, one year older than me. Years are long when you're younger, and each one makes a marked difference. Rosie was almost a whole year clear of high school and working at Woody's Takeaway on Cedar Street. She was older and cooler and prouder and free.
My best friend George and I would stand by the drinks fridge, waiting for our hot chips, and try to pretend we weren't intimidated by Rosie. But we were. We loved her; and we wished more than anything that she'd say somethingâanythingâand preferably say it in our direction so we might feel like we belonged; like we might one day be her friends; like we were, in some way, a part of her faraway and much more interesting world.
Mostly, though, Rosie didn't say an awful lot. She half-smiled and kept a look of deep intensity. Then she'd turn to the bain-marie to retrieve a pie and George and I would stand back and silently admire her clothes, which were a spirited combination of the army green racks at the Clarke Disposal
Store and the black and flannel racks at the Goodwood Vinnies, where Val Sparks worshipped a porcelain baby Jesus and listened to old pop songs on a silver radio.
Many boys in Goodwood wanted Rosieâencouraged, in part, because she didn't want them. She walked along with her headphones on, as big as earmuffs, and there was always something defiantly unapproachable about her. Of course, her remoteness attracted many a rebellious boy to the grand idea of approaching her, but that never turned out so well. She dismissed their advances summarily, with some form of wry put-down, and it only made them, and us, love her more.
I saw Rosie behind the counter at Woody's every weekday when I went past on my way home from school or took Backflip for a walk along the river. Then, one day in August 1992, she was gone. And in her place were more questions than one town had ever asked about a single subject.
A week after the last sighting of Rosieâby her mother, Judy White, who saw her close her bedroom door after saying her goodnights, only to not be there the next day to say her goodmorningsâBart McDonald vanished.
Bart ran Bart's Meatsâ
Pleased to Meat You!
said the sign on the awningâand was tremendously popular as a member of the Gather Region Council, co-president of the Goodwood Progress Association, and the main provider of the myriad
meats required for Goodwood's long tradition of backyard barbeques. Bart was also just a terrific guy. He clinked more beer glasses than any other man in town. He fished the lake with constant enthusiasm. He had a deep hearty laugh and was fluent in good advice. Bart had time for everyone. His face was kind and his skin was weathered, like he'd fished a lot, and drank a lot, and otherwise lived in it thoroughly. If Goodwood had designated one person as the sole recipient of its unalloyed affection, that person would have been Bart McDonald.
On the Sunday, Bart went fishing on Grants Lake and never came home. His boat was found drifting like a cloud. On it were his lures, his bucket, his scaling knife, chopping board, esky and a half-drunk beer, snug in his favourite stubby holder that said
Goodwood's Good For Wood
with a picture of the old sawmill and a cartoon man superimposed on top, winking at a blushing lady.
All that, but no Bart.
In the days after he vanished, Mrs Bart, as everyone called her, even though her name was Flora McDonald, paced the inside of her husband's shop window, the silver trays empty except for the green plastic trimming that made the meat look pastoral.
Mum said maybe Mrs Bart thought the shop was the most obvious place to wait, since ordinarily Bart did seem to be there every minute of the day, six days a week. âEveryone grieves in their own way,' said Mum. I said I would've waited
at home, with the blinds drawn, so no one could have seen me pacing. But Mrs Bart was still there in the evenings, patrolling under unkind fluorescent lights, or staring at the trays where the meat should be, as if desperate for a sirloin.
Divers dived for Bart. George and I stood on the side of the lake where a group from town had gathered and we counted four men in scuba attire. They searched all morning, snacked on the police boat at lunchtime, and then went over the side again, only to come up empty-handed at sundown.