I suppose I was seven or eight years old when he told he was a blackberry. I was confused but pleased that he was playing one of his silly jokes with me. I laughed at him and said 'don't be silly you can't be a blackberry because you are a person'. I don't remember how old I was when I found out that he had said Black Beret and not blackberry.
He died last Wednesday, curled up and snuffed out but it wasn't entirely unexpected. I didn't see him crawling towards the long night like some of the others did but I heard the change in the light some years ago. Everybody supposed that she would nurse him down gently until the breathing stopped. Everybody supposed she would pack a small suitcase and be driven across the horizon to the farm but she stayed where she was with that salt wind at her place where she watches the kangaroos graze by the sea. She said she never sees them hop on the sand, they stay clear of the sand like she does.
On Monday there'll be three of them standing hot on the inland blustering dust at the side of his open grave. They'll wear black and swat flies with their funeral programs. The middle child will sob the hardest, shaking her shoulders and frightening her children. The oldest son will be the star of the speeches and the youngest will evoke sympathy with the silent grit-tooth bowing of his head. Three hours north of where she'll be sitting by her sea I'll be swallowed in a building and thinking of her.