Gar's Bookshelf
Winning Poems & Stories
Grace - David Richer
was to run out, but somehow tonight was different. Grace was trying to figure out why she found
herself driving home not knowing whether she would make it or not. If she did get stuck, Grace could
sleep in the car and get a lift back into town on the school bus in the morning, but she hated the
idea of being stuck this far out of town on her own. She was cursing herself for not getting fuel
when she remembered the reason.

When Grace had pulled into the service station after work, the queue at the pump, and the extra cars
in the café car-park, reminded her that the town was getting busy again. As she got closer to the
pump, Grace noticed she could separate the silhouettes in the café from each other; each took on the
unique shape of its owner. Mesmerised by their movements against the setting sun shining through the
glass walls, the café aglow in the surrounding sunset, she sat watching, enchanted by the way the
black shapes were interacting with each other.

She imagined who was who and what they were saying, until she saw the silhouette that sat down by
the window: its black arm lifting its black cup, to its black head. She had seen that shape before,
familiar yet somehow different, but where? The longer she waited in the queue, slowly getting closer
to the pump, and closer to the café, the more nervous she felt; the black silhouette was giving her
the creeps. For some reason she was having a panic attack and was doing everything she could to stay
calm. Finally the tension she was feeling, the fear, got the better of her and she pulled out of the
queue. She was furious now for doing it, but she’d felt trapped; she’d had to get out of there.
Grace was convinced the silhouette was of a man. Its movements had looked rigid, like he was wearing
a stiff coat. He took his hat off. His head was square looking; flat on top like the army-cut she'd
seen on parade a thousand times before. That's what it was, that's why she’d panicked. It was the
silhouette in the window.

The chill night seemed aphotic, dampness made everything icy, and as she looked in the rear view
mirror to see if the back window was un-fogging, she saw a flash of light in the distance. At first
it looked like the moonlight shining off Emmett’s hay shed; Grace's ten mile mark, but as she turned
back to the road, the blackness reminded her it was one of the darkest nights she could remember.
And it couldn’t be moonlight: it must be headlights.

She slammed on the brakes. Whiteness suddenly before her, a reflection, brilliant in the headlights.
Grace thought it had the same shape as the silhouette in the café. Her world had contracted to this
single thing. As she got closer she thought she would crash into it. Instinctively she jammed her
foot harder on the brakes, with her hands clutching the steering-wheel. She cowered down behind them
as the car skidded to a halt. Grace looked up and saw the whiteness was a patch on one of Emmett’s
milking cows. The cow was fully black with a white patch on its flank, and the way it was standing,
with its rear toward her, the patch seemed to have the same shape as the silhouette from the café,
but the sun it shone from was black; blacker than the night, and Grace thought she must be going mad.

The cow turned, and its unblinking eye flashed huge in the headlights, it reminded Grace of the
movie earlier that evening: there was a scene that stopped the audience dead.

When Addanc grabbed the girl in the playground and pushed the skinning-knife into her eye, he said,
"Do you want your eyes cut out?"

Just then, someone was in front of the projector and the shadow cast onto the screen had that same
profile, the same rigid movements as the one Grace had seen in the cafe. And when Addanc said: "Do
you want your eyes cut out?" it looked like the shadow was holding the knife to the girl’s eye.

The atmosphere in the theatre went cold and the movie never recovered; Grace too, was unusually glad
to leave. It was picking time, and after working all day in the sun, some of the fruit-pickers had
washed off their thirst at the hotel before going to the movie. Grace had been working as the
projectionist for the past two years, and never had she heard silence overcome a rowdy audience so

When she got going again, Grace was relieved to see in the rear-view mirror that the light had gone.
She didn't like meeting strangers in the bush and if she ran out of fuel, the way she felt, she
would have hid until whatever it was went past. When the needle came up on the fuel gauge, Grace
thought slamming on the brakes must have done something good; thank God, she thought.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, until she arrived home.

Grace kicked off her shoes and hung a handful of shaking keys onto the hook in the entrance hall,
and as she did she saw her mother sitting in the kitchen. The cup in her hand was shaking more than
Grace. She rushed to her mother.

‘Mum, what's wrong?’ she pleaded.
‘It's Robbie,’ Grace's mother whispered, looking down, watching a tear land in her glass of port.
She knew what the next question from Grace would be, but she didn’t know how to answer it ... We had
a visit from the army? The Casualty assistance Officer?
and Grace was going crook at the shire for not painting a new white line down
the middle of the bitumen track she was driving on; a pot-hole ridden, skinny
black road to nowhere. Then the fuel gauge went. Damn it she thought! Only
nine miles out of town and the needle had dropped to zero. Why do you have to
play up tonight? She yelled at the dodgy fuel gauge.