The chooks are panting. They’re holding out their wings as if they have sweaty armpits – this despite the fact the coop and run have for weeks been covered in an old tent fly. Outside the coop and run the birdbath is a dried-up clay-pan. The large wattle adjacent is yellow, not from flowering but its tiny stressed leaves. The dirt, it’s sandy. The clematis around the front of the house, planted at the end of spring and for much of the time since has been growing vigorously up the verandah post, is now limp, fading. The two standard white roses beside the front gate look like miniature street-trees in autumn – they’re leafless. Inside the house it’s dark, all the curtains and blinds closed even though it’s the middle of the day. When eyes adjust, the cracks in the walls are obvious as the ground shifts and splits. There’s no breeze coming through the hallways and rooms because the doors and windows are shut tight. The skylight’s honeycomb covering is drawn across, making a cave out of the loungeroom. The corrugated-iron roofing creaks like a ship keeling into the ocean (if only). Sometimes the mad and maddening whirr of a trapped-in blowfly. The fridge motor bravely trying to keep up. The Old Lady of the House dragging herself from one place to another, head down and puffing. The coolest place, she knows, is in the writing room, because its only window faces east – the room is protected from the worst of the afternoon. There she finds a writer in grey gym shorts and white t-shirt. Look at the blackened souls of his feet. Beside him is the six-fin bar-heater, dusty, silent, switched off but plugged in. The heater is waiting for cold rain.