regional – marginal – comical
Cuckoo’s Nest. Peter Lewis 2002
Chapter 1 Mating.
The Bronze cuckoo does not build a nest. It lays one egg in another bird’s nest and flies away forever.
When the bigger and stronger bronze cuckoo hatches, it throws the other chicks out. The deceived mother continues to feed, nurture and defend it’s large monstrous off-spring until one day it too will fly away and repeat the process.
A little black hen layed a clutch of eggs outside the chook run.
Every day for two weeks it would steel its way out and lay another egg to its clutch. Susan’s father would watch for its escape but never catch her. One day he found and fixed the hole in the fence and the little black hen paced back and forth along the fence looking for a way to its eggs. When her father was not looking Susan let the hen out and followed it to its nest and then carefully moved mother and eggs to a safe secret spot under the house. All the eggs hatched and Susan was given the nick name “little mother”.
Susan had been clucky since she could remember. As a child she was always the willing babysitter. Her first reference said she had been responsible, conscientious and loving toward the children.
She once smacked a child. The child looked back at her with the surprised look of a million dollar lottery winner and swallowed a sob in one gulp.
Susan knew she would have children and felt that she would be a good mother.
She knew it like some people know how to run marathons and others know horse ridding before they can walk.
She knew that her body was designed to give birth and that she might do many things in her life, have different careers, different lovers, move houses, travel, study and grow old and die, but having a child for her was as certain as the sun rise and sun set.
The Yellow-rumped Thornbill has a sweet and lively song. It builds a double story domed nest with a narrow hooded side entrance and a cup shaped addition on the top. The unusual nest is made and lined with dry grass, hair, wool, fur, and feathers. It is one of the favourite nests of Bronze Cuckoos.
Justin and Susan’s wedding was held in the Queensland beachside township of Ground Hill. There was difficulty getting to the town along the sand and gravel roads. Summer cyclones meant that the wedding guests could be stranded in for weeks and so had to bring enough supplies for the weekend wedding and the weeks before and after.
The male wedding guests went fishing and drank beer. They told stories of bravery and foolishness about their younger days. They out-performed and competed and fell into deep silences when thin egos got wounded.
Mick’s driving ability was challenged as he boasted about having never had an accident whilst drunk. His battered blue EH Holden on the shore standing witness to the contention that he was just unable to remember the hundreds he’d had. Dave reminding everyone that Mick had been caught the third time for drunken driving after he’d hit a paperboy on his early morning run and that Mick had driven very slowly all the way home with a newspaper spread across his windscreen that he’d thought was thick fog full of ghosts and dire predictions of the future..
The veins on Mick’s head and arms pounded with anger and the group looked down and gripped firmly at their nylon fishing lines like thin anchors set before the storm.
Warren’s line snapped tight and as he leant back to pull in his catch the others gave a cheer of relief. Mick relaxed his pulse and drank more beer. Throwing his head back so that gravity and whiplash would speed the beer on it’s journey.
Warren, Susan’s paternal Grandfather had been in the Australian Air Force during the Second World War. As a navigator on Sunderland Flying boats it was unclear even to him whether his heart lay with planes or boats. On the first night they’d gone fishing Warren had gone to sleep on the deck and woken sobbing an hour later. Calling out softly to the night the names of stars and constellations that he recognised. He said out loud his astronomy lesson as the waves slapped about the boat. “No Pole Star here boys, nothing to bear us back to Bristol. No, we are in the southern sky. Look there, the Southern Cross and over further the bright Achernar. Now if we take a line from the tip of the Southern Cross to Achernar and then dissect that line mid-point we will have the south point just to the right of that midway point. That is our bearing let us head for a safe landing in Morton Bay and motor up to Brisbane River to the Breakfast Creek Hotel.” The others who’d been staring out into the night sky trying to differentiate between a passing plane, a shooting star and the mast light gave a mighty roar at the mention of the word Hotel. “On ya Warren” they yelled and “Your shout Warren”
Warren sat up, wheezed and lit a cigarette.
He knew a million stories but his dementia had sent them deep into his consciousness. On the third day of fishing the talk went to what was the best bait to use to catch bream. It’s silly talk but fishermen do it.
Warren said “I once used a man’s foreskin to catch a cod.” No one could beat that, they pulled in their stomachs to protect their groins and looked at him. “We got shot down in mucky weather. Only three of us got to the life raft but Harry Puinter died in the boat about an hour later and we sat out there for days waiting to be rescued. We had some hooks and line but no bait and the other chap Shortie Butler and I agreed that Harry wouldn’t miss that bit of him.” Warren sniffed the sea breeze and said “We tipped him overboard after three days. Marvellous that a body doesn’t just sink, Harry stayed floating nearby for another two days, like he was keeping us company.”
Warren said “I’d have wanted them to do that if it was me.” The other blokes nodded
Pete said “so it was lucky that Harry wasn’t Jewish or you would never have caught that fish.” They all laughed except for Warren who either hadn’t heard, or didn’t understand.
Dave said “ It took a cod piece to get a cod piece.”
The talk then broadened to what parts of the body would be best to catch what type of fish. Whether Bream would go for flesh or guts. Someone, expanding on Pete’s joke, said that you’d never pull in a Jewfish with foreskin for bait, a suggestion was made you could use a ring finger with the ring still on.
“Did you ever get scared?” Justin asked
Warren breathed in and scrunched up his face. “I went to go on a mission once because another crew’s navigator had not shown up, I got geared up, went to the briefing, and was on board the plane ready to take off. The boatmen came out to untie us from our mooring and he had their navigator on board so he got on and I got off. That plane never came back, never got found even. From then on I got suspicious of things like that and that’s when I got scared. Scared of chance. Hard to see that coming, you feel when it’s wrong.”
No one spoke, they all looked at their lines and stayed inside themselves
Women love weddings. Susan’s bridesmaids teased and prodded, whilst the older women talked about how their first night was their first time and that they had no idea what was going to happen.
“Now days girls are experimenting a lot more before they get it right.”
“Should be more of it” says Susan’s Grandma Gladys. “I had to wait for my first husband to die before I knew what loving was” Susan’s mother Linda looks aghast when she realizes that Gladys is saying her father was a lousy lover.
“Poor little Bill.”
“Mum!” says Linda “stop it, you’re embarrassing yourself”
“I don’t feel embarrassed dear. Women should have good sex.”
“Go Gran!” says Janette
“They should teach it in schools, not just how to make babies but how to please someone.”
“Oh pleeeeease!” pleads Linda who teaches high school. “Can you imagine that class? Some of my year ten boys can’t even do cursive writing. They couldn’t find a clitoris even if they worked as a group.”
“All the more reason they should be taught.” Gran asserts. “Why should you leave it up to a young virgin girl to educate the man? Anyway you have to be loved completely, you can’t just learn about nipples and ‘vadgeinas’ and the like, it’s not just the bits and pieces it’s the whole that makes for good sex.”
The women all laugh and Gran realizes the joke and shouts “No! No! oh dear.” And then laughs along with them.
Some smaller children are drawn into the house because of the laughter and the women hug them and touch their arms as they stand there looking around the group.
“What’s funny?” Says a little boy.
“Gran just told a joke.”
“An old person’s joke.” Says Linda a bit scornfully.
“Want hear!” demands the boy without having time or skill to complete the sentence.
“Who wants ice blocks?” says a distracting mother.
“Me! Me!” shout the children’s chorus
They are lead away to the kitchen as the women laugh some more.
Gran reaches out to Susan and pats her arm and says “I’m sure you won’t have to wait for your second husband to get good loving. Am I right?”
“Yes Gran you’re right.” Says Susan nodding her head and giving an embarrassed laugh.
“Well that’s good then.” Says Gran and leans back in her chair undoes her belt and says “I’d like an icy block too. All this talk of loving’s made me hungry.”
The beach house at Ground Hill had been built by whalers in the 1930s. A giant house with verandas on three sides that were walled up to railing height. Above that it had push out timber shutters that acted like awnings that gave even greater extension of shade to the house in summer and could be closed and locked in place before a pending cyclone. The boards and timber was all rough cut and only made smooth and shinny from wear. The house stumps and timber outside was stained black with creosote while the outside fibro cement panels shone bleached white with running stains of timber resin. It was built out of range of the biggest cyclonic tidal surge and yet still on the estuary’s edge. The boats could be drawn up under the house and the place shut down when winter came.
Susan’s Uncle Pete owned the house and she’s asked him if she could have her wedding there as a kind of fond reminiscence of her youth. As a kid it had been a kind of no rules house. The men went fishing, the women sat reading and gossiping and the children fended for themselves. Making golden syrup sandwiches on white bread and Milo and milk and catching fish, making a fire and cooking them straight on the coals. They swam and got sunburned until it blistered and lived like a tribe of orphans. Susan said she didn’t want a conventional boring wedding she wanted one that no one would forget.
The house had 27 adults and children in it by the third night and a total of 42 would eventually be camped in, under and around it for the weekend.. No one would forget.
Her fiancé, Justin, had been brought up in the suburb of Yeronga Brisbane his mother and father were English immigrants. Barbara his mother, complained about the heat and wore big crimplene dresses with low neck lines that revealed the tops of her white breasts.
They had a neat symmetry and cleanliness about their life and their yard and their house. Justin was untroubled by dirt in any part of his life physically or morally.
The children ran wildly into the house their faces red with excitement.
“We saw a man.wiff no cloths on.” A little boy said.
The older girl said “Don’t tell.”
“Where was this?” asked a mother
“In the sand doons behind the beach.”
“Oh well he was probably sunbaking.”
“No he wasn’t.”
“Well what was he doing?’
“He was.” The boy stopped short, unable to finish his sentence and looked across to the older girl and asked her the question. “What was he doing?”
The girl went bright red.
All eyes rested on the girl who shifted on her feet as if ready to run. Her eyes went to the floor. No one knew what she’d seen but their imaginations had a fair idea and raced ahead with the images in their minds. The teacher, Linda said ok go outside and play before it’s time to have dinner. The other kids all left but the big girl was motioned with a head movement to stay put.
“So what was this naked man doing? You won’t be in trouble for telling.”
“I don’t know? He was being silly.”
“What kind of silly?”
“He was kind of rubbing his Willy lots.”
“Umm that kind of silly” said one of the women
“How come you were watching him? Why didn’t you just walk away?”
“I wanted to but..” her voice trailed away as she realised she didn’t want to finish the sentence.
The women leant forward in their chairs, expression like shared labour pains on their faces.
“He called to us to stop and well Sally went over and he made her…touch it.”
“Oh my God!”
“Where’s Sally now?”
“She went with him into the bushes.”
“I told her to stop, it’s not my fault.”
“It’s ok you’ve done nothing wrong, where are the bloody men?”
“They went down to Lighthouse Beach.”
“Ok grab a lump of wood or something and Shelly you have to show me where you last saw him.”
“You don’t need to be honey.”
The women armed themselves and got to the door as a group as if trying to fit different size sand through an hour glass. As they squeezed through, their thoughts and fears raced ahead of them and got to the beach well ahead, running up and down the sand and making grim discoveries and racking themselves with the guilt and doubts and responsibility that people put on themselves when tragedy strikes. Thinking that they were somehow responsible for this mishap, which indeed they were at this point because the events were best made with tumbling good imaginations around in their heads.
Some had discovered a dead child, others a sobbing bewildered child, and others found a child still enduring torture and abuse. The ones at the front stopped still at the top of the stairs creating a log jamb that spread along the veranda. They formed a viewing line.
Coming along the road was Sally.
“For God’s sake what happened?” screamed her mother “are you all right?”
Sally stopped, looked along the line of relatives and friends and her mouth opened as if in stage fright, she said nothing.
She scrunched up her nose and squinted into the crowd trying to get a cue for her next line but still nothing came.
Eventually her mother came running down the stairs picking her up as she got there in one movement.
“Oh Sally! Sally!”
“Mum!” Sally seemed to remember her lines “We met a funny man on the beach.”
Blindness. The door of the bathroom opens, the shower curtain’s drawn, and in walks the step-brother, or the uncle, the gardener, the Court appointed guardian, In he walks into your shower and the part of your life that was a child leaves the room and never comes back. Doesn’t know how to get back in the room, doesn’t know if it would be welcome.
Meanwhile mum is in the kitchen cooking potatoes, nipping down to the shops to get the bread for school lunches, taking the dog to the vet, working on a new one-way love affair, studying so that she can get out of this dump. The world has built this group of walls to protect the predator.
The TV guide predicts none of this, the radio lets it pass by like a poison gas, the neighbours notice only the new curtains that have been put up but not the changed expression on the child’s face and the school teacher records the grades six months from now saying “I thought she could do better.”
And the women seated together share only one thing about this abuse, silence.
The women had in common other things such as closed doors, drawn curtains, bedrooms and soft children’s bodies clothed innocently in dresses set by mother’s taste. Set up as unequal players in a contact sport which starts off soft and gentle but ends when the purity is gone.
The men come swaggering in, sunburned, some more drunk than others, laughing, carrying fish and bait and warm slabs of beer for the fridge.
They don’t hear silence well.
They relate to the women in the room as props for the next act of their play.
“Grab us a beer while yer standing there Mary.”
“Get it yourself.”
“You’re just standing there, wont kill ya.”
Mary opens the fridge door and gets a beer.
“There, you happy now?”
“Soon will be.”
And he rips the top with an expert flourish.
Mary stomps out of the room.
He sits with his open bottle and his open mouth as if the play he was in has just changed and he doesn’t know the new lines.
“Mary’s upset, we think little Sally might have been…a man on the beach exposed himself to the children.”
Later that night, Mark is the first to punch a hole in the fibro. His action draws the anger to a head like an erupting pimple. The other men look to the floorboards for inspiration, the women tidy the clean kitchen some more, folding tea towels, wiping the table down again, or just brushing an imaginary crumb from a skirt.. The jagged hole sucks the rage from the room and lets a cool calm take its place.
That night Mark wets his bed for the first time in twenty years and wakes with his face red and sweating and his arms wrapped around his twisted sheets.
“ I dreamed… I dreamed I was a little boy and a monster was holding me.” Mark’s breathing was shallow and frantic.
“You’ve had a nightmare” says his sister “go back to sleep.”
Mark’s breathing gets deeper.
He sighs. “Not a nightmare, a revelation.”
In the morning the sun blisters in through the open shutters and searches the house for children to play with. The older smarter ones roll over and tell it to go away, while the younger ones open their eyes wide to the possibilities.
The children bump around the house waking everyone with their inattentiveness.
Opening the fridge and letting the door swing round with a crash against the bench. Knocking the cutlery holder over with a cymbalic timbre.
Eventually the household wakes and the mothers gather the children on the veranda steps.
“Don’t talk to any strangers”
“Don’t let anyone go off on their own”
“You have to be back here in ONE hour”
The anxious advice comes pouring out until one mother says
“And don’t go near the beach”
The mothers and the children turn their heads to that woman.
“Well…” she says indignantly “Oh, be careful then”
The children raced off without any sign that they had heard or noticed a word that had been spoken. They ran along the beach like marathon starters looking for position but also following some inner tactic.
The mothers were left standing on the podium waiting for a new audience.
Mark did not own a watch. He kept to appointments better than an electronic organiser. He could know the time and its purpose but he had a learnt fear of the clock face. At school in second grade he would be brought before the class each morning by the nun who ‘taught’ him and asked to look at the clock and tell the class the time. He had not learnt how to read a clock and stood staring into it’s face each morning as the humiliation and fear swept over him. The clock symbolised the time in the day when he would get his first flogging, his first affirmation of his inability. “You are a stupid boy who refuses to learn the most simple tasks, But I have not given up on you I will ask you to tell me the time every day until you can, and if you can not” her face moving close enough to him that he thought that she would simply open her mouth and swallow him or at least take a large bite from his face. “If you refuse to tell me the time I shall continue to punish you.” She drew the word ‘punish’ out like you would stretch a lolly snake, almost to its breaking point so that the colour of the snake would go pale at it’s weakest point and then when it was released it would be forever altered. He could never hear the word punish without seeing its stretch marks.
In a way the nun had served her purpose which was for Mark to know the time
The other purpose the nun had, that of religious instruction had been served as well. The deep hurt and scarring that had been inflicted by the nun had turned him close to his God. It had made him a deep thinker on questions of morality. For him, every action he took needed a supporting deep belief.
In grade eight Mark had been caught in bed with his neighbour, a handsome woman with deep rich red hair that bounced over her small breasts like water over rocks.
He had been invited to do ‘yard work’ and his youthful charm and athletic body caught Melissa’s attention. She had asked for a neck massage almost knowing that the innocence of the request could be taken as far as fantasy and reality would allow it.
She knew it was a opportunity for her to titillate and tease the young lad and leave him and herself with at least the scrap of intimacy. Better, she thought, this scrap of intimacy from this strong lad than the unwelcome assault by her husband.
Intimacy and innocence make a powerful couple that can tango together all night long and can keep going when the music stopped and the band has gone home. Reality, the odd man out in the relationship dance sits in the corner drumming its fingers and looking the other way. Disappointed that no one is taking any notice of it, the nice one with the sensible shoes and the practical hair cut.
Melissa’s husband was a religious man. A Minister in the Baptist church. He, like his wife, had red hair. But unlike hers that shone like a beacon to temptation, his growled with a dark anger that matched his burgundy face.
Alan had caught Mark on his third ‘yard work’ experience. At first he thought he was dead and seeing a vision from the grave. The young dark skinned pup working his wife like a player in a porn film.
The opportunity to thrash the Devil rarely, if ever, comes before a Baptist Minister. Every Sunday he practiced his rhetoric, readying himself in case such a thing ever happened. Painting such an improbable picture that the congregation sat dumbfounded to the scenarios. The audience was asked to keep a lookout for Satan in the most unlikely of places. They were asked with such life threatening passion that children would cry out and women would faint and men would grow angry as a mob.
And yet here he was clearly in the presence of Satan who was in full pleasure with his wife. Surly this was an abomination before God. An evil union of the worst kind. Worse than sinful thoughts that were had when looking at the bikini clad girls at the beach.
Much worse then coveting a neighbour’s wealth. (“his assets or his ass” he had joked from the pulpit). This black boy had taken possession of the ass and adopted a riding position that was reshaping the saddle.
He stood watching them canter together across the covered bed, then he pulled the belt from his pants and started swinging like a crusader in battle.
The Bridesmaids and the bride would wear white. The outfits sat wrapped in plastic and hung from hangers on fishing rope. The breeze would flap the plastic and tremble the dresses into anticipated excitement of the forthcoming event. The chatter amongst the official wedding attire went on for days.
A white wedding dress must be white. It must be as clean as paper about to have a letter written on it.
Wedding dresses wrapped in plastic are sticky traps for children. They are drawn to the purity of the light like the dieing are drawn away from life.
They bear no guilt, no responsibility for their actions. They can not help themselves and when they are invited into the room by chattering plastic their hands must touch the softness to assure themselves that this is no illusion.
Strawberry jam sits on a piece of white cloth like a beacon.
The wedding would have to be postponed, cancelled even and the gifts sent back.
In Queensland, cyclones come down from the Coral Sea where they have been brewed. They overflow the pot and run down the coast going in erratic circles looking for roofs to rip off or boats to sink or trees to crack.
Before it arrives, the natural elements sense the arrival and go quiet with anticipation. There are no bird calls, no insect sounds, the trees suck in the thick humid air and stand firm on the ground settled, for the moment.
Cattle bow their heads, as if in prayer, letting their thoughts strengthen their resolve.
The fish swim deep up into the rivers or out to sea. The wind weighs a ton straight down on the water.
Old fishermen know when it’s coming and shake their heads at the young who predict “fine weather for the next two days”. “Radio says it’s going to miss us, go north east.”
The women were absorbed in the stained dress, the men drank more beer and discussed ways to “get that bastard who tried to hurt our Sally.”
To the North the clouds built and the waves started to chastise the jetty with firm slaps.
It was still two nights to the wedding and the wedding dress was ruined and the bride distraught. The older women tried to make light of the situation. “Some say that a stain on the wedding dress is a sign of good luck.” “Yes in some countries they actually spit on the dress”
Susan howled “what counties do they wipe strawberry jam on the dress?”
“Oh I don’t know, I think I’d rather have strawberry jam than old Warrens chesty phlegm.”
This brought a slight chuckle from Susan.
Gladys said “When I got married the priest got bitten by a brown snake and had to be taken to hospital”
“Now there you go” says Margie “if she took that as some form of bad omen she would never have goten married. But every thing turned out all right didn’t it?
“Oh no the priest died.”
“well yes but your marriage was fine?”
“Yes my second one was.”
Marge just sighs and shakes her head.
Susan was always the young girl in her group at Ground Hill. She had to make herself bolder than she really was to get attention and
Cynthia told the story of her marriage, “The first week I realised I’d made a mistake.”
But hadn’t you lived with the guy before you got married?”
“For a year, but it took me a week of marriage to work out I’d made a mistake.”
“He’d say ‘that’s not how my mother cooks potatoes’. And I’d say I’m not cooking (she made a movement like she was putting things down on the table) you can cook.”
“I’d be making him breakfast, he’d come out ‘I never said I wanted that’ He did nothing, he expected me to do everything” “I’d become his mother”
after I left him he moved in this girl fifteen years younger than him. But that didn’t work out for him. He doesn’t have a relationship now.”
“marriage…” someone says
“Yeah” someone responds.
Susan looks at Cynthia
Carol. Everyone in the group knows Carol’s story and no one can beat it. People are surprised when Carol speaks up and tells it
“I was engaged to be married. Bruce. He was in the air force. He’d come around to my house and help fix my dad’s car and work around the house. He kind of was proving himself to my parents. They loved him but the more I got to know him the more I realised it wasn’t right. He was older and eventually I asked myself. “why hasn’t this guy goten married before this?’ I didn’t ask the question out loud, I just kept it in my head over and over. The more I asked it the older he looked and the older he looked the more I asked it. He was balding and I didn’t notice or care at first but then he seemed to be getting more bald every day.”
Then one day an ex boy friend bumped into me in the street and, it was my birthday, so he came up to my flat for a drink cause I knew Bruce was away for the week.”
I can’t remember this guys name I just remember that he looked young, even though he was in my year at school. The more I looked at him the younger he looked. It was a real turn on, like I was back at school and this was like a first time for both on us, even though it wasn’t.
Anyway Bruce comes into my flat carrying this enormous bunch of roses thinking he’d surprise me. Well I don’t know who got the biggest surprise. him or me. He started whacking into this boy on top of me with the flowers, petals going everywhere. Blood streaming down the boys back and I couldn’t help laughing, it was so funny. It was like my dad had caught us at it and he was kicking up a stink. I kept thinking I’m going to be grounded, no TV for a month.” Anyway the boy left and Bruce kept saying how could you and stuff like that and I said look I think it’s over, sorry.”
He says ‘no it’s not’ and he dragged me into his car and drove me to my parents house and, like it’s 2 o’clock in the morning, he wakes up my mum and dad and says, “here’s your daughter I just caught her having sex with someone,”
“my mother looks at him and says ‘well you’ve been having sex with her and you haven’t thought that was wrong’. ‘It’s not like your married or anything.’
“my father goes all quiet and goes to make a cup of tea”
“Bruce says she’s supposed to be engaged to me and this is what she gets up to behind my back”
“I don’t want to be engaged any more. I say. Bruce starts crying ‘all the work I’ve done around the house.’ Dad comes in, I’ve forgotten do you take sugar?’ ‘and I fixed your carburettor.’ I started laughing again cause I just thought what’s he trying to do get my parents to make me make up because the cars fixed?
Anyway Bruce storms out, stops at the door of my parents bedroom and says ‘you’ll be sorry you ever did this to me.’
The next week he came into the house and stabbed my little sister.
Nothing comes of nothing
The old woman had killed herself to death.
Died of the stress of wanting to die.
Her last dream was of her two dead husbands standing at the foot of her bed and motioning her to come to her, her dilemma was which husband should she go to.
In heaven there is no morality, no monogamy, no church, divorce, sin, wrong.
Once she realised all of that, she was free to die and she wiled herself a stroke that flooded her brain with blood and made her loose consciousness.
There is money in real estate.
Money that grows like a zucchini in summer.
The agent who looked at their place was so sure that there was money in real estate he had forgotten to watch his children play. He sat watching the estate pages knowing his wealth was assured and that he would be the wealthiest man in his family.
He put on a silver suit to go to his school reunion. A suit so bright that his entrance looked like a distorted mirage. He was thought to be the one most likely to succeed. And he had. The girls in his class who had thought that Cris was the catch of the crop let their mouths drop when he walked into the room. His open topped shirt revealed a gold pendent. He was the cliché of a middle aged rich man, slightly balding and with a prosperous mid rift.
The girls, middle aged and with children and tag along husbands who tried to stay interested and not get drunk saw a boy who was once their sexual fantasy turn into their dirty uncle before their eyes.
The realisation made them sigh with relief. This was going to be an interesting night.
In real estate you have to get the trust of every buyer. Win their trust is not the right word, nor is buy their trust. You say nothing, you talk quietly and you watch their eyes like an attentive father. Smiling, encouraging, helping them like you would a child learning to ride a bike, with words of praise and encouragement. Every thing they do you notice, but only the positive do you praise.
In real estate you allow people to give you money to indulge their fantasy.
They fantasize living in a big house with a pool.
How small the house really is but how large it is in the dream.
Room for a pool, room for a granny flat, close to schools, close to shops. I will not expose the flaws in your dream. And I will move on.
She stripped down to her underwear. She softly walked around the room scuffing at the floor with her bare feet. Like a muffled tap dancer in slow motion.
Her body arched in and out with the shadows and light. Absolute night time had come. The time when nothing happens, sometime between midnight and dawn when even the world takes a rest. The time when it gets cold and damp and so still that babies hold their breath in their sleep.
Finally she would not have to go to bed with the stranger who was her husband. His hand would not land like a tossed fish across her stomach. She danced with herself intoxicated with her aloneness. She was seduced by herself. She put a hand to her lips and thought of kissing her fingers but did not need to. Instead she lowered her hand and let a finger run down between her breasts.
Beyond the passage there are two gates. One leading back to the yard, the other to a neighbour’s garden. Two gates. One leading to nowhere. She opened her neighbour’s gate and strolled into the garden like she was a lost dog with no intentions in particular but with no menace. She undid her blouse all the way and flicked it out of her skirt. She picked up her shoes and tossed them over her fence without care or direction like a new paperboy on his first run. Then she flopped onto the grass rolled and somersaulted back to her feet.
Under a tree she found a swing and lay across it face down and let her body sway back and forth her eyes hypnotised by the rushing ground.
The grass was indeed greener, the air sweeter and cooler and the flowerers more colourful in this garden. If she took a flower from this garden home with her it would loose its colour as she passed through her gate. She would pick no flowers.
She would come to this garden and she would wonder into this garden and she would return again into this garden. In this garden there was no one.
Across the hall there is a neighbour who shouts at his wife. “You are the dumbest bitch I’ve ever met”
What sort of man would spend his time measuring who the dumbest bitches were and getting a standard to which he would then find himself married to the dumbest bitch he has met. What bad luck and what a coincidence that he, a dumb bitch measurer should end up with the dumbest.
Is there a man she wondered who spends his time looking for the smartest or most beautiful who then by chance finds himself with the smartest or most beautiful in the whole world? What luck
When he saw his mother she was painted and her lips had been pulled back with tape as is the customary devise used by undertakers to make the dead smile.
He recognised her hair and her hands but not her face. It was a rare occasion when his mother had smiled and now in death it was an expression which sat uncomfortably even for the viewer. They must have used a lot of very strong tape to keep that smile in place he thought. He and his sister pulled back the veal and reached into the coffin to touch the dead woman’s hands. They were cold from the fridge but they recognised the arthritic twist of her fingers and the dark sun spots on the back of her hands.
All doubts that this was their mother vanished.
He documented the past; Put each bad memory into a compartment that kept the outside world locked from entry.
When people spoke to him he lowered his head like a shy kid and turned his eyes away. It was as if people looking into his eyes might see his secrets and laugh out loud. Yes they would laugh. They would look at the little scraps of evidence of past wrongs and laugh at his foolishness. Just like a teacher would or a pretty girl might use ridicule to keep him in his place so it was that he kept himself there.
On the operating table he could see his body dead and he could not be bother returning to it. He floated out the window on the smell of antiseptic and met up with a man waiting for a bus. It was his grandfather who took him back in time to the birth of his father. The house old and hand built had a dirt floor and a sense of poverty that looked like it was ingrained into the wood, as if you could take the elements of the house and put them into another house and that too would be made poorer.
He had struggled with words at school. He had kept the words of his thoughts away from the prying eyes of the page.
Was he going to tell the world about his mother naked on the beach her large breasts swaying back and forth like madly unbalanced pendulums as she twisted for pipis in the sand. Was he going to write about his loneliness as he was sent for his sleep on the stretcher bed and dreamed of those breasts knocking at his head driving him into the sand knocking him down like a rouge wave that had caught him unawares,
Was he going to mention the aboriginal girl in white taking him into the sand dunes and lifting her dress to her chin and standing before him like a living statue?
He was a big slow boy. His mouth would fall open and he would stare and others knew by his stance that he was unable to follow what was being said.
He was big and slow and inside his head he had no pressure to come to any conclusions with any great speed at all. The world opened to him at a soft unhurried pace.
The aboriginal girl, Gena knew he could take in what he saw and have no need to tell or boast or gloat. She knew revealing herself to him was like presenting herself to a painter, someone who could safely take on what he saw without demands or diversions. After his vision splendid, Gena kissed him hard on the mouth and then licked his lips soft and with care as you would test a chilli dish. How could he write that in a sentence?
On the holidays I went to the beach.
We went swimming and fishing and I played in the sand with my friend. It was good and I want to go again next time
“Very good” his teacher said, trying to draw more words out of him. “And what was your friend’s name?”
“That’s great! Well put that in, well-done”