Sunday, April 25, 2010


It all began one Friday morning in early autumn. As the sun’s feeble glow gradually increased its intensity, the fog hanging low in the valley where the red-tailed black cockatoos roosted, began to slowly dissipate. Dark green river-gum trees, barely distinguishable from each other, progressively lost their ghostly appearance, taking on a normal everyday shape. Further down the valley, close to the banks of the meandering spring-fed river, the kookaburra laughed its welcome to the day.

I lay in bed identifying the morning calls … the magpie whistling the few notes that daily I meticulously echoed back, reinforcing the tune in his memory, until he now looked upon it as his own composition; the dull throaty drone of the tawny frog-mouth owl settling in for the day in the low overhanging gum-tree branch beyond the clothesline; while in the distance the rooster crowed a noisy ‘welcome morning’ to the world.

A noise startled me. I ascertained the sound emanated from further down the narrow graveled road. Knowing all was secure at home I ventured out onto the roadway. The mist, which had once again descended, threw a blanket over the scenery; it was almost impossible to see as far as the neighbours’ gateway. I listened. There it was again. A strange sound, quite unlike the usual animal or human sounds we were used to.

Across the road Jack, the long-haired collie, barked. He was a peculiar dog who delighted in enticing the horses into a race … Jack would bark and watch them racing around and around their paddock, hooves pounding and dust flying. The noise was not the sound of horses. They would still be in the stables waiting their morning rations.

Should I throw caution to the wind secure in the knowledge that Jack would come to my rescue if anything unforeseen occurred? But would he? Jack occasionally appeared at our back door, looking around with suspicious scrutiny before pushing himself inside. He would methodically proceed to sniff chairs, examine the rubbish bin, check out the table or bench for leftovers; yet completely ignoring my friendly overtures, slipping with disdain out of arms’ reach at any attempt on my part to pat him.

My curiosity was completely aroused. The sun had now risen above the hill but its glare, slowly building in its intensity, made looking eastwards down the road impossible. What was that noise? I walked onwards. The scrub wattle, which grows indiscriminately along the roadside, needs cutting back before it envelops the street completely, cast eerie shadows onto the verge. I listened. The sound, like a small child stamping his feet in exasperation, reverberated in the distance.

Surely our elderly neighbours were not in the throes of domestic dramas. They appeared compatible and hardworking. Never before had we heard sounds, or indeed viewed scenes, indicative of domestic disputes. Perhaps it might be best if I turned back … sometimes it is better not to know, not to be involved, than to race headlong into a situation not of my making.

No … I was not being nosey, just neighborly. Should help be required I could make any essential necessary phone calls, or even hurry to another neighbour to enlist assistance. As I neared the home next door it became obvious the noise was not of their making. All was silent, apart from the steady swish, swish, swish of the reticulation, which must be on a time switch, so regularly it began the daily cycle of setting in motion the hoses and oscillating sprays that ensured a verdant lawn, and a glorious show of flowers. Experienced gardeners advocate early morning as the correct time to water a garden … directly after sunrise before the sun’s rays can burn the foliage of tender plants.

The sun rose in the sky; the remnants of the fog lifted; and as visibility returned to normal, with blue skies and no trace of wind, the reason for the unusual noise that so attracted my attention became apparent. It was Hayward.

Hayward led a life of apparent domestic bliss, similar in style to a gypsy lifestyle. He, together with his wives and offspring shifted from property to property, depending on the season and the availability of food. Early yesterday that idyllic existence underwent a substantial and unaccommodating change. The farmer, whose stewardship of Hayward and family extended over a period that covered two generations, decreed Hayward needed his rampant breeding prowess curtailed for a few months. He was drafted from the main mob of sheep. To register a protest against banishment and loneliness he stamped his hind hoof in affront, stomping belligerently around the boundary of the small paddock where he had been confined, directly across the road from his harem that were contentedly grazing with their lambs. As he paced two and fro a liberal cloud of dust rose from his feet, spreading out across the road and the surrounding countryside to give the appearance of a dust storm. It was possible a percentage of the fog was simply dust.

Sighing slightly I turned around, and headed homeward. The excitement for the day was over; an early morning cup of coffee was high on my agenda.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


It all began when the Irish sisters arrived.

I have walked the long narrow corridors with ceilings so high one has to stretch their neck upwards and never have I noticed anything untoward. I have, if I look carefully, seen spider webs hanging suspended from the pressed tin ceiling, and when the rains tumble from the usually brilliant blue sky, miniature waterfalls trickle from the ceiling necessitating a bucket and mop brigade to sweep the blood red, though in reality only stained with the red dirt that abounds in The Outback, swirling waters out a door that remains locked.

I have often been woken in the darkness of a moonless night from sudden loud crashing noises emanating from downstairs. I lie awake listening. There is silence. Slowly as my eyes become heavy and sleep once again claims my senses I am left wondering if it was simply imagination. No one else hears the din, which left me to suspect they had retired much later than me and were in a state of deep sleep. In any elderly building ... the hotel celebrated its centenary a few years ago ... there are creaks and groans as indeed there is with centenarians. Loose floorboards squeak, doors rattle when the easterly winds whistle in from the desert, and curtains move quietly.

Often I notice a shadow passing the window and assume that someone is walking on the footpath outside. Or perhaps it is simply a low flying crow, those large black birds that squawk incessantly from the power lines, or the lone one that peers down the vent in the kitchen ceiling making what sound like indecent, and persistent calls as I prepare food. I ignored such noises and learned to close my ears, and eyes, to their increasing frequency.

Many nights I am the only resident asleep in the hotel and as I make my way to the bathroom for my ablutions or head down the darkened staircase to the lower level I am struck by the benevolent atmosphere that wraps itself around the building, like a warm comforting blanket in the middle of winter. When one of the dogs, or all of the dogs, have crept indoors ... to keep warm ... and curl up to pass the night hours on the orange soft chairs arranged conversationally on the upstairs landing, suddenly twitch their ears or open their eyes as if expecting to have a friendly hand pat them. No one is there.

One day the Irish sisters arrived. Nothing has been the same since.

A girls’ night in the cottage evolved into what could have been a night of tales around a flickering campfire. Instead of simple songs such as sung at Girl Guide camps, ghostly tales were whispered while outside the wind howled around the ancient building and branches of the palm tree scratched eerily on the tin walls.

But I progress too quickly with this tale.

The sisters’ arrival at the hotel could only be called singularly surprising. The girls had called into an employment agency seeking work, preferably in the country, as they have a declared interest in horsemanship. And ... they desired to be together, which is completely normal when so far from their native land. Their particulars were taken. Unfortunately the agency had no such positions on their books, but a promise was made they would be informed the moment any suitable jobs became available..

They barely noticed the middle-aged couple sitting behind them in the interview room. The couple were looking for a housemaid and a barmaid, and informed the receptionist that the two Irish girls were exactly who they were looking for.

Hardly a block away, sitting in a coffee shop awaiting their cappuccinos, a telephone buzzes in one of the girl's handbags. The outcome of that call was that the girls travelled north a few days later ... settling in to what was initially a 'culture shock' [their words] situation.

They listened to the tales that became increasingly spookier ... tales of ghostly bodies dripping blood staring out from mirrors, tales of suddenly becoming aware that hairs standing up on the back of your neck combined with a cold clammy feeling were not natural. When they dispersed to their separate rooms it was with trepidation. Next morning the conversation continued.

It was then that the Irish sisters mentioned ghosts in our building. When we enquired as to the form these ghostly happenings occurred I was surprised to be told about shadows walking past the windows. One of the girls was standing not far from the window, and being of a curious nature, had stepped closer to the pane to see exactly who was out in the cold of the early morning. To her utmost surprise she could see no one ... from either direction. This happened twice, convincing her of a ghostly influence.

She related the noises ... voices from the walls of an empty room, music that played gently but when checked out it stopped. She went on ... the bangs erupting from downstairs and no explanation as to its source.

I confess to laughing the matter off, asking if one of them was the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. No ... they were not.

Not wishing them to scare others I asked if they felt the ‘presence’ benevolent or malevolent. They had to confess to not being afraid. Since that day I listen carefully for other examples of what may well be ghostly presences, but feel I will not bother to investigate too closely unexplained disturbances or noises. There are some things best left to be wondered at.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Boring Holidays

Marc was bored. Only two days before the school holidays his parents announced they were all heading north to a small mining town where they intended to indulge in a little gold prospecting. He protested of course. Those protestations were completely ignored. In his mind he had been dragged from the company of school friends … his mates … whose plans to spend time swimming and fishing, going to the movies, and playing cricket in the park adjacent to the river were exactly what Marc considered ideal holiday occupations. Their trip north was uneventful … Marc sat reading the latest Harry Potter book, unwilling to become interested in the journey, or the scenery.

It was, as he feared … boring. The lack of interesting shops … those selling sporting gear or electronic games … and the absence of friends with whom to explore the area, left him feeling lonely and missing out on the action. Mum and Dad grew increasingly grumpy with him as he moped around the caravan-park complaining about absolutely everything. This morning was the last straw! Mum suggested he stay behind as his endless whining and moaning about the flies, the heat, the boredom, no video shop, and nothing to do, had culminated in her ultimatum … come with us and be happy, or stay behind and save their ears from having to listen to juvenile complaints that would ruin their day. He made his decision … he stayed in the caravan.

Later he wondered if it was a wise decision. The only people in the park were elderly and even they had departed for the day. He supposed he should do something to fill in the long hours … go for a walk perhaps? But where?

Over the highway and up on the top of the hill stood water tanks. Marc assumed they were for the town’s water supply, even though that water tasted terrible; nothing like the filtered water that flowed from the taps at home. At least the tanks were a destination. Grabbing his Ipod he sauntered listlessly toward the tanks, his thoughts immersed in his favourite music.

“Gosh,” thought Marc as he reached the summit, “it didn’t take all that long”. He gazed around. Not only were there several water tanks but there was also a shelter of sorts, and surprisingly, a rubbish bin containing the remains of a half-eaten picnic lunch that swarmed with ants. The view was stupendous! Dirt tracks lead in many directions, isolated buildings and equally isolated mullocks showed where mining had been, and very likely was still being carried out. He wondered how miners in the olden days found their way to the gold discoveries and how many didn’t survive to tell the tale.

Marc shuddered in embarrassment at the memory of his earlier childish behaviour. In the distance a shadow of cloud merged into the horizon as a blanket covers a bed, hiding unwashed clothing and chocolate-bar wrappers tossed out of sight in a semblance of tidiness, and spread towards the ocean obliterating all objects beyond. Near the top of the slope, close to the pipe that wound snake-like to the town below he glimpsed what appeared to be a broken tank. Wandering over he kicked aimlessly at the ruins. Blocks of concrete lay haphazardly on the pale reddish ground. Scrubby trees formed a barrier in a style similar to the Ha-ha he had read about in story books … a defined, often stone wall built as to be invisible from above, but giving a clear view of the countryside beyond.

He wished he had brought the camera, but Mum had taken it with her, just in case she found gold and needed to record the event!

A cairn attracted his attention and he hurried over. “This must be the highest peak for hundreds of miles,” Marc muttered to no one in particular. Glancing down he noticed what appeared to be a metal plate with a faint inscription. He peered closer. ‘Lands and Survey WA’ he read. In the centre a shape captured his attention. It didn’t take much imagination to see that it was a keyhole, but to where did it lead and who held the key?

A cloud slipping across the sun’s path cast a gloomy shadow. Marc shivered, suddenly cold. A rumbling noise shook the ground. A tendril of smoke curled upwards. The carved plate slid slowly open. The cloud cover intensified and an eerie silence descended. Red, gold, blue, and green lights pulsated from the depths of what appeared to be a tunnel leading deep into the earth. Marc stepped back, perspiration dampening his forehead … suddenly he was afraid. A buzzing noise, which began like a lawn mower trudging around and around a distant patch of lawn, increased to a high-pitched whine infiltrating Marc’s ears until he felt the urgent need to put his hands over his head to protect his eardrums. Flashing lights accompanied the increasingly unnerving din.

The metal plate acted as a gateway to another world. Marc stared, astounded. A shiny silver round contrivance rose slowly from the opening, its strobe-like lights intensely blinding. Spindly beetle legs descended from the main body of the vehicle, and behind a transparent dome Marc’s unbelieving eyes were drawn to several small creatures, with heads huge in comparison to their frail bodies. These strange beings appeared to man the craft. With a reverberating screech the spacecraft rose above Marc, hovered; and as he watched, a trapdoor beneath the dome opened, and a ladder, just like the ladder to Marc’s bunk bed, flipped downwards.

Fear grasped Marc’s heart. He was about to be kidnapped. Not only kidnapped, but worse than ever … he was about to be kidnapped by strange creatures in an out-of-this-world craft. How he wished he had gone prospecting with Mum and Dad! They may have found some gold, or some artifacts from the olden days. At this moment old opaque glass bottles, or buttons, or even some modern day treasures would have been exciting … and safer.

Adrenalin pumped through Marc’s being as he started running. The spacecraft hovered, a revving noise emitting from it; a roar followed and the pulsating lights blinded Marc. He tripped on a rock and fell. The lights disappeared. The revving motors sounded exactly like a road-train speeding through town. Marc opened his eyes, afraid of what he might see.

He was on the floor of the caravan, his blanket twisted around his body. In the distance a truck changed gears as it chugged up the incline, and the sun shone brilliantly onto his bunk. Mum was making toast and Dad was outside organising their prospecting equipment.

“Morning Marc,” Mum smiled. “Are you coming prospecting with us today?”

Marc replied quickly as he untangled his body from the suffocating blanket, “Yes please, I would love to come!”

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mother Image

The image in the octagonal purple-framed mirror, a mirror smeared with spilt talcum powder from my recent voyage south, showed no similarity to that of my mother. I peered into the murky depths to further investigate. Who was that face looking over my shoulder? An older woman, a vaguely familiar older woman, stared beyond me into a distant space as though she had no connection with the view on offer.

I frowned. Two lines between my eyes added ten years onto my calendar age and consciously I smiled. Anything to restore the youthful appearance I coveted.

The green eyes, rheumy with advanced years, glanced towards the frowns and the other woman’s brow furrowed, in recognition, I fancied. A furrow is truly a strange word to describe a brow. Furrows occur in the field, where turnips or crops for animal fodder are sown. It would be surprising to see a turnip sprouting from a forehead, but the English language is mysterious; reading the dictionary provides an entertainment seldom found elsewhere. That is what my mother thought.

My mother loved crossword puzzles. She often needed the dictionary to aid her solving a puzzle, and a small pocket Oxford was reduced to shreds as she flicked from page to page looking for the solution. The day I refused to loan my new dictionary, a prize at school, a Concise Oxford, larger and emblazoned with the school crest in gold on the front cover, was a sad day. Today the psychologists would no doubt dub it with the tatty label of rejection. It was not a rejection of my mother, simply a method to keep my precious book intact. I had seen how dictionaries lives deteriorated when owned by a crossword addict. Of course I am not addicted to crosswords. My mother and I have few points of connection.

Since the advent of computers we seem to have less time to sit and write letters. It should be easier to type a letter and print it out, it should be, but time is of the essence. My mother wrote letters on Sunday afternoons. A ruled quarto pad that had its home in a kitchen drawer, the same drawer that held recipe books; hand written recipe books splattered with butter and sugar, and egg mixtures on the pages where her favourite cakes or biscuits had been meticulously copied in pen and ink; and string, for tying three layered greaseproof paper lids onto aluminum steamed pudding bowls before they were carefully dropped, by the string bow, into a white enamel pot with black side handles saved expressly for steamed puddings; and crinkled cellophane jam covers that became smooth when dipped in a saucer of water, and colouring in pencils hidden from children. A ballpoint pen held no fascination for her. She preferred pen and ink. Seldom did blots mar her correspondence.

I never read any of her letters. Believe me it was not for wont of trying. From the other side of the old wooden table that served as breakfast, dinner and tea table, that doubled as an ironing board covered with a thick grey blanket, as relic donated by her brother, my uncle, from his wartime possessions, and covered with a layer of white sheeting thin at the edges, the table on which sewing tissue patterns were laid carefully over a variety of fabrics before being cut carefully around the edges, and the same table on which homework was done, dolls dressed, books read, a cast-iron red painted tractor driven over a dangerous terrain of comics and pieces of kindling, the table that was home to exciting card games, I often peered in an effort to read the words on that quarto writing tablet. Always her hands came up to guard the secrets she shared with her cousin, or her brother, or sister-in-law. My mother never wrote to me.

Shortly after her demise the daughter of one of her regular correspondents wrote to me. In her letter she expressed the pleasure her mother gained from my mother’s letters. Like me, the daughter never read those letters, and if any survive until this day, then I have not read them.

I like to write letters, but I seldom indulge in crossword puzzles. I wonder if my mother would find pleasure in Code Cracker puzzles. I prefer them to crosswords. Both require knowledge of words, albeit at a different level. Today, while my dictionary is slightly dog-eared, it is still intact.

The woman looking over my shoulder in the mirror knows words. Perhaps we do have words in common?

Friday, April 9, 2010

New Family on the Block

The Sandman lightly dusted my eyelids; his magic working as sleep crept upon me, and the cares of the day lifted. As I drifted into deep slumber a sudden noise shattered the silence … a loud plop outside the bedroom door. Instantly I was alert. What was that noise?

Dave was away at work, a drive in - drive out position, which left me home, with no means of transport, for eleven days. Not that I mind … solitude is a state of mind, distinctly separate from loneliness. It was only in those moments prior to sleep the knowledge that silence and the moon were my sole companions, entered my awareness. During daylight hours I had numerous outdoor chores to tackle, while in the evenings I had the option of indulging in one of the many craft projects waiting for a moment of my time.

No sense in lying in bed huddled under the covers! If in doubt, and I was, investigate. In the dim moonlight, I reached behind to the bed-head shelf for the green slim-line torch kept for awkward occasions such as this. I shook out my slippers [spiders have a perchance to set up temporary residence inside shoes and clothing, especially if they have been recently worn], shoved my feet in them, and gingerly made for the door, a thin beam of torchlight showing the way. Whew! I breathed a sigh of relief. A pair of grey overalls hanging on a hook on the laundry wall had fallen to the floor. The day’s warming-up caused the backing to lose some of its stickiness. The hook could easily be reattached in the morning.

Back in bed my, by then, over-stimulated mind raced into overdrive travelling swiftly from one possibility of what it could have been to another, each scarier than the previous. What, I imagined, if it had been a snake … not that I have ever seen one anywhere near the house … thank goodness! Or if the blue tongue lizard was shut indoors. Or even if a kangaroo had hurtled through the garden crashing into the wall as it hurried by.

Earlier that evening a bird, silently flying directly above my head, had frightened me. I had let out a little scream … then realised it was a waste of time, as I was the only one here.

I had hurried indoors, and once a sense of calmness returned, concluded it must have been an owl. A few nights before, as I sat sewing in the quietness of the kitchen, a commotion near the glass sliding door captured my instant attention. As I listened, it seemed as though someone was trying to come in the door. I sat still! But the noise continued, and in an effort to bring commonsense into the equation, I hurried towards the door flinging open the curtains. A large silent shape flew off. As darkness had fallen the only bird it could possibly be was an owl.

I must admit to a surge of fear. From the deep recesses of my mind, tales of owls sprung to the fore. An owl was a bird of doom, it flew in the dark of the night, and it foretold the death of someone, especially if that person was ill and the owl landed on their windowsill. The death of Julius Caesar had been prophesied by the hooting of an owl.

Dave was away. Had he been involved in a work accident? Surely his employers would have phoned to tell me. I pushed the dark thoughts out of my mind and told myself it was only an owl, and an owl is simply a bird that flies, and hunts, at night. Drifting back to sleep I consciously dismissed such silly notions.

However, upon rising, the first thing I did was look upwards to the gum trees with their rough-bark coated trunks and tall slim branches and an umbrella-like canopy. Slowly as my gaze focused upon a fork in the branches I glimpsed an owl, its plumage perfectly camouflaged against the coarse textured bark.

Much earlier this year, in the heat of summer when sleep was impossible until almost dawn, three owls visited us. One day they appeared, sitting on the ground near the BBQ, blending into the background of a table constructed around a clump of trees so successfully it was almost impossible to see them … unless you paid particular attention. Later they relocated, perching in the trees directly above their original resting place. Perhaps these owls were the same ones?

As the morning wore on my curiosity was completely aroused. Wandering outside I peeked skywards. To my delight I spied not one owl, but two. An owlet stared down inquisitively. It fluttered its wings and bumbled drunkenly along the branch, while I watched and hoped it wouldn’t fall to the ground. A photo opportunity! It wasn’t until the photo was downloaded I noticed there were two owlets, and one adult. A family of owls right outside the back door!

Evening approached, the sun lay low in the pale western sky. Now was the moment for serious bird watching. I pulled the chair near the door, slid open the curtain for better viewing, and waited. The clock ticked the moments by. Six thirty. In the soft light of dusk, stretching like a narrow velvet ribbon between day and night, both owlets flapped their wings, reaching skywards. It became obvious they were not fully fledged as they bobbed to and fro, balancing precariously high above the ground.

The sun set. The light grew dimmer. The adult flew away, to return a few minutes later with sustenance for the babies. Had she captured moths? She fed the adventurous one, the larger owlet that had scrambled along the branch earlier in the day, and which must have been the first hatched. By now the sun had completely set and viewing became difficult, although it was still possible to watch the increased activity by the babies ... flapping and stretching in a concerted effort to strengthen wings in readiness for their own journey into the wide yonder. Another dark shadow swooped by … a second adult arrived with more food. There, right on my back doorstep a family of owls lived and bred, raising the next generation. All the myths I had retained from childhood stories faded as I gazed, in awe, from my front-row stalls seat.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

School Swimming

The untidy crocodile from Room 11 straggled across town on their way to the Municipal pool. Sonia and Alice dawdled past the boarding house, a dilapidated sprawling villa, pausing momentarily to reach up for the cherry blossom hanging in pink clusters from drooping branches that provided welcome shade for passers-by, and secluded parking for clientele. Alice tried not to stare at the building with its discreet lighting, the place where her mother went to work each evening. She hated staying home alone with Daddy. Mummy always arrived home before Alice caught the school bus … in time to cook breakfast and kiss her goodbye. Sonia, a dreamer, wished she had some silver paper to create a posy to pin on her jacket lapel, using the candy floss blossom and incorporating the delicate ferns peeping from a damp corner near the side door. Alice recalled the day they arrived at the farm shortly after her grandparents lost their lives in a motor accident. It was traumatic moving from life in the city to a farm and Alice tried to settle into her new home, although she no longer rode on the tractor. Once the man she was instructed to call Daddy, in a foul mood, had thrown her onto the ground badly damaging her hand, declaring he had no use for brats. Her hand never healed, it was wizened and slack, and useless for fastening buttons. Daddy was cruel; he kicked animals and she often witnessed him throwing puppies over the fence because they were in his way. She was thankful to be friends with Sonia who was always happy and cheerful.

Once again it was time for school swimming and although neither Alice nor Sonia could swim, Sonia, tossing her long golden pony-tail, told everyone that as long as they liked water, bathed often enough to smell nice, loved the beach whether or not the waves broke over their ankles, and enjoyed watching ducks on the pond in the park, the fact you couldn’t swim was inconsequential. The children reached the pool, branching right or left to cold and draughty changing rooms with jagged holes in the walls through which curious boys tried to peer. Alice followed Sonia down the steps into the shallow end, dodging splashes from accomplished swimmers who had dived in. Sonia hurried to a corner, and holding onto the edges, immersed herself up to her neck, while Alice waited shivering. Mr Thomson, insisting that the only way to gain water confidence was to push your boundaries, instructed them to line up at poolside and jump in. Alice watched as two others, and then Sonia, jumped. Sonia thought it a huge joke and emerged dripping wet, a grin on her face, shaking the water from her hair.

“Jump Alice … hurry up please, you are holding the others up!” Alice hurried to obey as she heard Mr Thomson’s voice. She felt her feet slipping and desperately flung out her hands to regain balance. Her weakened hand flailed and failed to function. She felt her head bobbing under the water. After rising to the surface she sunk again and as darkness threatened to overcome her she recalled last weekend when Mummy was at work. Daddy had ordered her to take a bath and stood supervising, a strange wild-eyed look on his face. Alice instinctively felt uneasy. When he reached forward to soap her body she froze in fear. She was a big girl. She knew how to bathe herself.

“It’s OK Daddy,” Alice had said. “I can manage without any help”. Daddy angrily grabbed her arm and yanked her from the water, roughly towelled her down and carried her to the bedroom where he threw her across the bed, her crippled hand twisted behind her back.
Horrified Sonia watched as Mr Thomson, his rimless spectacles thrown swiftly to the ground, dived into the pool and hauled a choking Alice out. Sonia gasped as the water spewed from Alice’s mouth. Ashen she watched, as Alice her wizened hand twisted behind her back, screamed in terror, “No Daddy, no! Please no!”