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1 What I did on my holidays by Meaghan Rose Aged 10
I ran away from home. Look, I know that I am supposed to tell the story in the order that it happened, but that’s what I really did.
I had to, didn’t I? They were all so angry about the car. And taking Aiden to the hospital on my own.
It was Christmas Day – or night, actually – and they had all been drinking all afternoon. All of them.
Dad always starts a beer while he gets the BBQ ready. His parents had already had some before they arrived because they don’t like Mum’s parents. Mum’s parents don’t like big family get togethers so they had a few before they arrived. Mum had one to settle her nerves, she says. You can always tell that they’ve been drinking before they arrive. They get all mushy and kissy and yukky. And there’s the smell.
I couldn’t trust anyone else, could I? To drive I mean. And Aiden needed help.
Aiden hates the kisses too, he hid in the tree house. That’s where the trouble began – where the bees were. When he’s bitten, he swells up like a balloon and could burst. You are not allowed to let your little brother burst.
He looked like a beetroot and could hardly talk. I couldn’t tell anyone – they’d know he’d been hiding, so I shoved him into the car, grabbed the keys and took him to the hospital. Its an automatic. Anyone can drive one of those.
They were all so angry when they found out. Apparently, I shouldn’t drive the car, even though I saved Aiden.
I didn’t get far. Next time I’ll get further.
2 “Kind Regards, Lucas Black”
What did I do on the holidays?
Well, Miss, firstly, that is a lay-ass teacher way of keeping the classroom quiet. I know it. You know it. So, let’s just know it together. I see you, don’t think I haven’t noticed your constant glancing at your phone, as though it might come to life and bite you. Your jiggling left foot, your tapping pencil. Last year, you were all about the bright colours; a cartoon character compared to this new, ninja look. I think, Miss, what you did on the holidays might prove more interesting. So, I offer you this.
“What YOU Did on the Holidays” by Lucas Black.
Your mates celebrated the end of the school year without you. You had other things to do. Things that involved the re-emergence of a family connection. A brother that you dearly loved once, but had lost contact with because you had become a respectable teacher while he had become a “criminal element”. He turned up at your house didn’t he, desperate for shelter. He took advantage of your confusion at his sudden appearance at three am and your desperate need to keep the noise down for the sake of the neighbours.
“Come in, come in,” you said.
He was skinnier than you remembered. Bearded. Not like the teenager you had last seen. You talked through the night about old times, ignoring the why and how of his finding you, despite your move from city to country, despite your change of name. He slept on your couch. While he slept you flicked on the news. You saw a police identikit just like him. I saw that too. And I saw him, glancing through the curtains.
My terms are simple. I keep your secret. You give me excellent grades.
Kind Regards, Lucas Black.
3 Still Got It
It was a caricature of a summer, with fearsome warm winds. No-one could talk about anything else.
“Gonna be a scorcher” they’d say, or “hot enough for you?”
Our fire warning sign was permanently red.
“Still High!” I exclaimed, on the only day of cooler weather. We were driving to town, with the aircon off. You rested your arm on the open window, and said the people who change the sign deserve a holiday, too. There was a shimmer on the golden fields. Out here, we were connoisseurs of yellow.
Daylesford was invaded by warrior tourists, in search of things to buy and eat.
“Coffee, in this heat?” you moaned, “No way.”
In Vincent Street they ate piles of pumpkin and fetta, heirloom tomatoes and avocado, drizzled with sticky black stuff. Jaws moved stolidly, eyes stared blankly ahead. Like sleepwalkers, you said.
“Let’s get out of here,” you suggested. I nodded, slipping my hand in yours. We drove home lazily, between giant sprinklers that doused roads and paddocks alike.
“Don’t the birds love it,” I remarked, full of placid goodwill. You didn’t answer but placed your hand on my thigh. We would have taken a dirt track, once, found a clearing and lain down there. Our bodies would have melded, oblivious to stones below, and flies above.
At home, we banished the cat from our bedroom.
“Want the fan on?” you asked, as you undid the shirt we bought in Byron.
“Sure,” I said, smiling and lifting my t-shirt over my head. We looked like ageing hippies.
Your hands were full of warmth, and when you touched my face, I could smell ripening tomatoes.
Afterwards we dozed, listening to the pumps throbbing on the reservoir, woke as the cicadas started their summer screaming.
4 In Great Company
Jack and Charlie are two of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, easy going and living a quiet life by the coast. I spent a week with them during my holidays in their beautiful home, with its large rambling garden and sea view. During my stay I was assigned the role of cook; a task I readily accepted for they were easy to please. Not being fussy eaters, they preferred a simple diet of basic food, as did I.
On the day I arrived they were excited to see me; met me at the door and immediately indicated they’d like to go for a walk and show me the neighbourhood. So off we went, walking past the houses alight with Christmas decorations. They had celebrated Christmas day at home; lunch was a simple affair, with a few added treats, then they slept away the afternoon. Today they were full of beans.
As we strolled along the streets, exploring the gardens, I told them of my Christmas day, and how for the first time, I decided to have a quiet time on my own, and spent the day at home enjoying the peace and solitude. No big cook up, no rushing around at the last minute, and no mountains of Christmas presents. Just the simple pleasure of the day.
They made no comment but their gentle eyes said it all, for their needs were modest and their pleasures few. Spending time with them I sensed the contentment they felt in the simplicity of their daily lives.
The week passed quickly; we walked each day, sharing stories, as I chattered and they listened. I wished for more, but finally the family returned, greeting their much loved dogs with joy. Sadly my housesitting with Jack and Charlie had come to an end.
5 Celebrating Australia Day in Syria
I hope my letter reaches you. You’re probably wondering why I haven’t answered your regular calls and still think I’m in Maroubra with Geoff; I’m not, & it’s much colder where I am.
Truth is, passports ready, I took a flight to Rome (too many Catholic nuns & priests). Got a bus to Istanbul via Romania (fairytale countryside) and Croatia (got by on English). From Istanbul (crowded, noisy & frenetic) booked a tour that took me close to the Syrian border. Jumped the tour at Kilis, Turkish police in pursuit 3 days later, by which time I’d reached A’zaz & made contact with Hashim (a minion from IS).
Did 3 days of basic training with suicide vests (duds) & made a video you may have seen on TV (just visualize al-Gary sans beard & kufiya). Sent to Damascus on mission to eliminate Bashar al-Assad at a State function. Entry was easy with US passport & letter of recommendation from Trump (all fakes). Sidled up to al-Assad & released button on my tailored suicide vest (dud!!). Left after a few single malts only to be arrested for public drunkenness later & thrown in jail.
Jail is where I met this whining Aussie by the name of Neil Prakash. He’s driving me nuts! I’m no longer sure whether he’s Australian or Cambodian (he does have an Aussie accent). I let slip I’m from Hawthorn; he’s been at me about Springvale ever since!
Mum, you’ve got to help me, please.
I’m getting to know the guards (one’s from Marrickville & a former fixer for the ALP); all it takes to get me out is money.
Mummy, I’m begging, please send $2000 in cash. I need to get some distance between me and Prakash.
Your loving son,
‘How much further is it?’ whines my little sister Izzy, tugging on my hand as we push our way through the Melbourne city centre.
‘Nearly there,’ I assure her, giving her hand a squeeze.
The streets have come alive with excited chatter and the scent of fried food, as we wait for the transforming moment after dusk. People have already stationed themselves in front of their chosen buildings, anticipating the minute that the city will flood with colour.
‘My feet hurt,’ insists Izzy, stopping to raise a sandalled foot towards me.
‘Come on, Iz. Don’t you want to see what I’ve done with my holidays?’
‘Holidays are over.’
‘Not for uni students,’ I reply smugly.
‘Mum says you’re always on holidays.’
I ignore this, and grip Izzy’s hand tighter as I pull her through the throngs of people, dodging prams and dogs on leashes. Music thumps from all directions, as restaurants and food trucks swell with crowds.
The sun disappears, and a chill descends over the city. The hours of designing my artwork in front of the air conditioner over the summer holidays, while my friends tanned themselves at beaches or took refuge in dark movie theatres, has led to this moment.
We make it to the university just as the darkness is really starting to set in. I buy Izzy a churro to keep her pacified while we wait for the projection of my work. This was supposed to be a fun assessment task to start the year, but my heart is pumping faster now than it ever has in an examination hall. Izzy pulls my phone from my sweaty hands and starts recording as the first artwork is illuminated with a flash of colour on the façade of the building.
The reimagining of the city begins.