The Ferry Quick Like Rain
An insect tragicomedy

by Kirk Marshall
Illustration by Ira Joel Haber
Bug Collage by Ira Joel Haber

The car had many passengers. Imil, the indigo rhinoceros beetle with the cherrystone eyes, wanted to go to Ferny Grove. Words, hopeful footsteps, had flown off the hard-top, inciting an ephemeral debate as to whether Ferny Grove was as ferny as its name suggested, or if indeed it was a grove at all, and not merely another matchbook residential district, full of wet monkey mouths. Nevertheless she'd boarded the car, committing herself to such high adventure when her garden had been invaded by smaller editions of the creatures as graceless as cows and as large as trees. It had been all those terrific fright-making hands grasping at her from the safety of her rhododendron. Ferny Grove would not have fright-making hands, though, but coniferous branches as open and unclasping as the skies themselves, and it would be dense and grenadine green and each leaf would be a prayer; there, possum feet would inspire nightly cathedral choirs. Imil, old but knowing, black like the shadow of a nightjar, vivid with majesty like the moon's image behind closed eyes, understood that life passed quickly, and she needed that velocity experienced to end it as it should be ended. Hers had been a life of ideas and incongruity, of observations made about the world and its passing, and she was not to die in this car, just as she was not to die in a front garden of plants few and plastic. Her swansong was in Ferny Grove, and this car the sheet music. This trip made sense.

The car had many passengers. Quark was an angsty ladybird who impressed upon others his indelible knowledge fundamentally concerning EVERYTHING, but he hated talking at all, which meant that his illuminating diatribes philosophising upon the entire ball of wax would be yelled, angrily, with frustration and melodrama, at anyone possessing ear-shaped things. He got unconquerably depressed sharing the world with people who didn't know anything, didn't obtain opinions, and had only the capacity to express opinions about how they didn't know anything. In an uncharacteristic effort, then, Quark pledged dominance over all conversations, despite and because of his loathing to converse. Quark, Imil felt, was highly amusing in his niche, personalised manner, and therefore memorable company. Quark was hoping that the convoy's trajectory would allow them to bear down on Slacks Creek because the very name was abominable, and he felt the necessity to hate it from close by.

The car had many passengers. Biff was an infelicitous gecko with a snaggletoothed hiccup. Little was known regarding Biff, as he had managed to express a cavity into the upholstery of the front passenger seat, holing himself amongst the buffy woollen innards, bristle and fabric exposing themselves as though the chair was attempting to divorce itself from a constrictive skin.

The car had many passengers. Lim, the religious and overzealous ghost moth; Hackles, the cockroach charlatan, master negotiator when it came to seizing a portion of food from any of the other occupants, often without service; Glenda, the self-pitying housefly in need of a holiday; and Cameron, the soldierly daddy longlegs who had known nothing but the car, always the car, its universe and microcosms, its temperament and noise, its secrets and dreams, and would have been broken lest he left its purr and plight. These were the passengers of the car. They were on the road, the M1 spindling off Woolloongabba, and they were surging with the torrent and bustle of nomadic clouds, in this womb, this car, this monster that Quark deemed a fast fast fast ferryboat — and thus they drove, were driven, drove onward, on to Ferny Grove.

'It'll be replete with dunces, don't you worry. Idiocy absolution! That's what the creatures there'll possess! They'll all be as lethargic as their very own synapses are, sitting lookin' at walls for the daily increment of entertainment.' Quark's diminutive smirk was historic, commander of the fleet. He was giddy, peering with enforced embitterment out the window, hiding the apples of cherubim excitement in his expression, watching the highway pool away beneath his triangular lamp-glow eyes.

Glenda rolled her own pair, as she persisted in her ingenuous efforts to head-butt the window's surface. She allowed herself to twitter about nothing particularly, caught in the ardour of the moment itself, her diminished lawnmower motor-speak concentrating wholly in her fervour to escape. 'I can't, I can't I can't I can't, I jus' jus' jus' can't leave. I want home. What was I thinking, was I thinking, I wasn't thinking, I certainly wasn't thinking when I wanted to run away from home, to holiday, to holiday from home. Oh foolish, I was foolish, now this fool, now, now this fool wishes to make good an error of judgement, an erroneous judgement, a judiciously wrong one, oh no, oh sweet, oh my, oh dear — we're moving.'

'Indulge me? Shut up?' Quark suggested, his gaze returning to the unfurling ribbon road.

'Glenda, dear, we're going to Ferny Grove remember?' Imil smiled benevolently, warmth immediately airborne, tangible. 'You wanted to get away? Just temporarily. It's just a gentle escape. See?' She cocked her quizzical head toward the fog-scoured porthole they had dominion over, as other cars (ferries, Quark insisted), ghosted away before them. Imil was suddenly sad.

Were they fools? Were they making a mistake? Was there a Ferny Grove? Was there sense in anything? Sense in having this tall man-thing, squatting in the prow, commandeer them to a place that sounded so thoroughly intoxicating?

Was there a right way to die?

'Ferny Grove sounds peachy.' It was Biff. His face was protruding from the cavernous interior of the snaggletooth-savaged seat upholstery. He licked his glassy, opalescent eyes agitatedly with an orange lightning tongue. It was the first thing he'd said since Imil, or any of them, had been there. 'Don't you worry, li'l' housefly. It's got a cadence now, dunnit?' He fluttered his webbed hands expansively. 'Listen to them words tinkle. Ferny. Grove.'

'Lovely contribution,' Quark remarked curtly, nodding. 'Now, please, if you would kindly molest your eyeballs in the privacy of your own den of sin.'

Biff pouted theatrically. 'Ain't you ladybirds s'posed to be all floral perfume and summery memories? You're mighty angry, there, for a member of a family of good'uns. Why don'tcha give us a, a, an innocent SMILE?'

Quark bit his lower mandible sourly. 'Okay, friend.' His face remained rigid. 'Did you see it?'

Biff frowned. He sighed dubiously.

'No? You need to open your peepers. Go back inside and lick those big ole' lugs you call eyes, Biff. You'll certainly catch it next time.' Quark, thinly grinning, was well pleased in not choking upon his own sarcasm; he consequently lent himself back to the vigil at hand, surveying the direction the vessel was taking.

Biff, unwaveringly nonplussed, persevered with his conversation with Glenda. 'You won't regret it, now, dear. Because. I can feel it in the pores. I can feel it in the pores.'

Imil saw that Glenda, less irritated and now relatively amiable, had stopped worriedly barraging the window with her juggernaut head. The housefly scurried vertically down the wall below the window-glass, rubbing her hands compulsively as she did so.

'Mm, okay... If you, you both agree that I'm merely being overly anxious.'

'You shall love it, Glenda. It'll be bowerbird blue, the sky.' Imil gazed at the phantasmic reflections cascading off the porthole. 'And we, you especially, shall all be fine.'

Hackles erupted with transcendental speed from beneath Biff's seat, peering up at the reclining gecko warily. 'Ha ha, the lizard who came out his shell. You be good, there, reptileboy. If we're to get y'all's scaly tookus over to this Grove, now, we all gotsta agree to be friendly, like. Friendly, yeah?' The roach coughed bodily, his chitin flesh shimmering. 'I like that we're all peaceable, I do. Still: you start messin' with this lot, see, and I won't hesitate. I will get defensive. I will go primeval on you.' Hackles stopped, watching Biff's noncommittal expression. 'I swear.'

The ferry pulled to a stop. Imil had been so engaged in Hackles' steely proclamation that she hadn't been heeding the vessel's movement. Quark, disinterested in both, had seemingly closed his eyes. The iridescent light wafting off the ground (asphalt, Quark had declared knowingly, asphalt roadway), had dimmed. Now the ferry — the notion of a car translating as ignorance and myth under Quark's decree — had docked outside a new house. It was a grim, foreboding structure beneath the epiphanous night. The tall, callow beast-man, identical in all ways to every other tall, callow beast-man, had stopped. The man released himself from the nadir of their fast fast fast ferryboat, sounds immutable pouring from his mouth.

'They, mm, they do, they get like this,' Glenda offered in a whisper, stammering in her rhythmic fashion. 'Often, as I see it occur at home, they'll turn, turn increasingly angry at themselves. It happens moreso when they're alone. They work at something, exhausted from the hardship of the toil, and, and then they won't move at all. They won't work. They'll do something else entirely.'

Quark inclined his head. 'They work, then without completing it, say, they'll stop and work at something else? Then they end up, what, aggravated in regards to that new work — all over?' He held his head, bowed, whilst musing. 'Admittedly, I do tend towards being sceptical about new thoughts and developments. But, hurrah, despite my cynicism, that there sounds entirely STUPID.'

Imil flew from the passenger seat to the window, observing the furtive footsteps of the man-thing outside, who appeared to be emitting fluctuating cries from the wilderness within him, directing them toward the gothic, obeisant form of the house. He flung desperate arms about himself.

Glenda turned a sheepish gaze toward her own quivering hands. 'I, I could tell you what he is saying. If, if you'd like, of course.'

Quark exploded. 'You know what that, that critter is actually sayin'!? How is that even remotely feasible?! You're a, I mean, you're a housefly — does — doesn't it take intellect to translate...' He trailed off, his face a jigsaw of puzzlement. 'What is he sayin', Glenda?'

Hackles crowed with peals of roach laughter.

Imil smiled hopefully. 'How is this possible, Glenda?'

'Well,' Glenda clarified, becoming increasingly self-conscious, covering her fractal eyes with her hands with exaggerated dignity. 'I, I'm not sure. I jus' kind of ha — have to know it, now, don't I? It's, um, in me, I think. I spend all my life inside, sharing the same home. You know? If, if I was incapable of comprehending these — these people, then I guess I couldn't live, um. Fruitfully with them. But honestly, it, it must be the fact that I jus' intimate so regularly—'

'Okay, right, good: so, your point is?' Quark directed his avaricious grin toward the man-beast, presently standing indecisively, with much bodily shaking, upon the verandah and beneath the looming eaves of the gothic sprawler. 'What's he saying? C'mon then. Don't hold back. Tell us.' He waited an immeasurable moment — immeasurable because it was so impossibly quick. 'Tell us tell us tell us.'

Biff warmed his ivory palms by blowing onto his fingers. 'It'd seem the oh-so-nice ladybird really wants to know, there, li'l' housefly.'

Quark was so transfixed by the prospect of a new influx of knowledge to boast of that he didn't consider Biff with even a cursory eye. Hackles was beaming.

'Um.' Glenda pattered vertically up the glass, cupping her specialist ears to the thick-set pane. From on the verandah, the house's door groaned outwardly, admitting a further man-beast, this time quite obviously female, into the melty evening. She and the man were discussing something with brilliant, barbarian gesticulations. 'Right now he's saying to her—'



Arnold blanched, hands everywhere. 'I'm not killing anymore, Suze. I fucking can't. I was there, right there, I was ready to go, but it wasn't proper—'


Glenda shrugged dutifully, her face keen, eyes wide and probing. 'And she says, er: "Of course it wasn't proper, you, you goddamn—" Honestly, I'm not quite certain what the next word is, but: "You knew—"'



'—what it fucking meant Arnold! You knew! You said to me, "Suzanne, this is what I want to do, this is what I must do." Must, Arnold! Must!' Suzanne was distraught, pulling at her hair. 'Who, Arnold, please tell me, just who uses the word "must," ever, when they're fucking undecided?!' She began to bawl.



'"But babe—,"' Glenda reiterated cheerily, failing to grasp the urgency of the exterior drama, 'Oh, this is really quite fun, isn't it? It's a bit like, well, like a performance.' She cleared her throat to better voice the man-beast's yawping pleas. '"But babe, you said, you said as long as I was happy — and I was, but now, now I'm not, Suze. I'm really not. I can't just trespass into innocent—"'


'—peoples' homes, with my piece, and, and pump them all full of holes! Whilst they're sleeping, I mean, really—' Arnold was pacing erratically up and down the tempered floorboards. '—Really, fuck's sake Suzanne, it's not natural. Normal people don't spend hours before work scrubbing their hands in the bathroom sink-basin, their hands to the yellowing bone, just to abrade the flesh from their knuckles to make it easier to account for any errant trace of blood spatter that may smut up their skin during their next kill. Normal people don't malinger onto half-inebriated Australian politicians' properties an' wait 'till the fucking, the fucking kid walks in—! The kid, Suzanne!'



Glenda affected a more wheedling, high-pitched voice as Suzanne. '"But Arnold, Arnold isn't normal people!"' The housefly nodded rakishly toward the assembled chorus of other car passengers.

Hackles nodded appreciatively. 'You're doing it perfectly, Glenda girl! In't she doin' it perfectly, the translation? Eh? In't she?'



Suzanne brayed, grasping Arnold by the shoulders.

'Listen, Arnold: you told me this would be it. You said to me that all that wallowing, self-introspective crap, the cut wrists, the ringing me up at night to just cry at me, cry down the phone-line at me, the depressed drinking, you said to me that was finished. No more ethical dilemmas or existential mid-life crises, remember? No more showing up to my parents' place with blood on your collar, all caked on your forehead, no more telling my work colleagues to "get fucked" because "she never sees me anymore, she's my fiancée, and you've got to be abso-frigging-lutely barkers if you think I'm gonna let you hold her back—" Remember, Arnold?' Suzanne let her arms fall to her sides, unclenching and then clenching them into balled fists. 'Don't do this! You told me you'd make a go of being an adult, remember — don't do this now, Arnold. You claimed that you'd finally embrace the responsibility of holding down a career, that you'd assume some emotional distance from the role, that you'd locate a way to resolve yourself to biting the bullet to pay the bills. You promised that for the immediate future you'd choose us over your serial crises of faith. Arnold. Don't do this.'


The interior of the car, once permeated with whooping, applause and intent insectile expressions speaking volumes, fell significantly quiet.

Glenda, attached amphibiously to the smoke-white ferryboat window, gasped slightly in an attempt to wrest the concluding sentiments of the outside conversation into something powerful, poignant, potent. But it hadn't been, and she knew it. It could be illuminated with no other qualities than the ones it possessed, and they only spoke of sadness and torment. '"Right. I see. Because if this relationship is to exist, I have to have work. Never mind that I finally felt some hue of clarity. Never mind that this work I'm supposed to be committed to , involves, and profits from a small kid, small kids like that small kid, dying. I had to sleep under the bed where my contract was sleeping, and d'you think it was easy."' Glenda, rising greatly to the challenge, hissed it. '"No. I've told the right people, I told them, I rang 'em up. Suze, I'm not doing this shit anymore. I'm relinquishing all contracts. Maybe I'll go on and hate myself for leaving behind the only thing I'm good at. But I'd hate myself more if I didn't do this."' The housefly paused, then she disjoined herself from the window's embrace, darting toward the upholstery of the seat. Her face was one of disdain. '"Sleeping beneath that kid, no: easy it was not. And I get that I've hurt you in the past, but I love you, I do. If you're not willing to let that harden, let it become real, then, then right now this is easy. And I'm, I'm bidding you goodnight."'


So saying, Arnold staggered off Suzanne's front-steps, his face warped with silent tears.


Quark would not be conscious of it when it occurred, but the ferry was entering Slacks Creek on its passage to Ferny Grove, cutting an incisive procession through swathes of tinsel-green cattle-fields, and he'd subsequently lose the ideal occasion to denounce the various unseen, but no doubt blatant, idiocies of the suburb's inhabitants. Both he and Imil would be too preoccupied battling to stoke the flames of Lim's dwindling life.

It eventuated as it was always to eventuate.

Cameron, out of hiding, was eagerly ascending the yawning chrysalis of the passenger seat on joyous, elastic, breath-thin legs. 'My, my, it was a top show, a tophole show, Glenda. My egregious appreciations to you, young lass.' He strutted inquisitively about, thrusting out the tendrils of his longlegs. 'Forsooth, forsooth, what. How is the nancy doing, ho ho.' He peered about himself with a superior, satiric, thespian flourish. 'Aw, ho ho, just my little joke. That ghost moth knows well the careening tomfoolery of my wit. It's a special understanding, an empathy, as it were, between myself and he.' Cameron yawned magisterially. 'Yes, yes, I'm but a harlequin at the best of times. So, where is he, to whit, Lim?'

Hackles elevated to his position of silvertongued peddlar suddenly, without any classifiable progression of evolution. He sniggered. 'Look, look, the sycophantic harvestman has finally graced us with his convincingly humble manifestation. After a drinky, are we?'

'Whatever are you implying, you decrepit animal?' Cameron remarked, chortling. 'I know not of what you speak, and I am absurdly confounded and dismayed by the tainting subtext of your foolhardy jibes — incidentally, if you have a little thimble of something about your person, I'd entirely forgive you.' The daddy longlegs whinnied in a loopy display of his present and prominent thirst.

Imil, accompanied by a solemn and atypical Glenda, was pondering the universe of the asphalt roadway as it ran wistfully through the window as wheat chaff through the wispy air. Little could be made distinguishable through the mantle of dark, but there was something adventurous and completing buried out there, in the fields where steers were resting. She hoped that Ferny Grove was as pretty.

'You're great,' Quark was hooting. 'You babbling madcase, you insatiable pissant, I'll never, never ever grow weary of your arch psychobabble and burps. Give the weirdo a drink — go on, Hackles.'

Hackles offered them a dissenting glance, as though to suggest that both daddy longlegs and misanthropic ladybird were in need of desperate emotional assistance; but in actuality it was as though the exchange had never taken place at all, because the cockroach was off within mere seconds, his body entirely vanishing at the tail end of the vacillating smile he left hanging in the air. Quark and Cameron whistled admiration at his shuttling, will-o'-wisp departure.

'That boy,' Cameron hung his head in the throes of sage cogitation.

'Yes?' Quark asked interestedly, always earnest to extract new personal wisdoms from those whom possessed it in minuscule amounts.

Cameron took it upon himself, then, to fall asleep somewhat throatily at this juncture. The remaining passengers were seemingly occupied with the proceeding course of the ferry as it sliced indiscriminately through the woodchime night. Quark empathised with this, and would have been curious to discover their present geographical location, but found that it was arguably more necessary to slap Cameron so as to awaken him. He did thus, with a degree of glee.

'Man the mizzen-mast, the pink pirates have poisoned the battalion's milk!'

Cameron was awake.

There was a ladybird before him with folded arms, the cheeks of its mandibles inflated in annoyance. 'What were you saying? About Hackles? I won't use the information against him or anything—'

The harvestman sat back in a soothing display of calm or perhaps unsinkable ignorance. 'I was talking? My dear friend, I do believe you have been exposed to the ill-effects of claustrophobic insulation, what. It does occur time and again in these vehicular contraptions, and I wouldn't be thoroughly befuddled to discover tikki-tikki fever on your person. Indeed, 'twould be elucidating and necessary of you, if you were to allow me to sever off the discriminating limb. Now, which one, do you presume, has acquired violet splotches?'

Quark, with a manic giggle of anxiety, decided at this time it would be uniformly appropriate to join Glenda and Imil in perusing the onwards-rolling black hills. The ferry's front lamps (bracketed to the prow, Quark postulated) were penetrating the sheet of night, bathing the prow itself, the metallic hood, with an eerie, glow-worm trickery.

'You get back here, young patrolman!' Cameron was bellowing pleasingly, 'That tikki-tikki fever threatens to eradicate us all! Look at you, your white shell is already plastic bucket red! Alack, this petulant submariner has deserted us to the teeth of an exotic purple gangrene!' The daddy longlegs, bleating joyfully through a slender smile, considered the required follow-up. 'Erg!' He barked. Cameron assumed that that was suitably dramatic, and subsequently fell to sleep once more.

In the prow of the journeymen's ferry, the man-thing called Arnold had begun to weep. It was loud and indescribable to the insects, his swollen face tainted with moisture and reddened with sleep deprivation, his head buried into the wheel. He'd seemingly maintained a silence the entirety of the trip since leaving Suzanne, but now he was blubbering inconsolably and this, in turn, disturbed the ghost moth ensconced behind the man's flattened sun visor.

For but an instant this Arnold saw nothing, teary stars precluding his vision. Unbeknownst and beside his left ear, then, was a large, unannounced albino moth, and it was flapping aggressively, bizarrely battering the side of his clutched head. Then the ferry, unstoppable in its surge of adrenal momentum, quickened like the coming of rain.

The difference now was that it was upside down, careening off the highway, ploughing deep furrows into those distanced, ephemeral fields. And Imil, maybe for only a minute, failed to believe that there was any Ferny Grove.


The man's door swung open, and he was shanghaied to the ground. The ferry itself continued rolling sickeningly, the door snapping back shut, encasing the passengers within their speeding chimera on all sides. Then this fast fast fast ferryboat, embedding its nose into the loosened soil until vertical, hit a cow. This slowed the ferryboat's velocity with tremendous omniscience, but it assuredly didn't help the cow. The vessel continued gambolling about upon its side momentarily, groaning as it gradually righted itself. The cow, possibly crippled with a broken leg, pattered away a few metres before collapsing fitfully into the long grass. Arnold heard the incensed and agonised lowing as he came to.

Imil could feel the blood within her slow down until it was marzipan, liquid concrete, not blood at all. The ferry hadn't suffered any protracted injury, the upholstery and roof merely scratched and sagging a little more rebelliously, but the inhabitants were close to death. She'd claimed that for anyone willing to offer their loyalty to the cause upon this ferry, there'd be a unity that would endure through perdition and on to an apocryphal place of unending trees and pockets of sweet, sunny air, a place where she — well, she hadn't expressed to them her motives to seek out Ferny Grove. The general assumption was that it'd just be a better place. A better place. Those words had proven chocolate enough. Biff, Lim and Cameron, however, had always lived within the ferry, insofar that she knew; they had experienced no other place, and there would always be a tremulous difficulty in persuading them off the craft when finally they'd arrive at the grove. But these complications, her dwindling breath and stilling lack of conversation, they would be forgiven, all would be forgiven, once this Arnold took them to their manifest destiny. It had come to her in her sleep one night, within the sprucing enfolds of her plastic weed. Ferny Grove had been sung of, was being sung of about her head and in her head. The sojourn had begun with the chuckle of a motor; now it was concluding with the hacking of one.

Lim was euphoric. 'Oh! Oh! We welcome you, oh graceful spirit! We lay lips to the imprints your feet leave! We are your servants! We go when it is time!' He was soaring in inebriated zeal about the passenger seat, impressing the opaque, vaporous window-glass with ineffectual, feeble fists.

Quark was squatting sullenly upon his haunches, arms about his knees. The cockroach — garrulous Hackles — had never returned with Cameron's prospective drinks, which were often secreted and hoarded away in abandoned Coke bottles somewhere amongst the carpet in the prow, and the daddy longlegs himself was no longer attached precipitously to the seat whatsoever. Glenda, anguished, had realised such tragedy, throwing herself at the windshield porthole of the craft, lamenting loudly as though she was suffocating.

The sodium light from the centre of the vessel was agitating Lim's fervent intensity further. In the emphysemic light, nothing was truly visible. Imil heard a wheezing, reptilian sound somewhere in the alcove of the night. She croaked, willing herself to remain alert.

'Biff?' she cried, aspiring towards alerting the miscellaneous passengers in his proximity as well.

There was a distended, self-indulgent snigger that was hollow and cavernous, and then the blinking central roof-light fixed itself, washing the grey depths with quicksilver illumination. Imil, in the membranes of dying, saw the gecko launch itself toward Lim. There were gossamer tentacles hanging from his taut, closed jaw, and Imil knew within a breath that Cameron had been murdered coldly, quickly, within the distorted madness of the ferry. He'd never command the troops again. He was eaten, and that was all.

'He'll – he'll kill you!' Imil released the words, her ember eyes smouldering closed.

Hackles had reappeared. He stopped, admiring the hyperbolic arc Biff's body was describing as it thrust, inexorably, toward the crazed ghost moth and housefly. Quark felt real unmanacled rage within. There were no irony-fuelled thoughts. He was just pissed off.

Biff hit the window with feline eloquence, but the door swung open as he did so. He dismembered the moth's right wing as he passed, but he continued to fall, this time shrieking in humourless dismay, wrathful and savage.

Arnold caught the gecko on his shoulder, grunted and flicked the lizard off. He had to drive to a payphone to notify both the RSPCA and the farmer. No cow was dying today.

The door opened with such overwhelming suction, though, that Hackles flew out with it, over and beyond Arnold's muttering silhouette. The other insects watched his passing, simultaneously closing their respective ears when they were met with a succinct crunching sound. Underneath Arnold, this man-thing's shoe, was a cockroach. He wiped it on the long grass with a soured expression of distaste, before falling into their choking vessel, strapping himself in.

Arnold's forehead was dribbling a capillary of dark blue blood.

'"Not seeing anyone fucking die today, not now,"' Glenda translated of the tall, callow beast-man, the housefly mumbling with nightmarish horror. Hiding the senseless pornography of the expiring evening behind tiny scared fingers.


They could say nothing revelatory, and for once this fact even prevented Quark from proffering forth a quip. Imil was shattered; how could you attempt to proceed forth after the deaths of much-loved, so necessarily warming companions? That gecko, that gecko had been mania-inducing from the beginning; she theorised that indeed, sometimes people avoided the company of others, murmured caustic soliloquies to themselves, continually played with their hands agitatedly, and murdered other people, innocents — with arbitrary, though nonchalant loathing — innocents who have done nothing but exacted the art of innocence. Sometimes people are simply messed-up. She'd like to believe that sometimes these messed-up people were canny enough to work out where they'd so blatantly, flaringly messed up; work out why they'd ever consider bringing into fruition the perverse acts boiling as broth beneath the surface; and perhaps they'd then ensure that great efforts were taken to stop it, forever, with the utmost immediacy. To sorrily continue a life in an attempt to live down past sins, in a bittersweet tribute to eking a bettered life in the end. Sometimes messed-up people do work it out, she was sure of that. Sometimes messed-up people don't.

Later, Glenda was to inquisitively pledge her loyalty to the disillusioned minority and throw herself into Biff's snaggletooth-savaged den. She would find the disembodied heads of numerous mosquitoes fixed studiously to the inner fabric of the passenger seat. She would find a reptilian sheath of skin that Biff would have once expelled himself from. She would find methodical scratch marks, across the upholstery, of an indecipherable nature. Glenda would then sob with such attached meaning that it would move them all. Glenda was a housefly so thoroughly given to engorging on the wonderful possibilities of domestic life. She was always happy. Glenda never cried.

Lim would be clasped wholly to Quark as Imil enshrouded the militant ghost moth's quivering, sickened body with her roseate-black tarpaulin wingspan. And Imil would hang her head ashamedly, striving towards divining an ungraspable reason as to why things, sparrows, mayflies, eucalypts, Christmas beetles, cows, babies, love, solid objectives all died. And why these died without ceremony, to embroider the world with a festooning tapestry of sad, poor dead things. She'd been avoiding this for so long. Ferny Grove had not been, and would never equate to being a pragmatic destination; Imil felt, in her capacity to muse upon her past motivations, that this grove had provided for her the function of a safehouse, a sanctuary that would embrace her and keep her from committing to the prospect of dying, to sustain her from passing on. Nonetheless, death evaded no-one and she knew this, now, without any residual doubt. She was no longer indigo, but a coppery white; no mythological place of possum feet and uninhabited forest was going to prevent the inevitable. Even if she was in a ferryboat quicker than the congress of rainy clouds. Even if she had never slept, watching the car push the boundaries of morning to their glorious chrysanthemum zenith.

Imil was old, and she didn't feel as though she was allowably capable of denying this any longer. Perhaps she could consign herself to the persevering thoughts that death was escapable, but she knew that a Biff would always exist, flame-angry and petty and twisted, in a place of false peace, always a griffin of thorn and scale lurking in the dark, waiting to disembowel, waiting to mar the beauty that they, and people like them, could not see. There were always decapitated things and blood beneath a best friends' fingers, and that was the pained, true religion of the universe. One could flee a black storm by finding a crevice and holing oneself in deep; but there was no fleeing the black storm behind one's exhausted cherrystone eyes, and so Imil, maybe for only a minute, let go.


The farmer was bemused. His face was weathered with an influx of recent undulating uneasiness, but events seemed to have transpired for the better now. His wife was tapping towards him through the field, clenching a frosted glass flute of pink lemonade to give him in dainty hands, a lemony slice of resort life in this mud-splattered bourgeois paddock off Paradise Road. There was a lozenge-orange Japanese parasol in the drink, floating above the rim.

'What'd he tell ya? Go on, what'd he say?'

The farmer mopped his face, relaying his confusion in semaphore. It was an extensive process involving placing the swollen left palm of his hand on his forehead and slowly, with farcical relish, dragging it down the lower echelons of his equine face until it reached his chin, at which point he'd begin anew, interchanging hands. The farmer did this for a minute until his wife pinched the bridge of his nose.

'What'd he say, Neville?'

'He said: "I hope your cow's leg isn't too badly broken. In fact, I'll pay for the extended surgery so that it can, y'know, one day frolic about once more." Then he wrote me a cheque. Then he wrote me a further cheque for the trouble. "Once again, I hope Spottiswode pulls through. Here's my number." And, ehm—'

The farmer stopped, in registered concentration. His face puckered up in the milieu of little children everywhere, a species of expression born of small mouths chewing on segments of watermelon.

'Yeah, then what was it, Neville? What else did he say?'

'Then he said — holy shit Emile — the most strange thing I've heard all year. "I'm sure glad I didn't kill anyone today. I mean, you can confront the black spectre of extinction with a grin every day, but if you hold on, it does pay to run away from it. To keep it at your back. Mm, so... I won't kill anyone today, and I won't tomorrow, nor the next day. Man, this is great. I mean, shit: it starts with a cow." He said something else, Emile, as he was walking away. "The windscreen didn't even shatter. That's a goddamn' sign."'

The farmer drank his pink lemonade, gazing impassably into the distance. When Emile took the glass back, the Japanese cocktail umbrella was gone.


They lurched ambiguously to a halt.

Quark saw the door to the man's right open, gradually and finally. The man-beast with the wrangled monkey mouth did not move though. He simply sat like a carved effigy of sour times, permitting the vessel, the car, to idle. There was grass there, beyond the door's enticing maw. It would be spiky and unwelcoming but green like the cicada's wings, green and endless. It would be grass, then, all the same.

'Er. Well... Let's go. The "Arnold" oddity won't notice us, hah — he's, he's too busy "thinking." And look, this has got to be it. This has got to be the place. 'Mean, well — smell that air. It's real. Better air. It's air to breed for. It's air to flirt with. This is Ferny Grove.'

Quark lurched into the sunshine – and the ghost moth and housefly followed suit. Albeit Quark was incorrect, their ferry having achieved its edifying, final destination of Redland Bay, he felt as though he'd said something from a place not dictated to by his usual surliness or penchant for irony. It felt good, actually, to say stuff that people were inflated and buoyed by.

He'd try to keep it up.


In the summer, Arnold fell into an industrious, thrifty mood and thus cleaned out his car. It had been a titan, this vehicle, a dedicated associate, and he found himself growing teary over its prospective sale. Still, he reasoned that he needed the money.

Pressing on and whilst scouring the back passenger seat with a cloth, Arnold found the small crystal corpse of an indigo rhinoceros beetle with cherrystone eyes.

Later, after he'd vacuumed the remnants of past meals from beneath the driver's seat, he diligently packed his cleaning equipment into an old Samsung computer box. The dead beetle he put in amongst the feathery foliage of the thriving pot plant by the front door. He figured that it was simply too pretty to immediately throw away.

From there he decided to wait for the advent of the new year, at which point the insect and the ficus would marry. He couldn't pretend to understand plants, but he had a sweet hunch that the soil would become black forest soil, bearing the fruits of the courtship.

The Ferry Quick Like Rain: An insect tragicomedy © 2011Kirk Marshall
Bug Collage © Ira Joel Haber