Murphy could not believe her nose. This wasn’t the normal smell of morning. Morning was wood smoke leaching from the chimney. It was sizzling bacon and jasmine, so strong it made her sneeze.
Morning was crisp and clean, and small things stirring under musty leaves. It was Levi returning from the bales smeared in molasses with sloshing pales of milk for breakfast.
This smelt like the bottom of Dad’s boots after he had spent a day on the river fishing for barramundi.
Mum unclipped Murphy’s leash and gave her a gentle shove. 'Off you go, girl. A swim will be great exercise for you.'
Murphy could not believe her ears. Exercise was normally a stroll around their weatherboard house after breakfast, and perhaps a gallop to the gate to collect Levi after school. She was an Old English Sheep dog after all, not a Retriever.
Wind thick with brine and the tang of rotting crabs tangled Murphy’s long fringe into knots. She peered through it. Where the sand ended, a huge sheet of blue reared and curled like Mum’s tablecloth flapping on the clothesline, only it spluttered and roared worse than Dad’s tractor. Normally she hid in the pantry whenever the tractor started up. She couldn’t see a pantry here, no bed to crawl under either, just miles of nothingness. Her head ached with the strangeness of the seaside.
Just then, Mr Wobbly sailed over her head, landing a few metres away on the wet sand. Mum was being unfair. Murphy couldn’t let the whooshing water suck away her favourite toy chicken. She padded across the beach, flicking sticky sand from her paws every few steps.
Almost there, she paused, one paw hovering above a glistening shape lying in the sand. It smelt like Dad’s tackle box and didn’t look anything like the dead rabbits she’d sometimes find at the back of the shed. It was all slimy scales, tiny needle-sharp teeth, and gaping eye sockets. Murphy shuddered beneath her shaggy coat. Screaming grey and white birds hung in a cluster above her head, their blood-red legs and beaks dangling annoyingly close to her mouth. Charging through the shrieking seagulls, she snatched up Mr Wobbly then lumbered back across the beach to Mum.
'Good girl, Murph. Time for home.'
Finally. This was the worst holiday they’d ever taken her on.
'So how do you like our sea-change, Murphy? I think this move will do us all good. Levi already seems at home in his new school.' She spoke to the booming waves as though trying to convince them.
This was home now? Murphy was not convinced.
As Mum snapped on her leash, Murphy noticed a dog sitting on the dunes by the car park. A dog with shaggy silver fur and hidden eyes. A dog like her. He greeted her with a low friendly, ‘Woof!’ She wondered if he lived nearby. Murphy couldn’t believe her luck. Maybe, this could be her new kind of normal.
Dimity Powell is a creator of children's stories and picture books. She is an active member of the Australian children's literature landscape, sharing writing tips and supporting authors through her website Dim's Write Stuff. You can keep up to date with Dimity's latest news and events by following her Facebook page.
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