Nanima: The Dancing Hunter

Here is the next part of Nanima.

The Dancing Hunter: Mouths that Open Doors 

At one stage, Nanima had a thriving business centre. Nowadays, half the shops were empty. Broken windows and dusty, cobwebby exteriors were the unfortunate norm. The larger country towns, such as Thubbo, were expanding, and the smaller ones were declining. The bigger towns had a monopoly on the businesses, jobs, housing, and services. It was a self-perpetuating cycle. Nanima’s old dance school was one of the casualties. It’s peeling pink paint was a tell-tale sign. Katarina was able to rent it for a song or, in her case, a dance. 

As Maliyan walked towards the dance school entrance, a black Land Rover pulled up at speed. A dark-haired man hurriedly jumped out. He was probably about fifty, but much more spritely than the average, middle-aged country fella. As she passed the car, he opened the back door and grabbed his dance shoes. They were lying on top of several guns. Maliyan thought that he looked too citified to be a farmer. His 4-wheel drive was too clean. She assumed he was a recreational hunter. 

“On my way to a hunting trip after here,” said the man by way of explanation. “That’s why I could say yes when Kat asked me to come. I’m always busy in the city, but my trips out here keep me going. I’m happiest when covered in dirt and blood.”

After seeing the look on Maliyan’s face, which was generally very readable, the dancing hunter smiled broadly to counteract the psychopathic image he was possibly portraying. He was already a good-looking man, but his large, enthusiastic smile made him more so. In some ways, it embodied the quintessential Australian spirit. Yet, it wasn’t quite the grin of the country lad which was simple, cheerful, and mischievous.

He was a little too intense for a man born of country soil. His smile slightly orchestrated; not insincere, but deliberate. It was the smile of an intelligent person who realised that, for a tiny movement of the body, a big smile worked disproportionate wonders in making one’s way into people’s hearts. 

Your mouth can open many doors, thought Maliyan, but not all.

The Dancing Hunter: Guns and Goats 

The dancing hunter shuffled his guns into a safer spot, locked his car, and headed for the studio door. Having relatives that went wild-pig shooting, Maliyan was familiar with guns. Also, most farmers had them. They used them for pest control (particularly in plagues) on a variety of animals including rabbits, foxes, flying foxes, birds, feral cats, and even kangaroos. Although the killing process was known to her, she was not at ease with it; even less so with recreational shooting. 

As soon as she was an adult, moved to the city, and had exposure to vegetarianism, she became one. As a child, she didn’t know any vegetarians and had the vague idea that it was a cultural thing – maybe for people who lived in India. Once she actually thought about what must happen at the abattoirs, eating meat was no longer an option for her. It wasn’t a matter of deciding whether she would be a meat-eater or not. The concept of a creature having to die to feed her, when there were very good alternatives, was unpalatable. 

However, the gun issue was not as simple as deciding to be carnivore or herbivore; killing for sport or not. About five years ago, further out west, a large region of country was designated to total indigenous ranger care. They immediately caught and killed all the feral goats. There were a lot of them. The Aboriginal rangers left a small tribe of fourteen goats. The purpose of the tribe was not to keep the feral goat population going but to entice any stray goats to the area so that they could also be killed. They never let the tribe grow larger than fourteen. Maliyan remembered reading about it at the time. It seemed brutal, but she had to trust that the indigenous caretakers knew what they were doing. It was in their blood from tens of thousands of years of looking after the land. She recently saw a photo of that same land. On one side of the photo was the white-ranger land. It was sparsely vegetated; destroyed by goats. On the other side was the black-ranger, goat-free land. It was full of vegetation and would have also been been full of unseen, native wildlife supported by the vegetation.

Turning her mind away from guns and goats, Maliyan followed the dancing hunter through the pink doors of the old-new dance school and, for the first time in ten years, donned her dancing heels.

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