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(A short story of 2406 words)

The Gun Shearer


by Clare Chandler

The arrival of a young sheep shearer at a farm in New South Wales has a profound effect on the owner, bringing back memories of a pivotal moment from her past. The Gun Shearer was shortlisted for the Costa Short Story Award.

Brittle gum tree branches were brushing against the kitchen window making a squeaking noise and Oriel scribbled a note to remind herself to ask someone to cut them back. She turned to take the kettle off the stove and saw the shearers approaching, three rangy lads strolling across her lawn as if they owned it.

As they came in, ducking their heads under the door frame, she said, 'You’re early.'

She had said 6.30 and it was only twenty past. She had her back to them, cracking eggs into the pan, but guessed they were exchanging glances.

'Hungry and raring to go. '

There was a cheerful smile in his voice and, as she pushed the pan loudly back on to the range, her peevishness made her feel doubly wronged. Not only had she not had her coffee but she was being made to look ungracious.

They were standing on the other side of the table, darkening the kitchen, shrinking the space.

'Sit yourselves down,' she said. 'It’ll be ready in a minute.'

She filled the coffee pot and put it on the table with four tin mugs and a jug of milk. They were sitting in a row facing her and she suddenly felt self-conscious, wondering what her jeans and old shirt must look like from the back. Then she told herself not to be stupid, she was an old woman as far as they were concerned...

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A review of The Gun Shearer from the CUT team....

“Thirty years ago and it was still as sharp as razor wire.” The past is a constant companion to Oriel, the protagonist of Clare Chandler’s earthy short story set among the sheep shearers working on a remote New South Wales ranch. A story of memories held and futures still to be grasped.

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