had planned to miss his mother, Bris, 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.
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 BlakeBlake
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.
sixteen, that they went out for each other's parties.
was lying on the roof of the Bambina his father had given him when Blake got to
look," Blake said.
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.
look," Andrew said, "Chicken arms."
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
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.
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.
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.
awake?" Andrew asked.
water. And about twenty panadols."
can provide the water," Andrew said.
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.
this," Andrew said, helping move the glass to Blakes 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.
"This is wonderful,"
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.
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
"Mum," he called.
thought he could hear a muffled shout from the bedroom. He ran that way. "Mum!"
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.
Blake," Mel said.
"Where have you
been?" Bri asked.
slept over at Andrew's. I tried to ring, but you were obviously busy."
phone's still working," Bri said. "I was waiting for your call."
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.
guess it was engaged."
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.
that Janis Joplin," Mel said.
privately thought that she looked a little like her, even in her stiff black shirt
and her red hair cut short for the army.
I'm getting a little sick of her," Blake said. He heated some water in a saucepan.
I know this must look a bit strange," Mel said.
god, not the break-up talk,' Blake thought. He put the two minute noodles into
the boiling water.
none of my business,' Blake said. He sat at the table next to Mel.
How was your night?"
Blake glanced into her green eyes then away,
got up and dished out the noodles just as Bri walked into the room in her inevitable
you. I hope you had safe sex."
That's none of your business."
I just hope you did."
do you know I even had sex?"
do the washing, remember? I hope you were more sensible than the girl."
more information than I need," Mel said, "I've got a good idea. Let's go shopping."
Blake said. "You go. We need more food."
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.