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Posts Tagged ‘Pip’

An autumn afternoon

In Pip on August 2, 2008 at 3:51 pm

It put Pip off his search.

The little boy’s grave.

1972-1983.

Black with gold inlay.

And the father’s name scratched out.

He wondered how he had not noticed it before. This little boy’s grave. With the father’s name scratched out, but its shadow left behind. And Pip stood in front of it for some amount of time between three minutes and a year, his hands in his pocekts, the autumn sun on the back of his neck and the gentle shuffling sounds of the other kids’ whirligigs whistling through his ears.

A parrot.

A crow. Two. Three.

A lorikeet.

Cars at ten kilometres an hour.

Pip needed to make his decision today and so he tried not to see the mother dressed in purple and black, her back hunched and her shoulders curled as she cursed the rising sun which lit the shadow of the name. The name etched more deeply into her heart than into the stone.

The sound of her frantic scratching ripped through the drying grass. The sound of her sobs dripped from the trees. And the stench of her anger gave life to his own, so that once again it snaked its way out of his bones and coiled itself around him head to toe, and wound itself in and out of the days that would come to make up weeks that he would come to waste on deep breaths and sharp words and bitten fingernails.

And the search he thought today would end had only just begun.

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Visiting, Sunday afternoon

In Uncategorized on July 14, 2008 at 4:08 pm

The smell was lunches past. The besa bricks were dully white and the dusty flowers were silk. The fluoro lights were evenly spaced. Blu-tacked posters listed irrelevant rights.

If it had not been for following the squeak – his right shoe, after he lifted his heel and before he lifted his toe – he would not have timed his walk, and he would not have known that each door was fifteen steps from the next.

Not all of the doors were closed but all of the beds were made. Televisions flickering in darkened rooms, and all of them too loud. Brisbane versus the Crows.

A woman knitting, another with a book. A visitor with a cup of tea wrapped between her hands. A man asleep in his chair.

Photo frames in rows or clusters of threes on shelves and window sills and bar fridges and televisions which stood on four sturdy legs. Photos of people who echoed each other, but whose names could only now and then be dredged from between the holes of crumbling brains.

And then in a room at the sunroom end, a woman. Her chin lifted. Her mouth lightly open and her eyes lightly closed. A younger woman, one he’d never seen, bent over her, putting lipstick on in dabs.

‘There you are, love, gorgeous again…they’ll be here soon’. Her voice was round and strong and yet to let her down. He was seven steps past, but he thought of turning back and of wrapping her in his arms. She would not smell of voilets or cashmere bouquet or even Oil of Ulan. Her skin would not be paper thin and her eyes would not be pale. There would be no weight between them.

Somewhere down the corridor, a baby cried, another door closed.

He used the stairs because he could, went down them two at a time, then jumped the final four, pinned the number in, made sure the lock of the gate was clicked.

But still, the wanderer’s alarm followed him back to his car.

The turning point

In Pip on May 5, 2007 at 5:06 pm

‘She wouldn’t be quite so annoying if she wasn’t quite so short,’ she said.

She scratched her head and pulled her hair behind her ears in the way that she always did. He looked down at the table and closed his eyes for a second longer than a blink.

‘Like the cardigan she was wearing was a perfect fit, except for the sleeves, and so she’d made a cuff which was four rolls thick.’ She cleared her throat and he knew that if he looked up now he would see her biting her lips.

She blew on her cup of tea. Had her blows always been so loud?

‘At least four rolls.’

Pip put his cup down, picked up the pen, pulled the newspaper closer, began drawing a moustache.

‘And she giggles when she can’t reach things,’ she said.

She took a sip which became a slurp.

Pip added glasses to the face he had moustached.

‘And I don’t mean suitcases on the wardrobe or cobwebs on the cornice…anyone can get a stool and reach those kinds of things.’

Devil’s horns. A moustache, glasses and devil’s horns.

‘But no, she can’t reach the salt.’

Snot drips out of the nostril.

Can someone pass the salt she says and then she giggles. Every. Single. Time.’

And now the other one.

‘Like she thinks it’s funny having arms that short.’

Earwax! God, how long had it been since he’d drawn wax dribbling from ears? Twenty years? At least.

‘She could wear heels,’ she said. ‘No-one needs to be that short.’

Pip put his pen down, picked up his cup. It wasn’t the one he liked. It was all right for coffee, but not for tea.

‘Heels wouldn’t help her to reach the salt,’ he said. He brought the cup to his lips. The tea had cooled enough to drink.

She looked down at the things he had drawn, then up again.

‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ she said. ‘You know what I mean.’ She scratched at her head again. ‘And do you have to swallow like that when you drink?’

He put the cup down, picked the pen up. The next time they had this conversation Pip promised himself that he would say you’re only five foot two.

Yvette and Pip: New Year’s Eve (1996)

In Coral, Dino Turci, Karen Fenn, Marco Turci, Pip, Rose, Sue, Vi, Yvette on May 30, 2006 at 1:36 pm

‘There’s a bit of a sing-a-long in the dining room tonight, I’m afraid,’ Yvette said. ‘Vi’s been practising Tipperary all afternoon. You’ve probably heard.’

Pip had. That and what a friend we have in Jesus. Songs he had never expected to learn.

He gave one long, slow blink.

‘Wouldn’t be so bad if she could remember the bloody words,’ Yvette said, then she laughed. It was the kind of laugh that meant no harm.

Yvette fussed with the newspapers. She picked them off the bed section by section, folding them neatly, putting them in a pile.

The papers had been there since ten o’clock when Coral had put them down, told Pip she would be back in a moment. Just need to powder my nose is what she said.

Pip didn’t mind that Coral had never come back. Coral’s voice grated and she stumbled across commas, took no notice of full stops.

It would be good when Rose came back from Queensland and started doing the newspapers again. Rose had a voice which was soft and light and you could tell that she was thinking while she read.

Pip couldn’t remember how long Rose had been gone. People didn’t write that kind of thing on his calendar. They had asterisked Christmas and highlighted new year’s eve. Mum had been through and written all the important birthdays in red. But no one had written Rose back into one of the squares.

‘We’re not supposed to leave you in in your rooms tonight,’ Yvette said. She folded the newspaper into neat sections. ‘We’re supposed to make you all join in. Because of New Year’s Eve.’ She folded the final piece of newspaper back into place, then looked up and as far into Pip’s eyes as she could. ‘So it might be a bit late before I get back. It might be eight or so before I can see you again. Is that OK?’

Yvette nodded before she looked away. She took a few steps towards the door and put the folded newspaper on the chair by the door. ‘Yeah, anything’s better than another bloody sing-a-long, I reckon.’ Yvette closed her eyes and took a deep, but silent breath before she turned to face Pip again.

There was nothing like New Year’s Eve for turning lonely into lonelier.

She took the few steps across the room so that she could be closer to him. She bent down so she was looking directly at him. Her knees clicked loudly as she squatted.

It means you’ll get arthritis. That’s what Karen Fenn had said when they were still at school. Yvette could still see the way Karen Fenn flicked her ponytail as she spoke. She could see the blue eyeliner Karen Fenn had used every day and no teachers asked her to take it off. She could see the short skirts and the even tan. Karen Fenn was allowed to put colours through her hair.

Yvette ran the fingers on both her hands through her hair, pulled her hair back from her face and off the back of her neck. She should have worn it up today. She should have made an effort. Even if she had to work it was still New Year’s Eve.

‘D’you remember Karen Fenn?’ Yvette asked. ‘Tall she was. Married Marco Turci. That’s Dino Turci’s brother.’ She looked at Pip then shook her head. ‘Before your time I s’pose. She moved away years ago.’ She smiled at him. ‘She had lovely long fingers and her nails never seemed to break.’

Karen Fenn wouldn’t be working in an Old Folks Home on New Year’s Eve, Yvette thought. Karen Fenn wouldn’t care about the triple time and she wouldn’t offer to do the shift because she knew she wouldn’t have anything else to do anyway and you were better at work than you were down the pub where everyone else would be kissing the love of their lives.

Yvette let her hands and her hair fall. She wished she didn’t still think about Karen Fenn. As if Karen Fenn ever thought about her.

‘You’ve already had enough of sing-a-longs, haven’t you, mate?’ Yvette asked Pip. She put her hand on his. His skin was softer than it had ever been.

She pulled her hand away, then stood up, crossing her arms over her chest.

At moments like this she always used to say I know, love, I know. She used to say that to him a lot. I know. But she just nodded at him now.

Yvette smiled at him then stood up. ‘I might turn that off,’ she said. She flicked her head at the television. There were too many nurses and too many visitors left the television on. ‘It makes a racket, doesn’t it? And there’s nothing on the bloody thing.’ She reached up to the television and turned it off. ‘There’s no company in a television,’ Yvette said.

It was something she would have left as a thought in any other room.

‘You look nice today,’ Yvette said. She squinted as she looked more closely at him. ‘Is that shirt new?’ She stopped talking, nodded and smiled. ‘Thought so. That blue really suits you.’ She squinted.

‘Oh, hello,’ Yvette said. ‘Look who’s here.’ She stood up, wiped the palms of her hands down her uniform. It was looking bloody grubby now, wasn’t it?

She should have done the washing last night. You couldn’t wear a uniform two days in a row.

‘Is it still hot out there?’ Yvette asked.

Sue nodded. ‘Scorching. Gauge at our place says forty one. And that’s in the shade.’

‘Better off in here, aren’t I?’ Yvette said and she was sorry as soon as she said the words. It was a stupid thing to say in front of him. In front of his mother.

Apologising would make it worse.

‘I’ll leave you two in peace for a while, shall I?’

Pip blinked. Once for yes. Then blinked again.

Which must have been a mistake or maybe she’d seen it wrong.