Surprise by Jane Ouseley
Shaking encrusted fluoro digits (against ever increasing nutritional evidence), Jane is grateful — still — for: the opportunity to continue indulging in foil wrapped snacks throughout her twilight years and of course Books and the people who write them.
The viaduct on that warm Sunday some weeks ago, John and I cast on those strangely tortuous seating installations; squinting at boats, water, the toytown bridge that chirrups up and down allowing vessels to slink underneath, and relieved, away.
There were three boys, eleven or twelve years? Doing the same — but stripped to the waist in commandeered shorts, swinging from a rail that followed steps down into sea.
God — they were lovely Boys! Without guile or posture. Speaking loudly — excitedly and fond, exclaiming at things on and in the bob of water. The subtle acceleration and joyful menace of flicking water one to each other. Suddenly their gaze and speech snatched on: some Thing under the hide of water — a fish, a jelly fish? A…body?
Some Thing big, unexpected. The boys danced and howled. The largest sweet boy went close as he dared down to The Thing — and thrilled out of this own skin — leapt back up turning to scan the tide of us miserably seated bastards.
“Look! Look! Look at this!"
Yelling, pointing. His eyes — drawing back and over us. I looked at us too. Felt a scratch in my throat. Hooked.
“That’s amazing!” I whinnied — startling myself, John, those nearby.
“I’ve never seen that before!”
We knew I was the only one. The boy cut me immediately and turned back.
I wish not to forget his face almost more than I wish I knew what the Thing was.
This week, hurrying up the drive home from work — a large gorgeous rat met my stride and kept me company for a small stretch until I registered actually, stopped and screamed a single pitched note.
Alongside — behind a fence, the children in the crèche garden bustling. The rat turned left sharp, away. I skimmed the groups of busy smallness — looking for eyes. Someone to see. One did. Looked back at me with both cocked head and finger trailing left, a curly eyed stare. Contempt.
Later, John walked into the kitchen wearing a new shirt that he patted and said,
I hope this shirt will make you fall in love with me again.
Adult by Jane Ouseley
Jane is a lifelong champion of questionable Art, wine, and fluoro orange snacks that can be slipped onto fingers. She is humbled by chickpeas, thunder and the unwavering kindness of those who daily ascend her bedside hillock of never-to-be-read books, to gift a morning mug of tea.
At sixteen, I bought a bright yellow breadknife for 59 cents and a pair of flimsy tea-towels that I placed carefully under my bed.
What is a Glory Box when placed below where you lie?
And one night, with a daring - drunken?- vault into bed, my foot found the yellow handled blade, unsheathed, and carved it open.
It was Spring.
The slice on my foot bloomed septic, as I started three days work at the A and P show as an assistant to “The Cooking Demonstrator from The New Zealand Egg Board’. My first experience of cooking that wasn’t infused with the tense call and response of familial obligation. The demonstrator was calm and cool. Her confidence, not contagious; awed by her proficiency and inventiveness. The dishes served were delicious. Shy, clumsy, I cleared away. Created Pyramids of egg cartons, sliced onions, potatoes. Grated cheese. Stood. With increasing discomfort.
Late October heat pairs with a mean seasonal wind that flays hair into icecreams and candy floss, genial mood into squabble. It carries fairground screams, incessant roar of machinery, bray of animals and Farmers come to town, fanning the solid waft of shit smell and hotdogs. I sliced and sweated for three days. My foot screeched, wept and ballooned under an unwise nylon stocking. Sawing at a potato, I diced a tiny curl from my thumb tip. The smudge of pink potato visible - to me, only? - for a lifelong second before folded, briskly; into alchemy of heated eggs and butter. Those amongst the wind whipped citizens who enjoyed a frittata wedge that day, I hope, bear no ill will.
I hobbled home, poisoned, at the end of three days to concern, medication and convalescence. The throb. The triumph.
I have kept the payslip for those hours.
The scar too. The knife I certainly did.
It lies still, in a current kitchen drawer. My Familiar. A constant, cheering, witness. It cuts beautifully.
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