It is a cruel, ironical art, photography. The dragging of captured moments into the future; moments that should have been allowed to be evaporate into the past; should exist only in memories, glimpsed through the fog of events that came after. Photographs force us to see people before their future weighed them down....
Cassandra wondered at the mind's cruel ability to toss up flecks of the past. Why, as she neared her life's end, her grandmother's head should ring with the voices of people long since gone. Was it always this way? Did those with passage booked on death's silent ship always scan the dock for faces of the long-departed?
Wars make history seem deceptively simple. They provide clear turning points, easy distinctions.: before and after, winner and loser, right and wrong. True history, the past, is not like that. It isn't flat or linear. It has no outline. It is slippery, like liquid; infinite and unknowable, like space. And it is changeable: just when you think you see a pattern, perspective shifts, an alternate version is proffered, a long-forgotten memory resurfaces.
Then he led her to sit by him on a fallen gum trunk, smooth and white, and he leaned to whisper in her ear. Transferred the secret he and her mother had kept for seventeen years. Waited for the flicker of recognition, the minute shift in expression as she registered what he was telling her. Watched as the bottom fell out of her world and the person she had been vanished in an instant.
I probably coughed self-pityingly in response, little aware that I was about to cross a tremendous threshold beyond which there would be no return, that in my hands I held an object whose simple appearance belied its profound power. All true readers have a book, a moment, like the one I describe, and when Mum offered me that much-read library copy mine was upon me. For although I didn't know it then, after falling deep inside the world of the Mud Man, real life was never going to be able to compete with fiction again. I've been grateful to Miss Perry ever sense, for when she handed that novel over the counter and urged my harried mother to pass it on to me, she'd either confused me with a much older child or else she'd glimpsed deep inside my soul and perceived a hole that needed filling. I've always chosen to believe the latter. After all, it's the librarian's sworn purpose to bring books together with their one true reader.