Functioning at a Dysfunctional Function

‘Eating meat this year, Jen?’

‘Your sister’s name is Jenny,’ Mum said, wiping palms down her apron, following Dad’s swagger from the kitchen carrying the prize turkey.

Jenny’s fingertips traced the delicate outline of the crocheted threads in Grandma’s lacework spread across the food-laden table. A silent witness to another annual passing parade of corrupt cousins, divorced aunts, and derelict uncles.

 ‘I’ll answer to both, even bitch,’ Jenny said with a grin.

Dad’s exaggerated knife blade to steel swipes stopped. ‘No swearing, young lady.’

‘Talking about age, Jenny, I’m not seeing any grandchildren or husband seated beside you. Not like your brother with his family.’

Jenny side-glanced at her bully brother, the suppressed sister-in-law and their puppet perfect children. Yes, TV lands happy families existed – and they were PC, paper-cut-out, boring. ‘I’ll eat white meat, thanks. Looks great.’

‘You’re always avoiding my question.’

‘Didn’t I answer the food question?’

‘She did,’ said Dad, dishing out slabs of hacked turkey. ‘Still with Charlie?’

Mum’s head swivelled like an owl. ‘Is this the same Charlie you mentioned last year?’

Jenny nodded, forking her food, avoiding eye contact.

‘That’s a year,’ Mum’s said with eyelids narrowing. ‘Do you think Charlie will marry you?’

Another nod. A shrug. ‘We’d like to.’ Shovelling another mouthful.

‘Slow down – don’t you get fed upstate? Or you’re going for the plate clearing record, sis.’

‘Who’s Charlie,’ demanded Mum, ‘and when will we meet him?’

‘You won’t meet him.’ Jenny sipped her water because wine for women was disallowed at her mother’s table.

‘Why not?’

‘Because Charlie’s a female.’ Jenny stood up as cutlery dropped onto everyone else’s plates. She wiped her chin on the napkin, folded it up and grinned. ‘Thanks for dinner, might see ya next year.’ And left them all to digest.

The Classic Above Her Class

Below searing sunsets, she’d settle to watch endless galaxies of unblemished, shimmering starlight. She’ll rise to meet the creeping sunlight, to dance across red dusty trails, skipping the skirts of billabongs, as feathered flocks flee from her sight.

She’s flown herself, fleeing smoke filled savannahs with bushfires kissing at her heels. Only to cool beneath the shade of blackened gumtrees, while lightening sizzled across infinite hazy horizons. And, like the rest of us, she too helped pray for rain.

Wide horned buffalo, hogging the back-tracks, were no match in their head to head battles with her. She’d send them scurrying, as well as scattering crowds of lazy wallabies through the scrub. She’s been a safe fishing platform while nudging at cunning crocodiles as she cruised beside creek beds, and steered millions of cranky cattle refusing to give up their taste of the wild.

As a matriarch, she conveyed the hopes of many. Has carted endless supplies to feed her army, trekking across a country she’d seen change with the days.  She’d rescued the injured, guided the visiting, carried the newborn, and even transported the newlywed.

She’d never known what the black tarmac felt under her toes.  Not once had she been surrounded by concrete, or got lost amongst a cacophony of cars that collectively crept along congested highways. She’s never had to stop at a set of traffic lights. Nor seen the extravagant coloured night glow of a city gone to slumber.

Glassless. Roofless. Rust covers her where chrome and straight painted panels used to shine. Now, a body of lumps and bumps, wearing patch-ups reminiscent of a front line survivor of WWII. Her engine was perfectly adaptable to the simple skills of the bush mechanics, reacting well to roadside repairs, using whatever layabout. Be it a cattleman’s sweat laden leather belt, or strips of denim jeans to cinch up a pipe, it was always just enough to help her to limp us all back home.

There’s no comparison to the shiny new tin toys of today that dare to compete with this grand ol’ beast, unbothered about her beauty. They didn’t have her heart or her unstopping stamina. They lack her toughness to handle intense paint-blistering heat, the thick red dust, or sideways walls of flooding rains.

She was the cause of spreading smiles, a part of tall-tales sessions where many shared her adventurous travels. And she was always that stable grounding for plenty of the Brewers’ Best consumed, rested, and spilled across her dust covered bonnet.

She was reliable. Rugged. Territory tough.

Until now…

So let’s raise a beer to this grand ol’ girl, may she follow that never-ending fence line in the land of ‘Landcruiser Dreaming’. Always remembered as a truly heroic, kickass, classic country car.

(460 words)

 

FROM MOVING MOMENTS.

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A Toasted Benediction

Kate awoke with a gasp, as the pulse surged through veins, and wiped the perspiration beads from her forehead. Tried to swallow the dry lump as she blinked at the red numbers, trapped in that space between asleep and awake.

“Only a nightmare,” she murmured, turning off her alarm clock that never had a chance to blurt its awakening curse while trying to ignore the lower gut-gnawing sensation of panicked fear that shivered along her spine.

With her favourite, Eggs Benedict, Kate smiled serving her ‘fancified’ breakfast. She smoothed down her son’s hair, who frowned, ducked, while not looking away from his game he shoved his plate of eggs aside to reach for the cereal. Her daughter tipped the toppings to gnaw on a toasted muffin edge while tapping on her phone, and her husband scanned the headlines on his tablet as his fork blindly stabbed at the plate.

“I had a nightmare,” Kate proclaimed to her family.

They ignored her.

As per usual.

 “I said…” clearing her throat, Kate sat at the table, reached across her daughter’s line of vision where her palm covered her son’s tablet, as the other held her husband’s wrist. “I had a nightmare last night.”

They just blinked at her.

“I was in front of a gravesite where a priest was performing the last rites.”

“A premonition,” said the daughter, returning her attention to her phone. Father and son mirrored a half eye roll to each other and also resumed to stare at their vices.

“I think so, but I never saw the name and it scared me. So, I want you all to be extra careful today.”

“Whatever, mum,” muttered her son as he rose from the table.

“I mean it,” said Kate, following she hugged him. She grinned at him while ruffling up his hair that her son had spent ages in front of the mirror trying to perfect his messy cool. With a wild head flick, he spilled his workbooks from his backpack and onto the floor. “Those go in your room.”

“Later, don’t need them for today’s class.”

She’d pick them up herself and they both knew it.

“Be careful today,” Kate said, hugging her daughter who was too busy tapping on her phone’s screen. Then she turned to her husband who was patting his jacket’s pockets for wallet and phone. “Careful driving.”

“Yep. Gotta go or we’ll be late.” He gave his wife a peck on the cheek and headed for the door juggling the car keys in hand.

“I love you all,” cried out Kate, watching them leave without a backward glance. None of them even said goodbye. “Be safe.”  Her words echoed with the slam of the front door that was soon swallowed by the pressing silence of an empty house.

She cleared away the breakfast table, flicked on the tap to fill the sink. Turned to wipe the bench, lifted the toaster to wipe away the breadcrumbs when her footing slipped on her son’s glossy covered workbooks. She gripped the sink as the toaster fell into the soapy water. The lights flickered in the house as the smell of burnt hair and an acrid electrical smoke permeated the air, but it wasn’t enough to set off the fire alarm.

Everything fell silent, including Kate, dead before her body crumbled to the floor.

(556 words)

from HOME SWEET ~ NOT!

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