For some, it was the scent of peaches, but for me, it was the inky tang of newspaper that conjured my childhood in Bonnievale. Other kids grew up among the stone-fruit orchards that made the town famous, playing in clouds of peach blossoms, taking time off school when extra hands were needed and learning to drive in rusty farm utes.
Growing up, my parents’ newsagency was my second home. I spent my afternoons counting stock and selling scratchies and I never, ever ran short of school stationery.
I hadn’t been back to Bonnievale in almost a year. At the shire boundary, I passed the first stone-fruit tree planted in the region. It was clothed in green now, pink petals all flown away in the spring, and the visitors’ centre had put up a new sign telling the story of ‘The Olde Peach Tree’ – dubbed thus long ago by the townsfolk. The community were valiantly trying to rebuild the region’s reputation, declaring Bonnievale three years clear of peach spot at every opportunity.
Bonnievale was a town in rehab – a ballet dancer sunk from former grace and beauty to something thin and weak, trying to relearn how to walk. I tried Mum and Dad’s house first, but there were no cars in the driveway, so I sought them out at Rabbit’s Foot Lucky Lotto and News.
The shop door was shut – the flies were always bad in late November – and a red Come In, We’re Open sign sat at eye level. I slipped through into the air conditioning, immediately scanning the magazine rack. It looked like I was in the clear…