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HOWLING ON A CONCRETE MOON



HOWLING ON A CONCRETE MOON COVER

Memoirs are generally written by people who are well into adulthood and who have led extraordinary lives. 

So why would Tess, a shy seventeen-year-old, feel compelled to start writing hers? Sure, things aren’t great. It’s 1982. She has fractious family relationships. She has good friends, but she’s too shy to approach boys. There is a boy who seems to like her, and he’s definitely her intellectual equal, but he’s the most unpopular kid in town, and their ‘friendship’ would render her a social pariah if anyone found out. 

It’s when she’s at a typewriter, or with pen and paper, that she really shines. So, what’s she going to write about? That adults – whether they’re good or bad – wield all the power? Her creepy uncle? Her foray into civil disobedience when she was only twelve years of age? The plethora of quirky types that populate the small town where she lives? Her secret underground newspaper? 

But what event would trigger a self-conscious and introverted teenager to attempt her life story? 

Howling on a Concrete Moon is a coming-of-age story that will in turn make you laugh, cringe, and cry as you share Tess’s emotional journey.

In Store Price: $28.95 
Online Price:   $27.95

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ISBN: 978-1-876882-46-4
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 301
Genre: Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins

© Cover Design—Zeus Publications 2019

BY THE SAME AUTHOR:  

Calumny while reading Irvine Welsh 

Abernethy 

Silver Studs and Sabre Teeth


 


Author
- Simone Bailey
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published:  2019
Language: English


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AUTHOR BIO  

Simone Bailey was born and raised in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Merriwa, rural New South Wales. At the age of twenty, she made the move to The Big Smoke and found a niche working as a paralegal/secretary specialising in criminal law, and managed to undertake courses in drama, writing, and pre-admission English Literature at Sydney University. She did consider qualifying as a solicitor and collected the application form for Diploma of Law. After completing her name, she asked herself what the hell she was thinking, crumpled up the form and returned to a burgeoning manuscript, and was soon winning various short story awards. 

Dealing with some of the more nefarious aspects of the law provided ample fodder for what became her first satirical novel Calumny While Reading Irvine Welsh, published in 2008. The young adult fiction Abernethy was published in 2010, and the satirical work Silver Studs & Sabre Teeth made its entry into the literary sphere in 2014. 

Simone now makes her home in Muswellbrook, New South Wales, with her husband Peter and their two sons. When not writing, she works as an English tutor and an AIN, and enjoys cinema, reading, cooking, sketching, and is a very keen cryptic cruciverbalist.

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 

 

My husband Peter, who as his name suggests has been my rock for some twenty-five years. How do you do it, and why have you not been awarded a medal yet? 

My sons Aaron and Michael, for their support and not-so-subtle promotions. Case in point, when Michael introduces me to his friends: ‘This is my mum. She writes books.’ Second case in point, upon meeting Aaron’s teachers, it’s: ‘Aaron tells me you’re a writer. Oh, and he’s a wonderful student.’ No matter how proud I am of producing novels, I am far prouder I produced the two of you (with help from your dad!). 

Michael for suggesting the title. It was a doozy of a title, but it forced me to think of a way to ‘work it in to the story’, and I loved the creative challenge. Thank you, Mister.  

The team at Zeus Publications. Marilyn who laboriously goes through the manuscripts and ensures I’m consistent and putting apostrophes where they should be (notwithstanding I am known by my family as the Grammar Nazi), and Clive of the great warmth and humour who designs the marvellous cover art. My hat is off to you both (and shoved straight back on my head because at my age I can’t afford more wrinkles and crows’ feet). 

The immediate family I am lucky enough to still have – my sister Bronwynne and brother Jeremy. Thank you for not giving in to the urge to slaughter me when I was a youngster driving you mad, and thank you for being there for me when I’ve needed you. To your respective spouses Peter and Kerrie, the ‘in-law’ means zilch; you’re my siblings, too. To their children, children-in-law, and grandchildren: Auntie Bing (and in some cases Great Auntie Bing) loves you all. 

The sprawling family of cousins who have stood by and together. So many of us, and we have remained close over the years. What I said in my speech at Jane’s and Anthony’s 50th birthday party will always resonate: our clan have always been friends, and aren’t we lucky? 

The other family who came along courtesy of Pete. Thank you for your love, support, and belief in me. 

That mad, wonderful, eccentric and eclectic coterie of my friends. You all know who you are, and when I think of you I give thanks you are part of my life.

DEDICATION 

 

I dedicate Howling on a Concrete Moon to my father, Leslie John Bailey, whom we lost not long after I received the contract for publication of this book. To most he was a true horseman, a champion endurance rider and national rodeo champion, happiest when he was in the saddle. To me, he was a voracious reader and fine poet who gifted me with my love of reading and creating with the written word. Oh, and a passion for cryptic crosswords.  

I remember the pride in your voice when you congratulated me on the publication of my first novel, and the sadness when you expressed how you wished Mum could have been there to see it.  

Dad, you are now reunited with Mum and Doyle, and I think of you every day.

 

Chapter 1

 

Sunday 11.45am

 

Today I grunted at Mrs Walsh in the newsagency. I’m spinning out something severe, not because I grunted, but because of everything that’s gone on. This morning I slapped my ‘P’ plates on Mum and Dad’s car, drove to the paper shop, executed a perfect 45° reverse angle park (it was even better than the one I did on my driving test), walked in, grabbed a couple of reams of paper, and paid Mrs Walsh. Mrs Walsh said, ‘And how are you this morning, Theresa?’, and I just grunted. Let me state this from the outset: I don’t grunt. I am shy, but I am not a grunter. I am unfailingly polite to adults, and I would no more grunt at them than walk out of the house naked (sorry, Sebastian Keddie, it ain’t gonna happen!). But that’s what I did. After I grunted like a pig at a trough, I got back in the car and drove home. Mum went berserk at me because I didn’t ask permission to take the car, and Dad told her to just leave me alone. By the way, I also grunted at Mum as I walked past her on my way to Dad’s study.

Dad’s got this bottle-green electric typewriter, which I’ve switched on and rolled two sheets of paper into. I think it’s necessary to have two sheets, one as a backing to protect your manuscript. Julianne’s brought me a cup of coffee. I love her, sometimes. This is one of those times. Actually, I’m pretty sure I love her all the time.

Where do I start? The wags would say, ‘At the beginning.’ Where did it begin? When I was twelve, or even earlier, when I was nine and got to know some of the other characters in the story.

Okay, deep breath, Tess. What about the present? What can I say about the present? Okay, it’s 1982. I’ve not long turned seventeen. Oh, Hell, do I write in present tense or past tense? What’s better? I don’t know. I’m not going to be bothered asking my English teacher Mrs Dabson because she will tell me to make sure I spell everything correctly and that past tense will be best as it’s reflective of perfect grammar. I might chop and change. Whatever looks best at the time of writing, I suppose. All Mrs Dabson will care about is whether I use big words. That’s okay with me, I have no doubt I’ll be using some big words. I have an extensive vocabulary. Julianne’s also had the foresight to bring me the Roget’s Thesaurus I won on Speech Night last year. How could I have ever considered her a twerp? So, I don’t know about what tense and grammar I will use; I just want to tell my story.

Anyway, there’s been shit happening. Maybe I need a shrink, or perhaps these memoirs will prove cathartic. Like I said, I’m seventeen. The other week I made my debut. I didn’t want to, but Mum nagged me into it. Tony Wilson was my partner, but that’s great because Tony and I are mates. The deb ball is a bit of a tradition in this town. I think it’s a stupid, antediluvian one, and it’s as daggy as the ground under a shearing shed (I’ve seen such ground because Tony’s cousin’s on a farm, and a group of us went there). I had to wear this stupid white dress, with a hoop under it, and flowers in my hair. Tony wore grey tails and a pink bow tie, and whinged that he looked like a galah. I gave him a leather tie as a party favour. We danced the Pride of Erin, and I had to curtsey to the mayor’s wife, Sebastian Keddie’s mother. She’s got a face on her like a putrefying pumpkin. Sebastian Keddie was there too, and he partnered Charlene Olson. Charlene Olson is the school bitch, not to put too fine a point on it. Many’s the time she’s tried to get one over me, but Megan always puts her in her place.

The best thing about the deb ball is the party afterwards. Everyone knows that. It’s a tradition to have a party, usually at the house of someone whose parents are out of town. There is also a tradition of virginity-loss at the after-ball party, and it’s usually to the boy to whom you are partnered (how’s that for grammar, Mrs Dabson?). This didn’t happen to me. It almost did. It could have. But it didn’t. And it wasn’t with Tony, either.

I am really rambling here. Okay, we’ve established that it’s 1982 and I’m seventeen. My name is Theresa Saxon. My parents’ names are Mary and Jim Saxon. I have a little sister called Julianne, but we all call her Squirt (well, Mum doesn’t), and she’s fourteen. Dad’s an accountant, and Mum helps out at his office sometimes. We live in an okay-to-do house. Julianne and I each have our own room, and there’s a rumpus room. We’re not right in town, just on the outskirts. Dad’s laid-back and easy-going; Mum’s not. Julianne’s outgoing, and great at sports; I’m not. I’m good at English, and it seems I write some good stories. I’ve written some stuff under a pseudonym, and it got the editor of the school newspaper in trouble.

I don’t have as much confidence as I could, probably because I’m shy. I’m tall, which makes me feel gangling. But my best friend, Megan O’Donnell is as tall as I am and she doesn’t seem gangling; why is this so? It’s not fair. My other good friends are Tony Wilson and Barry Rizzo. Barry’s name is actually Bartolomeo, but he’s anglicised it, as you can see. His folks have a green grocery. Tony’s dad is a bank manager. Megan’s parents own the Shakespeare Hotel, and their names are Jack and Clarice. Megan has an older brother called Greg, and I think I’m in love with him. I know I have a crush on him. Who wouldn’t? He’s fucken’ hot (and I’ve sworn, yee-hah!). They moved here back in 1975.

Maybe that’s where it all started. So that’s where I’ll start.

 

One day in 1975 I was sitting at my desk and concentrating on synonyms and antonyms and homonyms. I had nothing better to do than concentrate because I didn’t really have any friends. Then Sister Imelda appeared at the door of the classroom accompanied by a girl with blue eyes and black shoulder-length hair, held back from her face by a blue headband.

‘Boys and girls,’ she said, ‘this is Megan O’Donnell and she’s new. Oh, look, Theresa’s sitting there by herself, go and sit with her.’

So she did.

Later that day in the school library, I chose an anthology of stories by Hans Christian Anderson. Robert Francis stood there laughing like a lobotomised troll.

‘That’s a baby’s book, that!’

He stuck his thumb in his mouth and goo-goo-goo-ed.

I felt my eyes prickle, and I was ashamed of Robert Francis, who was nothing but a dumb lummox anyway, getting to me.

Megan appeared and said to Robert, ‘Why do you smell like shit?’

I almost dropped the book, and Robert was goggle-eyed.

‘I do not!’

‘Yes, you do,’ Megan insisted. ‘Go and check yourself out in the dunny, why don’t you?’

‘I don’t!’

‘You do,’ Megan insisted. ‘You’ve either stepped in something, or you’ve shit yourself. You’d better go and check. Hadn’t he?’ she asked, turning to me.

I was quick on the uptake for once, and nodded urgently, holding my nose for effect.

Robert put down the book he had been holding, a book about motorbikes, and scurried from the library without asking Miss Wilding’s permission.

Megan and I laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

 

Come to think of it, I’m not sure whether I should have all those ‘ands’ in the one sentence. Sister Eucharia would always go spastic if you had more than one ‘and’ in a sentence, but the way I’m feeling now, Sister Eucharia can go fuck herself (which I guess is okay and shouldn’t contravene her vow of celibacy). Okay, Tess, get back to your memoirs. What happened next?

 

‘Thanks,’ I said. ‘He’s always teasing me.’

‘He probably likes you,’ said Megan. ‘My dad says when a boy teases you, it means he likes you.’

I shook my head. ‘Uh-uh, not him. He’s just a creep.’

‘Perhaps. What was your name again?’

‘Theresa.’

‘Oh, that’s right. Sister Eucharia said it when you had to read your composition out. I remember now.’

‘Yeah,’ I said, probably rather stupidly, but I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

‘And it was really good,’ said Megan. ‘It was a great story. I liked it a lot. I bet you become a famous writer one day.’

I was astonished by that, but very flattered. I said I imagined the name Theresa Saxon on a book cover.

Megan asked my middle name.

‘It’s Jane. Do you reckon the cover should say ‘Theresa Jane Saxon’ instead?’

‘I don’t know.’ She seemed genuinely worried. ‘Do they ever call you anything else? Your mum and dad, I mean.’

‘Dad calls me Tess. And so does my little sister Julianne.’

‘Tess Saxon,’ said Megan, speculatively. ‘No, something’s wrong. ‘Too essy. You’ll sound like a snake saying it.’

By ‘essy’ I suppose Megan meant it was too sibilant, but she would not have known that word back then.

‘I’ve got it!’ Megan looked like that Greek guy, Archimedes, when he got in the bath. ‘T.J. Saxon; that’s what your writer name will be.’

I had to laugh, and promised her I’d write a book under the name TJ Saxon.

Megan asked where I went after school, and I told her I would be heading down the main street to my father’s office because my mother was working there that day. Megan said she would walk there with me, and wait whilst I got my parents’ permission to go with her back to the Shakespeare Hotel for a while. She told me I could meet her parents, her brother, and her dog. She also told me I could bring Julianne, but I was hasty to point out that would not be necessary.

 

Now I’m drinking coffee, and admiring my typist craftsmanship, if there is such a thing. I haven’t made a single mistake, which given I’m on a mission, is pretty surprising. There must be a God. It was a significant day when I got to know Megan, and her family. Now my skin is tingling and I’m blushing, and I’m getting that sensation you-know-where. It’s a frisson, so I believe. I met Megan’s brother that day. I’m not feeling hot-all-over because of the day I met him, but it’s because of something else that happened much later in my life. Not very long ago, actually. Okay, coffee down.

‘Tess!’

Jeez, it’s Julianne. God she’s a pest. No, she’s not; she’s good for a little sister. She brought me this coffee, after all.

‘What do you want?’

‘Just wondering if you want some lunch, that’s all!’

‘Yeah, a toasted cheese sanger, if you’re making them!’

That would be good. I’m so wrapped up in this I haven’t even noticed I’m hungry.

I’m never going to forget that afternoon in 1975.

 

I’m never going to forget that afternoon in 1975. We were in the classroom, and I think Sister Eucharia was talking about Indonesia. Maybe it was Polynesia, or even Micronesia. I’m sure it was a something-nesia. I was enjoying the lesson, even if I can’t remember the exact islands she was talking about. I was probably enjoying it because I had made a new friend. My first friend, actually. Then Sister Imelda appeared at the doorway. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes were glowing... –

 

Oh, God, that just sounds so clichéd, but that’s what she was like.

 

     –...and she said, ‘They’ve sacked Whitlam!’ I noticed how she was gloating, and then she was gone, like a crazy bat.

The classroom just dissolved into some kind of riot. Desk lids were banged. There were kids yelling, ‘Yaaaaaaaaaay!’ Sister Eucharia was just standing there, all aglow, looking like she’d been shot up with an ultra dose of Holy Spirit.

I was actually a bit confused, and I turned to Megan. Megan was not cheering like the others. She was one minute looking dazed, and then looking furious. In front of us, Robert Francis turned around and said, ‘Isn’t it great?’

‘No, it fucking well isn’t!’

Robert looked like somebody had stuck a pin in his bum, and then his hand shot up in the air, like some kind of Nazi salute. Come to think of it, Sister Eucharia sometimes reminded me of Hitler. Moustache and all.

‘I’m dobbing!’

‘Yes, what is it, Robert?’

‘Sister Eucharia, that new girl swore.’

‘Stand up, Megan O’Donnell.’

Megan stood up, and also stood her ground. She looked suitably innocent.

‘Sister, I didn’t say anything.’

‘You did so!’ retorted Robert.

‘What am I supposed to have said?’ challenged Megan.

‘You know what you said.’

‘No, I don’t. I was just talking to TJ, and you’ve got it wrong. Maybe you didn’t hear me properly. You shouldn’t listen in, you know.’

‘You’re lying!’

‘I’m not! Tell me what I’m supposed to have said.’

Robert was stuck between having Megan refute his allegations, and telling the nun what Megan had said. He had been carefully programmed not to swear in front of a nun, for fear of hellfire. He was suffering.

Sister Eucharia looked at me. Oh no.

‘What did Megan say, Theresa?’

To this day, I don’t know how I came up with my answer. Everybody who knows me knows I don’t really tell lies. I am good at making stories, but this talent really only comes alive when I have pen and paper at the ready.

‘She said...–’

‘...Stand up when you’re speaking to one of the Sisters.’

So I stood.

 

Yeah, it was always a laugh trying to stand up in one of those chairs. You had to fold yourself in, and then unfold yourself to get up because they were fixed to the desks with these monstrous bolts. There was no pushing these chairs back; that was for sure. And I remember having to unfold myself as I got up. I smoothed my uniform over my backside, and I was seriously trying to not wet my pants.

 

I cleared my throat.

‘Well? I’m waiting.’

The words came tumbling out, like cornflakes from an upturned box before I even knew what I was going to say. ‘Megan said she was plucking a chicken.’

‘I beg your pardon?’ Sister Eucharia’s voice was like a crow cawing through broken glass.

‘Plucking a chicken, Sister,’ I went on, bravely. ‘It’s for the dinner at the hotel tonight. You know, her family owns the Shakespeare? They’re doing chicken soup, and the chicken has to be fresh, and...’

‘And my brother chopped its head off this morning,’ interjected Megan. ‘There’s a chopping block up in the back corner of the yard out the back of the pub. And my brother chopped its head off with an axe, and it ran around everywhere, and...’

‘Sister, they’re lying!’ bawled Robert Francis.

‘Stand up when you’re speaking to a Sister, Robert Francis!’

Robert stood up. He was very ungainly and undignified trying to stand in what was really just some kind of a prison, or a variation of the stocks people used to be locked in, so righteous people could throw rotting vegetables at them. I could have quite cheerfully slugged Robert in the mush with a rotten tomato right then, of that I am quite confident.

‘Now, what was that, Robert?’

‘Megan and Theresa are lying.’

So the three of us were standing there like lemons. Some kids were looking at us with pity, some with schadenfreude, and some with admiration.

 

Gotta love that word schadenfreude. I only learned it not long ago, and it’s a beauty. A lot of people feel it a lot of the time, I reckon. But there was admiration, too. I noticed Tony Wilson was looking at me – not like he fancied me, God no! No, it was more of a wow, she’s not such a nerd after all look. And he was looking at Megan that way, too. But he would never have thought Megan was a nerd. And Tony wouldn’t know what it’s like to have been considered a nerd. He’s always been a fairly cool type. And since that strange day, he’s always been a friend.

Well, the upshot is that stupid nun kept Megan, Robert, and me back after school. I had to tell Julianne to wait for me, and Tony Wilson offered to wait with Julianne. As we prisoners of war began the trek to the office that day, Tony also offered some advice. We were to rub our hands on the leaves of the peppercorn tree near the infants’ lunch area. There’s this story that the sticky residue will alleviate the sting of the cane, or ruler, or whatever the sadistic old cows had lined up to whack us with.

 

Megan looked at me with determination, and said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t cry. It’s what she wants. Don’t give it to her.’

As I ran my hands in a tugging motion over the fronds of the alleged anaesthetically-blessed plant... –

 

Alleged anaesthetically-blessed plant? Am I on fire, or what?

 

–...like a milkmaid at the udders of a cow –

 

I am definitely on fire!

 

I gave my word that I would not cry. So we stood in the office and waited. Robert Francis complained it was unfair he had been dragged down with us; he had been doing the right thing, reporting Megan for swearing. And then I had had to go and make things worse with my stupid story, dropping everyone in it, hadn’t I?

‘Give it a rest, you sook,’ scowled Megan.

Sister Eucharia came in, and gave us a great lecture about how Our Lady would never use language like that.

‘Like what?’ challenged Megan. ‘I never said anything wrong. It’s Robert that’s got it all wrong. He’s just got a dirty mind, Sister...–’

‘Silence!’

 

And believe me, when that old shit called for silence, man, there was silence. Even the birds in the trees stopped singing. She was next in line to the Throne, and by that I mean God’s Throne, not Queen Elizabeth’s.

 

‘Robert, I believe you. You can go home.’

Luckily for Robert he was not one of the bus kids and he had therefore not missed his bus, but his punishment would have been deferred to the lunchtime the following day if he did catch the bus. He left the room looking like he had been given a last minute reprieve from the electric chair. But for Megan and me, it was six of the best across our pepper-corned palms with a ruler. Whenever Sister Eucharia was whacking someone with a ruler, she would show her two front teeth. They would be digging into her mean lower lip, like she was straining with the effort of belting into somebody. She looked like Bugs Bunny, and after we got to high school, we used to refer to her as ‘The Rabbit in the Habit’.

But I was steadfast and stoic, in that I refused to cry. I wanted Megan to like me, and be proud of me. It was hard not to cry because Tony’s tips turned out to be... –

 

I’m consulting my thesaurus now, what’s a good word? Ah, here’s one!

 

...apocryphal. The ruler hurt.

 

When we left the office, Tony was still waiting with Julianne. I had always suspected he was a nice boy, and now I knew for sure. He fared us well, and the three of us began the stroll down to the main street. It was not a long stroll, and on the way Megan told us that she lived in the pub with her parents and older brother, and a dog called Rajah, a blue heeler// /kelpie cross.

We arrived at my dad’s office, and introduced Megan to my parents. Megan was very polite. I was impressed with how she handled herself talking to adults. I could see my father was impressed, too, but my mother was a bit distant and cool.

‘TJ can come...–’

‘I beg your pardon?’ Mum looked like she had sat on one of those cathead bindii that grew in the fields near the Anglican Church.

‘Theresa. She likes it when I call her TJ. Well, I’m inviting her to meet my family. And Julianne, too.’

‘Well, now...–’ Mum started.

‘I don’t see why not,’ said Dad, ‘after all, there’s not much for them to do here other than their homework. Go on, Tess. You too, Squirt.’

I had kind of hoped Julianne wouldn’t come along, but Megan didn’t mind, and Julianne was not always a pain.

‘How old is your brother?’ I asked, as we climbed the steps to the back door or the hotel. Julianne was all goggle-eyed at the patrons, mostly farmers and truckies who had knocked off early, drinking schooners at the wooden tables.

‘He’s thirteen. He goes to high school here, but when he’s sixteen he’ll go to boarding school.’

‘Will you go to boarding school when you’re sixteen?’ Sixteen was a long way away, but already I didn’t want my new friend to leave.

‘I don’t know. It depends.’

On what it depended, Megan did not say. She dumped her school bag in what I later came to realise was the kitchen, and called to a woman with dark hair and blue eyes, just like her own. The woman was introduced as her mother.

‘Hello, Therese and Julianne. You stay as long as you like.’ She was so warm and kind.

‘We’re allowed to stay until five o’clock,’ explained Julianne.

Megan asked, ‘Where’s Dad?’

The woman’s face changed, and she suggested we not disturb Megan’s father just yet.

 

I remember the change on Clarice O’Donnell’s face. It was like a curtain had dropped. She was so worried about Mr O’Donnell. It’s funny to think about it now. We walked to the stairwell, past this office, and we could hear all this shouting and banging. Obviously, he was banging and thumping on his desk. And yelling, ‘I can’t believe it! How can they be so fucking stupid?’

Julianne looked shit-scared and asked was he okay, and Megan explained he was probably just upset because of Whitlam’s sacking. Uh, yeah: I got rulered across the pepper-corned palm because of The Dismissal.

The carpet on the stairs in the Shakespeare hasn’t actually changed since then. It’s still grey, with a pattern of dusty pink roses. Back then there was this big blue vase with plastic roses in it, on top of a small table at the top of the stairs. That’s been replaced with a real plant. Those roses really were pretty tacky.

I’m smiling now. I can remember how I felt when Megan led us through double doors (French doors?) to the balcony. The balcony goes all the way around. I was so nervous because I was going to be meeting an Older Boy (oooh, ‘older boy’ – bad and scary!). Megan was fine; it was her older brother after all. Julianne probably didn’t give a shit because she was on an outing with her big sister and her big sister’s new friend.

 

Megan’s older brother and another boy were leaning over the top of the balcony. Megan hailed them, and they turned. I took no notice of the other boy. I knew who he was, anyway: Michael O’Grady, whose nickname was Moggie, from his initials of MOG. Greg O’Donnell held out his hand to me, and I nervously placed mine in it.

 

Jesus Christ, that’s an understatement! How do I describe the first time I saw Greg O’Donnell? I hadn’t heard of him at the time, but over the next few years I realised Greg was a cross between Shaun Cassidy and Luke Skywalker. And did I fall in love with him then? Or lust? I was only nine when I met him. Maybe I fell in Huge Major Crush, if there is such a thing. I’d recognise the feelings now if I had them, but back them, I just knew I liked what I was seeing. And I was pretty bloody confused by it, too.

 

‘What are you guys doing?’ asked Megan.

‘Oh, nothing really,’ her brother replied.

‘Hahaha!’ went Moggie’s staccato laugh. ‘We’re hacking on old Fitzgibbon’s car!’

My little sister asked him what ‘hacking’ was.

‘They’re spitting,’ explained Megan.

 

Megan was looking pretty, oh, Children Must Play when she said that. Yeah, that’s how I first met The Man I Love. Or The Man I Fancy. Or – shhhh! – The Man I Want To Have Sex With. Okay, I’ve said it out loud. Or thought it out loud. Whatever. Anyway, this paragon was thirteen then, and leaning over the chipped cerulean paint on the hotel balcony, as he coughed up gollies and fired them onto the local high school headmaster’s car. Him and his friend Moggie, the local butcher’s son. Actually, when not chopping into animal carcasses, Mr O’Grady plays the piano and drums, and sings, and Moggie has a nice singing voice, too. Not that coughing up his monster hacks sounded melodious, you understand. Firing off slags onto Bob Fitzgibbon’s emerald green Torana is probably not the way to set a romance, if that’s what I’m trying to write here. But I don’t know WHAT I’m trying to write. I’m trying to make sense of everything that’s been going on.

Moggie’s always been a stirrer. He told Julianne to have a go! Little did he know what he was in for; I think he was expecting her to be ladylike and demur. Julianne swished around in her mouth until she had accumulated an acceptable wad of spittle, leaned over, and fired it off like, like I don’t know what. It made this ptoot kind of sound, really short and onomatopoeic. It reminded me of a native blowing a poisoned dart through a blowpipe. It missed the Torana, and landed in the car next to it, which was a battered old ute that probably belonged to one of the farmers having a beer in the bar downstairs. And it landed on this poor dog – a border collie – that was just minding its own business in the back as it waited for its master to come out.

And didn’t the guys laugh!

But should I include that in my memoir? Who’s going to be embarrassed? Not Julianne, that’s for sure, the little grot. Megan might not like it, but she’d understand. Moggie would insist upon it being included, and Greg (swoon!) would not mind a bit. Old Mr Fitzgibbon would probably track us down and kill us.

Back to the typing.

 

Moggie cried, ‘It hit the dog!’

Julianne looked more embarrassed about her bad aim, than she did about being unladylike. She said something about her aim having been pretty good, and Greg asked did she believe she had some interference from the breeze. She agreed the breeze had interfered with her shot.

Megan was nodding at this; and Moggie was doubled over laughing about the dog. I was merely dreading being asked to participate. I did not particularly wish to spit on the Torana, but I did not want to lose face in front of my new friends. I tried, but was not able to spit as far and as well as the others.

 

Oh man! I’m cringing now. I don’t think I can bear to include it. How do I describe swishing up a pissy amount of saliva, and trying to fire it off, only to have it cling to my chin and dangle and waver like Wile E Coyote, before it surrendered and landed with a sorry splat on the balcony railing? How can I describe that? How can I describe my humiliation and my almost overwhelming urge to just clamber over the railing and throw myself to the footpath below?

But Moggie, bless his chivalrous heart, patted me on the shoulder.

 

‘We’ll make a spitter of you yet, mate,’ said Moggie after I showed my dismal lack of talent for spitting.

 

And that’s all I’ve written about my contribution, really. It’s a bit cowardly to say that you were ‘unable to spit as well and far as the others’, but that’s what I’ve written. Does that make me a coward? Maybe. But perhaps I’m not really a coward, and I’m hoping this the memoir of T.J. Saxon will prove that.

 

‘Shit, it’s Fitzy!’ cried Moggie, and everybody ducked, and sat on the verandah below the railing level.

That is, everybody except Julianne who looked around, asking, ‘Where?’

‘He’s coming out of the barber shop!’ I cried, as I tugged at the hem of her school uniform to coax her to sit before she got seen.

‘Who is?’

 

Oh God, I considered my little sister to be dense that day, even though I’m pretty sure I love her!

 

‘The head master at the high school! The man with the black hair! Now get down before he sees you and you get the cane or something!’

‘That’s telling her, TJ,’ laughed Megan, as Julianne curled up on the floor beside us. ‘What’s he gonna say when he sees all your gollies on the car?’

‘Hahahaha! Christ knows,’ replied Moggie.

‘They’ve probably dried up,’ shrugged Greg.

‘Not yours, mate. With your bloody breath, you’ve probably burned a hole in the paintwork, or something!’

‘Bite ya bum!’ Greg gave Moggie a friendly punch on the upper arm.

 

The rest of that afternoon went by quite pleasantly, after that – where’s the Thesaurus? – ignominious start. I’ll just type that in…

There. Done! Yeah, it was a really nice day. I started to relax a little bit around the – oooh! – Older Boys, and Greg played some records. I remember one of them was Living in the 70s. Megan told Julianne the band was called Skyhooks, and explained they were the garish lot who’d been on Countdown the previous Sunday. The guys sniggered a little during You Just Like Me ‘Cos I’m Good In Bed, and I knew just enough to be embarrassed.

 

Greg and Megan took us to the kitchen, and made hot drinking chocolate, using a powder from a yellow tin that came from Switzerland. It tasted delicious. Their father Jack wandered into the kitchen, and I was apprehensive, having heard him going mad before. But he had calmed down, although he looked very tired (perhaps from all the yelling and screaming). He told Julianne and me that we were very welcome.

 

And that’s how I met Megan and Greg. That’s the first chapter of what has pretty much been some of the happiest times of my life since then. Not that my life has been very long, but it’s mine, and I’ll write what I like.

 

 

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