Trying to Forget
This story was written in response to a three-word challenge on OL after I had first heard the song ‘Kate Kelly’ by the Australian group The Whitlams and couldn’t get it out of my head for days.
Kate Kelly of course was Ned’s sister and it was Constable Alexander Fitzpatrick’s behaviour towards 14-year old Kate at the Kelly homestead on April 15, 1878 that sparked the Kelly Outbreak. Kate’s life ended under tragic circumstances when she was 35.
It all started with that bloody Fitzpatrick. He took a shine to me and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Even if he hadn’t been a copper, I would not have given him the time of day. He was just bad news, even the Victoria Police said so when they kicked him out later but of course all our lives were already wrecked by then. When he showed up that night, asking after Dan and then starting to wave his revolver around, we all thought it a bit of a lark really, he was clearly the worse for drink. He tried to kiss me and Ma banged him over the head with a fire shovel. It was just a scuffle and we thought it was all sorted out when he left. We couldn’t believe it when he then came out with the story that Ned had tried to shoot him – for the love of God, Ned wasn’t even there! What chance did we have against his lies – the Kellys had always been the coppers’ first target when they went looking for someone to lag. Had they got their hands on Ned and Dan then, they would have locked them up and thrown away the key. Who in their wildest dreams would have thought they’d take Ma instead, with a babe at her breast?
Ned and Dan offered to surrender, in
exchange for Ma’s freedom but the traps wouldn’t hear of it. They obviously
thought they had a good chance of getting all the Kellys anyway. But of course
they never really did mean to lock up Ned and Dan. They meant to kill them. All
that shock and indignation after what happened at Stringybark Creek when the
police went there with every intention of bringing back my brothers’ dead
bodies. Joe told me he saw the leather straps they had for the purpose,
specially made. That was when we knew there would never be any justice for
them, not in the courts of Queen
Things were quite grim for a while but then
life settled down and when the boys stuck up the bank at Euroa and then
Jerilderie, there was a definite change. The
I tried to make a life for myself when it was all over with Ned but how do you go on when living has become like a nightmare you just can’t wake up from? Everybody knew who I was so there was no escaping from it. I tried to make it work to my advantage, got involved in a ‘Wild West’ show, riding and shooting and they all flocked to see Ned Kelly’s sister who could shoot a coin thrown into the air and not miss once. I understood then how Ned had felt after his capture, people gawking like at some animal in a cage. I needed more and more whiskey every day to get through it and then of course my aim was not so true anymore and people lost interest.
So here I sit, in the dark corner of another nameless shanty that serves whiskey to anyone who has the money to pay for it. With the whiskey, I can make myself stop remembering and if I drink enough I pass out and there will be no dreams. The nights with the dreams are the worst, they are so real it’s as if I’m there again and the pain is so crushing I can’t breathe and then I wake up screaming.
I have no tears left and I don’t want pity from anyone. I know my body is giving up, I will never be an old woman and I welcome that thought with relief, soon it will all come to an end. No more memories, no more pain, no more longing for what is forever lost to me… No more trying to forget, just a long, dreamless sleep.