The meat is cooked, sliced, and rested, the garlic-roasted broccoli and carrots tower on the platter, and a bold red and fresh loaf are side by side taking a bit of a breather when I summon everyone to the table for our celebratory Saturday night lockdown dinner. The sons have put in an effort—I notice buttoned shirts and different jeans from the ones they’d worn in the paddocks to hunt me a hare—and my husband, Chris, has his hand in the small of my back in the way that says, “I am seeing all the love in this food, and I can’t wait to taste it.”
Then the phone rings.
We all laugh: it always seems to ring just when we’re sitting down to eat. (Here in the Australian bush, a landline telephone is a necessary anachronism, as cellular coverage is a dicey proposition on a good day.) Chris goes to get it, thinking he knows who it is. A few hours earlier, there had been a choked and tearful voice message – a lady we barely know, asking Chris to call her back. When he did, twice, she hadn’t answered, and attempts to contact her neighbors had failed.
Now she has finally reached us, struggling to keep it together as she gives my husband a litany of her woes: an off-the-grid rental home with no electricity or hot water, thanks to a broken photovoltaic system; an uncooperative landlord; deteriorating health; and two grandbabies to try to feed and clean.