## Vinculum

Today I learnt what was a vinculum.

It is the kind of thing you might learn when you help an eleven year old with his maths prior to a test. Yes I remembered what was a denominator and even a numerator but I had no idea the line that separated them was called a vinculum.

To spellcheck the word does not exist.

To google it is a tendon before it is something in mathematics.

Lately I have learnt how to do factor trees. It is something brand new to me. Not quite as much fun as learning that leaves transpire water from their surface just the same way we breathe. But. It’s maths. Quite fun really, but something I feel I have never done before. Did factor trees exist in the 1970’s? Where were factor trees when I was in grade seven? Between the rise of the white board and the demise of the blackboard did the triumphant factor tree emerge? Surely maths doesn’t change. Then, between straw-sucks of a liquid cereal breakfast, he tells me two negatives multiplied make a positive number. Are you sure? This rings a bell. I will have to check since I don’t do negative numbers. Pass me the iPad again. How is it that two negatives multiplied make a positive? Please don’t ask me why. My mind is spinning. It is only 7.30am. I wonder why negative numbers exist. You can’t have minus three apples any more than you can have minus six.

Then there is the school tie. If you want to wear a jumper – and it is cold outside – you need to wear a tie. But it looks ridiculous. No it doesn’t. Everyone will look ridiculous. It feels wrong. You’ll get used to it. Scream. Scream.

Under my breath and not under my breath – God save me. Save me from myself and my pettiness. Just wear the tie, so you can wear the jumper. Please.

If a submarine is 160 metres below the surface and then rises 90 metres and then submerges again by 170 metres how far is it below the surface? In my underlining you can see my purpose. I want it in cement. I want it drummed in. If I rub hard enough, underline often enough, say it louder it works, right? It makes me hate myself.

He trudges across the oval with the heaviest of chiropractor approved school bags. Must weigh ten kilos. He has the legs of a stick insect. There is dew on the oval. I call out looking good and a smirk creeps out. Don’t let her see it. Turn your body in case. Your morning track across the oval, like a giant snail trail.

I so wish the vinculum was just a tendon.

## Dealing with Disappointment

I decide to ring the Department of Education because it is mid way through August and we are supposed to hear about Jasper’s application in August. I don’t really expect to be given a result on the phone, and so when the person says, “I can check, what’s his name?” I am unprepared. I feel my heart wobble. It comes free from its attachments inside my chest. Name given – a pause – “It appears he won’t be being offered a place in the first round,” comes the reply.

I close my eyes. My head screams, NO. My heart slides downwards towards my stomach. The disappointment is visceral really. I have my own disappointment, but more than that, I have a son to tell. He has already become very attached to the idea of studying visual arts at the school. He will take it hard.

Graham is away, and so it falls to me to deliver the news. I could wait till Graham got home, in a week, but that seems deceitful – to know for all that time and not let on.

I wait till we are home, after school, in our kitchen. He has a very crunchy ANZAC biscuit in his hand and his back to me when I begin. “I rang the department today to ask about the visual arts and I am sorry to say they said you didn’t get in.” When I start the sentence he turns to look at me, a slight smile, and I can see from his expression he thinks the sentence is a good news one, but as I get through to its second half, it dawns on him that this is not a good news sentence at all and his face changes. It crumples into tears. I go to comfort him. To hug. He pulls away and rushes from the room.

I don’t follow him immediately. I wait in the lounge, by myself, wondering how long do I wait for. What words of comfort can I offer? I know you’re disappointed, I rehearse in my head.  He is not in his room. He is not in the study. He is not in my room – that I can see. He is in my wardrobe – behind the clothes – crouched in a huddle – beneath dresses and jackets and the confetti of shoes. I can see his sneakers and in his hand the ANZAC, untouched. It is a safe hiding place. Go away.

I close the wardrobe door and leave him in the dark. I’m so sorry…

I leave him.

To myself – Maybe don’t eat the ANZAC in there..

I leave him some more.

Still hiding.

He comes out.

He is outside in the courtyard, bouncing a ball, and I am in the kitchen making a cup of tea. I view him through the window, across the sink. Skinny, lanky, always moving. I see a big tear fall from his face without hitting his cheek, like a rain drop falling to the ground. I am crying too and he sees me. He comes inside. Let’s take the dog out. We walk the dog. My solution to all woes. The road by the port is closed and we must walk by the railway. Broken glass. The slap of skateboards. Still beautiful. It is a day like any other to the dog. There is winter grass to pee on. There are urine soaked telegraph poles to sniff at. There are homeless begging in the mall. Jasper asks what has happened to his career? He is eleven. “We’ll just have to show them what a great artist they missed out on teaching,” I say. We eat churros dipped in melted chocolate.

## Hockey Dogs

Hockey training takes place on an oval in Fremantle. It is a multi-use oval with cricket nets and clubrooms shared by both the cricket and the hockey fraternities. For the cricket families it would be a refuge from the heat. Somewhere to get a cool drink and away from the sun. For the hockey mums it offers warmth and dryness.

The building is made from dark brown brick from the seventies or eighties. A building made when we watched Countdown and listened to ABBA. The textured masonry makes you think of a thick slice of chocolate sponge cake. It makes you long for a hot cup of tea. Inside old wooden honor boards with names in gold lettering line the walls. An asterisk beside a name signals the person is deceased. There are the ubiquitous stacks of stackable plastic chairs. Many families have spent hours huddled in here while young ones take to the turf. Already I can imagine being inside when it is cold out and the Juniors are playing, regardless of the weather.

Parents drive up with kids who exit high cars like horse-riders leaping off steeds – gripping mesh bags with their armour (shin pads and mouth guards) – hockey sticks like lances brandished by jousting knights. (Do you sense already I have sat here too long?)

Most parents leave. They have stuff to do. So do I. I could grocery shop. At least I could get toilet paper. I could clean my house. Instead I stay to watch. The children must run down the steep embankment to the field. It’s the kind of steepness you can’t walk down. It makes you run, like you are falling over yourself. The field is marked up with hula-hoops and cones for dribbling and pushing a hockey ball around. I watch from the upper bank by the car park and the charity bins, by the side of the chocolate sponge cake wall. An old swing set waits to be swung on.

Other cars pull up and dogs pile out. They are as exuberant as any child. Some dogs come to the park with owners on foot from nearby houses. It’s that time of night – dog walking time. Some owners bring plastic tennis ball throwers while others bring a tug rope. Some bring just their pooch (and a pocketful of yellow poop bags).

In one afternoon – a puppy dachshund, a Siberian husky, a newfie, two bostons, a bunch of poodles, a border collie, a blue stuffy, two whippets, a pit bull.

The dog walkers take to the perimeter. These are dogs used to the hockey. They don’t go for the ball. They’re not spooked by hoards of teenage girls, ponytails bobbing, running up and down the banks for fitness. The dogs have eyes for one another and perhaps their own ball. Politely, they sidle up and do the nose to tail greeting. They prance off. They ask another dog for a game of chase. A play bow is offered. Invitations are made. There is zooming and frolicking of the most infectious kind. Smile-inducing dog play. In a corner of the park a man flies a kite and the poodles are off and over; launching themselves into the air, barking, necks arched backwards and noses pointed up, wondering what that strange bird in the sky is doing so damned high.

As the sun begins to dip the swallows are out flying low across the grass hoping for an insect. They make for good chasing. They are, of course, uncatchable. It has never stopped a dog. If you have the energy to run, then run. If your legs hold out, keep running. Never give up, no matter that thing you are aiming to catch is a bird. Ceaseless trying – is a dog’s great attribute.

## Imagine

Imagine you are ten years old and deciding what to do with your life. Butcher, baker, candlestick maker. You have an unimaginable future ahead of you. You cannot perceive of an illness or accident that would prevent you from doing anything. You haven’t been on this planet a long time and yet you feel you know a helluva lot. You know you like pastry. You know it’s not wise to live off it. You know you like the rain. You know you aren’t quite brave enough to do anything crazy on your skateboard. Your parents tell you loads of stuff in the wizened way of old folks. Follow your dreams. But your dreams are of running. Someone chasing. Selecting for your future has somehow become the thing to think about, all of the time. How is it that they can suck the excitement out of anything with their calculated predictions, their carefully put forward analysis? They don’t want you to make the same mistakes as them.

You wonder if you are some kind of mistake they made.

Sometimes you feel like a piece of play dough. The parents are big-fisted toddlers who are pawing at you. They make you this way. Then they make you another. A thumb to the side of the face. They don’t like what they see. They roll you into a ball and try all over again. You are getting sandy and dried out. But despite their attempts at sculpture, you are already made. Back in your plastic tub you are bursting forth with your own decisions, little arms bud from the body, thin athletic legs spring out.

The lid pops off and the little play dough boy is off and running. Think; the Ginger Bread Man.

They can’t stop where you go now or what you do. You might get flattened. You might dry out. Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t stop me I’m the Ginger Bread Man.

I used to buy him a Ginger Bread Man every Friday from Annie’s bread stall in the market. In a white paper bag I delivered it to school at pick up time. Smartie eyes. He ate his head off first. I called the woman Annie every week for years. I felt as if I knew her. Then one day I heard her called Janice by another customer. I was mortified. How had I been calling her Annie all these years and she had never corrected me? I asked her. Is your name really Janice? Yes, she said. But to you, I am Annie. I like being Annie. Despite this I started to call her Janice. Every time I said it, we smiled. When the shop finally closed she came out behind her counter and we hugged like old friends; a moment between floury, bountiful baker and loyal customer. I had tears in my eyes. No more weekly Ginger Breads for my boy.

On the radio I hear an interview with the man who is the designer of the Academy Award Envelope. As a child he imagined being the man to design the folded paper encasing the name of and the Oscar goes to. What kind of child dreams that dream?

A visit to a high school makes the play dough boy look small and squeaky. Large boys with hairy legs and deep voices, men really, lope around the courtyards. What has happened to teenagers? So large. The girls, too. Shorty shorts with giraffe-long legs. Hairless, naturally. Lipstick disguised as lip-gloss. Can the ten year old see himself here? Will he get lost between the science room and the art department? Something about my own high school experience bubbles near the surface. It’s scary not knowing people. It’s scary being small. What if no one likes you? What if when you speak, you say something that other people laugh at?

But there are many differences between this high school and mine. We were nearly all white. Girls. Here there are Sikhs with turbans, African, Asians, Indians, Indigenous and us. It is the United Nations. A small blonde white kid popping his way out of his plastic tub. Stretching his legs, rolling over his bowling arm, finding a friend to talk to over lunch. Now I have a place to imagine him when he is away from home at high school. Sitting on a limestone wall around a chess court in the quadrangle engulfed in difference, all made to feel equal.

## Missing Jasper

Jasper is away.

A long way away.

He is across a very big continent. He is in a different time zone. He is not with either of his parents. It feels weird. He rings and his voice is so young. He is inquiring when he speaks to us. He wants to know whether we have seen movies and gone to out to dinner. We have instructions not to see Jack Reacher without him, but it is okay to see foreign films. He wants us to have a good time without him. Like he is worrying about us. The same way we are worrying about him. Mutual vexation. We try to be as descriptive as we can about the very ordinary things we are doing while he is away. There is a niggle knowing child-free time is precious and we should be doing more. We should be going out later than late. What drugs could we still take and fully recover from? But that need is gone, it seems. We should be doing more than seeing the early evening session of The Life Of Pi followed by Indian food. Home in time to catch the end of the tennis.

We have bought a new Kombi (new to us, but still forty years old) and after taking down the inside cupboards a line of rust in the roof is revealed. For a long time water has pooled here and eaten away at the metal. It is a rusty, gaping hole where there should be solid, comforting metal. Instead there is unsupportive air. She was supposed to be rust-free. We are disappointed because we liked the guy. After all he is going to live in Bali and teach Yoga and surfing. We trusted him when he said he had cut all the rust out. Why did we trust him? We chastise ourselves for being gullible. There was no way of seeing the rust. But.

It will cost a lot to fix. More than we imagined. And first we need to find someone capable and willing to do the job without ripping us off.

When Jasper saw the Kombi he fell in love with it immediately. Because it has a pop top. It is a place for him to sleep. It is up high, above his parents and a long way from creepy-crawlies when you are camping. It is the ultimate cubby. We were infected by his enthusiasm. Suddenly I am dreaming of travelling around Australia and home-schooling. I am thinking of abandoning the house, researching the dog-friendly camping sites and high-tailing it.

There is something about a Kombi that turns children into urchins. Suddenly they love the dirt and sticks and simple things. They no longer need ipads or game boys. The possibility of adventure, the thought of no showers, the snuggling under a fleece-lined sleeping bag on top of a still warm engine. What’s not to like…

It would solve our high school issues. No need to decide on a school even. School of Kombi.

But it doesn’t stop me pouring over all the web sites for all the schools. I am researching scholarships and GATE testing. I am finding out the difference between academic extension programs and Independent Public schools. I am wondering whether Catholic education is suitable for heathens. I am looking up school boundaries and contemplating renting in Shenton Park just to get into Shenton College. I am trying to recall the name of relatives that have attended elite boys schools. Would their name help? I have a brick on my chest.

I go to the pool and swim. It is something I haven’t done in a long time. It got lost when my parents got ill. It was the first thing to fall by the way side. Even though it is only half an hour, it was a half hour I couldn’t seem to get back. It hid itself from me. Then it had began to take sneaky peeks at me from behind a sofa.Today I found it. Cornered it and held fast. Graham suggested coffee in town, but I stuck with the swim. I had trouble locating my bathers. Would the lycra have bubbled away? Would they still fit? Just. I couldn’t remember how much money I needed to locate in coins for the entrance fee. I know there will be new girls at the counter. Maybe they will want to see my concession. I feel more blind without my glasses than I use to. I will never recognise anyone who chooses to say Hi.

I feel my body, heavy and sluggish, over the first one hundred metres. The rhythm needs to be found. Muscle memory recovers itself. I don’t push it. I just roll the arms over. I am trying to rock my upper body more in an attempt to not hurt my shoulder. It is the kind of thing the over-forty swimmers need to do. I breathe deep and slow. With each lap serenity returns. Ah yes. The water. Giving back. Like the life source it is. A swimmer passes me and leaves a trail of silver bubbles sparkling like sequins flowing from a ball-gown. They are saying follow me into a space. Come with me hither. The ladies are doing their deep-water aquarobics beside my lane. Their bodies are round, festive baubles, reminding me of Christmas and maraschino cherries. They have yellow floats around their waists, making them buoyant. I think of The Life of Pi and the turbulent ocean. Of his swimming to the life raft. Of the tiger. So fierce, so beautiful. The cherries’ legs are working hard, like they are peddling an invisible bike. Above the water their heads model hats and sunglasses and their air is fogged by the cloying scent of their makeup and perfume. Even at eight in the morning. But it is good exercise and who knows when you may need to swim that little bit harder to reach the shore or the life raft. I just mosey along. Given the need to reach the raft I may just go down with the boat. My laps = No rush. Not going anywhere. Up and down and back again. Losing myself in the monotonous stroke and the motion. Not counting the laps, because it is too taxing and means I can’t day dream. Mesmerised by the blueness of the sky.

## Neighbours

We live on a dead-end. At the end of the road is a park. Three federation workers cottages, built-in 1905, border the grassy reserve where the council has planted paper barks, and then tried to kill them repeatedly by ring barking their base with rampant whipper snippering. They struggle on. The houses have seen many young lives grow within. The wide jarrah boards of the hallways have been indoor cricket pitches. The verandahs have been taken off and put back on again. There is a limestone wall and beyond that the playing fields. There are drunks and homeless, dog walkers and legitimate park users. Over the years the park has seen a lot too – a murder even and much fornication. But we have the mown lawn in front of our houses mostly to ourselves. It is the playground of our children and our hounds. Murphy snorts amongst the fallen fig tree leaves. In the winter I find the last of the sun and sit in it while Jasper kicks the football to himself. The paper barks are his goal posts. He is Ablett, Ballantyne, Betts. Always kicking the winning goal in the dying seconds of the game.

We are awaiting the arrival of other children back from school. Keep a look out Mum, Jasper suggests to me. They will be meandering slowly down the hill.

For the children of our neighbours have become a tribe. Three boys and three girls, including a baby who knows not what she is in for yet.

We are the neighbours. Four couples. Some are nudging forty, others closer to fifty. We all work but some like it less, and do as little as possible. There seems a lot of time for ukulele, banjo, Mad Men, coffee bean roasting, Breaking Bad, foreign language lessons, Pilates class, cervical disc extrusion surgery, banana bread making, vegetable growing and the deep and discerning discussion of the pros and cons of all of the above. At the end of the weekend we converge in the shared space of the red cement driveway. The last house on Shuffrey is part of our tribe. In its front yard it grows the vegetables. Corn has been replaced by Broad Beans. In the summer the large Lemon Scented gum provides shade. Now we seek out the winter sun and try to stay out of the wind. Men are pulled away from their cleaning car meditation and women emerge from the house. No-knead bread has been left to rise. A thermomix is making the béchamel sauce, without the need for stirring. School clothes are flapping on the lines. The mini has been detailed with stickers since her paint job. She now has her Mayfair title back above her bumper. The late seventies BMW 635 is being prettied for sale. The dogs are let out. Stan and Murph have some rambunctious play-fighting to do. I have returned from work in a strikingly unpolished and dirty Subaru. Sometimes there is tea and cake. More often there is beer and wine. A high chair in the driveway; and the baby can be fed spag bog here too.

Sally is arriving home after the young girls’ ballet class. From the cavernous insides of a Prado peel two giggling soft pink prima ballerinas. They have ballet flats and leotards and each has a sparkle on their cheek for their good pas de deux today. Marshmallow pink tutus. Their different shades of blonde are pulled back into identical pony tails. Boys erupt from around the side of the house. They have shooting equipment. Numerous Nerfs. Jasper is the eldest of the tribe, at ten years old, and the ages flow down from there. It is as if he has five younger siblings. He has a younger brother, three years below, and then the twin sisters and another younger brother and finally the baby, crawling. Jasper is the one making up the games, climbing the walls, jettisoning the missiles, putting the tennis racket on the car port roof. The next boy is not far behind. The girls form a tight bond. They like to draw and create. They like to change outfits and help their mothers. The boys are busy spying on them, hiding from them, escaping from them, teasing them, making them cry. The smallest boy, finger nails painted sky blue, would like to keep up with the bigger boys, but they are often too fast for him and sometimes he is left standing in the driveway, wondering which way they went, holding his well loved Tiger and pondering if perhaps he should play with the girls, who after all, are closer in age and not as quick. It is his dilemma.

For us – the parents of the single, oldest boy, we are gifted a bigger family. Jasper has siblings. Almost. He has someone to kick with, to boss, to look out for, to take care of, to be bossed by, to trade with, to be burdened by. He has someone under the duvet with him on the couch as they all watch Robots into the night. Someone snuggling up, someone pushing a bare foot into his ribs. It helps assuage the guilt over not providing him with siblings of his own. He has the neighbours…and the very best of dogs.

## No More Montessori

When people who have never sent their kids to a Montessori school tell you Montesorri kids are weird, or how much they love Montessori despite never being part of a school with that system, it makes you want to…

Everyone’s an expert on what a child needs.

A child should know what’s it like in the real world, someone says, expounding the virtues of a competitive environment.

The pros and cons rattle about in my head, that feels empty of all else but the two opposing views; one suggesting kids should follow their own path, blazoning it themselves, and one saying children need their path illuminated for them.

Some mothers get my angst. Especially Montessori mothers. They too wish for the control experiment child. The I-dream-of-Jeannie style child suddenly blinked into two. One raised this way; one the other. See which turns out best. A test tube baby in the purest sense.

But short of this there is just giving the other system a go.

We walk the long hill. It is at the point of impossibility for me in my wheelchair. It is long and steep. A limestone wall, deteriorating, is on our right. Convict built. Already Graham has constructed a story how the hole chiseled in its mortar was made by the bushranger Moondyne Joe. Arm muscles are burning. I can do it. If I have to. Two crossings. Lollipop men – mid sixties – swarthy Portuguese? Dogs are tethered to the fence. Blue Heeler. Schnauzer. Chocolate Labradoodle. Murphy joins the mutts that wait.

Jasper asks me not to come into the classroom. But I want to meet the teacher. Please, I won’t embarrass you, I promise.

Just being me is enough. I have to excuse myself past a group of young boys. The corridor is not wide enough for them and me. Is Jasper hoping they think I am with someone else? Please believe she belongs to someone else. The boys are maybe 10 years old. In their huddle they are tanned, even more so because of their gleaming white shirts. February white.

At the desk sits the teacher. She has a gaggle of young girls around her. All leaning in close. Taking in the smell of her. Girls love their teacher. One girl wears her art shirt; a man’s old business shirt, oversized with sleeves rolled up, ready to get dirty. The teacher and I handshake. We smile widely, warmly at one another and I say I will catch up with her later, when she has time. I don’t want to seem demanding, strange, a Montessori mother. I notice her lines about her mouth – like she smiles a lot and I think this is a good sign.

The room is jammed with desks. I would not get around them they are so close. I imagine people squeezing their way through the maze of tables and pencils falling to the floor as one is bumped. On the uneven boards the pencils will roll and keep rolling. Excuse me. Under the desks I hunt for the pencils, but they are gone. The sound of rolling lead. Desks are upending, papers are falling to the floor. A domino effect of tipping tables. Pencils on the loose. Sliding between the boards. Gone. For it is a small, small desk. No spreading out. No room for loose pencils. Elbows almost touching. Nit city. Close enough for cheating. Close enough for note passing.

Breathe.

Outside again and a trip to reception to hand in a form about Jasper’s asthma plan and order more uniform and a wide brimmed hat. Magpies sitting high in ancient gums warble. Wait till we are nesting, they say. In the distance the back of another former Montessori mother can be seen crossing the grass with a child in a brand new uniform two sizes too big. I want to yell out. Here, over here. Come tell me it is okay. Parents cross the bitumen and mill about. Prams galore. A siren sounds to signal the start of the day. It is a sound bursting with urgency. Fire station-loud. Let the day Begin.

## Fighting with Forms

I have been putting off filling in the forms I must attend to on behalf of my mother. After the third attempt at applying for my Dad’s super I feel like giving up. Always in need of certification, or a photocopier. I have given my address for my mother to make it more streamlined so that mail comes straight to me instead of to the nursing home but the super company wants a letter with her residential address on it. Nothing else will do. To forge or not to forge. In the end I must go to Centrelink.

It is raining after all and I cannot walk the dog. I wanted to try a new route near the river. New smells for him. I wanted him to run through weeds, snort in sand, but instead I am driving to Centrelink to queue.

The woman at the computer screen says I can just hand in the form. No I really want to see someone because I am fearful I will not have all the right stuff with me and I want to know. Now that I am doing it I want to make sure it is done. Sitting across from someone real makes me confident it will be recorded.

There’s a wait you know. Forty five minutes at least.

Wish I’d brought my book to read. But it’s okay. It’s Centrelink. There’s always something to see.

A woman with no shoes and what looks like either bird shit or glue in her hair is at the counter next. She has bruises on her calves. I suspect they are from abuse. I think this because she is at Centrelink and I have already labelled her as deprived. She is agitated and stalking around. She trails a cotton shirt. Then she puts this over the top of her puffy jacket. There is definitely something not right with her. She queues. She stops queueing. She asks the room for a pen. I don’t offer her mine because how else will I write about her?

I sit with others waiting in a semi circle around a television where Larry Emdur tells us about great new shopping opportunities. Steam cleaning carpets or pet insurance. Pet insurance seems particularly ridiculous in here. Larry looks exceptionally clean, so rock jawed and white teethed when compared to my fellow Centrelink customers. Most have vinyl rain jackets on. Most have down turned mouths and nobody is smiling enough to see the colour of their teeth, but I suspect not the same sheen as Larry’s.

A woman comes in with a three year old scally wag. She threatens him continuously. He has a shaven head except that the fringe is left long. It is an extremely ugly haircut. She keeps saying, Do you want me to smack you in front of all these people? He is running around out of her reach. Don’t go out there or that big dog will get ya. She wants him to sit down next to her and have his juice and chips that she keeps saying she has. Perhaps they are in the Thomas the Tank engine knapsack. Bribe, threat, bribe, threat. He is zooming. On a run past she grabs him by the neck of the jacket and swings him up onto her lap. She pinches his earlobe and he says, you hurting my ear. She says, Not yours. It’s my ear. I made it.

## Waiting for a Biopsy Result

I am eating toast with strawberry jam and thin slithers of tasty cheese on top. This is something Graham claims to have taught me but I tell him we did it in my family too. He never believes me. The dog is chewing his feet with his incisors. Gnawing at their underside, between the pads, despite his expensive cyclosporin medication. Next door, the neighbour’s new baby cries like a wind up toy. I wonder if she feels the same ineptitude I felt at a baby’s crying. I get a phone call from a woman who used to be vet student in the clinic where I work. She wants me to be a referee for a job she is applying for. She has had two children and hasn’t worked in a while. She also wants my advice on her son. He is four and she thinks he lacks self esteem. I have a son too so perhaps I will know how to help her. How do you make a boy confident in himself, she asks me. I feel like every day is an experiment I am conducting, trying to find the right way, she says. It is like a one take movie making, she says in her Chinese accent. She is wise without knowing how wise she is. I tell her to find something he likes to do and help him to succeed at that. I think it is advice I have stolen from one of the many parenting books I read in those crying years. John Marsden perhaps. I tell her to get him Lego. Her phone call has taken my mind of the fact I am waiting to go to the doctor for a biopsy result. I think it could be the last morning before I start bargaining with God and in a hour everything could be different. I chastise the dog over the continued licking.

PS the result was – it was benign.