written by Nathan Fioritti | illustrated by Jacopo Degl’innocenti
Frank and other farmers nearby sell their homes for hefty sums right before the turn of the century.
The developers knock all of their places down, cart the debris off with the topsoil, drive roads through the land, dig out lake-sized holes. Frank pities whoever will buy the houses they put up. He bets they won’t even realize, once the new soil’s brought in, the earth underneath is as dry as anything.
He uses money from the sale to buy a minibus, travels around in it with his wife Mary and daughters Steph and Tash.
Over time, the few snakes in the surrounding farms become many snakes, as beds of them are steered away from the development.
The farmers take to the snakes with shovels. They hack and they hack and they hack.
Sometimes the snakes squirm for close to an hour after their bodies are broken in two.
There is a lake in front of the development office. In the middle of the lake, recycled water sprays around in circles.
The people come and walk through the display homes, imagine how they might spend time they don’t have, try to work out which rooms they should place their TVs in, in order to achieve the best quality of life.
At night the houses sit empty. The wind hits them. They creak and they sigh.
Frank and his family drive past the development one morning on the way to Ballarat.
‘Divine Valley,’ says Mary, reading one of the signs they put up.
‘Heart in a Cage’ by The Strokes plays through the minibus speakers:
See I’m stuck in a city. But I belong in a field.
Behind them, Steph stares out the minibus window blank faced. Tash doesn’t even lift her head, busy catching up on MasterChef on her MacBook.
It is months later, morning. A kangaroo leaps around, perplexed, on the main road, holds up the school traffic.
Divine Valley resident, Katherine, toots her horn, tells her two kids Jacob and Melanie it must have ventured out of the fenced-off area by the river.
When the kids arrive at school, they write ‘kangaroo on the loose’ on their late slips and swear to their teachers they’re telling the truth.
Steph moves into a small place in Divine Valley, right beside Katherine’s, with her man Antonio and their new baby.
When she meets Katherine and her husband Paul, Steph tells her she used to live here before all these houses were put up.
Katherine tells Steph about her two lovely children who grew up way too fast, and that both she and Paul are highly respected professionals within their fields.
She says we live joyful, fulfilled lives and, someday, you might too.
We also own a Mercedes. See? Points finger.
Oh, and the agent probably didn’t mention this when you were looking to buy, but immigrants recently moved in across the road.
About the artists:
Jacopo Degl’innocenti is from Florence, Italy, where he studied fine arts. He moved to New York City, where he participated in the School of Visual Arts Continuing Education Program, illustration and animation courses, and the Studio Intensive Program at National Academy School of Fine Arts. He works as a freelance illustrator and artist.
Nathan Fioritti is a freelancer from Australia who is currently writing his Honours thesis on political communication at The University of Melbourne. His creative work has been featured in publications including Grapple, Phantasmagoria, and Farrago.