The Cliff

He drags her by the feet. Red dirt stains her face. She tries to scream, I can see because the veins in her neck pulse and her chest heaves, but the ball of oil soaked rags he has stuffed in her mouth stops her.

At the foot of the mountain he snatches and flings her over his shoulder like a rambling man’s pack. She smacks at the back of his legs with her two fists making his knees wobble. He throws her down in the dirt. Her eyes say she wants to spit the ball of rags out, even more so when he produces a lighter in front of her face, and says, “keep going you little slut and I’ll blow your fucking face off.”

Her eyes are half closed, like the moon waiting against the sky behind the mountain. He drags her by the arms now, one of them releases itself from the socket. She screams in to the oily rag.

“All we need to do is get you to the top of this mountain, then you can meet the real me.”

She won’t meet the real him. He’ll be dead when he reaches this plateau up here.

A ballet shoe hangs by its thin ribbon lace in a bottle brush bush. It swings ever so gently. The canyon inhales and birds settle in tall tree tops; as it exhales they flutter away; but not the ballet shoe, it stays attached to the bottle brush. Right next to the soccer boot.

The soccer boot is a sacrifice I was forced to make but the ballet shoe, never will I make the same mistake. I won’t let him know that I am here, waiting to steal his prey again.

The half moon has sailed further up in to the sky which has now turned from pale blue to purple velvet.

When he throws her body down over the top ledge, she does not hear her head hit the rock. I do though.

Howls echo through the canyon.

He snatches her again and walks along the plateau. He trips on the wire, she falls forward and lands in a bottle brush and that’s when I kick him in the head, it stops him moving.

I take the oil rag from her mouth and she coughs. “I’m sorry, Dad,” she says.

I try to say that I am, but the tears come.

She reveals a small soccer boot from her pocket with her good arm. “I tried to find Jake.”

I nod. The shadow moves. Then the anger comes.

I never wanted my daughter to see this side of me but I’ve no choice. I grab the shadow, force him in to a head lock and stab my finger in to each of his eyes.

The howls are closer now.

I tie him up to a eucalyptus tree.

On the way back down the mountain, the howls echo.

“He’s all yours boys; I just nipped him at the heels for you.”

I’ve left Uncle Charlie for the wild dogs.