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We'd kept each other up too late the night before. Watching the All Blacks lose to the Boks because, you know, they couldn't play like a team for crap. So, Dad was still piked out on the brown couch in the living-room, snoring away. On his back with his bald head half off the cushion and his big pot going up and down. Too broken-hearted to shift, Mum said--but really too pissed last night and probably not too flash now. Yeah, Mum was finally up and she'd made herself a herbal tea. 'Thank you very much for nothing,' she says to me and what's left of Dad. She's a big woman, you'd be surprised, coming into the living-room in her big caftan-thing with her tea-mug in one hand. And then she says just to me: 'If you want, there's some old Vogel's bread still in the cupboard.' She's crossing the room with her cuppa and looked like she's thinking maybe Dad should get woken. Then 'Gidday, gidday!' Kay said. Kay. Comes home for the first time in two years and she's just there like that, eh. All podgy and round-faced, my precious oldest sister. In through the kitchen-door and walks into the living-room after all this time, and pulls the rug right out from under our carpet.
Mum says, 'Oh. Gidday, Kay.' And Dad wakes up and looks round. He's got his fly open because of his theory. Then he rolls over away from us and dropped his guts. And so Mum's pretending to blow on her tea-mug, but she's really swishing off the edges of that foul fart like anything with her old blue caftan. And me, I'm still squatting there in a corner trying to figure out how to get the telly to switch on from the remote. Because my big brother, Ray, he always whacked the bastard when we lost at footy.
And I can hear Ray's running up the driveway, there. Been doing wheelies down at the end of the cul-de-sac. He's kicking through all these wet cabbage-tree leaves we get fallen from the neighbour's tree onto the concrete. That bloody tree was forever shedding, and before we drilled a hole in the ugly bugger and stuck in some saltpetre, old Ray'd go round next door if anything landed on his car, he was that ropeable. Even though he was only sixteen. I could hear he's calling, 'Kay's here, I seen her!' The stupid dork.
Dad woke up again: 'Eh?' And Kay, she tries: 'Would you like a beer, Dad?' Looking like she'd head straight back to the fridge to get some. But Dad was never a one for morning beers after a hard night. Anyway, we'd already got enough visitors staying with us. My Uncle and Nana, though they were out at somewhere this morning, probably church. Pretty weird people. And then Ray come charging in from the kitchen with his arms and legs flying. 'Kay's stashed a fellow outside the back door,' he was puffing away. 'I just passed him. He's--'
Too late, the dork. We was looking at this bloke who'd just walked into the living-room behind him, standing there now with Kay. We all had to look down. Talk about the smallest Maori I ever seen! About twice the size of a pile of dog-shit, and the same colour. I swear. Smallest thing in our house since that dinky Jap boy home-stayed. And he was wearing a wee tan suit--with this flat-nosed face squeezing out the top, like a boil or something. 'Good morning, Mr McKechnie,' he said. He put out his wee hand. 'Pretty fucking amazing, eh?' says Ray. I said, 'She's brought Jonah Lomu down from Auckland.' I got this big laugh from everybody. Even that little Jonah cracked on a bit. He says, 'Actually, my name's--' and he says in Maori. In this high, short-arse voice, like just what you'd imagine from a dwarf, and his hand still out but who'd want to touch that? So after a spell, Kay had to crouch down and she give it a little squeeze. She said, 'Would you like that beer, Dad?'
Old Dad sat up on the couch with his fly open, and his stubbly face all shrivelled up. He kept his fly open in cold weather and wore a jersey, because he reckoned the jersey'd cover everything. Figured in theory it'd be quicker to go take a piss like that, eh. But he'd got on compo again because his dyslexia was acting up, so it didn't matter how fast he went and took a slash. Plus his jersey never covered nothing. 'Look,' he says to Mum and points. 'What kind of an idiot is that?'
Mum, she'd been doing power silences till then from her Zen-breathing classes. She never shaved anywhere on her body, and she had thick, hairy goose-flesh, because she only ever wore that cotton caftan and no undies. Yeah, gross thing to know about your own mother, eh, her arse was hung behind her like an air-bag went off. 'Tena koe, ehoa,' she says. Then she looks at Ray. 'He's a little disabled. Don't say anything.' 'Hey, Alan,' Ray calls out to me. 'You reckon she and Jonah really do it?' 'What kind of an idiot are you?' Dad asks at everyone.
But Jonah says across the room to Dad, 'Actually, Kay and I have been going out for about six months.' Getting into a speech, the dork. He says, 'And the fact is, well, we're thinking about getting engaged to--' Then Kay interrupted, she said, 'We just come down here to Palmy to move in together for a while...I'll put the kettle on. Anyone fancy some coffee?' But she stayed put in her little love-crouch with Jonah's hand. 'I bet he's the one on top,' Ray giggles.
Back then, Ray had a rep for knowing heaps about this stuff. You know, he hung around the girls' changing-sheds over at school and there was that trouble. Even then he was big and a no-neck, and he always wore the same black t-shirt. And threatening not to let me go hunting with him when he hived off into the ranges with his rifle, because I was such a wooftah. Didn't matter, he'd never took me anyway. And Mum says, 'I threw all the coffee out. Ages ago. We're not having any more commercially-produced drugs in this house.' 'Oh fuck,' Kay says. 'We've been driving all night.'
Mum was just sucking on her moustache and she says, 'How come I never meet this Jonah when I'm seeing you in Auckland? I'm coming up again in two shakes. It's the womin's-group meeting.' Ray called out to me over the room, 'I bet she just opens herself up for him like a boiled mussel.' And Mum says, 'It's consciousness-raising against the bomb.' 'I reckon it was you had to do all the driving?' Dad's saying to Kay. 'You roll down the window, he'd blow away. You shouldn't never of been allowed to take off to Auckland in the first place. Nothing but idiots up there.' So Kay says, 'We'll have tea then,' and she stood up.
I saw she'd been covering this big slit up the side of her dress with one arm, because me, I was just past thirteen then, and sort of shy. Her legs were a bit fatter than before, and that dress was, you know, tight, and she had a hang of a lot of bleached hair that got tossed all behind her shoulder. Then she walks over to the easy-chair, the red one, and sits on the arm. She says, 'Come here.' That Jonah follows like a trained pet and Kay picked him up under the arms and sits him in the chair--with a lot of leg as she bent forward. Stupid cow couldn't cover herself up any better than Dad's fly did. Ray was right. For her to want it from a fellow like old Jonah, he must of been hung like a draught-horse.
But Mum's too busy collapsing into the other chair to see nothing, and the curtains were half-off the windows again so she starts wrapping a bit round her tummy against the cold. Christ, those forearms of hers, you could tell she's off a farm. She's saying, 'The bomb's not going away on its own. My success coach, she reckons we need a whole weekend of empowerment.' And Dad's still going on like, 'You come down through the Desert Road?' And Kay says, 'Look, I don't know what you're all packing such a sad about. I'm not going up to Auckland again. Way too much hassles up here. We're going to use my room.' So Dad asked, 'Why are yous two such stony-broke idiots?' And Mum said, 'They've got these special clubs in Auckland now for dancing in, with just your sisters. The place is chocker with the right feng shui.'
'We'll find somewhere to live, Mr McKechnie,' Jonah pipes up. 'Don't you worry. I'm a licensed real-estate agent, we can get work anywhere.' That dumb, plutey voice. Dad, he's running a hand across his face, because he'd got more bum fluff on his cheeks than on the top of his empty head, so I guess he's just enjoying the feel of it. Then he says, hard-man sort of thing, 'This house is like my clothes, right? I'm wearing this house. And that makes my family feel like my underwear, right?' And then he gives Jonah the hard look: 'So why're you coming here making strife in my underwear?' 'I might not marry him,' Kay cuts in. 'I just want to live with him somewhere in peace and find out, eh. Auckland's way too dear.' Ray, he's saying, 'I bet she just sticks him into her like a dildo. I bet she makes a lot of noise, yeah?'
'There's no room,' Dad said. But Mum's all excited. Bits of her sticking through the caftan and the curtain in odd directions, eh, while she's jiggling up and down. She's growling at Dad, 'You nong!' And she's pointing at Jonah: 'This is practically a fucking birthing experience for me. A bro in the house! Look, as a womin, I just know I've got to offer him a helpful nipple.' So Dad, he starts up, 'But I'm the one has to go down to Social Welfare to put food on the table--' And Mum, you know she loves a good barney so she's already in screaming something, and she ends up with: 'So I don't give a long, lazy fuck!' And that's all, Dad's just muttering, he can't hack it--Christ! no wonder the All Blacks lost with woofy support like that.
But suddenly, I could really imagine them doing it. Kay and Jonah. And I got this feeling like there's no space left in my pants, and it's the first time in my life I felt very big there. Yeah, sprrrong! and I'm wondering if Ray can tell how hot my face is. And Jonah announces to the whole living-room, 'Mr McKechnie, you're only objecting to my presence here because I'm a Maori.' Mum's saying, 'Where are you off to, Alan?' and I'm trying like mad to make it look like just a piss. And Dad goes, 'He's not a hori, he's a dwarf!' And Mum growls, 'I said Jonah stays!' What she done then, she brushes back on her short grey hair and all the muscles in her arm tense up. Her bicep looked like a contractor's.
I don't know what would of happened, except I was walking to the loo--that's not easy--when I heard my Uncle and Nana come in through the kitchen-door. Finished with church. So they're welcoming Jonah and asking him about what he does in Auckland and that, and they're congratulating him about Kay. My Uncle and Nana, what a pair of little drips they were...
When I got back from the dunny, I'm walking about six foot off the ground and my eyes were shining--boy! I was thinking maybe I'm a sex crim, but it's worth every moment. Because up till then I'd been sharing a bedroom with Ray, and I'm supposed to get Kay's room after my Uncle and Nana leave. So why'd she have to come back now? Because anything this much fun, hell, I wasn't going to let on about it to the family. Anyway, I'm thinking mighty hard of a plan all through the baked beans on Vogel's bread that Nana made us. Because there was a whole swag of baked-bean tins around after Dad won that raffle down at the Cossie Club, and it's the only thing everyone liked.
Afterwards, my Uncle and Nana went visiting, but the rest of us done what we always done. Just sloshed our way out through the crap on the drive and piled into Ray's car and then booted it down Maxwell's Line. About five minutes and we found this brand-new Open Home. Even Jonah's all excited and making dorky conversation about seeing how it's done in Palmerston North. So, we all wander into the living-room, onto this thick, spruced-up carpet. And the estate agent, he come over in his snazzy, tight grey suit, designer-label thank you, and he asks Dad to sign the visitors' book. But, you know, Dad caught his dyslexia-thing, so he's waving away the pen and paper and Mum signs, eh. And Dad's grinning at us and flicking his head like anything at the agent, saying, 'Why is this bloke such a dick-up-his-own-arse idiot?'
There were some real-estate ladies round about in their business sort of clothes. They're standing there with plates of nibbles--but no free drinks, they must of seen us coming. 'It stinks in here!' Ray calls out, he's really rapt. And Mum's picking at a timber door-frame and asking anyone: 'Is this whole house seriously made from wood?' And one of the real-estate ladies come over quick, she's nodding away. 'The things yous people done in the rain forest, you ought to be ashamed,' growls Mum.
So me, I followed Ray up the stairs till I'm standing behind him in this wee, tiled bathroom--it's all-options-included--and he's checking out the tats on his arms in the mirror. The mirror-light was a bit dim, so he give the bastard a thump--I don't know if it helped. 'You reckon Kay's up the duff?' I'm saying, I'm into my plan. He says, 'What would you know?' That dickless didn't even shift his eyes off admiring at himself in the glass. 'Well,' I says, 'I just reckon, if she'd sleep with someone like Jonah, she'll have a go with anyone.' 'She's a slut,' Ray agrees. He's got his face up all close to the mirror and then he's starting to squeeze at the tiny blackheads in his nose. 'Kay's probably got heaps of boyfriends up in Auckland,' I says. 'Probably got some rich lawyer-boyfriend, for on the side. If Kay's up the duff she should be with him, not farting around with a dwarf. I mean, what kind of sister you think Jonah's got?' Waste of breath--Ray wasn't listening. Just kept sliding his bloody fingernails along the sides of his nose, and he's wiping the gunge off on the edge of the glass. I says, 'I bet her lawyer-boyfriend in Auckland's got sisters. Any smart-arse Auckland lawyer, he'd of got sisters who are helluva good-looking, and blonde. And girl cousins and they're lonely--'
But now Ray's interrupting: 'Eh? How many sisters her other boyfriend's got?' Even stops picking himself. He just stepped back and kept a big weather-eye on the mirror. Me, I wanted to keep talking--I'd been kind of getting myself excited, eh. Already imagining the girlies in these long, leggy evening-dresses. 'Because of Jonah,' I said, 'We're not going to meet any of them at all.' 'That fucking dwarf,' says Ray.
Outside the bathroom was this cranky, bent-over old dearie in a floral dress, she's itching to get a look in. So Ray stares her down hard. 'It stinks in there,' he tells her, and we went past. Then we gone across into the master-bedroom. All bare-floored and it's empty--just except for Dad in the middle there lying on a bean-bag, scratching his big gut. And also there's this skinny-faced, young couple in the corner, they're trying to examine the closet. You know, floor-to-ceiling, walk-in sort of stuff. The moment I come on through, I could see how they're working at ignoring Dad because his fly's open. And meantime Ray's saying to him, 'Hey, you know Kay's rooting this lawyer up in Auckland?' 'What kind of an idiot he must be,' Dad says. Dad always liked watching the TV in these places, but there isn't one, so he's making do with just staring back at the couple. Ray goes, 'If she gets up the duff to this lawyer fellow, why's she want to settle for Jonah?'
And now, I'm figuring that maybe giving it a bit of a go in the toilet might be good value--oh yeah, baby!--or in one of the other rooms. But there'd be no joy, I suppose, too many people like that couple. They were still there, the pair of them, whispering to themselves about the closet. 'What's this fellow up in Auckland make?' Dad's asking in an extra-loud voice--I could tell Dad was getting more annoyed at the couple, and he's trying to turn up the volume. 'Heaps,' Ray shouts back. 'That's how come he can afford a Merc!' 'Fair go?' Dad was interested, but he's too busy giving the couple his hard-man look--the woman was starting to get all nervous. And Dad says, 'Kay come down here in a rental car, bloody thing couldn't of done more than a hundred k on the open flat.' Ray goes, 'That's just the dwarf.' So I helped in with my plan, I says, 'The dwarf that wants to live with us for free.' 'You shut the fuck up,' says Dad.
The couple both sort of hustled out for the door. The woman, she looked really cute when she was scared. But then she gives me this sort of sad glance, eh, like I was little and the only one in the room. I remember her, that dried-up nothing of a cunt--slinking away looking at me with her chin hardly off the floor. Too skinny for my sort. Good news to be rid of the both of them.
Pity there was no TV, it was real quiet for a spell--but then this huge barney starts up somewhere below us. So I made a beeline for the staircase. When I get nearer, I could hear Mum doing her block in the kitchen. She's cracking on, 'You call yourself a sister? Eh? What kind of person would let these cancer-traps in the house?' By the time I get into the kitchen, Mum's giving it big licks at one of the real-estate ladies. I seen some middle-aged tart in a suit-top, but still with a good figure and really showing stacks of cleavage, there. And Mum's banging away at a microwave, the wipes-ultra-clean type, up on the breakfast-bar. Getting some dings into it. And that real-estate lady, she looked like she wanted to put her head down into her blouse and escape into her own tits.
Mum's going on, 'Yous are saturating this house with radiation! I'm a mother and I've got my kids here!' And she pointed over at Kay--Kay's standing with Jonah on the far side of the kitchen and Kay's looking all keen. And the real-estate woman's saying, 'It's not even plugged in--' 'I don't give a fuck!' Mum roars out, she's off. 'Yous all are killing people with this creepy shit. It saves up radioactive energy, you nong, everyone knows that, you dumb, bull-dyke bitch!'
So then the real-estate man in his hotshit suit, he finally plucked up the courage to come over, the gutless wonder. He raises both hands and he's announcing, 'I'm afraid we can't have--' But at that moment I'm distracted seeing little Jonah, down beside Kay's knee, he's rolling his eyes up at her. 'I'm so glad I came,' he was saying. What a proper old grizzle! But then he got drowned out by Mum asking what sort of a pervy, fucking stranger'd put her kids in harm's way. And the real-estate man, he says all firmly, 'Madam, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave.' And he puts a hand on Mum's elbow. So then Kay goes wild: 'You don't talk to my Mum like that!' And she's over yanking the real-estate guy's arm away.
Mum's saying, 'This joker's got a wee self-esteem problem.' But Kay, she shoves the real-estate man slap-bang in the chest: 'Nobody fucking talks to my Mum like that!' The wuss, he stepped backward. 'I'm calling the police,' he said. And Jonah's piping up alone from his corner of the kitchen, 'I think we should return to Auckland. I've never, ever seen anything like this! Kay, let's go! Kay?' 'Yeah, why don't you,' I heard Ray say, he's there behind me. 'We don't want your wooftah kind here.' And the real-estate man's pleading at one of the ladies off in the living-room: 'Call the police!' 'You are such a low-slung idiot,' Dad come in and says from at the back of us all, though he probably couldn't even see Jonah way down past the breakfast-bar. But that's who he means, because he says, 'Why don't you and Kay both clear off up north, the pair of you. Kay can do much better than you in Auckland.' And Mum's growling, pleased as piss, 'I don't like the look of that fridge. They stuff up the ozone hole.'
The real-estate lady in the living-room, she calls, 'The phone's not hooked on.' But Jonah's shouting, his voice was so little--it was like he was jumping up and shouting with his whole body, 'You know, you're only doing this to me here because, because--' But he couldn't hack the pace. Breathing hard, and all red in his short-arse brown face. 'Because they all hate your guts,' Mum finishes for him. She turned and sort of put out her big arm to steady him, but that Jonah, he was way too far down to reach. 'It's only because you're a dwarf,' I said helpfully. 'You know, you'd be much tougher to spot up in the big smoke.' 'You could try to rise above it,' Mum laughs.
But the real-estate man's bawling, 'Will you get out of this house!' Throwing a blue fit. He reached out again at Mum, and he wasn't looking so Kay punches him in the neck. Got her weight into her arm and dropped the little bastard.
'I'm going, Kay!' Jonah cries. It took a helluva lot of tiny steps--but he dodged past the real-estate guy on the floor and round us and then out of the kitchen, eh. I sort of admired how much speed he was getting up, a bit like watching a dog having a paddle. He turned and shouts, 'Come on!' and disappears into the living-room. 'You know, you never care enough about me,' Kay calls at him from the kitchen, 'Not like my Uncle cared for Nana.' And then we heard him whinging, 'I can't get the front door!' But one of the real-estate ladies in the living-room, maybe they went across smartish to help--it's because they've got to be nice to buggers like that, eh.
In the kitchen I'm just watching Kay, she's looking at us and she's still making up her mind. What'd she see in him? Yeah, it's hard to know about people, they're like two sides of different coins, right. I mean, we all wanted her to go like nobody's business.
And the thing with my Uncle and Nana--women are always getting emotional about this sort of stuff. My Uncle and Nana, they got married in Hamilton, way the way back in the 1960s, and this big group of people come out to the railway station to see them off for the honeymoon. I don't know what happened or anything, but when my Uncle got the bags on the carriage he and Nana were separated, eh, and the whistle blew and Nana missed the train. He could see her just standing there on the platform when they pulled out, he must of felt like a real dipstick, him. So anyway, big snowfalls in the middle of the North Island, and this was the last train coming down the line, but my Uncle, he didn't want to pack it in--so he took the ferry down to Picton and he ended up going on the honeymoon alone. Four days. And he kept ringing Nana up the whole time and he was describing the good weather, and then taking photos and that. And when he come back, he kept on telling her all about it. He'd used to go on about it all through the evenings. I don't know why she didn't mind, because she'd really missed out--but weird is the word for my Uncle and Nana.
Anyway, every time you let on about this story to a girl, right, they just go 'awwh' and say that's the kind of thing they wish they had. But I don't know. I wouldn't reckon it's anything all that special. Me, I'd just say it's a story about people who don't really want to be together...
Copyright Ian Richards, 2008
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