September 2019

Back to Issue 6

Pickers Quarters

By Mark O'Flynn

The only shady spot for that lone Aberdeen Angus

bull was under the crab-apple tree outside our kitchen

window. So many green apples we threw at it

till it pulled up anchor, farting sloppily, mooing

with a gut ache across the open paddock.


When the corner of the picking sack tore off

and the fastening hook plunged into my eye I

screamed twice, although my mate, Robbo,

told me it was definitely three times, third time

being the silent scream in my head made manifest.


Old Joe, the boss, a ball of muscle like a bullfrog,

looked more shocked than me at the conjunction

of eye and hook. Robbo drove me to hospital where

they discovered, still I can hardly believe it,

no major damage. Day off work.


Next morning everyone else returned to picking.

I almost grew bored throwing apples at that bull.

Mrs. Joe, the Italian mama, sat me down

at the laminex table, changed the dressing on my eye,

counting the drops she squeezed into it, uno,

due, tre,her tomato sandwiches for morning tea,

the soft rain of her fingers on my face

the gentlest thing I’d felt in years.