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the widow

Saint Kevins sits high above the town of Bangalow and like many churches up this way its chosen position commanded the town and the people who dipped in hard enough to build it. Back then. The timber-cutters, returned WW1 servicemen and dairy farmers who drove their herds up from the south coast in search of the newly cleared pastures of what was once known as The Big Scrub.

Mount Warning forever silhouetted on the northern skyline: named by Cook to alert those who followed him of the shallow reefs and rocky outcrops that abutted the coastline. Mount Warning named thousands of years earlier by the Bundjalung people as Wollumbin. The Cloud Catcher. The Rainmaker.

The Bundjalungs, driven out of their homes on this fertile ground by the early squatters and their brutal enforcers. Displaced, massacred. Murdered with poisoned damper, their children given blankets infected with smallpox.

Dealt with. Cleared out.

No plaque for them in Saint Kevin’s gardens.

~~

For years Phil drove a twenty-year old Corolla to drop his wife, Frances, at Mass on Sundays. Then he’d sit in the car and wait the hour for her to come out. Not a churchman, Phil, couldn’t take to it. I used to walk up and tap on his door after service from time to time, wait for him to put down his newspaper and look up.

‘One day, mate,’ I said to him more than once, ‘I’m going to drag you in there with me.’

Phil used to laugh it off. Shake his head. No bloody way.

He was just a little bloke – five foot nothing – born in Redfern as was Frances, came up here not long after his brother, a boilermaker, was murdered on Burwood Railway Station after coming home from a late shift. Stabbed Phil told me. Again and again. His torn body left almost afloat in blood.

Frances is alone now, Phil gone two years, and sometimes I sit near the widow on Sundays. If only to be blessed by the warmth of her smile when she turns and says hello.

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