The street was lined by violet. The beautiful monotone corridor emerged at around the same time each year, lingered for a few days then disappeared. The jacaranda trees remained prominent, but robbed of the ephemeral purple blanket spread across the footpath, the street returned to its usual status as a pleasant rather than breathtaking vista.
A stroll down the purple corridor offered evidence of man-made, as well as natural, beauty. The dwellings on the street held a certain quality. Many were run-down, some had taken on a shanty-like appearance, while others had been well maintained—but none seriously challenged the harmony of the ensemble. Long verandahs encouraged people outside, the homes stood solid and proud, much like the working-class families they had sheltered for over a century.
The fly-wire screen of one dwelling opened. A man struggling with a full plastic bag in each arm kept the door open with an extended leg. He coaxed his body outside. There was movement inside the house as other family members went about their evening rituals. His high-vis jacket lay crumbled on the bathroom floor, awaiting further attention. He was on his way to the shops.
He stopped at the bin, put one of the bags down, swung the lid back and hauled in half his load. On the way in, before it disappeared forever, the bag brushed the man’s baggy shorts. The $50 note that had sat tenuously in a shallow pocket floated to the ground, like a dead leaf drifting from the top of a eucalypt. The man didn’t immediately notice—but it caught the eye of a predator perched in the distance.
The second bag disappeared, and the man took a couple of steps towards the gate. A few basic items were required to see the family through to week’s end; some bread, tissues, ham to go with the cheese on the children’s sandwiches. A thin plastic note hardly weighs a man down, yet he knew something was amiss and he hesitated, turned, and his eye caught the object glimmering in the sun beside the bin.
At this precise moment the black and white predator swooped, whispering past the man’s ear on the way down, before plucking the note from the ground without breaking speed, then arcing upwards to the gutter of the house.
The next moment was less grace, more fury. The man swore, shouted, panicked, picked up a stone from the ground and hurled it towards the bird. The stone clanged against the gutter and, startled by the sound, the creature took flight. It escaped in the opposite direction from which the projectile had arrived. It flew east.
The magpie had not looked to cause mischief but, like the man, had a home to make and young to feed. With the breeze at its tail and the contours of the streetscape rapidly changing, it soon felt safe from the danger. The texture and taste of the object, on the other hand, was less to its liking. It wouldn’t bring strength or comfort to the nest. Inanimate and tough, it clearly wasn’t for eating.
Convinced of its worthlessness, the bird dropped the bill from its beak and set off for home. The destiny of the $50 note now rested with the winds. It floated lower and lower, a little drunkenly. It ducked left, then went right, slowly but surely making its way to earth.
The final destination drew near. Greener, certainly, the dwellings taller, a little grander. The surroundings were pristine and a sense of order abounded. With the ground closing in, the fall was broken by the windscreen of a shiny new vehicle as it entered the driveway of a tall house. It sat on the windscreen until the car had slowed almost to a halt, before bailing out to the side.
A man got out, took his suit jacket and briefcase from the back seat, and stooped to collect the note on the way to the front door. Some days are full of uninterrupted sunshine, he thought. Although the note carried a value relatively insignificant to him—a drop in the ocean compared to that day’s gains alone, even such a small amount could be multiplied many times over if invested adroitly—it was heartily symbolic.
Andrew Hunter is general manager at Port Adelaide Football Club and lives in adjoining Rosewater. Former national chair of the Fabians Society, Andrew is a columnist with the Adelaide Review.