Jodie Tes is one of five shortlisted contenders for the 2016 City of Fremantle T.A.G. Hungerford Award to be announced at Fremantle Arts Centre on Wednesday 2 November. Here is an extract from her shortlisted manuscript called Barcarola .
His obsession for her grew. He became practised in the art of deception. He gave well-formed excuses, told colourful lies to his unassuming parents, describing in detail, late night games of football with friends, moonlit fishing off the pier – activities that had never happened, all so he could see his Margherita.
The briefest glimpse of her was enough to feed him. The image of her sweet, lone figure, lamp-lit and golden, would stay with him all day. He thought of her constantly: as he played marbles with the boys, as he ran errands for his mother, as he ate dinner with his family.
At night he became both her protector and her hunter. He walked the path behind her. He followed her over rocky cliffs and crouched in scrubby bushes, all the while drinking in her beauty. His bare feet afforded him stealth and silence, and the luxury of exposing his skin to the places where her steps had been.
They were wretched creatures. She, heavy with burden, hurrying along paths to nowhere. He, pathetic and lovesick, hiding in shadows and hoping, somehow, to understand her. Some-times the wind would carry her voice to him, and he would hear the whisper of her prayers. Such was the power of her words that they found their way into his very soul. Soon the boy had made her prayer his own. ‘Take Nero. Please God, take Nero.’
He took this prayer to church. He prayed it as he passed by her house on his way to school. He prayed it as he watched the piteous man himself, drunk and stumbling off his fishing boat, cursing people in the street, standing alone at the bar. ‘Take Nero. Please God, take Nero.’
He imagined how it would happen. A storm unlike any other would lash Santa Lucia. Ne-ro would be out fishing. He would never return. And when it happened, when that wondrous day came, Rico would be on the verge of manhood – tall, like his father, the shadow of a beard growing as thick and dark as the hair on his head. He would be strong and brave. She would see him suddenly, no longer a boy, and she would know at that moment that she loved him too. Yes, that was how it would be. If only God would answer their prayer.