The architect comes into my office smiling, a woven basket on her arm. Greenery – wild and fragrant – spills from the basket. It is a hot day, and she sinks gratefully into the spare chair in my office.
I should be clear and say that she is no longer an architect, or not a practising one. She lives in rural Queensland now, not in Paris. She grows food, works at the local tip/recycling centre, and is working on a novel. The novel is good – what I have read of it – she has a real ear for dialogue. An ‘eye’ for character.
She has brought me seeds in small Ziploc bags, with buff-coloured labels identifying them as rocket, forget-me-not, and baby cornichons. While we talk, she cools. The flushed heat of the day fades from her skin, replaced by a softer glow. Another woman — another student — is coming to our little meeting; she is bringing a gosling with her. The prelude to our writing workshop will be an exchange of fruit, and livestock.
The plants and the gosling are not part of the course.
I used to live on a sprawling, steep and wooded piece of land. It was wild and fragrant. In the rain, in particular, and at the beginning of spring, I would often be overcome by the scent of honey or citrus. Of damp earth and distant fires. Here, I live on a quarter acre block. I grow herbs in a narrow strip between a brick wall and the wooden fence.
The woman tells me about her fly-trap. The most effective kind, she says. What you do is, first you kill a feral cat. You dump the cat’s body in the bottom of one of those blue barrels from the dairy. The plastic ones, you know? A bit of water, and a lid with holes in it, and then you just put it somewhere close to the house, but not too close. No flies will come near the house, she says, not for months.
And in time, the cat’s body and the flies that drift into the barrel and are trapped. And their maggots. Will all rot down nicely into the most amazing compost you’ve ever known. Sweet and heavy and damp and boneless.
Completely unlike either a fly or a cat.