‘The Office of Icebergs’
Meanjin Since 1940. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2012. (Originally published in Meanjin Volume 70 Number 3, 2011).

Edited by Sally Heath

An Excerpt

Here, we are accustomed to slippery immigrants, to changeable states and submerged anatomies. So at first, when we met Isca, we did not feel threatened. Regrettably there were looks—reactions of alarm and repulsion—because it was only later and in confidence that she filled us in on the deal with her face. But after the double-take we realised, it’s a woman! and we swivelled around in our chairs, raising our brows at one another as if to ask: but how did she get in? There had been no call forewarning us of her arrival, no intra-office memo, or email from our truant Director.

The woman put down her knapsack and introduced herself. Isca, the glaciologist. Isca, we thought, taking her hand in ours, is that Jewish? Do we know any Jewish glaciologists? “We’re all glaciologists!” we exclaimed jumping up, because by now we wanted her to join with us in whatever game was being played, and, also, we felt really bad about her face. When we had been standing for a minute she said, “I’m from the Polar Ombudsman’s,” and to make it clear that she was on our side she produced a business card. “Oh yes!” we said, like it was no big thing, this tiny card. “Oh that Ombudsman, we know about him and his powers.” We hung out our healthiest smiles. “So ..,” Isca folded her hands into her armpits.

“So where do you want me?”

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