For the story so far, click here
Amber made a snort. “Fucking idiots.”
“I got my story from Colin. He’s only once removed from the source,” Roxy said wisely.
“So after that, I packed Amber upstairs because I knew she wasn’t going to leave her house, and then my boss ordered me to start recording and removing more of the wall. There were three adults in that wall. All of them were completely decayed, just being skeletons. One had a broken bone, each of the people had been buried in a coffin made of the wet lining that is used in bathrooms. The coffins had all been waterproofed very well so that no fluids could have escaped. The bodies were in various stages of decomposition when they were entombed. Behind the exterior wall, we found another three bodies and in the bedroom, there were four. The last one was pretty bad. Forensics tells us that the bodies were all aged between 18 and 30. The Area Commander was stationed here at the time of the disappearances. He found his records on three backpackers who disappeared. Currently, the detectives are tracing the owners of the house at the time, but they have changed their names. There, that is the gory details.”
“What, no dismembered bodies under the floorboards, why did they rip up the boards then,” Roxy protested.
“They wanted to see if there were any clues under the floorboards but the people had just insulated, probably for no other reasons than these old houses are bloody cold in winter. It’s good to see you again Roxy, but I’ve been working long shifts for the past week now so I am going to disappear. I’m off in a couple of nights, you should con, sleeping beauty here to hold a remembrance for the dead before she does anything to the interior, tell her it would mean a lot to the town and two, get her to come to my house and I’ll cook you both a real meal on my day off, none of this pizza, we can have a barbeque.”
“I love meat,” Roxy declared. She said goodbye and disappeared upstairs.
“Hey what do you say I call the local churches tomorrow and tell them you are okay with a remembrance,” he nudged Amber.
“I guess if it means so much for the town.” Amber rose, “Do you think the victims were in pain when they died?”
Maverick nodded. “They were, let’s leave it as at least one of them was entombed alive. I’ll get the priests in. It won’t take too long to organise. A couple of the families have come from overseas. They want to help the churches but have been very good about respecting your house.”
“I’ll shift everything upstairs before I take Roxy to work in the morning. I don’t want to have anything to do with the memorial.”
“You don’t need to explain Amber, the town will look after it, you have power in your attic, you could take a trestle up there to work on and one of the chairs. You probably need to come to the memorial. It will be standing room only. Just as well you have such a great deck. I’ll see if I can get Robert’s older kids to finish it whilst he is away. There is only a bit of flooring to put in.”
“I’d do it myself but I don’t know how to use his tools and I don’t like using stuff that I don’t own, just in case I break it.”
Maverick risked a gentle kiss on her cheek and then he smiled and pulled away.
“Take care and try to sleep in tomorrow.”
Amber headed upstairs and slept fitfully, her sleep intersected with the horrors of someone being encased in a tomb alive.
By the time Roxy appeared for breakfast, Amber had everything except the fridge upstairs. She couldn’t move that by herself.
“I’m ordering insulation from Colin this morning when I drop you off.” She said over cereal. “I’ve also decided to have a memorial service here. Apparently, there are some relatives of the dead coming. But I do have to work for the next few days so if you want to help organise it or whatever, I’m fine with that.”
“I thought I would start placing your garden edging back this afternoon. That should keep me out of your hair. You know,” they were getting into the ute now, “You’re pretty cool. I thought most adults morphed into these people who knew everything, but you’re just as clueless as me sometimes, other times you’ve got your head screwed on right.”
“Come on, we don’t want you late for your first day on the job, have you got your tax file number, and your bank account details.”
“Yes big Sis,” Roxy joked.
When Amber returned, three men and a woman were standing out the front of her house, the two eldest of Milly’s children were laying decking boards and another car pulled up.
“Hi,” Amber greeted them.
“You must be Ms Smith,”
“Please, call me Amber,” she replied.
“I’m Ted, this is Theo,”
“I’m Jacqui and this is Alan, we’re the ministers of the various local churches, Sergeant MacDonald said that you had given permission for us to run a memorial service.”
“I have, look I have a lot of work to do, Um I’ll show you in, if you need me to do anything or to shift anything then I am happy to arrange it to be done, but just leave me a note if you could.”
Amber led them into the house, ignoring the car. “Maverick would be able to show you more about where the bodies were, but at least two walls that they were buried in have been removed.” Amber’s phone buzzed.
“Sorry I need to get to work,” she disappeared upstairs and didn’t stop until she had gotten to the attic. There, in the light of a window, she logged onto her machine, organised an offsite backup and started returning emails.
One caught her eye. “We have tried contacting you by phone a couple of times now, we are a firm of Lawyers in the United States and would like to speak to you about a personal matter. If you could call us at your earliest convenience.”
Amber felt a shiver and she pushed it aside, continuing through her backlog of emails. Perhaps Maverick was right, perhaps she needed to train up someone to actually allocate jobs to her crew of casual translators. It would give her more capacity to work. What were the boys always saying, something about spending wisely to make money?
I will never fully understand
The privilage it is to enroll
To enlist, to subscribe
To participate in the education
That I have obtained.
In my life it is expected
To do your very best
To succeed in education,
I had to enroll in primary school
I had to go to high school
I chose to go to univeristy
I choice I have made four times now.
I did not have to fight
To obtain any of these things
It was simply expected
So what about the people
Who cannot access that.
And even if they dream it
Enrolling in school does not
Prevent the five or more miles
Needed to travel just one way,
Or the simple fact
That feeding the family is their job today.
Enrolling in education is more precious than I can define
And it is a pity that world over
Some will never have that find.
My mind is like a thick sheet of iron
Hard to bend and hard to break
It’s rigid form a disadvantage
Flexibility I crave.
On some issues
A blacksmith’s fire
Burns bright, melting iron
A wobble board it creates.
On other indisuptable facts
No fire burns, metal thick and still
No bending is permitted
No iron can I break.
Parenting not an option
Parenting has to be done
I am parent first
At my expense,
My grief delayed
My life temporarily on hold
To deal with and help
Child of my womb
Why are some others
Not like this?
I cannot be any different
I do not understand
How your own flesh and blood
Your own child you birthed
Your own child you nursed, fed, bathed and cuddled
How your own child has less needs than you.
We all have times of hardship
We all have times of trouble
And sometimes we need to be wrapped up
Our own little bubble to deal
But from this exclusion we must appear
We must help our child through it too
Their troubles, when our troubles are mountains
Their troubles are mountains too.
This poem is about an extreme example of a family suffering from a life where any resilience was so long ago removed. It is about how a parent must first recover before helping the child. Intellectually I know you have to help yourself first, but what happens when you take so long to help yourself (because you really do need that time) that the child has no chance to heal?
We live in this world
Where we know what we know
And we know that there is more we don’t.
Yet why do some believe
And why do some insist
That the only creatures there are; the ones that we know exist.
I was just a wee lass
When I saw my first soul
A wee scary Casper the ghost on a loo.
And I’ll admit
That that Casper
Was probably constructed inside my imagination
But the others were most certainly not.
My Grandfather, my father in law
The little girl at the foot of Mum’s bed
Ex humans in ex human form
Are not souls potentially creatures we just don’t understand.
(My Grandparents had an outdoor toilet. On a dark and foggy night, I went and there was a scary Casper the ghost! Pretty certain I just imagined that as no one else has ever claimed that toilet was haunted by anything other than a couple of green tree frogs.)
for the story so far, click here
“I’d rather tell you why Granddad is hiring you,” Maverick responded.
“But I know that,” Roxy argued. “He wants to see if he likes spending more time at home. He’s happy to give me a go. It’s really nice for someone to trust me like that, but I can’t see him liking hanging around at home. He likes chatting with his customers too much.”
“I guess I could speak to Ally at the Library. She is keen to have someone read to the young kids and he does a mean reading. You should hear him, he puts on all these funny voices, really puts life into the stories. No book is the same after he has read it.” Maverick glanced quickly at Amber. She was quiet, chewing thoughtfully if you could chew thoughtfully.
“You can sit down for that sort of job. It will be good for him.” Amber interjected.
“Yeah, I figure that if he does that a couple of days a week and then only spends a couple of mornings in the hardware he’s slowed down a little but he’s still getting out and about.”
“He’s concerned about the fellow who closes for him,” Roxy stated bluntly. Her tone indicated that she already hated him, despite not having met him.
“You can’t assume, you can’t judge until you have evidence.” Maverick cautioned.
“Duh, I know,” Roxy responded as only a teenager could. “Wish more coppers were like you. Now, I’m going to take the plates and wash them up, you two get to know each other better. Ambs is not very good at being friends, comes from having such a fucked childhood and being stiffed all the time. Of course, I’m not like that because I actually didn’t go into care until I was 5.”
“And that leaves me speechless,” Maverick commented as Roxy disappeared upstairs. “Is she going to be alright? She’s so close to Grandpa and he is 88.”
“He’s a pretty spry 88 years old. Roxy is resilient and she is not stupid. She knows he’s going to die and that she can’t choose when that happens. She’s going to make the best of their relationship as she can whilst she has it and if he lasts for another few years then good, and if he doesn’t then she’s known another quality person who has already valued her more than any of her blood relatives and that is the important bit. Colin believes she is worth something, Stan and Merry believe she is worth something, you believe she is worth something, that’s at least two more people than what I had.”
“Don’t forget about you, you believe she is worth something,” Maverick looked at her. He reached out and turned her face so she was watching him. “She believes you are worth something too and so do Colin and Annabel, Milly and Robert, Tom and I. Move closer Amber,” his voice lowered; it got huskier. “I’m going to put my arm around you and you can sleep, you look completely exhausted, all this work that you do.”
“I have deadlines and a house to get liveable.”
“And you have a life to live. I am working but by the time Grandpa has your insulation in I’ll be on days off. I will come out and help you.”
She shifted closer to him.
“I get that you are a private person Amber, I’m okay with whatever you can give at the moment. Now close your eyes and I will tell Roxy all the gory details that I can, tune me out if you don’t want to listen.”
Amber’s phone vibrated. Maverick leaned across her and pulled it out of her pocket before she could.
“It’s international from the USA. You want to answer it.”
Amber shook her head. “Let it go to voicemail, it’s way past business hours here and if it’s an existing client I will call them back if it’s new work I don’t have the capacity at the moment. I have twenty translations due back tomorrow from my casuals. Fuck this business is getting big.”
“Why don’t you hire an office manager,” Maverick asked.
“I don’t have an office, I have a bookkeeper in Melbourne who’s about to move so her husband can find work. She informs me that there will be a bit of disruption until they have settled down somewhere more affordable. I don’t even have an office of my own, hell it’s only just tonight that I can go to the toilet in the middle of the night and not have to balance on joists avoiding rusty nails as I walk.”
Maverick laughed. “It’s a low time in the economy here. Winter is the busy season and there is a little tourism now but you could probably find someone local that was able to work from home or perhaps they could work in your spare room upstairs. You and Roxy only need one room a piece.”
“The toilet doesn’t have a wall around it.”
“True, so outsource and they could work from home. Speak to Milly about it, or Ally at the Library. Ally knows almost everyone and she’ll be able to tell you who is always polite and reliable.”
“Sure, now I am going to sleep, you are quite comfortable.” Amber closed her eyes, her conversations done for the moment.
“You finished,” Roxy stage whispered from the stairwell. Maverick nodded.
“Oh yeah, it’s good for her to open up, I had no idea how busy she was. I mean her phone has busy periods but it didn’t ring at all whilst she was doing the flooring.”
“I can hear you and for the record, sister,” Amber emphasised the sister, “You are important as is spending uninterrupted time with you, I had it on silent.”
“I tell you, Ambs, you are so much better as a big sister than my half-sisters. They couldn’t give me the time of day, Now do tell, all I know is that you and Amber were pulling down a wall when a skeleton fell on top of the both of you.”
“Pretty much, I’m surprised that’s the version you heard, the current story is that the entire wall fell down, crushing Amber underneath and she got knocked out to come to, gazing into the empty eye sockets of a dripping skull.”
Storms roll and darken the sky
Once crystal clear oceans
Traverse from green to gray
Waves want to crash
Storm has other ideas
Created over land
It has no power over the sea.
Puzzled is as puzzled does
I am quite frequently puzzled.
Why do some act that way,
Creating a permanent quest for understanding.
I have a student, he’s a really great kid
But he has some humongous struggles.
He fights each day just to live
Chronic dysfunction is his normal.
He cannot be judged by society means
That just creates a quandry
To understand this lad, adjust your focus
Frame everything for protection
How would you protect the one most dear
The one you loved the most
And finally you start to unravel
The complexities that are this child.
My dearest hope but hopeless it is
Is to be able to meet his needs.
Saddly to help him, I have to help others
And if they see the need, are unable to help themselves.