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95 • the appointment After patients have drops put in, they are placed in a half-lit room. Gradually, pupils dilate and patients become grateful there’s only enough light to see by, and not enough to bother their suddenly sensitized eyes. There’s a window, but it’s heavily curtained, and a corona glows around the edges, clarifying and emphasizing the frame’s chipped lead paint. The carpet is threadbare because it doesn’t need to be any different, though you can feel it through the thickest of shoes. This surgery is in a wealthy area—an old house done up. The rest of the building is so comfortable with wealth that it would seem uncouth to mention the carpet in the “dark room.” There are only two patients in the room at this time. Both roughly the same age—maybe just the other side of “pension age”—and both slowly becoming aware of each other beyond that stranger in the room. They start to chat, as people cloistered in this room usually do. As it happens, they turn out to be from almost neighboring wheatbelt towns. The woman describes herself as the wife of a Kelleberrin area 96 j o h n k i n s e l l a farmer, and the man describes himself as a farmer with a wife. Conditions of engagement thus set, they chat about people they know in common and farms they have both visited, wondering how they can have spent a lifetime in practically the same district without knowing each other. They qualify this: I’m sure I’ve heard your name mentioned over the years . . .Yes, likewise . . . Maybe our rams have competed against each other at Dowerin Field Day . . . or your wife’s jams have come up against mine . . . though I’m sure I’d remember, because I know the name of every second and third prize to my firsts over the years . . . and I know whose rams mine have beaten. As their eyes widen and they can see each other more clearly in the strange light, they become even more enthusiastic. They are sitting on a wooden bench—a church pew, really—against a wall, a few feet apart. A polite, respectable distance. There is nothing else in the room. They are dressed in their city best. She is in a blue slack suit; he’s in a corduroy jacket and pants. All brown, just like her husband wears. The colors are muted, but recognizable. Familiar, even in that light, with these eyes. It was a long drive down, and someone would be driving them back, because you can’t drive after eyedrops. And that brings them constantly back to their partners, just as the bench leads to talk of their local churches.When they were built.What the congregations are like. Their unknowing of each other could be explained by their churchgoing. One is Catholic and the other C of E. Discovering this, they twinge a little, but talk around their differences as if describing different instalments of the same denomination. When they get to the topic of their respective farms, things really flow. Laughing gently, they suppose they’d better keep their voices down, as the specialist, the patient he was at present treating in the surgery, eyes already fully dilated, and those in the waiting room, will hear them through the stone walls! He tells her how good the wheat harvest was on his property last year. No one else in the district, in fact in the whole region, pulls as many bags off an acre as we did. 97 t h e a p p o i n t m e n t With a small laugh, she begs to differ.We had the best season in the district, in fact in the whole region! They compare yields: exactly the same. There you go! It seems even stranger they’ve never met. That the families aren’t known to each other—aren’t friends— despite the difference in religions. It’s a lot more tolerant—the place, that is—these days. Lot more tolerant than during our— childhoods . . . With their healthy wheat cheques, both families had bought a new header.Yet more in common. The room seems to be getting brighter, but they know it just means their dilated eyes are catching more of the light that is floating around. She admires how cleanly shaven he is, and he admires how her sculpted hair sits so...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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