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Rebecca Walker

Blake had planned to miss his mother, Bri’s, party. That morning, he had given her a white rose and a Janis Joplin CD. He would never tell his mother that they were stolen. He presented the presents with the usual hand-made birthday card and instant coffee. He knew she was obsessed with sculpting women's bodies at the moment, but he couldn't bring himself to draw one for his mother. Instead, he had used her favourite water colours to paint a dolphin in an aqua and deep blue sea. It was the only time he ever really did any artwork, to please Bri. She had been so hopeful when he was younger and still enjoyed the quiet concentration of trying to copy a mushroom or a lily meticulously. In the end, the pressure of producing work that made his mother smile a genuine smile instead of a polite one was too much.

She had smiled this morning though. Blake had privately thought that she looked every one of her thirty-five years, the laugh lines around her eyes deep, and with that black smudge underneath that had been there since her girlfriend Mel had walked out. Bri had been happy enough when Blake had suggested that he spend the evening at a friend's. They had had an arrangement for nearly a year now, since Blake
turned sixteen, that they went out for each other's parties.

Blake swiped a bottle of bourbon out of the cupboard on his way out and put it in his backpack, along with a packet of marshmallows and a bottle of coke. He walked down the road, enjoying the sun on his face and the view of the escarpment in the distance. There was a line of brown road he had never noticed before. He felt a lifting of his mood. He used his mobile to call Andrew, and persuaded him to go to the Blue Mountains for a bushwalk instead of sitting around. They never got any exercise, since they had quit the football team together the week Blake broke his finger and Andrew his nose. They had copped a lot of shit at school for that. The captain of the team, Jim, a really big dude, had bailed them up at their lockers and threatened to beat the crap out of them if they didn't join the team again. A couple of the girls, Zoe and Kimberly, had stood up for them. Blake still laughed when he thought of the look on Jim's face when the girls told him that his penis was like a button on a fur coat.

Andrew was lying on the roof of the Bambina his father had given him when Blake got to his house.

"Good look," Blake said.

"Everyone should own a Bambina. Very humbling," Andrew replied.

It was hot on the drive to the Mountains. Blake didn't want to, but he had to take off his Mambo jacket.

"Better look," Andrew said, "Chicken arms."

"You can talk."

Blake stayed silent then, looking out at the trees and fake Tudor houses. He kept turning the radio to find a station that didn't hiss. Every time Andrew changed gear his hand lightly brushed Blake's leg. He hoped that Andrew wouldn't notice the way the hairs were standing on end. They took a wrong turn near Appin and ended up at McDonalds. A group of girls in leotards and glittered faces stared at them as they stood awkwardly in line. Blake wished that for once Andrew would conform and keep his hair natural instead of the colour of the blueberry pie
that they both ordered.

Back in the car and on the right road, Blake drew the bourbon and coke out of his bag. Time and the scenery stretched and blurred as they emptied the bottle. They pulled up at a deserted camp ground in Lawson. The bush was beautiful here; quiet, with only the call of a lyra bird somewhere in the brush. The gum trees seemed taller than the ones on the South Coast. They followed a track down to the waterhole at the bottom of the gully. Blake stripped behind a sandstone outcrop, then ran and grabbed a knotted rope and swung into the water. The shock of the cold almost knocked the buzz out of his head. He watched the flash of brown skin as Andrew dive bombed over his head, then his smile as his head bobbed out of the water. Blake put a hand out to tweak the crooked nose, then quickly withdrew it.

"Race you to the waterfall."

The drive home was a nightmare. Blake had to stop to vomit every half hour. He felt like his insides were going to implode. Just on dusk, as the oncoming cars were beginning to turn on their lights but were almost invisible against the setting sun, Andrew fell asleep at the wheel. Blake thumped him on the arm, hard, and yelled at him to wake up.

They pulled in at the next motel. Blake looked the oldest, so he went into the office and used the money Mel had sent him for Bri's birthday to pay
for a twin room. The room was uglier than any Blake had seen; all brown flamingos and orange octopuses. He tried to ring his mother on his mobile, but the phone was engaged. He lay on his bed clutching his stomach and listened as Andrew called home and managed not to slur his words as he explained that Blake was too sick to travel--a stomach bug--so they had to stay overnight at the Flamingo Motel.
They both slept then. Blake's sleep was full of dreams about monsters
with octopus arms and snakes with human skulls. He woke in the dark with a spring sticking into his back. There was a small orange glow and the stink of a cigarette.

"You awake?" Andrew asked.


"How's your head?"

"Need water. And about twenty panadols."

"I can provide the water," Andrew said.

The glow of the cigarette moved closer. He could just make out his outline from the reflection of the moon through a gap in the curtain. A cold glass and a warm hand both touched his.

"Drink this," Andrew said, helping move the glass to Blake’s lips. He drank, dribbling the water slightly down his chin. Andrew put the glass down. Blake moved his hand slightly to hold Andrew's. Very slowly, he moved his head closer. He could smell the alcohol on Andrew's breath, and what he thought of as the smell of Andrew's essence--his sweat and cardommon from his father's cooking. Blake was barely breathing himself as he touched his lips gently against Andrew's. He waited there for a few seconds. Andrew didn't pull away. The cigarette dropped to the floor. They both bent down to get it, and banged their heads together accidentally. They both started laughing. Andrew sat down next to Blake and kissed him on the shoulder. Blake put his arms around him.

"Are you ok?"


"Is this ok?"

"This is wonderful," Andrew replied.

Blake got home about eleven the next morning. He let himself in, and fell over a bunch of jasmine just inside the door. On his way down, he knocked a model off the coffee table. He lay on his back for a few seconds, getting his breath and inspecting the model. It was him--black gelled hair, long legs. He didn't know why his mother had made the stomach so flat, except to trick him that he didn't really have a little pot tummy that she had spent his childhood exclaiming over. The fall had squashed the effigy's nose a little. He hoped it wasn't one of those things you stuck pins into. It wasn't his fault that the phone had been engaged all night. He stood up and headed for the kitchen, and noticed with relief that there were a lot of the little models around, all different people.

Party food lined the bench and table in the kitchen. The cake looked great; glass dolphins swimming in an icing sea. But it hadn't been touched, and Bri never left a cake uneaten.

"Mum," he called.

He thought he could hear a muffled shout from the bedroom. He ran that way. "Mum!"

He burst though the bedroom door, and found Bri and Mel lying in bed, laughing. The doona was pulled up to their necks, and only their faces were showing. From this angle, Blake thought they looked a bit like naughty fairies.


"Hi, Blake," Mel said.

"Hi, Mel."

"Where have you been?" Bri asked.

"I slept over at Andrew's. I tried to ring, but you were obviously busy."

"The phone's still working," Bri said. "I was waiting for your call."

Mel reached one arm out of the doona, her freckles and rose tattoo showing. She carefully clutched the doona to her chest with the other hand, and picked up the receiver that was lying on the floor.

"I guess it was engaged."

"See," Blake said.

He left the room, to grab the first shower before his mother got too close. He set the CD to play ‘The Venga Bus is Coming’ fifteen times at full blast. He dressed in his favourite levis and lime green t-shirt. When he got out of the bathroom, Bri got in the shower. ‘Take Another a Little Piece of My Heart’ replaced the Venga boys on the CD. Mel was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking tea and eating birthday cake. The rest of the food had been put away.

"Love that Janis Joplin," Mel said.

Blake privately thought that she looked a little like her, even in her stiff black shirt and her red hair cut short for the army.

"Well, I'm getting a little sick of her," Blake said. He heated some water in a saucepan.

"Look, I know this must look a bit strange," Mel said.

'Oh god, not the break-up talk,' Blake thought. He put the two minute noodles into the boiling water.

"It's none of my business,' Blake said. He sat at the table next to Mel.

"Okay. How was your night?"
Blake glanced into her green eyes then away,


He got up and dished out the noodles just as Bri walked into the room in her inevitable purple dress.

"Coffee?" Blake asked.

"Thank you. I hope you had safe sex."

"Mother! That's none of your business."

"Well, I just hope you did."

"How do you know I even had sex?"

"I do the washing, remember? I hope you were more sensible than the girl."

"That's more information than I need," Mel said, "I've got a good idea. Let's go shopping."

"Yeah," Blake said. "You go. We need more food."

Blake looked at Bri and Mel doing the gooey eye thing, and escaped to his room to call Andrew. He fell asleep listening to his mother's CD playing on a loop, ‘Take Another Little Piece of My Heart Now Baby.’


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