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Sam van Zweden

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non-fiction

A Story for a Public Holiday…

It is unclear what Leo does, but Camilla suspects that the machinery has something to do with it. Leo’s property is full of machinery. Leo is an old Dutchman, all white hair and mystery. Camilla knows very little about him, only the machinery, and a taxidermy eagle in the corridor of his house, and 8 or 10 sheep he keeps on his small patch of land here in Queensland.

Camilla is 6 years old, and a diminutive 6 year old at that. Her father helps at Leo’s property, though the nature of the jobs is beyond what Camilla cares about. She likes to spend the time at Leo’s looking at the eagle (only later does she realise that its eyes are the unsettling bit), and teasing the sheep.

Today, Camilla is “herding” the sheep with her sister while their father helps Leo. They hold sticks that are as tall as they are, slapping the ground to scare the sheep into action. Camilla’s sister will later insist that they were hitting the actual sheep, but this is not how Camilla will remember it.

Amongst the sheep is a large ram called Bubby. He has a black face, and comes up to Camilla’s shoulder, she guesses, though she hasn’t gotten close enough to properly tell. He is the only male in the pen.

Hitting the ground with their sticks, the sisters send dust flying into the air. The female sheep move into a huddle in the corner of the pen, and the sisters think they are doing a great job. They could be farmers. Then Camilla sees Bubby.

Bubby stands at the far end of the pen, his eyes gleaming at her. He lets out a sinister baa. Camilla looks for her sister. She’s nowhere.

Bubby walks at first. Then he gathers speed, and when he reaches Camilla he knocks her straight down. There is dirt in Camilla’s eyes. All she sees is a black blur, and feels an immense pressure on her chest. Bubby rears on his back legs like a startled horse, coming down heavy on Camilla’s chest. The dirt, the pressure, the oily smell of wool, the dry taste of dust.

“CAMILLA!”

Camilla’s father runs into the pen. With the kind of force only an angered parent can produce, he drives a blundstoned foot into Bubby’s flank. He literally kicks the sheep off his daughter. It doesn’t send the hefty animal far, but it is off Camilla.

Later, Camilla will be somewhat casual about the memory. She will not be fond of sheep, and she will remember how it felt when her father told her to walk the few blocks home. But when she recalls the event, it will not be one of trauma, it will just be a story, like any other story, from her childhood.

Six Walks In the Fictional Woods

100+ Books Challenge, #3: “Six Walks in the Fictional Woods” by Umberto Eco.

If you’ve ever read any Umberto Eco, you’ll know that he writes in a way that is both accessible and amusing, and incredibly poignant.

Six Walks in the Fictional Woods is a reflection on the role of the reader, the role of the writer, and the relationship between the two. Eco uses the metaphor of “the woods” to represent exactly what it is that we get ourselves into when reading or writing a book.

As is always true in anything by Umberto Eco, “Six Walks…” is full of intersting little tidbits (the line that divides “blue” and “green” is very different in Latin/Greek cultures to our own), amusing ways of making a point (a particularly hilarious overinterpretation of The Three Musketeers), and some very worthwhile food for thought.

Definately worth a look-in for your next non-fiction craving!

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