I have to keep up. I’m not quite sure what would happen if I don’t so I have to keep up. I hate this park. It’s pretending to be the country but it’s the city and I hate the city. Dad lives in the city and Mum made me wear my good shoes because Dad doesn’t like scruffy and he said I am too scruffy. They are shits my good shoes and they make it hard to keep up.
My brother and step-brother swerve downwards away from the one tree, the one tree on the hill. It’s the name of this stupid park where my dad lives with his new wife who talks and talks like someone important is listening.
My legs are starting to shout at me. They are fast these boys, they are fast and they are bigger than me and I’m hot and I’m full of hate. Hate is like a ball that’s stuck on the roof and you can’t get it down. I don’t like hate, I like my friend next door at home, I like my thoughts not to be crowded in by worrying about what clothes to put on in the morning. Mum puts my clothes on the bed the night before, Dad doesn’t.
I don’t know what they want me to say, so I don’t and I don’t know what they want me to do, so I read and that’s good because I want to know what happens when Mole meets Badger and if Toad is going to crash another one of his cars. But then Dad says I’m quiet and I’m not, I want to shout, I’m bloody well not.
I can still see them, I’m not sure where I am, or which way is where but I can see them. I run past a mum with two kids and I want to be them, they don’t look scared, they look like they belong, not stuck in a tipped up world that looks blue-sky-right but it isn’t, it just isn’t. I want to be not scared, I need to be not scared.
I was scared the night Dad left. And Mum says don’t be silly, you can’t remember that, but I do. I remember it more than anything. It smells like metal and it tastes like dirt. Dads are needed, I thought, like eating your vegetables or cleaning your teeth. They can’t hoon up the hill in the car and leave Mum wailing. Not crying, wailing. My mum was sort of cut in half with a tea towel still in her hand.
Things circled above me that night, not nice things like fantails, more like magpies. I saw one chase a sheep once and I wondered why, why would it chase a sheep? Shouts, cries, things thrown and the heat making my eyes burn and I was above, up high, looking down. I see us, three now, out on the street. My brother holds her other hand when she walks, runs, walks down the road to the nice neighbours. And it’s raining, just a little, like Nana’s toilet spray that puts a mist on your face. And then it’s later and Mum’s chopping carrots and Dad is picking us up and she chops and she chops and I think she is going to kill Dad and she chops and she yells and she chops and I think ‘kill him, kill him’ and then I’m in the car and now I am running, running.
I can’t see them. I can’t see them left, I can’t see them right. I can see my shoes, I can hear my breath, but I can’t see them. I stop. My shoes stop. My stupid shit, good shoes covered in shit stop, and scared closes in, it’s been keeping up. Scared is fast, it’s faster than me.
They are gone. They have done the thing they wanted to do and they have lost me and I am lost. Dad said, “Go with the boys, I’m busy” and I did and they grinned like crazy dogs. What is Dad busy doing while I am busy being scared? Business, busyness, birds circling blue, circling black and back to the start and here I am.
And I’ve stopped and the noise stops and the earth doesn’t. Somewhere else a house burns down, somewhere else snow falls from the sky and somewhere that I don’t know how to get to, my dad works and works and works.
And I’m OK, my shoes really are very shit, but I’m OK. It’s nice, this stopping, it’s really, actually very nice. I feel like the sun’s come out, like the breeze has gone soft and kind of feather-like. I sit down and I look up.
“Fuck you magpies!” I shout and then I laugh and I laugh and I bloody well laugh. I’m OK and I’m not quiet. And scruffy? Yes I am, Dad, actually, I’m scruffy and I like gumboots and swearing and horses and pick-a-path adventures. I like the country because it’s from the ground and it doesn’t circle in the sky. It isn’t pretending like this stupid hill with a tree. Only one shitty tree. One stupid hill and one shitty tree. I take off my shoes and I lie on my back and I feel like me is back inside of me. I throw my shoes down the hill and man, how they run, one keeping up with the other, after the other and each other.