My Dad he grew a Paw Paw Tree
And then another and another.
And then many more.
The Paw Paw tree, a tall skinny tree
Good to define
The edge of the vege patch, you see.
Hooked on the trees
They grew and grew
Flowered and fruited too
Until the time we had too many
Paw Paws, they were profuse!
We ate them with ice cream
We ate them plain
We took them to school
And we ate them there too
We gave them away
To any poor soul
Who happened to drive down the driveway.
Dad picked paw paws each day
In washing basket multitudes
Until we could give away no more.
I don’t remember what happened to the rest,
Injested inside us I guess,
But it took me years
To like paw paw again 🙂
I stand, timid
In front of class
My first lesson,
I stand, breathe deep
And my voice speaks
I stand, nerves rioting
In front of school
My first assembly,
I stand, grip lecture
And my voice does not quake.
I stand, years later
In front of class
A conveyor of Knowledge.
For the story so far, click here
“He likes you,” Roxy smirked.
Amber rolled her eyes. “When you get to the house, you can take either of the two upstairs rooms. The bathroom is pretty crap and the toilet is still the one downstairs. Has Colin told you your work schedule yet?”
“Sure has, I start in the morning with him at 7am. Tried to get him to change the opening time but he threatened to open at 6am if I complained any more. You just got to love that old codger. As of Monday next week I am working from 7am til 2pm each day he wants me. Has some fellow in there in the afternoons but he doesn’t like him much. Wants to give him the flick but can’t find a replacement. Told him that I couldn’t work for him yet cause Stan and Merry would chuck a fucking fit and probably have a heart attack. You still working from before dawn to midnight?”
“I stop at 10pm most nights,” Amber responded grumpily.
“Why is that, I mean that’s just not normal.”
“And you are,” Amber challenged, “How many good friends do you have?” Amber flicked the question back to Roxy.
“Colin, Maverick, you, probably Stan and Merry.” Roxy let the small list roll off her tongue.
“No friends from school,” Amber pushed nastily.
“Oh you know it, no one wants to know you, even the shits if you’ve spent time in Juvie. Give you the cold shoulder.”
“Yeah, I know it. I work hard because I don’t find friendship easy. You got to tell people about yourself. Aside from Merry and Stan and the boys, I didn’t have any friends until I came here. Milly’s pretty hard to get away from and there’s this pretty nice woman that runs the library but I don’t know how to be a friend.”
“And I’m not your friend,” Roxy snarled at her.
“No you are more like a damn sister to me, don’t be a shit about it. Milly just assumed you were my sister on your first trip up and I guess I just started assuming it too.”
“Sisters hey,” Roxy paused. “I could live with that. I have a couple of older half-sisters but they don’t want anything to do with me. You’re better than them any day.” She paused again. “I like sisters. Okay, you’re no longer a friend you’re a sister.”
“Good,” Amber responded and pulled into the house.
“You know when Maverick gets here this evening, I’m going to quiz him like shit on the dead bodies. I want details.”
Amber rolled her eyes. She had tacked various kitchen and bathroom designs onto the wall joists. “I’m going to start replacing the flooring so we can get to the loo without having to balance and avoid nails. If you want help you can. Otherwise dump your stuff upstairs and kick back.”
“I’ll choose a room then come and help for a bit. I am thinking of replacing the edging along your front veranda. The new veranda looks pretty good. The edging will tidy it up a bit and protect the garden beds from the grass until you are ready to plant a garden.” Roxy paused and looked around the downstairs. “I know all the house got ripped out, but fuck Ambs, you’ve done so much with the place.”
Roxy disappeared upstairs to return several minutes later to Amber hammering a floorboard against the wall.
“I want the attic,” Roxy demanded.
“Nope, that’s mine. I’m going to convert it to my office. I need a quiet space to concentrate.”
“Merry told me you were a translator, but how the hell does a translator earn enough for this.”
“Because I spent the last ten years of my life saving like the blazers and I can tell you, it really sucks to spend money.”
“If you paid a full-time builder your house would have been done by now.”
“Yes but by paying Robert who can only work one week out of every three, I manage to be able to continue to save, thus by the time the downstairs is finished, I might actually have enough money to install a toilet and renovate the bathroom upstairs. Although at this stage I’m thinking that insulating the upstairs walls might be a good thing.”
“When you said you saved enough money for a house, that’s pretty big, don’t they keep talking about an affordability crisis in housing on the news,” Roxy asked.
“Yes, but they are talking about major cities. I got this through the public trustees at an auction and because Stan and Merry taught me that hard work doesn’t kill you. I was the only bidder and got the place for the reserve price. With the first home owner’s grant, I thought I would have enough to complete the renovations. Dead bodies aside and the kitchen bench tops I like, the larger deck that will be fantastic when it is complete, it’s all been a bit more expensive than I thought, but I should be able to get the ground floor done and the attic lined. Thus if Robert takes his time, I have two weeks to accrue money wildly before he spends it on me just as wildly.”
“Oh, you’ve got it all planned.” Roxy sounded disappointed.
“Yeah,” Amber sighed. “Sometimes I think I plan so much.”
“But you can control that and when you’re a foster kid like us, you couldn’t control anything else. I get it, I have a control freak big sister and will probably turn in to a control freak myself. Now do you have an extra hammer or do I just have to cart stuff too you.”
“You can take over in about thirty minutes, the vibrations through my hands are a killer.”
Four hours later, Amber and Roxy had one last piece of timber left but no clue how to place it.
“We probably have to cut it,” Roxy suggested.
“Well, the pigs got it out.” Amber retorted grumpily. She rubbed the back of her hand against her forehead, tired from the physical labour.
“You can’t say that. You can’t call Maverick a pig. He likes you, you got to call him the police. You got to get over whatever they did. You are 28 now, not the scared little child that they hurt.” Roxy admonished.
Amber glared at her. “Sisters can tell their sisters anything Ambs,” she grinned and Amber sighed. Roxy and Amber looked at the timber. Maverick or the crime scene people had marked every floorboard that they had pulled up and so it was easy to work out how to lay them down again.
“It’s not going to fit easily,” Roxy stated.
“I don’t want to cut it. There must be away. They got the damn thing out.”
“Knock knock,” Maverick called from the front door.
“Hey Mav, we’re at the back wall,” Roxy responded.
“It’s looking good,” Maverick replied as he walked in and on the newly laid floor. He held a couple of pizzas in his hands, a soft drink bottle and a couple of ciders in his other hand. He placed them on the trestle that he’d set up as a forensics workbench. It held all Amber’s food supplies and her kitchen goods.
“You’ve got to force the board down by some good hammering. The forensics team was really on my goat when I told them the floor had to come out so it could go back in. But one of the team had just spent a fortune restoring her house so she got on their case as well. Here, you should let me do it.”
Amber reluctantly got out of the way. “I’m going to shower before dinner,” she disappeared upstairs to the sound of hammering and a few minutes later reappeared in clean clothes. Roxy had a big grin on her face but she did not share why. She disappeared to shower as well.
“How have you been,” Maverick asked, stepping closer to her. Amber backed up a little, nervous.
Amber shrugged. “I like what Robert has done with the deck. He reckons that he’ll have that finished in his next home stint. By that time the door would have arrived and he can install that. I have someone coming to install insulation under the floorboards. It’s going to cost a small fortune, but it will save me on heating expenses. Tomorrow, I will get Colin to order me wall insulation and plasterboard and I can start getting that ready so that Robert can install the kitchen after Christmas.”
“I asked how you have been, not what are you planning to do,” Maverick admonished.
“Did anyone tell you, you are a pain in the bum,” Amber shot back at him.
“All the time, hot stuff,” Maverick responded. Amber raised her eyes.
“Hot stuff,” Amber voice dripped with disbelief.
“You do realise how gorgeous and attractive you are, don’t you,” Maverick responded, “You speak so many different languages fluently, you have a successful business, you’re pretty darned cute when you are nervous and your attitude to life is amazing.”
“My attitude sucks.” Roxy clumped on the stairs, “Shall we eat, then you can tell me all about the murders.” Roxy enthused.
Oh how wonderful
To post about stifle
A word that brings up
So many meanings
The hot stifling heat
That’s hard to breathe in
The oppressive nature of some
The acts that are undertaken
That shunt your actions
The lack of growth
As students are stifled in class.
So many ways that stifle can work
So many ways to get stifling done
Delicious, evocative, suppressing of thoughts
I must go teach now and
Mentally suffocate some kids with Maths
(Not really – I love maths and am passionate about getting my students to love the logic and beauty behind it too. I just couldn’t resist pandering to the mathematical stereotype 🙂 )
I look at the word
that I have ceased to understand
It is Friday night
And I am done.
I cannot make sense of it
I cannot see clearly
I yearn for sleep
And I wish I was done.
This word haunts me
It’s beauty and letters
The c becomes a t
I am unable to decode
I stumble to say it
My tongue moves wrong
Another word is out
But it’s not the right one.
The bit in the middle
Changes so often
I know this word
I know how to say it
How to use it
How to define it
But it is Friday night
And I am done.
for the story so far, click here
Amber’s phone rang again. “This is another job. I’ve got to disappear upstairs and do some work. You want to come to Wangaratta tomorrow,” she asked.
Milly nodded as Amber answered the phone in Italian.
Two hours later, Milly, Raphael and Amber were discussing the ins and outs of where to put new power points and if to keep the old ones. Amber got several placed in the attic because that was probably going to end up being her office, if only because so many people seemed to want to pop in and see where the dead bodies had been. Maverick had scared off some, but then he’d been called to a road accident. It was open slather now. Milly had parked one of her twins at the front door and another at the back doors with the other two cleaning out rubbish. At least until one of the enterprising twins had decided to charge admission. Picking up ten pieces of builders rubble got you are a tour of the lower death floor. Amber had rolled her eyes, led her entourage upstairs and started in the attic.
“Are you going to line the attic,” Raphael asked. “It would lighten it up in here and mean that you could use less light.”
The attic already had four dormer windows but shadows hid amongst the unfinished timber. Amy nodded.
“That sounds good.” They then moved to the bedroom floor and she added an extra two double power points to each room.
“You sure you want so many power points,” Raphael asked.
“Phone, tablet, laptop, beside light, heater, one of these rooms could end up being a server room for me yet. I would rather get extra power points than not enough. How much do you charge to come out and install an extra power point,” she asked him.
“$150 call out fee plus about $30 in materials if I can do it in an hour.”
“So $180 versus an extra $30 to $60 now. It is simple maths.” Amber replied.
They moved downstairs.
“Right, showings over.” One of the twins yelled and they shepherded the town’s people out.
Amber’s phone rang, she left it to go to message bank. Forty minutes later she had accepted Raphael to do her rewiring. He would start upstairs, leaving the downstairs until last.
“Will I have power whilst you are working,” she asked him.
“For times of it. I can put the place on two different circuits which means that if something goes wrong with one circuit then the other will still work. If I do the upstairs tomorrow, make sure you charge your phone and your laptop tonight. By tomorrow afternoon, you’ll have power upstairs.”
“Good, what time will you be here tomorrow?”
“I like starting early, I will be here by 7am.” He replied and got into his truck.
“Thanks,” Amber replied and the electrician drove off.
“Thanks for helping Milly, I am fairly independent but it is nice to have someone to run ideas past. After he’s done then I guess I start sheeting the house again.”
“Are you going to use tongue in groove,” Robert asked, coming over from the skip where he had just dumped some more rubble.
Amber shook her head. “I have some serious budget constraints now, I am going to have to work out how to lay the flooring myself and then I am going to insulate down here myself, then I am going to line the walls.”
“I’ll cut your new door to the veranda tomorrow, I have the dimensions of the one you ordered in Melbourne. This place is going to look amazing when you have finished.”
Amber nodded. Her phone rang again. “I’ve to get this call. Milly, I’ll pick you up at 9 tomorrow after the twins are off to school.”
“Seriously, can’t we help Dad tomorrow,” one of them complained. “It’s the last two days of school, all we do is watch videos all day, or get dumped in the computer lab to play computer games.”
“Really, what a waste of a computer lab. Do you like coding,” Amber asked them.
“What’s coding,” one replied. “It’s writing computer games you idiot,” his twin responded.
“Sort of,” Amber allowed. “It’s being able to write computer programs like the one I have to translate languages or to be able to control your heating and air-conditioning through your mobile phone. Anyway, there is a website www.code.org that will teach you the basics of coding so whilst you are stuck in a computer lab all day, you might as well learn how to code. You never know what jobs are going to be around in the future, but most of them are going to need some form of coding.”
“So you can go to school tomorrow and learn how to code.” Milly stated emphatically, “and if you can come home and teach me about coding you can have Friday off to help your dad with some of Amber’s deck.”
The twins hi-fived and headed down the road before their mother could change her mind. Milly winked at Amber. “I was going to give them Friday off anyway.”
Amber laughed and trudged inside to continue working.
“Hey Roxy,” Amber greeted Roxy off the bus. No one else got off. “How are Merry and Stan,” Amber asked.
“Glad to see the back of me for a while,” Roxy responded.
“I doubt that, but I can imagine it’s nice to be doing something you want to do.”
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to working with Colin. I’m actually looking forward to something. I am going to put the money I earn to a construction white card at school. There are a couple of other courses that are being offered as well. But that way I can leave school when I have a job. I know I should stay, Stan’s been at me about it, but I ain’t no genius like you. I just don’t like dealing with all the shit from the students. If I like working then I am going to see what I can do in construction or landscaping.”
“Okay, well I have to tell you, the house is a wreck at the moment.”
“Yeah, I saw it on the news and Colin’s been keeping me informed. I have to say I’m a bit surprised that Maverick hasn’t been telling you about the stuff.”
“He’s been busy with lots of drunks and drugs at the moment. Apparently the Christmas, New Years holidays are pretty rough, he’s been working and with the dead bodies in the house.”
“They are calling it the”
“I don’t want to know. I like my house, I’ve got some great ideas for kitchens that I want your opinion on and I’ve got Mrs Donaldson and all the local ministers telling me I should have a service at the house to put all the souls to rest.”
“Are you going to,” Roxy asked. She threw her backpack into the back of the ute.
“I don’t want anything to do with it. I just want my house back. They ripped up the fucking floor. I mean any moron could have seen that the floor wasn’t thick enough for a body.”
“Hate to break it to you Ambs but the murderers dismembered people and did bury them in the floorboards.”
“Oh for fucks sack, did you have to tell me that,”
“Have the exorcism.”
Amber pulled out of the car park and into the street. A few blocks down Maverick was resting against his patrol car. His Constable and three other police were breathalysing everyone. He saw her and stepped out into the street to wave her down. Amber slowed and pulled over into the line of traffic that was being breathalysed.
“Hey Roxy, Amber,” he said leaning into the window. “This here is a random breath testing and drug testing station. When was your last drink ma’am,” he winked at both of them.
“I don’t drink,” Amber replied sweetly.
“Now one of these days you’re going to have to spill as to why.”
“Knock it off Mav, if you want her just come over one day.” Roxy laughed at him. He chuckled back.
“Still got to breathalyse you.” He grinned at Amber.
“Well get on with it, the car behind me is finished.”
Amber completed her breath test.
“Can I pop over tonight? I thought I might help you with that flooring,” Maverick maintained his grin.
Amber nodded and then when he stepped back she drove away.
A man silhouetted against the setting sun
Hides so much in plain view
You cannot see the colour of his clothes
You cannot see the colour of his skin.
To know this man you have to work
Your angle of view hides his true height
You seek something to determine scale
But watch out for the misleading
A man silhoutted against the sun
It’s morning now, the sun is rising
Hiding the day in dawn’s early shadows
Hiding all but the presence of this hidden man
How is it that a silhoutte is so clever
To hide everything except a stance
To rob us of the features that tell us
So much, it leaves us quite blind.
The truth, hiding in a silhouette.
I’m back to teaching
And it really sucks
But not because of the workload
The kids as usual
Are awesome and fun
I really love being in the classroom
But the sad and true facts
Are I am teaching
Who cannot count
Who cannot add up ten plus ten
Who cannot count to fifty.
I am teaching students
Who have been lost
By the education departments
Trying to catch them up
All they have missed out on
Seven plus years of work
It’s too easy to blame the primary schools
And I tell you, it’s not their fault.
Teachers try their best, where ever they are
It doesn’t matter what inteventions.
There is so little funding for those who fall behind
There is so little help in a class of over twenty.
We all do our best
Spend hours in planning
And devising the lessons that
We hope will allow
A struggling child to
See and link into
Their own knowledge.
But we fail all the time
Or perhaps we just don’t succeed
And then what about these children
They either act out
And then get suspended
Or are silent
And struggle on their own.
My heart bleeds for these souls
That struggle in class
To understand basic communications.
The world in that classroom
Is not understood.
How differently wired are their brains?
And I wonder why
When what did not work before
Is simply what we try again.
For the story so far, click here
Amber greeted Maverick on the front steps in the morning. Her hair glinted in the morning sun.
“I thought I might go to Melbourne early,” she stated, stilted. She wasn’t ready to deal with last night yet. Her backpack was beside her.
“That’s fine. Probably best, a couple of nights away will mean we are out of your hair. There are thick walls in the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. Chances are you need to prepare yourself for a gutted kitchen, bathroom and bedroom when you return. I’m not sure what forensic tools the boys have in their arsenal but the Area Commander was stationed here 30 years ago. He can remember several unsolved disappearances from this area.”
Amber nodded, her eyes not meeting his.
“You are coming back okay,” Maverick insisted, “This is a temporary trip to Melbourne. I am sure a detective will be in touch but I’ll find out the name and if you want, I can sit in with you whilst they talk to you.”
“I have done nothing wrong,” Amber replied coldly. She picked up her backpack and walked to her ute. Maverick watched her as she shut the door and reversed out of the driveway.
Amber sat in the ute for a moment, pausing before she changed gears from reverse to drive. Her house still looked a little ramshackle and it really needed a coat of paint, but the new roof shone. Someone loves me, the house seemed to be shouting into the street. Maverick was standing on the veranda now, he smiled and waved.
Amber drove away, trying not to let her hands shake. It was her house damn it and now police were going to spend days crawling all over it.
“What was the final body count,” Amber had gotten out of her ute. The front yard was full of building debris, her kitchen and bathroom as well as so much plaster and walling. Maverick was loading the rubble into a skip. Tom, Robert and the teenage kids were helping.
Maverick dumped another shard of timber in.
“We got a total of another seven bodies out. They had been dismembered. Forensics roughly dates them as pre-Sam Grant.”
“Good. I didn’t know him but I liked him. He only hoarded intelligent things. Not a trashy mag in the lot. Can I have my house back,” she asked.
“You can, but I have to do a bit of cleaning up still.”
She eyed him, he eyed her. She was in her business attire, being a knee length pencil skirt and a pinkish-red shirt. Damn it she looked good.
“We’ll be done with this in a minute.”
“You don’t have to help,” she stated to everyone much more calmly than she felt.
“Yes, we do. You came into our town and you uncovered a 30-year-old mystery Luv,” Tom said. “It’s the least we can do.”
“Besides old man MacDonald told us he’d beat us to kingdom come if we didn’t help ya,” one of the teenagers said.
Amber laughed and the tension fled. “I’ll go get my gloves,” she said. “After all, I did manage not to have to pay for the gutting of downstairs.”
Amber walked into the house and dumped her backpack down. She looked around and could see all the way out the back door. Dust was everywhere. It coated the remaining floors and the sheets that had been hung up over the windows. The faded old cream wall paint was now a brown-grey colour. There were no internal walls left except for the walls lining the staircase. The downstairs seemed massive. The floor where her kitchen, dining room and bedroom had been removed and she could see through the bearers and joists to the ground below.
She went out the back and found her gloves before loading up the skip with the rest of them.
“How’s the investigation going,” Amber asked.
“How’d your meeting go,” Maverick changed the conversation.
“Good,” Amber said noncommittally. Amber did not readily discuss business with anyone, nor did Maverick, apparently.
“You should take Mum out and look at kitchen designs. She’s feeling pretty good at the moment. It would do her well to have some girl time.” One of the boys commented.
“What do you think I am,” his sister replied.
“Her child, not the same as a girls day out,” he replied sarcastically.
“Knock it off kids,” Robert ordered, “The boy’s right, though. Milly would love a trip out of town and some time away from the kids. She really does have to put up with them heaps when I am out of town. I can give you the plans for the inside tomorrow and you can go and look at some designs for what you want.”
Amber nodded. Maverick may not be willing to share too much of the investigation but Milly would quite happily spill the beans.
“You can use the toilet downstairs, but pretty much everything else was removed.”
“Not a problem,” Amber said dumping more stuff into the skip. Her phone buzzed and she pulled off her gloves to answer it.
“Good afternoon, Amber speaking,” she answered formally before switching to Italian.
“She speaks Italian as well,” Robert shrugged.
“She could speak five languages before she turned 15.” Maverick offered. “Gentlemen, lady, we have a genius moved into our neighbourhood. But genius or not, that won’t get all this rubble removed and I am not going to front up to Grandpa tomorrow and tell him the job is not done.”
At that, the helpers all started piling the old kitchen into the largest skip that Tom owned.
Amber dropped her gloves by the front door. She felt an uncharacteristic sense of calm. She felt that she had come home. Her brain conflicted that, how many people had been buried in the walls of her house. The entire downstairs was an empty shell. The only internal structure was under the stairwell. The two front rooms were gutted, the lining removed so just the external weatherboards were between her and the elements. The floorboards in the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom area had been removed and stacked neatly in the front room. She could probably relay those. She’d have to speak to Robert before he left to go back to his job in a couple of days.
Amber pulled out a pen and paper, now she had no lining she could install insulation very easily. Perhaps she could get some underfloor insulation so that she could have the timber floorboards without freezing her feet off in winter. She’d keep the openness and perhaps install a pot belly stove to heat the house. Roxy was good at design and she was due up from Melbourne in three days. Amber would take Milly into Wangaratta or Shepardton tomorrow, it would be good to take a few hours off work to concentrate on remaking her house. She’d have to do some of the work herself, insulation couldn’t be too hard. Amber lent closer to an exposed wire. It had a funny green substance on it.
“You are going to need to rewire the house soon,” she spun around. Milly was standing there with a travel mug of tea for her. “Murderous ex-owners or not, at least now you have unfettered access to your house and you don’t have to remove the lead-based paint from down here. It’s a pain in the bum. Have a cup of tea. I would have made you a cake but I’ve only just gotten over another bout of Pancreatitis.”
“Thanks, do you know any electricians,” Amber asked.
“Raphael Pololonski. I went to school with him. He lives in Wangaratta now, but he does a better job than our local fellow and he doesn’t charge as much. He’s got a big job starting in a week, so he can probably fit you in.” Milly scrolled through some numbers on her phone. “Here you go,” and she gave Amber the phone number. A few minutes later Amber hung up.
“He’ll be out in an hour to quote. It would be nice to not have to touch the place for a while after I finish the renovations, but my bank account is going to take a big hit. I didn’t budget to reline the walls. I guess Colin can order everything in for me. I don’t even know what I need. Hell, I’ve never lived with a builder before.”
Milly gave her an odd look. Amber grinned. “For a small country town, I guess you only know what people choose to tell. I grew up in the foster system.”
“So Roxy isn’t really your sister.”
“No, but she’s pretty cool and well, it’s sort of nice to have some sort of family occasionally. Am I forgiven for not owning up to the truth.”
“You are an absolute idiot. Family isn’t just blood, it comes in all shapes and sizes.”