1st Place Meg’s in Charge

‘Yikes! A bloody snake!’

The words pop out even though there is no-one around to hear. It is wriggling away along the furrow in front of the tractor wheels. A big brown one… Luckily, I am safe in the cabin.

We both got a fright. That I can guarantee.

My concentration is soon back to the task at hand—preparing paddocks for planting sugar cane. The John Deere is performing beautifully and the laser-levelled hectares around me look fine to my critical eye. I can picture the swaying green stalks that, in a few months, will replace the bare earth.

Yesterday, by way of contrast, I was out in the tropical sun mustering uncooperative cattle for sale. Today’s setting of shade, air-conditioned comfort and obedient machine, gets my vote…

I’ve turned off the radio. It provided company for a while—but the dulcet sounds of the Golden Tonsils, interspersed with ratbag opinions emanating from various parts of the country, became boring and/or annoying.

My thoughts can keep me company until it is time for lunch. Not much to look forward to on that front today… My better half is playing mah jong with friends, so has packed me sandwiches and a flask of tea. I wonder what will be on the menu for dinner this evening—crumbed steak, mash, peas and gravy would be my pick. I imagine myself in my recliner, sinking a couple of XXXX and trying my luck at the Cairns Post sudoku–whilst awaiting the call to the kitchen table. Nice…

That reminds me—I must check that my shirt’s been ironed. I have a Rotary meeting tomorrow night…

Please let Ashley behave at dinner. I am getting fed up with childish squawks and refusal to sit up straight and admonishments to “eat nicely”. More discipline needed, that’s for certain… I am at work all day. Not much I can do, is there?

I enjoy reminiscing about Ashley’s birth. All the excitement with the arrival of a fourth generation in our family–a bonny and healthy baby, who fast grew into a tottering toddler and toy thrower, and, more recently, the self-appointed ruler of the household…

A sibling is what is needed here—just a thought. But that would bring too many challenges. Early weaning and finding a formula that does not traumatize the baby can be problematical– just not worth it. Ashley certainly suffered at that stage and so did we. Enough to swear off any additional offspring…

Just another kilometre, the gauge informs me… Nearly time to refuel.

Thinking about Ashley has made me recall our wedding.

We did enjoy the ceremony, but mostly through clenched teeth, as the photos attest. Our plans were awry. I wore a suit, but it had to be altered considerably. It was silk-lined. Not as I imagined I would look on my wedding day… There was a flower on my lapel. I wore no make-up.

For Tom, the wedding was definitely more testing. He wore a pure white gown. It was one quickly selected—few were available in the required size. He looked fine as he walked down the aisle towards me, but he shuffled in the satin slippers, Size 12, and awkwardly clutched the posy of orchids. No one could deny that the guipure lace edge on the veil framed his face to effect. But he disposed of it hastily once we escaped the church.

Since we’d had to revise our plans hurriedly, we had to be content with the outcome. Let’s just say the ceremony served its purpose. We have the signed documents.

It was only a month after President Attwood assumed office. Remember that landslide election?  Meg’s Ruling, so-named by the general populous, immediately turned our well-oiled, complacent society on its head. Role reversal was a core mandate of the new government–and our new lives.

No honeymoons or holidays were allowed–for the good of the nation, of course. We were destined to hear that often. Initially the public had been re-assured, then later warned.

Weeks later, the pregnancy came as a surprise. In the lead-up to the rush to the hospital, we had fun following the directive about unisex names being mandatory, compiling lists and considering possibilities.

Tom experienced fits and starts as domestic duties filled his days. I worked in my unfamiliar role as a person on the land as long as practicable—two weeks was the national average for accouchement leave and I resolved to adhere to that statistic. Perhaps I was a victim of my own pride, but I wanted to support the dictate that women can work as well as men.

The all-female National Cabinet espoused this ethos prior to the election. I agreed then.

‘What’s that clanking noise? Please, pretty please—not a break-down!’

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