page title

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.

tryingto forget
Banner by Krazymoonkat

The whiskey burns its way down my throat, almost comforting in its familiarity. Everything around me is slightly blurred, edges softened, voices blending together, disappearing. I don’t want to remember and this is the only way I can stop the pictures in my head. Of Ned, lying on the ground, his legs shot from under him. Of Dan and Steve burnt inside the inn, beyond all recognition. Of Joe strung up on that door, the photographers trying to put a gun in his dead hand to make him look more menacing. And later, after the petition came to naught, of Ned on the gallows.

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 Victoria. I wonder if she knows, the queen in her ivory tower across the seas in faraway England, what’s happening in her name and if she does, does she care? What right does she have being our queen anyway, never even having set foot on Australian soil?

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 Victoria police and the high and mighty in Melbourne were in a panic but the common folk cheered. We had some money then and even though the coppers harassed us all the time, barging in and turning the place upside down, life wasn’t too bad. If only Ma hadn’t been in gaol… Joe even took me to the Whorouly races once, me all dressed up like a fine lady on his arm. Although that dress did get ruined after when we were coming home and stopped to let the horses drink from that creek. It was all Joe’s fault, I didn’t realise I was so close to the edge when he started kissing me and the next minute we were both in the creek, wet as drowned rats. Oh how we laughed and he kissed me again, right there with us still sitting in the middle of the creek and the horses looking at us as if we had gone completely mad. Of course we had to take the wet clothes off and how could we have kept our hands off each other after that? Joe had the most beautiful hands and when he touched you it was like he thought you were something precious, like the finest china that you have to be very careful with lest it break. At the same time his passion burnt right through you and you could never be the same again after he had loved you and you had loved him.  Oh Joe, what they did to you. Bloody bastards. May they all burn in hell.

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.


Home   Stories   Biography    Contact Us