Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Things that go bump.....

It was the sad bad dog days of a marriage. The time when you know it is never going to work, but you really can't go through all the pain of a parting. I needed time to think, or gird my loins, or simply to hide from a situation I didn't want to face. So I took my horse to a friends property some two hours north from here, out into the hinterland, amongst the escarpments and wandering valleys and slow moving creeks. It was winter, a subtropical winter. No snow or blizzards, no grey skies and dark brown frosted earth and leafless trees. But cool all the same, with starry frosty nights. In the mornings I could hear Soda, my grey, crunch around the paddock, waiting for me to break the ice on his water so he could have a drink. Typically I couldn’t have bought a normal horse, a quiet hack to learn to ride on. No. I had bought an Australian Sports Horse, a Polo horse, spirited and fast with an eye popping ability to turn in his own length at some speed. I had been thrown a few times ( after one fall I limped for 18 months), but at last mastered the beast, and could now ride with a fair degree of confidence. So the two of us climbed the hills and rode down the timber trails and along the creek beds. And I am still amazed why a horse can be very skittish at some harmless object in a field twenty meters away, but quite happily ride into a creek where he can’t see the bottom. I know they are prey animals, and anything different in their domain could be a threat. But surely an unexpected hole under the muddy water could lead to a broken leg and a certain death just as easily. Another of Life’s fascinating mysteries. Along with Quantum Physics, black holes and women.

So alone in a timber cottage, high set in the Queensland style, as cold inside as out on these bone cold nights. And lying huddled under the quilts inside a sleeping bag, breath steaming like a kettle intermittently boiling. And then the sudden sound of something tearing in the room across the hall. A sound clear and distinct breaking the country-deep silence. A ripping noise like tearing a fly screen, or coarse sun-damaged hessian. Followed by a thump. Quite loud. Quite distinct. So I got up to investigate, turning on all the lights, wandering from room to room. Nothing. No torn fly screens, nothing dropped on the floors. Nothing. So back to bed, closing the door to keep any heat-excited air molecules trapped in the room with me. And after a few minutes, the door flings open. Dramatically. I burst out laughing. ‘you’ve got to be kidding!’ So back up again, more switching on of lights, checking of door locks, windows etc. Nothing. Back to bed with no further incidents.

And two other nights, late, dark, windless, thumps on the side of the house. Like a padded ball being thrown at the wall. Irregular, every few seconds. Like a small flock of birds flying into the house. I heard it again, a couple of years later, again late at night, on the side wall of my inner suburban house.

But that is not the strangest thing about the trip.

A few days later, I drop the keys off to my friend, have coffee, say thanks. And then we walk outside and chat at my car. And suddenly I can smell cat piss. Strong and insistent, like a Tom has sprayed my car. I walk around looking for the cat, or wet piss on the side of the car. My friend stands quietly staring at me with a decidedly odd expression. Finally the smell fades. I look at his strange expression. I ask him if he had smelt it. He says no.

Then he tells me the tale. When he and his wife bought the house a year or so before, they had spent some time cleaning etc. And occasionally there was a strong smell of cat piss in the room where I had heard the noise. His wife and his brother could smell it. But he couldn’t. They had cleaned the room several times with disinfectant , but the smell still came and went. It was strange that the smell was there sometimes, and not at others. They had no explanation. And I hadn’t noticed it when I was there.

So what is the explanation? I don’t know. I decide the world is a very interesting place and one could go quietly mad trying to make sense of it. 'There are more things in heaven and Hell Horatio...'

No comments: