Fiction Tim Winton That Eye, The Sky: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780743234429

That Eye, The Sky: A Novel

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9780743234429: That Eye, The Sky: A Novel

In this modern Australian classic, award-winning author Tim Winton tells the story of young Ort Flack and his struggle to come to grips with the forces pulling his family apart. An extraordinary snapshot of boyhood, That Eye, the Sky is also a powerful exploration of the nature of hope and faith. Ort doesn't have a bad life. He mucks around with his best pal, Fat Cherry; he wonders what his sister Tegwyn's so mad about and why his grandma's disappeared inside herself; he looks up at the sky and thinks it's like a big blue eye looking right back at him. But when Dad isn't back from work when he's supposed to be and a strange car pulls into the drive, Ort's life is thrown into turmoil. Suddenly, Mum doesn't seem as strong as she used to, Fat starts saying bad things, and the stranger knocking on the door seems to know an awful lot about the Flacks.

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About the Author:

Tim Winton grew up on the coast of Western Australia, where he continues to live. He is the author of eighteen books. His epic novel Cloudstreet was adapted for the theater and has been performed around the world. His two most recent novels, Dirt Music and The Riders, were both shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He has won the prestigious Miles Franklin Award three times, and in 1998 the Australian National Trust declared Winton a national living treasure. The Turning has already won the 2005 Christina Stead Prize for Fiction.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

Dad has the ute going outside. I am behind Mum. Her dress has got flowers all on it, none of them much to look at. Her bum moves around when she laughs. Dad always says she has a bum like an angry mob which means nothing to me but a lot to him, I reckon. I can hear the rooster crorking out the back. He's a mean rooster -- goes for your pills when you collect the eggs.

'Seeyaz.' That's Dad going. He revs the ute up. He's in a hurry, going to town for Mr Cherry.

'Wave him off, Ort,' Mum says to me. She always reckons you should show people you love them when they go away because you might never see them again. They might die. The world might end. But Dad's only going to town for an hour. It's business for Mr Cherry. And there he goes, out the drive and onto the road.

Mum puts her hand on my shoulder and flour falls down my arm. The rooster crorks again. That's a mean rooster. Dad dropkicks him on Saturday mornings just to let him know who's boss.

'Hop inside and do your homework, Ort,' Mum says.

'In a minute,' I say.

'What you learnin'?'

'Burke and Wills.'

'Uh-huh.'

Mum doesn't know what Burke and Wills is, I bet, but she won't let on. But that's orright. I don't know what it is yet, either. Gotta learn it. That's why it's homework.

'Well, get in there, my second man,' she says, putting up her dress a bit for some air. It's hot.

'In a minute.' I pick at the flap of skin on my stubbed toe. Stubbed toes are something you have to live with in this life.

That mean rooster goes again. I can just see his red dishmop hairdo wickering around all over the place as he yells his lungs off. The sky is the same colour as Mum and Dad's eyes. When you look at it long enough, like I am now with my nose up in it, it looks exactly like an eye anyway. One big blue eye. just looking down. At us.

My name is Morton Flack, though people call me Ort for short. Ort is also a name for bum in our family. It means zero too (you know, like nought), but in my case it just means Morton without saying all of it. My Dad's name is Sam Flack. Mum is called Alice. Her last name was different when she was a maid. Tegwyn in the next room with her magazines is my sister. She finishes school next month. Grammar lives in the room behind with her piano she never plays. She never does much these days. That flamin' rooster going again.

The light slants down funny on my desk from the lamp Dad fixed up there on the wall. I should be doing Burke and Wills. They don't seem very bright blokes. Instead I'm listening to the night coming across from the forest -- all small sounds like the birds heading for somewhere to stay the night, the sound of the creek tinkering low when everything gets quiet, the chooks making that maw-maw sound they do when they're beginning to sleep all wing to wing up under the tin roof of the chookhouse. Sometimes in the night I can hear their poop hit the ground it's so quiet. Sometimes it's so quiet, Dad says you can hear the dieback in the trees, killing them quietly from the inside. At night the sky blinks at us, always looking down.

The sounds of night aren't really what's keeping me from Burke and Wills, though. It's Dad. He's not back. But I'm not worried.

Fat Cherry is my best friend. He's got a head like a potato, eyes like a baby pig's, and his belly shimmies all over the shop when he walks. Until we got separated, Fat and me sat together in school. His real name is James, but even Fat is better than that. Fat Cherry is a good name all round. So's Ort Flack. All the other kids in the district have got names like Justin and Scott and Nathan and Nicholas which are piss-poor in anyone's book. And no kid wants to be called Mary or Bernadette if he's not a girl. Even my chook (my private chook -- my pet one) has got a better name than the kids at school. Errol is my pet chook's name. Mum says it's a sacrilege but I haven't figured that out yet. When Errol was a chick I found him outside the chookrun with his leg all busted up and caught in the wire. I put tape on his leg and kept him in bed with me for a week until Mum went off her face about the sheets.

Wait...wait on...I can hear a car. No, it was someone passing. Someone leaving the city. If you climbed the dying jarrah trees down there towards the creek, you'd see the lights of the city. From here, the only lights in sight are from Cherry's roadhouse a hundred yards along the highway on the other side of the road. You can see their bowsers glowing, and sometimes you think you can actually see the numbers rolling in them, but you're just kidding yourself.

The tail lights of that car burn the bush up and go slowly out. Burke and Wills.

Ah, another car. That'll be the old man. He's late. Boy is he late. Mum'll be mad.

The car comes up the long drive towards us, but the engine noise is all wrong. Mum is going out. If I could, I'd go out too, but I'm all stuck, like the chair has hold of me. I'm scared, a bit. I am scared. I'm scared. There's fast talking out there. Isn't anyone gonna turn that engine off?

'Morton? Morton!' Here she comes, setting all the floorboards going, there she is, my Mum, with those eyes full up and spilling, the dress shaking enough to shed all those dumb flowers off it.

The big, strange car shoots us down the driveway and out onto the sealed road with Mum and me rolling across the big back seat that farts and squeaks under us. Headlights poke around in the dark. A man with a bald moon at the back of his head is driving and talking -- both too fast. My belly wants to be sick. Mum's eyes are making me wet.

'How far, Mr...'

'Wingham, Lawrence Wingham,' the man pants.

'How far?'

'A couple of kilometres, only a couple.'

The speedo is like a clock gone mad. I don't know why, but I feel like I just swallowed a whole egg, shell and all. I can tell something bad's happened -- I'm not stupid -- but no one has told me yet. I don't know. If my Dad is dead, we just won't live anymore.

The moon sits over the road like a big fat thing. It looks useless as hell tonight. I never felt that about the moon before. As the road goes downhill I can see the pale lights of the city far away. Trees hang all over the road.

'Where's Tegwyn?' l ask.

'She's home looking after Grammar.'

'I could've done that.'

61 want you...with me,' she says. I know she's crying. All the door handles glow in the dark. It's like I can see her face in them and she's crying in all of them. Tegwyn will hate looking after Grammar.

Now the road is winding down towards Bankside, the place where my school is. There's two shops, a pub, a bowser, a big church place, and a post office as well. It's not as big as the city.

0

The orange light makes me jump. I can see it through the trees and it gets stronger as we round the bend. Mum's arm is around me, pushing all the air out of me. A tow truck. Some cars on either side of the road. A big mess in the bush. The flashing light makes the road and the ground and the bush jump. It makes the men walk in jerks.

No one even looks at us when we pull up. Mum is out and running. Dad's ute is all pushed back on itself something horrible. I can see Ted Mann from the Bankside Garage shouting at Bill Mann his brother. It's their tow truck making the orange light. There's not much for them to tow. I stay in the car. Mum has Ted Mann by the singlet. They shout.

'The ambulance has been and gone,' he says.

'When?'

'Ten minutes ago.'

'Tell me, tell me.'

'What, Mrs Flack?' Ted Mann does not like us because we work for Mr Cherry who is competition.

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