Her Baby Brother

At the start of every lunchtime the girls gathered in the toilet. They looked at themselves in the mirror and adjusted their ponytails, scooping them as high up on their heads as possible. They pulled their tops tight and stood sideways to the mirror, to see who had the biggest chest.

"Don Johnson is such a spunk," Foutini announced with authority.

Nichola didn't know who that was.

"Don't you watch Miami Vice?" Preti was shocked.

Nichola didn't watch any TV shows after dinner because that's when Dad watched his news programs. Nichola's chest was still flat, no matter how tightly she pulled back her tee-shirt. The girls always talked about TV shows and pop stars she didn't know or care about, and the boys talked about footy and cricket players she didn't know or care about.

Nichola wandered out of the girls' toilets towards the monkey bars. Gina was on top of the highest climbing frame groaning again. She was a girl in Nichola's class but Nichola hadn't previously paid her much attention. Gina wore the same red Adidas tracksuit every day and always tied her hair in a long black messy plait, with wisps flying out. She also had a disconcerting habit of staring at people without blinking.

Gina groaned one more time, followed with a shriek so loud it hurt Nichola's ears. Then she pulled a grubby doll out from under her tracksuit top and threw it at Nichola. It landed at her feet. The doll was naked and missing one leg. Its hair was matted and waxy, pushed out at an odd angle like an old broom.

"It's a girl," said Gina, deadpan.

Nichola leaned the doll against a tree and climbed to the top of the monkey bars to sit next to Gina. They could see across the entire playground from there.

"I had a baby brother and he died," Gina said.

"How?" asked Nichola.

Gina looked at her without saying a thing.

"Do you watch Miami Vice?" Nichola asked.

"No, I don't," Gina replied, "I don't watch any TV. I just knit."

"Knit?"

"Yes. I'm making a blanket for my dead baby brother."

"Why?"

"Cos he never had a blanket and he might be cold. Come to my house after school and I'll show you."

At first Nichola thought Gina wanted to show her the dead brother, but then she realised she was talking about the blanket. Gina's house was a lot like Nichola's, and the rest of the houses in the suburb, but it was messier. It needed painting and some other repairs. The lawn needed mowing. The grass and plants were more faded than the neighbours', but there was character in that house. It reminded Nichola of art.

Gina's mum was a sad-eyed chain-smoking woman.

"I'm showing Nichola my blanket," Gina told her.

Mrs Petrakis nodded but didn't say anything.

"Come into my room," Gina said to Nichola.

Gina's bed was unmade and her wardrobe doors were open. There were no pictures of pop stars, movie stars or footy players on her walls. Instead there were hundreds of drawings of dogs. All sorts of dogs drawn in all sorts of styles, some realistic, some cartoons, some graffiti-style, some weird Picasso style and some in the uneven hand of a little child. Nichola stared at a picture of a red setter, proud-headed, running along, his tail flying behind him like a sail. Splendid, was the word that popped into Nichola's head.

"Did you draw all these?" she asked.

"Yes," answered Gina. "I've been drawing dogs since I was six."

"Do you like dogs?"

Gina stared unblinkingly at Nichola, who quickly felt uncomfortable and shifted her gaze back to the dogs.

Eventually Gina spoke. "Have you ever seen a dog running at the park? They look more happy in five seconds than a human does in a whole year."

This time Nichola met Gina's gaze and saw that her eyes weren't sad like her mum's, but they also weren't happy like a dog's. Gina's walls were busy with dogs and her floor was busy with woolly blanket. It was huge, much bigger than the doona on Nichola's parents' bed. It was knit with a variety of wools, in an array of colours that didn't necessarily match. Some of the knitting was tight and some was loose and gappy, some was full of mistakes and some was perfect like you'd find in a shop, some even had simple patterns. Gina sat on her bed, picked up her needles and started knitting.

Nichola watched in silence for a few minutes before asking, "When's it going to be finished?"

Gina looked up. "I don't know, but I will know when it is."

"What are you going to do with it?"

"I'm going to take it to the hospital, to the fridge room where they keep the people who've died and cover them up so they can all be warm."

Nichola didn't know what to say. After a moment of silence, filled only by the clicking of knitting needles, Gina said, "My baby brother died when I was six. His name was Fizzy."

"That's a strange name."

"It's the name I call him."

"What's his real name?"

Gina didn't answer the question. Instead she said, “Fizzy, like lemonade that's so good you're only allowed a little bit every now and then."

Gina stared into space before continuing, "When I grow up, I'm going to get a dog. I haven't decided the breed yet though."

Then she returned to her knitting, so entranced that Nichola saw herself out.

"Bye, Mrs Petrakis," she said as she made her way through the ashy kitchen.

Gina's mum looked up but didn't say anything.

Espacio De La Rareza

Control de Tierra a Comandante Tom

Control de Tierra a Comandante Tom

Toma tus pastillas de proteína y ponte tu casco

Control de Tierra a Comandante Tom (diez, nueve, ocho, siete, seis)

Iniciando la cuenta atrás, motores están encendidas (cinco, cuatro, tres)

Revisa el arranque y que el amor de Dios te acompaña (dos, uno, despegue)

 

Este es Control de Tierra a Comandante Tom

Realmente has alcanzado el nivel

Y los periódicos quieren saber de quién camisas llevas

Ahora es el momento para salir de la cápsula espacial si te atreves

Este es Comandante Tom a Control de Tierra

Estoy pasando por la puerta

Y estoy flotando en una manera muy extraño

Y hoy las estrellas parecen muy diferentes

Por aquí estoy sentada en una lata

Muy por encima del mundo

El planeta Tierra es azul

Y no hay nada puedes hacer

 

Aunque estoy más que cien mil millas

Me siento muy tranquilo

Y pienso que mi cápsula espacial sabe que a donde va

Di a mi esposa que le amo mucho, ella sabe

Control de Tierra a Comandante Tom

Tu circuito está desconectado, hay algo mal

Puedes oírme, Comandante Tom

Puedes oírme, Comandante Tom

Puedes oírme, Comandante Tom

Puedes… Por aquí estoy sentada en una lata

Muy por encima de la luna

El planeta Tierra es azul

Y no hay nada puedes hacer

A Lo Largo De La Atalaya

“Debe ser algún camino para salir de aquí,” dijo el chistoso al ladrón

“Hay demasiada confusión. No puedo obtener ninguna ayuda

Hombres de negocios beben mi vino, aradores remueven mi tierra

Ninguno de ellos a lo largo de la línea saben el valor que tienen las cosas.”

 

“No hay motivo ponerte nervioso,” el ladrón amablemente habló

“Hay muchos aquí entre nosotros que considera que la vida es una broma

Pero tú y yo, hemos pasado por eso, y esto no es nuestra suerte

Entonces no dejemos hablar falsamente ahora, se hace tarde.”

 

A lo largo de la atalaya, los príncipes quedaron a la vista

Mientras todas las mujeres iban y venían, también sirvientes descalzos

 

Fuera a lo lejos un gato de montés gruñó

Dos jinetes acercaban, el viento empezó a bramar

Original Prologue

This prologue is from 2015. I have since scrapped the prologue but incorporated elements into the first chapter, but I thought I'd keep it here as a sample of how the book's progressed.


Okay, close your eyes and breathe out slowly…

It’s a cicada-noisy summer night, and I’m at an adults’ party. I like adults’ parties better than kids’ parties, because even though they don’t have chocolate crackles, there are no other kids to take all of the attention away from me. I’m having a relax away from Jack who isn’t at this party, thank goodness, because he’s a boof-headed little pest. Someone gives me a lolly in the shape of teeth. I put it in front of my real teeth so it looks like I have big, white film-star teeth and fairy-pink gums.

My parents tell me that they go to parties because they are young, and want to enjoy themselves and not have a boring life just because they have kids. Sometimes me and Jack come to the parties too, but this time it’s just me. Plus it’s good for us to learn that there are more things to do with your life than sitting at home eating steak and three veg all day long.

Dad says I can stay in the telly room or take a nap in the bedroom, but I don’t want to be by myself; I want to be in the garden with everyone else, so I go outside showing my lolly teeth to all the adults who give me their most twinkly party smiles.

It’s not a rowdy party. Everyone is quietly chattering and happy, and the air makes me feel safe, like being wrapped in a warm blanket that smells of flowers. We sit outside in the dark. People are talking and listening to a black and silver ghetto blaster covered in spots of spilt paint. After every few songs a whispery voice on the radio says “EON FM!” and then they play some more songs by Split Ends and Fleetwood Max. Even without looking inside the house I know there’s a bath somewhere in there full of ice and longnecks of VB and maybe a bottle of Coke. Usually there’s no kids’ drinks at adults’ parties so I have to drink water or milky tea. I’m not allowed to drink Coke because it’ll rot my teeth and guts and brains. We’re at a place far, far away from my home, called the Dandelion Mountains. In the daytime there’s lots of little green frogs here, as well as red mushrooms and fat gumnut babies who live under the ferns and dance and eat cake on the moss.

The people whose party this is are a man and a lady, both with long hair and no fringe, like Dad used to have before I was born. Mum calls that type of hairstyle a bum-part because the part is a line all the way down the middle of your hair and it looks like a bum-crack. She says men with that hairstyle are gormless so she made Dad get his hair cut when they got married.

We’re all sitting in a gypsy camp garden. There’s plants in pots, a fire burning inside an old washing machine, and big cushions and rugs everywhere. There’s vegie patches with all sorts of vegies growing and a flippy-floppy scarecrow protecting them. I can see sweet corn, carrots, mint and yucky pumpkin.

I’m sitting with my legs crossed on some cushions talking to a man. It’s too dark to see his face but I can make out his shape beside the orange firelight. He’s tall and thin, but not thin like a stick, and his hair is a bit spiky on top. The main thing I like about this man is the sound of his voice. It’s not a kid’s voice or a teenager’s voice or an old dad-man voice. He has a kind voice, and he talks slow, not like he’s dumb but like he’s thinking about things. He doesn’t talk to me in that annoying, loud Play School voice lots of adults use for kids. We’re talking about music. I tell him I like Blondie because she has blonde hair and so do I. I like how her music sounds like disco and rock and roll all mixed up together. I like the song about glass hearts because it’s soft like hearts, and sharp like glass, all at the same time. The man says that he likes Blondie too, but his favourite band is The Clash because they sing about very important stuff. I agree with the man that it’s time for funny Beatle maniacs to go away and make room for something new. We talk and talk and talk; and I can tell by the sound of his voice that he’s a good man who knows a lot of things.

When I wake up the next morning I remember that I liked talking to that man. I try hard to remember more things about him, but I can’t. I miss him.