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Fennel Wine

(c) Linda Hutchison September 2018

It had been a long day. I dragged myself to the couch and plonked into my favourite spot, resting my feet on the coffee table. I looked wearily at my grubby boots, then thought better of having them smear dust all over my slab of redgum. I kicked them off and pushed them over the edge of the table. The resulting smudges formed an interesting pattern across the formerly shiny surface. I stared at it for at least ten minutes without thinking before wiping my hand wearily across my face. The drag of not-quite skin against skin made me realise I’d just created a matching arc on my face, but I was beyond caring.

“Get me a beer, would you?” My dog just looked at me from his repose on the floor.

“No, seriously, I think I need one.” He rolled his eyes then dropped his muzzle to his paws, looking in the opposite direction.

“’For a hard-earned thirst, you need a big cold beer, and the best cold beer is...’” I could see the sweat dripping off the actor-cum-miner as he downed an icy can of carefully-staged VB.
I sat up. That was the answer! Scull an ale and I’d be back to my old self. I slipped across the faded lino in my socks to the fridge. It was about as helpful as the dog. The shelves held barely anything; a slab of cheese maybe, but never beer. I grabbed a bottle of Fennel wine that a neighbour had given me and staggered back to the couch with a bottle opener and a handful of homegrown almonds. This healthy living got a bit much sometimes and I sort of longed for a packet of chips and bag of Maltesers, but I settled for our local produce. As I drank the aniseed concoction straight from the bottle, I allowed myself an admiring gaze through the window across the garden. The frangipani was in full bloom and the ginger and orchids lit their corners of our little oasis. I lowered my eyelids and allowed myself a quiet sigh of satisfaction.

When I opened my eyes, l looked down to see tracks in the dust on my table. They weren’t small enough to be a cockroach’s, although you don’t need know why I would have recognised them if they were. They weren’t dog paw prints, and the cat was still asleep in the armchair. They were footprints of some sort, so I could exclude snakes, and the absence of a trailing line between the prints meant that I could rule out lizards and geckos. The muscles in my shoulders began to tense as I sensed a presence near me. I slowly swivelled my head and body to look around me, first left then right, but everything looked normal. I quickly retrieved my feet from where they’d been resting on the floor and tucked them under me. Rolling over, I peered slowly over the back of the couch, but it was clear.
I sneaked a peek under the coffee table but could see nothing sinister. I even hung over the far edge of the couch and glanced quickly underneath, but there was nothing but a few coins, crumbs and an old match.

I was relaxing again and blaming my overactive imagination when my dog started to growl softly. He stood up and walked around the couch, then stood staring at me.

“What are you rumbling at?”

He kept growling, softly but insistently. By now my shoulders were set as rigid as a marble statue’s and my stomach was preparing for an independent aerial trapeze act. My temperature was rising, so I reached up to undo my scarf then froze. I hadn’t been wearing a scarf. My neck was, however, decidedly cosy. I stood up very slowly and walked with the poise of a deportment school prefect to the bathroom. My ‘scarf’ shifted ever so slightly as I reluctantly turned towards the mirror. All I could see was fur. Grey-brown fur, with streaks of cream along what could have been limbs. This was another moment where I bitterly regretted leaving the safety of freezing cold Victoria for ‘troppo’ far north Queensland. At least in Victoria the wildlife had the decency to respect our personal space.

I very gently touched the furry object nestling around my throat. It moved and I fought the urges to scream and run as a face lifted itself from the mass of fur and a pair of large, round eyes focussed to stare back at me in the mirror. I mentally gave David Attenborough a high-five as I recognised a heart-meltingly adorable Slow Loris. Then I mentally shook my fist at him as I remembered they are one of the few mammals that are poisonous. If I thought my day had been challenging before, now I found myself standing in the bathroom, being watched by a growling dog and an overly-interested cat, with a cute but potentially deadly creature clasped around my neck.

What happened next, I’ll never really be sure, but it had something to do with a cat leaping, a Slow Loris swinging from the shower rail, a dog pushing me onto the floor and a cloud of baby-scented whiteness as a bottle of talc erupted. When the haze settled, the Slow Loris was nowhere to be seen. The cat had scarpered and the dog had fallen silent, so I retreated to the couch to nestle under a blanket. I poured myself another glass of the Fennel wine and slowly drooped into the softness of the wool. I took a few long draughts, settled my breathing, then closed my eyes again. Eventually I drifted off, only waking when a neighbour’s gunshots heralded his weekly fox hunt.

As I pondered the events of the evening, I counted myself lucky. It’s not every day that one escapes the death-hold of an endearing, cuddly terrorist. I looked back at the prints on the table, thinking I’d memorize them for next time. The dust was undisturbed; not a print in sight. The bottle of Fennel wine leered at me, and I mentally slapped my forehead. Now I knew why the locals called it Fenella’s Revenge. And no wonder they recommended it for windows. From now on it would be banished to the laundry and labelled Nightmare Cleaner. It was probably time I learned how to brew beer.


Fennel Wine: Work
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