One of the sisters has flown home across the continent. They can’t be much further apart and still on the same land mass. Still. The sisters are sisters. She stayed for the garage sale. Perhaps they made enough to cover the price of the skip. But it wasn’t about the money. It was just to get rid of the stuff. Lots remains. Funny how fussy the charities are. They don’t want chipped crockery. Bacteria live there. The sofa can’t have lost its spring. Someone might sue them if, by sitting on it, they injure themselves. Virtually no one will come out and look at the bed. Even after assurances that there are no stains. Not a one. Someone suggests a charity that helps the refugees. But they decline. Paraquad, a charity for wheelchair users, says they will come out. A time is arranged.
The sister, the one in a wheelchair herself, is waiting. She is there on time. She has made sure of it. She is watering the garden to prepare the house for sale. The lawn is crunchy brown in parts. But maybe it can be revived. Green. Buyers like green. It is a long time since she lay on grass. Tyres on turf is not the same thing. Always above and distant. Not really connected. As a child she lay on the lawn. Her midriff showing and the grass spiking her belly. Her fingers delved the dirt and she found the small black beetles that scurried amongst the blades. She called them tickle beetles, because held in the closed fist they squirmed across the skin and tickled the palm. Eventually she let them go. On the grass of the back yard she learnt to do a forward roll. Her head down on the grass, palms pricked by the spikes of buffalo blades, tree bark crunching down the back of your top.
The scheduled time comes and goes. She rings them. They came, apparently, before the allotted time and finding the house empty drove away.
“But I am here now and waiting,” she says. “I have been waiting for you in a house I can no longer bear the sight of. I have been scrubbing skirting boards and vacuuming and I am over it now and I just want you to collect the bed so I can finish the cleaning and go.”
“Well the bed is supposed to be out of the house, you know.”
“No I did not know that,” she answers. “No one told me that. I can’t get it out of the house. I am in a wheelchair!”
“Well the workers can’t enter a house,” she sounds aghast. “Someone should have told you that. Occupational health and safety,” she parrots.
It appears they can only collect the bed, if they deem it collectable at all, from the verge.
The sister is livid. She puts the mobile phone down on her lap and lets the small voice of the woman speak to the air. The woman is asking if she is still there and perhaps they can arrange another time but the sister refuses to hang up the phone or put it to her ear. Like a fly at a sore a small buzz comes from the phone. The woman, she hopes, is exasperated. Suffer, she thinks, suffer.
Suddenly overwhelmed by all that she still has to do and the fact that she has wasted her time and still the bed is sitting in the front room, she is crying in the front garden of the old house. She is screaming obscenities at no one – just the grass and the wilting rose bushes. But a lawnmower man from the neighbouring house is a witness to the woman’s meltdown and is brave enough to cross into the yard and ask if he can help her. She is snotty and bleary-eyed and very unattractive. She probably looks like a crazy.
“It’s okay,” she manages to say, “it’s just someone has let me down, and I am very angry about it.”
June 15th 1964; Alex to Esperance. Left his pipe in car ash tray. Cripple attacked by dog over the road and feathers pulled out galore.
I picture my mother discovering the injured chicken, already a charity case. Cripple. Too slow to escape like the other hens into the safety of the chicken coop. Red on white. A stressed bird. Open beaked. The grass scattered with the bloodied feathers. Does she chase the mongrel dog up the driveway?
June 30th 1964; 10 st 5lbs put on 7lbs – disgraceful
That’s me – the cause of the swelling. The one turning her ashamed of her weight gain.
July 6th 1964; Fay sick. Slight loss liquor. Stay in bed for 2-3 days. Dr Anderson. I sponged her.
Then for the following days she visits the neighbour, three houses down and across the road, a woman she nursed with … Sponged Fay.Sponged Fay. Fay Depressed. Lisa very grizzly. Fay to Devonleigh. ? Miscarriage.
Years later this is the woman who house we go to while our parents go to the movies. She lets us watch her cook, a cigarette always in her hand. She has a piano in the front room and we play on it. She has a teenage son who chases us around the house. We hide under the queen bed in the parents’ room. We watch his feet from beneath the bed. We are in the dark, lying on carpet, breathing hard. He says, “I wonder where those little girls could be?” We are squirming with excitement and fear. I can’t recall him catching us. Richie. We sleep over, top to tail, two to a bed. The sleepout has louvred windows and brown chenille bedspreads. Breakfast is different from home.
July 13th 1964; No word re Fay yet and then two days later Fay lost babe. 8.30pm. Boy. Lived 1/4 hour.
August 1st 1964; Alex bought new Rotary lawn mower. Cut lawn. Cut hedge. Fence made for Lisa side drive.
August 14th 1964; Mama Pulmonary Oedema Fremantle Hospital.
I am about to be born and my mother is losing her mother.
August 18th 1964; Mama clot! very ill. Her writing is clogged with fear. She writes that she visits everyday and she shows slight improvement but that the old woman is very irritable. After another two weeks in Fremantle Hospital her mother’s sister Jean is left to arrange convalescence home.
September 7th 1964; caesarean Nicole born 12.45pm
September 19th 1964; Returned home. Feel jolly weak but will soon recover. 8st 12lbs. And then the diary goes blank. Not another entry all year.
I know her mother doesn’t die till I am about 18 months old. She lingers on with her heart failing in the nursing home. My mother must visit her on the bus with two small children in tow. Fay remains my mother’s friend to this day. She survived a melanoma and a heavy smoking habit. For the remainder of 1964 my mother is too busy to even make her notes. She has a toddler and a baby and a dying mother…