Cele returns from the wool dye workshop and Nalbo is brought home by Timpson.
Cele parked the station-wagon in the car-port forming the lower stroke of the L shape of the house.
Neither the dogs nor Nalbo came to welcome her or to put her mind at rest that they were all right. All the windows under the eaves on this, the southern side of the house, were black holes. Only shards remained in the frames. She ran round the house, crunching broken glass into the ground with every hurrying step. Probably the blast had made them deaf, and they didn’t hear her drive up.
Coming round the corner to the long rear of the house, she almost fell back at the sight of all the sliding glass doors shattered. Beyond repair, she thought dully, especially if the whole district suffered the same. They’d be waiting for years for replacement glass. “Nalbo?” she called. Her voice quavered.
The old dog started barking. Telling Cele that she was in the garden shed.
No windows in there, she thought. So no glass. Nalbo shut the dogs in there … After the event, Cele! So where is he?
He might’ve thought to keep the dogs safe but the shed door wasn’t locked. And the young silly dog wasn’t there. Someone else had unlatched the door, and the young dog had followed him. She suspected Timpson. He’d taken such a shine to the pup he couldn’t take a step into the swamp without it.
Jazz followed her to the house and to the edge of the broken glass.
“Where’s Nalbo?” Cele said.
Jazz sniffed the ground. Turned her head and with her nose pointed into the swamp. Whimpered.
“Stay Jazz,” Cele said. She tiptoed into the house through the sparkling grit. The hall cupboard was open. Nalbo’s bush-walking gear was gone. Should she think that he’d gone to find a meteorite? She shook her head. “Men.”
Might as well get started. She fetched the outdoor-broom with the stiff brush so that the fibres wouldn’t pick up the shards. Re-purposing everything twice or three times was second nature, but she was stumped for a use for all the broken glass. In the end she dumped piles of it against the western side of the house. There to wait for further consideration.
Now there were just the splinters to sweep up. No vacuuming obviously until Nal rewired the solar panels. And forget that anytime soon, with the coming dearth of glass. They should probably help in Hillet, do the Emporium’s refrigerators first. No, first a cup of coffee.
She’d have to start a real honest to goodness fire.
Worth the effort?
Yes, she decided. Plenty more reasons they’d need a fire. Lucky that she hadn’t been able to convince Nalbo to get rid of the wood-burning stove.
She and Jazz went down to the timber plantation to the southeast of the house, stacking twigs for kindling in a pair of little panniers on Jazz’s back and stuffing the backpack with wood.
As they stepped from the forest, Jazz clung to the back of her legs again. As if there was danger was out here. Cele took a quick squizzy around. Nothing to get excited about.
Ha. She discovered it. Splinters of glass in the grass. She patted Jazz. Give the poor dog some credit.
And ha ha. She could still start a fire with a single match, especially when she had a paper starter, in this case a page torn from her wool dye journal.
She set the kettle on the hotplate. Coffee was their one addictive luxury. She filled the eight cup jug. A day’s supply. She pulled a wry face. No fridge. No ice. No ice coffee.
With a cup of hot at her elbow and the dye journal turned upside down and back to front, she started to record the weekend’s events. Call her vindictive, but she wanted to be able to remember exactly what Allie said.
Because she wanted to be fair. She wanted Nalbo to be able to read Tim’s and Allie’s plans without Cele expressing all her biases. She sighed. Where was he? Should she start lunch?
Jazz whimpered under her chair. Then was up, barking, at the kitchen door.
She met Timpson pulling Nalbo up the northern slope. Saw the details in a flash. A rough sled. The pup pranced around them, as if he did all the work. Up the garden path, she thought irrelevantly.
Timpson didn’t greet but pulled past her without stopping.
Nalbo caught one-handed at her legs. “Cele. Cele.”
He was red-brown all over. He wore a slightly loosened tourniquet on his left arm. His left hand was bundled in a red-brown rag. Fresh blood seeped from a fold in the wraps. He shuddered. Groaned. Shivered feverishly. But he was conscious and he could still speak.