As a play, Hynes’s Saw Nothing, Saw Wood has been remarkably well received, including two award wins, and a history of sold-out shows. Recently, a local boutique publisher, specializing in handbound letterpressed books (Running the Goat Press), packaged Hynes’s piece as the novella it was always intended to be. It’s a great, one-sitting read, featuring illustrations by Gerry Squires. Go and get it. Below is the author’s note, as a means to entice.
There was a violent murder in my hometown of Calvert (pop. 300) more than forty years ago. This is not that story. I want to be absolutely clear about that. I’ve lifted a few facts from newspaper clippings and court documents, otherwise the characters depicted in this little book are inventions of my imagination.
In some twisted, idealistic, and egocentric way, this is more my own story than anyone else’s. I dont know how to explain that, expect to recount a time when I was seventeen years old and not exactly living the good life — failing out of high school, waking up all too often in some jail cell, snapping to attention in some court room when I heard my name bawled out by another bloated judge, falling out with strangers, smashing things up, and destroying myself. Anyway, one bright summer morning I was stumbling along a narrow strip of pavement, on the outskirts of a small town near my own, bleeding from a cut above my eye. No idea how I’d gotten cut open, but I must have been bleeding for a while. Walking along like that, dazed and still mildly drunk, I idly scooped up a fist-sized rock off the side of the road. Not aiming at anything in particular, I let it drift up into the sky. Maybe I was tryna kill a seagull, I dont know. As soon as the rock left my hand a man walked out from a hidden driveway with two little girls, each holding one of his hands. I’d place them now at about two and three years old. Maybe. Hard to keep things straight. Time. I watched that chunk of rock climb into the air and arc down towards the man and his two little girls. It was headed directly for the little one on the outside. I felt my stomach turn, that crippling flash of adrenaline that originates in absolute terror. It would have killed her. Would have cracked her skull wide open and killed her. There was no one else around, no real reason for me to have thrown that rock. Given the state of my reputation at the time I wouldnt have a leg to stand on in court or in the community. I would have been picked up by the cops, bleeding from my head and stinking like an abandoned brewery. I already had a hefty youth record at the time. I would have went to jail for a long time. And I would be remembered now for nothing else but being that saucy nuisance who killed a little girl with a rock. But the rock missed, of course. Barely. By inches, maybe. Neither the man or the girls noticed it when it hit the road alongside of them. I think about that morning every now and then and wonder why the wind wasnt different, why I didnt turn my body a different way, throw that rock a little harder, a little softer, why that little girl didnt tug at her father’s arm at that last moment and step right into its path. Basically it astounds me sometimes that I was spared, that that little girl was spared, that family. I guess I find it daunting, and worth writing about, how randomly our fates are doled out. Because maybe the wind did pick up, maybe that little girl resisted the urge to tug at her father’s arm for some reason. Maybe fate did intervene.
When I think back now on the wild, raging, self-destructive teenager I used to be, it’s baffling not only that I eventually pulled myself up out of it, but that I made it out alive at all. It’s the “what if” that tends to haunt us all, on some level, at some point in our lives, and certainly it became a driving theme for Jude Traynor, my narrator in SNSW. But to reiterate, Jude is a work of fiction. There is no romance, no passion, no mystery, no real logic at all to what happened in Calvert forty years ago. That one is a cold, ignorant, irredeemable story that’s best left buried in the past.
Photo credit: Straylight Media / Greg Locke