Under the brick – short story

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The following extract comes from the last few entries of a diary I found under a brick at 23 Victoria Grove. We had just moved in and I was cleaning up the front yard.

Date: Wednesday, 12 October, 2011

It’s funny how these things happen. You suddenly lose both parents in an accident and then a few days later you gain a whole bunch of them at the funeral.

“Hell, Son, I’m sorry to hear about your parents,” says an old friend of the family. I think his name is George. He crushes me with a bear hug and stains my shoulder with his tears.

“Dear, Michael, dear, dear, Michael,” even my Mother didn’t refer to me like that. But this is Esther with her motherly voice. She hugs me and I feel her huge breasts flatten against my chest. “Dear Michael, I am so sorry about your folks.”

I am swamped by her heady mixture of fruity cologne and the faint sniff of body odour. “A boy, so young,” her two moist hands hold my face, “just 17 years old.” She pulls me in and kisses me on the lips.

“How will you cope, dear Michael?”
I smile. Don’t answer. What answer is there?

And so the funeral went on. Having no aunties or uncles wasn’t a problem when growing up. These things become awkward when you need them. Like today. It’s probably why there were so few people in the church. No family.

“Don’t worry, Michael,” I just wanted someone to say. “Don’t worry, I’ll look after things.”

“Thanks, Auntie, Ree,” or “That’s much appreciated, Uncle Ron.”

So, what did I do?

I got through a half-arsed speech. Damn, I cried, which I didn’t want to be seen doing.

The stupid people next door must be away. Blinds are pulled shut, no car in the driveway. No head-banging music tonight. Just a stupid load of bricks neatly stacked on the veranda. Sharon uses it as a seat. Must be hard on her arse, but then it’s so fat it must act like a cushion.

Date: Saturday, 15 October, 2011

Three days after the funeral and the bunch of parents have disappeared. The only action has been an odd incident next door. I saw a couple of men digging a hole under the tree. The neighbours are so weird that this doesn’t faze me.

What does faze me is the persistence of the couple from Social Security.

“Hello, Michael, my name is Marnie and this is Tom.”

She looks like she knits in her spare time and he looks like he wears a lot of it. The sloppy knitted hat and sweater, obviously askew at the collar are a dead give-away. And this is their third visit since the funeral.

“Michael, we’re here to make sure that all is okay.”
There is a long pause. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to say something.

“Okay, then, we’re just waiting to see if there has been anyone, such as a family member appointed as a Guardian in your parent’s will.” Marnie looks up at me with concerned eyes. I wonder if that’s why she got the job of talking so much. It has to be the eyes.

She goes on and on.

There would be a couple around later to help me pack and to take me to a home until it was all sorted out.

Did I have any relatives or know of any?

No.

Were there any close friends mum and dad had?

No.

Was there a family who I knew of that was close?

No.

And that was it really. Marnie, with her concerned eyes and Tom, with his knitted clothes, asked a few more questions and then left. I took them out to the street just as my parents would have done. I even waved to them as they drove away.

I looked over into next door’s front yard on my way back. The brick seat was still there, but one of the bricks was missing. It was under the big tree as if it had crawled over to get away from the fat arsed woman who lived there.

The weird thing was that I had never seen it there before.

The men were there again tonight digging. They didn’t stay there long, but it was roughly around the same spot as the brick.

Date: Monday 17 October, 2011

Marnie and Tom’s couple arrived the next morning. They knocked on the door but I didn’t answer. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Maybe start afresh somewhere. Change my name or something.

Shit, I’m doing that thing I hate. People who say things like “someday”, or “I’m going to do something”, or “it’ll be fine somewhere”.

It might be nice at this place they would be taking me to. Lots of other kids, some little, some big, and not one of them knew me, or anything about me.

The couple came back an hour later, this time knocking louder and calling my name.

What did they want?

And again they returned a couple of hours after that with their concerned voices (I couldn’t see their eyes).

This was definitely the business side of the government department. No handmade clothes here. The man wore a crisp dark blue suit and striped tie, while the woman had on a dark brown jacket and black woollen skirt. On first innocent glance, no one would guess that their real job was picking up children.

Anyway, I’m not a child. And don’t want to be anymore.

My final visitor for the night was a policeman just before dusk. He called my name again and I even saw him asking the neighbours further down the street questions.

I knew they were talking about me because a number of times during the conversation they would look over at the house and shake their heads. Mr Beatty at number 24, even pointed a finger,

Date: Tuesday 18 October, 2011

Late last night I sneaked over to the neighbours. I could make out the brick easily thanks to the street light nearby.

I lifted and had a look. Some things you just don’t expect.

I think this might be the last entry into this diary.

I did seriously think about taking up Marnie and Tom’s offer. It may have been nice to just go and find another family. There may be a brother or sister I never had; they may even have an Auntie Ree and Uncle Ron.

But I had just lost a family; I didn’t want to go find another one. Not right now anyway.

A kid at school said that losing your parents was like you’re swimming around in the sea and doing shit and all, while your parents are in a boat nearby. And every time you get into trouble they throw a lifebuoy out for you.

Only now there’s no one there, no lifebuoy; and for the first time you realise how deep the sea is.

I know. Sounds stupid doesn’t it.

I don’t think I ever really knew my parents. They were just “there”, wherever “there” is, that’s where they were.

My dad never played cricket with me, we didn’t kick a ball together. There was just this one occasion, mum had been in hospital and dad and I were going to pick her up.

They both cried as they hugged, like they had really missed each other. I just remember babies crying through the ward and flowers everywhere.

As we were driving home, Mum asked Dad to stop at the lake. She had this really sad face.

She walked down to the bank and just stared out at the water for a really long time. Then she picked up a stone and in one throw skipped it across the lake.

In that first go she got the stone to skip 6 times. I had never seen her do anything like that.

She looked back at me and a smile slowly broke through, “Do you reckon you can beat that Michael?”

For the next hour, we must have looked a sight, skipping stones across the lake and laughing.

On the last page there was a torn off report from the local newspaper. It was the final entry in the diary.

Dated: Friday 22 October, 2011

Police catch burglars responsible for a spate of robberies.

Today, Police caught two men who have been linked to a spate of burglaries in the town. Police say they had a tip off from an anonymous source who pointed them to a house in Alphington where the pair had been hiding their loot at the bottom of a tree.

Police Sargent Negroy said “We believe we have apprehended the duo who has been involved in some 20 burglaries of shops, homes, factories and individuals.”

Appearing in the Magistrates Court, both men stated their innocence claiming that someone had taken “over two thirds of their stash”. The figure found has not been officially released so we are not able to comment on it. However, having heard a number, it does seem strange that so many burglaries netted so little return.

Either crime doesn’t pay, or because of what has often been called “under the table” payments, or “off the books” transactions, we may never know what the real figure actually was. Or who actually took it.