This is one of the first stories I wrote as a journalism student in 2007. Baffled by the high standards at the University of Queensland I consumed large quantities of alcohol, in true journo style, and let the creative juices flow.
Here is it, unedited.
The Funeral and the Fox
I was sitting around a bonfire with my family one Saturday night. We had a raging fire between the mandarin tree and the patio. After a couple of glasses of wine on this particular night the phone rang at around 11pm. We’d finished our roast chicken and fluffy damper when I answered the phone, it was my grandfather. He sounded strange and anxious when I passed the phone to my dad before we were told that my Granny had passed away. Granny had died suddenly that afternoon from a heart attack; she went in style in the middle of a party.
Dad left early the next morning flying down to Cowra to be with his family and plan his mothers’ funeral. My mum and I were to stay at home and look after things back there for we had a troublesome fox that had kept coming round and killing our chooks, we wanted to stay and protect them.
In the meantime, only two nights after my dad had left for Cowra the fox came around looking for a feast of fleshy chicken. This was the fifth time Mr Fox had visited our chicken coop and it was decided that he had to be killed. Over the phone dad described to me the way to aim through a rifle and to the amusement of his bereaved family he guided us through getting the rifle from the gun safe and loading the gun. I still remember dad saying to me “line-up your v’s on the rifle and shoot the bastard, just shoot the bastard before he kills anymore of our chickens”.
Half an hour later the fox was heard again and mum grabbed me out of the shower then we set out with the rifle. Our fox hunting mission began with me in my pink flannelette dressing gown, nothing underneath, and hair still went and half conditioned from my shower just moments before. I wore my ugg boots on the wrong feet and carried the 22 rifle under my right arm while mum held the flailing torch. The lack of light didn’t make for the best conditions and as I fired a few shots into the fox’s direction beyond the woodheap I knew the quest would be in vain. The shots proved to be unfruitful and by the time my mum and I were to return from Cowra nearly all of our chooks would be gone from the run.
It seemed ironic to be hunting while mourning, yet I had rarely hunted before and never mourned so the new experiences were different in every sense. After a disturbed sleep mum and I traveled to Cowra for the funeral of one of the most wonderful women I will ever know.
During this time I had been fighting off a feeling of anxiety alongside my grief for the last time I spoke to my Granny I had played a trick on her. I rang her up pretending to be Jane form the Sydney Morning Herald conducting a poll onAustraliaand the monarchy. After 10 minutes of Granny telling me her ideas on the constitutional monarchy,Australiabecoming a republic and the governor general I revealed to her my true identity. Hahahaha it was all exceptionally comedic!! She laughed and laughed at the time but I wondered whether it was appropriate for final words with your grandmother.
The funeral was beautiful, Granny packed out the church and church hall with people also standing outside listening through speakers. Myself and two other cousins read Bible verses and I left with a feeling of relief. A big weight of grief had been lifted off my shoulders. After the service an old lady in sedate black dress came up to me and began speaking. She said “Hi Penny how are?” I said I was fine and returned the pleasantry. She continued talking to me; “Penny I just wanted to say that I was with your Granny when she received the “call” from the Sydney Morning Herald. She was so pleased with the joke, she came back to us at the table and spoke so highly of you. She told us all about your achievements and what you were doing at school, she was very happy”.
I felt amazing at that moment and I will never forget the gift Joan gave to me with those words for despite the sobriety of the occasion I felt content and the pain of my Granny’s death had started to hurt less.
It was only two weeks after Granny’s funeral that Mr Fox died. One Wednesday morning just before dusk my parents heard the fox with the last of our chooks and got a good shot in as the sun was rising, dad “killed the bastard”.