Inkster of the Week: Jack Howely

Thursday 27th July 2023

Jack's piece weaves together scenes from two very different time-frames, linking the two cleverly making it a sophisticated and interesting read.

The Golden Cloak

Wong works to the sound of a drumbeat from the rain pounding on the calico rooftops. The draping willows dance to the wind’s howling, while the river gleams and reflects in his eyes, as dreams of returning to Canton dance in his mind. 

The tears from the rock faces feed his Azure dragon, the Arrow River, as it journeys east. Rainwater slowly builds, threatening to overflow in his pots. He rocks his cradle gently, washing away the dirt to reveal a lonesome speck of gold glistening at the bottom. The sparkle reminds him of the one in his daughter's eyes, and the gold's light ripples through the raindrops, reminiscent of the fireworks from his homeland. He wonders if he'll ever get to see his family again, but most of his money goes to the Europeans. 

His hands lose feeling as he pans through the loose gravel in the icy water. The opium helps lighten the heavy load weighing on his heart, while the river grabs at his feet, recalling a time when crossing it was as simple as walking. As the rain pours, the dragon angers and makes darting grabs at his feet, stirred by the heavy breath of the wind rustling the leaves.

Sophie wanders through the old mining village, her eyes full of wonder. She runs in and out of the crumbling houses, with sunlight creeping through the cracked calico rooftops. She walks past the winding Arrow River, wild as ever, and wishes she could have lived during the gold rush, in this tucked-away valley village. "Mum, who do you think lived in this house?" She shouts as she reaches a rough structure built into a rock-face. As she enters, she sees the rusted remains of a gold pan nestled under a poorly constructed wooden seat. 'I wonder where they slept,' she thinks to herself, noticing the absence of any form of bedding or warmth.

Wong envies the white folks living downstream. The smell of freshly baked goods wafts into his village, and the friendly shouts of children echo through the valley. 'When the rain comes, they can simply set a fire to stay warm,' he thought to himself, as staying dry inside the hurriedly built shacks during the rain is rare. At least his hut built into the rock face helps keep some moisture away. The rain plunges its vicious fingers through every crack and hole, and as the clouds turn dark, the miner drains his cradle and starts walking back to his hut. The crunch of the stones under his feet echoes off the hills, and as the clouds part, he catches a glimpse of the shadowy outline of the moon, mesmerised by its dimpled surface. Suddenly, he shouts as he kicks a large rock beneath his feet, but as he walks away cursing under his breath, the rock catches the moon's shy light and drapes a golden cloak around Wong.

Sophie runs wildly through the forest towards the Arrow River, her eyes still lit up by the history around her. She had bought a gold pan days earlier and was eager to try it. As she reaches the river, she fills her pan with dirt and dips it in the river. With slow, precise movements, she washes away layers of dirt with the dragon's back. As the amount of dirt lessens, her movements become slower, more precise. She washes back the final layer of dirt to reveal a single lonesome speck of gold. "The miners would've gotten way more than this, right Mum?" She looks around and notices her Mum still walking through the old village. Sophie runs to show her the gold she panned, but as she runs, she trips over a rock and sprawls out over the rocky beach. On the verge of tears, as she walks away, the sun reflects off the rock and drapes a golden cloak around her.