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Authors: Judith Clarke

The Winds of Heaven

BOOK: The Winds of Heaven
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Judith Clarke was born in Sydney and educated at the University of New South Wales and the Australian National University in Canberra. She has worked as a teacher and librarian, and in adult education in Victoria and New South Wales.

Judith’s novels include the multi-award-winning
Wolf on the Fold
, as well as
Friend of my Heart, Night Train, Starry Nights
, and the very popular and funny
Al Capsella
Kalpana’s Dream
was an Honor Book in the 2005 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards for Excellence in Children’s Literature in the Fiction and Poetry category.
One Whole and Perfect Day
was Winner of the Young Adult Book Award in the 2007 Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards, shortlisted in the 2007 CBCA Book of the Year Awards and the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, and Honor Book in the American Library Association, Michael L. Printz Awards for Excellence in Young Adult Literature 2008.

Judith’s books have been published in the USA and Europe to high acclaim.



Also by Judith Clarke

Angels Passing By
Night Train
The Lost Day
The Heroic Life of Al Capsella
Al Capsella and the Watchdogs
Al Capsella on Holidays
Friend of My Heart
The Boy on the Lake
Panic Stations
The Ruin of Kevin O’Reilly
Luna Park at Night
Big Night Out
Wolf on the Fold
Starry Nights
Kalpana’s Dream
One Whole and Perfect Day

The Winds of Heaven



First published in 2009

Copyright © Text, Judith Clarke, 2009

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The
Australian Copyright Act 1968
(the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or ten per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photo-copied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.

Allen & Unwin
83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest 2065
Phone: (61 2) 8425 0100
Fax: (61 2) 9906 2218
Email: [email protected]

National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication entry:

Clarke, Judith, 1943–
The winds of heaven / Judith Clarke.
ISBN 978 174175 731 6

Cover and text design by Sandra Nobes
Typeset in Janson by Tou-Can Design
Printedand bound in Australia by Griffin Press

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2


Prologue: 2009

Part One: 1952

Part Two: 1957–1958

Part Three: 1961

Part Four: 1962

Epilogue: 2009

To the Wiradjuri Country

Prologue: 2009

These days Clementine has visions. There’s nothing exotic or heavenly about them: they’re made of the most simple stuffs. A ragged chorus of Happy Birthday is enough to bring back her mum’s young face, bright with love above a pink-iced cake she’s spent all day making.
Happy Birthday Clementine
is spelled out in tiny sugar flowers.

A skein of crimson embroidery silk in a craft shop window can make Clementine stop short with a little gasp: she’ll see the bright cross-stitched border of her mother’s favourite linen tablecloth, feel the coolness of its cloth beneath her smoothing hand, hear the sweet sound of her dad’s homecoming bike purring up the side path as her nine-year-old self sets the table for their tea.

A hot summer day with a certain harsh light in it, dust in the air, an old song of Johnny Cash’s on the radio – any of these will bring back her cousin Fan.

And however disparate, there’s one quality all Clementine’s visions have in common: the people and places in them are lost and gone for ever.

Most times these visions come when Clementine is alone, but today she’s with her friend Sarah, walking round the
lake in Flinders Park as they do each Thursday morning – two old ladies taking their exercise: three times round with a rest on the green wooden bench after the second lap.

It’s late January, the very height of summer.

‘Hot!’ puffs Sarah. ‘Lord, it’s hot today!’

They’ve been round only once but already she’s heading for the bench and the shade of the rustling she-oak trees. ‘Early break!’ she grins at Clementine. ‘Can’t take the heat anymore; I’m not as young as I used to be. Sixty-seven next birthday!’ Sarah punches a fist in the air and flops down on the hard wooden bench, flicking a hand at the small black flies that hover round their faces and settle on the shoulders of their tee-shirts like an embroidery of shiny black beads.

Clementine sits down beside her friend. Sixty-seven! she marvels.

Sixty-seven is the exact age Fan would have been if she hadn’t gone away. And though it’s almost fifty years ago, the thought of her cousin’s going away fills Clementine’s eyes with tears. Throughout her life, even in the happiest times there’s always been a sadness at the bottom of her heart, like a small cold pebble lying in whispering reeds.

‘Are you okay?’ asks Sarah.

‘Fine,’ answers Clementine, and she leans back and gazes up at the hard, pewter-coloured sky of January. There are no clouds in it, she notices, none of those clouds in fantastic shapes which she and Fan used to watch from the grassy bank above Lake Conapaira. She can’t imagine her cousin being sixty-seven, any more than she and Fan could have imagined such a thing when they were children – in those days even forty was impossibly old to them. It was ancient. Disgusting, even.

Now she hears her cousin’s voice, quite clearly. It’s hoarse, the voice of a child who’s been crying. ‘She’s
!’ Fan is spitting out contemptuously. ‘She’s

A picture comes next, a little vision: Fan is standing in the middle of the small bedroom they shared in the old house in Palm Street, in each hand she holds one of her thick blonde plaits, and with a small quick gesture she lifts them onto the top of her head and twists them into a crown.

‘O-old!’ Fan’s voice is mocking now. ‘

It’s her mother she’s talking about, Clementine’s scary Aunty Rene.

‘She’s got wrinkles! Imagine! Imagine having wrinkles!’ Fan pulls a wrinkly face and lets the heavy plaits fall; they tumble down over her pointed shoulder blades and settle at her waist. She flings herself onto her bed, crosswise, head hanging over the side, plaits sweeping the floor, and walks her small slender feet up the grubby wall. The tops of them are speckled with the red dust of Lake Conapaira, and her soles are stained with it, crimson as an Indian bride’s. ‘I’m never going to get wrinkles,’ vows Fan, and then Clementine hears her own nine-year-old self protest, ‘But everyone gets wrinkles when they get old.’

‘Not me,’ says Fan. ‘Everyone else will, but not
.’ The utter certainty in that childish voice, remembered half a century later on this hot summer morning in a suburban park, makes Clementine’s blood run cold.

A small breeze ripples the sluggish surface of the water; a flock of black cockatoos swoops over the lake towards a bank of trees.

,’ Clementine hears Fan saying now, and at once that other lake swims into her vision, the
one, Lake
Conapaira. It’s huge – on hot hazy days like this one you couldn’t see the other side. They’re lying in the grass at Fan’s hidey watching the clouds race grandly over the sky. And then the cockatoos come shrieking and Fan reaches over and lays one fingertip lightly on her cousin’s lips. ‘
,’ she says again, smiling. ‘Now you say it, Clemmie.’

‘I can’t.’

‘Yes you can. It’s easy. Go on.’

,’ whispers Clementine, and is rewarded by a memory, so exact it’s almost painful, of her cousin’s laugh, a sound that always made her think of a handful of bright water flung into the air.

On the green bench beside the artificial lake Sarah turns her head. ‘
?’ she asks. ‘Is that what you said? I’m afraid my hearing’s not what it used to be.’

,’ replies Clementine. ‘It’s an Aboriginal word for black cockatoo. Fan taught it to me.’

Sarah puts her head on one side. ‘Fan?’

Way down in Clementine’s heart the small cold pebble seems to shift and stir. ‘Oh, Fan,’ she says. ‘Fan was my cousin. My cousin from Lake Conapaira.’





Part One: 1952
Chapter One

‘Mum?’ whispered Clementine, ‘Mum, when will we be
?’ She was whispering because her mother sat so very still and quiet, her knitting abandoned in her lap, her head resting against the back of the seat, eyes closed. She might even be asleep.

‘Mum?’ Clementine shifted along the shiny seat till she was right up close, reached out a hand and lightly brushed her fingers across her mother’s soft cheek. ‘Mum?’ she said again, so softly it was hardly more than a breath. Mrs Southey sighed and moved her head a little but she didn’t open her eyes. She

BOOK: The Winds of Heaven
12.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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