Before You Cross Over

By Kate Maxwell

Lying on the side of the road, he waited for death or deliverance. His resting place: a small stretch of gravel and dirt sloping off the highway, scattered with weeds and a few puddles. He’d been propelled about two yards in and lay, casually contorted, facing a ragged wire fence. Every new movement shuddered pain through his body. Best to lie still. There was no way to know if he was visible from the road because he couldn’t even turn his head. The only option was to wait and listen.
A few flies irritated his eyes and mouth. Screwing eyes shut, his mind pushed away from this roadside perdition. He was at the top of the hill; sunflowers glinting in the dawn, smell of earth and cow dung in the air. Then ambling down to check the feed bins with Joe, always young Joe trailing along behind him. The farm’s daily life: feeding, watering, finding gaps in fences, all played out under a relentlessly fierce sun. This dry harsh land could be unforgiving and made no guarantees. His family knew to watch over the herd. If the cattle survived, so did they.
Now, as shadows painted the fence post black, would he ever see his family again?
Another attempt at movement shot quivers of agony through his back and legs. His dry ragged breath slowly settled into a metronome of waiting. Frogs croaked mournfully close by, and maybe… the distant hum of a car? He concentrated on the rumbling. Yes, definitely a car. Throbbing more distinctly, louder, and louder until finally, the vibrations of a ton of pounding metal pulsated beside him. Then it was gone, whooshing along the highway as the roar of the engine and his hope faded into the night.
The next morning was hot and full of flies. Another car. This time it slowed into the gravel and splashed a little muddy water over the back of his legs. It stopped. A door opened and heavy footsteps moved towards him.
“Chuck us the spray paint, mate,” a deep voice called, “This one’s gone. Not female. But we better spray it so nobody else needs to stop and check for a pouch.”
And with a swift movement, he leaned over the twisted carcass and sprayed the kangaroo’s fur with a fluorescent pink cross.
“Glad those warning signs are working so well,” the voice scoffed. “They hit the bugger two meters from the bloody roo crossing sign.”

* * *

Kate Maxwell is a Sydney-based teacher and part-time writer. She has been published and awarded in Australian and International literary magazines, such as The Blue Hib, The Chopping Block, Hecate, Linq, Verandah, Lightbox Originals, Social Alternatives, and Swyntax. Her first poetry anthology, to be pubished with Interactive Publications, is forthcoming in 2021. Kate’s interests include film, wine and sleeping.

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