Jolley Prize 2018 (Shortlisted): 'Vasco' by Claire Aman

Before I learnt the language of map-making, the word cadastre sounded like a timbre or a cadence. It was a momentous drum, a hollow ratatat. Bone, fire, dirt, stone. Like a shout, a ring, a knock, a blow. But when I learned maps, I discovered cadastre meant the legal boundary. There was no sound to it at all, only lines. The lines are normally black, but I have a range of colours and hatchings to choose from. Anyone wanting a map just needs to tell me which features they want.

A map can show anything. It’s possible to make maps of black cockatoo sightings, of cropland, of underground cobalts or silvers. I can show all the creeks and rivers, with the sea as a great green mass. Or I can plot cockatoos and creeks on a map together, adding minor roads and tracks. This was the sort of map my neighbour Vasco once might have asked me to send her.

Help me remember something good, Vasco. Sadness is making me forgetful.

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Claire Aman

Claire Aman

Claire Aman grew up in Melbourne and settled in Grafton, New South Wales as a young woman, finding work as a town planner. She started writing in her forties. Now sixty, she is buoyed by the imaginative, expressive, and tempering properties of writing. Text published her short story collection Bird Country in 2017. Her stories have been published in Australian journals and anthologies and have won the E.J. Brady, Wet Ink and Hal Porter prizes. Her early writing life was nurtured by Varuna.

Published in August 2018, no. 403