The song follows Charles O’Connor along the beach, as it has followed him for nearly ten years. His horse is nervous underneath him, tugging against his lead as if ready to bolt at the slightest provocation. He tightens his grip, nudges it ahead. He knows his destination.
The mothers are waiting for him at the water’s edge. Spray shines on their black skin, beautiful, so beautiful in the morning sunlight. They do not talk to him, nor he to them. Instead they sing, as they have always sung: their bodies still, their mouths closed. The song led him out to this stretch of beach, through Fremantle, along Cantonment Street, here to where the old jetty once stood. Now the music hangs in the air between them, swaying in time to the rise and fall of waves upon the sand.
The horse whinnies and skips sideways. Charles lays a hand on its neck, leans down in the saddle to cluck calming noises. The horse rolls its eye back towards him, and calms. Charles rubs its neck. He has always been good with horses. He has always been good with things. His wife Susan would call it a gift from God. Charles is not so sure. Inanimate objects he is good with, but people have always eluded him. It is a strange gift for a God to give, to be so good with things that cannot rear up and attack you, and to struggle so much with those who pay you, comment upon you, and use their newspapers to smear your name into oblivion.
The first draft of Song of the Water, a 3900-word story about the suicide of C.Y. O’Connor that will go out to market and be included in the Claws of Native Ghosts collection of supernatural stories set throughout Western Australia’s history, is finally complete.