Fluttering dry dead leaves
crumble into little ragged
shards along the back path
skittering twisting twirling.
Leafy fragments rest on the
path as the breeze drops.
One very dark fragment
creeps onward, hair fine
feelers lift, twitch ……… a
cockroach recently escaped
from our new neighbours’
carport storage locker
on the day they moved in.
Cockroach crept out the
open door along the path
seeking shelter from its
gusty icy temperatures.
My shoe stopped him on the
way to his chosen destination.
At kindergarten she loved
counting, making patterns
with blocks. loved hearing
books being read aloud.
Her first year at school she
still enjoyed counting, making
patterns, putting counters together
using maths words as she did so.
they gave her little books, told
her to read the black squiggles
beside the pictures. Eventually
she managed it, by now the
other children were doing well.
She was told to write letters
and words, it took her a
while to work that out.
Next year maths became hard.
She had to put cards with symbols
numbers, under counters, write
symbols, numbers, right way around.
She went to a special group for
a while, her reading improved.
In her third year a special reading
group improved her reading, writing.
spelling. But maths became yet harder
with new symbols, and processes.
she was embarrassed, baffled, nervous
bewildered, scared, told no one, while
the other children learned it all well.
On the school’s open maths morning
her family’s adults came along, the
family teacher recognised her fears.
Now three days a week she has her
own maths homework, she considers
it a doubtful pleasure, but she is
learning to do more maths.
Since his penniless teenage years
in the Great Depression to old age
at 88 Dad had maintained a healthy
disrespect for police and traffic
law. His job providing a car for his
required duties he zipped around
city and surrounding countryside
over great distances impatient of
all drivers young and old, fast
and slow, driving before him,
impeding his rapid progress.
Had he been born much later on
he would have joined the young
ones seeding in their races on
long straight roads in burnouts
donuts, in heavily altered cars.
In retirement he continued, impatient,
demanding the road as his right.
Until the day a uniform chalked
a parking mark on his tyre,
outside his favourite liquor store.
About to roar his objections
he stopped …… remembered
elderly drivers losing licences
for driving others deemed unsafe.
He choked back his rage, spoke
politely, retained his licence.
Emergency operator one one one
fire ambulance or police.
Operators speak briskly clearly.
State the options, connect to
caller’s required service. Then
hold themselves together to help
the caller, answer the service’s
questions later if required.
Difficult on Christmas night
when families splinter, burst apart
as alcohol flows, men bellow,
punches pummel bodies, women
cry, children scream, sob call for
Mum and Nana. Public holidays
expose our underlying rifts.
Yet my worst night on emergency
calls was not a holiday but an
ordinary night. Except that our
national rugby team lost the World
Rugby Cup Final, exposed to our
gaze on our television screens.
Men roared, punches pummelled
bodies, women cried, children
screamed, sobbed, called for Mum.
So many people lost that night
besides our national rugby team.
The For Sale board photos
showed glamorous rooms up to the
minute, like the house’s exterior.
The elderly woman turned as
I approached, we often meet
walking to and from the shops,
the supermarket, her council
flat across the road from my flat.
“This is too posh for our street !”
jabbing hr finger at the board.
“This house is a posh house.
Our street is a nice street
but not a posh street !”
That house has been For Sale
for weeks, now with a second
company, in a market with fewer
houses For Sale in our town.
She’s right. Our street is good
to live in, but it is ordinary.
Six years ago I moved into my
little flat at the end of the
driveway ending its eight week
solitary vacancy. Some in the
neighbourhood had exploited
this lengthy vacant solitude.
Stepping out my back door one
sunny afternoon loud shrieks
metallic crashes resounded down
the pathway under our clotheslines.
I had sent away children crashing
their scooters over the clanging
manhole cover. Their Gran had
allowed it. I didn’t after being
nearly flattened. I scolded
loudly for her benefit.
Now the boy next door with his
friend came crashing down our path.
Bad timing on the part of all,
I was bringing in my washing.
The boy next door was just my
height but he was only twelve.
Six years later we neighbours
met last week on the kerb around
an injured cyclist. The boy next
door is now eighteen, over six
feet tall, and very solid build.
Fortunately he rides a bike
not a scooter these days.
As cars drove by on our busy
road in the late afternoon
a cyclist fell off her bicycle.
As a driver turned into our street
she saw the cyclist on the road,
body jerking under her bicycle.
As our neighbours pulled up to
their house the driver phoned
the ambulance, asked them for rugs.
As I reached my letterbox
my neighbours called for rugs
which I fetched from my flat.
As I placed my rug over the
cyclist on the road the traffice
increased …. I stood near her
feet to direct cars around her.
As the ambulance officers checked
the cyclist, still unable to speak,
the others checked her wallet
for her name and address.
As they checked her wallet
the cyclists’s neighbour from
the far end of the street walked
past from the supermarket, told
her address to the officers.
So much serendipity
dissolved a disaster.
Truck, utes, cars, people all
flowing to and fro along our
driveway shifting boxes, bags,
into the middle flat, lifting
furniture from trailer to carport
driving trailer back to street.
So much activity all day
people calling to each other
yelling loudly when something
is dropped. Grunting heavily
when a sofa is hefted along
by eight people all staggering
past my front windows.
Come evening all is peaceful
we have new neighbours.
She left her parents’ home
for a room in a huge old
house shared with other
young people her own age.
A house visited by many young
people, cheerful, lively, outgoing
always making things happen.
A young man strongly drawn
to her visited often,taking her
out, at last taking her quietly
to her room one night, and
again on New Year’s Eve.
Pregnant at twenty one.
Upset, confused, no pregnant
friends to help her. He was a
nice boy but she did not want
to marry him, or anyone else
at all for a while yet.
Her parents were shocked, angry.
Her sister and brother, friends
rallied around, organised a
small reception to follow
abruptly planned nuptials.
Suddenly there she was at
twenty one with a young man
in a one bedroom flat with an
unintended baby on the way.
She left her parents’ home.
Left for a room in a large old
house shared with four other
young women of her own age
stunning her parents whose
generation lived with their
parents until they married.
A new social tide in the
swinging sixties and seventies
saw many young people leave
their long time family homes.
Her parents had required further
education, then a good job.
Also board paid from jobs –
part time, holidays, full time,
all paid, complied with.
Recognising her financial
independence, the eldest left.
battered by the father’s jealous
rants, over the 1960’s free
ranging society, followed
later by sister and brother
leaving their parents staring,
still ignoring the social tsunamis
washing over them, wondering
why their children left them.