Rottnest Recollections

Jasper – skinny, ribby, already sun burnt by the weakened sun on the first day. Out under cloudy skies there is beach cricket. Wobbly driftwood for stumps. Rashies stretched to knee length dresses. Then a strange rain shower. Never before in November. Short, fast, but wet all the same. A hurried retreat to the chalets. Rain pock-marks the ocean. The children take turns to have a meltdown. Bolognese is being cooked all along the lane. Disobedient children have the law laid down; No quokka hunting for them. Evan asks if we intend shooting the quokkas we find. Smell the frying onions. Men playing twelve bar blues on the ukes.


Young boys go past on the shore with brand new bikes. In the salt water. Their wheels make a delicious noise on the hard, wet sand. They leave a trail as if pushed through setting cement. We raise our eyebrows. We all know it will be bad. Minutes later a clothed woman is chasing them down the beach. Next comes a father. Marching the boys back, wheeling their bikes now, one still manages to get it in the sea. Lap lap splash – a wave on the wheel. Then the father – “I told you to fricking keep it out of the fricking water.” – using all his will power not to swear as he passes us. Other adults. He has used it all up. He yanks on an upper arm, jerking the boy and bike further from the water’s edge, and then slaps the boy hard across the back of his legs. The boy is felled. An axe to a tree. To his knees he drops on the sand, buckling over. Wincing with pain perhaps, but with humiliation more.


Sam is five. He has cherub cheeks. His eyelashes are pale tipped. He loves Star Wars. On the nightly Quokka hunt he tells onlookers sipping wine on their balcony – “Jedi Business. Go back to your drinks.” Tim buys him a soft quokka toy, instantly disliked by White Ted, but friends with the more amenable Blue Ted. White Ted is grounded for 14 days for trying to kill quokka ( Sam explains – bears eat meat and quokkas are meat ), but the bad bear won’t stay in his bag. White Ted keeps undoing the zippers and needs to be given to Tim in order to remain grounded.


White caps signal the increasing wind. The once peaceful, calm ocean turns to dirty rough water. On the horizon grey clouds stamp down like stained feet. Sam, pale face, stays back in the chalet with me while the others take on the head wind on their bikes. He is entrenched in war fare on Graham’s iphone, using his thumbs, dexterously, straw bale hair and strawberry blushed cheeks. He is pouting while he works; “what the hell”,  his expletive when war doesn’t go his way. Outside I can hear a father say, “keep swimming, keep swimming,” urging children, stick-like and freezing to continue on.






8 Replies to “Rottnest Recollections”

  1. well – not everyone saw- it was the kind of thing the writer in me was on watch for – but it was like the dad had reached boiling point and was going to blow somehow – watching it, it felt inevitable


  2. Did anyone feel moved to suggest to an exasperrated parent not to hit a child? It would be like stepping in front of a charging snark, I imagine.(there are more creative devices to inflict a ‘lesson’ on children) Maybe a short, sharp, ‘slap’ is the kindest?


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